A Whateley Academy Tale
A Strange Fairytale
June 1st, 2007
Teri looked up at the sky desperately searching for the Burgermeisters airship. “Rose Blossom! I've got to find her!”
She jumped into the air, only to fall back onto the roof of the grocery store. Her stomach roared with hunger causing her to double over clutching her sides as pain spread through her body. Her fingers fit between her ribs and her skin felt loose. As the pain slowly subsided, she realized that what remained of her clothes hung from her body. They were normally skin tight but were now at least two sizes too large.
“I need food,” she whispered. “And help. They can call a superhero for me and we'll find Rose Blossom. Everything is going to be OK. Once I find her we can go to the beach, and we'll have so much fun.”
Crawling to the edge of the roof, she spread her wings and glided down. She had to fly right in front of the sensor for the automatic doors to open. Inside the small grocery store there weren't many people, and none of them were looking in her direction. Flying over to the cashier who was dealing with a customer, she landed heavily a few feet away. “Hello. I need help,” she began.
The cashier took one look at her and screamed in terror.
Teri used her last bit of strength, taking to the air and blindly flying away at top speed.
“What on earth are you screaming about?” Mrs. Paterson demanded. Marcus pointed at where the... thing had been.
“I-I saw something. But it flew away.” He rubbed his forehead. “I'm sorry about that, I guess I'm more tired than I thought.”
“Right. I hope you get to go home soon and catch up on your sleep,” she said, taking her groceries and leaving rather hurriedly.
Picking up the phone, Marcus switched it for the intercom. “Collin, please come to the checkout.”
The red headed teen came strolling up a minute later. “What do you need, boss man?”
“A bird or something flew in here, go see if you can find it.”
“A bird?” Collin said. “What about the boxes I need to tear down?”
“Take ten minutes and find the bird for me. Then you can do the boxes,” Marcus said.
“OK, boss man,” the teen replied. “Here birdy, birdy, birdy. Come out wherever you are.”
Rubbing his temples, Marcus wished, not for the first time, that Collin was a bit brighter. The teen was loyal and a hard worker, but couldn't find his way out of a paper bag.
Teri hid at the back of a shelf, gnawing on her third rice cake. She knew she shouldn't be eating it, but she was so hungry she couldn't help herself. She was already feeling better thanks to her meal, and her ribs weren't quite so visible. Able to think clearly again she thought about the cashier screaming at her.
“I guess I did startle him. Most people don't see fairy's everyday, and I'm a mess,” she said to herself. “And some people are just really jumpy. That was it, I just need to ask him for help again, or someone else, yeah someone else would be better. And I'll apologize for eating the rice cakes. I'm sure they'll understand. And once I find my parents they can pay for the rice cakes. It's all going to be OK.”
She heard footsteps coming down the aisle. Squeezing through the packages, Teri came to the edge of the shelf and saw a small boy walking well ahead of his mother. Her face broke into a big grin. He was so cute, and a child would be perfect to talk to.
“Hi, I'm Teri. What's your name?” she asked, flying down to wave at the boy.
His eyes went wide and his jaw dropped. “You're a fairy!”
“Yeah, I am,” Teri said. “Look, I need your mom's help, can you introduce me to her?”
A bag of granola hit Teri in the face. “Timothy, get away from that bug!” the mother shouted.
“But Mom, she's a fairy. She said she needs help,” the boy said.
“I don't know what type of bug that thing is, it could be poisonous. Come on, let's get out of here.”
Teri held the bag in front of her like a shield and watched the mother drag her son away, casting nervous looks over her shoulder. Tears welled up in her eyes. “What did I do wrong?” she asked.
Teri screamed as enormous hands grabbed her from behind. She took off, flying forward at top speed. Her attacker instinctively gripped her harder and shrieked in terror as his feet left the ground. Reaching the end of the aisle, she turned the corner and headed for the ceiling, whoever was grabbing her was flung off.
She hit the cheap ceiling tile and kept going. In the darkness of the ceiling, surrounded by electrical wires, pipes for the sprinkler system, and the metal frames holding everything in place, she felt safe enough to slow down. Shaking from fear, exhaustion and hunger, she found a place to sit. Staring into the darkness, Teri wrapped her wings tightly around herself and began to cry.
Marcus ran towards the sound of the screams. He didn't know what was happening, but it was his store and whatever happened was his responsibility. A customer dragging her child towards the exit glared at him, “You need to call an exterminator, you have a huge bug problem!”
“I'll be sure to look into it, ma'am,” he replied automatically.
“Mom, I said she was a fairy!” the boy said.
Up ahead he saw Collin lying on the floor, clearly dazed and surrounded by packs of toilet paper. It looked like he'd been thrown into the display, but there was no one around and the woman he'd passed clearly hadn't done it.
“Don't move, Collin,” he said, kneeling down to get a look at the teen. “What happened?”
“I found your bird, boss man,” Collin said. “It's really strong.”
“It threw you?!”
Shaking his head, Collin carefully sat up. “No dude. I grabbed it and it took off like a jet. I tried to stop it, but whoa, it was fast. Like way faster than the time I tied myself to the back of my buddy's car and rode behind him on my skateboard. When it headed for the ceiling I was thrown off. I wonder if I can try that again, but with a skateboard, it was intense.”
“Go sit down in the break room, and when you feel better go home. Don't worry I'll make sure you get your full time,” Marcus told him. Giving him a thumbs up, the young man staggered towards the back. That done, Marcus went to his office and after closing the door, phoned the MCO. “Lincoln City MCO, how can I help you?” a bored voice asked.
“Hello, I think I have a mutant in my store,” Marcus said.
The voice became slightly livelier. “Is the mutant causing a disturbance or committing a crime?”
“My employee grabbed it and it,” he tried to remember what Collin had said, “it took off like a jet, dragging him behind it. He was flung off into the toilet paper display.”
There was a pause. “Your employee grabbed the mutant, and the mutant ran away.”
“Yes! I think it might still be in the store.”
“Do you have a description of the mutant?”
Finally they were getting somewhere. “It's small, about the size of a songbird. I think it has purple wings. And it's very fast, I think it might be able to teleport as well.”
There was a longer pause. “Have you been drinking or using recreational drugs, sir? You can answer truthfully, we are not the police and the MCO doesn't judge people on their personal habits.”
“What kind of a question is that? I'm the head manager of the GK supermarket in Gering. I do not drink at work and I do not use drugs,” Marcus said. “Now I believe this mutant is a danger to my customers and employees.”
“Was your employee hurt after grabbing the mutant?”
“He was shaken up, but he seems all right,” he admitted.
“And why did he grab the mutant?” the person asked.
“Because it's a mutant and shouldn't be here.”
“Sir, do you realize that simply being a mutant is not illegal?”
“But who knows what it was doing? Why was it even in here?” he demanded.
“I'd assume to buy groceries.”
Marcus stared speechlessly at the phone for a moment. “What am I supposed to do about the mutant?”
“Hope it doesn't press charges after your employee grabbed them. If they do come back and commits a crime or a disturbance feel free to call us then. Can I help you with anything else?”
“No, I think that's all,” he replied, slamming down the phone. “It looks like I'll have to deal with this myself.”
Hunger forced Teri awake. Her head ached and it felt as if her stomach was tearing a hole through her. Lifting up a ceiling tile, she saw that the entire store was dark and deserted. She half fell and half glided down to the produce department, landing with a thud on a pile of apples. Mechanically she began eating, not thinking, not caring, just trying to fill the emptiness inside of her. When she was finally able to think again, she realized she was gnawing on an apple stem and covered in sticky juice, the rest of the apple was gone.
“Ugh, I'm a mess,” she muttered.
She found a pack of wet wipes and cleaned herself up as best she could. Feeling a bit better, she flew back up into the ceiling and tore a small hole in the roof to slip outside. She didn't want to stay in the horrible store a minute longer than she had to.
Flying to the edge of the roof, she knelt down staring over the dark town and out onto the flat plains in the distance. Where was she supposed to go? She didn't even know where Gering was. More importantly she didn't know where Rose Blossom was. Rubbing her head she tried to remember what had happened.
There had been a girl. Burgermeister had been about to do something really, really bad to her.
“He was going to turn her into a fairy,” she said, staring at her tiny hands.
“That's right, he kidnapped the girl, and me, and Rose Blossom. He... he must have messed with my mind.” Her eyes flared a brilliant purple. “That's why I can't remember my parents or where I live!” Her fingers dug into the metal.
“So I remembered what he did to us. And I said, I said...” She hit her head. Why couldn't she remember?
She began speaking, the words coming to her mouth without conscious thought. “This is Teri, Burgermeister is a very bad man. Get to the escape pods, the ship is going down.”
“OK, that's a start,” she told herself. “What happened next?”
Sounds and images ran through her mind. There was laughing, it wasn't sane or happy, and there was the sound of metal snapping. A vision of an ogre slamming her into the ground appeared in her mind. There was fire and sparks. She heard Rose Blossom screaming her name. And then… then there was a horrible shriek and she was falling. She couldn't fly, she was too weak and tired. She could only spread her wings. She was tumbling in the wind, the ground so far below she couldn't make out any details, and it was cold, bitterly cold. Finally she was lower, with nothing but grass below her. But she'd seen buildings in the distance and tried to fly to them.
“That doesn't really help brain,” Teri muttered to herself.
“So I don't know where I am besides a town name and state. I don't know where the airship was when I broke it. I don't know if Rose Blossom made-” She stopped talking, tears forming in her eyes again. “No! I don't know where Rose Blossom landed. She's OK. She's smart and she can fly. If she didn't make it to an escape pod, she flew out of there, just like me. She's OK. I just need to find her. Then we can go to the beach and have fun, and eat hot dogs and everything will be fun and we'll be happy, and I’ll keep her safe.”
Looking out over the dark and lonely town, she whispered, “I'm going to need help.”
She violently shook her head. “I tried to get help. They acted like I was a monster. I even asked nicely after they yelled at me.”
Teri fell silent for a long time.
Was everyone going to treat her like a monster?
She couldn't really remember how mutants were treated, just that a lot of people didn't like them even though they were so cool. She knew that there were superheroes and people liked them, but she didn't know how to become a hero.
If she was yelled at, had stuff thrown at her, and got called a bug just for asking for help, how could she learn how to be a superhero so that everyone would like her? “Maybe I should have stayed with Burgermeister,” she whispered.
She wanted Rose Blossom.
Rose Blossom would sing to her, hug her, make her smile. With Rose Blossom she could be strong and protect her friend against anything. That's what superheroes did, they protected people who couldn't protect themselves. What was she without anyone to protect?
“I don't want to be a monster,” she finally said. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she looked up into the sky, wanting to see the big airship, even if it meant she had to fight Burgermeister again.
Was he even still alive? She'd wanted to kill him. She'd wanted to kill him so much that she'd forgotten everything else.
If she was being truthful, she still wanted to.
“He must be alive. I didn't see the body, so he's still alive,” she said.
Burgermeister would come for her. She was one of his people. She was his fairy. He needed her for his plans. He would know where Rose Blossom was. He'd know where the goblins and elves were too. He'd need all of them to accomplish his mad dreams. He probably had some devise in her that would let him follow her all over the world. Or at least to where she landed. It would fit his paranoid ideas.
