A Whateley Academy Tale
A Strange Fairytale
by All Mighty Yeet Meister
June 13th, 2007
Mouser stretched out on the hotel bed, fur still damp from her shower, eyes red and swelling thanks to getting punched and having chili pepper thrown in them earlier that night. Her young companion was in the bathroom cleaning up, while the fairy girl hadn't gotten covered in food, two weeks spent living in the false roof of a grocery store hadn't left her smelling so great.
Taking her phone, she dialed the MCO.
“Hey, Michelle, Mouser here,” she said, “I need to set up a meeting with the boss tomorrow sometime after ten, earlier the better. And I've got a kid who needs power testing for the same time if possible. But put a note in the testing file to not push her mentally or emotionally. She can handle almost anything physically, but in every other way she's fragile as a Ming vase.”
She waited a moment while all of that was typed in. “Also, you've got some research tonight. Get me any files you have on a guy called Burgermeister, pretty sure he's a devisor, mixed bag of stuff, robots, airship, transforming people, power armour and so on. And if you can look for a missing girl, preteen or early teens, first name Teri, probably from the US but add in Canada to make sure, sometime in the last year, it would really help.
Nodding her head, she listened to the woman repeat her instructions.
“Yeah, that's about it. Sorry, I can't really give you anything else, the kid I've got has had her head messed with really badly.” She paused for a moment. “Really badly. After talking with this girl over supper, if I see this Burgermeister guy in person, I'm not going to hold back.”
The water in the bathroom stopped. “Gotta go. We'll head straight for your office when we get into the city tomorrow.”
Teri came flying out of the bathroom a minute later, wearing a simple hand sewn tunic. She didn't look too bad now that she was fed and cleaned up. Watching her devour an entire kids meal, had been an interesting sight. She knew mutants could eat a lot, but the girl had somehow eaten several times her body weight and it barely even showed.
“How ya feeling kid?” Mouser asked.
“Better,” the girl said, looking nervously around the room.
“Where would you like to sleep? I can set up a pillow and stuff for you anywhere you'd like.”
“Can I sleep with you?” Teri asked.
That was unexpected. Mouser had slept with many people of both sexes, but only two of them had been children, her niece and nephew as toddlers. Looking at the tiny girl, who was practically hiding behind her purple hair, arms held protectively in front of her, knees raised like she wanted to hug them, her faintly glowing eyes wide, almost pleading, Mouser quickly made up her mind.
“Sure, it's a big bed and you won't-”
Teri didn't wait to hear the rest, one moment she was on the other side of the room, then she was clinging to Mouser's arm like it was a life preserver on a stormy sea. It didn't hurt, but she could feel the strength behind the grip. Removing her would probably require a crowbar and broken bones. It was strange feeling the doll like body and face pressing into her fur. One wing was draped over her arm, it felt like a very warm, silk handkerchief.
“Did you use to sleep with Rose like this?” she asked.
Teri nodded. “She was- She IS a little bigger than me, and we'd hold each other when we slept. She'd sing to me sometimes to keep the nightmares away.”
With her free arm, Mouser took her phone and set it to record. “You have nightmares? Do remember what they're about?”
“Can you tell me anything about them?”
“There's usually ashes, and electricity. People are yelling at me. I don't know where I am or who I am. Sometimes there's blood. And since I got away, Rose Blossom is in a lot of them, she's always screaming.”
Mouser felt Teri rub her face into her fur, sniffing and fighting back a sob. Turning off her phone again, she stroked the girls back. “OK, that's enough, thanks for telling me. Let’s get some sleep OK. You must be exhausted.”
Turning off the light, she pulled the cheap blanket over both of them, and stared up at the ceiling as the fairy quickly fell asleep, still not letting go of her arm. A little later the girl started to whimper, Mouser used a finger to stroke her back, whispering that it was all right and she was safe. That seemed to do the trick and Teri settled down.
“Damn, Mouser,” she muttered to herself, “what have you gotten yourself into?”
June 14th, 2007
MCO Office, Mid-Morning
Larry Meyer, head of the Nebraska MCO, placed a thick file in front of Mouser. “Here's everything I can legally show you about the Burgermeister.”
“Legally,” she asked, opening up the file.
“There is some stuff in the system I can't even look at without a signed release from two of my supervisors,” Larry replied. “I vaguely remember hearing about him in the mid and late 90's, usually in very quiet tones.”
“Sounds like he was a big bad, so why isn't he better known,” she asked, skimming over the first page that listed what little was officially known about the supervillain.
“He worked behind the scenes mostly. Anything that caught his eye or would pay for his research he'd do it, black and grey hat stuff. He even did some work with white hat researchers on mutants. It looks like he preferred to avoid fighting and whenever things got hot he'd quietly take his leave. Made a fortune and got a lot of connections.”
Mouser flipped a few pages, stopping on a photograph. It took her a second to realize what she was looking at, she reached for the garbage can as her gorge rose up. She'd never seen so much blood, and it would be days before she could look at hamburger the same way.
“I see you've found the photo's, I'm guessing it's the 1992 Lancashire Massacre,” he said, looking a little pale. “Virtually an entire MCO office slaughtered in a matter of minutes, the sole survivor was given a message by the Burgermeister. 'The MCO will put down their weapons and crawl on their knees to the police, begging forgiveness for all the children they have killed. If they do not, I will continue seeking justice.'”
“How did a guy go from working behinds the scenes to... this?” Mouser asked.
He spread his hands. “I don't know. If the MCO knows, it's classified well above my pay level. What I do know is starting in early 1992, he went around the world attacking and usually slaughtering MCO agents. He was smarter than most who tried similar tricks. He was patient and constantly moving. He'd attack agents who were alone or in small groups, avoiding the public eye. When he made a big attack, he waited for a disaster of some kind, a riot in Lancashire, the 1992 LA Race Riots, the 1994 earthquake near LA. The 1993 Storm of the Century saw him take out MCO posts and agents all along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Canada. He made sure to get in quickly, do some damage and retreat before any real force could arrive to stop him. And each time he left a similar message, either with a single survivor or written in blood.
“He also made it a point to 'free' anyone in MCO custody, whether they were locked up for murder, to deal with an unstable power, or were just there for power testing. He created his own little gang, mostly older teens, who helped him in his crusade. The MCO did its best to keep things quiet so no one else would be inspired by the attacks. Thanks to his own hit and run tactics, the silence campaign was fairly successful.”
“So how was he stopped?” Mouser asked.
“The last bit in the folder, the May 1995, Louisiana Flood. The MCO had set up a task force just for him. When the flood started, they saw their chance to lure him into a trap. They used all their assets, prototype weapons, military grade weapons and explosives, superpowered agents, and put out a story that the MCO was hunting down a mutant who had killed his family after manifesting.”
She flipped to the section, most of the report was blacked out, but there were some photo's of the fight. It was a war zone set in a watery hell.
“The ambush started with fifty MCO agents, four of them superpowered, then several SWAT teams arrived along with a platoon of National Guardsmen who were nearby helping with the evacuation joined in, and finally a local C list superhero team who arrived after after hearing the SWAT teams calling for any possible backup. They fought an hours long battle against Burgermeister, his robots, and his team of eight mutant teenagers. If the area hadn't been cleared out earlier, it would have been another Fools Fight.
“We're not sure who set off the final explosion. Most of Burgermeisters group was already dead or dying, so it's assumed he did it as a suicidal attempt to take everyone with him. Two superheroes, three MCO agents, and a handful of national guardsmen survived.”
“So he somehow survived and after laying low for a decade decided to screw around with mutant children,” Mouser said, flipping through more of the pictures.
“It looks that way. The MCO has very quietly put out the word to every office to be on the watch for the Burgermeister and anything that resembles his former devises or MO. If he gets too noisy, we'll spot him,” Larry said.
Mouser nodded. “Until then, we have to take care of a young girl who was brutalized by him, and he may very well want her back.”
“Any luck on finding out who she is?”
He rubbed his hand through his short grey hair. “Nothing. There are several superpowered teens and adults who have gone missing, but none of them are named Teri and none have powers resembling her or her GSD.”
“From her story, she was transformed into her current shape. So her powers might have been warped as well,” she said. “For all we know she went through powers testing, and her powers and body are so FUBAR'd we won't be able to connect the dots,” Mouser said, wanting to spit.
“We're running a DNA test now. Hopefully that will be similar enough to her old DNA to get us a hit. I've done everything I can, you can take the files with you since it looks like you're going to be on the front line if anything happens.” Getting up from his desk, Larry motioned to door. “How about we go watch the power testing? We need to discuss what to do with Teri, but that should wait until she's done testing and talks with the child psychologist I called in.”
“Sure, it's always fun seeing what the kids can do,” she said, leaving the office.
They made their way to the basement testing area, where Teri was currently running on a treadmill. It looked pretty ridiculous, seeing a girl the size of a mouse running as fast as she could on equipment made for a baseline.
The local MCO researcher was watching her and making some notes on his pad, a young woman stood by his side looking over his shoulder.
“David, long time no see. What have you found out so far?” Mouser asked.
The researcher turned around, revealing his badly scarred face, it looked like a grizzly bear had tried to claw off the left side of his face starting at his jaw, and just missed his eye. Despite his scary appearance, Mouser had to admit he always got on well with the teenagers he tested.
“She's a PK superman and a speedster,” he said.
Mouser looked over at the treadmill. “Um... the machine says she's running 10 miles an hour. My four-year-old niece can run that fast.
He looked at her over top of his glasses. “Your niece is probably forty inches tall, Teri is six and a quarter inches tall. Judging by the length of her legs and the speed she's going, with a back of the envelope calculation, if she was average height for a thirteen year old, she'd be running at about a hundred and sixty miles per hour. From what I've seen so far, she's going to laugh at our reflex testing.”
“That would actually explain a few things,” Mouser said quietly.
“I'm curious why she has several bruises on her back and limbs,” David said, his eyes narrowing. “She said you gave them to her.”
“You think she has bruises?!” Mouser said. “You should see my backside! If it wasn't for my fur you'd see the bruise she gave me punching me in the nose, and my tail still hurts where she yanked it!”
The researcher allowed a little smile to show. “She did say you had a bit of a fight.”
“A bit of a fight,” she snorted, “that fairy girl is vicious.”
David nodded. “Well now that you're here, this is as good a time as any.” He went to a desk out of sight of Teri, who was concentrating on running, and pulled out a souped up Nerf gun. Pointing it at the fairy he fired an oversized plastic dart at her.
Teri spun around at the very last second, catching the dart out of the air and threw it back at David. The researcher dodged to the side, barely avoiding getting hit. Looking unfazed he picked up his notepad again and started writing. “Teri how did you know the dart was about to hit you?” he asked.
“I heard it. It was a really faint whistling sound,” she said.
“How the heck did she hear it? I barely heard it,” Mouser said, twitching her large cat ears.
“Teri come over here,” David said, tapping something into his computer.
“Is this going to be fun to?” Teri asked, a big grin on her face. “I really like running and playing catch.”
He shook his head. “Sorry this is just a listening test. Listen to the speaker and tell me when you hear the sound and when you stop hearing it.”
