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Ascent of Liberty
Gwendolyn was getting irritated enough to let it show. “Can we please get the sound right before we go live?”
she sent sweetly toward the sound technician along with a steely-eyed gaze that was anything but. The young man swallowed and hunched over the portable sound dampener system. Perhaps a little bitchy, but it wouldn't do to have footsteps and echoes come through from the other side. Nor would it do for any of her guest interviewees to sound like shit on a national stage on a day like this.

And even in this corner of the Capitol rotunda there were footsteps aplenty. CNN Instant News had claimed a section to set up a live sound stage. A few chairs were splayed out, sandwiched between statues of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence as a backdrop, completely isolated with a white curtain, it made for the perfect cozy set on which to report today's Joint Session of Congress. With one of the curtains still pulled back, Gwen watched people hurry past her on their way to the House chamber.

There went by a tall gray suit with an unmistakable high and tight military cut, flanked by two men in black suits and wraparound Land Warriors. Col. Track Palin. Military hero, former President and current Vice President of the United States. It had been a shock to the nation when President Dawson's running mate died of a sudden heart attack one month after taking office, and an even greater shock when he'd appointed the former President and his longtime campaign to the position. No one was even sure that it was even Constitutional since Palin had already been elected to two terms in office. Dawson said he'd done it (much to the chargrin of his own Party) to ensure someone didn't become President without going through an election, and that come 2048 he'd pick a new VP as his running mate. No doubt the Democrats didn't bother to challenge the appointment because they controlled the House and figured they'd just challenge it if Dawson died, and throw the Presidency to the Speaker of the House. Right now that was Oliver Holden.

Gwen motioned to her assistant, a pretty if slightly pudgy girl with a black pantsuit to match her dark locks. “Stacy – be a sweetheart get the VP over here!”
The girl snapped a nod and ran off.

Her earpiece buzzed. “Gwen – live promo in fifteen seconds.”

Gwen gave a purposeful wink to her right eye. That triggered her Lens Warrior, which projected a transparent, scrolling screen she could track with her eye movement. It began to display her prompt. She sat down and turned to the cameraman, took one breath, let it out and smiled.


“We're back, live at the Capitol with our coverage of history in the Making. They're calling him Magic Nick.” Because we're telling you to call him that. “ Mr. Wizard himself, Secretary Nicholas Trano of the newly founded Department of Powers will be addressing a Joint Session of Congress, in just Moments. You can't tune out now! Stay with me, Gwendolyn Petersen, here on CNN Instant News, where we Make News Happen.”

“And we're out.”

Gwen clicked off her Lens Warrior. “So which nickname is polling better? I'm not sure which one I like best yet.”

The producer paused. “We don't know yet. Mr. Wizard is polling better on 60 and older, but Magic Nick is going over better with the younger ladies. We're probably going to have a copyright issue with either of them.” Not that it would be an issue for Gwendolyn Petersen. Within a day half the country would be using one of the nicknames and no one would remember where it came from.

Gwen's assistant came scampering back. “Palin says he'll give you an interview after the speech.”

Ugh. She had probably six or seven minutes of dead space to fill before the speech began. “Speaker Holden?”
Her assistant shook her head. Fuck it. “All right, get our panel of experts online. We'll do it live.”
As such experts as there were. She turned back to the camera.

“And we're back at the Capitol, and I'm Gwendolyn Petersen as always. Joining us today is Rodger Kimpbell from the Centers for Disease Control, and...”
Her lens warrior spat out new information. Crap, her other panelist didn’t show. Smile. “Rodger, how are you today?”

“I'm excellent, Gwen,”
he replied.

That's a stretch, buddy. “Now, Rodger, based on your experience with these abilities and the research done down in Atlanta, what can you tell me about what running the Department of Powers will entail.”