She couldn't leave.
She had to stay right where she was so he could find her. Once he found her, she would break every bone in his body until he told her where Rose Blossom was, and the elves and goblins too. Then the two of them, and the others if they wanted to, could go somewhere nice and safe, like the beach, where they'd be safe and they could sing and dance and play all day long. Best of all she could be a superhero, taking care of her friends.
Maybe they could even find her family. Her family wouldn't call her a bug, or scream at her, or throw things at her, or grab her. They'd hug her and kiss her and keep her safe, and everyone would be happy. She just had to wait for Burgermeister to find her. It wouldn't take long.
Flying towards the hole to go back into the store, she took one last look at the stars in the sky. "I'll find you Rose. I won't let you down again."
Teri thought about how to survive until Burgermeister arrived. First things first, she needed a place to live. She couldn't sleep on the shelves or anywhere the horrible people might find her. And she couldn't just sleep in the dust of the ceiling.
Flying around the store, she discovered a pile of flattened boxes. A quick search found a box that was a little taller than she was, and very wide. Taking it to a corner of the ceiling, she awkwardly pulled it up, and got to work setting it up, which wasn't easy with it being so much bigger than she was.
That done, she used her claws to make a small hole for a door. It wouldn't keep the dust out, but she had an idea for that. Heading back downstairs, she grabbed a big pile of soft washcloths and some pins. One washcloth made a door flap, pinned in place with three bent needles, the rest were put in the corner for a bed. Climbing into the pile she allowed herself a small smile at how comfortable it was. It wasn't as nice as warm moss, but it was almost as good.
Next she grabbed some food, granola bars, oranges, apples, bananas, sugar free cookies, juice boxes and a bottle of water. They were piled up opposite her bed for later. A box of crayons, pencils, paper, and some magazines and books were next. The books were mostly romance, which made her roll her eyes in disgust, there was always too much kissing in them, but she'd need something to read.
An hour later, she flew along the aisles wondering what else she could need. She didn't know how long it would take for Burgermeister to arrive, and if she was missing something she could get it during the next night, but she felt there was something she should have.
Her eyes lit up as she came to the small toy section. Flying back to her new home, she carefully put her two new possessions in the bed. Getting between them, she smiled at the dark haired Barbie doll and gave it a kiss. "Goodnight, mom." Rolling over, she hugged the Ken doll. "Goodnight dad." Pulling the blanket tightly around herself, she wrapped her arms around the two plastic dolls, closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep.
June 2nd, 2007
The phone was ringing, quite noisily and annoyingly. From under a mound of pillows and blankets someone groaned. “Go away.”
Instead of going away, the phone quite rudely continued to ring. Groaning more loudly, the mound shifted and moved. Slowly, a hand covered in short black fur, reached out, grabbed the phone and dragged it under the blankets. “Mouser, superhero and bodyguard, speaking, how can I help you?”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“Bill,” the mound growled, “what time is it?”
There was another moment of silence.
“I got home three hours ago. I've gotten about nine hours of sleep in the last four days. In that time, I managed to get electrocuted in the ass, had an unplanned haircut, had my whiskers burned off, and got yelled at by a flash in the pan pop singer with the common sense of a suicidal lemming and the brains of a meth addicted sponge! This had better be really important or I will get out of bed, hunt you down and gut you like a mouse!”
A longer moment of silence ensued.
“I can't meet them in two hours, they're on the other side of the state. Have you ever even looked at a map?!”
Yet more silence occurred.
“Look, if I get on the road now, I'll end up driving through some farmers cornfield. Let me get another hour,” she paused. “No, five hours of sleep and I'll leave this afternoon. If they're in danger, get someone to move them to a hotel, and take it out of my fee. I'll meet them tonight.”
There was a short silence.
“I don't know when I'll get there. It depends on how many cops try to pull me over for speeding,” Mouser said. “Now go away and do your thing, while I get some more sleep.”
The mound of blankets were pushed off revealing a very catlike face and ears. Placing the phone back on the nightstand, Mouser glared at the hated sun and hissed in displeasure. “I hate my life sometimes.”
Pulling the blankets back over her, she was snoring seconds later.
Mouser crawled out of bed, cursing the world in general and Bill in particular. Her long, fluffy tail hung limply behind her, and the titanium bracelets on her wrists and ankles felt heavier than usual.
Still mostly asleep she headed for the shower. Staring at the water, she realized that there wasn't enough time to properly wash and dry her fur. Cursing even more, she closed her eyes and a minute later where a sleek, well muscled, black furred, catwoman, had been standing, was a tall, thin, very human woman with straw blonde hair. The only way to know they were the same person, were the silvery, feather-like brands that ran from her collar bone down to her stomach and the bracelets.
Hopping into the cold shower, Mouser hurriedly washed herself, and more importantly woke up. As soon as that was done and dried off, she returned to her catwoman form. Heading for the kitchen she turned on the kettle, preparing one of her rare cups of coffee. While the water was boiling, she put on a pair of shorts and a crop top. The feeling of clothes over her fur was uncomfortable, so the less she wore the better in her opinion.
A cold piece of steak was all she needed for breakfast, purring happily at the intense, salty flavour. By the time she was done eating, and checking her phone for the details of the new job, the coffee was ready. “Time for the fun,” she said. She drained the cup in one long gulp, trying to ignore the bitter flavour.
Her heart began to beat rapidly, her limbs shook, her tail stretched straight out behind her, and her pupils widened. She took a slow, deep breath, released it, and did it again. Slowly, her heart beat returned almost to normal and the shaking stopped.
Where she had been exhausted before, she was now wired. Her fingers twitched, wanting to do something, and she began bouncing in place. “OK, that's my caffeine limit for the month!” she said.
Practically bounding around her apartment, she repacked her travel bag with clean clothes, made sure all her gear was charged up, grabbed her motorcycle helmet, modified to keep her large cat ears free, and headed out the door.
No one she passed in the apartment complex gave her a second glance. She'd lived there for years and surprisingly most criminals avoid causing problems where a known hero lives. So almost all of her neighbours were quite happy to have her around. There was one neighbour who gave her dirty looks whenever they had to share an elevator, but that one was allergic to cats, so Mouser gave her a pass.
Strapping her pack onto the back, she hopped onto her motorcycle, a really nice crotch rocket that she'd gotten heavily modified at cost, from an old boyfriend, she peeled out of the parking lot and headed out of town. When she hit the outskirts of the city she pressed a button, causing the motorcycle to roar and the landscape became a blur.
Yowling with glee, Mouser forgot her recent annoyances and focused on the joy of the moment.
Pulling into a nice looking roadside restaurant, Mouser jumped off of her motorcycle and began stretching the kinks out, enjoying the attention it got her. She finished it off by jumping ten feet into the air, doing a backflip and landing as if it was nothing, which to her it wasn't. “Now time for food!” she said.
Inside the restaurant almost everyone turned to look at her. She was tempted to make a big display, offering them autographs, handing out some of her business cards, and similar things but she was a bit too tired and definitely too hungry to bother with it.
Taking a seat, she waited for the waitress to come, and waited, and waited a bit more. By the looks she was getting from the staff, and the way they were whispering to themselves, she had a fair idea of what was going on. She was about to leave when she heard something interesting from the kitchen. “Call the MCO!”
“Oh boy, this is gonna be fun!” she whispered.
She tilted her ears a little to better hear what was going on. “Hello, we have a mutant at our restaurant. It's causing a disturbance. It looks like a human cat. Yes, that's right. It has black fur, a long tail, silver tattoos, and-” The woman stopped abruptly. There was over a minute of silence, when she spoke again her voice was full of disbelief. “You want to talk to it? I'm sorry, to her?”
Mouser grinned like the Cheshire Cat as the manager came out holding a phone. The woman was pale and clearly freaked out. “Um, I have a person who would like to talk to you.”
“Oh really? I wonder who it could be.” Taking the phone, she loudly said, “Mouser, superhero and bodyguard speaking, how can I help you?”
“Hello Mouser, are you having any problems?” Larry Meyer, the head of the Lincoln, Nebraska MCO asked.
Seeing the startled look on the womans face, Mouser decided to rub it in. “Well Larry, I've been waiting here for at least ten minutes to place my order but no one will even look at me. And now they're wasting your valuable time too. The service is frankly atrocious, and I need to get back on the road to help out a family that's in trouble halfway across the state. Can you be a dear and help me out?”
Larry sighed. “Give her the phone back, I'll deal with this.”
“Thank you sweety, I knew I could count on you,” she said. Placing the phone in the stunned womans hand, her grin somehow got bigger. “He wants to talk to you.”
The manager, in a bit of a daze, walked back to the kitchen. Two minutes later the waitress hurried over. “I'm very sorry about the wait, your order will be on the house. What can I get for you?”
“I'll have the trucker steak dinner, very rare, and what would you recommend for dessert?”
Mouser arrived at a small house on the outskirts of a nowhere town. Looking around she didn't see anything out of place, a big transport truck sat outside, beside a good size vegetable garden, her nose twitched at the smell of chickens behind the house. The door opened, revealing a heavily built man holding a pistol at his side.
“Hello, Mr. Larson? My name's Mouser, I was told you needed some help,” she said, walking up to him.
He stared wide-eyed at her for a moment, then shook his head. “Thanks for coming, you can call me Jim. Come inside and we can talk.”
The house was old fashioned, worn and in need of a renovation, but it was tidy and well kept. Mrs. Larson was watching her nervously, while a teen sat huddled under a blanket on the couch. She could smell an odd, muddy dampness coming from the teen, and his breathing sounded off, much deeper and slower than regular.
“Hi I'm Betty, can I get you anything,” Mrs. Larson asked.
“A drink, milk if you have it, and if it wouldn't be too much to ask, something to eat. I've been driving most of the day and haven't had much,” she replied, not taking her eyes off of the teenager. “So what exactly do you need? All I was told was you needed someone to help you take a long distance trip and you were expecting trouble.”
Jim motioned for her to have a seat. “It's Richard. Our son. He started getting powers a month ago. He could jump really far, and sometimes did it without meaning to. We got him out of school for a bit, doing the homework and take home tests so he'd still pass. We thought, give him some time to get his jumping under control over the summer and he could go back next year.”
She nodded at that, pleased that the parents were being sensible and not panicking. When Betty came in with a tall glass of milk, she gratefully took a sip. “And then?”
“But then two weeks ago he started to change.”
Now she knew why they wanted her. “Changing how?”
Richard took off his blanket, and Mouser had to fight hard to keep the surprise from her face. The boy was turning into a frog. His skin was moist and turning a pale green, his eyes were bulging out, his neck had practically vanished, and his mouth looked to be growing wider with the skin on both sides being almost translucent. From the way his legs were positioned, it seemed like they were changing as well. No wonder they were being cautious.
“He can't talk very well anymore, his tongue is too big for his mouth,” Jim said.
She nodded in understanding. “So, what exactly do you need me to do?”
“We can't go to the doctor here, a few too many people don't really like mutants and a handful of them might try something. Betty has a sister up in Canada, and she said that things were better for people like Richard up there, not great, but better.”
Mouser interrupted. “Does he have an MID yet? Or a passport?”
“No, we didn't think he'd need a passport anytime soon, and we don't trust the MCO. We've heard some of the things they do to mutants.” He raised his hand as Mouser opened her mouth. “After talking with my sister-in-law, she got us in touch with some superheroes in Canada. We explained it all, and they pulled some strings so we could meet them at the border and they'd help get everything all set up. So we just need to get there. But it's a long drive, and we need to stop regularly to wet down Richards skin and do some other things.”
“And you're worried that someone will see him and you'll either have an H1 hit squad, the MCO or the KOP coming after you?” Mouser said.
“I'm going to want the name and number of these superheroes to make sure everything is kosher. And I'd feel a lot better if we drove back to Lincoln and Richard got his MID there.” It was her turn to raise her hand as he started to object. “I know the MCO has a bad reputation, I avoid South Dakota like the plague because of them, but the ones in Lincoln are honestly good guys. Still, if everything checks out, we can ignore that. Where are you going to meet them?”
“A dirt road that crosses the border on the Montana-Alberta. They're expecting us in the next few days, we just have to call an hour or two in advance and they'll be waiting for us,” he said.
“Not the worst plan in the world,” she admitted, “at least we'll be able to skip the Dakotas. Can you be ready to go around ten tomorrow?”
He frowned at that. “I thought you'd want to leave earlier than that.”
“Nope. If we leave after nine, most of the people who would care about us will be at work. We can slip away a lot more easily, and be well away from here before anyone notices anything odd,” she explained.
“OK. I figured we can use my truck, it's pretty comfortable in the back of the cab, and it will have enough space for all of us.”
“I'll be riding my bike,” she said. “You will be following a ways back, using one of my radios to keep in constant contact. With your son in the back of the cab, no one will see him while you're driving. I'll stick out and all the attention will be on me. When you need a rest stop, I'll go in first to make sure everyone is looking my way while you guys do your thing as quickly as possible, then get back on the road. As soon as you're out of sight, I'll take off and catch up a few miles down the road.”
“Are you sure? That doesn't seem very safe for you.”
She grinned. “If I wanted to be safe, I wouldn't be a superhero. Now don't worry if anything happens it will be all on me, and I can handle it. This'll be fun.”
Marcus placed his final camera at the end of the aisle, and double checked that it would have a clear view. There were twenty of them, all set up to activate at the slightest movement, if the mutant was still in the store he would catch it on camera. Most people would assume the mutant had left, but he'd combed over the security cameras from the previous night, and he was sure he'd seen it. It had only been on camera for a second, zipping past the camera, almost too fast to see, but it had been there, with it's creepy wings and too small body.
Once he had concrete proof it was there, he could get help removing it.
The door finally slammed shut.
Teri looked down from a crack in the ceiling, she'd been waiting for the horrible man to go away so she could get stuff done. She was tired and grumpy from not sleeping well during the day, and had been tempted to just throw him out of the store a few times, but that wasn't what superheroes did. No matter how nasty he was, he hadn't done anything illegal. So she'd been forced to wait in the dusty, dark ceiling, trying not to be noisy.
Flying down, she had to hold her shirt on with both hands. The fabric was so worn and shredded, she'd ripped it apart while rolling around in her sleep. A few specially placed knots and threads from a washcloth let her avoid going topless, but it wasn't exactly sturdy. Her pants weren't much better.
Going up and down the aisles, she felt and tested every fabric she came across. Most were really rough and scratchy, even the ones that claimed to be extra soft. “Am I going to have to wear toilet paper?” she asked herself.
Finally, she resorted to ripping open packages and found something that didn't feel like rough canvas. Grabbing the box, she flew up into the ceiling dropping it off just beside her box house, and flew down to grab a pocket sewing kit.
She read the packaging as she cut it open with her claws. “Bamboo sheets. Huh, I didn't know you could make sheets out of that.”
Pulling out a bit of sheet, more than enough to wrap herself up like a mummy, she cut it off and dragged it into her home. Turning on a small flashlight, she spread the fabric out on the floor and began drawing a very basic design on it using crayons.
As she worked her mind wandered.
“Come here, TERI,” an old woman said, her face lost in shadows.
“What do you need, _______?” she asked, putting down her superheroes magazine.
“It's time you learn how to sew.”
Her nose curled up at that. “But it's boring! You didn't make my ________ learn.”
The old woman chuckled. “Yes I did. They learned when they were just a bit older than you. Everyone should know how to sew a little. You shouldn't need to buy a whole new outfit or call for help if you lose a button or need to fix a little hole. Now sit and pay attention.”
“She was a smart, old lady,” Teri said, eyeing the design. “I think she's my Grandma, but she could be an aunt or something. Are you going to give me any more hints, brain?” Nothing came to her. Shrugging she got down to cutting.
Holding up the open back dress, Teri was quite happy with the results. It was a little ragged around the edges, claws weren't the best for neat cuts, and the scissors were far too large for her to use, but it wasn't like many people were going to see her. The stitching was nice and tight. Even though the needle was almost as long as her arm, she had been extra careful with it, she couldn't have it fall apart in the middle of a fight. That would be embarrassing.
Putting the dress on, she found it was a bit loose around the chest and stomach, but nice and tight on her hips, while the straps around her shoulders were almost too tight. That was OK, it would keep it from coming off while she flew. It was backless to let her move her wings, and she'd kept the skirt kind of short and loose so she could move her legs freely. It was a little too short for her comfort, since she didn't have any underwear, but it wasn't like she was going to be sitting down in front of anyone. So that was fine.
Now that the work was done, she decided to do something fun. Taking the box of crayons she began drawing on the wall. She didn't think as she drew, letting her mind go blank. When she snapped back to reality she was looking at a life size drawing of Rose Blossom. It wasn't great art, but it looked pretty good to her.
“Hello, Rose Blossom, look at what I did tonight,” she said, spinning around to show off her dress. “Do you like it? I need to make a few more, and if I can figure out how, I'd like to make some underwear. It's a little drafty right now.”
Sitting down beside the drawing, she closed her eyes and thought of the fairy garden. “I think I need some furniture around here. The bed is nice, but I need more than just that. What do you think, should I make a chair or a couch? I'd try to make a bean bag chair, but the beans are almost as big as me!”
She kept talking long into the night.
June 3rd, 2007
Taking a large sip of his coffee Marcus watched the videos from his cameras. He'd come in extra early even though it wasn't his shift so he could remove the cameras before anyone found them, and it had paid off. He watched as the flying menace stole a set of sheets. What it could possibly want with the sheets he had no idea, but it certainly couldn't be good.
“I've got you now, mutant,” he muttered.
“All right, do you have everything you need?” Mouser asked.
They were leaving a little later than planned, but Mouser had been busy on the phone. First she'd checked to make sure the heroes they were meeting, Paulette Bunyan and Grinder were legitimate, and then going over every little detail with the heroes themselves. Another hour had been used confirming that what they told her was accurate. It was well past ten now, but since they weren't on a strict schedule, Mouser was happy to leave late, if it meant the trade off went smoothly.
Jim handed a cooler full of snacks and drinks up to his wife in the big rig. “We're good to go.”
“Great. Your radio is all set up, it's specially made to prevent any regular eavesdropping. If you need anything, see something odd, or just get a bad feeling, hit the button and start talking. If you can't hit the button, say Mouser and it will connect us.” She'd already gone over the details the night before, but it never hurt to repeat things that could mean life or death. “And if you fall too far behind it will start beeping. I'll be tracking you through my helmet, so you should always be within five miles of me, but pay attention and follow the route we made.”
He nodded. “I've got it memorized and a written copy taped under the dashboard just in case. I'll stick to it until you tell me otherwise.”
That made her smile. It was always nice to be guarding someone with a brain, who respected her expertise. “All right. I'll take off now, and in one minute you follow me.”
She checked over her bike, making sure her pack was secure on the back, and her weapons were in their proper sealed slots. Now that she was on the clock Mouser wasn't wearing her usual comfortable clothes, but well padded and armoured motorcycle pants and jacket. They were bright white with pink trim and a roaring big black cat on the back. Putting her helmet on she checked that the tracking system was working on the HUD, and did a quick mic check.
With everything ready, she hit the road at a reasonable speed.
Passing through the town, she made sure not to do anything that would attract attention. She even kept her tail down and somewhat hidden by her bag, not that it mattered much, she only passed some kids who stared at her motorcycle and a couple of elderly people that ignored her. A glance at the tiny display on her helmets HUD showed that the Larson's were right where they should be.
When they were both out of town she said, “Let's keep everything nice and slow and follow the speed limit. Don't want to bother the police today.”
“Ten-four,” Jim said.
Mouser let her thoughts slip away, allowing her instincts to guide her and warn her of any possible dangers.
Near La Grange, Wyoming
“Mouser, we need a bathroom break,” Jim said.
“All right,” she said, a quick glance at her HUD showed they'd been driving for about three hours. She frowned at how slow they were going, following the speed limit, sucked. “First decent place we come to, I'll pull in and get all eyes on me. Once I give you the all clear you get out, get the job done and get back in the truck ASAP.”
It was the middle of nowhere, so they'd probably end up stopping in the blink and you'll miss it, village of La Grange. She'd have preferred avoiding towns, but beggars couldn't be choosers. Picking up a bit of speed she got ready to make an entrance.
Twenty minutes later Mouser pulled into a small gas station that said it had public bathrooms. She filled up her tank at the pump, and then strode into the store, tail held high. She grinned at the teen behind the till, who was trying and failing to not look at her body. This was going to be fun, she thought, as she unzipped her jacket a little and leaned over the counter, enjoying the sight of his jaw dropping.
“I'm wondering,” she said, drawing the words out in a long purr, “do you have any catnip?”
“Uh,” the cashier was momentarily speechless. “No. I don't think you can find catnip in town. It's not exactly,” he gulped, “a big seller.”
“That's a shame. I guess I'll just have to look around and see what you do have,” she said. Turning away from him, she scanned the store and looked out the window. No one was around, and the bathrooms were just at the back. Her hands moved suggestively over her hips, pressing a concealed button connected to her radio, signaling the all clear.
As she browsed the limited supply of junk food, the Larson's pulled up outside. Taking two types of jerky she went back to the till, swinging her hips and tail for all they were worth. “Can you help me,” she asked, leaning on the counter. Somehow her jacket had become more unzipped and she was only wearing a sports bra underneath.
“I'm not sure which type I should get, hot or hot and spicy.” She held up the two packages and looked deep into his eyes. The door opened, and Jim came in with Richard, who was wearing a hoodie and using crutches to walk. Jim made sure to stay between the cashier and his son, not that it was going to be a problem considering the cashier was staring at her cleavage.
“I- I'm a fan of the mild kind.” The young man blushed as the words left his mouth.
“I would have thought you were a hot and spicy kind of guy,” she said. Putting the hot jerky back, she went to the freezer and picked out an icecream cone. Waving to the teen, she unwrapped it, then took a long lick, shivering a little as the cold hit her.
Then the exact thing she didn't want to happen, happened. A Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper pulled up.
Cursing silently, she headed back to the counter. “Can you tell me how much farther it is to Cheyenne?”
The trooper walked in and stopped dead at the sight of her. Pretending to ignore him, she kept her eyes on the teen.
“About an hour, just get on the 85 and follow the signs,” he told her.
“Thank you. You're such a nice guy,” she said, placing her fingers on his hand for just a moment.
The trooper, clearly not approving of what he was seeing, stepped well into her personal space. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
She licked her ice cream cone and looked up into his eyes. “Just getting a few snacks for the road, officer. Is there a problem?” She heard the toilet flush and wondered just how far she'd need to push things to keep the attention on her.
“Where are you headed?”
“Why? Do you want to come with me?” she asked, looking him up and down while licking icecream off her lips.
He scowled. “Just answer the question.”
“Well since you asked so nicely, I'm going to Salt Lake City to see my sister. And if you're interested, I'll be stopping in Cheyenne to meet some friends tonight.” She looked at him suggestively. “Would you like my number, I could use a date?”
Jim and Richard came out of the bathroom, pausing for a moment at the sight of the trooper. Fortunately both of them got moving, giving Mouser and the trooper plenty of space.
The man didn't take his eyes off of her. “What's your name?”
“Samantha Mouser, it's a pleasure to meet you,” she answered.
“Let me see your MID.”
Pulling her wallet from her inside pocket, she couldn't resist goading him a little more. “Oh you want to know more about me? Would you like to come over for a little weekend party?”
He snatched the card out of her hand. “Wait here.”
While the trooper went to see if she was who she claimed to be, Mouser watched Jim get the big rig onto the road and head out of town. Breathing easier, she turned back to the teen. “So how much do I owe you?”
By the time she'd paid and finished her icecream, the trooper was back. Handing the ID over to her, he didn't look happy. “You can leave,” he said.
“Why thank you, kind sir.” She blew a kiss to the cashier and winked, before heading out. She'd have to hurry to get past the Larson's again.
Neal got into his car and glared at the freak as she drove away. He could have made up some charge to bring her in, but at best it would have kept her in a cell overnight, and she might call a lawyer, then it would be his ass on the line. At worst she might be a rager and kill him.
Sighing in disgust, he had to admit he wasn't equipped to deal with a mutant. Getting his cell phone he called the MCO, they'd know what to do about her. And he was willing to bet she wasn't going to Cheyenne.
MCO Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” MCO Director Susan Brown said, happy to find an excuse to take a break from the dull memo from New York.
“Director, we just got a call about the cat woman passing through Casper,” the agent said.
“So the trooper was right,” she said. “Contact the Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota MCO, and let them know that she may be heading towards them for unknown reasons. The mutant might be doing something in Casper, but she could just be driving through, so we'll send a team to Casper with orders to be ready to move to assist in a nearby state if asked.”
The agent nodded, but paused for a moment. “Director, couldn't this be the real Mouser, from Nebraska?”
“That's unlikely,” she said. “This is clearly a mutant with fake ID. And if by some misfortune it is the real Mouser, I'm sure we can work things out.”
The agent looked uncomfortable for a moment, then nodded and went off to do his job. The Director smiled to herself. If they played it right, they might be able to get rid of a blight on the MCO ledger.
Mouser curled up happily on the cheap motel bed. They hadn't gotten as far as she would have liked, having to make regular pit stops for Richard, but she was happy with their time. Heading out early they could be at the unofficial border crossing in about seven or eight hours.
Considering their good luck so far, she was feeling pretty optimistic about the rest of the trip. Closing her eyes she was almost instantly asleep.
“Mom! Dad! I'm home!” Teri shouted.
She bounded into the house, everything looked familiar. No matter where she looked, memories came back. There was the couch where she'd sat with her newborn niece for the first time. A picture hung on the wall of her in her flower girl dress at her oldest brothers wedding. She could practically see herself making arroz con leche with her mother and grandmother in the kitchen.
“Mom, Dad! Where are you?” she called. Running up the stairs two at a time, she kept calling out to them.
“Mom! I'm finally back. Dad, I'm here! Where are you?!”
She came to her room. Her eyes went to the autographed picture of Lightning Strike, it was shredded, the ragged remnants covered in soot. Looking around the room, her pictures of her, her cousin and friends that were taped around her desk were burnt and impossible to make out.
“MOM!” she screamed, tears running down her face.
Opening her photo album, ashes fell from the pages, covering her hands.
The walls and furniture loomed above her. The photo album grew heavier and larger until she had to drop it. She found herself flying in the center of the room, surrounded by smoke as electricity arced around her.
“WHERE'S MY DAUGHTER?!” A giant, shadowy woman screamed.
“I'm your daughter,” Teri whimpered. “Mommy, I'm your daughter. I'm-, I'm-”
Who was she?
“You're just a bug! A freak! A monster!” her mother shouted. “Where's my daughter!?”
In an old box, hidden in the ceiling surrounded by darkness and dust, a young girl cried in her sleep.
June 4th, 2007
Mouser took her time getting her motorcycle ready, making sure anyone who was passing by or looking out their motel window got a good look at her cat-like appearance. Across the parking lot the Larson's loaded their son into the truck and got themselves ready to go. “Betty, Jim,” she whispered into her mic, “everything good to go?”
“Yeah, just getting Richard settled, his legs are really sore this morning,” Betty said.
Biting back a curse, Mouser didn't allow the frustration to show on her face. If they had to stop for a doctor, not only would it screw up their plans, but it could be dangerous. “If it gets too bad let me know. We'll go a little faster than planned today, and I'll let Paulette and Grinder know so they can set up something with a doctor on their end ASAP.”
“Thank you. We're ready to go when you are.” she said.
“OK, I'm heading out, follow in one minute,” Mouser said, putting her helmet on. Hitting the road, she kept her eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary. She wasn't expecting much, but it wouldn't do to be caught by surprise.
“Mouser we need to pull over, Richard is-” Jim was cut off by a pain filled groan. “We need more water, his skin is drying out.”
Mouser cursed, there were a lot more police on the street than usual, and she didn't like the way some of the cops were looking at her. “We're coming up to a couple of gas stations. I'll pull into the first one, you go in the second one. Don't let Richard out, just get the water and go, I'll catch up to you.”
Pulling into the station, she got off her bike and pretended to slowly stretch, taking in the area without looking too obvious about it. Her tail was already attracting a lot of attention, taking her helmet off had every nearby eye on her. Readjusting her bag took more time, allowing her to see Jim pull into the other gas station.
Going into the store, she grabbed a drink, keeping an eye on the window which showed Jim rushing into his own store coming out a minute later with two bags full of water bottles. It wasn't exactly inconspicuous, but it wasn't going to do more than raise eyebrows, and speed right now was important. As soon as Jim was in his truck, Mouser went to the cashier.
The elderly woman had clearly seen everything and barely glanced at her as she rang up the drink. Stepping out of the store, Mouser's stomach dropped, a man and woman in MCO uniforms were walking over to her bike. She discreetly tapped the button under her pants three times, a signal for the Larson's to keep going on the planned route and stop for nothing, except police lights. Faking a smile, she went to her bike, cracked open the drink and took a sip, letting them make the first move.
“Where are you going?” the woman asked, not bothering with introductions.
“Seattle. Is there a problem?” Mouser asked.
“We have a report that you were supposed to be heading for Salt Lake City.”
Mouser suddenly wanted to punch the Wyoming patrolman in the face. “Sorry, I've got no reason to be in Salt Lake City. Been there before, and it was a snoozefest.”
“Why are you going to Seattle?” the man asked.
“Just finished a big job, decided to take a vacation and surprise a few friends. Also its been a while since I went on a road trip, my motorcycle was feeling lonely,” she said, stroking her crotch rocket lovingly.
“Let's see your MID.”
She unzipped her pocket, pulling out her MID, that clearly stated she wasn't a mutant, and a business card. “Certainly, and I'll do you one better, my card. Mouser, superhero and bodyguard, at your service.”
They took their time looking over the ID and her card, moving a little ways off to contact their superior. That suited her perfectly. The longer they focused on her, the further away the Larson's got.
Ten minutes later, after a lot of inane, time wasting questions that were meant to trip her up, the agents finally seemed satisfied. “You can go, Mouser,” the woman said, looking like she'd taken a bite from a lemon.
“Thank you, it's been a pleasure,” Mouser said, grinning like she'd just eaten a canary. Getting on her bike she squealed out of the parking lot. The tracker on her HUD showed the Larson's had made good time, despite keeping to the speed limit.
“Sorry about the wait, Jim. Had to deal with the MCO,” she said over the radio.
“Are they going to be a problem?” he asked.
“I don't think so, once we get past Great Falls, we should be in the clear. Just be ready to go to plan B if things hit the fan.”
Agent Swift took off her headset. “She's with someone called Jim and they're heading for Great Falls. Call it in.”
Their little fishing trip had been more successful than she thought it would be. Their devise had gotten them onto the creatures radio easily enough and now they knew where they could get her. The question now was could they use the info.
“They've got it,” her partner said, putting down his phone.
“Can we get a team there fast enough?” she asked.
“The Great Falls office is going to be watching for them, and most of the reinforcements should be able to make it there in time. They'll just have to use their sirens to do it,” he told her.
She grinned. “Fantastic. Too bad we can't join them.”
Route 89, Outside Great Falls, Montana
Mouser slowed to a stop as she came up to a row cars. “We've got trouble. Jim, try to pass some of the traffic between us and get as close to me as possible, then put your game face on. Betty get in the back with Richard and don't let him make a sound.”
An armoured MCO van and several cars had set up a roadblock on the narrow highway. The agents were questioning the drivers and sometimes pulling out everyone to search the vehicle. Since she hadn't heard anything about a mutant criminal on the loose, she had a sinking feeling that they wanted her. Depending on how things went, that wouldn't be too bad, but it could all too easily get very ugly.
She breathed a bit easier as she saw the Larson's coming to a stop only three cars behind her. At least she'd be able to keep an eye on them.
When it was her turn to be questioned, they waved her directly to the side of the road, conveniently beside the armoured truck. She took a second to put on her game face before taking her helmet off, this was going to be interesting.
“What the hell is the problem!” she exclaimed. “First you guys interrogate me for half an hour in Billings, and now you want to do it again here! Give me a freaking break!”
She saw several hands go towards their firearms, and heard the whine of an energy weapon being charged up behind the van. She had to be very careful to make sure this didn't end with someone dead. On the plus side, no one was paying attention to the other vehicles.
“Calm down, ma'am. We just want to ask you some questions,” the man in charge said. She noted that his hair was slathered with hair gel, the smell made her nose burn.
“If you'll get your hands off of your guns, I'll show you my MID,” she snapped. “Then you can call the Lincoln, Nebraska office and find out I'm one of the good guys. I'm the one they call in when they've got a situation too hot for baselines to handle.”
The agent who was still focused on the traffic, began waving the vehicles through with only a cursory look and questioning. If there was going to be a fight, they didn't want civilians caught in the crossfire.
The man motioned for his people to back off. “I'm sorry about the inconvenience. I'm Agent McCormick, and don't worry my men won't do anything rash. So if I can have your MID, we can get you back on your way in no time.”
With a lot of grumbling and loud cursing, Mouser fumbled in her pocket to get her MID, ensuring everyone ignored Jim driving through the stop after showing his license. Mouser kept growling as she slapped the ID into McCormick's hand.
He hopped into the armoured van, letting her get a look at the inside which was completely empty, and closed the door, presumably to call his office. While she waited, letting off a quiet, predatory growl to keep up appearances, she counted the agents. It seemed like a lot to the casual eye, with the cars, the van, and the way the agents moved around. But for the number of vehicles, it wasn't enough. It looked like there was one agent for each car, not the customary two, and the van had brought maybe four agents, despite being able to hold up to twelve heavily armed men.
This was just a paper tiger.
What exactly was going on?
Several minutes later McCormick came back with her MID. “Sorry about that Mouser, we're looking for a fugitive, and can't be too careful. I've let the office know you're passing through, you shouldn't have any more problems.”
She snorted in disgust. “Yeah, sure.” Taking the card back, she scowled at how greasy it felt. It smelled just like his hair gel, had he run it through his hair? Wiping it off on her pants, she put it in her pocket, and wished she had a wet wipe.
Driving away, she felt a whole swarm of butterflies in her stomach. Getting back on the radio she said, “Jim, unless someone is dying don't stop until you're at least an hour past the city. I'll be following you this time.”
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Yeah. I just don't know what.”
Great Falls, Montana
Mouser's stomach roiled.
She'd already flipped up the visor on her helmet hoping the air would help, but it wasn't working. It felt like she was going to vomit. Pulling off the road at the nearest gas station, she raced to the public bathroom, reaching a toilet just in time to empty her stomach.
The taste and smell of half digested gas station food made her vomit again. After what felt like an hour, her stomach was empty and surprisingly she was feeling better. Flushing the mess down the toilet, she made her way to the sink, washing her hands, then splashing water on her face and rinsing her mouth out.
This wasn't normal for her. She wasn't sure if it was something she'd eaten or something else, but every instinct was telling her something bad was about to happen.
An older woman stepped out of a stall, saw her and headed for the door. Mouser pretended to ignore her, but watched the woman leave from the corner of her eye. She saw the woman reach into her purse, pull out a knife and slash her arm hard enough to draw blood. The woman screamed and ran outside as if she was being murdered. “HELP!” the woman shrieked.
Mouser hit the radio, “FUBAR! GO! GO! GO!” she shouted. If the Larson's followed her instructions, they were now heading for the alternate route, not waiting for her, and not stopping for anything. They should be able to reach the border safely, since no one had ID'd them. Now she just had to make sure she could get out alive, while leading whoever had set this up in the wrong direction.
Her ears twitched, people in combat boots, and lots of metal were running towards the bathroom. From the sound of it there were at least five of them. Looking around she saw a small frosted window opposite the door. She shook her head, it was too small for her to squeeze through. Throwing on her helmet, she scrambled up the flimsy walls of the toilets, pushed a ceiling tile out of the way and clambered into the false ceiling. It was dusty, dark, and the few handholds she found creaked and shook ominously, but it was the best she could do. Pushing the tile back in place, she heard the door open and something was thrown inside. Gritting her teeth, her ears folded back as the flashbang went off.
Her ears rang, and for a few seconds, it was all she could do to just stay in position, fighting off a wave of dizziness. Fortunately the tiles and simple distance had lessened the impact. The door slammed open, and men rushed inside. “MCO! Get on the ground now!” they shouted. There was a moment of silence as they looked for her. Someone began kicking the stall doors open. Mouser held her breath. If she was really lucky, they'd assume she had somehow escaped and begin searching the area. That would make getting out of the situation a lot easier. From down below she heard someone say, “Check the ceiling.”
“Dammit,” she whispered.
Dropping through the fake ceiling, Mouser landed practically in the middle of the group, knocking one of them back a little as she came down. Her heightened reflexes had her moving before she hit the ground, shoving the nearest agent into the man covering the door. She followed, clambering over the two as they fell, hoping the others wouldn't risk shooting their companions.
Two seconds after dropping through the ceiling, Mouser was out the door and running for bike.
Unfortunately her motorcycle was being guarded by three heavily armed and armoured agents, and another ten were aiming very large guns in her direction. Mouser jumped thirty feet to the nearest car as they opened fire. The car shook and the bullets tore through the frame like it was made of paper.
“SMOKE!” she shouted into her helmet. Special devised gas pellets flew from pockets on her coat and pants, erupting into impossibly large clouds of thick black smoke. Mouser scrambled along the ground, making herself as small a target as possible.
Without a clear target the firing stopped. Even with her ears still ringing, Mouser heard them shouting orders to spread out and encircle her. Coming out of the smoke, she saw more armed men coming out of a baby blue, armoured truck. She ran for it, bounding away at over sixty miles an hour, while her attackers tried to get a bead on her. Running across a street, hoping to get lost in the nearby residential area, Mouser slid to a stop, her clawed fingers digging into the pavement.
Two suits of MCO power armour came out from cover, firing their guns. She ran to the side, bullets clipping the fur on her tail. They were quickly forcing her back towards the main group of attackers. Since there weren't any civilians running around in terror or gawking at the fight, the MCO had planned the ambush in advance, somehow making her sick enough to pull over in the city. Only her speed and the smoke had kept her alive so far. Now there were too many enemies and they had her surrounded. If she kept playing defence, she was going to die.
Pointing her arm at the power armour, she said, “Smoke one.”
There was a pneumatic pop as five gas pellets shot out of her sleeve, they hit near the feet of the power armour and erupted, effectively blinding them. Using the temporary reprieve, Mouser ran straight at the nearest suit, using her sense of hearing to pinpoint it in the inky smoke. Leaping into the blackness, she landed on the armour and dug her claws into the shoulder joints.
Bracing her feet against the chest plate, she began pulling, yelling as her shoulders threatened to pop out of their sockets. There was a crack, and her fingers burned. The pilot was shouting at her, trying to raise his arms to stop her. The gears squealed, an acrid smell filled her nostrils, then the arms dropped, too heavy for the pilot to effectively move them unassisted.
The smoke was clearing up, leaping off the disabled armour, she raced for the blurry outline of the second suit who was swinging his gun towards her. Pulling a small pistol from her pants pocket, she ducked low, and threw herself at his legs. Grabbing a thigh she lifted him up, straining a little at the weight and dropped him on his face. Aiming her pistol at the back of his knee, she fired twice straight into the weakly armoured joint, then did the same with his other knee. He screamed in pain, but there was no blood. Stomping on his gun, Mouser nodded in satisfaction, two threats down and no real harm done.
“Motorcycle, come to mama,” she said. Off in the distance, she heard her bike start, along with startled shouts.
Someone started shooting again. Her arm went numb as one of the lower calibre rounds hit her on the elbow. The armoured jacket kept it from doing more than bruising, but it still hurt. Raising both arms, she said, “Smoke, evasion.” Individual gas pellets flew out of her sleeves in a circle around her, none of it was thick enough to completely hide her, but she was a harder target. Now she just had to make it to her motorcycle, before they surrounded her again. She was all out of smoke and had no desire to kill people if she could help it.
She took off running towards her bike. As it came down the street, the autopilot slowed a little, allowing her to grab the handlebars and jump into the seat. She hit a button causing the engine to roar and sped away, while the MCO ran for their vehicles in the vain hope of catching her.
Great Falls, DPA Office
A skinny woman with messy straw blonde hair, smelling of smoke, with black soot smeared on her face and hands, walked confidently into the modest office of the Department of Paranormal Affairs.
Nancy frowned at the woman who looked like she'd just come from a house fire. Usually her job as a receptionist was fairly easy, but every once in a while, she got odd situations like this. “Can I help you Ms.?”
“Yes, I need to see the person in charge, immediately,” the woman said, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
This was getting stranger, fortunately she knew how to deal with strange situations. “I'm sorry, Mrs. Williams is rather busy right now. If you tell me why you need to see her, she'll get back to you as soon as possible.”
“The local MCO just tried to kill me, a registered superhero, who has worked with the Lincoln, Nebraska MCO branch in the past. I thought it was safer to come here, rather than risk going to the police,” the woman replied. Her body shifted, black fur erupted from her skin, her ears became catlike, and her face developed a small muzzle. She put a card, wrapped up in a baggie, on the desk. “I'm Samantha Mouser, here is my MID, don't unwrap it, I'm pretty sure it's covered in a contact poison. All my information is in your systems.”
“Just one moment, Mrs. Williams will be right with you,” Nancy said, reaching for the phone.
June 5th, 2007
“Listen up class, today we're doing dissections and we have a very special surprise,” the biology teacher said.
Teri hunched down in her seat not looking forward to the class, even if everyone else was grinning at the thought of cutting up some worms or frogs.
“This is a new type of bug, and you're the first class to dissect them. Isn't it exciting?” the teacher said as she passed out the covered trays. “Now remember what we've gone over. Make sure to take detailed notes of everything you find, you'll be marked on how good they are.”
Taking the cover off the tray, Teri looked down to see a naked, pink haired fairy splayed out on the tray. Tiny beads of blood rose from her hands, feet and wings, where pins pierced the fleshed, holding her in place.
“Teri,” Rose Blossom whispered. “Help me.”
Picking up the scalpel, Teri silently screamed. Her hand moved on its own, placing the razor sharp blade down just below Rose Blossom's throat.
She tried to wrench her hand away. Rose Blossom screamed all around her as her classmates eagerly went to work. Her scalpel pierced her friends skin. Tears fell from eyes that refused to close.
“You said you'd protect me!” Rose Blossom shrieked.
Teri woke up screaming.
Curling up into a ball she howled into her blanket, begging the dreams to stop.
Teri put down the crayon, admiring her picture. “What do you think, Rose Blossom? Is this a good beach or what?” she asked. “It's got a beautiful yellow sun, seashells, great waves, a slide, and look, I even put in a hotdog stand!” She walked along the wall pointing out the details. She'd covered the whole thing with her beach, and she was quite proud of her work.
“Oh,” she said, looking at the picture of Rose Blossom on the opposite wall, “you want to go to the beach? Well just wait a bit for my wrists to recover and I'll draw you on it. Do you want to be swimming in the water, sitting under a beach umbrella, or eating a hotdog?
“Well of course you'll be playing with me. I'll be right here and you'll be right there, and we can play as much as you want,” Teri said.
“And we can play whenever you want. I'm not sleeping much anymore, so I can play even when I should be asleep.”
She ran over and hugged the picture of Rose Blossom. “Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I just can't sleep very well without your singing.”
She tilted her head, then waved her hand as if waving away a bug. “I'll be fine. And don't mention Burgermeister, he'll just make you feel bad. When he shows up, I'll be ready and willing to break every bone in his body until he tells me where you are.”
Walking over to a small bear stuffie, she'd gotten the night before, Teri sat on its lap, wrapping its arms around her. “Now what do you want to be doing on the beach?”
June 7th, 2007
“Come on in,” Marcus said, waving six members of the local H1! into the empty store.
He hadn't wanted to use H1!, they weren't professionals and he was worried they'd damage the store, but he had no choice. Even with his videos of the mutant, the MCO and DPA refused to help him, claiming the photo was a prank, or showing something else that wasn't in their area of concern. And people were starting to complain about strange noises coming from the ceiling, claiming it sounded like crying and screaming. If it kept going, he'd lose business.
“So when does this mutant usually come out?” Brandon asked.
“In about an hour or two, after the store usually closes. That's why I shut down early, so we could get ready for it.”
“And it comes down from the ceiling?”
Marcus nodded. “It moves the tile a little. A different one each night, so I'm not sure exactly where it's made its lair.”
“All right, we can deal with that.” Brandon turned to his friends. “You guys, spread out along the aisles, find a nice place to hunker down with a good view of the ceiling, and make sure you don't get into anyone’s line of fire. We'll treat this like a deer hunt, if you have a good shot, take it.” The group started taking out their rifles, and discussing among themselves where they should set up.
Marcus looked at the weapons a little fearfully. “Um, are you sure you should shoot it?”
“It's small, fast, and strong. We aren't going to catch it with nets,” Brandon said.
“Oh, right. Please don't shoot the shelves.”
“We're professionals, don't worry. Why don't you go to your office, and stay quiet. We don't want you getting hurt by accident.”
Nodding, Marcus headed for his office, praying that everything would work out.
Teri watched the men move through the store. She hadn't slept well and woken up early, so she'd heard everything they were planning, and made a tiny hole in a tile to see what they were doing.
Her eyes were lit up like Christmas lights, and she couldn't stop grinning. She was in a bad mood, and this would definitely make her feel better. She waited patiently until everyone had found their position. She had to admit, if she hadn't known to look for them, she probably wouldn't notice them at first. They weren't exactly hiding, there weren't really any places to hide when the person was above them, but they were really still and quiet. She might have gone down like usual and gotten shot. That would have been bad.
Looking around, Teri found a spot where they weren't looking, right in the corner of the store. Lifting the tile up just enough to slide through, she crawled down the wall, using her claws and keeping her wings curled up close to her back, rather than risk flying.
When she reached the floor, she began flying, staying just an inch or two above the ground. She found the first man, who looked like a grandpa.
“I've got one,” she shouted.
“Yes you do, and it looks like a big one, TERI,” an old man said, his face a ball of light. “Don't jerk the rod now, just bring it back slowly like I taught you. You want to play with it and let it wear itself out.”
She leaned back in her chair, watching the rod jerk and bend. As the fish swam towards the boat, she reeled up the slack, stopping when it swam away from her. “I'm gonna get it! I'm gonna get it!” she squealed.
The butt of a gun slammed into her, pressing her against the shelf. It didn't hurt but it took her a moment to remember where she was.
“I've got her,” the old man shouted, flipping the gun around to point the barrel at her.
Teri flew at the mans leg, lifting it up and out from under him. He fell face first into the ground, screaming and clutching his jaw.
“Oh! You're hurt!” she shouted, flying up to his head. Blood was dripping from his mouth and nose, pieces of teeth were scattered on the floor and his jaw hung open. “I didn't mean to hurt you like that! I'm sorry!”
“Get away from him! You freak!”
She looked over and saw the others running towards her. She flew away staying low to the ground, fighting back tears.
Behind her someone shouted, “I'll look after Joe. Go kill that monster!”
Crawling between some juice bottles, Teri crouched down trying to stop shaking, her eyes black. There had been so much blood. She covered her ears to shut out the screaming. She'd just wanted to knock him down and break his gun.
“Where the hell is that thing?”
“When I find that fairy I'm going to tear its wings off!”
Teri's eyes flared to life. “You will not hurt a fairy!”
Brandon whipped around, his pistol raised, as someone screamed. Paul came tumbling head over feet into the main aisle. There was a howl of rage and the sound of wood slamming into the ground. Pieces of a rifle flew through the air.
Tiny purple lights zipped through the air disappearing behind a shelf. There was a gunshot and the start of a scream. It was cut off with a loud thunk. He saw a rifle rise up in the air and slam into the ground.
A shout of panic rose from another aisle. It became a cry of pain, Bob ran out, clutching a badly broken arm, his gun nowhere to be seen.
And then Brandon saw the glowing lights coming towards him. He tossed the pistol, raising his arms. “Please don't hurt me,” he begged.
The mutant stopped inches from his face, it's eyes glowed like purple flames. It floated in the air, shaking with rage, it's face twisted into a monstrous scowl. “Leave. Take them and go. If you come back, I will kill you.”
He nodded. “We won't come back. We'll leave you alone.” Skirting around the monster, he ran to grab his friends.
Teri watched them go, the anger slowly leaving her. Once they were out of sight, she dropped to the ground, barely able to hold herself up.
She began to cry.
Teri huddled under a small pink potted rose bush in the dark greenhouse, desperately trying to stop thinking about what she had done.
The flowers and warmth reminded her of the fairy garden. If she closed her eyes she could imagine she was back there. Everything was safe, no one was yelling or attacking her, there was no blood or guns either, and Rose Blossom was off doing something fun with the goblins and elves. She was alone because she wanted to be, just relaxing and not thinking of anything, knowing that everything was safe and calm.
Looking up at the pink roses she smiled, remembering how nice it was to just sit quietly with Rose Blossom. “Hey Rose,” she said. “I don't like it here. Everyone is mean and wants to hurt me, and I don't have anyone to talk to, or play with, or anything.”
She blinked back some tears. “How about you? Are you somewhere safe? Are you with the goblins and elves building something fun? Or did you find someone nice who will help you?”
She waited for an answer, silently begging to hear Rose Blossom's happy voice. There was only silence.
“I'm still waiting for Burgermeister to come,” she said. “When I see him I'm going to break every bone in his body until he helps me find you. I'm not sure what to do with him after that. He's a horrible man, he must be a supervillain or something. If we hand him over to the superheroes, do you think they'll help me find my family? We'll be heroes for catching him, won't we? Then people will love me, and want to be with me, and help me.” She had to pause to wipe away the tears.
“They will. I know they will. I'll be a superhero then, and everyone loves superheroes.”
Her eyes flared a bright purple. “Or maybe I should just drop him from a thousand feet in the air. I can follow him as he falls and laugh all the way. Maybe I'll catch him before he hits the ground and do it again. He deserves it.”
She reached out to stroke the rose. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't be telling you that. It's too scary, isn't it?”
Giving herself a few minutes to calm down, she finally said, “So after I find you again, and hand Burgermeister over to the superheroes, we're going to find my parents. I'm sure they'll be happy to meet you, and you can stay with us. It's not like they can complain about how much we eat, right?”
She began to smile. “Right, they'll be really happy to see us. And they'll take us to the beach and we can have a beach party, those are so much fun. Have you ever been to a beach party? Did you have lots of friends before Burgermeister kidnapped you?”
Teri looked thoughtfully at the rose. “I remember you singing to me. You sounded older then. Are you a big sister? I think you would make a great big sister, you always knew how to make me feel happy even when I had the really bad nightmares. I wish you were here to sing to me now.
“Or maybe you're a mother. Do you have some kids waiting for you at home, wondering where you've gone? Wanting to hear you sing to them again?”
She began drawing a car in the air. “Remember when your head started to hurt really bad beside the pool? I saw the car you drew before you rubbed it out. Burgermeister tried to get rid of all your memories like he did to me, and it worked better on you, right? But the memories are still in your head, just a whole lot deeper than mine. So that car was probably yours. Were you a teenager who had just bought her first car, or did you pick your kids up from school in it?”
Shaking her head, Teri said, “I've been selfish. I've only thought about my own family and meeting them. But you have a family too. So how about this, after I break Burgermeister and find you, we hand him over to the superheroes. Then they can help us look for both of our families. Whichever one we find first, we go to and have a big party, with lots of hugs and kisses and laughing. Then after we find the other family, we can go visit them and have an EVEN BIGGER PARTY! That'll be so much fun! And we can go to the beach too, because the beach makes everything even better. And we'll be safe and happy and have twice as much love as before.”
She stood up to give the rose a kiss. “That is the perfect plan! We'll be heroes, and have our families and each other.”
Her eyes went to her feet. “Um, Rose, I have a question. I know you're not the real Rose Blossom, but you're really pretty and remind me of her. I'm going to find her soon, but I don't know just how long that will take. Do you... Can I take you with me? I live in the ceiling of the grocery store, where it's all dark and lonely, and I get really sad. So I could keep you on the roof during the day so you get lots of sunlight, and I'll water you everyday. Then at night I can take you down with me and we can talk while I do my chores, or play in the empty store.
“And I promise to keep you safe. I won't let anything happen to you,” she said, her eyes flaring.
“So... Do you want to come with me? I'll take you with me when I find Rose Blossom. She'll love you too. She really likes flowers. And don't worry, I won't let her use you for one of her projects. I'll take really good care of you, no matter where I go.”
She looked up at the rose, her eyes dark. “Please say yes.”
A moment later she leapt into the air, cheering loudly. “Thank you, Rose! I promise you won't regret this! Just give me a few minutes to rip open a hole big enough for you to come inside. I'll be right back, don't go anywhere!”
MCO office, Lincoln, Nebraska
June 8th, 2007
Mouser leaned back in the comfortable office chair, glad to be dealing with sane people again.
Larry Meyer, head of the Lincoln MCO, handed her a cup of tea and took a seat behind his desk. “So I've read the police report and your statement. Head office is fighting the attempted murder charges of course, but between you and me, it looks like the Great Falls office is going to need to replace almost every single agent. Can't say I'm sad about that, they were always hard to work with.”
“Couldn't happen to a nicer group,” Mouser said. “But there were a lot more agents there than you'd find at Great Falls, and I'm certain they were looking for me in Billings.”
“So am I. Unfortunately they didn't leave any paper trails. Unless we get a whistleblower, or one of the agents in custody tries to make a deal, the police don't have enough evidence to charge anyone outside of Great Falls.”
Mouser scowled. She knew he was right, but it didn't make her any happier. “Any idea why they came gunning for me?”
“You know why,” Larry said. “The bigots don't like how much we rely on you. No one in this office has a problem with you, but some of our neighbours don't care that you've saved at least a few MCO lives and dozens of people over the years. They saw a chance to get rid of you and jumped at it.”
“I was kind of hoping there was a better reason than that.” She shrugged. “At least they never actually worked with me. They didn't know how quickly I could recover from their poison, or that I have the reflexes of a speedster, even if I'm not technically one myself.”
“Thank god for small favours. I'd miss you, bad jokes and all.”
“I've gotta admit, having the woman slice herself and blaming me was smart. If they'd killed me, they would have enough just cause to avoid jail.”
Larry nodded in agreement. “So what are your plans for the next few days.”
Mouser shrugged. “Not sure, the people I was helping managed to reach their destination with no problems, so I have a decent little payday from them, plus the much nicer paycheck from that pop star I told you about. I figure I can relax for a few weeks, let some of my bruises heal, maybe take a vacation.”
“Would you like to come over for dinner next week?”