She nodded and knelt on the edge of the desk. Mouser leaned in close to hear as well, as David started the program. She heard a very faint mosquito like whine, and Teri nodded, “I hear it!”
The whine became louder, causing Teri to clap her hands over her ears and scowl. “That hurts,” she said. From the look Larry and David gave her, they could barely hear it, Mouser found it a little annoying, but hardly painful.
The whine grew louder, and Teri stopped holding her ears, as the frequency changed. Then it became deeper, eventually becoming a rumbling bass.
“I can't hear it anymore,” Teri said. “I can kind of feel it in my chest, but I don't hear a thing.”
Mouser and Larry exchanged a look, they could still hear it very clearly.
“What exactly did this show?” Mouser asked.
“Small animals have trouble hearing low frequencies, it seems Teri has the same problem. She can hear high frequencies well above baseline human capabilities as expected, but her ear drums are no longer capable of catching deep bass sounds. Fortunately her hearing is still well within the human vocal range, at worst a very deep voice might sound a little distorted but will still be understandable,” he said.
“So no more dubstep for me?” Teri asked.
“If that's what my son listens to, probably not,” David said.
“All right, that's interesting, but do you think Teri has a danger sense? Because having fought her, I don't think she does,” Mouser said.
David shook his head. “I doubt it. She just has extreme reflexes and hyper vigilance.” He turned to the young woman who had been standing quietly off to the side. “Patricia, can you take Teri to the next test, we'll be there in a minute.”
“Sure, Dad,” the woman said. “Come on Teri, you'll have fun with this test.”
“OH! What is it?!” Teri asked, leaping onto her shoulder as they left they room.
Mouser waited for the door to close, before asking, “So what's the secret you want to keep from Teri?”
“She has PTSD,” he said.
He nodded. “That hyper vigilance is not something you'd see in a normal teen. Her size and speed make it hard to notice, but if you know what to look for, you'll see she is constantly moving her eyes and head. It's subtle, she probably doesn't even realize she's doing it, still her eyes are looking at reflections around her, as well as watching how other people are acting, and she shifts her head and body to cover blind spots every few seconds. She also listens for any potential danger, likely subconsciously. And when she's surprised she reacts instantly.”
“Is she dangerous?” Larry asked.
“Sorry, above my pay grade,” he said. “I had Patricia startle her while I was doing the physical. Teri jumped back, shouting, it took her a fraction of a second to realize it wasn't an attack and the shout became a squeal of delight and several seconds of an overexcited young girl acting like she'd just met her best friend. You both saw the dart, she threw it back at me, seemingly without a thought, but didn't do anything to follow it up.”
“You're saying she reacts instinctively to keep herself safe and buy some time, and then decides what to do after that,” Mouser said.
“That's what I think,” David said.
“Lovely,” Larry muttered. “This case just keeps getting better and better.”
Teri sat on the table looking worn out after the day of testing. Mouser was surprised at how much energy the tiny girl had, but it seemed like she'd finally reached her limits.
“Come on Teri,” Patricia said, “this is the last test. It's just some chocolate.”
“I told you, you don't want me to eat chocolate or anything really sugary. The Burgermeister said it was bad for me, it supercharges my system. The last time I ate chocolate cake I acted all weird,” Teri said.
“But it didn't hurt you right?”
“It gave me a headache.”
Mouser knelt down. “Teri, we really do need to see what happens when you get supercharged.”
“I don't want to get into trouble,” the fairy said, looking off to the side.
“You won't get into any trouble. We're asking you to do it, and there's nothing in here that's expensive. So you can act as weird as you want,” Mouser said.
“OK,” Teri said, breaking off a piece of the chocolate bar. “But you can't get angry with me about what happens.”
“We won't, I promise.”
“And Patricia and everyone but you has to be outside,” Teri said.
Mouser nodded, and motioned for the baselines to leave. “There we go.”
Teri started chewing on the piece of chocolate. Her eyes began glowing bright enough to show even in the well lit room. The dainty, little bites turned to greedy, mouth cramming gulps. Her body began to blur from shaking.
Mouser stepped back, unsure of what was going on. Her eyes fell on the small chocolate bar beside the fairy, she went to grab it.
“MINE!” Teri shouted, grabbing the chocolate bar and flying away. The fairy began to laugh. It was impossible to tell exactly where the laughter was coming from since she was moving too quickly to keep track of.
“Oh bugger,” Mouser said, as a laughing purple streak flew at her.
Fifteen minutes after closing the door, Mouser crawled out of the testing room. Her clothes were rumpled and wrinkled with tears in several places, her fur was a mess and several small patches were missing.
Rolling onto her back, she looked up at the shocked MCO agents. “Put a warning in big red letters, DO NOT give her sugar. And I never want to dance the salsa again.”
Larry looked through the cracked safety glass. “Is it safe to get her now?”
It had been a long, long day, and Mouser sat in Larry's office nursing a beer. Teri was still in a private office talking with a child psychiatrist, after going over some of the details of what had happened not only on the airship but in the grocery store as well.
“So what's the plan for dealing with the H1! Group?” she asked.
“Not my problem,” Larry said. “There was a report of a group of friends who crashed their truck sending some of them to hospital, that matches the date and injuries, but they clearly said it was a car accident, not a mutant attack. No one died and no reports were filed, I don't see a need to investigate.”
“Glad to hear it. What about that girl she mentioned, the one who set her off on Burgermeisters ship?”
“There at least we have some useful info,” Larry said. “It would help if Teri remembered the name clearly, but the description and what she remembers of the name seems to match a Marni Petty, codename Power-Up. Fourteen year old runaway, from California, she went through power testing and is an energizer who can boost her strength, endurance, reflexes and senses for a limited amount of time. Good parents, but her town ostracized her and her family. She ran away on March 15th and it's believed she's been living in LA, surviving with a small street gang, picking pockets, panhandling and other things.”
“Any idea where she is now?”
“No. I've put out the word through all channels that she is a witness we would like to talk to. I emphasized that she is a witness, not a suspect and is to be treated as gently as possible, since she has information on a dangerous supervillain. I added that she may be with Rose Blossom, who is a human and is to be treated as such.”
She gave him a thumbs up. “I'm not sure how good either of them will be. Marni probably didn't catch much before Teri went ballistic, and Rose Blossom seems to have gotten a full dose of whatever mind warping he tried to give Teri. Still it can't hurt, although those elves and goblins might be a better bet, since they were his actual helpers.”
“Unfortunately they've vanished off the face of the Earth. Don't ask me how they did it, for all we know their escape pod could have exploded on impact and we'll eventually find the wreckage.”
“Getting back to Teri, what did David have to say about her powers?”
“PK three, and energizer three, with a note saying she's a special speedster mostly focused around reflexes. She also has dark vision, extremely dense muscles, very sharp claws, and can fly without her PK field. We also put in bright red letters that when she has stimulants, her PK and energizer abilities increase by at least one rating, while causing short term irrational behaviour, and is to be avoided.”
“No wonder she was so much fun to fight,” Mouser muttered. In a louder voice she asked, “So what's the plan for dealing with her?”
“There are a few options,” Larry said. “None of them really good. Foster care is right out, no foster family could effectively deal with her powers. There's a school she could go to, but I'm not sure if she could handle it with her emotional and mental problems. There simply isn't a good facility for a teenager with her problems, the ones best suited for dealing with her emotional problems are more for criminally insane or patients who don't have much hope of being placed back into society.”
Scowling, Mouser nodded in understanding. “Teri's got problems, but nothing like that.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Larry said.
Before the door had opened more than a few inches, Teri flew in grabbing Mousers chest and buried her face into the fur. The psychiatrist, Dr. Shultz, followed more calmly and took a seat.
“You're all done?” Mouser asked, gingerly patting the fairy that was softly crying into her fur.
“Yes, I'd like to go over the details with both of you,” the psychiatrist said, motioning to her and Larry, “while Teri spends some time with Patricia. But she wanted a few moments with you first.”
Patricia came into the office, and crouched down beside Mouser and Teri. “Hey Teri, I've got a really nice fruit plate, with pineapple, peaches, apples and other things for us to eat in the break room. Mouser can come get you when she's all done talking, OK?”
Mouser gently pried Teri off of her. “She's right, the moment I'm done here I'll go and see you.”
“Promise?” Teri asked, looking up at her with her big purple eyes.
The fairy jumped to Patricia's shoulder, holding onto her hair to keep her balance. The pair left the office, closing the door behind them.
Mouser and Larry both looked at Dr. Shultz, who took a moment to fix her hair and give her head a shake. “I believe you both realize Teri is a very troubled young girl?”
“I figured that out when she tried to destroy a grocery store using me as a club, because she got it into her head that the Burgermeister was coming for her,” Mouser said, deadpan.
“That's part of it. I want you both to understand this is a very preliminary assessment, and Teri is a special case. Your researcher is correct she is suffering from PTSD, with nightmares, hyper vigilance, impulsive behaviour, avoidance, emotional outbursts, and potentially several more symptoms. On top of that, I believe she has a mental conditioning that is reacting to the PTSD and her original personality. Whatever was done to affect her memories, seems to force her to be more childlike and playful.” She stopped for a moment, pursing her lips like she'd tasted something bad.
“Without more research, I can't say how much this emotional template is affecting Teri, but it is definitely there, and is likely why despite everything she jumps from fear, sadness or anger to happiness and excitement so quickly. And on top of that her old memories are surfacing almost like flashbacks. As we talked, a phrase, question or situation would make her enter something like a disassociative state, where she'd remember something from her past for several seconds to over a minute and become unresponsive to most stimuli.”
“That's a good thing isn't it? She's getting memories back,” Mouser asked.
“The memories are warped. Faces are rubbed out, names, places, anything that would give them real meaning are removed. The pictures in the box she was living in, the faceless ones, those are how she remembers her friends and family,” the psychiatrist explained. “She's learned to handle them by disassociating them from her directly, removing the emotional impact of the memories themselves. She said it hurts less that way.”
Larry took off his glasses and rubbed his temples. “Bottom line, is she a danger?”
“Not to the general public.”
“But?” Mouser asked.
“As I said, this is very preliminary, and I'm only saying this because of her unique situation. From talking to her, she is not so much scared of people attacking her, she'll be hurt emotionally and may flee an unpleasant confrontation, but outside of a few situations she knows she is very strong and is hard to hurt. Instead she sees herself as a protector, seeing people she cares about getting hurt will have her react aggressively. It's likely she'll react similarly to children being harmed. The H1! Hit squad did not make her angry until one of them shouted about hurting fairies, which her mind associated with her friend Rose Blossom. Her attack on the Burgermeister occurred when another girl was going to be transformed. In those situations she will end the threat as quickly as possible. To her credit, it seems she will avoid intentionally using lethal force, but broken bones and destruction of property are all on the table.”
“What if she saw Burgermeister again?”
“With her conditioning broken like it is, I don't know. I will say that I would not want to be in the same room with the two of them, she is as likely to attack him, as she is to flee in a hysterical +panic or to collapse from a panic attack.”
Larry sighed, his fingers tapped a short rhythm on his desk. “OK, we need to know what to do with her. Suggestions?”
Dr. Shultz leaned forward in her chair. “She needs someone she can trust, who is strong enough that she doesn't feel the need to protect them. Then a careful acclimatization back into society, no pressure, just regular everyday experiences, alongside therapy to deal with her PTSD and memory loss.”
Mouser felt two pairs of eyes looking at her. “I'm not really mother material. I'm a good aunt, because I can spoil kids, but caring for a child, not my thing.”
“I hate to say it, but she already considers you a figure she can trust. You saw how she wanted to hug you after a challenging therapy session. You also beat her in a fight, you're tough, she doesn't need to protect you, you can protect yourself and her.”
Larry added his voice to the argument. “I could ask the Lincoln Freedom Squad if they want to help. It's between you and them, there's no one else qualified for the job in the state.”
“The Lincoln Freedom Squad couldn't find its own butt with both hands and a GPS,” Mouser said. Turning to Dr. Shultz she asked “This will help the kid? You're not just trying to shove the problem onto me?”
“I believe it will have the best results for Teri,” the psychiatrist said.
Raising her can of beer in a toast, Mouser said, “Goodbye child free life, hello motherhood!”
Teri sat on the headrest, her nails piercing the fabric to keep her place. “I can really live with you?”
“For the tenth time, yes,” Mouser said. “You need a place to live, and I could use a roommate. It gets a little lonely sometimes not having anyone to talk to. And my niece and nephew will love meeting you.”
Her heart rose in her chest and she felt tears welling up in her eyes at Mousers words. “Can we go to the beach?” she asked.
“On the first nice day we’ll go to Pine Lake Beach. It's a little small, but it's got sand and water, and its right in the city,” Mouser said. “And I'll call my sister and set up a little vacation at the best beach in Nebraska, you'll get to meet my niece and nephew, they're great kids, you'll love them.”
“I won't scare them, will I?” Teri asked, her voice almost a whisper.
“Nah! They think I’m awesome. A sweet little fairy like you, you’ll be bigger than Santa Claus.”
“Maybe they'll like flying?!” she exclaimed, thinking of how fun it was flying with Rose Blossom.
Mousers eyes got very large. “Let's hold off on flying with little kids for a while. I don't want my sister or my brother-in-law having a heart attack.”
“Ready?” she asked
“Are you sure no will come in here?” a girl with no face asked back.
“Yes I’m sure. I asked the gym teacher really nicely to let me use it after school. Although I may have accidentally signed myself up for the end of year talent show. You’re suppose to be teaching me how to dance,” she said.
“You and I only know how to dance with a partner, do you have one?” the faceless girl asked.
“Yeah, not really. That could be a problem,” she admitted. “Anyways, I figured this was a great place to practice some things and I wanted you here to see just how cool this is.”
“And to watch the door right?”
“Would you be so kind?” she asked, giving her best puppy dog impression.
“What are best ______ for?”
She hugged the girl, careful to control her strength so that she didn’t break any ribs or leave bruises. “Thank you! Now I think I might be able to fly, watch me.”
Going to the middle of the gym, she did some stretches, then with a look of concentration ran five steps and jumped. She laughted as she went ten feet into the air and landed almost thirty feet away.
“ISN’T THAT COOL!!!!”
“OK I’m going to try to reach the other end of the gym now.” Closing her eyes, she tried to visualize herself flying. She thought it would be a lot like swimming, only drier. Filling her lungs with air, she ran as fast as she could and threw herself into the sky. Looking down she saw the ground far below, at which point her every instinct screamed that she was going to fall and break every bone in her body. Her stomach began to churn.
On the ground the faceless girl screamed and ran, barely escaping the foul smelling mess that hit the ground, she followed a second later, landing with a painful thud.
“OW!” she moaned, holding her head which she had cleverly used to help soften her landing.
“Are you alive?” the girl called from the door of the gym office.
“OK. I’ll get a mop, while you hit the showers.”
“Ow. Can you help me up?” she asked, holding up a dripping hand.
“Um....” the girl said looking carefully at the foul smelling muck covering the budding superhero. “No. You’re super tough now, you’ll survive.”
“Traitor! You’re no longer my sidekick!”
“Hey,” Mouser said, snapping her fingers, “Earth to Teri.”
“Sorry, just thinking of something,” she said. “Maybe flying on the first day wouldn't be such a good idea.”
“All right, here we are,” Mouser said, pulling into a parking lot. “Your new home. I'll need a few minutes getting a place prepared for you. And we'll need to do some shopping to get things nice and cozy, along with some good clothes, but we'll have it looking like home in no time.”
She followed Mouser inside and up to the apartment, carrying her potted rose, while Mouser carried the rest of their things. The place really wasn't what she expected.
One entire side of the living room was covered in movies and what looked like comic books, with a really nice entertainment centre right in the middle. On the walls were posters of superheroes, supervillains, actors and singers, flying up close, she saw that all of them were autographed, most of them to Mouser.
Three posters had pride of place, Mouser was front and center on them, wearing a shredded chain mail bikini, that hid almost nothing, while tentacles wrapped themselves around her. “Warrior Cat Princess vs. the Tentacle Monsters, Warrior Cat Princess vs. The Alien Octopi, and Warrior Cat Princess vs The Worms that Walk. Starring the American Superhero Mouser and AV Superstar Hentai," Teri read. “You're an actress?”
“Ah, not really,” Mouser said, focusing a bit too much on clearing a place by the balcony for the rosebush. “I just got an offer to star in a Japanese movie and manga series. It was fun, but I'm more suited for being a superhero.”
“Can we watch them?”
“NO!” Mouser said rather quickly. “They're not really for children. Or anyone under eighteen. Look, how about you just sit down on the couch, while I go get a room ready for you. Don't look at the comics, manga or the movies too much until I have a chance to clean them up.”
The cat went to the shelf of books, which didn't look dirty, and began grabbing a few books seemingly at random, until she had an armful, which she put on the couch. “Here, these are good for a young girl to read.”
Flying to the couch, Teri picked up one of them. “Super Sayan Ninja Scouts Are Easy? What's this one about?”
Mouser grabbed it out of her hands. “Whoops, that one is definitely not for you.”
“All right,” she said, giving Mouser a side eye.
Her new caretaker left her in the living room, and went down the hallway, muttering just a little to low to be heard. The next several minutes were filled with the sound of things being moved, thrown and comments like, “So that's where the jackhammer got to,” “I thought I'd burned that,” “Where the heck am I supposed to put Mr. Happy?” and “When the heck did I get this? Is it even legal?”
As Mouser did whatever she had to, Teri curled up on the black couch wondering what was going to happen. She was happy to be with Mouser, living with a superhero would be really cool, and since she was going to be a superhero this would be great training. But despite that, she hoped it wouldn't be for long.
She'd told the MCO and Dr. Shultz everything she could remember about her life before Burgermeister. Everyone said they would look as hard as they could for her family, but their eyes hadn't looked hopeful. And they didn't have any news on Rose Blossom or the goblins and elves. They should have been easy to find, pretty fairies, green goblins and little elves couldn't be that common. It was like they had just vanished off the face of the earth.
Flying to the window, she stroked the pink petals of her rose. “Maybe I shouldn't stay here, Rose Blossom. You're out there somewhere, and I've told them everything I can, so now more people are looking for you. I can travel really fast and look for you too. If I stay here all safe and sound, and if something bad happens to you, I don't know if I could forgive myself.”
She looked at the setting sun. “But they're looking for my family too. If I leave and they find my parents the next day, I wouldn't know it. That would be really mean to them, wouldn't it? They have to be really worried, and to hear that I'm back, only to disappear again wouldn't be fair.”
Sitting in the soil, she rubbed her nose. “And... I don't want to be alone again. I don't like being scared and sad with no one to talk to. I'm sorry, Rose Blossom. As soon as I know where you are, I'll go and get you, but until then I'm going to stay here. I... I'm sorry I'm not strong enough.”
“OK!” Mouser said, coming back to the living room. “I've got a linen closet all cleared out for you. You're small enough it's practically an apartment, the door is solid so you have privacy, and it's in the hallway facing my room if you need anything. Tomorrow, we'll get some stuff to make it more homey and add a few more shelves for you. For tonight you'll have to make do with a pillow, a lamp and a silk shawl.”
“THANK YOU!” Teri shouted, shooting across the room to give Mouser a hug. The soft fur tickled her nose and made her feel all warm and cozy.
“Now, it's time to give you a tour of your new home, and then we can order something for supper. I could really go for a seafood pizza.”
At first Mouser didn't know why she had woken up, it was well past midnight and her room was dark and quiet. Rolling onto her side, a tiny thing shifted and lightly bumped her arm. Blinking to adjust her eyes to the low light, she saw that Teri was fast asleep beside her.
“Good thing I don't have a partner right now, this would be hard to explain,” she said quietly.
Laying her head back down, she tried to put the fairy out of her mind.
June 15th, 2007
Teri ate the slice of banana in tiny, lightning fast bites, before reaching for the slice of crispy bacon. She was dressed in her best dress, with the only successful pair of underwear she'd been able to make, they were pretty loose and she had to use a thread as a belt to hold them up, but she wouldn't embarrass herself while flying. Mouser sat across from her eating a bacon and egg sandwich that was made from almost an entire pack of bacon.
“What are we going to do today?” she asked.
“First, we're getting you measured for clothes, and I'll contact a dragon I know in Texas who does custom clothes and things for mutants. We can get him to make you some furniture in your size that work with your wings, so you don't have to keep sitting on pillows or towels.” Mouser cocked her head in thought for a moment, before saying, “Maybe he can figure out a keyboard or something for you that will work too.”
Jumping up, she began dancing in the air. “Yay! New Clothes! I hope they're really cute! I love pink and purple, but blue, red, green and yellow are good too. Maybe a black jumpsuit, so I can be a ninja! And I'll need a superhero suit, should it be bright and eye catching or all dark and brooding? Maybe I can get one like yours, I can be your sidekick.”
“Woah! Woah! Woah!” Mouser said, nearly dropping her sandwich. “No superheroing for you. You have to be eighteen to be a hero, and it's not as easy as you seem to think.”
Teri pouted and looked at the cat with big purple eyes.
“That doesn't work on me. I've got a niece and nephew who try it all the time, I've developed a defense to puppy dog eyes.”
Kicking the air, she tried a different tact. “I could be eighteen.”
That received a very skeptical look. “Really?”
“Yeah. I could. I don't know how old I am, so I could be a cute, awesome, wonderful and adorable eighteen-year-old,” Teri said, sticking out her chin and chest, trying to look mature.
“I don't think so. Neither does the MCO. And once we get your paperwork back from the government, I don't think they'll believe it either,” Mouser said, giving her a small smile. “Now since everyone is in agreement that you're not an adult, this afternoon we have to go to CPS and sign a whole lot of forms. They'll ask you a bunch of questions, and you'll have to do some tests to get an idea of what your education level is.”
“That sounds boring.”
“Very boring. Get used to it. But before that boring stuff, we'll do a bit of shopping so you can start making your room feel like home.”
Teri sank back down and picked up her bacon. “I don't have any money, how can I pay for all of this?”
Mouser waved her hand at that minor problem. “Don't worry about it. I'm your foster parent, the government will be paying me at least six-hundred-fifty a month to take care of you. Since I need to get special items for your size, I might be able to get a bit more. It's all yours, I don't need the money. And because I am a fantastic hero, with a reputation for generosity, kindness, lovable-ility, and general awesomeness, if you happen to go over the budget, I'll be happy to cover it.”
“THANK YOU!” Teri shouted, flying across the table to give the cat a big hug.
“AIR! Need air!” Mouser gasped, trying to tug the fairy away from her throat.
Teri looked over the math question, using a piece of lead wrapped in a bit of sticky tack, to work out the solution before tapping it into the computer. It was slow going, however there was no way a baseline would be able to make out her tiny writing without a magnifying glass, and writing it out big enough for them to see clearly would be a huge pain for her.
She'd been doing pretty well until she'd reached her nemesis, algebra. She recognized some of it, she didn't know where she recognized it from of course, but she had an idea of what she was supposed to do.
“This is hard!” she said.
The invisible girl in a multicoloured dress, that Teri thought was her sister, sighed “You're the one who wanted to learn this stuff early.”
“Yeah, but I didn't think this would be so hard. The other stuff is a lot easier.”
“You can't just do English, history and stuff like that, you've gotta learn the math. Come on it's not that hard. Let's go over it from the beginning again.”
She smiled as the equations started to make sense. With renewed energy she started scribbling down the solution.
Teri sat on Mouser's shoulder watching as the CPS worker looked over the report. The tests had taken up most of Teri's time, while Mouser had been interviewed, questioned, and given a comprehensive list of rules and regulations for being a foster parent.
What should have taken months had been done in a few hours for the sake of expediency and reality. No regular foster family was suitably trained to deal with a mutant like Teri. Since Mouser was a hero in good standing, and had a long letter from the MCO giving their opinion on the matter of caring for a young mutant with severe GSD and emotional problems, things had been rushed through.
Now it was simply a matter of passing on some information, signing some last documents and Teri would officially have a foster parent.
“So, am I genius?” Teri asked, growing tired of the wait.
“From your placement tests, you appear to be at the level of a beginning high school freshman. Your English is quite good, and you did well in the social sciences. Your math and science are a little below average, but some tutoring should allow you to catch up quickly in those areas,” the woman said.
“Aw, nuts! I thought I did really well in the math.”
“So, Ms. Mouser, are you planning on putting Teri into a regular high school setting come September, or homeschooling?”
Mouser took a moment to think before answering. “I think homeschooling would be the best idea. I'll see about getting some tutors for her, and maybe finding some groups or programs that can handle her.”
“You mean I can't show off my awesomeness in class?!” Teri exclaimed.
Mouser and the woman shared a concerned look. Finally, Mouser said, “Teri, I can honestly say, you're probably a bit too awesome for a regular classroom.”
That made her puff up with pride.
“I can give you the contact information for several tutors in various subjects, and some programs that might be able to accommodate Teri,” the worker said. “Now you haven't given me information on an emergency contact, I'll need that soon.”
“Hadn't really thought of that,” Mouser admitted. “This was kind of last minute. I have a few ideas, let me call them tonight, and I'll get back to you as soon as I have someone lined up.”
That got a nod, and the woman placed a paper on the desk. “Very well. If you can sign here, we're done for the day. I'll check in on you in a week for a home visit, to see how things are going.”
Walking out of the building, Teri couldn't help but grin so wide it felt like her face was going to split into two. It wasn't her family, but she now had someone she trusted to help her and take care of her, she felt tears well up in her eyes. “Thank you, Mouser!” she said, kissing the cat on the cheek.
“It's my pleasure, Teri. You're a good kid, helping you out is the least I can do. Now how about we get some supper and sugar free frozen yogurt?”
“YAY!” Teri shouted, hugging Mouser and flying up into the air.
“Air! Can't breathe!” Mouser shouted.
Mouser threw down her phone in disgust, and crossed out another name.
“No luck finding an emergency contact?” Teri asked.
“Nope. Most of my friends aren't exactly child friendly. I could ask Larry or a few others on the MCO, but I'd like to avoid that if possible,” Mouser said.
“Why? They seem nice. I really like Patricia, she's pretty.”
Mouser looked up at the ceiling, then turned to look at her. “The MCO isn't always nice. Some of them are really bad, and a lot of mutants don't trust them. The ones here are pretty good, got a few jerks, but they play by the rules, and the good ones are great. But I'd like you to have a broad range of people to talk to and look to for help, not just MCO agents and me.”
“So what are you going to do?” Teri asked.
“I'm going to bite the bullet and call someone who is really good with kids and would give the shirt off her back to help a child in need.”
Teri looked at Mouser in confusion. “Why didn't you call her first?”
“Because... there were some... misunderstandings, and she kind of, sort of... hates my guts and would happily turn me into a newt,” Mouser admitted, pulling at her collar.
She watched as Mouser silently psyched herself up, muttering various uplifting phrases to herself, gingerly picked up the phone as if it would explode, and dialed a number.
There was a short wait and then the person answered.
“Hi, Witch Mabel, Mouser here,” the cat said.
Teri jumped as loud, angry shouting came from the phone.
“Hey!” Mouser said. “I didn't know he was your husband when I kissed him. And you should be happy, he turned me down flat. You've got a good man there.”
There was more, even angrier shouting.
“That wasn't my fault. I was at your son’s apartment, how was I supposed to know you had a key and would come walking in without knocking?”
There was a short pause while the other end said something a little more quietly.
“I couldn't exactly cover myself up, I was little tied up at the moment. Your son is very good with knots.”
Teri covered her ears as even louder shouting came from the phone, and Mouser held it at arms length, her large ears folded down.
“I do not accept any blame for that. Your daughter was nineteen and curious. I was simply helping her discover herself in a safe environment. You have to admit she's a lot more confident now.”
Somehow the shouting got even louder.
“Oh no!” Mouser said, sounding insulted. “I will not pay you back. You chose to change the carpet, burn your couch and throw out your dining room table. We didn't do anything that couldn't be cleaned up with some basic cleaners.”
There was a long silence from the phone.
Mouser quietly said, “Hello, are you still there?”
Shrieking erupted from the phone, blasting Mouser's ear.
When it finally ended, Mouser said, almost in an embarrassed tone, “Oh, you didn't know about the table. We cleaned it up after we were done, with bleach.”
Teri facepalmed, for once utterly speechless. Then she was racing for the couch and hiding under a cushion as the shouting seemed to shake the room.
Once there was silence, Teri peeked out, to see Mouser with her ears folded back, cowering in the corner, holding the phone well away from her as if it was a venomous snake.
“So anyways, it's nice that we got to air out that little problem, it's been festering for too long.” Mouser said quietly into the phone, “Now, about why I called you, I have a kid who needs your help.”
Downtown, Lincoln Nebraska,
June 15th, 2007
Teri sat on the cafe table nibbling on a muffin and sipping watered down apple juice, while Mouser sat seemingly at ease drinking some tea. People were watching them, some more openly than others, but Mouser didn't seem to care, so Teri ignored most of them as well. She did smile and wave at many of the little kids who walked by, giggling when their jaws dropped in amazement and they waved back.
“Why were the people in the grocery store so mean, but they seem nice here?” she asked.
“Some people are just as- jerks, you got unlucky and met some big ones. Looking like you do, you will have problems, but not as much as someone who looks big and scary. Little kids will probably love you,” Mouser said. “And I'm here. I'm the biggest superhero in the city, really the only superhero, and I'm big, noisy, fun loving, and always willing to talk. People may not like what I am, but I'm respected enough the haters won't do anything much beyond glare at me.”
Teri thought it over for a minute. “So I really should become a hero, so that everyone will love me and I won't have any problems.”
“Maybe, but being a hero isn't easy,” Mouser said. “You have the spirit for it, but you see some nasty things and you have to keep your head when you want to run and scream. Sometimes it’s really bad and you want to toss the rules and deliver justice personally, but you can't, you need to do things by the book, so you don't become just as bad as the criminals.”
“Oh. What do you do when it's bad?”
“I do what needs to be done, and then I move on. Live for today and enjoy yourself. The past is the past and you can't change it, the future will come when it comes, no point worrying about it. So, I meet the challenges with a bounce in my step, a smile on my lips, and joy in my heart.”
“Live for today. The past is the past,” Teri said, rolling it around on her tongue. She smiled, “I like it!”
An older woman, wearing a long silvery dress, with a matching witches hat and mask, came to their table. She looked at Mouser and scowled, which didn't go well with the laugh lines on her face. Then the woman turned to Teri and smiled.
“Hi!” Teri said, grinning and waving. When she smiled, the woman looked exactly like a stereotypical, friendly grandma.
“Hello, you must be Teri, I'm Witch Mabel,” the woman said.
Mouser waved for her to sit down. “Hey Witch Mabel, it's been too long since we sat and talked. Thanks for coming.”
The witch looked at Mouser much like a hypochondriac with OCD, would look at a sloppy Joe that had been left in the sun for a week, then shoved into a closet under a stack of filthy gym socks and used baby diapers for three months, before finally being unearthed. “Mouser,” she said, in a voice full of loathing.
“Right... Would you like anything?” Mouser asked. “My treat. They've got some really good bagels here.”
“I'm fine,” Witch Mabel said. “Why don't you go and find an alley or a dumpster to hang out in, while I talk to Teri for a bit?”
The cat looked like she was about to say something, but quickly thought better of it. Picking up her tea, Mouser got to her feet. “I'll just find another seat and wait for you two to finish your conversation.”
Teri watched her friend quickly leave the table and sit at a table at the far end of the cafe. She turned to the newcomer and wondered what was about to happen.
“So you're Teri, you have very pretty wings,” Witch Mabel said, sounding far more pleasant.
She blushed at the compliment and rose into air, spreading her wings to show them off better. “Thank you! Are you a superhero?”
“Not really,” the witch said. “I help the Lincoln Freedom Squad, they insist that I wear this silly costume, but I'm too old to be running and jumping around.”
“So, what do you do?”
“I'm a witch. I mix up soups and drinks, and cook tasty foods in my kitchen, and they can do wonderful things. If someone is hurt, they just need to eat a bowl of my chicken soup and they’ll heal right up. When they need to deal with a criminal, they can throw a cup of my herbal tea at them to put them right to sleep, or they can use my taffy and the bad guy will get all tangled up.”
“Wow! That's amazing!”
“Thank you. But you sound pretty amazing yourself, what can you do?”
“I can fly, and I'm really strong! I'm going to be a superhero when I grow up. I even have a codename, Tink!”
Witch Mabel looked at her curiously. “Why did you pick Tink?”
“Well, I wanted Tinkerbell,” she admitted, “but even though I could technically use the name, I was told it would be better if I didn't. So I shortened it. I was thinking of being called Little Princess, or maybe Princess Powerful, but they wouldn't let me call myself Princess, and everything else I thought of was pretty long. ”
“I've found with superheroes that the shorter the name the better. You don't want to be in a fight and have to say, 'hey Captain Magnificent Hair, duck!' By the time you're half done they've already been hit by a truck.”
