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Oh, crap. This is going to suck. - Josh



[Editor's Note: I'm breaking from the usual strict adherence to the diary format for this episode, because I think it reads better like this.]

[Aside: Three Scenes]

Thunderbolt woke up in the bathroom. His bathroom, he sensed, although he had no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there. His face was wet. The shower was on, filling the room with steam. He looked around warily. He was alone, in his boxer shorts. The door was partly open.
    This could not possibly be good. Where was he?
    He cautiously pushed the door farther open, revealing a bedroom. Again, it seemed to be his, although it certainly wasn't the one in which he'd been sleeping for the past few months. For one thing, it was a lot bigger. The shades were drawn. There were a few posters on the walls, a large dresser. In the queen-sized bed an Asian woman was sleeping, long hair concealing her features and one bare leg peeking out from beneath the sheets.
    He powered up his shields on general principles. The woman sighed and turned over. She was wearing an oversized T-shirt saying "ARMY" over what appeared to be a remarkably well-endowed frame.
    Thunderbolt scanned the area for energy signatures. He sensed the house's power lines, cars moving in the street outside, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to tell him what was happening. He went to the window and raised the shade. He was in a Back Bay town house, close to where they had fought Sabertooth.
    He checked out the rest of the house, moving cautiously. The whole place had the same air of familiarity, as if he'd been living there for weeks but simply didn't remember it. There were boxes that hadn't been fully unpacked, a nice computer system, basic furnishings. No sign of roommates in the rather spacious building, aside from the woman upstairs, but he did find to his relief that the couch had been made up as a bed and had in fact been slept on by someone his height.
    Then he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. It looked a lot like him, yet wasn't. He knew he had seen the face before, though, and after a few moments he placed it: Nick, Nick... Stone? The actor who was playing him on Boston Common.
    Thunderbolt checked for holographic projectors. Nope. Nothing hidden behind the mirror, either. He found his costume in the dresser and changed; better than wandering around in his underwear.
    Then, getting a bit angry in his frustration, he kicked the footboard of the bed. "Wake up!"
    Samantha woke with a start and saw Thunderbolt standing at the foot of the bed. Assuming they were under attack again, she shook off her sleepiness, looked around and saw no danger at hand.
    "Paul, what's wrong?" She felt a moment's regret that she hadn't objected to his gentlemanly offer to sleep on the couch....
    "Who the hell are you?" he demanded, defensive fieldss still active.
    "Are we under attack? What's going on?"
    "Who the hell are you?" he repeated. "What the hell is going on here?"
    "What do you mean who am I?"
    "It's not a hard question."
    She activated her own defenses. Had Techmaster mind-controlled him? "Paul, it's me. Samantha."
    "Ah-hah." Samantha, Paul thought. That was the name of the Witchfire character's alter ego.
    "Are you okay?" He didn't look okay.
    "What are you doing here?"
    "Remember yesterday?" she prodded. "Techmaster blew up my apartment?" He'd wanted to stop her from joining Thunderbolt's new team—that had backfired.
    "No, I don't remember that."
    She was getting really worried.
    "Look, I don't know what the hell you're talking about. Obviously one of us is confused. I know I am," Paul admitted.
    "Well I'm not," she replied firmly. "Techmaster, remember?" Had he gotten hit on the head during the fight? She scanned him. "You don't have a concussion or anything...."
    "No, I don't! I don't know you! Who the hell are you?" He did recognize the face and figure, just as he now realized that somehow they were in the origin story AMP had scripted out for the television show and comic book... but that wasn't at all the same thing as knowing what was going on. They were supposed to be captured an put in a deathtrap, he recalled the storyboards. Then he convinced Scott of Techmaster's evil, the robot changed sides, and they all saved the day. But how and why was this happening?
    She decided to call Phoenix Talon. Maybe he would know what to do.

    Scott woke up from the processing cycle that passed for sleep in his artificial body and found himself in an unfamiliar place. The room was a grey cube lit by harsh flourescents. A bank of twelve television screens in one wall showed only static. A remote control lay near him. He tried the door and found that it opened onto a bland corridor. He closed it again and touched the remote curiously.
    All twelve screens lit, showing different views of Boston, occasionally switching from one camera to another. In one he recognized Thunderbolt, or at least his costume; the camera was across the street, focused in through a house's open window. The woman with him resembled the sketches he'd seen for Witchfire.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson