Sunday, 11 November 2007 18:48

To Be Merry and Escape From It All

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A Whateley Academy Tale

To Be Merry and Escape From It All

By Renae
With the creative assistance of Dr. Bender

(Merry 7)

Arc, Red Section
Mental Health Department
Saturday, November 18, 2006


“My brain is the key that sets my mind free.” – Harry Houdini
“We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do.” – We gotta get out of this place – The Animals

“Rise and shine!” half sang, half shouted Kam as he rolled in a cart laden with food.

“Morning Kam,” offered Karen with a yawn as she sat up and pulled her hair out of her face.

“… Off,” I replied and pulled my pillow firmly over my head.

“Now is that any way to great your friends?” Kam asked and as I felt the pillow being jerked away he added. “Wakey! Wakey!”

Rolling over I repeated my earlier efforts with the blanket, “Doan wanna.”

“But I insist, after all you’re supposed to have guests today,” Kam said with a laugh as the blanket was forcibly removed from my head.

“Guests? I thought I was going home today?” asked Karen quickly.

Rolling over I gave Kam a matching set of birds, “I don’t do morning meetings,” I said and then I promptly rolled back over to hide from the light again.

“Well you are going home today Karen, it’s just that Whateley is sending some folks over to talk with you and your mom.” Kam grinned and pointed down at me, “You don’t want Karen to go home without saying goodbye do you?”

I rolled over and gave Karen a bland look, “Goodbye, don’t forget to write.” Looking back up to Kam I asked, “Can I go back to sleep now?”

Karen laughed and pointed at me, “She’ll be better after coffee, my dad wakes up the same way.”

“No I won’t, I’ll be better after four more hours of sleep,” I groused and reclaimed my blanket.

“Why are you so tired? Were you doing things that you were not supposed to be doing?” Kam asked with a slightly skewed smile.

“I refuse to incriminate myself in any shape or form,” I grumbled and sat up slowly, yes my head was attached though it seemed to throb slowly. “But no, not really, I just kept waking up from really bad dreams all night long.”

“Hmm, that sounds like a common complaint,” Kam said slowly as he looked at the mirrored glass of the room, “Kerry said the same thing.”

“I don’t think I dreamed last night,” said Karen with a sigh as she picked up a bowl from the cart, “though waking up is weird still.”

“Yeah, I get that too,” I looked at the large platter of ham and eggs that was waiting for me, “going from dreaming of the old me to awakening in the current me is a rude thing now and again.”

“Funny I never have that problem,” Kam said lightly.

“I’m sure we could find a way to make it happen,” I muttered at him. Picking up my tray of breakfast, I then used the plastic knife from it to make a cutting motion at his groin, “Snip, snip even.”

“I’ll pass,” he shrugged and pointed to a bag on bottom of the cart, “more clothing for you Merry.”

“Let me guess the usual ARC tracksuit and undies?” I asked after a finished the bite I was working on.

“Is there anything for me?” asked Karen quickly.

“Well your mom wanted to have you in a skirt today.”

“Oh hell no,” Karen’s nose wrinkled in evident distaste, “not even if you paid me.”

“Skirts are not so bad,” I said with a shrug, “but I would rather wear jeans.”

Kam pointed at me with a smile and then said to Karen, “Well if Merry can do it, I think you can do it too.”

She gave me a skeptical look, “You’re kidding me.”

“No, admittedly it is weird at first, but you may as well put up with it now.” I glanced down to my quickly vanishing food, “That way if your mom drags you shopping the worst of it will be over already.”

“Ug, girl clothes.”

“Well Whateley does have a uniform that most of the students do wear,” Kam paused briefly, “at least most of the days any ways.”

“I bet it has a skirt,” muttered Karen sourly.

“You would win.” Kam shrugged and said, “Clothes just are, I don’t like suits and ties either, but I will put up with them on occasion.”

I took a quick glance at Kam’s feet showed that he was in shoes today, “And shoes?”

“Well sandals are only good when you know you will not be doing anything that requires toe protection,” he admitted quickly.

“I see, a necessary evil?”

“Precisely.”


New Hampshire
(On the road to ARC.)

"If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored.
One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things."
- Henry Miller

“Ok,” Beltane paused and looked back over the seat at her companions, “what gives?”

“Beg pardon?” asked Chou with a quick glance to Nikki.

“You three were scarcely this quiet at breakfast, and I can see Nikki is tense about something.” Beltane paused and gave Sara a direct look, “Have you been stealing kisses from Stalwart on the side?”

“Hardly,” Sara smiled and shook her head, “I don’t poach from friends.”

“Ok so it’s not boyfriend troubles,” Beltane glanced at Chou briefly, “nor girlfriend troubles.” Beltane grinned as Chou flushed rapidly, “What? I’m not blind am I?”

“It’s cute really,” added Sara with a sly grin, “but I think the only ones who have caught on, are the Poe folks.”

“Yet,” said Nikki with a lazy smile, “though you two do disappear a lot together in the library.”

 Looking quickly out the window Chou glared at the rolling hills and asked plaintively, “Can we talk about something else please?”

Beltane smiled wickedly at her, “Ok, for now.” Then Beltane studied the other two a moment, “Ok, back to the original question: What gives?”

Nikki scowled briefly and glanced over at Sara, “Well?”

“A well, is a deep hole,” Sara said glancing at the driver.

“Now that is an evasion if I ever heard one,” Beltane shook her head and wiggled her fingers and a green glow washed across the van, separating the driver from the passenger compartment. “Do I have to make the driver park the van until I get an answer?”

“Isn’t magickal coercion against the rules?” asked Chou with a smirk.

“You will find that many of these rules people are fond of can be shed in a hurry, if they think they can get away with it.” Beltane shrugged and smiled, “I could just blow the tires as such things do happen.”

“Wonderful, we just had to be saddled with someone devious,” Nikki shook her head and groaned aloud, “thank you ever so much Ms. Carson.”

Grinning Beltane waved a hand back and forth to the three girls, “Don’t make me break out my cereal attack.”

“Oh like you did to Toni?” asked Chou with a smile.

“Worse, much worse,” Beltane smirked grandly, “ok enough stalling already, spill it.”

At Nikki’s rolling eyes and slight uplift of one shoulder, Sara forced out a long-suffering sigh, “Well it’s like this…”


“It’s no wonder people think Posies are nuts,” Beltane said after a long moment of silence, “you all make me seem sane!”

“Well I think we get that for other reasons,” Chou said with an indifferent pat of her sword’s scabbard.  

“Look, we are not asking you to do anything illegal,” stated Sara calmly, “she doesn’t legally exist and while she may be slightly off, she has not consented to being held prisoner either.”

“Yeah right, usually if someone is committed to a nut house there is legal paperwork to go with it.” Beltane pointed at Sara and then the other two girls, “True?”

“Ah, her um, legal custody or guardianship is one of those nebulous things,” Sara reluctantly admitted, “The CIA has played fast and loose with many laws in regards to her. Otto has been working to secure some sort of legal status for her but that has been blocked at many levels.”  

“That is not really surprising,” added Nikki quickly, “considering what she can do.”

“Frankly it sounds as if she would be safer where she is,” Beltane said slowly, “it’d be hard to kill her down there for one.”

“Well we are hoping to get her to Whateley, and while it may be a bit riskier for her,” Sara admitted cautiously, “the enforced neutrality would give her some protection and a chance at some sort of life.” 

“As long as she didn’t go off campus,” added Chou in a sotto voice.

“It’d be a start at least,” Nikki nodded unhappily, “for all intents and purposes she’d still be a bit of a prisoner. Though we do have good Shrinks on campus too.”

“Then with a bit of work we can disguise her enough to where she can escape to a life beyond Whateley one day.” Sara smiled and sat back, “But that is not so much of an issue as getting her out is.”

“Ok so have you given any thought of how to get her out?” Beltane asked and pointed at Sara, “Saying that I approve of this insane idea?”

“No, no clue at all,” Sara said with a defiant smirk, “all we know is that Gypsy said it was possible for her to leave today.”

“So you just plan on waltzing in and playing it by ear?” Beltane asked in evident disbelief.

“Yes.”

“You all are nuts, did you know that?”

“Well, we do live in Poe,” said Chou with a roll of her eyes.

“That is not an excuse to do insane things!”

“You cannot plan for some things child, you just do what is needful,” said Nikki as she sat formally, “to do otherwise would be criminal.”

“It’s still an insane plan!” Beltane protested loudly.

“Just pretend you are on an epic adventure in a galaxy far, far away,” suggested Sara with a laugh.

“Use the force Luke!” suggested Nikki as her features softened.

Chou grinned and pointed over to Sara, “Who needs the force I gots me a wookie!”

“We’re doomed I say.” Beltane stopped abruptly and then blinked suspiciously at Sara, “Ok, how did I end up as the whiny droid?”

“Dumb luck?” Sara asked as she buffed her claws briefly.


ARC, Red Section
Mental Health Department


"When you are everywhere, you are nowhere.
When you are somewhere, you are everywhere."
- Rumi     

I thought Karen’s mom had shown surprising restraint when it came to springing the skirt of her daughter. Karen didn’t seem so sure as she stood there in the knee length dark denim skirt. Though I think she was slightly pleased with the bright green and touristy Galilee Bay t-shirt she was sporting. I don’t think she was too happy with the stockings, but she did put up with them. Though the penny loafers her mom presented got stuffed back in the bag quickly when her mood visibly soured.

Smiling I nodded to her mom, “New shoes are a bitch, especially if you are not used to the style.” I pointed down to Karen’s tennis shoes, “Not to mention her toes are not used to anything that narrow yet.”

Mrs. Taliesin nodded quickly, “I see what you mean, have you gotten that far?”

“Not exactly, oh I have a pair someplace, that I wore for a day or two.” I rolled my eyes and added, “But I didn’t much care for the lack of traction.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” Mrs. Taliesin paused and held out a separate bag to me and in a slightly apologetic tone added, “I wasn’t sure of your size, so if it’s a bit large you could always use it as a night shirt.”

Surprised at her gift I paused and then took the bag from her carefully, “It’d beat the drafty gowns here by a long shot,” I said with a happy smile as I opened the bag. Inside I found a black T-shirt that was similar to the one Karen was wearing.

“Otto said something about your eyes and certain colors, so I go you a black one, I hope you don’t mind,” Mrs. Taliesin said after a moment.

“Oh no, it’s perfect,” I smiled up at her, “really it is.” I laughed and looked at the sailboat and lighthouse on the front of it, “You can’t imagine how awkward I felt shopping for clothes and not knowing if the white shirt I picked out was white or blue.” Glancing over at Karen I pointed and added, “I am not even sure if her shirt is green or yellow, but it looks green to me.”

Mrs. Taliesin blinked at that and smiled gently, “It is a bright yellow, as they didn’t have any blue ones her size in the shop. Do you have much in the way of clothing?”

“Me?” I asked with a shrug, “No not really, I think you could put all of my clothing in a small suitcase.” At her worried look I added, “I’ve only been a girl for,” I stopped and did a quick count in my head, “about a month or so now.”

“Well you seem to be holding up well,” Mrs. Taliesin said carefully.

Giving the cell an odd look, I glanced over to Karen and back to her mom, “Well, yes and no. I am in the nut house after all.”

Briefly flustered Mrs. Taliesin sat down on Karen’s bed and hugged Karen to her side, “I meant as a girl.”

“Oh, it’s largely an act on my part at times,” I motioned at my chest and then lower. “Waking up to this was unpleasant, but at the time I was more worried about other things.” I waved a finger between the mother and daughter, “At least she should have more time to adjust and a bit more information about the curse than I did.”

“Oh dear, ah yes that must have been a rude shock,” Mrs. Taliesin said sympathetically.

“Not as bad as some of my other rude shocks but still bad enough.”

“Rude shocks?” Karen asked quickly.

Sighing loudly even to my ears I paused and then continued, “From the start, when my gift showed up I was in danger.”

“From your family?” Mrs. Taliesin asked unhappily.

“Yes, and then others,” looking down at the floor as I continued, “I suppose some of it was my fault, as I evidently frightened people with what I could do.”

“Normal folks do overreact at times to the unknown or unfamiliar,” Mrs. Taliesin pointed out after a moment of silence, “it took a while for folks to accept us in Galilee. Considering that we do rescue work, nothing dramatic or flashy.”

Karen laughed at that, “Right mom, like depositing a sinking trawler on the beach is not dramatic?”

Appearing slightly abashed Mrs. Taliesin smiled, “Well. We were rushed on that one. A small fishing fleet ran afoul of smugglers and the Coast Guard was busy elsewhere.”

“Ouch, so did everyone make it off safely?” I asked.

She shook her head briefly and looked away, “No, the smugglers had made examples of a few of the ships and their crews.”

Picturing all sorts of ugliness I nodded sympathetically, “Ick.”

“We did capture them, and from what I hear there trials went pretty much as expected,” Mrs. Taliesin said with a savage smile, “life sentences all around.”

“Ah, good. So you are publicly out?” I asked.

“Not exactly, some of our team is, though as we do have to deal with the police, Coast Guard, Navy and the like from time to time.” She paused and smiled, “I’m firmly in the ‘phone booth,’ as I usually have to work the day job most of the time.”

“What, no secret base, no corporate sponsors?” I jokingly asked.

“Well we do have a base,” she shrugged indifferently, “and money, but emergencies don’t happen every day and a cover is only as good as the time you take to make it work.”

“We have one of the largest surf and dive shops in the state,” said Karen happily and she poked her mom in the side gently, “though someone says I have to wait to get my dive certifications.”

Grinning at was obviously a long-standing complaint of Karen’s, I said, “I see, but now you have a real reason to wait, as powers take training yes?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Taliesin said quickly, ”we can’t have you electrocuting the fish can we?”

     “Oh man, that bites. We were supposed to go to swim with the dolphins this Christmas,” Karen said in sudden dismay.

“Well, maybe in the summer, we’ll see how well you get it under control,” Mrs. Taliesin said and gave her daughter a hug, “there’s always Mouse World you know?”

Blinking as she appeared to think quickly Karen quickly nodded, “And the Studios bit too?”

“We’ll see,” Mrs. Taliesin said with a quick hug, “but it depends on how quickly you get things under control.”

“Can’t have you blowing up the rides you know,” I stated and then pointed at myself, “I have a long ways to go before they would let me on a normal plane.”

Mrs. Taliesin suddenly frowned, “Oh dear, I can see the RV is going to get a working over, though I always did like camping.”

Karen smiled and then laughed, “What she really likes is the S’mores.”

“Well, yes, but who doesn’t like marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers?” Mrs. Taliesin asked with a grin.

I had to agree, even though my family’s version of camping was vastly different from her version I suspected, “True, very true.”


Arc, Black Section
High Security Prisoner Storage Vault

A cold dark mist seemed to hang heavy in room as the sound of falling meat slapped harshly against the floor.  Buried the mist, small shapes coursed across the tiles of the floor only to converge on one spot. A low guttural moan that seemingly was wracked with shivers wailed briefly and then stilled.

“I, I’m coming Frank, hang,” a brief garrulous cough wracked the unseen voice, “in there.”


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B


"Old men and far travelers may lie with authority." - Anonymous

Otto smiled as he walked into the conference room, the van from Whateley had arrived on schedule and the girls had discovered the pastries. Idly he noted a cup in Sara’s hand and he chalked that up to her trying to blend in. With a critical glance to the room’s décor he walked over to the girls.

“Hello ladies, I am Doctor Otto, thank you for coming on such short notice,” then after a brief nod to Sara he continued, “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Reilly before, but I’ve not been introduced to the two of you I think.”

“Then if I may?” Sara asked with a smile and a wave of her hand to Bladedancer, “May I present to you Ms. Chou Lee.” She paused as the two shook hands and then indicated Beltane, “And Ms. Belle Forbes.”

“A pleasure to meet you sir,” Belle said with a smile as she clasped hands with him.

“Like wise, I assure you,” he paused and motioned to the conference table, “if you would sit please, I would like to say a few things before the mother and child are brought up.”  

“So is it just Karen is coming up I take it?” Nikki asked as she took a seat.

Slightly surprised by question the Otto nodded, “Yes, there are security concerns that I cannot go into regarding the other girl’s case though.”

“Ah, I see, Ms. Carson had thought we might be meeting her as well,” Nikki said casually.

“Not that it could not hurt,” Sara said with a lazy shrug, ”seeing the same techs' day in and out has to be a drag.”

“Maybe we can arrange a visit later on, though it depends on how her day goes,” Otto smiled gently, “though primarily I asked for your help in assuaging some of the mother’s worries.”

“Still in denial is she?” asked Sara quickly.

“Well some,” Otto admitted hesitantly, “though she does seem to have made some adjustments to the matter.”

Belle chuckled loudly, ”As opposed to screaming, hitting things and throwing pottery?”

“Well yes, she was somewhat vocal,” Otto admitted with a glance to Sara.

“So you would like us to tell her what?” asked Chou in the pause that followed.

“Well I won’t ask you to lie or share things that are painful to you.” Otto nodded to the girls and he smiled easily, “I would ask that you share things that might help both the mother and daughter to adapt and if you will prepare them somewhat for possible headaches.


Arc, Black Section
High Security Prisoner Storage Vault

The tall figure kicked the unconscious security guard a second time in evident irritation. Turning away it ignored the coalescing figure that grotesquely mirrored the unconscious guard. After a moment the zombified guard shambled unsteadily away and down the hall on its mission.

“Damned Uncle Tom’s get what they deserve,” muttered the figure as tendrils weaved in the air and out from its chest. “Yes Frank I know… I’ve not forgotten.’ It whirled in sudden evident panic and screamed, “No-o! Frank! They got Frank! “Those dirty, stinking, pinko fairies!  They got Frank! Hold on Buddy! I’m coming!”


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B

Nikki gave the wary mother and child a warm smile, relaxing her hold on her glamouries a touch to ease their nerves, “Hello, I’m Nikki and these are my friends and sisters if you will, at Whateley.’ She paused and indicated Beltane, ”Belle Forbes is our upper class mentor for this trip. Chou Lee and Sara Waite and I share some of the same classes.”

Chou smiled at the younger girl as she sat at the table, “Hi Karen, nice to meet you.”

Karen smiled and looked at the others, “You were all guys too?”

Nikki rolled her eyes at the question, but she smiled, “Yes, we all started out as guys.”

Otto chuckled and glanced at the older woman, “If you will excuse me I have to check on some paperwork.”

Mrs. Taliesin nodded, “I think we can manage Doctor.”

Otto nodded towards Sara, “Quite, Sara knows how to reach me, should the need arise.” 

Karen gave Sara a distinct frown, “I thought you were younger and my size?”

Walking over to Karen, Sara smiled and shrank down briefly before returning to her normal size, “Well yes and no, I can change my size as needed, and it helps Merry to relate to me on occasion if I appear younger.”

“So you were doing it to make Merry calmer?” asked Mrs. Taliesin critically.

Sara smiled and then continued, “Well both of them actually. It might help you to understand that I’m the oldest of the changelings here, though Belle has been a girl longer.”

“Dare I ask?” Mrs. Taliesin prompted.

“Late twenties,” Sara said casually watching the other lady carefully.

“You lied to me?” asked Karen uncertainly.

“Did I ever say how old I was Karen?” Sara asked her calmly.

Karen paused and thought furiously for a long moment, “Um, no.”

Sara walked over and knelt down by Karen, “I’m still your friend Karen, and I will still be your friend if you want me to be. Ok?”

Karen nodded slowly and then hugged Sara quickly; “I suppose it’s ok. Just no fooling me again ok?”    

“Cross my heart,” Sara made a quick ‘X’ over her chest and returned the hug.

Beltane smiled and motioned to the younger girl, “We’ve been asked to treat Karen as if she was our sister on campus when she arrives.”

Nikki nodded and then added, “While there are some children on campus her age, most if not all of the others are high school aged.”

“Ah, some things never change,” Mrs. Taliesin said as she watched her daughter help herself to a glazed donut.

“Yes, did you attend Whateley as well?” Chou asked with a smile.

“Many moons ago, I was in Dickenson back then,” Mrs. Taliesin said, “though I didn’t know there were such a thing as Changelings then.”

Beltane nodded and easily added, “It is not openly talked about due to the sensitivity of the issue. Many people cannot accept that there is such a thing. Add in some religious and social aspects and it could really be a problem.”

“Will it be a problem for Karen?” Mrs. Taliesin asked hesitantly. 

“It should not be, after all she will be growing into her girlhood.” Beltane smiled as the mother relaxed, “hence there will be less likelihood for any shocks to the student body.”

“Most of our trials on campus are not so much tied to the change,” Beltane motioned to the others, “but learning how to react to boys without throwing up in fear.”

Chou grimaced with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, “True, though at the same time we have had to accept that most of the boys there have yet to figure that out too.”    

“Beg pardon?” asked Mrs. Taliesin quickly.

“Well the boys for the most part are boys, you know; too much testosterone, too little thinking?” At Mrs. Taliesin’s nod Sara continued and looked over at Karen, “Just because most of the campus has powers, doesn’t mean everyone has figured out what to do with them, much less how to be adult with them.”

“That sounds familiar,” Mrs. Taliesin said with a smile, “and it sounds like very little has changed since I was there.”

“Very likely,” Nikki smiled and nodded to Karen, “Otto has asked that we might tell you what sort of problems that we had encountered and what possibly to expect.”

Mrs. Taliesin blinked and nodded slowly, “He said as much earlier.”

Chou smiled slowly and took a breath, “Well we’ve all had our fair share of bumps, though the hardest bit I have to deal with on a regular basis is waking up as a girl.”

Karen nodded rapidly, “Merry says she has a problem waking up from old memory dreams, is it something like that?”

“Yes, something like that.” Chou shrugged and motioned to Nikki then Beltane, “They’ve been girls longer than I have, so I can’t say if it gets easier, though there are times I wake up crying.”

“Do you miss being a boy?” Mrs. Taliesin asked softly.

“Yes I do at times. It is hard not to, considering I was one until summer hit,” Chou chuckled ruefully, “having friends in the same boat helps.”

“Ah, and your family,” Mrs. Taliesin motioned out form the room, “did they take it well?”

“Ah, I was orphaned not long after I had changed,” Chou looked away quickly, “my mom had passed when I was younger so it was just my dad and I for a long time.” 

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Taliesin said looking uncomfortably down at the floor.

“My father is still in shock,” quickly inserted Nikki who then drolly added, “even though my mom was thrilled to have a daughter.”

Thrilled, as in burned your clothes, took you shopping and then redecorated your room while you out one day?” asked Belle with a grimace.

“Well not that way, but close,” Nikki chuckled and rolled her eyes, “my change took place during the school year. So I ended up out of school and forced to go shopping frequently.”

Beltane ruefully rubbed her nose; “Shopping isn’t so bad, as long as it doesn’t follow the loss of all your stuff. That was bad. My mother decided I was going all girl, all at once. Big mistake.”

With a cough Sara pointed to Karen, “Don’t be in a rush and toss out the baby with the bathwater, is what I think Belle is saying. While I didn’t get the chance to keep my things, I do wish I had that choice.”

“Yes,” Beltane gave Sara a bland look, “It’s nearly as bad as dying in some respects, and belongings do give and hold a sense of self. Which is very important at times.”

With a sad frown Karen looked at the other girls, “No wonder Merry is messed up, she said she doesn’t have anything.” 

Sara nodded slowly and looked over at Nikki, “Well she does have the important thing, she has friends and without them she’d be in real trouble.”


ARC, Red Level
Security Section

 Walter frowned and swore softly while he rapidly typed at his terminal, trying to wrest answers from the unresponsive machine. He had the old knot of fear in his belly that he used to get back in ‘Nam, the one that screamed all hell was about to crap down on him.

As there was no logical reason why the defense systems would arm and cycle in fresh ammunition, without it having either a major glitch in the system or it firing it all off. From the rate of the reload cycle was triggering, either there were a pile of bodies directly across from the guns or a pile of unspent ammunition was growing besides them.

 In either case he only paused a brief moment before pressing the alert button. If he was wrong, the worst they would have going on was a drill and a few angry techs to clean up the ammunition. If he was right, he would earn his ridiculous salary again. “I’d rather be wrong,” he said as he stood up and rushed into armory.


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B

Sara frowned as the lighting in the conference room changed over from the usual steady white, to a sullen amber. A moment later a low grating tone chimed several long notes before stopping abruptly. Walking quickly to the conference room doors she eased the doorstops up and allowed the doors to close.

“What’s going on?” asked Mrs. Taliesin.

“I’m not sure,” Sara said as she walked over to a phone, “though I suspect we should stay here for the moment. Picking up the phone she glanced at the other girls quickly, “I’m fairly sure this wasn’t part of a planned event.”

Chou frowned as her sword suddenly unmasked itself, “You don’t say.”


ARC, Administration Level
Otto’s Office (Topside)

“Walter what is going on?” Otto asked as the image of the security chief appeared on the monitor.

“I’m not sure Otto, some damned weird shit is going on with the defense systems at the Black to Red Access Junction.” There was a pause as the man pulled on an armored jacket, “I don’t think it is our little guest playing games either. What really worries me is that I’m not getting any response from the personnel down there.”

“Do you think we have a breakout?”

“Damned if I know,” Walter stopped and pulled on a helmet, “but I am treating it as such.”

“Right I’ll call down support from the Orbital Platform and alert the other bases for support just in case,” Otto reached over and typed a command at his terminal and waited for it to process.

“Good plan,” Walter picked up a large gun from his desk, “the team here is ready to go, and with luck we can cross this off as a drill.”

“I’ll send the powered sentry teams down once they report ready,” Otto quickly added.

“Rojer, on the way.”


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B

Sara placed the phone back in its cradle thoughtfully, and announced to the expectant faces, “We’re to stay here for now.”

“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Taliesin asked as she pulled her daughter close.

“Doctor Otto is not sure just yet.” Sara shrugged and said calmly, “It could be nothing more than a sensor glitch.”

“Shouldn’t you go help?” Nikki asked quickly, ”You do work here.”

Sara rolled her eyes, “Doctor Otto said I am to make sure you all are kept safe.”

“Uh huh, why can’t adults just say when things are going bad?” asked Karen loudly with an evident scowl on her face.

“What makes you say that?” asked Chou as she fought off a wave of unease.

“I watch TV. When ever there is sensor glitch or something on the science fiction movies, it means the monster or alien is coming to get them,” Karen pronounced as a fact.

Beltane gave Sara a worried frown, “She does have a point.”

Chou loosened her blade from its scabbard slightly and shook her head, “That’s what worries me.”


ARC, Red Section
Mental Health Department

~’Merry?’~ asked Otto’s voice as it intruded upon my sleep.

“Gods, is it too much to ask for a few hours extra sleep around here?” I asked the room loudly in protest of being awoken again.

~’Ah, I have to ask, did you have anything to do with the problems in the security systems tied to the levels way under yours?’~

“No I didn’t fuck with any of your precious security systems!” I shouted at him and the room, “Can I go back to sleep now?”

~’Merry, as much as it pains me to ask this of you; we need your help.’~

I slowly sat up as my door hissed open to reveal Kerry anxiously standing there, “Jeeze, has the world come to an end?”

~’No, but it seems like part of our security and sensor system has been corrupted and we need you to go in sort it out.’~ There was a pause and Otto worriedly added, ~’We can’t even tell if folks are alive down there.’~

“Oh crap. Ok, Ok. Just put me down at real computer terminal and I’ll see what is going on.” I gave the room a foul look and yawn loudly, “But I will really want a nap later.”

“I’m sure something can be worked out,” Kerry said with a chuckle, “Come on lazybones out of bed and to work.”

“I’m not lazy, I’m just not a morning person, jeeze.”

“We’ll try to schedule our emergencies on your time table next time,” Kerry said with a smirk in my direction.

Everyone is a wise guy today.”

“Just part of the friendly service.”


ARC, Black to Red Access
Junction 3

Walter pulled Sergeant Quedino back against the wall by her combat harness. With luck the unconscious woman would be all right there, though he was certain that her leg shouldn’t bend above the knee. A cold terror seemed to drag at his senses pushing at him to flee, though he’d faced that often enough in Vietnam. Standing with his back against the wall he surveyed the path of carnage and tried to use his radio again with no success.

Catching a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye, Walter turned and brought his rifle up. Pausing only briefly he noted the bipedal form was encased in some sort of lion-themed armor. Then he fired, repeatedly, to no avail. 


ARC, Administration Level
Otto’s Office (Topside)

Otto mentally crossed his fingers and held his breath as the computer screen blinked rapidly and then flicked several times in succession.  As the screen started to fill with information and facility schematics, a separate window opened and filled with text.

*********************************************************
*** ALERT! *** CRYO-SUSPENSION FAILURE *** ALERT! ***
Subject: James Deidrick (Maelstrom)
Prisoner ID: 87662331
Cyro-Encapsulation: June 10, 1963, ARC Cryogenic Suspension Facility, Denver, CO.

Powers: Dread Aura, PSI/PK Attacks: Strong Mental Defenses, Regen 3 (unconfirmed), Extremely Strong Manifestor: Favoring Pseudo Zombies / Nightmarish Creatures, Manifested Armor.

Warning: Subject is Mentally Unstable, Condition Aggravated by Chronic Drug Abuse. Initial Paranoia Once Believed to be Drug Induced. Follow-up Evaluation Determined Paranoia and Rage to be Induced by a Disorder in Brain Chemistry. (Case 01.0 Deidricks Disorder, Documented by Dr. J.K. Fielding)

Captured By: Mystic Six, June 9, 1963

Technique: Brute Force Suppression Followed by Mental / Spiritual Attacks.

Release Date: N/A

Last Treated by: Dr. F. Lenston 07/09/2006

*** ALERT! *** CRYO-SUSPENSION FAILURE *** ALERT! ************************************************************

Otto’s eye’s briefly focused on the next to last line of text, and with a scowl on his face he reached over and pressed a recessed button firmly. Moments later a strident alarm began to sound through out the complex. 'Great -the- Deidrick, the one the case was named after, just happens to get loose when I am in charge, just lovely.' Otto thought and added verbally, “I’m really beginning to hate you Mister Lenston,” he half growled in anger as he walked quickly out of his office and down the corridor to the safety of the armory.


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B

~’Otto, that isn’t exactly good news, so what is the plan?’~ Sara asked once the mental data dump from Otto had stopped.

~’Chiefly keeping Mrs. Taliesin, her daughter and the other girls safe and out of harms way,’~ there was a brief pause and a hint of annoyance in his mental tone, ~‘essentially we have to let Maelstrom reach the surface and then take him out once he is outside.’~

~’Wouldn’t it be better just to trap him down below?’~ she asked quickly.

~’Yes, however he has already battled his way past Walter’s team and is working his way to the Red and Blue Junction.  We can expect him to enter the service lifts in a few minutes, which will buy us another ten minutes or so as they are powered down.’~

~’Ok. How long until the Orbital Teams arrive?’~ Sara motioned rapidly at the others briefly to silence them as they tried asking questions.

~’About seven minutes after Maelstrom hits the surface, as much as I hate Lenston, he’s thought of everything.’~ Otto’s mental tone was angry as he continued, “We’ve taken bad casualties downstairs, if things get too bad upstairs you are authorized to eliminate Maelstrom by any means necessary.’~

~’I see, I take it you are going to be charging into the breach?’~ she asked.

~’Psychically, I’m going to hammer at him from in the Armory, with luck I can drive him up and out of the complex.’~ Otto appeared to sigh, ~’I’ve called Tanaka, though their team porter is in the Bahamas. So it will take time to gather them and to get them here.’~

~’Good luck, he’s got some strong defenses,’~ Sara fretted briefly, ~’we’ll stay put for the moment, no sense in getting in his way.’~

~’Thus far he doesn’t seem intent on anything other than escape.’~

Sara nodded and added, ~’Fortunately for us.’~


ARC, Red Section
Medical Command Center
Mental Health Department


"Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage." - Regina Nadelson

I pulled out of the Net in time to see a very battered looking Vlad being helped into the control room by Chris. As Kerry rushed over to him, I could see several rents in Vlad’s flesh merge and heal. Frowning I stood up carefully and peered down the corridor though the haze of smoke and flashing lights past Chris.

“Vlad! Are you ok?” Kerry asked frantically as she rushed to his side.

He gave her an unsteady hug and nodded, “I’ll be fine, though we’ve got wounded all over the place. I think we need a doctor more than Merry needs a babysitter.”

Chris nodded looking shaken, “The escapee has some Psi and really can screw with your head. I’ve not been that scared in some time.”

Feeling an odd wave of euphoria arise within me, I dimly noted the faint white glow that flooded my senses with peace. A faint tug registered on my arm causing me to turn slightly to look up at Vlad’s frowning face. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to say though, as all sound seemed to be muted and distant; though he seemed stronger than he was moments ago. With a careless poke to his chest, my arm arose and pointed out of the command center and down the corridor of it’s own volition.  His expression seemed odd, though he did move out of my way. As I moved steadily down the corridor my world turned completely white, though that didn’t seem to be a bad thing.


ARC, Administration Level
Conference Room B

“So we’re just going to stay here?” asked Beltane as she skeptically looked at the walls of the room, “These walls won’t keep an elephant out, much less this guy.”

“Well no,” Sara said as she walked to the lectern on the raised dais and knelt down. “You all are going into the bunker.”

There was a muffled click and the dais split in half and slid apart leaving a large opening visible underneath. With a hop down to the doorway Sara paused and spun the large wheel on the door eliciting a hiss of air. An amber warning light flicked on and Sara quickly backed up as the door slid forwards and then off to the side.  

“Ok, everyone in,” Sara said pointing to the open door, “you could ride out a nuclear blast in there or a F5 tornado. Should you need it, there is an escape route leading out from the back of it that opens out a quarter mile away from the site.”

“Wait,” Nikki said with a frown, “aren’t you going with us?”

“No, someone has to make sure Maelstrom is stopped or at least slowed down until the other forces get here and recapture him.” Sara shrugged and smiled oddly, “Either that or I’m having an early dinner.”

“Right, there is no way I’m sitting in there when my friend is in danger,” Nikki pronounced with a quick glance to Chou, “right?”

Chou blinked and nodded slowly as she tapped her sword, “I’ve not had a real work out in a few days.”

Throwing her hands up in the air Beltane groaned dramatically, “I can just picture Ms. Carson’s expression when she finds out we just had to get involved in a fight.”

Mrs. Taliesin looked out of the bunker with a frown, “I could help.”

“No,” chorused the three girls and Sara continued, “you have to make sure Karen is safe, besides you really don’t want Karen to see what could happen.”

“What do you plan to do?” Mrs. Taliesin asked.

“What ever it takes,” Sara said calmly.


ARC, Red Section
Infirmary

Kam watched critically as Merry knelt down by the last wounded man. Her behavior was that of a person either stoned out of their head or walking in their sleep. Having awoken to her touch, only to see her vacant expression had been disturbing. Though he was pleased to be alive.

Standing carefully he walked over to where she knelt. As the dim white glow that had surrounded her was flickering out like a candle in the wind, he lifted her back and away from the suddenly aware man. Carefully he eased her to an empty cot as she started to convulse violently.

“That is so wrong,” commented Kerry with a look of revulsion as a serpentine head pushed out of Merry’s mouth.

“I think she’d agree with you,” commented Walter as he carefully felt the bare skin of his chest and abdomen through the large hole in his armor, “I should be dead or dying.”

Kam reached out and closed his fist, eliciting a messy pop from the head of the snake, “With luck she won’t remember the snake.”

“From the look of horror on her face I would say that isn’t likely,” commented Kerry as she walked over with a few towels.

Chris nodded as Merry started to vomit for real, “She has a few choice words on the subject, I won’t bother to repeat them.”

“I’ll bet,” commented Walter blandly.


ARC, Administration Level
Service Elevator Annex

“I don’t get it, how can you have a ramp elevator going down to where you keep prisoners?” asked Beltane as she studied the busy scene.

“They don’t go down to the prisoner levels, well not directly.” Sara paused and shrugged as men in powered armor rushed by, “It is a series of ramps, each with heavy doors, traps and the like. But rather than forcing a possible hostage scenario, we’re giving Maelstrom a free pass to the surface, though he has to walk.” 

“Don’t you have some sort of safeguards to prevent this sort of thing from happening?” asked Chou as she motioned to the long corridor.

“Yes, and most of the time they would suffice, but they don’t do squat if they are sabotaged,” Sara glared downwards, “someone will have some explaining to do one day.”

“What happens if you get a mass prisoner escape?” asked Beltane.

“They nuke the site and hope all the bad guys die,” Sara said with a bland smile, “though for all the cryo-suspension units to simultaneous fail would be astronomically high.”

“And what where the odds on something like today happening?” asked Chou.

“Oh about like the chance of getting struck by lighting two times in a row, on a sunny day,” Sara chuckled and drolly added, “that is without the sabotage mind you.”


ARC, Blue Section

Heyoka frowned as the horde of zombies, giant spiders and other things lurched up the ramp. There wasn’t too much that he could do from the astral side of things. However he had been able to briefly grab control of a few of the monsters at key times. Mostly his efforts had been to redirect killing blows away from victims and to cause monsters to ignore the fallen security people.

Earlier he had been skeptical of Sara’s need for him to be here. Though in retrospect it was a good thing he was, if only to have kept the people from getting slaughtered outright. The figure that trailed the horde as it snaked upwards had him concerned, as it hung over into the astral layer oddly.

In some ways the blackness that ebbed out of the figure reminded him of daemons and of Sara, though he wasn’t sure if Sara qualified as a daemon. Other worldly, strange, exotic, dangerous yes, and unlike this thing she was at least friendly. Whereas he was certain this thing was far from friendly. 

Occasionally a purple beam of light would strike the figure causing it to stumble briefly. It didn’t seem too effective, but whoever was doing it evidently had a plan, as the glow radiated purpose. As a wall eased down at the base of the ramp, Heyoka watched a few bolts strike the figure in succession, evidently to distract it from turning back.

Thunderbird was angry and yet silent as it circled higher in the astral plane. Heyoka had the suspicion that if the figure made it out to the fields and forests, Thunderbird was going to blast it into oblivion. Inwardly he agreed with the idea, though he didn’t relish being messed up from the aftereffects.

He was sure his grandmother would likely say; ‘Sometimes you ride the horse, sometimes the horse rides you,’ if he were to ask her about the powers.  Or some other not so useful homily, though he was fairly sure she never had to deal with marauding monsters. True she did have a few solid kernels of wisdom. ‘You fight evil, you don’t take it to dinner and fuck it,’ was one of her favorites when politics came up, she had made a point of not discussing politics after that.        

Grinning he turned his thoughts back to the problem, ‘Well Granny, I don’t think I’m going to take that to dinner.’

Thunderbird seemed to nod in agreement as it screeched it’s anger.


ARC, Red Section
Infirmary

Walter looked around as the teams reformed, “Does anyone know what the hell got loose from downstairs?”

Kerry looked up at the monitor she was working with and frantically typed in a few commands. Suddenly her screen was filled with flashing text, scanning it she pointed to one section. “He’s called Maelstrom, if I remember correctly he was big noise in the sixties, who expressed his political activism using violence. It says he has Psi and some PK attacks, add in some regen and manifested armor and creatures. Also a fear aura of some sort.”

“Yeah we met those,” Walter said with a grunt, “does that say how to stop it?”

“It says the Mystic Six captured it using brute force followed by metal and spiritual attacks.” Kerry shrugged expansively, “Not a lot of help there.”

“Crap, well we still have a job to do.” He glanced around the room and said firmly, “Ok men time for round two; if it’s not friendly, we kill it.” He looked back at Merry then Kerry, “You two need to get out of here in case it comes back for hostages.”

“I thought I was an inmate?” I asked cautiously.

Walter fingered the hole in his armor with a grim smile, “Look, I’m not telling you to escape. I’m telling you to get out of harms way, got it?” He chuckled and pointed upwards, “We’ll be a bit busy for a time.”

I smiled and nodded, “Yeah, I got it and thanks.”

“Yeah,” he paused and fingered his armor, “well thank you, now scram we have a bad guy to take down.”

“We’re scramming,” said Kerry as she tugged on my shirtsleeve.


ARC, Administration Level
Service Elevator Annex

The men and women in the powered armor had managed to restrict the tidal flow of zombies and other weirdness from the ramp before they were forced back by shear numbers. Fortunately the horde was flowing in the direction the group wanted them to. Just faster than what they could effectively deal with in the corridor.

“Fall back!” Sara shouted into a megaphone over the stuttering gunfire, “Take the fight outside where we can maneuver!”

Nikki blinked and nodded as the armored force moved into action without questioning the instruction. Then with a gesture she crushed a zombie that was menacing her. “Can I get a hand here?” said Nikki as she slapped a disfigured hand away from her face.

“Oh get a grip!” said Chou as she cut the groping hand away from Nikki’s chest, “This is so wrong.”

“At least they are not singing Thriller,” said Nikki with a chuckle, backing away from the fight as Chou danced through a series of cuts.

Sara paused and discarded the megaphone she was using as a club, “Anyone here order brains?” she asked as she raked though a zombies head with a suddenly taloned hand.

“That is so not funny,” muttered Beltane as a green ray washed outwards from a stone in her hand, melting a giant spider that was approaching her.

“The exit is behind you,” Chou said as she took a breath, and added pointedly, “using it would help…”

Nikki cast a quick look over her shoulder and leapt for the opening, “I’m out!”

“Good, now don’t stop!” chided Beltane as she pulled her along. 

Chou backpedaled though the door and beheaded a badly formed wolfman, “Lon Chaney you are not!”

“Well yes, especially after you chopped his head off,” added Beltane as she pointed to short wall at the edge of the parking lot, “defensible position!”

“On it!” Nikki shouted as she sprinted the short distance to it.

“Hey! I just noticed something,” shouted Beltane.

“What?” asked Chou as she dismembered a zombie in a long flowing cut.

“These zombies don’t stink!” Beltane said as she shoved a glowing fist into the eye socket of a zombie and watched it deflate.

“Wonderful,” Sara said with a grimace, “keep moving.”

Beltane appeared to pull a baseball bat out of thin air and swung it experimentally before crushing the head of a thing that was half woman and half hound, “They go splat really well though!”

“And they melt, eww gross I just stepped in zombie goop!” announced Chou with a grimace.

Beltane frowned and brushed at the slime on her face as she ran back to the wall, “It’s Ectoplasm.”

“Eto-what-asm?” asked Chou as she chopped the legs out from under three zombies in succession.

“Ectoplasm, nit wit, don’t you froshes know anything?” asked Beltane as she paused for a breath. Of which turned into a surprised screech as Nikki pulled her out of the path of a running Komodo dragon.

As a bright red light struck the lizard turning it into ash Nikki shouted in Beltane’s ear, “I know when to duck! Does that mean anything to you?”

“Ow, yes, thank you too.” Visibly gathering herself Beltane took a step and pointed at a zombie, “It means I can do this.” Beltane waved at the zombie and his features melted only reform to look like a skeleton from Pirates of the Caribbean.

“Ahoy Captain! Barnacle Bill at your service!” it said and with a salute it then ran at the attacking zombies only to end up crushed by them. 

Nikki paused to pat her on the shoulder, “Cute. Keep it up, I think the main course is coming our way.”

“Yo ho ho! A pirates life for me!” shouted Beltane with a grin.

“I think someone is hung up on Johnny Depp,” said Chou with a faint scowl. 

“Shiver me timbers!” intoned Beltane with a laugh as she swung a cutlass that just formed in her hand.

“She is enjoying this entirely too much,” agreed Nikki.

A cold wind stirred out from the main doors of ARC, low guttural moans and a voice was clearly calling for someone loomed closer. As a small flock of black birds leapt skyward the air coming out of ARC was filled with a cold dark mist that obscured the entrance.

“Who the hell are we fighting Sara, a cult classics film director?” asked Nikki with a frown.

Sara paused in her wild dervish dance of pest removal and frowns, “I don’t know what his issues were. I just work here, I don’t catalog the Popsicles.”

“Great,” Nikki blasted another zombie with her glowing hands, “well I think we are about to get introduced.”

Suddenly the broken doors burst outwards from their frames as a two-meter tall hulking shadow lurched out into the open. In a loud rush of wind, dark ominous clouds flooded the sky, banishing most of the morning’s light. An angry southern voice filled the foggy air, “You have taken Frank from me, what did you do with him?”

Sara smiled wickedly bearing her teeth and shouted, “I ate him!”

“Nooooooooo!” the voice protested with a roar of anger.

Nikki shook her head in evident irritation,  “You just had to be cute?”

“Well, I got his attention, which is what I wanted.”  Sara replied and surged forwards into a clump of zombies creating a tidal wave of body parts as she diced them, “We have to see him to fight him though, can you do something about the fog Nikki?”

“Sure, sure, ask the elf to do weather magicks.” Nikki paused to gut a zombie with a shimmering kick, “In the middle of a freaking fight!”

Chou danced past a stumbling body to point at Sara and Beltane, “We will keep them occupied, you do your thing.”

“If it snows in the Mohave, its your fault!” Nikki protested indignantly then ran backwards out of the fray.

Chou smirked as she danced off the short wall into a savage cut that bisected the spider before her, “I’d prefer you get rid of the fog.” She then charged into the throng of zombies surrounding Sara, slashing as she went. “Hi, got a plan?”

Sara body slammed a zombie with a splat onto the asphalt and looked at her blandly, “Surviving the next ten minutes would be good.”

“Consider this a warm up for spring,” said Beltane ominously as she pointed her cutlass at a group of reformed skeletons, “All right you scurvy dogs, get them!” She then paused and lopped an arm off a different zombie, “We could really use that fog to be gone about now!” she then commented loudly.

“Don’t interrupt,” Chou stopped to hack an arm off of the zombie in front of her, “the…” She followed through with a slash to sever the zombies neck, “Elf.” Chou grinned savagely as she sliced a fresh zombie from crown to groin “Do you want to see an oops on this scale?”

“No!” Beltane quickly swung wildly and fended off a grasping hand. Then she paused and then she grinned manically, “Sure! I always wanted to fight the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man.”

Chou gave Sara a longsuffering look, “She nuts, fun but nuts.”

“Rrrrright,” Sara tensely looked to the back of the thronging mass of zombies, “I think the Calvary is over due.”

“Anytime would be good you know!” muttered Beltane loudly as a figure wearing a pumpkin as a head menaced her.

Eyes screwed up in concentration she briefly paused in and Nikki pronounced “An-cha-ra-zoth!” with a grandiose wave of her arm, then she paused and her grin turned sour as the air stilled completely, “Oops?”

“Oops! What do you mean oops?” Beltane said and then spat out a mouthful of goop, “Yuck, I better be feeling a wind real quick or someone is going to be copying my notes later!”

“She means,” Chou looked up and stumbled backwards, ”holy shit on a Popsicle stick! She means look out!” Chou pointed to a cloud of chattering fur as it started to rain multi-colored giant squirrels in the fog bank and everything else in the vicinity.

“Che wanna nuk nuk!” cried one of the squirrels as it landed spear first on top of a zombie.

With an exclamation of annoyance, Chou picked up a squirrel that had prodded her and looked it in the eye, “Look fur ball, if you poke me in the ass again, I am going to feed you to Sara personally.”

“And people complained about Pirates, jeeze.” Beltane frowned as the sound of gunfire drifted out of the complex. “I hope the gun fire means the Calvary is coming!”

“Nikki?” asked Sara as she flattened three zombies and rolled to her feet.

“What’s with her and squirrels?” asked Chou as she stripped a skeletal horse of its legs.

“I don’t know, I asked for wind I get squirrels,” Sara smiled wickedly, “I think she has a fur fetish…”

“I’m working on it sheesh!” protested Nikki as she retreated a few steps.

“No! Not sheesh! The word you want is Zenth,” Beltane rolled out from under a descending blade, and kicked a squirrel into the path of the encroaching zombie, “You muffed the last word of the spell, as in: An-cha-ra-Zenth!”

“Are you sure?” Nikki said as she braced herself to deliver a glowing punch to a fresh zombie.

“Of course I am sure, I’m not a TA in The Magical Department for nothing!” Beltane placed her hand on the zombie before her and it reformed into a fresh pirate, “Of course I am sure!”

“Critics!” Nikki protested and tossed an angry squirrel into the face of a zombie.

“Anyone seen,” Chou paused and ducked behind a car as Sara stood up and dumped a mass of body parts onto the wrecked car. “Never mind she is fine.”

Sara stretched unnaturally with a faint smile on her face, “Amusing as this is, where is he?” Sara looked around cautiously then leaped over a car as a large mass of octopus tentacles swung through the location she was previously in.

“I think it’s mad,” shouted Beltane as the grating sound of metal indicated a car being smashed to bits in the fog.

“Friend of yours?” asked Chou as she parried a slimy gray limb as it tried to enwrap her arm.

“Sorry, no, my friends usually ask first before groping,” Sara said as she pulled the limb away, “cut please.”

Chou rolled her eyes and used three spinning cuts to reduce the limb into several four-foot long sections, “I just had to ask didn’t I?”

“Also they are usually tipped in pleasing probes,” Sara continued blandly as she carved an end off in illustration, “unlike these.”

“Too much information Sara, seriously,” muttered Chou as she rolled out of their reach.

“Well you did ask,” Sara said with a grin as she kicked the offending object away.

“It’s coming!” shouted the voice. “It’s coming to eat us all.”

Sara frowned and jumped backwards as the figure was briefly reveled, “Oh shit!” she ducked back and sliced frantically at a waving black tendril that quested after her. “Crap! That’s not human or manifested, don’t let that touch you!” Sara gritted her teeth and kicked the severed but living limb out from under her feet, “It’s Other.”

“A daemon?” Chou asked as a wave of fog obscured Sara and a crawling thread of fear snaked around her before a calming warmth from the blade banished it.

“No a prophet! A warning of your fates to come!” The voice started to laugh bitterly, “Frank told me to prepare the way! But it was already coming!”

“… Al-bloz-nen,” Nikki paused in her chanting and held her hand up as a green glow flooded out from her. “An-cha-ra-Zenth!”

From Nikki’s up stretched hand the glow blasted up into the sky and back down with a roar of rushing wind. Chou took a hasty step backward followed by a forceful parry. Sara’s hands blurred as a tentacle fell into her reach, dicing the limb as she took a step forwards.

Seemingly unaffected by the cuts, the figure became visible. Standing among a gathering crowd of zombies was a shambling figure dressed in medieval armor that shifted and moves in sickening patterns. A large mane of bloody fur dripped around a lionesque mask, the eyes of which were visible yet seemed devoid of rational thought. From the center of its chest several strands of tentacles shifted and moved in an eye-wrenching manner.

“Some how I don’t think it went into the pod like that,” growled Sara as she moved closer to the other girls.

“You!” It shouted as it pointed at Sara, “What did you do with Frank!”

“Nothing yet, but I plan on having a long painful discussion with him.” Sara shouted back and then frowned, “You said it was coming, what is coming?”

“It won’t matter!” It drew itself up and proclaimed loudly, “I’m just the first! The next four are worse and then we will all pray for death, but we will not die!” It paused and pointed at Sara, “N’Tan’c will feast on you and your followers.”

“Sara!” Chou leapt forwards and severed a strand that had shot out from the chest of the thing at the goth girl, “Destinies Wave says we don’t dare kill it yet!”

Sara threw a zombie into the mass of tentacles and jumped on top of sedan, “Did she say why the hell not!”

“Domino effect! We kill him and…” Chou rolled out of the way as a flash of light flared into the zombies from Nikki’s hands. “We could bring the next on in on our heads, it’s a sacrifice ploy!”

“Ze-ouch! Easy there! I only have so much hair!” Beltane protested as she quickly patted at her hair as if to put fire out.

“If we can’t kill him, how do we stop it?” asked Sara as she kicked the remains of a zombie off of her leg.

“Knock it down, keep its filth off of me and I will ensnare its mind,” ordered an imperious female voice.

“Uh, Nikki?” Beltane paused as she planted her cutlass’ hilt into a zombies face crushing it like a rotten cantaloupe.

“Nikki’s not in right now,” muttered Sara, “I’ll handle the tentacles, Beltane, you glue its legs and chest when I get it down.” Sara grinned at Chou, “See if you can ring his bell and get the helmet off.”

“And I’ll make this abomination regret being born,” added Nikki with a disturbing smile.

“Destinies Wave says there may be a gem or something on this thing, we destroy it,“ Chou parried frantically as she backed away, “and the next cannot come.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sara stretched and grew as several clawed tentacles ripped out both sides of her top, “so much for playing nice today.”

Chou circled to the left of Sara and watched critically as the man seemed to focus on Nikki, “You whore! You’ll not take me down this time!” Then it roared furiously and charged Nikki’s position.

Nikki frowned as the man rushed her, then a golden light flashed out from her palms and sent the man sprawling backwards. “We may have met once before this life, ‘creature,’” she stated with a hiss talking an angry step forwards, “but I assure you it will be our last meeting ever.”

“Oh yeah, Nikki’s definitely not in at the moment,” Chou muttered as she lifted her blade into guard.

Sara only allowed the man to bounce once before she swept him up into the air by his tentacles, using her own to slam him back to the asphalt cracking it. With a deliberate smile she repeated the process a second time, shouting, “Get ready!”

“I’m ready all ready! Quit bashing him up and down!” Beltane shouted as Sara slammed him down a few times on his head.

With a final jarring slam, Sara plowed the man to the ground and grunted angrily, “Just hurry! This bastard is freaking stronger than he looks!”

Just as Chou was about to rush in, Sara was lifted up into the air and waved rag-like, back and forth violently. As Sara loudly protested her sudden abuse, Chou rolled behind the man and slashed rapidly through the armor and tendons in both the creature’s legs. “And that is called Hunting for Snakes in the Grass,” she muttered as she leapt into a series of rolls that carried her out of harms way.

As both the creature and Sara toppled to the ground, Beltane clapped both hands together, muttering loudly. As the creature flailed Sara around in the air, a wave of gray ooze submerged the beast in a rough cube. The sudden silence was interrupted by a loud squawk of protest as Sara landed roughly on top of the cube.

Rolling to her feet, Sara tapped the cube, “Nice and solid, but where is it’s head?”

“That end,” Beltane paused and walked tiredly to the end she had indicated.

Chou frowned and then said, “As tempting as it is to let him suffocate, we need to get him under control,” she pointed to the solid block of grayish white material as it vibrated as the man inside of it struggled futilely to get out, “this isn’t helping.”

“Ok, just give me a moment,” Beltane placed her hand on the block and pushed. Slowly the odd material flowed back from the end of the block exposing the helmeted head. Weaving from evident exhaustion, Beltane took a few unsteady steps backwards, “All yours.”

Nodding once, Chou stepped into the open space and used careful cuts to weaken the top of the helmet, “Sara, a bit of brute force if you please?”

Sara chuckled and with a lazy back flip landed neatly opposite Chou, “My pleasure.” Wrapping her hands and tentacles around the helmet she gave it a firm yank, and then tossed the suddenly foaming glob away.

“You’ll burn for this!” shouted the gaunt head of the man as his eyes bulged in anger, “I’ll make you long for death!”

“No, I think not,” said Nikki as she approached the exposed head. Almost gently her hand reached out and caressed his bald head, “A prison of nightmares I give unto you.” With that a golden orange glow surrounded his head like a crown before solidifying into a burnished coppery band.

Sara whistled softly and gave Nikki a grudging nod, “Nice.”

Nikki seemed to take a miss-step backwards and sat down suddenly, “Oh that was not fun.

Beltane nodded slowly, “Maybe I’ll have to trade you notes. Weather witchery for conjuration?”

Slowly laying back on the asphalt Nikki grinned weakly, “Maybe, once my head stops pounding.”

“Ok he’s down, so now what?” Chou pointed to the solid block, “We still have to get the summoning item off of him.”

Sara pointed at Beltane then the block, “You can let it go now.”

Sighing tiredly Beltane placed her hand on the block and with a lazy smile said, “Go poof!” With that apparent command the block evaporated in a sudden haze of smoke, then a faint wind followed which left the not quite nude man on the ground.

Chou paused with a smile to clap lightly twice and said; “Show off.”

Beltane unsteadily walked over to crouch down by Nikki, and she tiredly pronounced, “Us witchy types appear to be done for the day.”

Sara lifted a mass of twisting tendrils away from the man’s chest and quickly plucked an object away, “Got it.”

“Great, now how do we destroy it?” asked Beltane with a frown.

Sara studied it critically, “Well I am not eating this, I think the taint of it caused the tentacles with our friend here.”

“Finally, something Sara won’t eat,” Nikki said with a groan as she forced herself upright to point at the approaching troopships, “Better late than never.”

Sara looked up and then frowned suddenly, “I need a shirt.”

“You do at that,” said Nikki as she walked over and gave Sara a hug. With a grin she stood up on her toes and whispered into Sara’s ear, “Look east.”

Sara returned the hug and slowly looked over to the rise of a small hill, smiling softly she said, “Yes I know.”


ARC, Exterior
"I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience -- and laughter." - Susan M. Watkins

 

I had spent the last few minutes watching carefully from the lee of a small hill. From it I could look down at the battered parking lot where the fight had waged all over just minutes before. There were times when I really wanted to have been down there helping them, but I reluctantly stayed put. Instead I did what little I could with the rifle, namely slowing the zombie tide when I could do so safely.  

Scanning the faces of the four girls with the binoculars I had liberated, I stopped and focused on Sara. With a sudden snap of her head she was looking directly at me, and with what could only be a deliberate wink, she turned and walked over to where Otto was pasting bits of paper to the downed thing. At least I think that was what he was doing, with Otto, who the hell knew at times.   

~^Sara thinks you should be going now, ^~ calmly interjected a voice into my head.

“Great. Hello mysterious voice in my head,” I muttered aloud.

It seemed slightly embarrassed, ~^It’s Chris, I tagged along watching over you.”

“Well then, good, so which way should I go?” I asked.

~^Sara said for you to head west into the forest, she has some friends out that way.^~

“Ok, how far into the woods?”

~^She didn’t say.^~

I shook my head, “Ok, I guess she has a plan.”

Chris’s voice seemed to smirk, ~^I think she is improvising her ass off.^~ There was a distinct feeling of amused silence then he added, ~^You should get moving before Otto figures out that you are out and blows a gasket.^~

Easing down the back of the damp hillside away from the parking lot I nodded, “Ok, ok I am going.”

~^Take it easy Merry and be safe, ^~ Chris said as he faded out. 

I looked west to the start of the forest, and picked out a mostly concealed way to get there. I picked up a slight joggers pace, making sure the backpack of stuff I liberated along with the rifle were slung comfortably. I wrinkled my nose in disgust, in some small way that camp was a blessing.

 ~:Yeah right,:~ added Chad with evident sarcasm.

“Bitch, bitch,” I countered.

~:What ever, so how long before Otto looses the hounds?:~

“Dam if I know, with luck all he knows is that I am in my cell.”

~:And Karen?:~

“Karen, will be fine, I checked the satellites and NASA’s database. With the email I sent her she’ll have a good idea when to expect solar storms. She should be in Whateley and well off in no time, least I think her parents are that smart.” 

~:And us?:~

“We’ll just have to see,” I said with an indifferent shrug.

I felt a grin form as he seemed to lounge in the background with the others, ~:We’re just enjoying the view, even if we’re gonna get muddy and wet along the way.:~

“It will not be the first time.”


ARC, Red Section
Otto’s office

Otto gave a tired sigh and regarded Chris, Kerry, Kam, Walter and Sara grimly as they trooped into his office. “I thought I had asked to see Walter and Sara.”

Kam nudged Kerry, “Um you tell him.”

Kerry turned and nudged Chris, “Nope he can tell him.”

Chris frowned painfully, “Gee thanks.”

“Tell me what?” asked Otto as a sinking feeling arose in the vicinity of his stomach.

“Well umm, she ah, you see.” started Chris before trailing off under Otto’s intense scrutiny.

“She’s dead Jim,” supplied Walter who was trying not to grin.

 Otto blinked once and looked over at Sara, “You are so full of it, did you know that?”

Sara smiled cutely and took up residence on a corner of Otto’s desk, “Sure I am Otto, sure I am.”

Otto groaned loudly as he predicted the outcome of ‘this meeting,’ “I suppose we can come up with evidence proving this?”

“Absolutely,” said Walter with a wicked grin.

“This is technically a mutiny you know?” asked Otto with a pained frown.

Walter chuckled and sat in one of the chairs, “Oh Otto, do you really think so?” he glanced around the room, “How many did you count?”

“Count what?” Otto asked blankly as he searched in a drawer for a bottle of aspirin for the headache he was sure was coming on.

“Crosses, red crosses to be exact, like this one.” Walter held up a piece of armor that was savagely torn, and then he tapped a section where it looked a child’s finger had painted a cross.

Otto frowned as he read the name inscribed on the armor and then he blinked rapidly, “Ouch.”

“Yeah, it sure as hell surprised the shit out me too. I expected to be either waking up in hell or heaven, not here.” Walter said slowly as he held up the bit and placed the ripped hole of it just south of his heart, “At the very worst serious liver and spleen damage if not out and out dead.”

“Ugh,” said Kam, “and I thought being just ass deep in zombies and brain blasted was bad enough.”

“Four people would have seriously dead and another thirty wounded or would have been. That is if Merry had not wandered in and started healing them.”  Walter paused then added, “Sadly where was not much she could do for our losses in Black Section.”

Kerry sounded slightly dazed, “Not that I think she had much choice, as she seemed to be sleep walking at the time.”

Sara frowned thoughtfully, “Yeah, that could be a problem for her.”

Otto looked at her, “Not having a choice?”

Sara nodded slowly, “Compulsions can be a bitch, right Otto?”

Otto sat back and sighed, “You’re right, as I recently discovered the hard way, and if I find Lenston.”

“Yeah,” said Sara with an angry frown, “he’s not going to enjoy our hard questions.”

“So in any case, thanks to Merry, the Calvary was able to ride out and take down the rest of the zombies and not end up dead, while you and the Whateley kids worked over Maelstrom. You really should hire them by the way,” Walter said after glancing at the others as they nodded. 

Otto nodded in agreement, “I have had thoughts in that direction, so when did she leave?”

“I am not exactly sure, one minute she was behind me, the next minute she was walking out of a service closet with a back pack on.” Kerry frowned with a halfhearted shrug, “I suppose I could have stopped her, but,” she shrugged, “my heart wasn’t in it.”

“I see,” said Otto as Walter easily slipped his hand though the hole in the armor piece and wiggled his fingers puppet-like through it.

The phone rang and Otto answered and then quickly put it on speaker mode, “Hello Madam Chairperson, how can I help you?”

There was an amused chuckle, “I just wanted to call and let you know I am pleased with your staff’s work today, as was Willard.”

“Uh, Ma’am we have a slight complication,” Otto said reluctantly.

“Yes it is a shame that young girl was injured. Merry was her name, yes?” asked the voice with a chuckle.

“Yes Ma’am, Merry,” Otto said as his eyebrows rose slowly.

“Pity that she is in a coma and that you could only stabilize her injuries by freezing her down, isn’t it?” asked the voice.

“Yes Ma’am,” said Kerry with a slightly affronted look as Kam poked her.

“So it’ll be what? Six months to a year before she’ll have recovered, correct,” stated the voice, rather than asking.

“Yes Ma’am,” Kerry said sounding slightly indignant as Chris prompted her with another poke.

“So sad to hear that. I suppose we’ll be picking up the cost on this one, but that is how the ball bounces,” then there was a pause as the voice seemed to smile. “By the way, I hear tell that Mrs. Potter expects you for high tea on Sunday, be a dear and convey my respects?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Well that’s all, carry on. Oh and one more thing Otto?”

“Yes Ma’am?”

“Do try and hire those three, they seemed to be effective.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Good man, I expect the rest of you may need paid holidays in the near future, we’ll have to see about that, yes?”

“Yes Ma’am,” the odd quintet said quickly.

“That includes you Otto.”

Otto sighed, “Yes Ma’am.”

“Good, that is settled, and I don’t expect to see the paper work until late the next week or the medical reports for that matter. Clear?”

“But,” hastily interjected Otto.

The voice seemed slightly turn scolding, “Otto, shut up, say ‘understood,’ and take care of things that need taking care of.”

“Understood.”

“Good man, carry on,” and for a moment the air seemed to hang heavily then there was a click as the other end disconnected.

“Oh my,” said Kerry in amazement and the others nodded in agreement.

Sara looked over at Otto as he was giving her a pained expression, “What?”

He paused then chuckled softly, “For a brief moment I had this minor thought that you had instigated this, but then I thought of something.”

“Me? Pish. Perish the thought, in any case what changed your mind at the last moment?” Sara asked.

“Neither Merry nor you would go for a plan than could have killed innocents,” Otto stated slowly. “Sewn chaos yes, but killing anyone or hurting people she doesn’t know, no. It just isn’t her style.”

“Figured that out did you?” asked Walter with a chuckle.

Otto gave him a pained look, “Yes, now if it had been someone like Lenston in her way out.”

“She’d kill and do it brutally with out blinking,” said Kerry, “and with good reason.”

Sara growled, “And if she did not I would. Just to make the world a better place.”

“As would I,” added Kam and Walter in near unison.

Otto sat up slowly in his chair and nodded slowly, “I think I could live with that.” He looked about the room then with a tired bit of laughter, “Everyone out and back to work, reports don’t write themselves as you all know.” As they all stood up and turned to go he added, “Except you Sara.” At her odd look he added, “It’ll only be just a moment.”

Once the others had left and the door was closed he studied her for a moment, “So what is your plan?”

“For?”

“Merry.”

Sara sat quietly in a chair and then sighed, “A change of name, a few details and get her into Whateley somehow.” She shrugged, “Anything else would be stupid.”

“I see, I am going to go along with this charade on one condition,” he paused and looked at her expectantly.

“Which is?” Sarqa asked with a faint frown.

“That she gets real therapy, even if it takes my shuttling Chris to Whateley on a regular basis to make sure she gets it.” Otto paused and pointed his finger at her, “Or she comes back here, am I clear?”

Sara nodded slowly in agreement, “She’s going to need it even if she doesn’t want to admit it. I think we can agree to those terms Otto.”

“Do you need me to talk with Ms. Carlson?” he asked softly.

“Perhaps, I had hoped we could get Snafu in with her, and maybe thin down the extra voices in her head some. But.”

“Snafu freaked and returned to Whateley, with good reason it turns out.”

“Yes,” Sara frowned, “what will you tell the CIA?”

“That Merry was injured in Maelstrom’s near escape. That she is currently in a coma, and she may come out of it or she may not.” Otto frowned darkly, “I had an interesting talk with their Director. ‘Frank’ or what ever his name really is, is still missing, as is the Deputy Director and others. Evidently something is up and they are busy cleaning up their house.”

“What about Doctor Palm?”

“The Counter AI Task Force is now under the aegis of some obscure branch of Homeland Security.” Otto tapped his desk thoughtfully, “I think they will still need Merry, but they need to be secure so that she is safe among them, and that may take at least a year.

“I do not think she will ever trust the anyone in the Government,” Sara said softly.

“I am not sure we can afford to have her not working with them, too any innocents could get hurt,” Otto said as Sara’s nose wrinkled.

“It all comes down to innocents, doesn’t it?”

Otto nodded, “Can you talk with her about it?”

“I don’t think she’d let Dr. Palm get away with the murder of her family, even if they were horrible to her.”

“She is right, you know, some times the best family is the kind you make up as you go along.”

“Should I have her call you uncle?” she asked mischievously.

Otto rolled his eyes, “I don’t think we’ll get that close, though one day I would like to say she was a friend.”

“Oh give her some time, Otto.” Sara looked westward, “She’s got a lot of growing and other learning to do.”

“Other learning?”

“Well, she needs to learn there is more to life than the crap her family shoved down her throat, for one.”

“And the other?”

“School, social stuff and things.”

“Dare I ask, what things?”

She paused and stuck out her tongue, “No.”

“I see, now shoo, I am sure you have things to do, yes?”

“Yes,” she grinned and hopped off the desk, with a few steps she stopped and paused at the door. “And Otto?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you, from both of us, even if she won’t admit it for a time.”

He grinned suddenly, “I expect so, now get moving ‘Your Braininess’ before a wolf gets her.”

“Pee-Tee!” she protested.

“Hah, you’re welcome.”

“You!”

“Out! Some of us have work to do!”

“I’m going, I’m going” Sara said with a throaty laugh as she opened the door.

Once the door closed Otto smirked and kicked his shoes off under the desk. ‘My dear friend, do you know the phrase: May you live in interesting times, is supposed to be a curse?’ Then with a resigned glance to the computer he shook his head and got up to make tea. “I suppose that I can try, to be lazy for a week, nah… Being lazy is too much like work.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
(The wilds there of.)


“Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” –Put one foot in front of the other – Jules Bass

It was full daylight in the woods, so I was a bit concerned to hear a wolf howl in the distance. Not that I ever heard of a wolf attacking anyone, other than the semi-domesticated ones; and then only if they had been mistreated. People, go figure. I shook off the unease that crept up on me and unlimbered the rifle I had liberated with the backpack food and assorted other goodies. “Be prepared”, is more than a song by an animated goat after all.

It took a moment for me to realize Chaddy had continued the song for a few verses as I crunched along in the leaves. “Chaddy, you’re a nutter.”

~/An you’ll never be despaired. Wha-chu-talkin aboot Willis?/~ was his reply.

I grinned at his indignation, “Well you know, you just go off at odd angles.”

~/An you don’t? Seriously one of us is barking up the wrong tree or is that Bear sign?/~ For a moment my arm lifted up to point at distinctly clawed tree in question.

“Well it's not worm sign or movie sign for that matter.” I stopped and made sure the AR-14 had a round chambered and that the selector was set on safe, sure I would loose half a second, but it beat blowing an arm or foot off; or shooting a senator in the face, ala Chaney.

Kneeling down by the tree I looked for some sort of evidence that would prove the claw marks were recent. It was cold enough that the resin wasn’t freely flowing from the tree, and there were wood chips on top of the damp leaves, add in a few tufts of hair and you get fresh bear markings. “Well now we have a better reason for caution, don’t we?”

Chaddy sank back uneasily and Chad slipped in place in his stead, Mai was out of her realm so she was analyzing everything. ~:I thought that bears would be hibernating by now, and it sounds like the wolves are closer.:~

Stopping abruptly, I frowned as I processed that bit of information wolves; not wolf, “Maybe it’s a friendly werewolf pack coming to rescue us?” I asked dubiously.

Chad was noncommittal, so I guessed he was not buying into the concept of a friendly werewolf pack either.


Whateley, Hawthorn Cottage
Sara’s Room

 “Thanks again for the lift Terrence,” Sara said after a moments silence, the knots in her neck unwinding as she was finally back in her room.

“All part of the service, will you need a lift tomorrow?” he asked after a moments pause.

“I hope not,” Sara replied truthfully, “frankly all I want is a day without a crisis.”

Terrence nodded, “No kidding,” he shrugged in his armor as if it chafed, “if they don’t have me going back and forth between bases ferrying VIP’s, I’ll be amazed.”

“If things get too busy and I am not needed urgently; they could send a car,” she offered.

He smiled and pointed to her dresser that was making odd sounds, “Hopefully that isn’t company business.”

Sara looked over to her dresser and sighed, “Let me check.” She walked over and opened the offending drawer, picking up the phone; she had enough time to note that she had text messages and voice mail as the screen dimmed abruptly. “Great it’s dead.”

“That happens if you don’t charge them,” commented Terrence with a grin and held out his cell phone to her. “Here call ARC and see if it’s trouble, again.”

Sara rolled her eyes but tapped in the number, and waited for the other end to pick up, “I used to hate these things, and for a time I did very well without one.”

He nodded, “I can relate,” he tapped a satellite fed pager, “if this thing did not come with XM Radio, I’d be tempted to leave it someplace damaging.”

Sara nodded and then held up a hand, “Hi this is Ms. Waite, Red Fourteen, are there any messages for me? No, thank you. No, it’s just that my cell phone battery died.” She shrugged at Terrence, “Yes they are annoying that way. Thank you, I’ll remember that. Good evening.”  She hung up the phone with a hint of annoyance, “Danged security and their traces.”

“All part of the job,” he said as he took back his phone, “making sure you are where you should be, not kidnapped, not ass deep in alligators and so on.”

“Alligators would be a vacation,” she countered. “Thanks Terrence, now I think I have a date with a hot shower.”

He nodded sympathetically, “Ecto goop is messy, fortunately I was able to pop home, wash like mad and get back all on my lunch break.”

“Handy.”

“Yes it is,” he took a step back, tipped his cap and winked out in the space of one of his heartbeats.


Whateley
Crystal Hall Cafeteria

“So,” Bluejay said as he popped into view at her table, “was the field trip fun?”

Sara frowned at him and then took a deliberate sip of the hot cocoa she had ’treated’ herself to.

“Oh don’t be that way. I already saw how Nikki, Chou and Bell seemed to be celebrating, and then the Feds showed up had a chit chat and left. But everyone was still in smiles afterwards.” He paused and sat down, ”So what went down?”

“Gossip gathering for the Don?” she asked disdainfully.

“No, just my own idle curiosity, supposedly you all went to see about a new student?”

“Yes.”

“Annnnd?”

She rolled her eyes, “Have you ever had friends who seemed to be trouble magnets?”

He rolled his own eyes and she could hear the mixture of humor and truth in his voice, “All the time, all the time.”

She sighed internally and conceded internally, that Bluejay was an ass at times, but a socialized ass, mostly. After a moments expectant silence she said,  “I can neither confirm nor deny that there were zombies involved,” 

For a moment he seemed mildly shocked, “Well that gibes with what I had learned.” He paused, “My apologies, I rather expected you to lie.”

“Why?”

“You, Team Kimba, The Alpha’s, etcetera.”

“Bluejay, appearances are not always everything, I am not really a member of Team Kimba.” She sighed deliberately, “Halloween should have made that obvious.”

He shook his head slowly, “I have my own thoughts about Halloween.”

“And?” she asked as she counted the melting bubbles of marshmallow froth.

“I don’t go willingly into that good night, nor blindly either,” he gave her a lopsided smile and then said softly, “it ended too easily.”

“You think?” she asked slowly.

“You are not protesting otherwise.” He sighed and rhythmically tapped the table with both sets of knuckles briefly, “I had hoped to be wrong.”

“You would have preferred a lie?” she asked after a sip.

“There are lies and then there are lies.” He chuckled and removed a lapel pin from his jacket; he cupped it briefly in his hand then slid it across the table to her. “I hate these things, all the sharp edges and such, I invariably prick or puncture myself.”

Sara studied the twin masks of comedy and tragedy as it slid to a stop a scant millimeter from her free hand. She stared at the red dot that filled one eye of it and dripped almost tear-like, “What is your game Bluejay?”

“Well not my soul, but maybe an occasional mutual exchange of services, hmmm?” he asked and batted his eyes at her.

“I am not sleeping with you, forget it.” She flicked the pin back to his side of the table, “I told you that before.”

“You don’t think I am sane enough; yes I remember that.” He smiled, “Sanity is overrated,” he said then flicked the pin back to her side of the table.

“Bluejay,” she sighed deliberately and expansively, “why would you want to borrow trouble?”

“Actually it is the opposite, I am borrowing against trouble or rather if you will, investing against it.” He paused, “Winds blow, fortunes wither or grow, in the end of the day it all comes down to an old axiom: Keep your friends close…”

“And your enemies closer,” she frowned thoughtfully, “Bluejay if you are my enemy, isn’t this like handing me your head?” She tapped the mask with a claw, and flicked it back over to him.

He smiled and stood up, “Who said we were enemies,” then with a laugh he flicked the masked pin back over to her side again. “And who said it was my blood?” He asked as he blipped from view.

Sara picked up the pin and then closed it briefly in her hand. She closed her eyes and traced the blood back to its owner; with a slight gasp she opened her eyes and then carefully tucked the pin into her pocket. ‘What the hell are you playing at Bluejay?’


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
(Somewhere in the wilds there of.)

I was seriously considering stopping and making camp for lunch when I walked into a small clearing. That was until I spotted the remains of a freshly killed and torn apart deer carcass lying exactly in the center of it. Uncertainly I flipped the selector on the AR-14 to three round burst and eased backwards so that I was against a tree.

A howl resounded not far behind me, and then several more echoed from across the clearing. “Great, just fucking great. Where the fuck is Lassie when I need her?”

I heard a very odd sound that seemed to be a mixture of laughter and odd rumbles. Then, not ten feet away from me a large bear walked into view; and for some reason I had the complete and utter belief that it was laughing at me. Once in front of me, it looked directly at me and then it dropped and rolled on the ground continuing to make the sounds I had heard before its entrance.

“Uh, yeah. Hi bear, good bear, this is a nasty gun, let us say we both don’t find a reason to need to use it,” I said uncertainly as I eased a few steps calmly backwards.

It looked up at me and I swear it snickered at me before sitting up.

“Look, I don’t want no trouble and you don’t want to be a rug, so I’ll be going now,” I said easing a few more steps backwards.

It shook its immense head and continued its odd behavior, scuffing pine needles and leaves up into the air confetti-like.

“Right then, nice meeting you,” I babbled at it and then broke into a run back the way I had came. Only to come to a skidding stop about five yards from a trio of wolves, large wolves, giant fucking wolves.

I stared at them and they stared at me for a very long tense moment. I blinked and clicked the selector over to fully automatic, “Right, this is a nasty gun with five point five six armor piercing and tracer rounds in it. You are wolves, bullets and wolves do not mix well, trust me, this is a fact.”

“Missy you are a hoot, did you know that?” asked an amused human voice behind me.

I didn’t look for the voice but I did my best to edge away from it and closer to a tree, again. “Oh yeah I am the real life of the party.” I lifted the rifle up to my shoulder, “I’ve got a gun.”

“I heard that, so did they,” said the voice. “Boys much as you enjoy the odd joke, you might give the girl a bit of space.”

When one of them growled rather rudely, I said ‘fuck it’ and put a neat row of bullets into the dirt directly in front of it. “Back the fuck off!” I shouted, as the three of them seemed to hesitate between charging and retreating.

“Oh my poor ears,” said the large and very naked man as he strode between the wolves and me. “Billy Joe Carter do not push it, considering she could easily have put those rounds in your fat head. Or would you rather face me?”

It shook its head and seemed to droop to the ground, it’s tail fell curling up under it quickly.

“I thought not, now go find that idiot cub and Eloise too,” he pointed off into the woods, “now git.” Once they bolted into the underbrush he turned back to look at me.

“Um, hi. Where is the bear?” I enunciated each word carefully.

“You are looking at it, now don’t go all panicky and ease the safety back on, ok?” He waved a large hand in my direction, “Guns only work on Were’s if you can do a lot of damage with them or use silver bullets. Though normal bullets are only painful, mostly.”

“Mostly?” I asked as I slipped the selector down to three round burst, as I wasn’t convinced I was safe.

“Yeah, mostly, like that rifle is still mostly armed.” He sighed and sat down, “Look dar’lin, I’m sitting, so you can either sit or stand.”

I frowned and crouched with my back towards the trees the tree partially leaning the pack against it. I wasn’t sure if I should ease the selector to safe or not, but I did ease it off to the side of him. “My trust factor isn’t that high.”

He shrugged and looked at me thoughtfully from under a dark mop of hair, then he sniffed the air thoughtfully, “You smell like blood, roses and something else, are you hurt?”

“No, it's not my blood,” I waved the barrel of the gun off in the direction of where I thought ARC lay. “Things went bump when I was leaving, so I played medic.” It was not exactly a lie.

“Mighty nice of you, I heard you were a prisoner?” he half asked.

“More like involuntary in-patient,” I said with a smirk.

“Uh huh, my name is Ben, and you are?”

“Um,” I paused not certain how much or what to say, “my friends call me, names.”

He laughed loudly and thumped the dirt with his hand, “I bet they do at that, so what should I call you?”

I dimly heard a crunch of leaves and aimed the rifle in that direction, “Paranoid.”

“I can see that,” he sniffed deeply and then yelled, “Abe is that you?”

“Dang it Ben, I was trying,” shouted a voice back.

“Trying to get your darned fool ass shot, I got this girl here mostly calmed down and there you go klutzing up the works,” he shouted back and then added, “again.”

“But I was quiet!”

“Evidently not, she knew which way you were coming from, idiot!” Ben sighed and looked at me, “You are not a Were are you? No, a’course not with those eyes, in any case.” He shook his head, “You got powers or sumptin, an you wanna use a gun. You are odd.”

“Gee thanks,” I muttered, “I don’t suppose you could tell your friend to move into sight, nice and easy so I don’t have to dig in my sweater pocket for a grenade and persuade him to run away?”

“Grenade,” he sniffed thoughtfully, “and plastique explosives. Missy, I don’t think I want you mad at me anytime soon. Do you know how to use them?”

“Yes, my asshole of an uncle made sure I was very familiar with things that go boom,” I said distastefully.

“Yeah, I see that.”

“So?”

“Abe, come on in, real slow like, she’s packing enough trouble to make me uncomfortable,” Ben semi-shouted with a loose smile that made me wonder if he was having fun at my expense.

“Yer shittin' me?” asked the voice as it tromped closer.

“No ah am not, an if you get me all blowed up I’m gonna make your balls into soup.”

“Pardon me if I sound rude but, did I just walk into Hicksville central?” Part of me really wanted to wallop Chad for asking that, but hitting myself is just silly.

“Nah, I jest tak dis way cuz I hab a PHD,” at my odd expression he added; “Here’s yer sign.”

I felt my face flush slightly, “Sorry.”

“Naw it’s ok, we doan seem too brawt compared to city slickers lak yerself,” he gave me a sardonic glance. “I do have a PHD, in education. We only tend to act like we are hicks or what have you. Caleb Lost Feather, the one you didn’t hear is puree bred Cheery-oak-kee, and he will tell you about it over and over. If you let him.” He pointed over my shoulder to a nearby man who was wearing tight black leather pants and moccasins, complete with a cowboy hat.

Caleb shook his head, and pointed with his very large knife to my rifle, “Nice gun, but since we are all friendly here, put it on safe.” It wasn’t a request, and his tone wasn’t exactly friendly

I sighed in disgust, “I can take the hint.” With slow easy movements I turned the selector to safe and then sat fully on the ground and slipped off my pack.

He nodded and eased his knife into its sheathe, “Not bad for a cub, brassy as all heck. But she has potential,” that he addressed to Ben. Then he studied me for a moment, “How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” I stated coldly as his tone and inflection seemed grating to me.

“You don’t look sixteen, and we were expecting a boy,” he looked back to Ben who shrugged.

“So sorry, I was expecting to meet friends, not werewolves or assholes with too few manners.” Yeah there goes my mouth again or Chad’s.

I wasn’t exactly expecting to be slapped, but then I don’t think he was expecting me to butt-stroke his knee either or the electrical pop that went with his slap. I wiggled my jaw painfully as he did his best to sit up while looking like a stunned fish. 

Slightly prudent, after the fact, I moved out his reach. “No touch, no get hurt, got it?”  I asked flipping the selector all the way up to fully automatic again.  

Ben sighed with an amused grin, “If this one isn’t the one we are looking for I might adopt her myself. Based simply on the fact that she knocked your dumb ass down.” He walked over and looked at Caleb with a snort, and then he reached down and took a firm hold of his abused knee and squeezed, hard.

“Ow! For fuck’s sake stop!” Caleb screamed and wriggled frantically trying to get loose.

“Not to mention if she is the one we are looking for, you sure as fuck do not want to piss off her mate. Not that her mate isn’t going to be pissed. But you,” he paused to push firmly on the man’s knee again, “do not want me or Eloise to fix you for fucking things up worse. Do you?”

Though a groan Caleb said, “I’m gonna.”

“Shut the hell up and follow orders,” interrupted a stern woman’s voice that caused the man to wilt. As she walked into view she seemed to be measuring the man on the ground against something in her head.

“Hi Eloise, I was just explaining things,” said Ben with a poke to the Caleb’s knee eliciting another sharp grunt of pain.

“I heard,” she reached back and pulled a nude boy forward, “so Carl, is this the one we want or just a random stranger?

I frowned, not sure of what to expect, and as he took a step towards me I brought the rifle up. “Just stay back,” I warned.

 “Uhh right,” he said slowly.

“Missy, he just needs to smell you. Nothing more. Or else I’ll break his of both knees for you, I give you my word,” offered Ben in a serious tone of voice.

“Gee thanks,” I replied uneasily, but I angled the rifle upwards slowly. “No funny shit.”

“Oh this whelp is in enough trouble as it is, he really doesn’t want me to make it worse,” stated the dark haired woman coldly.

He gave her a hanged dog frown and he walked slowly towards me, “I don’t want any trouble miss.”

“Uh huh, sure, if you touch me I will fuck you up.” I walked over to Ben, “Seeing as I am out numbered, would you hold this for a moment, please?”

He nodded slowly, and after I had put it back on safe, ejected the round and removed the magazine and put it in my pocket, he took the rifle carefully. “You know gun safety,” he said looking at Eloise then he indicated my backpack with his other hand, “and explosives.”

“Oh, and talented. Interesting.” For some reason her pronouncement of me being interesting, was disturbing.

I covered my unease by glaring at the boy who might have been my age if not a bit older. “Well?”

He edged towards me and leaned closer inhaling deeply, “Blood?”

“That is not mine.”

“Roses?” he asked uncertainly.

“That, is mine.”

“She smells slightly sweet, too sweet, maybe sick sweet?” he asked as his head started to slip lower.

“If you think I am just going stand here and let you sniff at my crotch, think again,” I warned as I clenched my fists.

“Miss, he’s a Werewolf, it runs in the genes,” interjected Ben quickly.

“Well I am not!” I protested loudly in my indignation.

“Would you like me to hold her?” asked Caleb who was back on his feet with no apparent ill effects. That statement earned him a hard look and a blow that landed his ass back on the ground from Eloise.

 “He just has to get close, but not touch,” Eloise stated firmly as if instructing the boy or warning him. She looked at me thoughtfully, “Miss it’s necessary.”

“Shit, shit and shit.” I eyed the boy uneasily, “All right, just get it over with.”

He swallowed nosily and with both hands at his waist and sniffed downward at my sweat pants. I am not sure who was more embarrassed; him or me, as his face and mid-back were violently flushed red. Personally I was fully border-lined on rage and embarrassment. With an odd step back he frowned “Lots of ozone, and I could have sworn it was a male.” He shook his head, “but it’s the same scent.”

“Oh, good.” She smiled tightly off into the woods and nodded, “Betty if you will?”

“Will what?” I asked hearing an odd sound and then feeling a painful jab in my ass. Slightly stunned I reached down to my ass and pulled the offending object out, it was a dart, like the ones they used on the Animal Planet wildlife shows, I looked at Ben who wore a pained expression, “You sorry assed fuckers!”

“Sorry missy, not my idea,” Ben said as he shook his head regretfully.

I took a tottering step towards my backpack, and then weaved slightly as the ground tilted unpleasantly, “I don’t handle medicines very well, I get averse, effects.” I looked at Eloise who was suddenly frowning, “You are s-o-o fuc…” then as the ground jumped up at me, solidly, I finished, “…ked.”


Whateley Campus

Sara studied the pin absently as she walked. Bluejay had invested a small bit of power into it, deliberately. That much was certain, where and how he had acquired the dot of blood on it was anyone’s guess. At a loud cough she looked up from her musings to see that Chief Delarose blocked her path.

“Ms. Waite?” he asked while putting his handkerchief away.

“Chief Delarose, how can I help you?”

He chuckled, “Nothing drastic I assure you. Ms. Carson requests your presence, I think it is tied to your field trip today.”

“Don’t shoot the messenger?” she asked him with a grin.

He smiled and motioned in the direction of Schuster Hall, “Not really, you didn’t get any messages?”

“My cell phone died just as I tried to answer it.” She paused and admitted, “I don’t normally carry it on me, too confining.”

“That I can relate to,” he said in evident agreement as they turned to walk towards Administration.

“So, how has your day been?”

“The usual, minor scraps bruises, bricks stuck on telephone poles. That sort of thing.”

“Let me guess, the infamous Jimmy T. approach to bullies?” she asked with a smirk.

“Yes, officially I don’t approve of his actions.”

She stopped and looked at him expectantly, “Unofficially?”

He smirked and motioned for her to keep up, “Unofficially, it tends to defuse things. Largely Jimmy just embarrasses the snot out of them with no real injuries. Largely.”

“And the other times?”

He laughed, “Well people are clumsy when panicked.”

“So, begging the question, why is Jimmy still on the list?”

Delarose hawked loudly and spat off to the side, “Politics.”

“You don’t approve?”

“Oh I can see the point of it, to some extent.” He paused in his walking briefly, “Not that it is very effective for tracking him on his antics.”

She digested that information, “I don’t know why he even tolerates the tracer.”

Delarose chuckled, “I think he just likes to annoy the monitoring staff.”

“Oh?”

“We all have our idle amusements,” he shook his head, “so how are the Thornies treating you?”

“Oh I got the usual: ‘Welcome to the Asylum’ speech. Apart from the occasional odd look, not much has changed.”

“You don’t share their perspective.” He stopped for a long moment, ”it happens with combat troops. Kids go out from home, see and do things outside of their friend’s experiences, wars and so on. They return home and their friends and family only see the old them. Whereas they see that everything is different, they know just how dirty things can get.”

“Like Halloween was?”

Delarose nodded slowly, “Some of the kids are still in shock, others pretend it didn’t happen. Then there are the ones who split into three camps, guard dogs, wolves and sheep.”

“I thought it would be more sharply polarized by now; with just dogs, and wolves.”

“Sadly there will be sheep no matter what, even if they get bloody noses from time to time.”

“So where do you see me?” she asked bluntly.

He laughed, “Without trying to sound callus; you are an apex class predator, the normal hierarchy doesn’t apply.” He shrugged, “What you choose to do, protect, victimize or harvest, lies on what you feel is correct.”

“No lecture on morality?”

He hawked and spat again in evident disgust, “Damn early winter colds, sorry.” He paused and picked up this train of thought, “Morality, morality is bullshit fodder for sheep, pardon my French if you will.”

“Freely pardoned,” she studied him for a moment. “So you see morality as?”

“Oh there is a general stance on things universally; don’t murder, don’t rape, don’t steal and so on.” He paused “Notice I did not say kill?”

As they resumed walking he continued at her nod. “Invariably there will be a point where people will stand up and say, enough. Then there is diplomacy, policing or killing to preserve lives or a way of life.”  

“And war?”

“Some would say war is a way of resetting the apple cart, funding the nation or another tool of diplomacy.”

“But?”

“But when you have to stand in the trenches and streets watching your friends bleed and die. Then it all flips to preserving life, yours and your friends.” He smirked bitterly, “Sometimes it even makes a difference in the behavior of nations.”

“Ah, so where do you see an apex predator in all of that?”

“It falls back to cold war politics, super powers balancing each other and others.” He tapped his gun in his holster again, “Sometimes the threat is enough to keep things in check, and sometimes you just have to hit the mule with a baseball bat.”

She laughed softly, “Is that your official nickname for your job? Mule Smacker?”

“It could be,” he smiled, “it fits doesn’t it?”

“Some,” she admitted.

“I will admit your diet is slightly un-nerving, from the emotional stand point, live food versus just dead or inert.” He laughed and with a look of annoyance a dug out his kerchief to deal with a sniffle, “But then I have seen Jimmy go on an all out, eat for survival sort of feeding. He too has to eat and he too can eat anything organic, you both make choices.”

“So what stops Jimmy from eating live cows?”

“Who says he hasn’t?” Chief Delarose paused and restored his kerchief to its pocket, “Jimmy is as much a predator as you are, and his manner of eating can be just as disturbing as your own. I think, and this is only my theory is: People are willing self-ignorant.”

“Ah.”

“Now if you were to ask a farmer to sell you a cow, knowing you would turn it to food, he’d not blink. Most farmers that sell food animals have been in or near a slaughterhouse. They understand the life cycle better, if you will, than say a housewife. Now if he thought you were just going to abuse the animal he’d throw a conniption fit and refuse.”

“With good reason.”

“True, unfortunately there are more housewives than farmers, so you might say their general public consensuses is; ‘that meat comes from stores.’”

 “So the supermarket mentality?”

“Persists, not much you can do about it and is what you are likely butting head first against.” He shrugged, “I doubt our society will say; in order to understand life, you must get to the point where ‘monkey on a stick’ is considered food.”

“Where as half a world away live monkey brains are a delicacy?”

“Precisely,” he stopped at the doors, “well here you are.”

“So why the talk, Chief Delarose?”

“Partly to kill time and partly to have a conversation that was not tied to guns, ammunition and ‘did you see her rack?’”

She laughed lightly, “I think I understand.”

He tipped his hat, “I thought you might, in any case Ms. Waite, I did appreciate your choice of actions on Halloween. It takes guts to chose the safety of others over your own.”

“Is that a complement?”

“You could say that, and if there is a next time, of which to high hell I hope there is not; chose your ground to fight on and in, with more care.”

“Why do I feel suddenly feel like I have been graded on an exam?” she asked standing stock still for a moment.

“It’s only a lesson if you learn from it,” he replied before walking off.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Eloise’s home

“Ok I’m here, a day earlier than I planned mind you Eloise,” groused the woman with some annoyance, “an I didn’t need an escort from the Wild Pair either. Even if they are easy on the eyes.”

“Yes Swen and Ken are nice,” Eloise sighed and drank from a large mug that said ‘I look this good before you get drunk.’ “Mom, I have a problem.”

“Penis goes into vagina, no shifting for three and a half months, stay away from drugs, booze and cigarettes.”

“Mom!”

“What? Can’t I tease my own daughter?” The older woman asked with a soft voice, “Not that I would not be utterly thrilled to see you with a baby in your arms.”

Eloise shook her head, “The time for that will come in time Momma, just not yet.”

“Hmmph, you always say that.”

“As you well know.”  She smiled and relaxed slightly, “No Mom, it’s a different type of problem. One of many, but Council has been called for that.”

The older woman looked up to the peak of the A-frame log house and smiled slowly, “Ben you up there?”

“Yes Mrs. Donner, grading papers like usual,” he stuck an arm over the loft balcony and waved one about theatrically, “it’s all Greek to me; F minus.”

“When are you gonna knock my daughter up and make her sit still long enough to have my grandchild?”

“When it’s the right time,” he called down.

“Hmmph! Lazy bum.”

“I heard that!”

“Mother!”

“Ok, the official ‘Mom nag’ is over, what the problem my child?” she asked and sat back smugly.

Eloise sat her mug down then looked down, “I am trying to adopt a child.”

Her mother sat there a moment, “Daughter mine, why on earth would you need to ‘bring in’ a child, you are not barren or desperate in the man department.”

“It’s complicated Mom, and tied to things on the West Coast.”  Eloise paused and motioned out of the house, “We need a strong Seventh on the Council.”

“I’ve been saying that for years now.”

“Yes Mom, I know.” Eloise looked skyward and sighed, “ It has not been a problem, and the other Packs accept my leadership without any problems.”

“So why the rush now?”

“I sent Smitty and his riders out toward the West Coast.” She paused as the other woman inhaled sharply, “I know, risky. But it paid off, as we helped the Washington Packs evacuate their non-combatives up into Canada, without losing any of their fighters or our own.”

“Ok. Good. Are they coming back into the States again or hiding out North with the Peoples there?”

“They are going to come down though the Great Lakes and we may settle some of here for the duration. Or longer if need be.”

“Creating new allies?”

“Well we are in it for the long road.”

“Ok, so any other new news?”

“Near as we can tell the West Texas Packs tore the Bastard’s forces a new one, with only a few losses.”

“That is a relief.”

“Yes but we lost part of northern New Mexico. From what I know for certain, is that he skipped around the Spider Clan and the Four Corners area all together.”

“Hell I would not to mess with them either. So what, we have a besieged Pack?”

“Not yet, but time will tell.”

“And?”

“The Snakes in Utah jumped the boarder in Arizona for deep Mexico, evidently they are that spooked.”

“Which explains why the Texas Packs acted, they hate the Snakes, but then that’s a few hundred years of history.”

“True, though the Night Folk’s there are left with a gaping hole.”

“They have minions, and surely the European crowd will send support?”

 “Maybe yes, maybe no. In any case we are looking at either a full gathering of the Peoples with the exception of Lost Packs. Sometime in summer, if not just the Leaders sooner.”

“Nothing is lost until we surrender hope,” chided the older woman.

“For right now they are lost.” She shook her head quickly, “The United Councils have said so, and I agreed.”

“But you also sent forces?”

Eloise smiled sharply, “Yes, I will not sit idle until the Bastard has his people encroaching the Mid-West to act.”

“Oh, that must have stung.”

“Indeed, and it was called a ‘bold action by an incomplete Council.’”

“I see,” her mother frowned then closed her eyes, “old men, it’s always the old men.”

“That’s what Totem said when I broached the subject.”

“So how is Charles?”

“Busy and seemingly happy, as he’s still working at Whateley, unfortunately he’s having to run back and forth to New York.”

“Well that is good news, I was thinking I’d have to nip him on the ass to get him alive again.”

“Mother!”

“Well, you know?”

“Yes Mom, you are not dead yet.”

“Precisely,” the older woman said with a smile.

“You’ve heard that Martha’s boy cub stuck his nose in it?” she asked quietly.

Her mom covered her mouth for a moment, “I do recall something along those lines.”

“Gossip traveling at the speed of phones?”

“Well she did ask my thoughts on the matter, after seeing you about it. Right proper-like and such.”

“Good I can skip that part of the story.”

Her mom got up and walked into the kitchen, “Is the coffee fresh?”

“As usual Mom, Ben drinks the stuff by the pot.” She stood up and followed her mother into the kitchen, ignoring the dirty dishes as she did so. “So the bit she was not supposed to talk about; is that Carl bit off more woman than he could chew.”

“Good lords, Cubs can be dense, so why isn’t she a Were by now?”

“She is something other.”

“Vampire?”

“I could wish, no she is evidently part daemon.”

“Shit.”

“I thought so too, so I did some digging.”

Her mother speared a non-committal glance to the dishes, turned the hot water tap on, and then she tapped a dirty plate. “Messy.”

“Yes mother, on both counts.” She sighed and took her mother’s place near the sink, “It turns out she is a some sort of sex-spirited devil, she elicits lust and so on.”

“Sex is not bad, but you knew that.”

“Yes Mother.” She rolled her eyes, “So it turns out her mate that Carl is in serious trouble with, was a patient over at that place just past Martha’s Range.”

“Was?”

“She left.”

“Ok.”

“Martha was asked to fetch her safely away.”

“And you butted in?”

“Well Mom, you know as well as I do, if it happens on Tribal Lands.”

“Yes I know, it is your business, as it was mine. Are we still getting well paid for safe passage?”

“Yes Mom, though we did enforce a firmer understanding of Whateley’s and our neutral stance.” Her smile had nothing to do with happiness, “I think they understand what they will lose if it happens again.”

“I trust a bit more than money?”

“Oh for certain, I had a good teacher.”

Her mother filled her cup with the coffee and savored a slow sip, “Good coffee Ben.”

“I try Mrs. Donner,” he said as he entered the kitchen, he sat his mug off to the side and looked into the oven, “dinner should be done in an hour or so.”

“I thought I smelled turkey,” her mother smiled, “would you like me to make cornbread?”

“I would be ecstatic if you graced us with your superior cornbread.”

“Flatterer.”

“Yes Mrs. Donner I am that.” He paused, “The girl is still out and no, no changes.”

“Shit, what is wrong?”

“I have no idea,” he hugged both women briefly then took up residence on a stool.

“Daughter?”

“Have you ever heard of the virus not taking?”

“Only if the person was a Vampire, a daemon-born or someone who has it already.”

“Doc McReedy said the same thing,” she sighed, “mutant doesn’t matter?”

“Shouldn’t, if they can be cut, they can bleed, if they can bleed they can be infected if enough effort is made or other ways.”

“Well I am not going to try and get her laid, I am not that desperate.”

“Not to mention it being against Pack Laws,” commented Ben.

“Precisely, I may wave some things but not, never that.”

“Good, so did McReedy examine the girl?”

“She’s with her now, Kim and Betty is minding things.”

“Are minding things,” interjected Ben absently.

“Yes Professor Sexpot.”

He snorted with huge grin, “In any case, Eli and I concur that it is too soon to Hive off part of Martha’s Pack to make a convenient Seventh Pack.”

“Even if Smitty is more than able,” Eloise looked at her mother. “Three or four years ago I would have said yes, but right now there is too much uncertainty with the West. 

“Sounds reasonable,” her mother paused. “You are not thinking?”

“Yes I have, long and hard.” She sighed, “Carl is a pup and not fit, yet if ever. So when a male is inadequate to the Eyes of the Council.”

“You look for a capable woman,” her mother chuckled, “and hope she can draw in what you need or several someones.”

“Yes Mom, several. As I have said before, ‘What works,’” she paused and hugged Ben before she returned to washing the dishes.

“Works,” he added with a smile, “we have a comfortable relationship with our mates and a solid Pack, mixed as it is.”

“I’m not bitching,” said her Mom with chuckle, “neither are your ’Aunties or Uncles.’”

     “So,” she trailed off as two women entered the room, both were frowning. “Kim, Betty?”

“Beer?” the tall red head asked of the shorter black haired girl as she opened the refrigerator and took out a pair of bottles.

“Yeah.”

“Umm, ladies?” asked Ben slowly.

The pair didn’t immediately answer but opened the bottles and took deliberate drinks. After a moment the taller frowned again and took another deep swallow.

“Well…” started the shorter woman.

“We may have found a match for Ben’s penis, size wise… ”

“And she is still more female than male, in appearance.”

“Oh my, you didn’t?” asked Mrs. Donner carefully.

“Oh! No!”

“Not even going there. Too young!”

“Maybe in a few years…”

“With permission…”

“And careful insulation…”

“Maybe.”

Eloise turned slowly to look at the two ladies, “You’re serious?”

“She has both sets of equipment…”

“Which could be interesting…”

“In a purely experimental manner.”

Looking concerned Ben shook his head, “Now I am worried.”

“Don’t be…”

“She’s definitely jail bait…”

“Even if she is sixteen.”

“Twins!” shouted Mrs. Donner as Eloise blushed deeply.

“Yes?” chorused the pair as if asked countless times. “Was there any doubt?”

“Ok,” Eloise started as she held her hand up stilling the chuckles, “Fertile?”

“Doc…”

“Thinks yes.”

“Both ways…”

“She needs more tests but…”

“She may be.”

“Well I could see the attraction for a sex spirit there,” commented Ben slowly.

“Has she figured out why the virus isn’t taking?” asked Eloise.

They both went still, “It’s complicated,” said the taller one.

“Eli love, you will have to cut part of her arm off,” said the shorter one.

“Half way down from the elbow for the virus to take,” said the taller woman as she hugged her twin uneasily.

“She has a mark of power on her arm and magic ring,” said the shorter one.

“Like Father Rico has, so…”

“We think she’s been ‘Knighted.’”

“Holy fuck!” Eloise said loudly to the sound of a shattering plate that echoed up from the kitchen floor.

“You could…”

“Say that.”


Whateley, Schuster Hall
Ms. Carson’s office

“Hello Sara, please have a seat,” Ms. Carson asked then paused at the Doorway, “James, no calls unless it is Security, for the next hour or so please?”

“Yes Ma’am,” was calm reply from beyond the door.

“Thank you James,” Ms. Carson stopped and shut the door quietly before taking her seat at her desk. “Thank you for coming Sara.”

“Am I in trouble Ms. Carson?”

“No, no. Otto had said that the ‘Outreach Program’ was a success if not bumpy afterwards.”

Sara drolly replied, “Well that was one way to describe it.”

“Nearly-escaping super villains and zombies might be another?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

Ms. Carson smiled warmly, “I already have heard the other girls reports and such; but I am more interested in your evaluation of the ‘Outreach Program.’”

Sara paused and collected her thoughts, “I think in this case it worked well, and may be worth continuing on a case by case basis.”

“But not all at the time?”

“No, I think case by case may be best.”

“Explain please.”

“Baring the social problems inherent in the transformation. The logistics and security of both the candidate and the selected students could invite trouble.”

“Such as?”

“Kidnappings, planned deliberate strikes against the students, families of the candidate and other unpleasant rudeness.”

“Very good, benefits?”

“Stronger ties to the outside communities.  A sense of belonging for the candidate,” Sara paused, “a barometer for the established neutrality of Whateley. Increased support from sponsors, Ms. Guzman for example; and the interest of other sponsors in the program.”

“Not a bad analysis,” Ms. Carson paused. “If you had to repeat today’s Outreach, taking today as a ‘worst case scenario,’ what would you do or change?”

“Well a second driver and or security guard would be an asset, in any eventuality.” Sara grinned, “I do not think any of the girls other than Beltane knew how to drive.”

“A very valid point, continue please.”

“If establishing a group to visit ‘non gender identity crisis’ candidates or GSD candidates, a wider section should be made from the representatives. For example if sending a group out to a GSD case, you would possible make up a group consisting of Jimmy T., Heyoka, Gadget, Frank and maybe include either Generator and her sister Shroud or Thuban, and a strong telepath, such as Mindbird.”

“Hmm an interesting mix, why Generator?”

“Well convincing Shroud to go sans Generator would be impossible… And Generator while not as techy as Gadget.” Sara paused, “She does not appear threatening, but can be as dangerous as say Bloodwolf, in a fight for survival.” 

“Why not someone like your friend Chaka instead?”

“Chaka is too specialized for such a group.” Sara paused, “Also Generator is by nature supportive and defense orientated, Shroud is combat focused, a sturdy combination.”

“I understand you have been separated from Team Kimba? Any hard feelings there?”

“Not exactly, they are good kids, I just didn’t mesh well, and I am a target.”

“So it’s for their own good?” Ms Carson asked cautiously.

“Essentially, while I have no doubt that they’d do their utmost to try and protect me if things went to hell. Halloween illustrated entirely too well that being associated with me is a guarantee for trouble.”

“Are you still friendly with them?”

“More or less, we have a few things in common, and occasionally sit together out of habit. However, there are huge gaps in our mutual experiences they don’t have yet.”

“Such as?”

“Well before I was reborn or transformed if you will, I had worked in ARC, then later as an author. Though I have the body of a teen and relative age, I can’t excise all of that knowledge and experiences.”

“So you sit outside of their frame of reference?”

“You can’t expect them to sit on the farm after seeing Paris,” Sara absently quoted.

“Ah, so I have to ask, has your door settled down?”

Sara chuckled, “I hope so, though it randomly flips between Poe and Hawthorn, rather annoying at times.”

“Any problems with the switch of dorms?”

“Personalities will clash or not, it is too early to say.”

“Ah, true.” Ms. Carson looked over at a photo on her desk and nodded to herself, “Now for a different subject, though related to the School.”

“Such as?”

”The Medawihla Nation, have you met some of them?”

“Yes.”

“Could you elaborate?”

“I had an encounter with one of their packs,” she paused, “and may end up either marrying one of them or cutting his balls off.”

“Ah, I didn’t know that.” Ms. Carson thought quietly a for spell and then chuckled, “That might explain their request for your age to be verified, and medical records.”

“Well they know I am different.”

“So the boy in question?”

“Is sixteen, inexperienced in many ways and not exactly what I would want as a husband, currently if ever.”

“I hope you are not planning on,” Ms. Carson made a snipping motion with her fingers.

“No, maybe solidly knocking him down, and then sitting on him like a big over friendly puppy, but nothing fatal or permanent.”

“Ah that is a relief, do you know Eloise Donner?”

“We’ve met, she is their Council’s leader I believe.”

“Yes, a pleasant woman when she is not acting as their leader, a bit brutal otherwise.” Ms. Carson waved a hand to the air, “I know there is a wide gulf in ways to lead people and the people themselves are odd, fierce and enduring.”

“I suspect it’s to be expected if you have to lead Weres and do it well.” Sara admitted, “If the Alpha’s here were modeled anywhere close to her Council, they would be difficult.”

Ms. Carson coughed politely behind her hand, “Yes there is that.” She tapped a paper on her desk, “I see you have requested to go off campus tonight and maybe stay out over the weekend if not a few days beyond?”

“Yes, Martha, one of the women on the council, had invited me to discuss things.”

“So this has nothing to do with a separate Outreach Program?” Ms. Carson asked dryly.

“Ah, perhaps.”

“Oh good, just so we don’t have to dance around the truth, Otto said you had a student you were bringing in under the radar.” Ms. Carson grinned, “We talked, and this potential student has a ring and rose I expect?”

“You are correct.”

“Normally my business minded self would try and wrangle additional funding out of you.” Ms. Carson smiled at Sara’s evident and sudden consternation, “However, both the Church and NEXT have pledged monies and such… As did the Medawihla Council for ‘this girl.’”

“They did?” Sara asked suspiciously.

“Yes, evidently she is quite important or special to them and you.” She shook her head in evident amusement, “Were you really going to break her out of ARC?”

“Well, it hinged a lot on her own abilities,” Sara admitted reluctantly, “ARC is very secure, for good reason.”

“Like Maelstrom?”

“That was an unpleasant surprise.”

“Can you elaborate?”

Sara paused and then nodded, “A disaffected employee left rude surprises behind, I can’t go into all the details for security reasons.”

“And your friend’s departure?”

“Was foretold.”

“Ah, which might explain why I was invited to High Tea with Otto at Mrs. Potter’s place.”

Sara considered that implication and nodded, “Possibly.”

“Anything particular I need to arrange? For the girl I mean.”

“She will need a room at Hawthorn, one heavily shielded from EMP outbursts and outside signals, also she will need a heavy duty voltage feed with a solid and separate ground.” Sara paused and then added, “A sole separate secure T-One or heavier Internet connection, one unmonitored and disconnected from any Whateley servers.”

Ms. Carson’s eyes widened slightly, “That may take a day to arrange, but not so much the room. Next?”

“Has Otto said that she is um, unstable?”

“If I may quote Otto?” Ms. Carson asked.

Sara nodded slowly.

“She has a genius caliber intellect, and was brought up under circumstances I would hate to endure. Dangerous if provoked, trained ironically enough to hunt and kill mutants. Suffers from Disassociative Identity Disorder, possibly Deidrick’s Syndrome as well.”

She paused and then continued, “She is starved for positive friendly relationships with others. When aggravated she can be a vindictive little bitch…” she deliberately paused raising a brow at that pronouncement. “Also she does not trust authority figures. However, if respect if granted, it is returned.”

Sara winced slightly, “Well, she and Otto did not hit it off.”

Ms. Carson nodded slowly with a deliberately bland smile as her eyes twinkled said, “I got that impression yes.”

“Ah,” Sara briefly fidgeted, “she is a good kid.”

“Otherwise you would not have tried or even consented to extract her?”

Sara nodded quickly.

“Ok, any other little bombshells?”

“Well, one. Do you know of the Knights?”

“Yes somewhat.” 

“She may have a compulsion to heal that originated from them, one that she cannot control yet.”

Nodding Ms. Carson made a quick note on her pad, “Ok, we can cover that.”

“Then there is a side effect, she um, may vomit out a snake afterwards, and she is deathly phobic of snakes.”

“Ick, manifested?”

Sara cringed uncomfortably, “Not exactly.”

“Venomous snakes?” Ms. Carson asked warily.

“Not yet, but it is possible,” Sara admitted cautiously.

Ms. Carson sighed and added another note, “Ok we can prepare for that. What should be done with the snakes afterwards?”

“Give them to a Church Knight or a Church Sanctioned Representative for delivery to Rome, one other than her.”

Ms. Carson frowned for a moment, and then a smile slowly blossomed on her face, a rather malicious smile. "Yes, I know just the man. And he owes me."  Her eyes looked up to take in Sara’s. "Owes us. Maybe spending a little more time on snake disposal duty will keep our Reverend Englund out of trouble in the future."

Sara blinked and then smiled savagely, “Yes something to suit his nature. But, are you sure that's wise? We don't want him milking the poor things of oil.”

Ms. Carson’s smile had nothing to do with peaceful contemplation, “If he does I will make him drink it, personally.”

“I would enjoy watching that, but it’s not an issue yet,” Sara paused, “she needs a real curriculum and a sense of normality.”

Ms. Carson nodded slowly, “I can see her studies are going to be odd.”