“Why Larry, I didn't know you thought of me that way,” she said, smiling sweetly. “I'd be delighted.”
“Barbara will be there,” he said.
“Oh, kinky! I'm even more delighted now.”
Shaking his head, Larry couldn't help but smile.
Wilderness Park Trails, Lincoln, Nebraska
June 11th, 2007
Mouser squirted water into her mouth, not slowing down from what would be a fast sprint for most people. Placing her water bottle back on her waist pack, she leapt into the air sailing over the heads of a group of walkers that were taking up the entire path, landing about twenty feet ahead of them. Barely slowing down, she found her stride again and smirked at the astonished gasps and shouts.
The weather was perfect for running, and as she breathed in the clean air, Mouser was glad she'd taken the time to drive out to the trail. The trails in the city were OK, but getting out into nature made her feel really alive. Now if only she had someone to go running with. The only person in the city that she knew could actually outrun her, was Stop And Go, a clumsy idiot and a wannabe hero. She'd gone out with him once, mostly to see what a speedster was like and hadn't been impressed.
“Maybe it's time I move up in the world?” she said to herself. “I could find more work in a bigger city, and having a few actual heroes to talk shop with would be nice. I wonder if Speed Machine is still interested in having me as his partner? Atlanta's weather sucks, but as long as I have AC I can handle the humidity. And Speedy has a really nice apartment.”
While she was considering her options, her phone buzzed. Slowing down to a fast walk, she answered. “Mouser, superhero and bodyguard speaking, how can I help you?”
“Hello, Mouser. I have a question,” the man said in a nervous little voice, “are you a mutant?”
“No sir, I'm not a mutant, just a power stone user,” she said, rolling her eyes. She'd gotten quite a few jobs by 'just' using a power stone, as if that made her better or safer than a mutant. Still if the client was on the up and up, she'd happily take their money, and if they were jerks, she was willing to charge them top dollar for her services.
“Right, good. I have a problem, there's a mutant in my store-”
“Ok, if they're causing a problem that's a job for the MCO, if they can't handle it they'll call me in. And if the mutant isn't causing a problem, I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole,” she said, her thumb moving to end the call right then and there.
“WAIT!” the man begged. “The mutant’s been here for almost two weeks, hiding in the ceiling, stealing things, and no one will help me. I have video and everything, but the MCO said it was a job for the DPA, the DPA said its a job for pest control, and when I called a pest control company they said it was a job for the MCO.”
That brought Mouser to a halt. “What exactly does the mutant look like?”
“It's a fairy, the size of my hand, very strong and almost too fast to see.”
Now he had her full attention. “All right, where exactly is your store?”
“Gering, Nebraska, the GK Supermarket.”
She sighed, that was all the way across the state. “OK, here is what I'd like you to do, send me all the video you have of the fairy, along with a detailed list of what you've seen it do, how it acted, and anything you think is important. I'll look it over and get back to you with a basic plan, and my fee. If you can send me the info ASAP, and pay half up front, I can be there tomorrow night after your store is closed and have everything sorted out before dawn.
After they worked out the details, she hung up and began jogging back to her motorcycle. Keeping her phone out, she hit speed dial.
“Lincoln City MCO, how can I help you?”
“Hey Mandy, Mouser here,” she said. “I need some info, do you have anything in your files about a mutant who looks like a fairy.”
“Let me put you on hold for a minute while I look it up.”
Mousers Home, Lincoln, Nebraska
“Damn,” Mouser said, leaning back in her computer chair.
She'd seen some weird things in her life, but seeing a thieving fairy flying around a grocery store so quickly that most of the time she was a blur, was a new one. From the notes the fairy was obviously intelligent, and stronger than it looked. Fortunately it didn’t seem to want to hurt anyone.
The MCO had been a bust. There were some fairy-like mutants, but they were nowhere near Nebraska, and they were either near human size or shifted between a fairy shape and a baseline human. And none of them looked like a purple haired and winged fairy creature with glowing eyes.
So the question was, why was it holed up in a supermarket?
If the fairy was trying to remain hidden, it should have left soon after being seen the first time. So, was it an extra-dimensional creature that was tied to the spot? A devisors creation who was guarding the place out of some built in instinct? An entity, mutant or otherwise, waiting for something or someone?
She didn't like going in with so little info, but Marcus had a real problem on his hands.
Opening up her email, she began typing up a contract for her newest client.
June 13th, 2007
Mouser pulled into the GK Supermarket parking lot, parking her truck close to the store entrance. Taking her work bag and umbrella from the passenger seat, she stepped out into the heavy rain, and walked to the door where Marcus was waiting for her.
“Thank you for coming,” he said, looking curiously at her padded, white and pink motorcycle outfit.
“It's my pleasure, your problem has me intrigued,” she said.
“So what exactly will you do?”
Placing her umbrella down to dry, Mouser took a second to look around the store. “Well first, I'm going to ask you to leave. The fairy clearly doesn't like you very much, so for your safety and to keep things as calm as possible it would be best if you aren't here. Then I'm going to try to talk to her and see if I can get her to leave peacefully.”
His eyes widened. “You think that will work?”
She shrugged. “I have no idea until I try. But if there's a peaceful solution to this, it will keep your store from getting damaged. If I have to fight it, I really don't know what will happen, but my contract specifically states I am not responsible for any collateral damage that occurs if I can't find a peaceful solution.”
Marcus nodded in understanding. “OK, I'll wait in the parking lot until you’re done.”
“Don't worry,” she told him, “I can be very persuasive, we'll have everything sorted out soon.”
With Marcus gone, Mouser walked around the dark store, her eyes and ears open for any sign of the fairy.
Teri watched the cat woman walk through the store looking for her. Her head hurt and her eyes itched from lack of sleep, but seeing the person gave her a burst of energy. “She looks like a superhero,” she whispered to herself. “She has a costume and everything. Maybe I can ask her for help?”
She shook her head. “No! She's working for Marcus, she can't be a good guy. And I have to stay here until Burgermeister shows up. I'll just hide until she goes away.”
“I hear you,” The cat woman said, looking straight at her hiding spot.
Taking flight, Teri flew to the other end of the store, barely breathing and not touching anything. Hovering silently in the dark ceiling, she waited to see what would happen.
The cat woman shouted, “Fairy girl, I don't want to fight. I don't know what you're doing here, but I don't think you've done anything that deserves going to jail for. So my contract is to only get you out of this store, preferably without a fight.”
There was a moment of silence.
“If you have somewhere to go that isn't too far away I can drive you there personally. If it’s far away like across the country, I can make some arrangements for you and have someone drive or fly you there. No charge, and no strings attached other than you leave peacefully with me.”
Again there was silence as the cat woman let her think about it.
“If you don't have anywhere to go, you can come with me and I'll help you deal with the authorities to get the help you need. I've done it before for runaways, even a few who were wanted by the police. You just need to ask me for help and I'll do whatever I can for you.”
The cat woman waited a full minute. “OK, you think it over. I'm giving you one hour to either come and talk to me, or to leave of your own free will. After that, I'm going to have to make you leave, I'd really prefer not to do that.”
Teri flew down to the tiles, and very carefully lifted one to look around. She saw the cat woman taking a seat on the floor, shuffling a pack of cards, as she watched, the woman began a game of solitaire. Dropping the tile down, she flew to her home and sat down beside the potted rose. “She said she'd help me,” she whispered, stroking a leaf. “But where would I go?” she asked. “I don't know where I'm supposed to be, where Rose Blossom is, or where Burgermeister is.”
Her eyes brightened a little. “Maybe she'll help me catch Burgermeister? She seems like a superhero, she'll want to go after the bad guys.”
She shook her head, her eyes going dark. “She'll just call me a monster and try to hurt me. No one wants to help me, I'm just a bug to them. No one will believe me until I capture Burgermeister myself and prove to them that I'm a hero to.”
Rubbing away the tears that were forming in her eyes, she kissed the rosebush. “Don't worry Rose, I won't let her hurt you. And I won't go anywhere either. She's just lying so she can catch me.”
Mouser glanced at her watch, time was almost up. She'd heard the fairy grabbing things from the shelves, staying out of sight and flying at high speed, going from one end of the store to another in a few seconds. Her speed and size was going to make things tricky if it came down to a fight.
“One last try,” she muttered. “Fairy girl, this is your last chance. One more minute and I come after you, neither of us wants that to happen. How about this, you come out now and I'll give you a bag of cookies for the road. Any type you like?”
Her alarm went off, and the fairy still hadn't shown herself. “Why doesn't anyone ever want the cookies? Cookies are awesome.”
Putting her cards away, she considered her bag. Most of her equipment was made for normal size opponents, tasers, a shock baton, grenade launcher and other things weren't really made for fairy size enemies. There was also a chance they could kill something so small. It was best to keep them as backups. Pressing a few buttons on the bag, a forcefield covered the bag, locking it to the floor, she didn't want any of her stuff used against her.
Closing her eyes, she listened for any out of place sounds. There was utter silence. “So that's how it’s gonna be,” she said with a sigh.
She counted tiles until she found the general area where she'd heard the fairy talking to someone or something earlier. Leaping up, she broke through the tile, grabbing a hold of a metal girder that held the roof in place. Her eyes began to adjust to the dark, when a very tiny, very hard fist connected with her nose.
Yowling in pain, she fell to the ground, just managing to get her feet under her as she landed. Snarling, she bared her claws and got ready for a fight.
Grabbing a bag of catnip she'd stolen earlier, Teri watched the cat woman stalk through the store looking for her. She could tell this was going to be a nasty fight, but she had to win it. She was tempted to get an energy drink and really show the cat who was boss, but she couldn't lose her mind, she couldn’t risk losing Rose Blossom again.
Seeing her chance, she dive bombed the cat woman from behind. “Hey!” she shouted at the last second making her turn around. Releasing the bag, Teri headed for the ceiling again at top speed.
The cat moved inhumanly fast, spinning on her heel and slashing the catnip out of the air. The now shredded bag erupted into a cloud of powder covering her in catnip. Giggling at the now sneezing and cursing cat, Teri grabbed another small bag and dumped its contents directly on her head. The cursing grew louder as chili powder clogged her eyes and nose.
Teri flew to get a bag of pepper, when a clawed hand grabbed her legs.
Mouser was not happy. Her nose and eyes were burning from the chili powder, the catnip was making her feel hot and bothered in other areas of her body, her nose still hurt from being punched, and the fairy was making her look like a complete amateur, but that was about to change. Even half blind, she'd managed to jump and grab a hold of the tiny thing, and she wasn't about to let go. Planting her feet, she dug her claws into the floor and tensed her muscles to hold onto the fairy.
She felt a moment of joy as the fairy came to a stop, maybe this could end here and now. “I've got you. Now- Oh shiiiiiii-!”
Her feet left the floor, almost losing some claws, as the fairy went from zero to a hundred in about two seconds. Mouser found herself trailing behind the fairy much like the tail of a kite, with absolutely no control over where they were going. Through her stinging, blurry eyes, she saw they were heading for the soap aisle, and she had maybe a second to avoid hitting the shelves face first.