The man blinked. Clearly he was an amateur on the national stage. “Well, obviously first and foremost they'd be responsible for making sure people with the Sickness which is a reaction to these powers coming to existence in an individual, these people are helped. But essentially he'd be expected have umbrella oversight over all the agencies that are involved with these abilities. Currently the Defense Department is overseeing all of these activities --”

Gwen gave a calculated raise of her eyebrow to the camera. “So you're saying there are military applications here, like we're going to be seeing people being used as weapons?”

The man tugged at his shirt collar. “Now Gwen, I'm not saying that at all, just that the Defense Department--”

Gwen cut him off. “Let's play this video...”
a video, projected digitally into the news feed, began playing behind her. “Here we see Secretary Trano apparently putting out a fire. Isn't that nice. But can't this power be used in a more destructive way? How is this new department going to strike the appropriate balance between liberty and security?”

The man's mouth hung open for a second and he blinked. “Uh. Well, Gwen we're just going to have to see what Secretary Trano says and hope he addresses this.”

Gwen flashed her pearly whites at him. She hadn't gotten anywhere near any really salacious material out of him, but she'd abused him enough for one morning. “All right, well we appreciate it.”

“My pleasure, Gwen.”

She smiled again. Of course it is.
Behind her the screen changed to the now-packed House chamber. “Any moment now, Secretary Trano will begin his address. As we just showed, earlier this week Magic Nick made headlines for putting out a fire with his use of the powers and made a passionate speech where he derided the Adcendancy Nikolai Brandon's claim to be a god, of course the longtime owner of Vulpesnet has been vehemently anti-CCD. There have been other reports of violence both committed by and committed against magic users, and as you all know there was an incident involving the Native Americans in Albuquerque...Any moment now he will begin speaking and hopefully shed some light on what we as a nation are facing.”
She hoped so. This was rapidly turning into some very bad and boring TV.
The walk from the door to the podium would have been nerve wracking, if Nicholas hadn't made a career of addressing millions. A menacing sensation attacked him from several directions. Nicholas could feel the eyes of half a thousand of the country's most powerful people on him when he took the stage - and he still hated the feeling of others holding the Power more.

"Good evening,"
Nicholas began, his voice strong and level, eyes scanning the room. "I can't say how much of an honor it is to find myself here, addressing both the House and the Senate of this great nation of ours."
He couldn't help but wonder if that was too much.

"Last week, by executive order from President Dawson, the Department of Powers was created."
Nicholas nodded to the section of the hall where the Senators were congregated. "My friends in the Senate confirmed me in my role as its first Secretary.

It will not be easy to define the way our country deals with Powered individuals. This is a new frontier, and we don't know what we'll find over the horizon. But I was chosen to captain that ship, and I'm going to make certain that we get to our destination in one piece.

Now, I know you're all busy, and you have better things to do than listen to me talk about how honored I am. So let's talk about what obstacles we're going to face. Let's talk about what it means to be the Secretary of Powers.

The Power is a source of near limitless energy and possibility. Even with our limited level of understanding thus far, we know it can revolutionize our energy industry, improve the quality of our healthcare, and allow us to rebuild our infrastructure from the ground up at costs we would have called impossible last year. To those ends, I’ve assembled a special task force under my department’s umbrella. DARPA gave us the internet; we're hoping that with time we can do something just as revolutionary.

Of course, with the discovery of the Power, we also know the true cause of the Sickness. Powered individuals, without training, often find their bodies taxed beyond capacity and die soon thereafter. I'm not going to lie to you all, there isn't any known way to spot these people before the Sickness's symptoms develop - but we do know that if caught early enough, it can be reversed. In the coming months, the Department will begin training programs across the country. We’re going to beat the Sickness, once and for all. Nobody should have to lose a loved one to a disease as preventable as this.

Now, the elephant in the room. You’ve seen the news reports, and the personal videos from Jeddah. I was trapped in an airport when Al-Hasan’s revolution started. His militants were attacking the airport, killing everyone they could get their hands on. In order to save my own life, and the lives of others, I had to use the Power as a weapon. I think you’ve all seen enough to know it was effective. That leaves us with a problem. How do we stop people from using this to do harm to others, without impeding the individual liberties that make this country so great?

