It didn't seem right that it was a sunny morning. Funerals were supposed to be grey and dreary, to match the way you felt. St Stephen's Church looked bright and cheery from the outside. Inside, the stained glass dimmed the light a bit and only candles supplemented the natural light. Liz found a seat near the middle on the left, away from most of the other mourners. On her way there, she saw Brian's family and gave them a short wave and a weak smile that quickly turned into a frown. Over the years, she'd been to their house a few times for parties and such, so she knew them fairly well. But not enough that she'd feel like anything but an outsider to the family right now.
After a couple of testimonials, Liz mustered the nerve to get up and tell a story. "Hi. Um, I'm Liz. Normally, I wouldn't be up here. I'm not really the public speaking type. That's more Shelly. But she couldn't be here because she's still in the hospital. So I'm doing this for her. Brian was like a big brother to me. Or cousin. Because we didn't really grow up together. But in a way we did. At AEGIS we did. He was a really great friend, always looking out for me."
"One time, in hand to hand training, it was like my first time. And I was really bad at it. And the instructor, he made the rules that you had to keep fighting until you won. Which was just one hit. And I lost like 10 times in a row. Well Brian, he felt bad for me and decided to let me win. Even though we barely knew each other back then. And so, when we start, he's trying to let me hit him. Only I can't tell because I'm just trying not to get killed. After a while, it seemed like forever but it was probably only like twenty seconds, I slipped and he stepped on my foot by accident. It twisted my ankle and I cried out. He dropped his guard and was going to help me. But I wasn't going to let that keep me from finally winning. So I threw a punch, just as he was leaning over."
Liz smiled, remembering the look on his face. "I broke his nose. There he was trying to help me, really going out of his way to help me, and I broke his nose. And he laughed about it. Well, once the bleeding stopped." She laughed and then sniffled. "I'm going to miss him so much." She looked over at the coffin. "Goodbye Brian." Then she stepped down and went back to sit, fighting to keep the tears to a minimum.
After the service, Liz mingled with the crowd for a bit and then left. Just about everyone there was either Brian's family, who she'd never met, or AEGIS, who she didn't always feel comfortable around anymore. Aside from Brian, Shelly and Higgins, most everyone else seemed like they'd forgotten her as soon as she left. Briefly, she regretted asking Jason to let her go alone. It was nice of him to offer but she didn't want him to have to sit through it too. They said misery loves company but Liz always wanted to be miserable alone. She reached out briefly to touch Jason's mind. < Service is over. I'm gonna take a walk. I'll see you in a bit. > She was still amazed at being able to talk to him anytime and anywhere. It would have been harder to get used to if he had been her first mental companion. Her experience with Ni'Tu helped a lot in that regard. That was two friends now that she could always count on being able to talk to.
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
I don't know 'Tu. Just walking. I don't need to be around people right now.
Liz looked up over the trees and purple energy streaked through the air, transporting her along with it. Her next movement leveled out and she was blinking along the treetops, moving a thousand feet at a time, heading towards the city.
AREN'T THERE PEOPLE IN THE CITY?
Yeah but they'll leave me alone. Jason will want to talk.
NO HE WON'T. YOU KNOW HAVING HIM THERE WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER
Liz sighed. Fine. I know. I don't want to feel better.
Liz spotted a small clearing on the side of a hill and altered her course to land there before answering. Because Brian's dead. Why should I feel better?
I'M PRETTY SURE HE WOULDN'T WANT YOU TO BE MISERABLE
Well he doesn't get a vote anymore does he?
Just let me be miserable, 'Tu! OK?
IF THAT'S WHAT YOU NEED
Good. Somewhat satisfied, Liz looked skyward again, ready to continue. Just before she did, she heard a high pitched sound, almost like an alien 'chirp'.
But at the same time that she heard Ni'Tu's warning, a silver bolt of energy slammed into Liz's back and she went sprawling. Belatedly, her body started to glow purple as her shield activated.
What was that?
A PEACEBRINGER. IT CAME FROM ABOVE. MOVE!
Liz focused on a spot outside of the clearing, among the trees. A split second later, she was there and put a tree between herself and the clearing.
What's a Peacebringer doing here?
I ASSUME HE'S AFTER ME
But why? You defected.
MAYBE HE DOESN'T KNOW THAT
A man with a silver glow around his body descended into the clearing and started yelling. "Warshade! Where are you?" He was short, maybe even shorter than she was. But he looked very solid. His hair was dark and he had a very hard expression on his face. It was then that Liz recognized him.
Holy crap! That's Mike Green!
THE AEGIS GUY?