Letting go of her impromptu ride, Mouser raised her arms, managing to catch the top of the shelf with her claws, lifting herself just enough to fly over top of it. She twisted her body, bringing her feet up and crashed through several bags of diapers that lined the top of the next set of shelves instead of crashing into the shelf itself.
That slowed her enough that she was able to grab hold of the next shelf, coming to a stop without hurting herself or knocking everything over.
“Do not grab the freaking fairy,” she said to herself, taking a moment to catch her breath.
“That was too close,” Teri said, hiding behind a can of beans so she could catch her breath.
This was looking worse and worse. She'd managed to get in a few good hits, but the cat was almost as quick and agile as she was, and even a face full of chili powder hadn't really slowed her down. She'd been hoping to knock her out early, but it looked like this was going to be a real fight.
“If it's a fight she wants, it's a fight she'll get,” she said, punching her hand.
Her head jerked up at the sound of water splashing on the floor. Flying out of her hiding spot, she saw the cat pouring water over her face. Now was her chance to make the nasty cat go away.
Flying quickly, she got behind the cat, giving herself plenty of space to gain speed and took off. In the dim lights of the store, she saw the cat-like ears twitch. She watched her target spin around, water whipping off her face, a hand rising up to strike.
Teri tried to change course, clawing at the air trying to dodge. She was going too fast, the small change in direction she managed might have let her avoid someone slower, but the cat moved like a viper. An open hand slammed into her, snapping her neck to the side, sending her into the floor hard enough to chip the tile. Dazed, she bounced along the ground completely out of control.
Rolling to a stop, she managed to get to her knees. Shaking her head, Teri looked around to see where the cat was, while trying to blink away the double vision. Her eyes were filled by a boot coming straight at her. Leaping backwards, she managed to avoid the worst of the kick, catching a glancing blow to the shoulder that sent her flying down the aisle.
Shakily she flew away, trying to find a place to hide and regroup.
“Christ!” Mouser swore.
She hadn't meant to hit the fairy so hard or to kick her, but it had been about to take her head off and instinct had taken over in the critical few seconds. The whole job was turning into a complete mess. It was supposed to be a simple case of a mostly harmless entity that needed to be removed, but had rapidly turned into a real fight.
It was her fault for not being more careful at the start. When she'd heard the fairy flying around, grabbing things, she should have kept a closer eye on it. That would have at least given her a bit of warning about the catnip and chili powder. She gave a silent thank you to whoever was watching that the fairy hadn't decided to splash some cleaning fluids into her eyes.
“Now where are you?” she muttered.
Closing her eyes, she ignored the burning sensation coming from her nose and eyes, focusing solely on her hearing. When the fairy was flying fast she made a whistling sound from the air passing over her wings. Almost no one else would be able to hear it, but to Mousers large ears it was loud and clear. Which was fortunate, considering the fairy's size and speed, that noise was about the only advantage she had.
Glass clinked halfway across the store. Opening her eyes, Mouser sprinted towards the noise, ready for anything. A bottle flew through the air. She easily dodged it by jumping forward, letting it smash harmlessly behind her. A quick step to the side let her avoid a second bottle that splashed her pants with olive oil. She jumped to the top of a shelf, catching sight of the fairy grabbing another bottle, and leapt straight for her.
The fairy let out a shriek of fear. Instead of fleeing, it flew towards her, catching her outstretched hand and flipping her in midair.
Mouser let out a yelp of pain as she hit the floor hard. Despite the pain, superhuman reflexes honed through years of fighting and training took over. Her hand lashed out catching the fairy's wing, and whipped her into the floor.
They both lay there gasping for air, taking a moment to let the worst of the pain go away.
“You ready to talk now, fairy,” she asked.
The tiny creature took off, flying into the ceiling.
Teri huddled in the darkness of the ceiling, clutching her injured shoulder and fighting back tears. “Why don't they just leave me alone?” she asked. “I'm not hurting anyone.”
Looking around the dark space, trying to think of some way to beat the cat, she kept talking to herself. “I'm sure Burgermeister will come soon, and as soon as he does, I'll leave. Do they think I want to be here? Everyone is nasty and horrible. I want to be on a beach, somewhere safe with Rose Blossom and the elves and goblins. Just give me some time and I'll be gone. They'll never hear from me again.”
Her thoughts were cut off as the cat jumped through the tiles again. Teri's eyes flared with outrage. The horrible thing was almost at her house, it was going to find Rose.
Instead of flying straight at her foe, she hopped along the girders and wires, using her powers to lightly touch the ground before leaping soundlessly three or four feet at a time. The cat seemed to be listening for her, it's ears twitching and moving around while it slowly crawled along the ceiling. Still it didn't react as she got closer. It seemed like it could hear her when she flew, but not when she took it slow.
The long black tail flicked past her, less than a foot away. She took the opening, grabbing it in a bear hug and pulling them straight down.
“GOTCHA!” the cat yelled. It curled into a ball, grabbing Teri with both hands.
She started to fly away, aiming for the nearest shelves to knock the cat off of her and hopefully end the fight for good.
Mouser felt the change of direction. She knew what was about to happen and really hoped her plan would work. Using her much greater mass, she threw herself to the side and downwards, keeping a hold on the fairy.
Instead of hitting the shelf, they hit the ground at a sharp angle. Mouser rolled along the floor, bleeding off momentum. The fairy skipped along the ground, yelling in pain and shock.
Rolling to her feet, she raced to the fairy who had landed in a heap against a display of apples. “It's over, fairy. Give it up and we can still end this peacefully.”
The fairy looked at her, its eyes flared with a bright purple light. Before she could grab it, the tiny thing took off and flew unsteadily back to the ceiling, too fast for Mouser to grab her. “For the love of god, what is with her?!” she shouted. What could possibly be so important about this place that the fairy would fight so hard just to avoid leaving?
Leaning on a pile of potatoes, Mouser rolled her shoulders and tried to stretch some of the kinks out of her muscles. The fairy was too damn fast and too damn strong, she was hurting her and wearing her out, but it was taking a lot longer than it should.
“Why don't you just go away?!” the fairy shouted at her from somewhere in the ceiling.
Her ears perked up. So the fairy was finally willing to talk, maybe this was her chance to resolve things without having to beat it unconscious.
“Sorry, you are trespassing and I've been asked to remove you,” she said. “I'm still willing to let you leave, no police or MCO involved.
“NO! I can't leave.”
Her ears twitched at the desperation in the fairy's voice. “Why not? You're not from around here, you're not living with anyone. There are plenty of better places to live. Staying all alone in a ceiling where you aren't wanted isn't much of a life.”
“I'm waiting for him to find me. If I leave he'll never find me, and without him I can't find Rose Blossom!” the last words came out in a sob.
“Who are you waiting for?” she asked, staying as still as possible, trying to pinpoint the fairy.
Something in the voice didn't sound right, the fairy had practically snarled the name. It wasn't the sound of someone talking about a friend. “Who's the Burgermeister?”
“He's a horrible person! But he can tell me where Rose Blossom is!” The angry shout ended in more sobbing.
“OK, Mouser, something is very wrong here,” she whispered to herself. Raising her voice she asked, “If he's horrible, why will he come for you?”
“He needs me for his plan. When he gets here, I'll beat him up until he tells me where my Rose Blossom is. Then I can find her and never have to come back here.”
She nodded to herself, there was some real hate there. “You escaped from the Burgermeister?”
There was no answer, but she heard scurrying from the ceiling. Holding her breath, she listened, straining to hear what the fairy was doing.
“Don't worry Rose, I'll protect you. Just wait, I won't lose you again,” the fairy said almost too quietly to be heard.
She realized this could be her best chance at ending things quickly. She leapt at the noise, shattering the ceiling tile. The fairy shouted with rage, and came at her only to be slapped down to the ground. Mouser saw a box and a rosebush seated precariously on the now damaged tiles . Grabbing both, she dropped through the ceiling landing with a crunch on some potato chips, bits of tile fell around her.
The fairy who had been flying towards the ceiling, stopped on a dime, turning on Mouser, tiny claws raised and her expression murderous. Then she saw the rosebush. “PUT HER DOWN!”
“Calm down, girl,” Mouser said.
“Put her down, NOW! You'll hurt her!” she shouted.
Mouser carefully put the box and the rosebush on the floor at her feet. When the fairy darted in to grab it, she got in the way. “Not yet fairy. First we talk.”
The fairy landed on some vegetables, glaring daggers at her. From the way her wings drooped and her chest heaved, she was running on empty. It was about time.
“OK, good. This isn't Rose Blossom is it?” Mouser asked, motioning at the rose bush.
“No,” the fairy whispered, sniffing loudly.
“It's to remember her?”
That got a jerky, little nod.
“Is Rose Blossom your sister?”
“No. But she's all I have left.” The fairy's lower lip quivered as she said the words, the purple glow in her eyes faded away, becoming pitch black. Her body began to shake, whether from exhaustion or barely contained tears, Mouser didn't know.
“Do you have any idea where she might be?”
The lost and defeated look on the girl's face was answer enough.
Mouser held out her hand like she would to a scared animal. “I'm Samantha Mouser. What's your name?”
“No last name?”
She shook her head. “I don't remember. Burgermeister stole it.”
“Why did you come here? A grocery store isn't exactly the Hilton.”
“I don't know. I broke Burgermeisters airship and fell for a long time. I woke up here.”
“Why didn't you get some help?”
The fairy, Teri, slumped down, covering her face with her hands, the shaking got worse as tears fell on her lap. “I tried. I wanted to call the police. I asked for help and they yelled at me. I was so tired. I hid. And then they grabbed me and threw things at me, and they attacked me, and I didn't know what to do. And no one would help me. And I don't know if Rose Blossom is alive, or if I killed her. And I don't know where my home is or my parents. And- and- and-” she broke down wailing.
Mouser slowly picked up the rosebush, placing it down beside the fairy. “Come on Teri, let's get out of here, this is no place to live. I'll get you a nice meal, and we can go back to my place where we can talk to some people who will help find out where you belong and start looking for Rose Blossom.”
The young girl looked up at her, still crying, but some of the colour returned to her eyes. Mouser smiled as best she could with her body covered in bruises and still sniffling from the chili powder, the kid could definitely use a friendly face. Biting her lip, Teri nodded.
“Now Teri,” she said as nicely as possible, “to avoid any problems I need you to take your rose and fly out the back. Go to the black truck in the parking lot and wait for me, try not to be seen by Marcus. I'll take your things with me. Can you do that?”
The fairy nodded again, gently picked up the rosebush and flying away.
Mouser grabbed her bag and opened up the box. She wasn't surprised to see a small bed made out of wash clothes with two barbie dolls lying in it, a few books, some hand sewn dresses, and three stuffed animals. The inside of the box was covered in childish drawings, people without faces, a beach, lots of roses and pictures of a pink fairy. Carefully she placed the toys into her bag, then folded up the box placing it on top. With that done she left the store.
Marcus got out of his car, rushing through the rain to find out what happened.
“Hey Marcus. Next time instead of screaming at someone, ask if they need help. After I finally managed to calm the child down, I got her to leave. Make sure to send me my check next week,” Mouser said, her tail flicking in anger as she headed for her truck and the young girl who needed her help.