Sara shifted slightly, “I think she needs something normal and stable, more than the unusual, but.”

“But this is Whateley and she is gifted, even if we cannot say what her real gift is.” Ms. Carson smiled, “I will give it some thought. Now, I’ve been asked that you visit with Eloise Donner, tonight before night fall.”

Sara frowned slowly, “I don’t think that is what I had planned.”

“She said it was a Tribal Matter, when I asked her about it.” Ms. Carson smiled with her polite face, “I even asked nicely.”

Sara sat quietly a moment and softly said, “Crap.”

Ms. Carson nodded slowly, “I have those moments of concern as well.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Ben’s Workshop

“My dear?” asked the large man hesitantly.

“Yes Ben?”

“You don’t have too do this, we can find another way.”

She sighed as she looked up from the grindstone, and then stopped stepping up and down on the pedal that turned it. “Ben, I could agonize for days and still be faced with the same problem.”

He stopped and nodding, “Council comes first, always?”

“It has to be that way, no one else is strong enough in our Council.” She reached out to hug him for a moment, and then she pointed to two large but sturdy knives then a smaller knife, “One for her, and one for me.”

“Paying the Blood Price soon afterwards then?”

“Soonest is best, and witnessed.”

Looking deeply unhappy Ben said tightly, “I really dislike this.”

“I know, I would be upset if you were happy with it.”

“So who from the Council is going to be the witnesses or witness?” Ben asked after holding her tightly for a moment.  

“Martha, Jared, Dahveed and Mom, I’ve discussed this with the others as well.”

“Meaning you said you were doing this and they said, ‘yes Ma’am?’”

“Oh they squawked, and in the end I asked them if they had a better suggestion,” she paused, “Ben I know you could lead the Council if I fall.”

“Don’t fall,” he said slowly.

“Ben, Mom offered to take this on her own head all of it,” she sighed, “not that I would let her.”

“Two Council Leaders of different times agree, then the path is clear.” He chuckled softly, “And you even put up with my mother. Small miracle you are.”

“I can still knock your ass down if I need to.”

“Yes dear, I love you too.”

“The Twins?”

“Are doing what your mother tells them to do.” He shrugged, “They agree with you, heck they were trying to persuade her to let them stand in for you. Not that she’d let them.”

“And Doc?”

“Doc is sitting on the porch chain smoking like mad and reciting her Rosary in several different languages. But she is staying and from what I am gather; she is planning on getting flat out drunk when the kid is safe.”

“Doc is not happy.”

“No but she understands why you think it has to be done.”

“Right, and I expect her confession tomorrow will put Father Rico on my doorstep with sharp words and sharper objects.”

“You have thought through that already?”

`She sighed, “Yes, I will grant the Church land for a building, and support out west, I’d even go as far to attend church regular.”

“But the Council comes first.”

“Exactly, oh I am sure there will be some heated words. Not to mention Rome may be pissed, however they know exactly what is going on out west, and they want it stopped. Too.”

“Banking on the Blood and Payment to balance things?”

“That and if it takes my blood to save our people, and the Peoples ‘peoples’, then by god I’ll do it.” She paused and hugged him tightly, “I love you all too much not to.”   

“I know, which is why you can get jerks like Caleb to toe the line and respect you even after you kick his ass.” He smiled, “We, and your people love you too.”

She blushed, “I know, which is why I can do this.”

“Need me to do anything?”

“Get the knives to Doc to be sterilized, I am going to take a shower and get into a robe.”

“What room are we using?”

“The Hall. In the circle, according to the law.”

“For both?”

“No, I will not spill innocent blood in the Judgment Circle.” She explained as her eyes narrowed, “That Bastard may force this, but I cannot, will not allow innocent blood to fall there.” She looked westward and growled softly, “No innocent blood ever. Doc will supervise in the clinic.”

“Are you sure that you are not aiming for leadership of the Clan of Clans?”

She sighed tiredly, “Only if I fucking have to, only if I fucking have to. Council first.”

“Council first,” he said as he reluctantly picked up the knives.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Meeting Hall

Ben watched as his three ladies walked slowly into the wood line, and then he turned and walked back into the large wooden building. He ignored the coppery scent of blood and the other scents of tension. “Well?” he asked the small crowd of people who sat loosely on the ground.

Martha frowned sourly, “Why the hell does she think she has to prove anything to us?”

Her husband nodded slowly and looked over to a longhaired Asian man who wore a renaissance style shirt loosely, “Dahveed?”

Dahveed tapped the camcorder in his lap, “I understand that she has to set the solid firm example, but Christ Ben. She didn’t have to double the penalty to do so.”

“Jared?” asked Mrs. Donner.

“I sure as fuck would not have gone that far, and I like it rough.” He lifted his shirt to show a series of ritual-like brandings in emphasis. “Father Rico, I think will accept that the Blood Price was reasonable. He still will be pissed, but that aspect will abate some of it.”

“Mrs. Donner,” Ben studied the older woman for a moment, “what should we do with the arms?”

She glanced back to the arms that lay atop a large wooden stump behind the group. “This was not a shameful act.” 

“Agreed,” murmured the others.

She closed her eyes, thinking silently, “They will need to be presented of course.” She opened her eyes,” Justice served in private requires such things. However we need not be morbid for this.”

“True, yet we will show Council solidarity I think, not just Clan,” announced Dahveed firmly. “Gold platter with suitable covering, the Council Flag, your Clan Flag, Sage, Blood Thorn Flowers, Venison or Buffalo Hearts… Am I missing any thing?”

“Sweet grass, Tobacco, and have The Pipe there as well,” added Martha with a smile, “after all we are wanting a peaceful resolution.”

“Agreed,” murmured the others.  

Ben sat down near the others, “So will there be any troubles if Ms. Waite sits as Clan Leader for the girl and her own group? If she accepts?”

“I expect there will be some flack from the other Councils, but the arguments are sound on our part. Especially considering Smitty’s reports, of which we forwarded.” Dahveed rolled his eyes, “Old men aside, while open war has not been declared; it is only time.”

Martha nodded, “I do not expect Ms. Waite to be pleased at our forcing her mate into our clans or the potential war. However while young, she is not a fool and she bargains as well as Beth.” She paused and winked at Dahveed, “Once her temper has cooled, and she views the tape and hears the full reasoning for it, I think she will accept it, grudgingly. And then expect her to push hard for more concessions.”

“Better a smart, grumpy and strong Seventh than a timid one,” commented Jared. “Has Eloise decided on a full adoption, rather than just a Clan one?”

Ben nodded quickly, “If the young girl will have us, she will be our daughter in blood and name, with all the rights. If not, we still plan on listing her on the Tribal rolls.”

“Nothing by halves?” asked Martha.

Mrs. Donner laughed, “Oh no, Eli never does anything by half. Council, Clan or Family.” She smirked over at Ben, “Just how big is your ‘family’ now?”

Ben smiled lazily, “Me an Eli, the twins, Caleb and Cher, Shandra, Michael, Brannon, Swen and Ken, along with Kimberly… And that is, just well.” He blushed, “You know.”

Martha rolled her eyes, “I know, I really think I am lucky to be of the wolf, much less stress. So how is Shandra doing?” she asked Ben, “I know mid terms have passed.”

“She’s holding a three point five average,” Ben shrugged, “there was some difficulty with a professor that wanted her in bed.”

“Oh? I missed that gossip,” said Martha glancing at Mrs. Donner as if scandalized.

“Evidently she agreed, then when presented with his um, equipment, she laughed her way out of his house.” Ben smirked, and ducked his head slightly, “I think she said something like; ‘Not even half a condom, you are not worth sleeping with!’”

Mrs. Donner smiled slowly, “Ben you and the boys spoil your women.”

“We try.”


New Hampshire
Vicinity of Dunwhich

“Well that sucks,” said Chief Delarose once he looked under the patrol car at the chunk of metal that angled grotesquely out of the engine block.

“What does?” asked Sara as she peered under as well.

“That bent piece of metal sticking out the engine is the camshaft,” he explained with a hint of annoyance as he pointed to the offending bit of metal.

“I take it we’re stuck?” she asked.

“How much do you know about cars?”

“The basics, you add gas, oil, radiator coolant as needed and get them serviced regularly, if you can afford it.”

“Well in simple terms, the engine needs to be replaced,” he said with a pained sigh. “Not much could have been done to prevent this I expect.”

“So now what?”

“I will call Sheriff Baker over at Dunwhich and ask for a professional courtesy ride, arrange a tow and get you on your way.” He shrugged, “It’s closer and he knows about the Medawihla Peoples too, Whateley and other bits.”

“Ah.”

He nodded and sat in the car and with a clunk from both ends of the car he looked at her, “Please get the orange box out of the trunk open it and set up the warning triangles for me?”

“Ok, how far back?” she asked

“One at ten meters, another at twenty, and one just at the start of that curve.” He explained and pointed, “As it’ll give the truckers a bit more lead-time.” 

“Getting hit would be bad.”

“Yes indeed.”

Sara walked back to the rear of the patrol car and opened the truck fully. A diagram stuck to the inside of the trunk labeled all the contents and their locations on a tidy diagram. The shear assortment of items was surprising, “Are you planning on starting a small war?” she said after looking at the diagram.

“Not really, that’s just the standard load,” he paused and the spoke into the radio.

“Ok, I found it,” she announced and held the orange box up.

He nodded and waved the microphone from the radio at her, then spoke into it again.

Sara smiled and walked back to place the warning triangles. ‘Neat, organized and practical,’ she noted to herself, filing the layout away mentally.

The air was cool, more than a bit crisp though it was not raining, ‘Merry might have gotten damp on her walk, but not drowned.’ She glanced upward noting a mostly clear sky, ‘No rain tonight, and we still have an hour or two before true nightfall.’ She paused and sat the last triangle in place and savored the scents of pine trees as she walked back.

A faint rustle of sound caused her to look out into the woods, and then she shook her head, “Kids.”

“What as that?” asked Delarose suddenly alert.

“Nothing to fret Chief,” Sara smirked, “I’m a bigger predator than they are and they are not that old.”

He gave the woods a dubious glance, “Ah, if you say so.”

Sara winced as a sharp stinging sensation clipped though part of her left arm and it seemed to bring on a feeling of vertigo. With a glare she turned to the woods and reached out, her will abruptly stilling the noisy forest. “That should teach them,” she slowly said.

“Sara?”

“Just ensuring that the kids remember where they sit in the food chain.”

“Ah, thank you, I think.”

“Nothing to worry about,” she smirked, “just that Apex Predator bit in action.”

He laughed loudly, “I see.”

She nodded then paused, “So how did you end up working at Whateley?”

He paused then slowly shrugged, “I was a spook for a time, and before that I was a soldier. One day I got this little memo saying to go talk with a person at a little café.”

“Oh?”

“Well more or less,” he chuckled, “I had noticed a few things, made a few quiet inquiries. The kind that tends to make people sit up and notice.” He shrugged, “I then was told I fit a unique set of criteria. So there was then a bit of paperwork and for medical reasons I was asked to leave the store.”

“That sounds so very mysterious.”

He laughed loudly, ”Oh I get a very real pension from it.”

“So?”

“So having all this sudden free time on my hands I was anonymously instructed to apply for a job at Whateley, and then I was told in plain words. ‘Good luck, we won’t be talking ever again.’” He frowned at that part then shrugged. “So there I was and here I am.” 

“That sounds both a bit incomplete and a like a demotion.”

“It beats a bullet in the back of the head,” he stated as a fact.

“Ah, true.”

“So in any case, I have a job as interesting as my prior one, no less risky mind you, but interesting.” He smiled, “And I get to prod kids who might become real problems into correct ways of thinking, mule thumping stick included.”

“Sounds like you enjoy it.”

“I do,” he then sneezed, “but I could wish for a better climate at times.”

“Ah. I could help with your cold,” she offered.

“Nah, I do appreciate the offer though,” He shrugged, “the flu shots muck me up a bit. I get over them and my body is stronger for it.”

“If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger?”

“Some, now if I get so bad I need to crawl into bed, well I hate that.” He spat off into the woods, “I am a pathetic wimp when that sick.”

“No, only human.”

“Yeah, that too.” He smirked, “Now if you ever catch a cold, I am taking emergency sick leave and hiding.”

Sara blinked, “Ugh, yeah good idea.”

“Yeah, I get those.”


Whateley Campus
Hawthorne Cottage
Saturday, 18 November 2006

“Hi Mrs. Cantrell,” Jade said with a smile, “how are you?”

“Jade, don’t tell me you have detention today?” Mrs. Cantrell asked cautiously.

“Oh! No,” she motioned to her coveralls, “it’s my work study job, I usually have it during lunch and after class. My sister and I help out Stan, Morrie and the others as needed.”

“And where is your sister?” Mrs. Cantrell frowned and motioned Jade to move aside, “Look out, more of the construction gang is loose.”

“Silo, you idiot! Pay attention to the load not the pretty girl,” said a muscular lad who was wearing a cowboy hat.

“Right Mondo, like you are doing?” retorted the other solid lad as he held the door open with one hand.

“Hayseed!”

The other lad smiled and lifted the other side of the palate with one hand, “I can see you will need a drubbing later.”

Jade blinked at the large pallet of cinder blocks the two were moving, then she looked at Mrs. Cantrell. “What’s going on?”

“They are refurbishing a large storeroom downstairs into a livable environment.” Mrs. Cantrell smiled oddly, “Evidently the new student is a family member of someone in a major corporation.”

“Must be nice,” Jade said with a sigh.

“Jade, think a moment.” Mrs. Cantrell chided, “She’s getting placed here.”

Jade paused and her eyes widened slightly, “And the normal rooms won’t work, oh boy.”

“Yes, you better take the stairs down, the area near the elevator is cluttered.” Mrs. Cantrell sighed, “I expect tonight’s delinquents will be redoing the floors.”

“Ok, will you tell Frank I may not be able to tutor him today?” Jade asked quickly.

“I’ll pass the word,” Mrs. Cantrell smiled, “don’t overdo it down there.”

“Will do,” Jade smiled and gave a quick wave, “I’ll see if I can keep the damage and clutter down if I can.”

“That would be appreciated my dear,” Mrs. Cantrell gave a disproving look at the floor, and then she shook her head as a delivery truck pulled up in front of the dormitory.


“No you dumb farmer, that one goes here, this one goes there!”

Jade suppressed a smile and looked at the two boys that were building a pile out of the cinder blocks. “Um excuse me, but where is Stan or Morrie?”

The dark haired cowboy smiled and pointed to a doorway where the doors had been removed, “That way, they are sorting out the plumbing problem Hayseed here created.”

“Look Mondo, how was I supposed to know that wall was filled with pipes?” The blond haired boy grew in size to lift away the acoustic tiles that were suspended in the ceiling, “Yep, we’re going to have to add three feet all the way around.”

There was a loud clang and a section of pipe landed near the door, “Look out below!”

Jade glanced into the room where Stan was up on a ladder with a powered cutter, “Stan?”

“Hi Jade, I have a few more pipes to reroute before it is safe to come in.” He chuckled ominously; “We’ve got a load of work for you and your sister, up for some overtime?”

“Sure, I love the idea of time and a half,” Jade grinned, “I have to buy some more tools as it is.”

“If you can get past the junk, in the elevator there is a key in the panel.” He paused “Turn the key and press ‘B’ that will let you into the subbasement. The Stringer Twins will need Jinn’s help, and from what I hear, a lot of it.”

“As in lots of over time?” Jade asked hopefully.

“Yes, something like that.” Morrie chuckled, “Hurry back I’ve got a project for you.”

“Right!” Jade turned and hopped over a box and ginned as she eased past several bags marked Quickset cement.


“Yes!” was the ecstatic proclamation of Amanda Riker the taller of the Stringer Twins, “Just the person we need.” She smiled and beckoned her closer, “Oh have we got a job and then some for you.”

“Oh?” Jade asked carefully.

“Well your sister and you, but hey.” C.J. paused and pointed to the rows of boxes, “We’ve got loads of fiber optic cables to run throughout the building.”

“What for?” Jade asked as she pulled the small headset and separate transmitter out and then a smaller radio from a different pocket along with a glove. She slipped the transmitter into the sturdy glove and charged Jinn into it.

“Yes what?” asked Jinn as Jade tuned on the radio.

“More Internet and stuff,” said Amanda said with a gleeful smile.

“I thought Hawthorn had Internet?” Jade asked curiously.

“Oh it does, but not a T1 based network,” C.J. smiled, “we’ve patched the one here so many times it is not funny.”

“And this is different?” Jade asked.

“Oh yes,” she held out a thick black cable that shed a strand of glowing hairs, “we are upgrading to an all fiber optic net. That way we only have to worry about physical damage and replacing routers when they blow up.”

“I see,” Jade said as she watched as Jinn used a finger of the glove to make the fibers move, “lucky them.”

“Ah, well you see, we are doing the entire campus,” Amanda chuckled as Jade frowned. “Just not all at once.”

C.J. grinned, “Every room will have a high-end network connection, with a stronger wireless net all over campus and so on.”

Amanda groaned theatrically, “All sorts of new networking hassles, but worth it in the long run.”

“Oh,” Jinn’s voice smiled, “lots of over time?”

“Well the big push is for the rooms over our heads, but yes some.” Amanda pointed upwards, “We have got to put a router node for the building up there.”

Jade looked up at the reinforced ceiling, “Is that were the new girl is going to live?”

“No, it’ll be next to her room. Though she’s evidently getting a server of her own or something.” Amanda pointed to a separate thick cable that was covered with a metal covering, “NSASEC grade fiber optics.”

“I thought the Whateley standard stuff was better?” asked Jade as she looked at the cable critically.

C.J. grinned, “This isn’t milspec fiber optic, this is the stuff they use deep in NORAD, you can’t just buy this stuff.”

“Yep, and we have a mile or more of it to lay.” There was a pause as Amanda looked at a document, “Some special computer lab is going to be built as well. Though for what they have not said.”

“Doesn’t Whateley already have a computer lab?” asked Jinn sounding puzzled.

“Yep, evidently that is getting overhauled over Christmas as well,” C.J. grinned “Also all of the students are getting new computers and desks for them in their rooms, as soon as they get shipped in that is.”

Jade blinked rapidly, “Why?”

“Evidently her family made Ms. Carson a deal she could not let pass up.” Amanda chuckled, “Now, shall we get the fun started?”

“Wow, I guess being rich doesn’t offset having problems,” Jade said as she shook her head.

“She’s getting installed at Hawthorn for a long time I hear,” C.J. said with a shake of her head, “she must have a real doozey of a problem or problems.”

Jade paused and nodded, a moment later Jinn spoke up, “Can we do Poe next, after Hawthorn I mean?”

Amanda and CJ grinned, “We’ll see.”


ARC, Administration Level
Otto’s Office (Topside)


 "Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams." - Mary Ellen Kelly

“Agent’s Miller and Carnes sir,” announced Marge with a tight smile, hinting at difficulties.

“Ah Mike,” said Otto as he greeted the older man with a handshake, “what drags you out back to the shop of horrors?”

Mike smiled and sighed tiredly, “Following up on your report. This whole mess with the CIA is dragging my tired bones back and forth.”

“Ah, the coffee is fresh as is water for tea,” Otto glanced to the younger, seemingly tense man, and offered his hand. “Pleased to meet you Mr. Carnes.”

“House rules Otto?” asked the older man as he walked to the coffee pot.

“Yes loosen the ties and kick off your shoes even, if so inclined.” Otto nodded to the chairs, “Please be seated.”

“Gabe is new to the region, if he makes it through the next few years; he may even take over my job here.”

“I do not believe that is what we are here to discuss,” said the younger man firmly.

“I see,” commented Otto with a glance to Mike.

“Gabe,” said the other man patiently, “dump the academy shtick in the mud mode. If Otto was not a civilized type, well… You’d be driving down the road, secure in a job well done and carrying a folder of information helpfully filled by his staff.”

“What!” sputtered the younger man angrily.

“Gabe, have some coffee and shut up.” Mike paused, “I see some serious repairs going on, did things get out of hand?”

“Yes, Lenston left a few ugly surprises, and he arranged for Maelstrom’s cryo-canister to thaw unmonitored.” Otto sighed, “Not to mention he magicked a few documents to mislead or set compulsions into effect.”

“Bugger me,” Mike said with a sip, “Yeah the CIA had found things like that as well. I don’t think I’ve seen the CIA caught quite that messed up in a decade.”

“That has nothing to do why we are here,” Gabe interjected.

“Gabe, shut up.” Mike sighed, “Gabe here thinks you all pulled some shenanigan’s with Miss Powell.” Mike rolled his eyes, “Stupidly, rather than asking the senior agent on the case, he shot his mouth off stirring up a few bee nests.”

“I have my reasons.”

“I can sympathize Mike.” Otto sat back in his chair, “But Miss Powell was critically injured when she tried to defend a patient that came in a week ago.” Otto shook his head, “Miss Powell is a brave yet foolhardy soul, prone to rash actions, if you have read her file you would be aware of that,” he directed that at Gabe.

Gabe snorted in derision, “Her file is filled with blacked out text.”

“He has a low security clearance?” Otto asked Mike.

“It’s in the works, paperwork, additional checks, you know the drill,” said Mike with a wave of his mug.

“Ah, then he has no idea just how dangerous some of the people we treat are, much less has not seen the area of operations reports?” Otto asked critically.

“No, and he doesn’t understand that the local directives are in place to protect his ass.” Mike shook his head, “Hell I know the Area and I don’t push it,” he looked over at Gabe, “for very good reasons.”

Otto nodded and asked Gabe, “Have you ever read any stories by H. G. Lovecraft?”

“I’m not into horror, I prefer Science Fiction and action novels, when I read for amusement,” Gabe said after a moment.

Otto groaned audibly, “Please tell me you have the books in your car Mike?”

“Oh they are there, I even tried to suggest he read them before we even got out of DC.” He shook his head, “Kid, I’m going to bend the rules slightly, you should take what Otto and I say about this region, and keep it solid and foremost in your mind.”

Gabe sat there and then crossed his arms, “Ok, lay it on me.”

Otto quirked a brow at Mike then spoke, “This region of America is just plain dangerous. Werewolves and other monsters live in the regions around here, most of the time you leave them alone, they leave you alone, mostly.” 

“Oh bullshit!” Gabe said as he stood up and pointed at Otto, “Let’s stop the fairy tales right now.”

“Gabe, shut up and sit the fuck back down or I’ll put you on a plane back to DC along with a fax going to HQ saying you cannot meet the needs of this region, and likely others.”

“Mike this is bullshit,” Gabe said as he slowly sat down.

“Shut up and listen.” He paused and took a moment to regain his calm appearance, “Gabe, I have worked in this sector for ten years off and on; a few times I needed a rest on the Company Farm for a few months. Shit happens here that I hope to god you never see.”

“I’ve been in combat,” protested Gabe.

“This is not a combat zone,” said Otto slowly, “though those skills are not without merit here. The Misketonic Region is plagued, if you will, with being a nexus for things and events very similar to a good deal of blood filled horror films and that is just the tamer side of things.”

 “Which is why we dump if you will, some of the worst unredeemable criminals or insanity cases here and into cold storage at ARC.” Mike paused, “People we don’t know how to kill, but have by shear numbers or pure dumb luck, have subdued.”

“Basically, if something escapes from here, should it make it into the wilds, intact. The odds are better than good that it won’t walk out of the wilds.” Otto looked at the younger man. “Did you notice anything odd in Dunwhich?” 

“A few things, they travel in groups, they don’t talk loud and just about every major shop has a sign pointing the direction to a bomb shelter.” He paused “Not to mention the gun racks in the stores, not just the pickups or cars.”

“There is very little real crime in Dunwhich, but occasionally some poor soul has encountered some nasty crap and needs to be put down hard,” commented Mike after a sip of coffee. “You have to be a Federal Agent in good standing, plus be a former but highly trained member of the military, and hard as fucking nails to even be considered for the job of ‘Deputy’ for this county, much less the State Police.”

Otto nodded, “In some ways what goes on here makes that quaint show called ‘Eureka’ a walk in the park.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Mike turned and refilled his cup with coffee, “Then you add in the presence of a very private and exclusive school. One that teaches mutant kids how to control their powers and not become monsters, that is also conveniently located here.”

“Whateley Academy,” stated the younger man in evident disgust, “we got a lot of co-operation there.”

“Kid, we got more than I even expected.” He shook his head, “Whateley is neutral territory, more so than Sweden or Casablanca for that matter. Look, the kids were polite, they answered the questions we asked, and they were honest for the most part.”

“Yeah right.”

“Look Gabe, they had every right to tell us to take a walk. One, they are minors, two they could easily have screwed your mind up into thinking that they were all kittens and puppies.”

Otto nodded slowly, “I have met one of the other girls before, the fact that you have even a negative opinion on their helpfulness, says that they did not do anything to you.”

“Yeah right.”

Otto looked over to Mike, “In any case Miss Powell is lucky to be in a coma, rather than dead. We’ve got her in stasis and with luck her self-healing abilities will repair her spinal injures. Her worst injury has us worried; she took shrapnel to the head and some of it penetrated deeply into her brain.”

“Ouch,” Mike winced and asked slowly, “is she a regenerator?”

“Yes so we expect that she’ll one day become alert enough to tell how much of her memory was affected,” Otto sighed, “or if her powers are damaged.”

“Ah, so what are her chances?”

“I’m not a betting man, my techs think she may be whole enough to remove from stasis in a year, maybe two.” Otto sighed loudly, “Her mind is another question.”

“Were you making any process there?”

“Some, she was just barely beginning to start to trust us… It is hard to work without trust there, as you know.”

“Yeah, I’ve been through it,” Mike shrugged at his partner, “Well Otto, we’ve wasted enough of your time, thank you for the coffee.”

“Wait, that’s it?” asked Gabe in evident frustration.

“Well Gabe, I have no need to see a wounded and frozen kid through a thick pane of glass. Or to look at monitors I don’t understand.” Mike sighed, “Gabe, Otto has a job I could not care to endure much less try to understand. If he says things were bumpy and are currently under control that’s all I need, much less will DC.”

“This is not an investigation!”

“Kid,” he paused, “you are right. It never was an investigation.” Mike shook his head, “If it were an investigation, you would not be here, I would not be here. Otto would be sitting in a closed office in DC, discussing matters with a few Senators. Where as we would likely be standing outside that door and smilingly blankly at people, if they tried to interrupt.”

“That is so much bullshit.”

Otto nodded slowly in agreement, “But that is how it would go, its politics.”

With an incredulous look on his face Gabe asked, “So what, we came out her for nothing?”

“No, I go back to the hotel room, sit down and write a report saying all is well, and we don’t have to detonate the nuke deep the under ARC.” He paused as the younger man blinked, “There is a room, way off and very secure. In it is a squad of men who do nothing but watch lights and answer the phones while on duty.”

Otto grimaced, “And should the need arise, they unlock a few keys, and then turn them.”

“Once the dirt settles, the USA gets UN flack for testing a nuclear bomb, with all the ‘official protests’ and so on.” Shrugging he added, “However, while in private the UN slips us some funding for assistance for building a new installation.”

“Oh come on,” said Gabe as the older frowned hard at him.

“Then the political types quietly set a bill into motion to create another secure holding facility, just like this one.”  Mike said with a shake of his head, ”Then a pair of folks like us, and some military types, oversee the installation of another Nuke.”

“And likely ARC takes on the cover roll once again, providing the forces to maintain such a facility.” Otto shrugged, “If I survived, I would likely be reassigned to a quiet installation for a time.” Otto looked hard at the younger man, “My real office is deep under ground, theoretically it is far enough away from the main holding facility that I might survive the detonation. Theoretically.”

“So kid, this never was an investigation, we were never even here.” Mike shrugged, and loosened his tie to then pull out a chain with a military styled tag on it. “The only real reason we are here is to give Otto this.” Mike said and gravely passed the tag over to Otto, “I’ll need the old one.”

Otto nodded and removed a similar chain from around his own neck and then exchanged it, he looked over to the younger man, “Code Key?”

Mike chuckled, “He needs your government expense card.”

“But? Oh never mind,” Gabe reached into his suit and pulled out his ID wallet and extracted a white plastic card. Otto held a similar card out to him and took the newer one with a smile.