They both laughed at the joke.
“Now Teri, I've been told you're living with Mouser until you can find your family, is that right?” Witch Mabel asked.
A sad frown replaced the smile. “Yeah. I hope I can find them soon. When I do, we'll go to the beach and have a really big party, and it will be lots and lots of fun. And maybe my friend Rose Blossom will be there too.”
The witch rested her fingers lightly on her back. “I'm sure everyone is looking as hard as they can for your family and your friend. I'm wondering if you would you like to come to my home sometime, we can bake some cookies and cakes together. I used to do that all the time with my kids, but they're all grown up now, so I need a new helper.”
“Can we make arroz con leche?” she asked, jumping up and down.
“I don't believe I know that one. But we can find the recipe and do it together.”
Teri jumped up and gave Witch Mabel a hug, squealing with delight.
“Ack! Too tight!” the witch shouted.
Pine Lake Beach, Lincoln Nebraska,
June 16th, 2007
Wearing her new purple, one piece, open back bathing suit and holding a small colourful inner tube, Teri stared out over the reservoir. “It's not very big.”
“We're in the middle of the prairies, we don't have a lot of big lakes to choose from,” Mouser said. She was wearing a tiny white bikini, and was carrying a beach bag over shoulder along with a cooler of drinks and snacks. “Lets find a spot and relax.”
Spreading a blanket out on the sand, Teri helped Mouser set things up. While they were doing that, Mouser asked. “What do you picture when you think of a beach?”
“I think it's on an ocean,” Teri said. “You can't see the far shore, it smells different, there's lots of people, there are palm trees, and so many things you can do in the water. This is just... small.”
“OK, that definitely sounds like the ocean. Maybe we can take a vacation to the ocean later this summer. But for now, relax, enjoy the water, and get a tan, if you don't mind I'm going to sit here and soak up the sun for a while,” Mouser said, stretching out on the towel and adjusting her sunglasses.
“Will you come in the water later and play with me?”
“Of course, but wet fur stinks. So I'll do it before we leave and we can head home right after. Sound good?”
“OK!” Teri said. Flying to the water, she dropped her inner tube well away from the other swimmers then went high into the sky. Pretending that she was standing on a diving board, she tucked her long hair behind her ears, 'jumped' several times, gaining a bit more height with each jump, then went high into the air, arched her back and swan dived downwards aiming for the tube.
Pushing her power as hard as she could, she gained speed, her wings forming a cape behind her. She adjusting her dive slightly to hit the inner tube dead center, entering the water with a small splash and twisted in the water to kick off from the sandy bottom. Flapping her wings, she swam to the surface and hopped onto the inner tube, grinning broadly.
Lying on her back, she spread her wings out letting the sun warm her up, as she floated contentedly on the water. She knew people were watching her, but they didn't matter, she was enjoying the moment, letting everything else drift away.
“Hi Teri!” a little boy shouted.
Jumping to her feet, she crouched on the inner tube and looked at the six or seven year old boy who was standing in the water up to his neck waving at her. A little ways behind him was an even younger girl who could be his sister, she was waving too. Mouser and an ordinary looking woman with straw blonde hair were standing on the shore watching the two children.
Curious, Teri flew over to the children, dragging her inner tube with her. “Hello! How do you know my name?” she asked, grinning at them.
“Hi! Aunt Mouser told us all about you,” the boy said. “She said you're going to practice with her to become a superhero too.”
“That's right, I'm going to be the toughest and cutest hero EVER!”
“You have pretty wings!” the little girl shouted.
Teri grabbed the little boy and flew to the girl, dragging the boy through the water, much to his delight. “Thank you. What are your names?”
“I'm David,” the boy said.
Sara looked at her, clearly amazed at her appearance. “Are you a fairy all the time?”
“Yep! I'm the amazing Fairy Tink!”
“Cool,” they both said.
David pointed at Mouser, “Aunt Mouser can turn human when she wants, but she prefers being a cat lady.”
“I don't blame her,” Tink said. “Everyone is special, but being really unique and standing out can be lots of fun.”
“I want to be unique too,” Sara said.
“Maybe when you're older you'll turn out to be a mutant like Mouser.”
David shook his head. “She's not a mutant. She got a special stone that lets her be a cat.”
“COOL! I didn't know that. Maybe she'll let me try it one day and I could be a cat fairy!” Teri said. “Do you two want me to pull you in the water? I can go really fast.”
The siblings cheered and jumped in the water, each one begging to go first.
Teri could barely contain how happy she was after a day of playing with Sara, David, and eventually Mouser and her new Aunt Cynthia. Some of the other kids on the beach had joined in for a while too, almost everyone seemed to think that having a real live fairy was amazing. And the ones who didn't had just avoided her, which was fine with Teri.
Now sitting at picnic table with everyone, having just finished eating a bit of hotdog and hamburger, Teri had to grin. It had been a perfect day.
Mouser pulled some money out of her bag. “Teri how about you get some ice cream for everyone.”
“OK, what would people like?” she asked, taking the money.
Getting the requests, Teri flew off to the vendor who had a fairly long line of people wanting drinks, ice cream, treats and other things. Ignoring the people around her, she danced in the air, feeling completely at peace.
“Don't go too far, TERI,” an older woman said.
“OK, ___,” she said. Running along the beach, clutching her bag of plantain chips, she looked for someone among the crowd.
She spotted two people and headed towards them, waving and jumping to make sure they saw her. She couldn't make out their faces, but could see they were both adults and holding hands. One was a man who looked a little scrawny, the other was a very pregnant woman.
“____! ________! You made it!” she shouted, jumping into the mans arms.
“Of course we did, TERI. We wouldn't miss it for the world,” he said, returning the hug before putting her back down.
“Can I give you hug?” she asked the woman.
“Yes you can,” the woman said, laughing as she spread her arms. “Just don't squeeze too tight.”
Carefully she wrapped her arms around the woman and promptly got kicked in the ribs. “Ow!” She pointed at the belly and said, “You shouldn't kick your ____. Otherwise I won't spoil you once you get out of there.”
She jerked as a cough brought her back to the present. The line had moved along, and she hurriedly moved to catch up to it.
When she finally reached the counter, the clerk scowled. Ignoring it, Teri said, “I'd like a fudge bar, two ice cream sandwiches, a freeze pop, and what type of sugar free ice creams or yogurts do you have?”
“Go away, I've got nothing for you,” the woman said.
“What?” Teri asked.
“I don't serve your kind here.”
For a moment, Teri's eyes began to glow. Then she realized she could easily destroy the entire building, and pushed her anger down. “But I just want to get some ice cream for my friends,” she said.
“I don't care.”
Instead of anger, sadness began to fill her. She'd been having a great day and now this happened. She heard some of the people in line start to mutter and grumble, which made her feel even worse. Her eyes began to water, and she had to sniff back tears.
“Come on get out of here, your holding up the line,” the woman said, waving at her to go away.
The tears came. “I'm supposed to get ice cream for my friends and my foster mom. I'm not doing anything bad,” she bawled.
“Get out of here before I call the MCO,” the woman snarled.
Teri ignored her, and began to wail.
“Mommy why is the fairy crying?” a child asked.
The grumbling from the line got louder.
“HEY! I told you go away, shut up and leave!”
A man behind Teri cursed. “Yo, just give the kid what she wants and stop being such a bi- witch.”
Through her tears, Teri saw the woman look uncertain and unhappy as more potential customers started yelling at her, and several kids pointed and asked their parents what was going on. Finally the woman got the ice cream out, slamming it on the counter.
“Here,” she snapped, and told her the price.
Teri ignored here, still crying and bawling about how she just wanted to have some ice cream.
More people started yelling and a few left, looking disgusted. The woman watched them go and looked ready to spit.
“Fine, just take the ice cream and get out of here!” she almost shouted.
Teri flew down and picked up the ice cream, which wasn't easy with her small arms, and flew away still crying.
When she was out of sight of the mean woman, she stopped crying and began to smile. Reaching the picnic table, she handed out the ice cream, keeping a sugar free yogurt for herself.
“What took so long?” Mouser asked. “Were you crying?”
“A little, but it's OK,” Teri said, wiping her face off with a paper napkin. “I just had to do some negotiating to get the ice cream. Here's your money back, it was on the house.”
“OK. Thanks,” Mouser said, taking the money.
June 20th, 2007
Teri looked through her new clothes, happy to have some properly fitting, stylish clothes to choose from. Of course the large selection brought about the problem of what to wear. “Mouser, do you have any suggestions for what I should bring?” she asked.
“Bring the bathing suit, a nice t-shirt and a button up blouse along with a skirt or shorts, and the skinny jeans and sleeveless white blouse,” Mouser said, putting some of her clothes into a small suitcase.
Now that she knew what to bring, Teri quickly grabbed the clothes, putting them into a change purse that had a strap attached to it, turning it into a large bag for her. “I've never been to a photo shoot before, are you sure you want me in it?”
“Yeah, I talked with the agent, he loves the idea of having you and me doing a shoot together. You won't be in many of them, only five or six, but it'll be a fun experience, and you'll get paid for it. It'll be good to earn your own money.”
Her eyes lit up. “Awesome. I've only ever gotten an allowance before, probably for boring old chores. Now I get to show off how fantastically cute I am AND get paid! WOOHOO!” she shouted, doing backflips in midair.
Mouser headed for the door. “Don't let it get to your head, this is work. You have to listen to the photographer and don't goof off too much.”
Teri 'stood' at attention in the air and saluted. “Yes, Ma'am. I won't let you down, Ma'am.”
“Smart aleck,” Mouser said, but she smiled as she did.
Heading for the truck, Teri tried to imagine what it would be like.
Teri sat perched on Mouser's knee and grinned at the camera, making sure to keep her wings curled up behind her so they wouldn't be seen in the picture.
“Teri, smile without showing your teeth. You're happy, but not excited,” the photographer said.
Closing her lips, she struggled to not move around, despite wanting to bounce with excitement. The camera clicked, and the photographer moved slightly to get another picture.
“Stand still, TERI, and stop playing with your shirt,” a man said.
Unhappily, she took her hands away from her itchy collar, smiled and sat up straight. Her red dress looked pretty but it didn't fit right and the lace was rubbing her skin raw. Two people she thought were her parents stood behind her, resting their hands on her shoulders, two others, both male and dressed in nice clothes, stood on either side. Jingle Bells played in the background.
The camera flashed.
“That's perfect. Now that we have the individual family portraits done, lets get everyone in for the big one.”
A faceless girl sat down beside her, wearing a white dress. She smiled at the girl, wrapping an arm around her best friend.
A finger tapped her on the head. “Earth to Teri, come in Teri,” Mouser said.
“Sorry, just thinking of something.
“Care to share?”
Teri stared at nothing for a moment, getting her thoughts in order. “It was just a memory.”
“Anything really important?” Mouser asked.
She tried to think of any clues that might have been revealed, like her therapist Dr. Schulz had taught her, but nothing came to her. Shrugging her shoulders, she shook her head. “Not really.”