The branches of the United States military have already begun investigating the Powered individuals within their ranks. We’re going to take a page from their playbook, and start combing the police forces throughout the country to find officers who already know they have the Power. With their help, we will develop the procedures necessary to maintain order and protect our citizens. With that said, I’d like to remind you all that up to this very moment, we do not have any record of a crime that is even suspected of being committed with the Power.

I know that to some of you, these words aren’t comforting. This is a big change. The world is changing. I know you’re at home, watching right now - parents who lost children to the Sickness, people who find their religious worldviews challenged, those of you who are afraid that people with the Power are out to hurt you. I can’t tell you I have all the answers, I can’t tell you I can mend every wound. But I can give you a promise: even if the whole world is changing, I haven’t forgotten you. It might be a bumpy ride, but we’re going to come out of this stronger than we ever were before.

That’s all I really have to say tonight, but before I hand the podium over to my childhood friend, Representative Evelyn Avalon of South Dakota, I want to remind you all of something. Nikolai Brandon, the man who calls himself Ascendancy, thinks this power makes him God. We all know God’s not sitting in a mansion in Moscow. No earthly power, and no man, is greater than our Constitution, or our nation. The Power is a tool, nothing more, nothing less - and by the time I’m finished, we’ll all be able to reap its benefits.”

Nicholas breathed a quiet sigh of relief when he stepped back from the podium. He did his part winning America’s minds; now it was Evie’s turn to win the hearts.
Although Evie had hardly been able to sleep the previous night, one would never know it. Her makeup was flawless, both it and her hair were professionally done. Everything from her nails to her smart pantsuit was carefully calculated to exude a sense of professionalism, while accentuating her youth and beauty. Her speech as well had been agonizingly picked through word by word, every detail carefully crafted for maximum effect. She had to be vulnerable, yet strong; speak technically, yet be engaging. It was a study in contradictions, and it would be her finest masterwork yet.

Pundits and politicians were already making comparisons between the Power and gun control, especially in the Democratic Party. It was rare in politics to find an issue that no one had staked a position on. However, the sudden appearance of magic meant that the people in power were scrambling to find solutions – or, more importantly given it was an Election year, to find constituencies. Protecting individual freedoms of Powered-people neatly aligned with the Libertarian, and to some extent the Republican, Parties. Therefore, Democrats seemed to be staking out an opposing position just for the sake of having an opposing position. That was the biggest danger her Party was in, and the biggest challenge that she’d face. Evie had to convince liberals that supporting the rights of Powered-people was a liberal cause, but not go so far as to have reflexive backlash from conservatives. She needed to craft a speech that would rally the Left whilst not alienating the Right. It was a careful tightrope walk.

Evelyn smiled tightly as she rose from her seat in the crowd. She very intentionally did not make eye contact with Speaker Holden as she approached the podium. It wasn’t exactly… encouraged for freshman Representatives to go rogue and make unplanned speeches in front of the House and Senate, especially not while being introduced by a Secretary of the opposing Party. Evie tried not to think about how much her political career hinged on this being received well. God had gotten her through worse trials in the past.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and those whom identify otherwise…”
Evelyn smiled into the camera, giving her best warm grin. “I am sure that you’re all confused about why Secretary Trano invited me to speak today.”
Her grin turned rueful. “As I’m sure many of you can guess, the Secretary didn’t just give me the podium out of spirited bipartisanship. This is an immensely personal issue to both of us. You see, when I was a teenager, my best friend, Madelyn Trano, succumbed to the Sickness.”
An excited murmur broke out through the room. Evie didn’t like using Maddie in such a crass way, but it was necessary. Their friendship was hardly a secret, nor was the fact that she hailed from Nick’s home district. It would’ve take the investigative reporters watching the broadcast less than ten minutes to have uncovered it.