“Now we go into town and use that card for lunch,” Mike said with a chuckle. “By then Otto will call me and use a code phrase and I will then buy a few things with my card.” Mike smirked, “Then we spend a few days visiting the Tribes, pick up some Kachina dolls and such, then go home.”

“What about all that other stuff?”

“Monsters? Well I sure as hell am not going prowling about at night for the next few days. Full moon and all of that you know?”

“Crap, then why am I even here?”

“Someone had to carry the code key.” The older man shook his head, “Gabe, some times the smaller jobs are more important than the bigger ones, and can be more dangerous.”

Otto nodded, “Gabe, evidently the folks in DC think you have some potential, other wise you would not even be here.”

“Yeah and I might have a cute female covert type as my driver, instead I have to look at you,” added Mike with a laugh.

“Oh fuck you too Mike.”

“See, you are getting the hang of the job already.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected lands
Eloise’s Home

Sara stood still with her eyes closed, briefly envisioning all sort of responses ranging from a blood bath to merely choking the woman in front of her to death, one cell at a time. A cold chill seemed to settle upon her and an agonized grunt of suppressed worry gripped her, “We are going to talk. Briefly. Then I will see her.”

 “Some place private?” Eloise asked nervously.

“Oh yes, definitely private,” she looked at the others in the room coldly, “Just you and me, we will talk. I have some unpleasant words for you.”

“Yes, I get that feeling,” said Ben with a worried look at a very pale Eloise.  

The pair walked off deeper into the Cabin, and then after a time Mrs. Donner spoke, “I think prayer to the Great Spirit and the Quiet Ones might be in order.”

“No…”

“Kidding…”

“What they said,” offered a pair of men who stood uncertainly at the fireplace.


Eloise watched as the twins led Sara out the door, and then she collapsed on to the couch, “It could have gone worse.  The good news is that the clans will be okay.”

“Well, you knew she’d be upset.  But you also knew that this was important for the good of the clan, “ offered Ben as he sat on the floor and rubbed her back.

“Not clan. Clans. I fucked up. I fucked up so hugely that I’ll be having nightmares about tonight for the next month or longer.”

“What are you talking about? We knew she would be pissed,” asked her mother with a frown.

“You’re right in that she was pissed.” She looked up at Ben, “But the good news is, she’s decided not to exterminate the clans. Not yet.” 

“If that’s a joke, its not very funny,” he said and tried to work the evident knots out of her back.

“When I get my hands on Carl I am going to make him regret that he ever even thought about going after an outsider woman!  Sex-devil? Lust spirit? Like hell!” She stood up walked back and forth in the living room in obvious agitation.

Her mother stood up and parked herself in front of the china cabinet, “I know that look.”

Eloise was half crying and half yelling.  “I shifted into middle form and all she did was laugh!  ‘Ah yes,’ she said, ‘whenever a race first discovers shape shifting, they think they’re all that. One or two minutely different shapes, and they think they’re the top predator on the planet.’  And then she shifted for me.  “And she, it, I couldn’t.” She drew a shuddering breath, “She looked at me and called me a little lapdog, like I was a snack! A snack! Not even a mouthful!”

“Not a lust spirit,” said Ben as his eyes looked to the door.

“Fuck, I am so going to ream Coltrain a new asshole when I meet with him again, no better yet, don’t let me see him ever again. I’ll kill that malformed fucking puke even if he is Whateley Security. I may kill him if I even smell him in the forest. Tell the various runners: if they even think about transporting shit for him, I’ll bleed them. Better yet, if he has an accident,’ I may even let them have a run for free.”

“Eli,” Ben paused, “are you serious? And if so how permanent an accident?”

"What do you want for a man whose utter incompetence nearly destroyed us, our family, our clan, and maybe all the clans everywhere?"

"Uh, give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom?" quipped Ben with a faint grin.

Eloise choked harshly on her laughter, “Ben, be serious.”

“It’s that bad?”

She crouched on the floor holding her arms tightly to her chest, “Right now, right now I could nail his intestines to a tree and make him run until they ripped free. I could burn him, burn him completely; one inch at a time and then pour salt and alcohol on him and then light him on fire again. After that I would stake him over the largest fire ant nest I could find in Texas.” She growled, “I am going for a hunt, I am going to eat and I am going to fucking kill something.”

“And Coltrain?” asked her mother.

Eloise stalked to the door stripping of her clothes as she did so, “Let me clear my head, and then I’ll say.”

Ben nodded and started to pick up the clothes once Eloise had fled into the darkness.

“You going after her?” asked Mrs. Donner after a moment.

“Ma’am, I love and respect my wife, but right now I am going to stay the hell out of her way. At least until she has eased off the blood hunger, then, then I might consider trying to hold her.” He paused, “If she lets me.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House
Sunday, 19 November, 2006

I woke up slowly to the faint sound of humming and the occasional soft kiss. Inhaling I recognized Sara’s soft perfume and snuggled deeper under the blanket against her. Her arms crept around to hold me and I lay there for a time just enjoying the quiet warmth.

“Hey there,” she said and kissed me on the brow, “how are you?”

I considered her question and thought furiously for a moment trying to place where I was. “Um what happened? I remember get darted in the ass, and then some odd bits and some pain, and then.” frowning I stopped as I drew an utter blank.

“Your trip got bumpy dear,” Sara nuzzled my ear softly, “lot of bumps.” She paused and then softly whispered as I frowned, ”It's ok dear, lets just say that tomorrow we need to shop for an oversize flea collar.”

I slowly digested that as it didn’t seem to make any sense, “Um are we getting a dog?” I took a few moments to look the room over, as she seemed to be framing her words precisely. It was obviously a cell, with massively thick bars and what looked like a duel door system. There was a semi private toilet and what looked like a pit of sand. 

“A kitty,” she said after a long moment and pulled the comforter up around us. The bed was huge and the frame and headboard seemed to be made from telephone poles.

“Ok, cats are cool,” I said with a soft grin that was from Chaddy, “what kind of Kitty?

Sara mumbled softly, “…ther,”

“I missed that bit, try saying it without your tongue in my ear,” I said and wiggled sideways a bit.

“Oh, sorry, I said panther.”

I smirked as she did not sound entirely sorry and then debated that cat as unlikely, “Umm, ok. Aren’t there laws against that?”

Her voice was slightly distant and angry, after a minute she said, “Not for Were-Kitties.”

More than slightly content just to be where I was I played along, “An where are we going to get a Were-Kitty? Have you been out chasing horny Weres again while I was out tromping in the woods?"

“Well yes actually, but it's not what you think.” She gave me a tight hug, “but I haven't touched anyone but you all night.”

I snuggled against her and scratched at a spot on my head briefly, "So. When do I meet this Were-Kitty?"

Sara’s voice was distinctly unreadable to my ears, “Once every full moon,” she gripped me tightly with her arms and legs, ”but, once you get the hang of it, we may be able to induce the change at other times.”

Morning is not my best time and I had the odd feeling ringing in my head. The same sort of ringing I had when John died, I felt something freeze inside of me as I processed both the words and the sensation it provoked. "Once I get, once I Get the. Once I get the hang of it?" I asked with a loud screech into the quiet morning, provoking some birds or something to skitter way.

She kissed me soundly, a warming heat warring at my sudden chill with a flow of warmth from her mark and her arms, cuddling me close. “Shhhh it's ok, it'll all be ok, it's not the end of the world. You are safe and free and that is all that matters right now,” she paused and hugged me tightly, “right here in this moment. You are safe.”

I melted back into her embrace letting her push the cold depths away from my mind and soul, feeling her concern and love. "Have I been shanghaied once again?"

I felt her amusement before I heard it in her voice, “Are you planning on turning into a cute Chinese girl too?” she asked as her hand wandered briefly across me.

I batted at the hand, “Not that I am aware of, but sheesh.” I paused and tasted the indignation in my voice, “First it's the Church and now it's um furbies. What next?”

She pushed up and looked down at me smiling cutely, “You trying to tell me I can't turn you into a succubus?”

I smiled up at her, "You can turn me into anything you want to. I just don't like being surprised or blindly pulled into things.” I sighed as my stomach tensed in time with a tickle from her fingers, “Which seems to happen to me, a lot."

Sara nodded and pulled me back into a cuddle, partly it felt for me, partly for herself. “Well either way I've got to decide what to do about all this. They infected me too.”

“What!” I felt a frown form on many levels, ”Someone has got some explaining to do."

“Well, I think I was infected by the werewolf strain back in Boston,” She paused and shivered violently, “Long before I met you. Which could explain why I smelt so good to that adolescent.”

I felt the angry knot in my neck ease slightly, “Oh, hmmm. So it's old and not um, something they did to you?

“I probably got the panther strain off of you, Bitey,” she paused and nipped lightly on my shoulder

“Umm, Bitey? I don't remember that.” I tried to place events past getting darted and could not, “I really don't remember.”

“I know you don't.” She said and gave me a soft hug, “Which leaves the mystery as to how I got the tiger and bear strains. I have to think someone's been dosing me on the sly.”

Chad fumbled with odd bits of memory as I tried to sort out what Sara was implying, “Ok who and why?”

I felt her uncertain feelings to my questions then she continued, “And when my body didn't react to the full moon, they turned to those closer to me.”

I felt my nose twitch in anger, "Ok, that's not playing very fair is it?”

“No, it's not.” There was a tight angry tremor in her body as she held me, “They want a hold on me.”

“I thought that was my job,” I said and squeezed her arm against me, and I let Mai’s precise thoughts surface, “Ok.  Power, revenge or security?"

“Don't worry, dear, just think about our own first litter of little kitties,” she said with a poke derailing my flow of anger.

“Litter! Litter! L-I-T-T-E-R... I am so going to hurt someone,” I heard and felt an ominous rumble in my throat that promised pain.

Rather than commenting, I felt her silent laughter and agreement, then a different sensation eased over me as she started scratching at my ears. It felt good and I leaned into it, letting the sensation of it rumble up into my chest and throat. I felt Chaddy internally blink hard and I felt my hand creep up to the side of my head, where my ear should have been, then higher to where it was. “Murp!”

Sara giggled insanely for a moment then proclaimed in a child like voice, “My kitty!”

I silently reveled in the sheer joy she sent through the mark and rubbed my face against her arm. Chaddy gave me a pointedly odd thought and I sat up slowly. Carefully I felt my hand creep down to my bottom and then up to what obliviously and oddly enough had to be a tail. As I eased it out from under the covers I felt odd as Chad blabbered aloud, “Tail, fuzzy brown with black spots, one each. Check.”

Sara giggled loudly, “Yes it’s a tail dear, it’s on the back side, not the front.”

I posed dramatically before falling over against Sara, "My life is just some cosmic comedy right?" I asked as she held me tight.

 “Well,” I wondered at the odd mix of emotion I felt through the mark, “I guess all humor is based on cruelty,” she said after a moment then paused and kissed me on the side of my face. “Don't worry about it, I'll never let you go.”

"Good,” I wandered through a hot heated memory that had nothing to do with ‘just cuddling’ and felt a blush and other things stir at me. Uneasily I peeked down under the blanket “So why am I still half kitty?"

Sara seemed to want to talk, then I felt a tinge of embarrassment, “I mmm…” she trailed off as the emotion pushed deeper into me through the mark.

"Disguise?" I slowly asked squinting at things hidden by the blanket.

The was a rush of odd emotion as Sara seemed to seize on my vocalized thought quickly, “Oh, yes, I suppose that's a plausible explanation.”

“But it's not completely the whole reason?” I heard Chad ask as I tried to feel my face and mentally picture what it looked like.

Sara snuggled in closer and I could feel that odd child like emotion flow form her again as she whispered, “I always wanted a Were-Kitty.”

For a moment I felt a hint of mild consternation, but that innocent childlike feeling of hers was too honest to be angry with, "For some reason I don't think I mind too, too much.” I pushed myself against her, oddly content in her arms, washed by that emotion as it echoed though Chaddy.

Chad, eased slowly up through the feeling and softly but distinctly said, “Though their reasons that better be damned good.”

“I'm sorry. I never thought they'd try this,” she kissed my cheek and lay with her face against mine, “It doesn't really make any sense unless they want to piss me off.”

Mai considered the odd emotions and flow of thoughts I had, and spoke cautiously, “Yes, not entirely smart on their behalf. We are alive, which doesn't make them completely stupid.”

Sara nodded, as she swept through Mai’s inner thoughts holding them up in our minds briefly. Then she wandered off topic as if not wanting to deal with the issue for the moment, “So, what's it like?”

“Well you smell really good, more so than before all this. My vision is odd,” I waved a hand in front of my nose, “close in stuff is fuzzy, and further out is very clear. I swallowed a lump of loss, “And I am really, really colorblind. All the colors seem washed out or gone, not just blue.”

“What about your aura sight? The electrical stuff?” she asked carefully.

I closed my eyes then shifted about to look, “Hmmmm, it is not too much different, though the color blue is totally gone. It looks like electricity is either white or bright white or dark now.”

I felt her arms enfold me again, “Interesting. That must mean your brain has changed a little, rather than just your eyes. You have electric blue kitty eyes, so pretty too.”

“If they wrecked my gift I am so-o going to redefine the term cat fight,” I paused and let the anger go for the time being, as Sara seemed to wander back into the childlike blend of overly happy emotions.

She rubbed her face against mine with a contented sigh, “I doubt the changes go that far, we’ll test your gifts later though.” She then giggled loudly as she ran her hand down my arm, ”You may want to watch out for static electricity in any case.

I experimentally twitched my tail and then flicked her under the nose with it briefly before she caught and held it softly, ”Static is the least of my worries, static cling however maybe a problem. I dunno, could be worse as I don't plan on licking myself all over. Eeww hair balls.”

She laughed as I did a poor imitation of Bill the Cat, “You're right, that's my job,“ she said and then she wrapped a leg around mine.

I grinned and licked her nose briefly, "Yes Dear."

Sara grinned mischievously and poked me, “I wonder if you'll go into heat?”

I groaned loudly, “If I do lock me in a cage and feed me through a slot. I am so do not want to find out that suddenly I am the most popular girl of the month. Can you see the calendars; ‘Not in heat, in heat, not in heat,’ in the boys rooms?”

Sara nodded and not quite solemnly said, “I'll need a big neon-red stamp that says 'Mine' on it.”

I smirked back up her, “Or a collar and tag.” I paused a quoted, "If in heat take to Sara or risk your nuts later on."

“Well, like I said, you'll need a flea collar, unless we want to deal with Were-Kitty fleas,” she said and winked as I groaned.

“Ugh, rabies shots too I expect.” I felt my tail thump the mattress, “Hmm, tail. You know that is going to be a fun thing to explain away.”

Sara shrugged indifferently, “You will not be the only kitty-girl at Whateley.”

“Ah, well that should help.  At least they will know where the best kitty chow is.” I stopped as a sneeze hit me, “I suppose it's better than all out cosmetic surgery. Yes?"

“And more reversible than your raincoat. You do have a raincoat, right? We might want to go to the movies.” There was a sudden hint that her idea of going to movies had little to do with watching them.

“Well not yet,” I ignored the purring sound that washed out of me and it stopped abruptly as I looked at my hands oddly, focusing on the right one, I flexed my fingers. "Ok I can still shoot or scrape people to death. For a Were-Kitty, I don't exactly have the largest set of claws.”

“Just don't be surprised if you look a little different in your normal form too.” She took my left hand and eased it under the blanket to sit between her breasts, and held it tightly there.

“I will have a normal form? Mostly humanoid I take it? Well more so than this?” I asked as I allowed myself to be snuggled against.

“Human in all the respects that count. The Were-Virus just makes the body predisposed to certain traits, like litheness and dexterity, depending on the animal.” She wiggled closer against me and smiled contentedly with her eyes closed.

“Well that's a relief,” I took a hold of my tail and wiggled it under her chin watching her smile grow. “I mean this is just asking to get pulled, caught in doors, and so on.”

Sara smirked and gave it a light tug, “Chased when you forget it's there.”

“Oh boy. Dogs. I suppose I'll freak out dogs and other things now?”

“Probably. You will smell strange to them, predators do that you know.”

“I suppose going Vegetarian is out, not that I was one.”

Sara nodded slowly, “Meats will taste very good to you.”

At Chaddy’s odd urging I reached up with my foot and scratched an ear, “Oh! Well that answers that and yes Chaddy is amused, if you have not noticed?”

Sara rubbed her face against mine and smiled softly, “This bit I think we can forgive them for, we’ll worry about the other bits later. For now I just want to cuddle with you and forget about stupidity for a bit. Deal?”

I lay against her and smiled while resting my head on her chest, “Deal.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Eloise’s Home

Eloise slowly sat up from the floor rubbing her jaw, “Caleb get some others and follow her! Let her calm down but don’t let her get killed either.” She eased her bloody nose back straight and glared at him, “Move!”

Caleb looked frantically at the others and then dashed out through the remains of the door.

“I’ll go out to the shed and fetch a new screen door.” Ben paused and looked down the hallway, “Some people can sleep through anything.”

The two priests looked at each other and then relaxed, “Nicely struck.”

“Aye indeed, makes me all warm an comforted to see such in this day an age.” Father Pete looked over to Sara and nudged her with a finger, “Yer a blocking the screen Miss, and there is more. Evidently.”

Sara scowled then slowly sat back down, “We are going to have words, Eloise, unpleasant ones.”

Eloise paled slightly, “I expect so.”

“An a few stern sentences from me as well,” stated Father Rico.

“Aye, and some of them may become foul,” Father Peter glared at the screen, “an ye have a lot of accounting to do, Miss Donner.”

“I had gathered that.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Wilds

“I, a simple letter indicating us, four. Me, a name I call us, four,” I muttered and threw another rock into the mossy pond. 

“Doe, a deer, a female deer, one of two, mostly nibbled on,” interjected a voice of which I ignored and then I threw another stone.

“Yes it sucks hard,” a different splash from a different stone rippled outwards, “it sucks hard, blows utterly and is as comforting as a dental exam,” it continued.

“Go away,” I said and added yet another stone to the pond.

“Sorry, they said follow, I follow.” The voice then added, “I’m Caleb.”

“I know who you are,” I said disgustedly.

“Do you know who you are?”

“Anymore? Not really.” I tossed a larger stone, “I have names but they are not me.”

“Which one are you using currently?”

“Merry.”

“Ok, how did you get here Merry?”

I shrugged, “Shit happened, it fucked up my old life. More shit happened and fucked up that life too, and now it’s all fucked up again.”

“Ok,” Caleb moved to just within view and picked up his own set of stones, “let me be a bit more specific. Do you know how you got here, to this pond?”

I considered the question and shook my head slowly, “Something bad prolly happened, again.”

“Hmm, ok, has the not knowing, happened before?”

“Yes.” I added a new stone to the pond, and watched it add more ripples.

“Do you remember hitting me yesterday, in the knee?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember clawing your way past people in Eli’s living room?”

I thought really hard, letting a stone drop to my feet, as I tried to sort out the blur in my head, “Um, no.”

He chuckled then grunted softly, “I thought not.”

I looked over to where his shirt gaped in spots, “Sorry, I guess.”

Caleb glanced at his shirt, “Nah, this is just a rag shirt, one of many. You didn’t hit me or any of the norms.” He sighed, “Eloise though, you tagged her hard.”

“Fuck, I think would like to remember that for some reason.” I frowned, “But I don’t know why I do.”

He tossed a few rocks into the pond, “Likely because she can be stupid and did something stupid to you.” There was a grunt as he tossed a large rock in, “Like I can be stupid, like you can be stupid. It’s a human thing.”

“Gee thanks,” I looked at him for a moment, “I am not human, any more than you are. I guess.”

He nodded and tossed a smaller pebble into the water, “Human, is a perspective sort of thing.” He sat on the damp bank and flipped a few pebbles in all at once, ”It takes a bit of time to sort that out, but it is true.”

“Gee, you are so-o helpful.”

He lay back on his elbows, “I’ve been there, and in some ways I am still there.”

“Humph, I doubt that.”

“Well maybe not exactly where you are. I’m a different person with a differently life, maybe even worlds apart.”

He paused, “I slapped you yesterday.”

“I remember that.”

“Yes, and I have to say you did the right thing.”

“Huh? I should smart off to random strangers and break their legs when slapped. Do you have a pain fetish?”

There was a long period of time where he laughed, though it slowly ebbed and he looked over to me. “No, no fetish and not put that way.”

“If you say so.”

“I’m a Were.”

I gave him my best sarcastic look, “Yeah, I guessed that.”

“Also we are sitting squarely in that block of days, I call the Moon Time.”

“What? You get PMS and bitchy?” I asked sarcastically.

“No, he gets stupid, and he reacts without thinking,” stated an amused female voice.

I looked over to a woman who was giving him a distinct smirk, “Ah.”

“Like you can talk,” he protested and waved a hand in my direction, “Cher meet Merry, Merry meet Cher.”

“Hi,” she said with a wave, “he is right. I have my own share of fuck ups.” She poked him, “But most of mine do not stem from the Blood Rage.”

“How wonderful for you,” I said and picked up a fresh handful of dirty rocks.

“Yeah, I fell in love with a man who for twenty-four or so days of the month is calm, cool and collected.” She smacked him on his stomach, “The other four or so days he can be an utter prick.”

He gave me a pained look, “Yeah, it’s like I wander around biting at flies, striking without real insult, and in general just pissed off at the world.”

“How nice, you have an excuse to be a fuck wad,” I growled at him.

Cher sat atop him and glared down into his eyes and he seemed to wilt. Then she looked over to me, and waited for a moment to go by, “Describe what you feel emotionally, in this moment.”

 Chad stirred briefly and faded, “I want to rip open the world’s throat and shit in the hole.”

“Is that because of things or what you feel, right now?”

I snapped and hurled my whole handful of rocks into the air; “I do not need another fucking shrink in my life!” I screamed at the sky.


Blankly I looked down from a large branch, watching the wind move the lower branches. I snapped off a small twig and let it drop to the ground, watching the ends of it tumble over and over in the time it took to fall to the ground.

“Are you back with us?” asked Caleb softly.

 I glanced around uncertainly, “Where ever here is.”

“Ah,” Cher sighed as if in agreement to an unasked question.

“You walloped me soundly that time,” said Caleb.

I looked back to were he leaned in the ‘v’ of limbs of a different branch. “I did?”

“Yup.”

I put my nose against the tree and smelled the flavors of it, “Sorry. I barely remember rocks, and circles in the water.”

“Yes,” Cher looked over at me and rested there on her own branch, arms flowing in odd time to the soft breeze. “A calm moment.”

“I don’t have many of those in my life, though I had lots of bored moments, in the cell.”

“Cell?” she asked.

“The padded type.”

“Hmm, why?” asked Caleb softly.

“A friend died, saving my life, and things were done to me, then others tried fucked up drugs to make me into slave.”

“And?”


I batted the mouse softly then let it run away, “Mousie runs.”

“They do that,” said a quiet woman’s voice that was not familiar, though I could smell Caleb and Cher strongly in the wind.

I rolled over in the leaves and looked up at the white sky, “I seem to be losing bits of time.”

“Yes, what do you remember?”

“A tree, falling twigs.”

“Not screaming and jumping down?”

“No.”

“Do you remember sitting down to watch a video?”

“No.”

“Hmm.”

“Well not exactly, I think, was a priest or two there?”

“Three, if you count Jay but he was doing some work on the Laws or sleeping in the library. There was Father Rico and a Father Peter something,” she shrugged. “I’m Shandra, I got there just as they all and you sat down.”

I searched for an emotion about that information, “Father Pete, is kinda nice.”

“He sounded ready to have a conniption fit with Eloise.”

I tried to push back the anger and resentment, ”Ah. She…” I make a snipping motion near my arm.

“Yes.”

“Fuck me, fuck me, and fuck me!”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House

“Are you tired?” asked a young girls voice.

I looked around trying to focus on where I was, “Some, umm.”

“I’m Cindy,” she said brightly, “and you’ve been darted.”

“Oh jeeze,” I protested in my disgust with people.

“It was just a tranq, it happens.”

“To you?”

“Sometimes, if they can catch me.” She giggled a moment and added, “You run very fast.”

“Ah.”

“You didn’t hurt anyone,” she said calmly at my frown.

“Ok.”

“But you have the Blood Rage bad.”

I sighed, “I suppose, I kinda remember Caleb saying something about it.”

“Yeah, Caleb would know about it.” She shrugged, “Some folk only get it now and again, some, mostly the older ladies can shut it off. Males it can take longer.”

“How old do they have to be before they can handle it?”

“Oh, eighteen or nineteen, you know real old.”

“And guys?”

“Ma calls it testa’rone poisoning,” she kicked her bare feet back and forth above the floor. “She says it evens out if they get a good mate, once dey get pounded enough.”

“Ah, I’m back in the stone house?” I asked as I put two and two together.

“Yeah, it’s not bad thing though, just some folks need the calm or a place that don’t break very easy.” She lay back on the bed and pushed my legs over so she was not on them, “I have one like it at home, and sometimes I end up here.”

“Oh so how long have you…?”

“Oh, Mom an Da are catty, so I had the ‘rus for long time.”

“Furry all the time?” I motioned to her currently furry condition, though she seemed to be covered in mostly gray and black striped fur to my eyes.

“Oh no, I first changed last summer. I’m just barely twelve, and some girls get it much sooner than other girls, and sooner than the boys, mostly.”

“And what about school?” I asked curiously.

“Oh I will get back to the Tribal School next fall.” She shrugged, “I’ll get home schooled until I get a better hold of it.”

“Oh, I was going to go to Whateley. Supposedly.”

“Yeah, Charlie’s there, it’s a good place for special folks.”

“So how did they move me without getting zapped?”

“They used a wood litter. Fish-ics, ‘icity moves with the earth, not though wood and stone. For example, I can’t touch you and the bars at the same time as the bars go deep down into the ground.”

“Ok, that makes sense, though I can be really zappy.”

“So Sara said.” She blinked and smiled lazily,” You and me get to hang out together some today, as the adults are spaziod currently.”

“Yeah, so what do I do about the rage stuff?”

She gave me a matter of fact look, “You need to learn to play more and not stress, ever. Least until you figure out how to be angry without being angry, like my mom says, over and over and over.”

I lay there and counted the blocks in the ceiling a moment, ”I’m so fucked.”

“You said a Bad Word, no treat for you,” she scolded briefly and then giggled.

I felt my world flow liquidly as I turned over to look at her, “I hate drugs.”

“Yeah, they said to get help if you really seemed oogly eyed.” She tapped my leg, “Or if you said you were feeling ants everyplace and such.”

“Oh, and what if I got mad?”

“Get mad back at you.” She smirked at me, “I can do mad, and maybe better than you, I’ve had practice.”

“You aren’t worried that I would hurt you?”

“Naw, you don’t have real claws yet.” She held out her hand, and I watched as her hand turned into a real paw, then she flexed the claws in and out. “I have real claws and practice,” she shook her head, “You should have real claws soon, but they think your ‘netics will keep you close to being a kitten for a long while.”

I made a rude noise and said, “Oh that figures.”

“Yah, and kittens always have a small rage when not playing, sunning, eating or sleeping all the time.” She closed her eyes and her paw became a hand, “It’s a defensive thing Were-Kittens have.” She giggled, “I was a stinker my mom says.”

“Sunning?” I asked curiously.

“You lay in a warm spot of sunlight, and then you sit and drift in it, kinda like daydreaming.”

Feeling slightly hungry I asked, “Hmm, I want a candy bar are there any around?”

“Umm maybe, but normal ones won’t taste good while you are in fuzz or in middle form or all cat, and then you want lots of extra sugar when in person form.”

“Why?”

“Cats can’t taste sugary stuff,” she said as if I was completely stupid.

“And colors?”

She peeled off her t-shirt and then handed it to me, “Look at the tag.”

I did and read it aloud, “Bright yellow, goes with dark red skirts, blacks, blue jeans, and do not mix with red stuff in wash.” I handed it back to her, “Yeah, I see.”

“You’ll want a lot of trash and go stuff or things that use tons of Velcro, but that gets itchy and catches hair.”  She giggled, “Most of the time I wear the jogger bras and shorts at home or just be furry. But some folks get ‘fended if you are just in fuzz or they get grabby. So Da and Ma say I have to have clothes for outside.”

“Did anyone get grabby with you?”