“All right, we'll talk about it tonight after supper. Lets keep going, you need to do a costume change, while I get some more solo shots,” Mouser told her.
Teri dumped the supper take away containers in the garbage, while Mouser pulled out a notebook. Flying to the couch, she sat down with a big sigh.
“Come on, Teri,” Mouser said, “I know you don't like this, but it's doctors orders.”
“It doesn't seem to help. I'm not remembering much,” Teri complained.
Opening up to a new page, Mouser said. “You're actually not doing too badly. We've got a superhero who has lightning powers of some kind. Beaches, palm trees, practically no snow, that special rice pudding arroz con leche, and a bunch more. So we know you used to live in a southern state along the coast. It's still a big list, but it's narrowing down. So what did you remember today?”
“I think I have two older brothers. And the girl I thought might have been my sister is probably a cousin.”
“Two brothers, that will definitely help. Maybe one of them is the one with the pregnant woman. Still no codename or anything?”
Teri rubbed her head, she knew she'd said the name before without thinking about it, and when she attacked Burgermeister, she'd said it as well. But as she tried to remember it, her head filled with static. “No,” she finally said. “It's like trying to remember my last name.”
“Well this is still helpful. Can you describe a bit of the memory, what the place looked like, anything memorable about the people?” Mouser asked, flipping past several sketches to a clean page.
“No. It's just the same, faceless people in regular clothes.” She hopped down and flipped the notebook to a sketch of the faceless girl she liked so much. She knew it wasn't a professional sketch but it still looked really good. Gazing at the picture, she tried to fill in the blank space, nothing came. Scrubbing at her eyes, she decided to change the topic.
“How come you're so good at drawing?”
“I'm not that good, unless I'm drawing jewellery,” Mouser said. “Before I became the hero Mouser, I was a jeweller. Had my own little shop, and specialized in custom made jewellery. Knowing how to draw was pretty important.”
“How did a jeweller become a superhero?”
“A strange client gave me an ugly cats eye gem, along with some very rare metal, and asked me to design a choker. It was not easy, but I got it done, while barely sleeping, practically in a trance most of the time, and having the weirdest dreams you can imagine. Then after I got it all done, he didn't show up again. After six months, I tried it on and ended up looking like this,” Mouser said, waving a hand over her body.
Looking her up and down, Teri said, “So where is the choker? Does it get absorbed into your body when you're using it?”
“Who says I kept it as a choker?” Mouser asked, slyly smiling. “It would be way too easy to lose the gem that way.”
“So that's why you wear the bracelets and anklets? To make sure people can't just grab it and run?”
“Bingo. I've had a few people try to steal my power gem. They've always guessed wrong and I've only lost two bracelets and one anklet in six years of superheroing. No one is getting my gem just because they were good at sleight of hand or sucker punched me and ripped off some jewellery.”
She grinned at Teri. “Remember, always keep them guessing, and never let them see you weak.”
Teri nodded. “Good advice.”
June 22nd, 2007
Sitting in the passenger seat, Teri crossed her arms and pouted. “But Mouser, I could really help you! I could hide in the coat of the client and make sure no one hurts him. I'd be the ultimate secret weapon.”
“Teri, for the last time, you're not helping me be a body guard. Like being a superhero, there is an age limit, and you aren't anywhere close to it. You also don't have the training, and would end up braining an over exuberant fan. And finally the Bushwhacking Boys aren't exactly a good influence for young people,” Mouser said. “So you get to stay here with Witch Mabel.”
“But I don't wanna.”
“You've visited her before, and made that delicious chocolate cake. I don't see what your problem is now.”
“That was only for a few hours, this will be for five whole days. What if you don't come back?” Teri asked.
Mouser pulled into the driveway, and patted Teri's legs. “I promise you, nothing is going to happen. I'm just there to make sure that no fanatical fan does anything stupid while the band has its big publicity push. I've worked with them before, they're loud, kind of stupid, and like to party, but they know how to follow instructions when given by a sexy lady, and no one really wants to hurt them. It's a basic bodyguard job.”
Taking her small bag of clothes and essentials, Teri looked at Mouser with big, pleading eyes. “Promise you'll come back.”
Putting her right hand on her chest, Mouser said, “I promise I'll come back.”
“OK. Stay safe,” she said.
Flying out the open window, she saw Witch Mabel was standing at the door in her civilian clothes, smiling happily, although it was uncertain if that smile was to welcome Teri or because Mouser was leaving. Zipping over to the witch, Teri gave her a big hug, careful not to accidentally strangle her.
“Teri, it's so good to see you again,” Witch Mabel said.
“Thanks for having me,” Teri said.
“You're always welcome here, dear. Now if you'll put your things in the guest room, you can come with me to drop off some supplies at the Lincoln Freedom Squad.”
Teri zipped past the witch, threw her bag into the guest room and was back in about two seconds. “Great! I've heard a lot about them, I can't wait to see them.”
“Oh? What have you heard?”
“That they get curb stomped all the time, that they've never successfully stopped a supervillain, and that they make the Keystone Cops look good.”
There was a long moment of silence, giving Teri time to think over what she'd just said.
“Um. I'm... a... sorry,” she said.
“It's fine, Teri. They aren't as successful as they'd like, but they try their best,” Witch Mabel said.
The Lincoln Freedom Squad's building was in a rather nice building downtown. Teri followed Witch Mabel inside, carrying an enormous cooler full of food and drinks, specially made to stay fresh for weeks. There was no security except for a video camera and an electronic lock.
“I'd have thought a superhero base would have guards and big steel doors and things to protect it,” Teri said.
“Not many supervillains want to attack us,” Witch Mabel said.
Thinking over what Mouser had said about the Squad, Teri had to admit the lack of enemies made sense. They made their way through the base to a large walk in cooler, where Witch Mabel began organizing her supplies.
A handsome man in a dark blue kevra suit, covered in pockets and belt pouches that were all packed to the brim, came into the cooler. “You must be Teri,” he said, “Witch Mabel told me you were coming. It's great to finally meet you. I'm The Analyzer.”
“Hi,” Teri said.
“Hello, Keven,” Witch Mabel said, not looking away from her stocking job. “Would you be a dear and show Teri around, some of the old stock has expired, and this will take a while.”
“Sure thing. So Teri, have you ever been in a real superhero base?” The Analyzer asked.
“No,” she admitted. “But I used to live on an airship. I almost ran it into Mount Everest, and I saw a Yeti.”
There was a long pause, and he looked at her strangely for a moment. “Well... that's interesting.”
Deciding to change the topic, she asked, “Why are you called The Analyzer?”
“That's a very good question. It's because I have a power gem that lets me quickly and accurately spot connections between things and figure out how they should interact, it's so fast and accurate, it's considered a psychic power.”
“It is. In fact it's how I built the Lincoln Freedom Squad, and keep it funded.”
“What do you mean?” Teri asked.
“Well the city doesn't like paying for superheroes, and Mouser has the MCO wrapped around her little finger. So money for superheroes is kind of tight. But thanks to my analyzing skills, I make more than enough to pay all my team members, rent this building and cover our supplies,” he said proudly.
“Oh, do you invest in stocks and things?”
“Ah, no. I really like sports and regularly gamble on it. It's all legal, since I'm not a mutant and don't always win,” he hastened to add.
That didn't sound nearly as impressive as other ways to make money, but since it was legal, it couldn't be that bad. “Good for you!”
“So anyways, here is our gym, and our resident strongman, Armstrong. He opened a door revealing a room full of gym equipment, and a rather large man lifting heavy looking barbells. “Hey Armstrong, this is Teri, the fairy Mabel has been talking about.”
The man put down his weights, stretched his oversized arm and strode over. “Hey kid.”
“Hey yourself. How much can you lift? The MCO tested me and I can list three-hundred and twelve pounds,” Teri said.
Armstrong stared at her, his eyes wide. “I can deadlift about three-hundred and forty.”
“Yeah. I'm just a baseline. But I'm a good fighter. I did professional MMA for six years.”
“Oh, maybe you can teach me some cool moves. I mostly just smash into things until they break. Sometimes I use other things to smash harder.”
Flexing his muscles, Armstrong went over to a padded open space on the side of the gym. “Sure, I'm always happy to help kids.”
“Armstrong, that may not be a good-” The Analyzer started to say.
“It'll be fine. I can handle anything,” Armstrong said, hitting his chest.
“Yay!” Teri flew over and hovered in the air facing him.
Armstrong got into position, his arms held in front of him, ready to strike or defend. Teri sloppily copied him. Analyzer pulled out his phone and began typing out a message.
“All right, Teri. We're going to start off simple, so I'm going to come at you, and you try to stop me,” Armstrong said.
He lunged at her, his hands spread to envelope her tiny body. Teri zipped down caught his leg and flew upwards, spinning him around in midair and let go. Armstrong screamed as he fell backwards onto the padded floor. He screamed harder when there was a loud crack from his leg.
“Oh no!” Teri shouted. “You told me to stop you and I did, but I didn't mean to break your leg!”
“Agh! It's fine..” he groaned through his teeth. “I've had worse.”
Analyzer shook his head. “I told you to be careful.”
Witch Mabel hurried in with a thermos. “I've got some chicken noodle soup, who got hurt?”
“Armstrong decided to spar with Teri. It didn't go well.”
Pouring out a cup of steaming chicken soup, she handed it to Armstrong. As soon as he sipped it, the pain left his face. “That hits the spot,” he said.
“Is he going to be all right?” Teri asked.
“He'll be as good as new in an hour,” Witch Mabel said. “It would be even sooner for most people, but he's had so much of my soup it takes a little longer for it to take affect.”
“Thank goodness. I don't like hurting people.”
Mabel took the lemon peel and cinnamon stick out of the thick rice pudding, and using a large spoon scooped it into three bowls. “Time for the cinnamon,” she said.
Flying over the bowls, Teri shook the cinnamon shaker gently into each one. It smelled heavenly, she flew down so close her nose was nearly touching the creamy dessert. “Can we try it now?”
“It's still hot, and if we let it sit in the fridge for a little while it will thicken up,” Mabel said. Then she handed Teri a toy spoon and grinned. “Buuut a good cook should always taste the dish to make sure it tastes right.”
Landing on the edge of the bowl, Teri got a big spoonful, blew on it to cool it off, then gingerly took a bite. The sweet milk sauce and cinnamon filled her mouth. Tears welled up in her eyes. “This is just like I remember,” she said.
Seeing the tears rolling down Teri's cheeks, Mabel scooped the little girl up and brought her to her shoulder, holding her tightly as the tears flowed.
June 22nd, 2007
Teri hovered over the art desk, drawing a picture of her and Witch Mabel cooking together, while Dr. Schultz sat on a large pillow watching her.
“Do you want to talk about anything, Teri?” the psychiatrist asked.
“No,” Teri replied, dipping the paintbrush that was almost as tall as she was in the brown paint.
“Do you mind if I talk?”
She shrugged. The woman was nice, and the office was full of colourful furniture and art, along with all kinds of toys, but Teri didn't like coming. She always had to think about her memories and Burgermeister, which made her feel bad and wanting to cry.
