Colorado- November, 2009
Cat sat with her knees pressed up against her chest and her feet tucked up on the chair. She was staring in the direction of General Ian Jones, pretending to watch him as he looked over her academy record. But in reality, she was taking the time to experiment a bit with her newfound powers. She hadn't had much of a chance to test her limits since her powers had manifested a week ago. Right now she was marveling at how easy it was to make the switch back and forth and how much more powerful that simple shift made her feel. She needed to get out on the track and test the range of her new abilities.
General Jones slammed her file (suddenly much larger than it had been a week ago) shut. Cat jumped and shifted back to her normal human form and returned her attention completely to him. He looked to be getting on in his later years- maybe late sixties/early seventies. That was a clever deception that the whole world was in on as the man was actually closing in on one hundred. The one and only Captain America (he went by General Star now when he wanted to remind people of his superpowers), the current ranking general of Superhuman Command and one of the greatest war heroes America had ever know. General Jones had stop aging physically about thirty years ago when the alien ally of Earth, Powers, had decided that Jones was far too important to the superhero world to ever be allowed to die. Powers had done the same thing to Victor Crewe, the original Dragon and Cat's former mentor, albeit much later in life.
General Jones sighed and ran a hand through his gray hair. Cat thought he was frowning at her, but it was hard to tell. All of the lines on his face had been defined by frowning a lot so he always seemed to carry a perpetual scowl. It was good for shouting down lawmakers in a congressional hearing. Not so good for dealing with the Superhuman Command recruits in the Air Force Academy.
"Deserting campus without leave, drunk and disordering conduct and assaulting fellow cadets," Jones said. "Did I miss anything, Cadet?"
"Do you think I'm really going to tell you if you did?" Cat asked.
"Of course. Insubordination. How could I forget that?" Jones held up a hand as Cat opened her mouth. "Don't, Cadet."
"Yes, sir," Cat said, settling back in her chair.
"Your medical exam indicate an adverse side effect that would have caused your poor lapse in judgment?" Jones said.
"No, sir," Cat said.
"I like you, Sans-Presance," Jones said. "There's a lot of your grandmother in you and there are a lot of people in our community who will take a lot of pride in your attitude. The Air Force does not."
"I understand, sir," Cat said.
The General folded his hands together and leaned forward. "I want you in Superhuman Command, Sans-Presance. I've never made any secret of that. And now that your powers have manifested, you're even more valuable to me. If you want to stay, I will pull whatever strings I need to make this disappear from your record. That's how badly I want you in my command."
"If I decide to stay?" Cat asked.
The General got to his feet and picked up Cat's file from his desk. "I know exactly why you came here. You fell out with Crewe and didn't want to give up being a hero. Superhuman Command was what you needed then. But you don't need it anymore, do you?"
"No, I suppose I don't," Cat said.
"So what are you going to do, Cadet?" Jones asked. "Are you going to take control of your own life or are you going to continue to let Crewe dictate your every action?"
"I made a clean break from Victor years ago," Cat snarled.
"Really?" Jones asked, leaning down so he was right in her face. "So why the trips to Boston whenever you get leave? Why did you fly to Boston right after your powers manifested?"
"Because I thought I could still save a friend," Cat said. "But now I know better."
"So are you in?" Jones asked.
"I am," Cat said. "But not without a condition. You want me so bad, fine. But I get to leave whenever I want. I get to take up the mask with no reprimands. An honorable discharge."
"You make a donation to the Academy in the sum of what your tuition would be, we can do that," Jones said.
Cat drew a deep breath and nodded. It was finally over. Victor didn't own her anymore. Now she was a part of the US Air Force. But they didn't own her either. She could freely leave at any point. She could make the quick, clean break from Superhuman Command that she would never be able to make from Victor and Boston.
"Dismissed, Cadet," Jones said.
Cat jumped to her feet and turned to leave Jone's office.
"Catalina," General Jones said. Cat paused at the doorway, surprised. Her mother was the only person who used her full name. General Jones had only ever called her Cadet, Sans-Presance or Cat in the very rare instance. "That drive to protect your teammates at all costs is an admirable, but dangerous, quality. You try to save anyone else the way you tried to save Fuentes, you'll destroy yourself."
"How do you know about that?" Cat asked.
"Your father called," Jones said. "He's worried about you. So is your mother."
"Isn't that against Academy protocol?" Cat asked. She couldn't believe her parents had told General Star- freaking Captain America- about what had happened with Felix.
"Welcome to the world of Superheroes, Cadet," the General said. "I'm not going to tell Galoid or Pensamientos how to look after their daughter."
"How... how do you stop?" Cat asked. "How do I walk away when a teammate needs me?"
Jones sighed. "Eighty years in this business and I haven't figured it out yet. But you're thinking about it. And you realize there's a problem. That's the first step."
"Thank you, sir," Cat said.
"Keep your nose clean Cadet," Jones said. "I don't want to see you again in my office until 2011."
"Yes sir," Cat said.