“Dumb boy cubs and kits, but I am allowed to ‘tear’im a new one,’ as Da puts it.”

“And if it’s a older guy?” I asked.

“Oh, if it’s a Were, there’s a Council Meeting. If it’s a norm, well.” She paused, “If they survive messing with us, and if they go furry then the Council meets. If not they are not redeemable; they sometimes take them off into the woods. They don’t come back.”

“If it’s a Were?”

“Well if a cub, they don’t cut the nuts out permanently like.” She paused, “Older. I saw it done once, they chained the ‘tard down. Opened him up, and then used a hammer.” She shook her head looking faintly ill, “And for every year different in age, they let him heal, then they hammered again, and then they neutered him.”

“Ouch.”

“Uh huh, and that was just touching, not the bad kind of sex,” she shook her head. “Once he settled out, and was right in the head, and had found a solid mate. Then they found a way to un-fixed him. But if he ever does it again, even to a norm, zilch out in the woods.”

“What about rape?” I asked worriedly.

She shook her head, “Worse, much, much worse. Ma witnessed once, out in the woods. She said they opened him chest to balls and filled the empty spots with silver and worse.”

I tried to picture that and stopped, “Does silver burn?”

She nodded, “Depends on purity of it, it can cause blisters or it can burn like open fire.” She paused and looked away from me, “They use dirty silver in bad punishments, real slow cooking burns.”

“Um did Eloise get burned with silver?”

“No, not exactly.” She frowned and looked down, “Eli touched silver to them so they would not heal, for twice the time it took for your arm to regrow.” She shivered, “Eli also had them take both arms, not just one, and she did it without making loud noises, though she cried a bit.”

“Like she did mine?”

“Oh no, worse, they cut hers off a hand or so below the shoulder.” She looked at me as I frowned, “You don’t remember it, but Eli wanted you with us and other things were not working.”

“So she just hacked off my arm?” I felt oddly fuzzed out by the tranq, but it seemed to be fading out quickly.

“It was the only way. And even if it was necessary, she said it was wrong. So she made the Council punish her.”

“Seems dumb,” I said aloud, “she regrows the arms and its over.”

“Kinda, sorta, not exactly.”

“Huh?”

“We are hard to hurt, but we remember pain most of the time.” She paused, “It’s not like a spanking. Do bad, get spanked, do again…”

“Ok, why not?”

“The punishments get harder and harder each time.” She closed her eyes, “If Eli did it again, they have to take her arms and legs off and since she is setting the price that high, it will discourage others.”

“Ok let us say she does it again, after getting the arms and legs?”

“Probably cut her in half, and leave her that way for a few weeks, if she survived she would be allowed to heal.”

“If worse?”

“Same thing, except,” she looked ready to cry, “They’d take her out to the woods and chain her to a tree near a monster's den.”

“And then she would not come back?”

“If the Council has to take someone out to the woods,” she frowned unhappily, ”they don’t normally come back.”

“So the price?”

“Depends on the crime,” she paused, “Eli set the price high, so if ever happens again to someone else, who ever did it will get that punishment.”

“But making folks a Were is not a crime?”

“No, but has to be approved, usually, but accidents or emergencies happen. Every now and then they use it to save a life when all else seems to be failing. Normally the person that does it is responsible for making sure the new person is welcomed, taught and helped.” She looked at me, “You were special, and Eli is really trying to help everyone. Da thinks she over did it, but says everyone get stupid now and again.”

“So cutting my arm off, was just stupid?” I asked blankly.

 Cindy sighed dramatically, “Adults get dumb at times. I’m not supposed to know about it; but some bad nasty guy is making peoples like us into really bad monsters that don’t die. They just heal and smell like dead things, some have slimy things growing out of them.”

“Zombies?” I asked feeling a bit of Déjà vu roll over me.

“Yeah worse than the movies.” She looked away, “I don’t wanna be a zombied slave, Ma says it won’t come to that, but Da is buying up silver and making knives and bullets and stuff.”

“So Eli?”

“Eli is trying to find ways to help all the Peoples even the zombied ones.” She looked at me, “She said you were special cuz you or your mate would make us a whole Council again and we could make it stop. Somehow.”

I had to blink a few times as the voices in my head came out to fill the screeching stillness. “Um Cindy, I think you should go out for a bit, maybe.”

“Ok, I’ll come back in a while,” she walked to the door and unlocked the locks, “If you can’t calm down they may tranq you again, but don’t worry about it though.”

“Great, my jailor is younger than me and an expert in Were-Kittens.”

“Yup cuz I am like you, 'cept not so angries.”

“Ah.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Eloise’s Home

Ben held Eloise as Sara paced back and forth in the den. He took small comfort in that the fact that the goth girl had stopped muttering in the odd language. And there was the fact that she appeared to be thinking furiously, rather than grabbing things and throwing them like Eli was prone to do when that pissed. Fortunately in the den the only breakable things were easily replaceable which is why Eli likely favored this room for emotional meltdowns.    

“Sorry, but your arms were worthless to me, now a soul on the other hand,” Sara looked thoughtfully at the pair as she stopped pacing.

With evident resignation Eloise looked over at Ben,” I guess this makes you Council leader for the clan.”

Ben frowned looking from her to Sara, "We need her whole, and not just the council here.”

“I said 'a soul'. Not necessarily yours,” Sara licked her lips, “though you do look most yummy Eloise.”

“The Council comes first,” Ben said and sighed tiredly, “then pack and then family, not there is much difference in our pack. Looks like I am your man or soul."

“Flattering as I find your offer, Ben, and I am flattered.” Sara smiled at Ben with a small hint of approval, “I believe that the punishment for a crime should fall on the one responsible. I can, however, think of an alternative to tearing apart Eloise's family.”

"Which would be?" asked Ben after he squeezed Eloise briefly.

“Her pledge to adopt me as the patron goddess of her clan,” Sara blinked and considered the pair of them as they collectively winced, “it’s not fatal.”

Ben sat calmly for a moment, seeming to weight the prospect carefully, "Choosing for our Family she could do, and there are precedents with the Church. But she could not do it for the entire clan or even the tribe if you will.”

“I would not presume to punish the entire tribe for the mistake of one person.” Sara sighed as her shoulders sank, “I’m not that monstrous.”

Ben stood up and walked to the far end of the room, “It’s not that Sara, part of the problem stems from what we were made to do. Or rather what we were created to do. You see way back, really far back even before the Sundering, we were created to hunt and kill daemons and things very similar to you.”

Eloise nodded bleakly, “As it stands our own people could abruptly decide we are now part of the threat as well.” With a tired sigh she looked back to Ben, “I think I want Coltrain to have an accident after all, a fatal one.”

“Will that help matters?” he asked.

“Coltrain? The security guard at Whateley?” At their nods she asked, “What does he have to do with this?”

“He was the one who supplied us with erroneous information as to what you are. He said you were merely a lust or sex spirited devil…” Eloise shook her head at Sara’s indignant look, “we know better now.”

“Wait, he said I was just a sex spirited devil?” Sara shook her head in disbelief.

“I think he mentioned avatar as well,” Eloise shrugged, “we know how to deal with those kind of things. We even have a similar type of Weres, ones that are spirit lead.”

Sara thumped her head with the palm of her hand a few times and then suppressed a groan, “At first I thought you were just being monumentally stupid and trying to piss me off.”

Ben walked over and held Eloise in a firm hug, “Well I can’t say we were too bright, in trusting Coltrain. But we do really need your help.”

“Why would Coltrain deliberately seek to give you that kind of erroneous information?” Sara asked quickly.

“Possibly for the punishment we inflicted for his allowing a bio-weapon on campus and used once there,” Eloise said coldly.

“Wait, his allowing?” Sara looked at her warily, “Please explain.”

“We provide safe lanes of travel and allow things to be brought onto Whateley, as part of the Accords,” Eloise continued as Sara motioned to do so. “While the events of Halloween and the bio-weapon that some how got in, were beyond our control, we do stop a lot of shit from getting by.”

“But imports and exports are allowed,” Ben added quickly, “it’s part of the neutrality ensured in the Accords.”  

“Ok about the bio-weapon, this is the first I’ve heard of it, what happened?”

“Some folks in Nevada wanted an easy payoff, gambling wise, so they set up a solid team to get very sick, rigging the match.” Eloise shook her head and looked down at the floor shamefully, “Evidently they killed a student with it.”

Sara rocked back on her heels in shock, “They covered that up pretty well.”

“Well yes, you really don’t want super powered kids going ballistic and out on the warpath.” Ben chuckled darkly, “But from what I gathered they paid dearly for it.”

“I see. So you think Coltrain took the opportunity to get some form of revenge?”

“Possibly, our displeasure cut into several delivery runs, not that the criminal organizations didn’t go along with it freely.” Eloise’s nose wrinkled and her expression soured, “We end up dealing with groups on both sides of the law, making sure they don’t bump heads.”

“So this Coltrain, he’s obviously dirty?” Sara asked calmly though her hands were clenched into fists.

“And then some, but someone like him has to be there, it’s in the Accords.” Eloise rubbed her knees, “Dealing with the Accord’s Representatives are just part of my usual problems, add in the crap going out on the West Coast and you could say we were more than a bit desperate for a quick but good solution.”

“What is such a problem there that might make you so desperate?” Sara asked cautiously.

“Something or someone is turning normal Weres like us, into undying monstrously daemonic creatures,” Ben closed his eyes briefly, “and using them to conquer other Packs to make more.”

“If you were created to fight daemons, shouldn’t that be impossible?”

“Yes supposedly. But something has been done to them and once they are changed we have no way of reversing it.” Ben sat down by his wife and said, “We are not yet facing the Sundering again or extinction for that matter.”

“But some of us fear we could be headed that way,” Eloise added softly.

“I see,” Sara gave Eloise a direct look, “I will need some more information, and you still owe me and mine for your actions. But since you drug Merry into the center of all this, you are stuck with us.”

“Like Ben said, I can choose for my own family, but you may have trouble convincing them to fall down at your feet and really worship you and mean it.” Eloise shrugged at Sara’s thin frown, “We are a hard headed and stubborn people, we were made that way. We are predators and we follow only the strongest and wisest willingly.”

“I could show them strength,” Sara said angrily.

“Oh I have no doubt you are powerful,“ Eloise snorted with a shake of her head. “Last night was proof enough for me.  'I' can say for my family, one way or another. But people’s hearts are their own. Sure they may mouth the words and nod in all the right spots, but getting them to worship you is another story.”

Eloise tapped Ben on the head and continued, “You are not trying to convert sheep, woman. They could easy say; ‘Yes boss, I worship you' while their hearts followed another path.  Hell if you have any sense of history you should know that.”

Sara cocked her head to one side, “Are there, in fact, Were-Sheep? Possibly some New Zealand branch of the Tribe?”

“Well,“ Ben snickered loudly, “there is Scotland.”

“Levity aside, I honestly couldn't care less what the individual members of your family do, say or think of my religion.” Sara smirked and then sighed, “Simply accepting The Kellith as your family’s patron is enough for me and possibly means more than you can fathom. I think in time the rest of your clan will join of their own free will.”

“And what is the catch?” asked Ben carefully.

“There is no catch, I am not going to ask that you sacrifice children to me or any other biblical crap.” Sara chuckled, “I am no demanding Goddess preaching from otherworldly realms; all I ask from my worshipers is that you live. The rest will follow in due time.

Eloise hugged Ben and then nodded slowly, “That I can agree to, without there being any implied falsehoods any one way or not.”

“Then come accept my kiss,” Sara stood up and held her arms open to Eloise, “Eloise, for peaces sake.”

Eloise stood up and walked over to Sara hesitantly, "Just as long as I don't get accused of molesting a minor."

Sara smiled and slowly changed her stature, aging into an eighteen-year-old version of herself, “Is this better, dear?”

Eloise blinked and nodded, "Yes, from a visual stand point, but I still have the cobbly-wobbles."

Sara reached out and slowly stroked her cheek as she stepped closer, “Don't worry, it'll be painless, I promise.” With that she took Eloise’s head in her hands, lowering it slightly. Closing her eyes Sara gently kissed her on the forehead. “Welcome to my cult, and family if your will, Eloise.”

Eloise blinked and then hugged Sara carefully; "Hopefully you won’t have to get as pissed with me like last night, ever again. Though I tend to be bitchy and inflexible at times.”

Ben eased out of reach and did his best to say nothing amid a seriously ironic smirk.

“What?” Eloise asked and made a point of shaking her fist at him.

“Nothing, nothing,” said Ben with a smile as he eased further out of reach.

Eloise shook her head and waved a finger in his direction, “Oh no, I’ll deal with you later.”

Ben looked over to Sara with a wide smile, “See? Difficult.”

Sara laughed and eased out of the hug after returning it briefly, “You are in a way, mine now, dear.” Her smile turned into a cheeky grin, “Even if I have to save you from yourself, I will save you.”

Eloise let out a loud sigh, “Ok, if that is resolved, we have some other bits to attend to.”

Sara nodded, “Of course, there will be plenty of time for more private discussions, later.”


Tribal Protected Lands, Medawihla Nation
Eloise’s Home, Library

“So, ye are training to become a Lore Keeper?” asked Father Pete.

“Jay’s going to be a good one, when folks learn to ask his advice,” commented Mrs. Donner as she walked by to hand him a soda and then tousled his hair. “Even if he’s still a cub.”

Bluejay sighed with a resigned smile, “I am greatly abused.”

“Now if I seem to recall correctly,” The thin priest tapped his cane on the carpet soundly, “there was mention of reports?”

“On the desk Father Rico, you can keep one of the sets marked in red, those are the unabridged versions.” Bluejay opened the can and took a sip, “The other ones are thinned down for faxing.”

“Editing the truth lad?” asked Father Pete carefully.

“No. We don’t send maps or specific coordinates out over the wires, ever.” He shook his head, “Information is too easily stolen.”

“Sensible, ever considered a job in the Priesthood Jay?” asked Father Rico.

Bluejay coughed and sipped on his soda briefly, “Sorry Father, I am not exactly the pious or devote type.”

“It’s not exactly a requirement,” commented Father Pete.

“Ha! Says you,” added Father Rico with a thump of his cane. “Bloody Thorns!”

“Oh stuff yer shirt in it,” Father Pete countered in reply. “In any case, Jay. If you change your mind, The Church is an equally opportunistic employer.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be: Equal Opportunity employer?” asked Mrs. Donner.

There was a cough that seemed to be half made of a word, “…it. Sorry, in most cases it may be true,” Father Rico looked directly at Father Pete. “However some folks tend to forget the rules; isn’t that correct?”

“Rules, eh, tis more like guidelines.” Father Pete grinned and continued; “Now if you were to run the Order we’d be sitting in the Dark Ages. Living in monasteries and only going out if the Darkness was on our doorstep.”

There was a snort, “An if you had your way we’d all be Irish and drunk half the time…”

“And what is wrong with good Irish whiskey?”

“I rest my case.”

“I’d rather you opened it.” Father Pete ginned and looked over Jay, “We tend to feud verbally a bit in the Order, but the Job is the same; saving the world.”

“Okaaay, if you say so,” Jay replied dubiously.

“Well we try,” amended Father Rico.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Eloise’s Home, Library

Sara walked down the hallway that sloped downward into a large subbasement. The scent of old books was a refreshing surprise from her point of view, and she walked among the few bookcases mentally cataloging the titles. A sound of a fax machine at work permeated the semi-silence of the room.

A moment passed as she studied the person feeding the pages into the machine. It seemed to be Bluejay, though he seemed more relaxed than at Whateley, not to mention his attire was radically different. Dressed in loose blue jeans and a shirt that had seen better days, his normally perfect hair had escaped his usual Corporate Indian chic look, along with his boots, which seemed more befitting dirt trails.

“I’ve been expecting you,” he said and turned slowly to sit against the desk that supported the Fax.

“Oh,” she said affecting bored disdain, “its you.”

He waved a hand at her and tiredly rubbed his eyes, “Yeah, nice to see you too.” He eased a hand down to his boot to pull out a sheathed knife, and then he gave her a resigned look. ”I suppose you need a blood oath or something before you believe I wasn't aware of what happened?”

She paused and with a tilt of her head, she half scowled, “Actually Bluejay, I was just wondering how to dispose of the bones. Acid doesn't eat through them quick enough.”

He shook his head and placed the knife next to the fax machine slowly. He picked up a soda and took a sip, “Well, it is so nice to be loved and respected.” He half smirked, “You asked about friends who seem to be trouble magnets?”

“Yes, I had rather expected you were talking about the Don, Bluejay,” Sara stated with a frown.

“Yeah, sorry, I don’t talk about the Peoples on campus.” He sighed, “and I go by Jay here or off campus.”

“Ok, Jay, so why are you here?”

"Do you ever wonder why the understudy is never looked for when things are supposedly under control?  But after the shit has hit the fan they are supposed to perform on command?” he asked with a small hint of annoyance in his voice.

“Not really.” She shrugged, “It's human nature.”

He nodded, “Well in any case, Charlie Lodgeman is Eloise's Lore Master for her pack, and I'm in training to either take his place some long way down the road or some other clan.”

“Oh. Perfect,” Sara said with disgust she motioned with a hand in the direction of the hallway, “did she select you for this me?”

Jay frowned and then shook his head, “No I am not yours." He walked over to a book case and pointed to it," I've got seven hundred or so years of just basic 'feline' clan lore memorized. Quite frankly, even if I were acceptable to you, it'd be a waste of my training.”

Sara watched him wander to a different table and there he made a tick mark on a piece of paper before returning to the fax machine. “Well, that's good, the position's already filled anyhow.

Jay nodded and drained his soda with a few gulps, “Good, now if he or she needs help,” he shrugged sounding tired, “just ask. Now, I've got all the recent reports ready, which you can either read now or later.

“Lets get it over with,” Sara said as he picked up a red covered stack of papers and handed to her.

“That’s the current intelligence report,” he motioned to the papers, “Ok I'm going to skim over some stuff, and then if you need to ask questions, do so.”

She flicked through the pages and nodded as he waited looking at her expectantly, ”Ok, read. How many volumes have you got on the were-felines?”

“Well if you don't count the stuff still to be translated from hides, two hundred and eighty thick books, and that is just history.” He paused and pointed out a separate stack, “Laws fill another four hundred, but they grow as circumstances dictate.”

“A solid night's work then,” she commented.

“Yeah if you are faster than a page at a glance reader.” He indicated a different bookcase, “General felines, well it varies from veterinary texts to observed biology and such. You may want to hit the local dialect books first for the Peoples in this region, so odd words don't send you back and forth.”

She blinked as Jay walked to a separate locked case and withdrew two books, he then handed them to her gravely, “Thanks.”

He nodded and typed in a number restarting the fax machine, “The current events. Currently the United Councils, A United Nations for Weres if you will; are not quite in direct conflict with some being named, 'The Bastard.'” Jay pointed to a map on one wall, “He's big on the undead, daemons and necromancy. Currently he seems bent on making zombies or something worse out of the Peoples and taking over the West Coast one state at a time. Thus far he has not moved on Norms or Mutants.”

“Charming.”

He walked to a file cabinet and pulled out a red marked folder, “We know he has or had a 'pet' wizard who was associated with a normal werewolf called ‘Lycanthos.’ And he seems to occasionally have dealings with a persons called Nightgaunt and Lady Dark, but we have squat for information on them, yet.”

“Then take this down. Go onto the web, bring up the top one hundred super villain of all times list, and then type in 'Necromancer' on the search engine.”

“Ok,” he grabbed a pen and quickly wrote on a separate sheet of paper."  We've also had a Snake Pack or if you will, Were-Snake pack in Utah jump the boarder and flee into deep Mexico through Arizona. There is now a huge power vacuum there.

Sara smirked briefly, “Refugees jumping the boarder into Mexico? The Boarder Patrol must be so confused.”

He nodded, “I made a few calls. Evidently there might be some sort of weird Snake Cult in the vicinity and the 'Snakes' wanted no part of it.” He picked though the folder and held out one picture, “It could be a possibly be a Naga, but the image was blurred by some sort of magic.” He pulled out a second picture where the blur was stationary next to a seated person, “In any case the Night Court, vamps and such, are in a fit over their departure.”

Sara blinked and studied the pictures once he handed them to her, “Ugh. Yig-ites, maybe. Particularly if it's a Native American tribe or tribes.”

He nodded and continued, “As it stands, The United Council is unsure if we should pull what few peoples are there, out completely.” His face fell into a scowl, ”And focus on the West Coast Issue. Or if you follow current thought here: The United Council will not likely act until things get near the Mid-West”

Sara nodded slowly, “If you read the Necromancer's profile, you'll probably realize that the two events are linked.”

“It would not surprise me or Eli. She's taken some independent actions, and helped move the non-combatants out of Washington. A few hundred of our Out Riders are escorting them though Canada and back down into the States. He rolled his eyes, “Naturally there was some flack about her independent actions, but no real heat.”

Sara made a point of sighing loudly then she started flicking through the books.

“So, Eli started looking for allies, to beef up both the Local council and get more reliable intelligence.” He shook his head, "Regrettably Charlie was not or around and, well if you have not noticed, anyone under eighteen or so is a cub.”

Sara nodded slowly, “Yes, I know that part.”

“Eli’s currently having a discussion with the Priests about general stupidity on her part or if you will desperation. I really do wish that she had contacted me before the doing what she did. I could have stopped it or drug the girl out directly to Whateley. He looked down to the floor. I half expected the floors to be dripping red once I found out it was your friend.”

Sara shook her head, “A reputation that is certainly useful, though hardly accurate.”

“As evidenced by the lack of Nobody's body.” He stopped and tapped the knife by the fax machine, “So, do you need an oath or pact from me? And I would appreciate it if my association with the Peoples here were not generally known.”

Sara raised her eyebrow, “Are you asking to join my cult Bluejay?

“I'm not exactly religiously inclined, and then there is the non-Partisan side of the coin. Basically the only gods I am allowed to recognize are those of my forefathers.” He smiled crookedly, "As fun as your cult sounds, I can't. I can offer Oaths and Pacts to ensure the peace between Packs.” He paused and motioned to the knife, “One of the reasons a Lore Keeper is Human or Powered. No Moon issues and frail enough to kill if they put the Council at risk. Not that we are easy to kill.”

“Then no. No oath”

He leaned back to sit on the desk that held the copier, ”Ok, so your friend is coming to Whateley?

“Yes.”

He closed his eyes for a brief moment, “I can try and deflect some of The Don's crap from her, not all of it.” Opening his eyes he tapped the desk, “He'd get contrary notions to the image that I'm just there to have fun and learn a few things.”

“The Don's crap I can put up with. But if you breathe one word of anything deeper than the cover story to Hekate, you'll wish my reputation were more accurate.” She held up a hand as he started to protest, “To make things clear, Bluejay, I trust you about as far as I can throw you. Which, fortunately, gives you some leniency, because I could throw you a fair ways.”

Jay smirked and then nodded, “I don't discuss clan stuff on campus, outside of Lodgeman's office. I end up having to recite stuff verbatim over and over again, even if I have a flawless memory. Ms. Carson knows I have some ties out here. Just not the scope, I think.” He shook his head," I may have to either prod Eli into have an open disclosure of Pack problems out West. With Carson at the least or maybe poke Lodgeman to ask her to do so.“

“Just keep it to yourself is all I'm asking. As for Charles Picton Darrow,” she paused and sighed, ”once word gets back to him that I'm involved now, things will become interesting.”

“Oh yeah, I can see that.” Jay snorted slightly, “Eighty percent of the time he thinks I am just Lodgeman's TA. Needless to say I have not disabused him of the fact.”

She paused and looked at him as he seemed to wander off track slightly, “Met him, have you?”

“I'm furniture to him. I think the only times he notices I am there is when he starts to rant about you." He rolls his eyes, "The I am ordered out, which is pointless as well. Lodgeman’s privacy only works if he feels the need to shield his room and he dos not bother with Englund, for some odd reason.”

Sara blinked digesting the sideways hint that she should listen in, “But I was talking about Darrow, not Englund.”

Jay slapped himself in seeming mock agitation, “Sorry, I got Darrow confused with Darren. But then both are odious, and you are not named in the Clan reports yet. We may need you to supply an Injun name or something for records only.” He frowned, "I suppose I will have to make a Sampson stone.”

Sara grinned ironically, “Does it lose power when you cut its hair?”

“No, fortunately, now should someone kill me or pull my soul from my body and I have it on or in my possession, it fires off a final strike. Not sure if it would even seriously injure you, but it'd use up my souls energy in a rude fashion.” He motioned abruptly with his hands, “Boom.”

Sara frowned, “Ewww, what makes you think I want your soul?”

He sighed waving his hands dramatically, "Gee blow my whole image of self worth. In any case it should vaporize my body and mind leaving nothing but smoke to sift for information.”

“Why bother; I'm not going to eat your soul. If you betray me, I promise just to rip your heart out. How's that?” she asked in a half serious tone of voice.

“Fine, I'll make sure you know where it is so you can remove it before you do. I swear that my nobility is just wasted on you.” He walked over to look her in the face, “Fine, then here is practicality: If you kill me or find me dead make darned sure my brain is ash. I would not betray the Peoples in Death if I can avoid it. Deal?”

Sara frowned, “It won't come to that, but I'll make it a deal.”

He nodded, “Considering that Whateley Security has freaking odd holes in it still, I do appreciate that. Really.” His expression turned bleak, “Far as we can tell Darrow or someone has taken a few Lore Masters and converted them, which is something I care not to endure.”

She nodded as he stared at her for a moment, “When Darrow finds out that I'm now involved in the East Coast Packs, he'll back off a little, at least until he can reassess the situation. That will buy us some time.”

“Ok so how do you plan on leaking that information?” 

“You really think he doesn't have a spy here already?” Sara asked shaking her head, ”I thought you were an Alpha, Bluejay.”

He frowned at her, "Oh please, the Alpha’s are idiots, they can manage one or two secrets, but they are small compared to this.”

“Oh, you credit them with that much intelligence?”

“Well considering they can only ruin two or three lives at any one time, yes.”

“I see, so spies?”

“Not in Eli's Pack, nor Martha’s,“ he shook his head. "If it came from anywhere it'd have to be someone in Gunthors’s pack. It's the only one that is shaky as they had a dominance flash up, recently. Henry killed the challenger, but.” He shrugged, ”His mate is still around and are a few of the Betas that followed him.”

Sara nodded, “If he can't turn one of the locals, he'll insinuate someone in somewhere. If he can't do that, he'll use magick. More likely, he'll use all three.”

"Speaking of magicks." He walked to a large cloth coved table in the room and removed the cloth, to reveal a topographic and fairly detailed miniature landscape. “This is the whole of the Tribal lands we watch over, plus about ten miles to either side.  The dark glowing blobs are known and warded sites. ARC is in the North East Corner, Whateley is over here."

Sara walked over and peered into it, “Go on.”

He continued sounding slightly pleased, “We can monitor most of the events here and if need be; you will be able to pick out and get a detailed image of anything in those bounds.  It is different enough that the laws of Contagion will not allow folks to strike though to here from it, but. He paused and smiled deviously, “It is similar enough some spells will work to effect the areas in it. A bolt out of the blue if you will.”

“Nice idea,” she bent over the table gazing at the ant-sized people as they milled about outside of Eloise’s house.

“It does have a few flaws, strong enough masking spells are a problem,” he paused and sighed, “and then if no one is here to watch it. Only will some alarms sound automatically.”

“If you're really under siege, why isn't someone watching it in shifts then?”

“It takes someone with the gift to be able to use it fully, and there is only a spattering of us who know it is here.” He shrugged and motioned to the table, “We try to cover the bases, but we are more than a few hands short. I'm usually here from two am until six am.”

“Not the best time to be awake and expected to be alert in school too.”

“Yeah I know. Anyhow, Lodgeman when he is not running all over creation; runs it from ten pm until I normally get here.  Phillips, From Martha's Pack has Day watch. Smitty is a Rider and a fair combat mage. However he will not be back for a month, as they are guarding the refugees. Until he gets back we are a bit short handed.”

“So how are you filling the gaps?” she asked as he studied the map for a moment.

“Ground patrols, and we do have a Fire Tower that is loaded with more mundane equipment. Of which is manned by Gunthor’s pack.” He gave her a bland look, “We have duplicated the sensor net that they watch and it's over watched by Dahveed’s pack. Just in case."