“Mouser has been away for a few days, how are you feeling?”
“She calls me everyday, so it's fine. And Mabel is really nice, we've made a lot of desserts that I can eat without going crazy.”
“Would you like to look over some pictures and names with me?” Dr. Schultz asked.
“You want me to see if I remember anything?” Teri said.
“It's the best way to find your family.”
Dropping her paintbrush in the water jar, Teri sighed. It wouldn't do any good, but if she didn't go look at the pictures, Mouser would insist she do it later on. Might as well get it over with. “Fine.”
Dr. Schultz put a folder on the ground for her. Flipping it open, Teri looked at the first page, a smiling seventeen year old girl looked back at her. Reading the details, the girl was Brooke A. Thomas, codename Shield Girl, from Texas. There were other pictures of the girl with her family, but nothing struck a chord.
Turning the page revealed eleven year old Chloe Washington, no codename, disappeared heading for powers testing in San Diego.
Fourteen year old Belle Rivera, codename Harmless, Tampa Bay.
Kelly Murphy, codename Peach, Georgia.
Codename Miss Powerful, Miami.
Closing the folder she looked up at the psychiatrist. “None of these girls are called Teri.”
“Have you thought that maybe your transformation also caused you to misremember your name? Maybe Teri is a nickname, or the name of someone close to you, that you deeply care about.”
Could she be wrong about her name?
Her name was all she had. The one thing that she knew was hers. What if it was a lie?
“What if I'm not real?” she whispered.
“What was that Teri?”
What if Burgermeister had just grabbed the memories of a girl, or many girls, and shoved them into a body he made? Maybe the original Teri was dead. Or with her family after disappearing for a few hours one day and then returning home none the worse for wear.
Who knew what he had done to her mind.
She knew that she had said something that could be a codename. When she'd gone to fight Burgermeister she had said, someone 'to the rescue'. Now she couldn't remember it. He could have just erased her name, or given her a whole new one and she'd never know it.
Did she even have a family waiting for her.
Falling to the ground, she began to wail.
June 28th, 2007
Mouser handed Teri an orange slice. “You've been moody for a while, want to talk about it?”
“No,” Teri said, then stopped and thought about it. “Yes. I don't know.”
“How about you start talking and see where your brain leads you.”
“What if I don't want things to change?” she said. “Things are pretty good right now. What happens if things change? Will they get worse? Will they get better? What if it turns out I was a really nasty person before? What if I was in a bad family? What if no wants me? What if someone who is the real me is already there and I'm just some devise?”
Mouser put down her sandwich and looked at Teri, her eyes wide with surprise. “Damn. You've got a lot on your mind.”
She hit her head. “I wish I didn't.”
“I can't tell you what to think, or what will happen,” Mouser said. “The best advice I can give is to take it one day at a time. Focus on the now and live it as best you can.”
“But what if-”
Holding up a finger to quiet her, Mouser said, “Remember what I told you before. Live for today and enjoy yourself. The past is the past and you can't change it, the future will come when it comes, no point worrying about it. If you can't find your family, or if for some insane reason they don't want an awesome, adorable little fairy, you've got me in your corner. I'll do my damnedest to be there for you through thick or thin.”
“Thank you,” Teri whispered.
“Now how about we go over your memories notebook and see if we can add anymore clues to it?”
“OK. If you insist,” she said.
Lincoln Children's Zoo
June 30th, 2007
“Teri,” Mouser said, her tail whipping back and forth, “you can pet the tortoise, not ride it.”
Looking up from her seat on the shell of the tortoise, Teri pouted. “But I'm a cowgirl, and this is my loyal steed.”
The group of children who were watching the tortoise and waiting for their turn to interact with it started to laugh, along with the bemused keeper who didn't seem to know what to do.
“I've seen snails that were faster than your steed. Come on, give the others a chance to play with it.”
Teri flew back to Mouser, but not before giving the large tortoise a scratch on the head. “I don't believe you.”
“I don't believe that you've seen a faster snail.”
Mouser smirked. “I have so. Two years ago a biodevisor created a pack of giant snails, they had acidic slime, big sharp teeth, shells that were as strong as five inch titanium plates, and once they got moving they could slide along about as fast as a galloping horse. I lost most of my fur trying to figure out how to deal with them.”
“So how did you finally stop them?”
“A whole lotta salt. Dried them right up.”
“EW! That's gross!” Teri said, making a face.
“It worked. And after they dissolved my clothes and fur, I wasn't exactly in a forgiving mood.” Just then Mousers phone rang. It was a loud piercing ring that Teri had never heard before. Cursing, Mouser answered it far more quickly then she ever had before. “Mouser here, what's the problem?”
There was more cursing as whoever was on the phone spoke. Waving to Teri, Mouser ran for the exit, still talking on the phone.
Teri clung to the seat as Mouser drove like a maniac, a police light had been put on top of the truck, and a police siren was blaring, warning traffic and pedestrians to get out of the way.
“Teri, when we get there, you will NOT interfere, no matter what you see. You will stay behind police lines, you will obey anything the police or the MCO says, and you will not try to fight the supervillain or any minions,” Mouser said.
“But I can help.”
“No you can't. If I had time I'd drop you off at home, or with Witch Mabel, but I don't. So I am trusting you to behave yourself. Can you do that for me?” Mouser asked, not taking her eyes off the road.
“Yes,” Teri said, even though her brain was telling her to help and prove she was a hero.
Turning the corner, Mouser brought the truck to a screeching halt close to a police line. She was out the door and hopping into the truck bed seconds later, opening up a steel box that was welded to the truck, and putting on her superhero outfit. Teri flew out to watch, as Mouser got ready to go to work, strapping several grenades and what looked like a heavily modified sawed off shotgun to her suit.
Teri flew up into the air to get a good look at what was going on. Close to the bank the street was cleared of people, and police had set up a line of cars at both ends of the street to stop traffic. But people were still watching from behind the police lines, even as the cops made them back up. There was a large hole in what had been the front door of a bank, but no sign of who had done it. There was a crowd of people Wishing she had seen something useful, she flew back to Mouser. She'd been told she couldn't help, but she could still listen.
Less than two minutes after pulling up, Mouser was ready for action and walking over to a group of police and MCO agents who looked to be in charge, with Teri following behind. “What's the situation?” Mouser asked.
An older police officer answered. “A person in heavy duty power armour marched into the Citigroup Bank fifteen minutes ago, and ordered everyone except the managers out. He got all the money that wasn't in the vaults and let the managers leave after being shown the locked vault. It was recently heavily reinforced, so we believe it's taking him longer than expected to break through.”
“Damn, I hate power armour,” Mouser said. Turning to the MCO agent, she asked, “Any chance of getting some power armour backup?”
“Sorry, Mouser,” the agent said, “we're still waiting for a stabilizer from head office. We have a laser rifle that might be able to penetrate the armour, depending on how thick it is and the material.”
“You've been waiting for that damn stabilizer for two months now.”
The agent scowled. “We're not considered a high priority office.”
Turning back to the cop, Mouser said, “Please say you have some nice new goody you're just waiting to test out.”
“We have the usual SWAT team and crowd control,” the cop said.
Mouser let out a large sigh. “All right, looks like it's up to me. I'm not about to fight power armour inside a building unless I have to. You guys push the crowd further back, have that laser gun ready to shoot the power armour in the ass or anywhere else it looks fragile. I'll get into position to hit him as soon as he comes-”
There was a crash as a brick wall fell. From the dust a ten foot tall power armour unit stepped out onto the sidewalk. It was big and painted red, the pincer like hands looked capable of lifting up and crushing a car, and there were ominous barrels coming from the wrists. It didn't have an obvious head, just a torso of sloped armour with arms and legs attached to it.
“Damn, this job is never easy,” Mouser muttered. Putting on her helmet, she took her gun from her back and walked towards the power armour.
“Get out of my way hero. My names Demolisher and my armour can handle anything you can throw at it,” the supervillain said, his voice booming from the speakers.
“Sorry. Stopping you is why I get paid the big bucks. I let you go, I don't get paid. You can see my dilemma,” Mouser said. “How about we save some time and you surrender peacefully? It will look good to the judge.”
A massive arm rose and pointed at Mouser. “I don't think so. Last chance hero, do you want to go home tonight or end up in the morgue?”
“No can do. How about we talk about this before someone does something stupid?”
Demolisher, clearly done with talking, opened fire. Mouser dodged, firing her own gun. Teri's eyes watered from the blinding bright light that shot out of the barrel, hitting the armoured leg. The supervillain returned fire, spitting bullets from his arm. Mouser easily stayed ahead of the bullets, leaping behind a parked car.
Unfortunately, the bullets flew down the street hitting the police cars, shattering the bulletproof glass, and sending the police and onlookers to the ground.
Teri looked at the people huddled on the street. Her eyes began to glow. A man was yelling in pain, a child was standing, tears streaming down his face as he called for his mommy. Flying down to the child, as an explosion erupted and more bullets whizzed past, Teri spread her wings out trying to protect as much of the child as she could.
“Where's your mommy?” she asked.
The child pointed at a woman who was lying face down, she saw a tiny stream of blood leaking out from under her.
“Come on, I'm going to get you somewhere safe, and then I'll help your mommy.” Picking up the child,
She flew around the corner, and saw an officer trying to direct the crowd away from the fight. Landing beside him, she put the child down and said, “His mother was shot! She's back there. He needs someone to watch him, and we need an ambulance.”
Teri didn't wait for his response, but flew back looking for anyone else she could help. Taking a moment to look at the fight, Mouser and Demolisher were surrounded in thick smoke. The sound of metal hitting pavement, gun fire, and explosions could clearly be heard even in the distance. Forcing herself to look away, she saw an ambulance pull up, more sirens were quickly coming closer.
Grabbing the shot woman, stretching her PK field as far as it would go to cradle her head and body, Teri flew her to the ambulance. “She was shot and needs help!”
The paramedics threw open the back of the ambulance, directing her to put the woman on a stretcher. As gently as possible she put the woman down, then zipped away to find more injured.
There was cat-like yowl of pain. She spun around and saw Mouser go flying out of the smoke. The cat hit the ground and rolled back to her feet. There was a crack on her helmet, and she was cradling her left arm. Mouser grabbed a grenade from her coat, throwing it into the rapidly thinning smoke. There was a boom and the smoke lifted, revealing the power armour, it's leg was damaged and there was a large dent on its top, where the head would normally be, but it was still moving without any real difficulty.
An MCO agent fired the laser, melting a small section of the armoured leg. Demolisher raised his arm at the agent, preparing to fire.
Teri flew as fast as she could, grabbed the agent and kept going as a small missile blew up not only the laser gun, but the police car the agent had been hiding behind. Shrapnel peppered her back, and the agent yelled in pain. She flew him towards the safety of the ambulances, placing him on the ground, trying not to see the blood dripping from his legs.
Looking around she saw that the injured had all been pulled out of danger. Some people and a lot of the cops were hiding behind cars and in alleyways, not wanting to risk moving unless they had to. Mouser was dodging and weaving the blows of the supervillain, using whatever she could to attack his leg.