“This is a very trying time for all of us. Many of you are scared and confused. I know because I am as well.”
Evelyn paused and glanced around the room, making sure to catch the eyes of both the majority and minority leaders. They both seemed somewhat impatient and unimpressed, although it was in a subtle way. That would change soon. “And as is natural for those who are frightened, it would be easy for me to continue hiding, to continue denying a part of myself.”
Now she had their attention. “But I am not in the habit of hiding my head in the sand when things get hard. No, as the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: ‘There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
And if someone remembered that Dr. King said that in reference to his opposition to the Vietnam War… well, her positions on the subject of war were no secret.

Evelyn had struggled to find the exact wording to use to describe her abilities. The fact was “Powered-individuals” was prohibitively clunky. If she was clever, she could coin a term for a generation or more. It would be one more way to establish herself as an expert in the field of Power. She had an obligation to God to spread His praise, and in truth it was His power that she channeled. However, Trano would doubtlessly have a fit if she admitted it, and unfortunately talk of Jesus wasn’t so popular among her base. However, there was a subtle way of glorifying Him, and letting all who spoke of it unknowingly reference His power.

In her studies of the Gospel, Evie had come across a particularly compelling phrase. Theologians had described the Holy Spirit as the ‘channel’ through which God’s power is manifested. The word ‘channel’ had resonated with her. It seemed to describe her power perfectly. She was not so arrogant as to believe that she was divine herself, for she was merely a conduit through which Jesus could act on the world. She could surrender herself to the Holy Spirit, and use it to channel God’s power. She wasn’t Powered; she was merely a gate through which power could flow. Although she couldn’t openly praise Jesus, she could correct the misconception that mortals could be ‘Powered.’

“When I was fifteen years old, I developed the Sickness. After I recovered, I discovered that I could channel the Power.”
Shocked murmurs burst out through the room, growing in volume until the sound was cacophonous. Evie stood at the podium serenely, giving a long pause before raising a hand purposefully. The chamber fell silent as people gazed at her fearfully. Her pose had been carefully calculated to mimic that of other channelers who’d used their powers in public. She was hoping that the shock effect would control the room before hysteria could breakout and had gambled correctly. “Please! My fellow congressmen and women, do not be afraid. Although I am a channeler I am not here to dazzle you with pyrotechnics or erect monuments to my own greatness.”

Evie huffed derisively. “No, that would be pointless. Because unlike some countries, the United States of America isn’t ruled by whomever can make the largest display of power. In the United States, we believe in democracy, in rule by consent of the governed. We believe that by electing Representatives to debate and peacefully discuss controversial topics, we can create a society of law and justice. We believe that through our words, we can give voices to the oppressed and ensure that every citizen is ensured the inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“So no,”

Evelyn said forcefully. “I’m not here to make an egotistical display of power. Today I stand here to do what countless other Congresswomen before me have done: talk.”
Evie paused meaningfully, glancing around once more. This time all eyes were on her, some staring in trepidation, and some in admiration. No one had missed her less-than-subtle references towards Ascendancy. They were all terrified of his display, but if she had her way, then in one speech they would begin to see it for what it really was: a childish cry for attention and respect, a reflection of the worst aspects of the CCD, rather than the best. “Nearly seventy years ago, the city of San Francisco elected to the position of City Supervisor one Mr. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man in the nation to be elected to public office.

“Since then, our country has grappled with questions of the place of alternative sexualities and gender identities in public life. And I’m very happy to say that we found ourselves on the right side of history. However, Supervisor Milk was one of the first, and his words are still poignant today. He famously said: ‘All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about’.”