Yes! He's a tactical team leader.
"Come on out you coward! I know you haven't left!" Green sent a high pitched blast into a nearby tree.
He's also kind of a jerk.
YOU DON'T SAY. YOU KNOW HIM?
I trained with him a couple times while you were 'out'. He's nuts. Really hardcore. I didn't know he was joined with a Peacebringer.
ME EITHER. THERE SHOULD ONLY BE ONE ON EARTH RIGHT NOW AND THIS ISN'T HIM
Wouldn't AEGIS tell you if there was another Peacebringer here? And wouldn't he know about you? How else would he find us? Liz had met the only Peacebringer they knew of on Earth. Rrark. She met with him both before and after joining with Ni'Tu. And while she couldn't say she liked him, he wasn't the type to go on a murderous rampage.
I DON'T KNOW
Let's find out.
Liz pulled herself to her feet and stepped around the tree, leaning against it and wincing. That blast had hurt.
"Agent Green! What are you doing?"
Green spun to the sound of her voice, eyes glowing brightly. "Eliminating a threat."
"To who? I'm no threat and neither is Ni'Tu."
"You're naive. You're being manipulated." Green's voice changed. It was similar to how Ni'Tu could change Liz's voice. "WE KNOW BETTER." A blast shot out of his hand, shattered the tree Liz was leaning on. She blinked away just in time to avoid splinters.
"What the hell, Mike? This is bullshit and you know it. Ni'Tu has been working with me and AEGIS since he got here. I think after seven years, I'd know." It was getting hard to avoid fighting back, which Liz didn't want to do. That first blast had left her hurting.
"Wrong! He's been distancing himself from AEGIS every chance he gets. He's a Warshade and can't be trusted. He's using you."
"No, you're wrong! He's on our side. He's on YOUR side."
"No." Green's voice changed again. "NO WARSHADE WILL EVER BE ON MY SIDE."
Yesh. What did you do? Kill his brother or something?
YOU KNOW WE DON'T HAVE FAMILY GROUPS LIKE YOU DO
You know what I mean.
"You're making a mistake."
"YOU made the mistake by joining with him. If you rectify that, I'll let you go."
"Oh, give me a break." Liz leaned around the tree she was hiding behind and blasted her attacker. He grunted but showed no ill effects. Don't even think about it. We're in this together.
"Idiot! One way or another, he's coming in." A blast smashed Liz's tree again. The only thing she had going for her right now was that the conversation had given her time to recover from the initial attack. Gathering her strength, she prepared to fight back.
ELIZABETH. I THINK WE SHOULD GET OUT OF HERE
Because... because... this guy's pissing me off and I'm having a bad day and I just want to hit him. And then we'll leave, OK?
But Liz was already on the move. She flashed first across the clearing to the other side and then back to the center, swinging a glowing hand at the enraged AEGIS agent. It caught him off guard and he flew backwards into a tree with a loud crack. Faster than he should have, Green got back to his feet. He gathered and launched himself back at Liz. Ready, she reached out with both hands and sent a bright purple beam straight at him. Unfortunately for her, Green deflected it with an outstretched hand. A moment later, he was there, his fist swinging at her body. Surprised by her ineffective attack, Liz had no chance to dodge and there was a bright flash as it was her turn to go flying backwards. The thump as her body hit the side of the hill felt as bad as it sounded and her vision blurred for a second.
TIME TO GO
H4CK, CAN YOU MEET US ON TOP OF THE...
GBN Tower. Ow. Hurry. It was the closest landmark she could think of.
Liz broke out of her haze just in time for her forcefield to mostly deflect the follow up strike from her attacker. She shifted to her left and grabbed his arm, letting her gravity well pull him to the ground. Then, knowing he wouldn't take long to break free, she teleported away, heading towards the city. A scream of anger and a loud SNAP-CRACK confirmed her estimate of how long it would take Green to escape. A quick glance back between 'ports showed him rising in pursuit.
Cursing loudly, Liz concentrated and tried to cover the last bit of distance to the tower in a single jump. But, just before she diffused into energy, another blast hit her square in the back, throwing off her aim. A moment later, she was two hundred feet short of the tower and woozy. As she started to fall, she saw distant figure on top of the tower. Then, it vanished. A split second later, Jason's arms were around her. "It's all right, luv. I've got ye." The next thing she knew, they were in his room at the Anders Building. Exhausted, Liz held onto him for a moment and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks hun." Then she turned and flopped onto the bed. "You're my hero."
"Do ye want me te take ye back te yer room?" H4ck reached down to Liz's hand but a closer look showed she was already asleep.