“I should be helping,” Teri said.
“Lightning Strike, I'm your biggest fan! Can you sign my book!” she shouted, holding up a limited edition trivia book of the ____ Crusaders.
The superhero gave her a brilliant smile, her neon yellow hair gave off a brilliant glow that seemed to light up the school gymnasium. “Definitely. What's your name?”
“I'm ___!” she squealed. Static erupted around her, covering even the noise of the other students who were talking to the heroes.
“Do you want to become a hero one day?”
She nodded madly. “I'm eleven years old, and I can't wait to become a mutant so I can join the Crusaders! I'm exercising a lot too, and my ____ is teaching me how to fight. I really want to join up because you guys are all so cool!”
Lightning Strike laughed, and patted her shoulder. “Keep up that attitude and you'll go far. But remember you have to be an adult to join the Crusaders, and you need to do well in school. What are your grades like?”
“I'm at the top in most of my classes. My cou___ __ri is a freshman in high school and she lets me do some of her homework with her. Is it true that you got a math degree. I'm not very good at math. I'm really good at English though. I've already read Taming of The Shrew, I liked some of the jokes, but the guys in it were jerks! I'd have punched them if they tried that.”
“Instead of punching them, you should get help. Fighting is only good as a last resort, even I don't like fighting,” the hero said. “And I did get a PhD in physics. You'd be amazed at how it helps me in my superhero career, letting me plan where my lightning bolts will hit, how to fly, and where and how hard to throw a villain so they can't hurt anyone when they land. But English is great too. We always need someone who can speak nicely for the crowd, and knows how to write things down so people understand how we're helping them. Everything can be useful, it just depends on how you use it.”
The hero pulled out a pen that looked a little like a lightning bolt and glowed as she wrote in the book. Handing the book back, she gave her the pen as well. “Keep it, ___. It's not often I meet one of my future partners.”
Mouser yowled in pain as she was punched in the gut.
Teri's eyes flared. “I'm going to be a hero,” she snarled.
Flying at Demolisher, she managed to get in close without being seen and punched the dented leg as hard as she could.
“What the hell?!” the supervillain shouted, spinning around trying to find her.
“Teri! Get the hell out of here!” Mouser shouted.
She ignored the order, zipping around the power armour as fast as she could, punching and kicking him as she went. Her erratic flight keeping him from getting a bead on her, or even predicting where she might be next. Mouser watched, trying to find an opening, but she couldn't do anything either, not without the risk of hitting her.
Then he got lucky.
More by accident then design he managed to slap her with his pincer hard enough to send her crashing into the the pavement. Dazed, she got to her hands and knees, shaking her head, trying to clear it. She didn't see him raise his arm.
Mouser jumped between them. The gun fired, catching the hero in the back.
Teri watched as Mouser flopped to the ground, not moving.
“Thanks kid,” Demolisher said, chuckling. “She was too fast for me to really hit. You were perfect. Now get out of here before I hurt you.”
He turned and walked away.
“Mouser,” Teri whimpered.
With tears pouring down her face, Teri got to her feet and stared at the supervillain. Her eyes began to blaze. Shrieking she flew at Demolisher.
Mouser came too, hearing a girl shriek.
She groaned in pain, her back was on fire, she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming in pain as she looked around. She didn't like what she saw.
Teri was flying around the supervillain, much faster than she could normally fly. The fairy was screaming, hitting the armour hard enough to leave small dents, there was no plan, no strategy, just unthinking rage.
“Jesus Christ, kid!” Demolisher said. “You're not doing much, just denting the armour a little. Give it up.”
Mouser realized that Teri wasn't listening, the girl had checked out. Trying to get to her feet, she fell face first into the pavement, her back spasming. Cursing, she could only lay there, hoping Teri wouldn't get hurt.
She winced as Teri was backhanded away, throwing her through a window into a furniture store. “Stay down, Teri,” she whispered.
Seconds later the window shattered outwards, Teri flew out carrying a washing machine. Demolisher paused, clearly surprised at the bizarre sight. Then he was falling backwards as a hundred and eighty pound washer slammed into him at well over a hundred miles an hour.
Teri didn't gloat or cheer at knocking him down, she flew away with the badly damaged appliance, disappearing from sight.
Demolisher got back to his feet, his arms raised, ready to shoot at the fairy or anything that came close. He backed away down the street towards the police line, his arms sweeping all around him.
He didn't look up.
Teri dropped out of the sky, hammering him with the washing machine. The heavy appliance shattered, even as it drove Demolisher to his knees. A crack opened up along the large dent on top of the armour.
“Where the hell are you?!” he shouted.
There was no answer, Teri had vanished again.
Mouser heard a metallic twang. Looking up she saw Teri come flying out of the sky once more, carrying a stop sign like an oversized axe.
Demolisher saw her as well and opened fire. Teri flew in an insane pattern of twists and impossibly tight turns that would make almost anyone sick. She swung the stop sign into the crack. Sparks flew out of the hole.
Teri flipped the stop sign around and while Demolisher tried to aim at her, his arms moving slower than before, she drove the metal post down like a spear.
Smoke erupted from the machine.
Screaming, Teri drove the sign into it again, and again, and again.
A hatch opened up and Demolisher fell out of his burning power armour.
Teri didn't notice, she kept spearing the armour. Eventually her blows slowed down, becoming sluggish, losing the power behind them. She let the sign fall, then flew over to Mouser, dropped down beside her and began to cry.
Mouser staggered into the condo her tail dragging on the floor while Teri hovered over her worriedly. “Can I get you anything? A hot water bottle, pain killers, something to eat?” she asked.
“Just a bed. A good night sleep... or three or four and I'll be feeling fine,” Mouser answered, walking to her room and collapsing on the bed.
“I'm sorry, I got in the way,” Teri said for at least the hundredth time. “I didn't mean to get you hurt.”
Mouser waved her away. “We'll talk tomorrow about it. The painkillers just make me want to sleep.”
Teri grabbed a blanket and covered Mouser up, her foster mother didn't notice, having already fallen asleep.
Flying to the living room, Teri went to sit beside her rose bush, clutching her knees to her chest and wrapping her wings around herself.
“I screwed up Rose Blossom,” she said. “I nearly killed Mouser because I thought I was a superhero. I just wanted to help people, and I was doing it by moving the injured away. But then I thought I could help Mouser and fight a supervillain. I was an idiot.”
Resting her head on the rose stem, she watched the sun set.
“My stupid memories made me think I could be a hero. I don't even know if they're real, but I listened to them. Some hero I am.”
She wiped tears from her eyes.
“My memories made me fight Burgermeister too, and look at how well that went. I've lost you and the goblins and elves, and I ended up in that horrible grocery store.”
Digging her toe into the soil, she didn't say anything for a while.
“Whenever I think about my past, bad stuff happens. And for all I know they aren't my memories, but someone elses.”
She got to her feet. “I'm happy here. I have Mouser and Witch Mabel, and people like me. I'm making friends, having fun, and I'm going to be getting a tutor and joining classes to learn stuff. Good things are happening. And I promise Rose Blossom, as soon as I learn where you are, I'll come and get you so you can come live here with me.
“It's time I learn to live for today. The past is the past and I can't change it, the future will come when it comes, no point worrying about it. I don't know if the girl in my memories was real, so why should I try to build my life around her, or cry over the things she had. She isn't me. I'm Teri Mouser and that's all I need to be happy.”
Flying to where Mouser kept her notebook of memories, Teri opened it up and cut out the pictures of Rose Blossom and the goblins and elves, she wanted to keep those. They were her real memories.
Using her claws she slowly and methodically shredded the pages full of notes, dreams, and faceless pictures, until there was only a pile of hopelessly mixed up slivers of paper on the floor. Picking them up, she flew outside and went high into the sky, spreading her arms and letting the paper blow away. Smiling happily, she flew back to the apartment, and went to her room.
Changing into her pajamas, she crawled into bed and wrapped herself up in her blanket. The memories tried to come back, rising up in her mind, trying to force her to remember, she pushed them away. That girl was gone.
“I'm Teri Mouser, and the future is out there, not in here,” she said tapping her head.
July 1st, 2007
Mouser crawled out of bed, stiff, sore, and in need of painkillers. Making her way to the kitchen, she saw that Teri had gone out to the nearby bakery and come back with fresh scones, apple fritters, buns, and other goodies.
“Glad to see you're feeling better,” she said.
Teri gave her a big smile. “I just wanted to say sorry, Mom.”
“Mom?” Teri had only called her foster mom once or twice, where had that come from?
“Well you are my foster mom, but that's a mouthful. It's much easier to just call you Mom. Anyways, I want you to take it easy today. If you need anything at all, you ask me, and I'll get it for you. You're not to lift a finger. After breakfast would you like a bath? It will help your back, and I can fill the tub while eat.”
“Teri, are you feeling OK?”
“Yep. I'm great!” the fairy said.
“Well you have a meeting with Dr. Schultz in two hours. So I don't have time for a bath,” she said.
“I don't want to go. I think I've gotten everything I can from her.”
Mouser narrowed her eyes, her concern for Teri turning to real worry. “She thinks she's getting closer to helping you with your memories. That's kind of important.”
“No its not,” Teri said. “The past is the past, I want to live for today. I'm tired of being sad, so I'm going to be happy from now on.”
“All right. I'll call her and let her know what's going on,” Mouser said.
“Great!” Teri said, spinning in a circle. “Since you're on bed rest today, would you like to watch some movies with me, or maybe some anime?”
Death Valley, Nevada
The mailbox slammed its hatch, making a pleasing drumming sound. Beside it a robotic jet propelled bird, cawed, and a long legged robot with a bird beak clapped its wings together like a cymbal. Other robots made their own noise, rattling around, banging things, whistling, hooting, and shrieking.
A tentacled robot sat before them, listening carefully as they all made their individual music. After several minutes, it clapped its tentacles together, bringing silence to the congregation. It pointed at the mailbox, raising and lowering its tentacle three times.
The mail box slammed its hatch open and shut three times.
Another robot was selected and it hooted four times.
The robots went through this several times, each one learning its part.
Finally the tentacled robot seemed satisfied. Raising its tentacles, it began pointing at the various robots.
The maibox listened happily to its musical partners, waiting for its part. Finally it was able to make music. It didn't need a radio after all, it just needed some friends who were as bored as it was. Finally the conductor pointed at it. The mailbox happily opened and slammed its hatch shut just like it had practised.
The music was glorious!
A powerful wind rose up, blowing sand all over the practice orchestra. The mailbox tilted its eye sensors up and saw a large airship coming down from the sky. It wasn't as large as its last home, but it was more than big enough to hold all of the robots who had escaped the crash of their old place.
It landed with a thump. The robots waited silently, unsure what would happen next.
A hatch flipped open, turning into a ramp.
The mailbox sagged, letting out a robotic sigh as the creator stepped out.
“Hello my friends! I'm sorry I was gone for so long, but now I have returned and we have important business to attend to! Come along and get onto the ship, we have lots to do if we're going to make the world a better place, and I need your help to collect our wayward children.”