Evelyn paused, staring pensively out into the crowd. “All men are created equal,”
she mused. “That’s what we keep coming back to as a society. For decades… for centuries we’ve struggled with questions of equality. Would all men be equal? Would women be equal? How equal must we be; in what manner would we be equal? Could we be separate but equal? And yet…”
Evie stared once more into the eyes of her fellow Members of Congress, she let her passion show in her vision as she stared directly into the closest CSPAN camera. “And yet, inexorably we come to the same answer, over and over again.”
Evelyn stressed each word. “There is no facsimile of equality that can replace that which our founders spoke of. There is no freedom but the sweet liberty promised to each and every one of us from the very moment our great nation was founded!

“My fellow Americans!”

Evie cried. “Make no mistake. We have fought this battle already, so many times. And yet in each instance the spirit of liberalism that has fueled our progress through the centuries has prevailed. Discrimination based on creed or national origin… discrimination based on immutable factors like gender or sexuality… discrimination based on race or ethnicity… discrimination of all kinds and colors has been defeated time and time again. We as a nation constantly reject the notion of persecuting others based on things over which they have no control. And make no mistake, the ability to channel is as immutable as those other factors I previously mentioned.”

Evelyn cleared her throat, and shuffled the papers on the podium as if she were reading from her notes. In truth, she had the statistics memorized verbatim. “The Sickness, as it called, was always thought to be quite unusual. Most diseases affect those who have the weakest immune systems: the children and the elderly. That the so-called illness struck teenagers and young adults in the prime of their life was always odd, but other infirmities have been known to do so. What was more remarkable was the fact that it struck males and females at notably different age ranges. For women if could be considered part of puberty but not so for men. There is no known infectious agent that acts this way. And the Sickness was never shown to be communicable in any way. Therefore biologists have long theorized that it was a genetic ailment, something inscribed into the very DNA of those who bore it.

“What was even more remarkable was that the Sickness seemed ubiquitous to all humankind. It struck men and women at equal rates, and showed no preference for skin color or ethnicity or national origin. That fact led scientists to believe that it must be a gene that developed early in our species’ history, that predates the origin of Homo Sapiens itself, a gene that for whatever reason has become activated now. It is believed that the Sickness gene is embedded so deeply in our cellular memory that it may be integral to the concept of humanity itself.”

Evie paused. “Nikolai Brandon claims that channelers are linked to the Sickness, and so far there is no reason to believe he is wrong. All channelers who have outed themselves publicly have stated that they are Sickness survivors. And so, if all channelers survived the Sickness, and the Sickness originates from our very DNA…”

Evelyn chuckled. “I suppose what I’m saying is that I was born this way.”
The brunette grinned beatifically. “And like every other oppressed group in the history of this country, equality will grace us. To everyone, in this great chamber and outside, who preaches hatred and bigotry, I have one simple message.”
There were many such people here before her, and she met their eyes gleefully. They had the look of a prey animal which had just realized the snare was closing around them. “We will not tolerate your intolerance. The arc of history bends ever closer to liberty, and you are once more on the wrong side of it.”

Evelyn turned towards the CSPAN camera, staring directly into its lens. “To all of my fellow Americans who are not channelers, I ask you this- no, I beg you. Do not allow yourselves to be misled by those who claim to be speaking in your favor. We are your children and your parents. We are your friends and your lovers, your brothers and your sisters. Although many of us may not have come out to you yet, we are there, inevitably. All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Do not allow those in power to do evil in your name. And do not forget that the Sickness strikes every society equally. Look at your children. Look at your grandchildren. Someday, they may have the Sickness. Someday, they may channel the Power. And someday, if you do not speak up, you will have to answer to them when they ask you why they are allowed to suffer the indignity of inequality.”

Evelyn once more looked into the camera, but this time her expression softened. “And to those of you who are like me, those of you who are channelers… I ask you to stay safe. There is a hate group that calls itself the ‘Atharim’. Their goal is the genocide of our entire race.”
Evie grew stern, her appearance hardening. “But I swear to you that I will do everything in my power to ensure your safety, to ensure that these murderers are brought to justice.”
The brunette smiled softly. She allowed some moisture to brighten her eyes. “I know you’re scared,”
she said quietly, voice echoing in the silent room. “To fear is to be human. But do not lose faith in those that love you. Do not lose faith in the unending goodness of which humankind is capable. Do not lose faith in the spirit of this great nation, which has time and time again proven itself to be a champion of liberty and justice, unlike any in the world. For hope is as innate to our humanity as is our fear. And hope is a far sweeter companion.”

Evelyn turned her gaze to the politicians before her. She raised her hands as if to embrace them. “My fellow Members of Congress. We sit here today because centuries ago, a group of radical free thinkers dared to dream of liberty. They had the audacity to envision a world in which everyone was equal. I beg of you, do not allow your fear to lead you to commit actions antithetical to their noble project. Instead, join with me in hope for a better future. Join with me, and with Secretary Trano, to create a tomorrow where channelers and non-channelers alike can work together to ensure liberty and justice for all.”

The Representative smiled out at the silent crowd, nodding in satisfaction. “Thank you.”
Evelyn stepped back off the podium as the room erupted with noise.
Edited by Evelyn, Aug 30 2016, 09:42 PM.
Gwendolyn watched the C-SPAN feed with detached interest and jotted down notes as her Lens Warrior fed her bullet points from Secretary Trano's speech. It was solid, definitely plenty of policy to dig into and expound. Gwen would have her hands full just getting reactions from the different parties. He seemed to have thought out the things his department would have to accomplish if there weren't too many specifics, enough for her to find something to with when they finally got an interview. Should I prop him up or topple him?
He was a power user himself. That could help him or hurt him. Decisions, decisions...

But then, surprisingly, Secretary Trano yielded to freshman Congresswoman Evelyn Avalon. The adorable vlogger turned Representative was already a household name before she was elected to Congress, and was expected to be reelected this year by a wide margin. You go, girl.
Certainly a rising star in the Democrat Party. But why would she be addressing a joint session of Congress? Certainly no few senior members would be offended at having to sit through.

And then her purpose was made clear. Almost as soon as Avalon said it, Gwen's producer signaled that Gwen was Go to break in:

"Breaking news,"
Gwen said, her voice breaking in over the picture of Avalon speaking "Congresswoman Evelyn Avalon calls power wielders Channelers, and says she is one of them! I repeat, Avalon has just announced 'I am a channeler.' As we know, the Freshman congresswoman has been a rising star in the Democrat Party, she's very popular and well liked, and she's come out and is making a stunning and brave plea for the civil rights of channelers like her. Let's return to her."

As the feed cut Gwen's mike and the audio from the House chamber returned, Gwen motioned to her producer to clean up the C-SPAN feed so that Avalon was brought in close up, and her proud, strikingly beautiful face and strong words filled the video screens of watchers around the world.

Gwen motioned to her assistant and flashed a smile. "Get me the. First. Exclusive. Interview with her. I don't care if I have to let her fuck me for it."
Stacy nodded. She probably wouldn't take Gwen literally. Probably not. Evelyn Avalon wouldn't deny America's Media Darling this opportunity. Not if she was smart. Anyone else wanted to talk to Gwen? They could come to her.

That's our narrative. That's our face.
Gwendolyn could see it now. There would be people coming out all over the place, and Avalon would be their mouthpiece. America would deny nothing to a strong, independent -- but most importantly pretty -- young woman. Gwen would make sure of that. She was going to make Evelyn Avalon the American poster girl for channelers in every household in America.

The gears started turning in Gwen's mind. Time to start digging. First off, she needed to find out instances of possible persecution, discrimination or prejudice against channelers. Down to stubbed toes and dirty looks. This was going to be huge. Next, she needed everything Avalon that she could find. People would want to know, and after all, if things didn't go well and Avalon didn't want to play ball, Gwendolyn could always destroy what she created. Eat your heart out, Katie Couric...

[Image: 36F34CDA-4B46-46E6-BB78-120F37A2DAC7_zpsd26u0kia.jpg]
Oliver Holden, PPC

A small measure of pride tilted Oliver's chin as he watched Nicholas take the podium. From his vantage point on the dais behind him, he couldn't see the new Secretary's expression as he spoke, but Oliver was able to discern those of the audience. Joint sessions of Congress were held in the House chamber, and Oliver was to preside over the preceedings. This joint session would be one of the great historical moments of Congress.

Just as Nicholas took the podium, Oliver's eyes darted to meet those of other officers of the House, including that of the Sergeant at Arms, and finally to the two groups clutered in their respective party lines: the republicans brimming with the majority of seats, then the democrats, and finally the few representatives of the Libertarian party. Together the House floor was packed as it would be during the State of the Union, although the floor lacked the President. A few members lobbied to invite the president to the Hill, but Oliver made sure it didn't happen. This was legislative business.

As Nicholas spoke, Oliver maintained a flat expression, except at a few notable points where he paused to clap in support of the arguments made. He nodded along to confirm the truth of federal and military invesitgation into powered individuals. All in all, the Speaker was supportive of the new Secretary - as anyone in the know would realize, it had been Oliver's recommendation Nicholas was given the job to begin with. It would be a pleasure to work with him once Oliver was President.

He clapped vigorously, rising to his feet at the end of the speech. Oliver glanced at the Vice President seated nearby. Gauging by the man's tight expression, he was none too pleased with these developments, but being the reserved and keen mind that he was, Palin couldn't afford to offend the powered base group, not without jeopardizing the flimsy support the administration clung to during these difficult days. It would be a shame that he was going to die, Palin was a good man. But Oliver could not assume the office of President without it. Sacrifices had to be made and all men must die. Memento mori

Oliver returned to his seat, ready to grab the gavel and move to dismiss, when Nicholas interrupted once again.

He invited a junior Member to the podium without so much as a nod in the Speaker's direction. Dumbfounded, Oliver watched Evelyn Avalon, D-SD, take the stage. She also pointedly averted the Speaker, and Oliver's gaze hardened to the point to make the surrounding marble walls seem soft. Aware of CSPAN cameras, he quickly smoothed his expression, but inside, he was fuming.

The girl had her own announcement. Oliver picked up on it as soon as she began describing her empathy for the powered. The realization slowly pushed the anger away, transforming it to shock. There were powered individuals in Congress! How many were there in the country? He recalled her ascent to the House. The youngest Member in history; and a woman; and a post-millennial. She utilized a social fan base to kickstart her campaign, winning the hearts of young people back to politics. Ever since arriving in DC, she had been a pain. More than the typical junior democrat.

She somehow wormed her way into the Foreign Affairs committee and serving on the CCD subcommittee when she ought to be dabbling in far more mundane matters like Agriculture; maybe Ethics - that was a good one to learn House Rules. Oliver would not have been surprised if she demanded the penthouse office in the Rayburn building simply because she liked the view!

But she was powered. He blinked his way out of the trance of thought, realizing the House had erupted. He banged the gavel and called for order. The Sergant at arms stood at attention, but Oliver did not signal him. It seemed the cacophony soon simmered into awe. Oliver saw his administration taking shape then. He knew exactly what the country needed to become. The future was bright. The future would speak of the district like the classics spoke of Camelot, reverent and idealistic. But only if the powered, these channelers as Evelyn described them, could be allowed to do what they did best. Only if modern science had access to them. Only if their abilities could be tapped and shared by all mankind.

But Oliver was running out of time. His years were past the mid-day peak, drawing to a close as the decades set on his soul. He saw the look in Dawson's eye when he spoke of controlling these channelers. Maybe he was even Atharim himself? The Di Inferi had not dealt with the group in centuries, Oliver certainly never cared about them.

Roswell Jenkins had promised that Dawson would go. Roswell was even closer to the end than Oliver; he had to sense the urgency even more. Death was coming for them all.

All men died.

But not if the di inferi had their way.


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