“What about spirits?”

“Well the Unseen Clan exists,” the map moved to show a section of the map that seemed to be a modern ghost town. ”They just disappeared one day, completely off the page if you will.  We occasionally find their handiwork, people impaled on tree branches and so on.” 

“No one's gone looking either, have they?” she asked cautiously.

“I have walked their homes, and snooped about their town hall.“ He shivered physically as he pointed to the map, “Most I got was a sense of amusement and scared shitless by the dead silence that abounds there.

“Yeah, that sounds like Darrow’s work all right,”

“I make a point to check there, every night or day that I am here.” He reaches out and tapped one portion making it the whole view of the table, “Now and again I see a deer or a few small prey animals, nothing large.”

“What makes that one area so important?” she asked looking at the calm seeming block of buildings.

“Call it a bad itch or just plain paranoia. I keep getting the sensation that if I catch it in the corner of my eye I will know where it is or what it is,” he frowned and tapped the table making the area pivot slowly as he studied it.

“You're not a precog are you?”

He nodded, “I have a very small bit of it, nothing like say Mrs. Potter. Basically it is enough to tell me if I get ready to go some place.” He paused and blipped to a spot back by the fax machine, “That before I take that step, that I'm either going to be safe or in trouble. Nothing concrete.”

“Useful,” she acknowledged with a smile.

“Very, I do not get ambushed easily either.” He blipped back to stare at her from the opposite side of the table, “My power is not a warper effect, so I can pretty much get anywhere I have been before or have a good representative view of it.”

Sara smiled and pointed down at the table, “Such as this diorama?”

“Yes or even live television.” He shook his head, “My only limiting factor is sheer numbers. I can move a platoon or so into an area on the bounds, within a heart beat but I am trashed for the rest of the day.”

“So if someone needed a lift to say Whateley; under the radar, you could do it?”

He smirked and nodded, “Oh, I think I could manage that.”

“Ok, we’ll see how short and feisty is doing in a day or two, then I may take you up on the hop. In the mean time, I may have an idea for something to try.”


“Jail Bait!” The was a pause then the voice was louder, “Oh Jail Bait! I know you are here! Come out, come out where ever you are!”

Jay groaned loudly and quickly set to covering the table again with its cloth. “Hide me?” he asked Sara with a hopeful look.

“No,” she said with a smirk as she smoothed out the other side of the tablecloth.

“Drat,” he sighed dramatically then he called loudly and appeared to brace himself, “I’m back here Aunt Trish!”

There was a brief hint of someone running and then a multi-colored blur seemed to arrive and descend upon Jay. Sara watched as Jay was knocked to the ground as a tall lady flattened him to the ground in a suggestive manner. Her hair was neatly braided though a riot of colors was woven into it as well. Her clothing seemed to be a mixture of old-world and new, gypsy bangles and scarves draped form an ornate belt around her waist. She gave him a kiss on both cheeks then lifted him up to plant his head in the center of her chest and proclaimed, “There’s my Jail Bait!”

“Mrph!”

“What?”

“Mhnph mnngh mnn nnngh ng nghfp!”

“Oh sorry JB, I didn’t hear that,” she lifted him up to look him in the face.

“I said, ‘Nice to see you too Aunt Trish.’”

“I do not think I have ever seen Jay, um, quite that color before,” Sara said between giggles.

Trish clamped Jay into another tight hug, and then set him on his feet, “So JB, finally find a girl?”

“No.”

“Uh huh, should I go back out and let you keep trying?”

“No!” he sighed then gave an exaggerated groan, “no. Sara, meet my Aunt Trish.” He paused and adopted a grandiose stage pose, “The bane of my mortal existence, my amoral compass and all around domineering wench from hell.”

She laughed as she reached out and took his cheek and then she pinched it wiggling it back and forth briefly, “He is just the cutest thing.”

“Aunt Trish, Sara and her um clan, are new to the Council.” He gave Sara a brief bow and watched as his Aunt descended upon Sara.

Sara’s eyes widened as she was swept up into the excessively exuberant woman’s embrace, “Uh, hi?”

“I’ll just leave you two to get acquainted,” Jay said hastily as he quickly eased out the door.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House

I woke up to soft kiss on the back on my neck and rolled over slowly to look up at Sara, “Hey there stranger.”

“Hi sleepy, you seem calmer and less furry too,” Sara noted with a smile.

Looking around I shrugged and pushed myself up against the headboard awkwardly with my elbows. “My arm is achy, like it has been burned.”

“Hmm, let’s see it,” Sara said as she slid her hand down my left arm to pause abruptly just after my elbow. Frowning she halted my blankets removal, “Merry, I want you to close your eyes for me a moment, ok?”

“Um, why?”

“I’m worried you are going to freak out on me, so I want you to just relax and let me figure out what is going on. Ok?” Sara asked and placed a hand on my face gently closing my eyes. “Shhh, just relax ok?”

“Ok though I’m suddenly nervous as hell now,” I said before closing my eyes.

“It’ll be ok, I just want to make sure of my facts before I get pissed off.” I felt the blanket slip off my body and her hands at my elbows and hen her pulling on them slightly, “Hmm, that is normal.”

“Um?”

“Not yet dear, does this hurt?” she asked as she poked something on my left arm.

“Zah! Yes!” My eyes clenched tight as the probing of my arm continued, “What is wrong?”

She quickly pulled me up into a fierce embrace, “Nothing you cannot get past in time.” She kissed me then added, “Your regeneration is working, just very, very slowly, so don’t panic.”  

“Panic?” I asked as the word seemed to catch in my throat.

“Shhh, dear your arm is missing the part they cut off.”

“Ohh fuck me,” I said with a sigh.

“Is that a request?” she asked and then dodged out of reach as I swiped at her with my other hand.

“I must be in shock or something.” I looked at her and then deliberately looked down to my arm. There was a reddish pink swath of skin that encased the end of my stump. “Stump.”

“Yes, you have a stump,” Sara looked at me worriedly. “I can see the new flesh growing, but its pace is really, really slowed. I think you should have a whole new lower arm in two to four years depending on how much you can kick start your regeneration.”

“Uh huh.” I processed that information and then half sighed, half sobbed, “Jeeze, what the hell next?”

“I’m not sure dearest one,” she crawled into bed next to me and held me as she chased away a stray tear, “but I know we’ll get by this.” 

“Gods I hope so, I am beginning to feel like large parts of me are getting ripped away and I am not getting any of them back.” I let her rock me as I cried, and I protested softly to her “It’s not fair.”

“No, it is not.“ She softly murmured and kissed me, “We’ll get by this, you will get by this. Besides once you figure out how to go furry at whim, you’ll have both arms I think; you did earlier today, right?”

“Yes, but how come I am not furry now?”

“The sun is all the way up, even if the moon is too,” answered Cindy as she walked in. “The Sun cancels out the Moon, we can’t change very easy when the Sun is all the way up, remember it ‘cuz its important.”

Peering around Sara, I saw her standing at the cell door with a bundle of clothing, “Hi Cindy, this is Sara.”

“Hi Sara,” she frowned as she walked in, “I’m not interrupting stuff am I?”

“Oh no, Merry is just feeling a bit down, and her lower left arm is missing.”

Cindy looked at me and then frowned; putting the bundle of clothing she held onto the bed, “Should I get the Doctor?”

“I don’t think it will help Cindy,” Sara explained as she pointed to me, “as her body is different from yours.

“Oh, hmm. She still is kind of catty though,” Cindy smiled, “she has blue kitty eyes.” She moved to look at my face closely “With teensy-tiny whiskers, a you have pointed ears, if you’d smile I bet you would have a kitty smile too.”

“Smile for me?” Sara poked me gently and I obliged her, “She is right, you do have a pretty kitty sort of smile.”

“Ok,” I sighed feeling very much put upon.

Sara reached up and thumped me lightly on the head, “Relax you, it’s nice and it is cute.”

There was a cough “Yes, it is a cute smile, now if ye’d get dressed, we have a teensy problem in the Meeting Hall.” Father Pete sounded more than a bit perplexed, “It’s about your arm, the one they removed.”

As Sara and I exchanged puzzled looks and he continued, “It’s been growing.”

Sara blinked suddenly and then pressed her hand to my head. I felt an odd wave of vertigo as she did something and she paused looking very disgruntled. After a pause she shook her head and then said, “Hmmm, all there.”

After my eyes uncrossed I muttered at her, “If you say so.”

“Come on you, get dressed,” she turned and grinned at Father Pete who was making a beeline for the door. “Evidently Father Pete is the bashful type.”

I snickered, “Good, my ass was on display enough times in ARC to last me a year or two.” 

“But I like your ass,” Sara commented.

“Uh huh, I’m going.” Cindy stopped by the cell door and made a gagging sound, “You two are sounding way too much like my Mom and Dad before they make funny noises all night.”

“Good for them!” said Sara brightly.

“Evidently you have not tried sleeping through all their racket,” Cindy said sarcastically along with an exaggerated roll of her eyes before walking out.

I giggled and then Sara started as well, “I don’t think we are that bad.”

“We’ll have to try harder then,” Sara said with a lecherous wink at me, “now get dressed.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Clan Meeting Hall

As I was led into the large barn-like structure the only sounds were those of hushed and tense whispers as the people talked. I glanced about looking this way and that way trying to get a feel for the situation. As I did so, Sara pushed through the small group that was encircling a table. Uncertain I followed her to where something hidden from sight by a dark green blanket on it. Sara bent down next to the covered object and lifted the blanket to look.

I didn’t get a chance to see what it was before Sara quickly lowered the blanket again, “Well?”

Sara didn’t reply instead she looked over at the two priests, “Gentlemen, has anything like this happened before?”

Father Pete nodded slowly, “Yes, but that individual can’t die; well… not in the way I or many others can.”

“That’s not helpful,” Sara said as she looked at them.

“The Eldest of the oldest members of our order is under a curse or a blessing, depending on whom you ask,” Father Rico said calmly as he leaned on his cane, “and he’ll be alive until Christ returns, from what we gather.”

I suppressed a shiver and looked over to Sara, “I kind of met him, in my trial.”

“I thought that the Eternal Soldier or Wandering Jew was just a myth,” Sara said after a moment's thought.

“Many myths have a basis in fact,” Father Pete chided softly, “as you should know.”

While Sara seemed lost in thought I stepped around her and lifted the blanket carefully. Silently for a longish moment I stared down into my own face, and then I lowered the blanket numbly. “It’s me or is it?” I asked as I leaned on the table as my legs were far from steady.

Sara reached around me and as she partially supported me, she led me away from the table to a bleacher, “Sit, you look pretty wonky.”

“Wonky?” I asked as the room seemed to tilt slightly, “Is that a fancy medical term for ‘your world has shifted and left you looking stupid while you mind goes floating off into space?’”

“Something like that,” Sara said and gave me a hug, “I need to check something, will you be ok here?”

Not quite blankly I looked up at her and said, “I’ll be fine, ok might take some doing.”

“Yes, it might at that,” she said and gave me another brief hug before returning to the table.

I tried to remain clear headed and detached as Sara uncovered the torso on the table. The hair on the head lay in an untidy mess though Sara did take a moment to briefly sort it out; surprisingly it was a bit shorter than mine was currently, but it was mottled. Most of the upper chest was present and the left arm as well, but the right arm was still slowly growing. Though when I saw the incomplete abdomen shift, as the torso seemed to breathe, I had to look away. Dumbly I looked out of the hall and tried to not think of the other missing two thirds of the body.

“The spark is there,” Sara announced, prompting me to look back to the torso, “but there is nobody home.”

“What?” I asked as I quickly closed my eyes.

“There is no soul in it,” she said simply as she covered the torso back up carefully, but she left the face exposed.

“I think I want to go back to my room,” I said as I stood up unsteadily, “I don’t think I am handling the past days events and this very well.”

Father Pete gave me a sympathetic nod, “Me neither lass, me neither.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House

I had managed to doze fitfully for a time until Sara returned to me in the cell. When she did she was quiet for a time and I was content just to have her there beside me. We lay slightly spooned together, arm in arm for a time, both of us feeling secure in each other’s presence.  

Quietly Sara spoke, “Well love we have a few choices to make.”

“About?”

“Your other self,” Sara said calmly.

“Oh, that.” I rolled over to look her in the face, “If I said I was freaked out more than slightly, would that be normal?”

“I’d be freaked out too I think, so yes it’s normal.” She smiled and gave me quick kiss, “Better?”

“I guess, so what do we do with it?”

“Well, we have a few options.” She lay back and pulled me over so that my head was on her chest, “The first one being, that we take all of your memories and part of your soul and stuff it into the new you, essentially making it a clone.”

“Two of me, just what the world needs.” I snorted loudly, “The world can barely handle one of me, making two of me is really not a good idea.”

“Or we can only pull out the Chad and Chaddy parts of you, along with part of your soul,” giggling slightly she added, “leaving you partially possessed, but two minds clearer.”

“We could just put Mai in it,” I suggested with a grin.

“It’s a thought, but then Mai has no real human experiences,” Sara chuckled and then added, “can you picture her as a Knight?”

“Well, no.” I admitted with a grin, “But it would serve Satan right though.”

“Possibly. Though it would give me a chance to bring someone back early, but I promised to be his Mom if I could arrange it.” Sara hugged me with one arm and then continued, “A friend of mine died when he was shot, as we were trying to get away from the MCO. Just before he died, I kissed him and brought his soul into me. It was an accident, and I really didn’t mean for it to happen. Hell I didn’t even know I had done it until I found him in my realm.”

“Ah, that’s Gary right? The kid we ran into there, the one who called you mom?” I asked her in a teasing voice.

 “Yes, that’s Gary.” She hugged me again, “I really feel guilty for what happened to him, even if Mrs. Potter said it was destined to be.”

“Who is Mrs. Potter?” I asked as I vaguely remembered an odd note with her name on it.

“She’s a precog, one who pretty much can see things perfectly.” Sara chuckled ruefully and added, “I think she knew you were going to be here too.”

“Then why didn’t she stop this?” I asked holding up my stump in irritation.

“It could be a good thing, and some thing that had to happen,” Sara said as I felt her shrug.

“Ok, so what happens if we put part of me in that body, won’t they be stuck with my powers? Or the Knight bit for that matter?”

“Maybe, the Body Image Template or BIT varies slightly in twins, which is what we would have if we move part of you over into it.” Sara laughed momentarily, “Though I suspect with your mixed bag of gifts it might have something else as powers and maybe not the computers part.”

“And Gary? When are you planning on brining him back?” I asked seriously.

Sara smiled thoughtfully and then shrugged, “In time, I’ve a lot of crap to sort out first.”

“Ok so how do you plan to copy me or would it be easier to move part of me?” I asked as I envisioned all sorts of mad scientist quackery.

“Oh I think I can do it with some thought and planning, but in any case I have to consult with my dad about the soul transfer bit.” Sara laughed for a moment, “I expect he might have an idea and be thrilled to have more family.

“Just as long as the process doesn’t involve necrophilia,” I said and added a raspberry for effect.

“It won’t, even I have limits.”

“Ok, still we have another possibly more unpleasant option,” I said after a time.

“Which is?”

“You pack the body off to ARC, let them ice it up and leave it there.” I looked back at her, “Provided of course the ring would come off.”

After a moments thought she asked, “Do you want to be a Knight?”

“Kind of, maybe… I am not sure. I mean it was kind of foisted upon me,” I shivered involuntarily, “not to mention the crap with the snakes.”

Sara ran her hands through my hair for a time, “Yes, though we can’t be sure if you would be free of that even without the ring, considering you had effects from the ring without even wearing it.”

“Wonderful, just wonderful,” I said and burrowed under the blanket, “I’ll just hide here I think, until its time to eat.”

“Soon, but you could take a nap for a bit,” she said patted the blanket where I was hiding.

Feeling only marginally better for hiding, I sighed, “Ok.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House
Monday November 20th, 2006

From my perspective Sara spent most of the afternoon popping in and out, I guess she was in a bit of rush. Though she seemed earnest and eager to make sure what ever she was up to was done properly. Personally I thought it was a bit humorous that she’d run in, hold an expensive looking gem up to my head and run back out. Considering I knew she would run back into the meeting hall with it, I was not inclined to follow. For some unknown reasons watching it breath, and to knowing it was my body, of a sort, without a soul in it was still disturbing.  

Father Pete and Father Rico were of two minds on the planned twinning of me. Father Pete thought the entire process wonderful, as he likened it to possibly getting two Knights for the price of one, at the discount of possibly my wreaking more havoc with a twin. Father Rico, was worried that it might do me some sort of harm, as he thought splitting my soul was impossible and might kill the clone and or me in the process. Frankly I had more faith in what Sara could do when she put her mind to it. So we were rocketing forwards with the plan to pull Chad and Chaddy out of my head to take up residence in the empty shell.

Chaddy was slightly non-committal about the concept, and Chad, well Chad seemed to favor the idea. Personally I think he was chafing slightly, as I seemed to be the dominant personality of any one time. Mai on the other hand, was watching the process critically, in that she liked the idea of eventually splitting off from me in a similar process. Though I had absolutely no desire to hack my arm off to repeat the event, ever.

So it was after a second and very late dinner that Sara came and collected me to bring me into the meeting hall. She had insisted that I eat, as did the others. Though I had to give Father Rico some minor grief for wanting to bless me afterwards and read the last rites, just in case, over me. I mean, I already had the cobbly-wobbles over the idea of having to being close proximity to my living corpse.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Clan Meeting Hall

The meeting hall had taken a change of appearance in that there was now a very large mattress or bed in the middle of it. It was covered in red silks and my other awaiting body was lying on top of it wrapped almost mummy-like in white silk. Sara had pointedly chased everyone outside as she picked up another bolt of silky fabric, though this one was black.

“Ok you, time to ditch the clothing,” she said with a grin, “I always wanted to put you in black silk.”

With a smile I retorted, “More like you wanted to get me out of black silk.”

“Well, possibly,” she said admitted while motioning for me to hurry up, “basically I’m going to wrap you up so you can’t move in your sleep.”

“So I’m going to be unconscious for this?” I asked slipping out the last of my clothing.

“Yes, Dad said it would be easier on you, as I have to go through all of your memories and either copy them or move them.” She paused and gave me a kiss, “Some things you share, some things you don’t and there is no reason for you to relive the crap with your family.”

“Isn’t that going to be rough of you? Going through all of that crap?”

She nodded, “Yes, but I’ve seen the worst of it with you before.” She gave me a gentle caress and then a firm kiss, “And I am keeping you so don’t fret about it, ok?”

“Ok.” I grinned as she licked her lips and appeared to savor the view, “Are you going to stand there all night enjoying the view or are you going to wrap me up? It is kind of nippy in here.”

“Oh is that why your nipples are crinkling? I thought it was me doing that to you,” she asked as she moved my arms down to my sides. “I’m going to start with your feet and legs, but your arms have to be down when I get to them.” She draped a bit on the ground, “Ok, step on that and I’ll get started.”

I did as she asked and blinked as my feet were suddenly ice cold and then they seemed to numb, ”Ok that is weird.”

“It’s the magick in the cloth, it’ll slow your responses somewhat and keep you from being uncomfortable,” Sara explained as she carefully wrapped it around my ankles. “Dad said this could take a day or two, as rushing would be a bad thing, so I’m going to put you in a very deep sleep.”

“Hence the second dinner I suppose, um, what happens if I have to pee?”

Sara smiled and then shrugged; “I don’t think that will happen, the food was more so your body had fuel to burn in case you shifted.”

“Uhh, ok, what happens if I shift while I am in this?” I asked as she moved up higher and tightly wrapped it around my knees.

“Well you won’t be running off to the woods,” she said with a devious smile and then licked me in a delicate spot, “hmm this could be fun under other circumstances.”

After my pulse settled down I gave her a bland look, “You don’t say.”

She smirked and pulled the swath of cloth tightly around my thighs, “Well I would leave a few things exposed.”

I was having a difficult time balancing at this point and the heated blush I felt wasn’t helping matters, “Um yeah, I suppose.”

With a smile she deliberately paused and gave me very intense look, “Well I can see you like the idea so far.”

Looking down I quickly looked up and away, “Yeah I suppose.”

She laughed and slid the back silk tightly around my buttocks and then bound things tightly in place, “As much as I would love to pursue this activity, we do have other things to do tonight.”

“I suppose,” I said with the air of much suffering on my part.

“You are a dear,” Sara said as she wrapped a layer around my hands than then made sure they were tight against my body. Several more turns later she was at my shoulders and neck and started working back down.

“Um how many more layers are there to all of this?”

“Nine in all, each will protect you and ease you further into the spell,” she smiled and I suddenly felt my feet leave the ground, “just think happy thoughts.”

“Easy for you to say, I can’t feel much apart from my face. It’s really disconcerting.”

There was a sudden warming flood that flowed down into me from her mark, “Then I think you should sleep now.” Then there was a rush of pleasure that flowed up from the center of my being, as it consumed me I lost all sense of time before drifting off to sleep.


Whateley
Hawthorn Cottage

Jade grinned and she all but bounced up the stairs and into the dorm. Thanks to Stan and Morrie she had the day off of classes and was being paid to play hooky. The few residents not in classes seemed to be taking in the steady flow of boxes and other bits with wide smiles.

“Hey Doctor Heavy,” Jade grinned as a box was gently pushed down the hallways as it floated in mid air, “what’s up?”

“Hi Jade, we’re getting new computers!” He beamed and pointed to the boxes, “Before anyone else does.”

 “Nice,” she grinned as she scanned row of floating boxes, “don’t break them before you can play with them.

“Oh Louis is walking them, I’m just making the load light,” he grinned, “tell Chaka hi for me.”

“Will do,” she stepped nimbly aside and into the stairwell. With a smile she slid down the banister, a brief stop at the landing and she was sliding down the second part.

At her dismount she briefly bowed to unseen judges and hurried to the room they were working on, “Stan? Morrie?”

“Back here,” was a muffled call and she walked past a stack of boxes to where a new wall stood.

“Where?” she asked taking in the change of floor plan cautiously.

Morrie stepped into view and he rolled his eyes, “The Soundproofing mostly works, we’ve had a change or three dumped on us.”

“I can see that,” she smiled and motioned to the stack of boxes, “I get to skip class today and tomorrow if need be.”

“Yes, we needed the extra help, Silo and Bronco managed to finish adding the wall sections. But they can’t escape a test they have today.” He shrugged and pointed to the boxes, “We’ve a lot of cabinets to install along with running wires and shielding.”

“In others words a full day of this and that?” she asked as she pulled out a glove and communicator for Jin.

“Precisely,” he pointed to a different stack of boxes, “I need you to take a look through the boxes and find a wiring diagram for the projection system, we’ve got to set up a virtual classroom.”

“Oh, like the one in some of the rooms upstairs?”

“Yup, most days the kid won’t make it to class,” Morrie rolled his eyes, “I’ve almost got the bathroom sorted out, as well as the jumbo-sized automated cat litter pan.”

Jade was suddenly jealous, “Don’t tell me she has a pet cat?”

“More like she occasionally is the cat,” he chuckled and shook his head, “picture if you will a two hundred pound cougar cub.”

“Are you kidding me?” Jade asked as she tried to picture just that.

“Nope, add in a problem with EMP discharges, uncontrolled electric power generation and absorption and you get our newest problem child,” said Stan with a smile, “evidently she needs high voltages around her as well.”

Jade blinked and then shook her head, “So what happened, I thought we had everything prepped?”

“Ah, yes,” Stan laughed and pointed up, “Evidently someone looked up the Zoo Space requirements for an adult cougar, considering that she was not an adult, but a kitten at two hundred pounds…”

Jade blinked and shook her head, “But kittens grow.”

“Precisely, so we knocked out another wall, and then reworked another utility closet just to make sure the bare minimum of space is met.” Morrie rubbed his back, “The girl is an involuntary shape shifter, a Were-Cat.”

“Hmm, like Bloodwolf?” Jade rubbed her ring thoughtfully.

“Oh no, different,” shrugging he looked over at Stan, “how would you classify the local Were-Packs?”

“Were-Packs!” Jade quickly looked back at and forth at them as they smiled.

“Yes packs, plural. Hmm, they can infect a human and bring them over and they do respond to the moon, but they are worlds different from the movie Were-Wolves.” Stan opened a box and grunted, “Nice people, and good people.”

“Oh, so why are there not more of them on campus?”

“Oh, there are, but the kids have their own school.” He chuckled, “the few on campus are in the grounds crew.”

Jade looked at Stan for a moment, “You are not joking?”

“Nope.”

“Ok so why is this girl coming here, if they have their own school?” she asked as she helped Morrie to lift a box.

“She’s too different from what they handle normally, while mutation is not common among them it does happen.” Stan pointed to a white sign that read ‘High Voltage’, “Evidently the Forty-Kay tap we put in here is a light snack compared to what she can pick up.”

“Snack, as in she eats it?”

“I’m not sure, evidently she needs a hefty charge to not feel hungry, according to the notes.” He grinned and pointed to a thick black cable labeled Ground, “It works out… as she can dump her excess, which can hit up to over One Hundred Kay into a storage bank. So we will get free power in return, sort of.”

Shaking her head, Jade glanced at the large open room, “It’s about the size of Fuub’s tank in just this spot.”

“You rang?” asked Louis as he popped in.

“Heya Fuub, looks like you won’t have the only palace down here.” Jade motioned to the room and grinned as he looked around, “See?”

“Well I am sure the jumbo sized cat tower, hanging log and the other bits will shrink the size down somewhat,” he pointed to the window opened up and out of the room, “but don’t envy her Jade, a good portion of the time I fear that will be her only view.”

“Yeah, I may have to introduce her to my sister as I am not sure I could stop in and say hi,” Jade pointed to the high voltage tap, “that would end that.”

“She isn’t that dangerous,” said a baritone voice and Jade turned to see a man in blue jeans and a tan suit jacket wander in.

“Hello Willard, checking up on things?” Louis asked with a smile.

“Well my niece is having a time of it, any idea on when we can move the high tech stuff in?” he asked with a smile.

“Willard, this is Jade, she and her sister be helping your techs this afternoon,” Stan said with smile, “they can do wonders with moving wires through tight spots.”

Jade took the offered hand and looked up into his green eyes, “Hello sir.”

“Please call me Willard, I don’t force anyone to call me sir unless they are Government Types or Lawyers.” He chuckled and added, “It annoys them.”

“So how old is your niece?” Jade asked.

“Fourteen going on forty,” he smiled and tapped a box in evident amusement, “too smart by half and too young to get any respect.”

“That sounds like most of the campus,” Louis said with a smile.

“Well yes, so with luck she’ll get a chance at a normal life here.” Willard chuckled and motioned to the room, “well more normal that being stuck in a penthouse with tutors, and excessive security.”

“A penthouse, that must be nice,” Jade said as she glanced around.

“A gilded cage is still a cage,” Willard said with a lazy smile, “I grew up like that, wishing for a place like this.”

“Oh,” Jade blushed, “I’m sorry, it’s just that I kind of envy her all this stuff.” She motioned to a box, “Projection television would have been a dream, heck the common room upstairs much less the one in the cottage where I live doesn’t have it this good.”

He blinked and then paused, “You are not kidding are you?”

“No Willard she isn’t,” Louis said after a moment.

Willard frowned and walked back into the hallway, “I’ve not had a real look at the building,” he stopped pointed back to Jade, “can you spare Jade a bit?”

“Well you are paying for her time,” said Morrie with a gentle push on Jade’s shoulder, “go show the man around, we’ll work your sister for a bit.”

“Ok,” Jade walked out and gave him a cautious look, “what do you want to see?”

“Let us see this common room,” he suggested with a smile, “there are times when I forget the horse, for the nail in the shoe.”

“Problem orientated?” Jade asked as she leads the way to the elevator.

“To a fault at times,” he admitted with a smile, “its great for some things, but I have people who look at different part of the whole for me.”

As the doors open they were forced to wait for a load of boxes marked NEXT to be unloaded, “You must be a big name in the company,” Jade said as she pointed to a box.

“Well yes,” he beamed and watched as a lady came into view, “Hi Tammy, we are taking a tour of the building.”

“We are?” she asked in evident brief confusion.

“Yes,” he stepped into the elevator and motioned to Jade, “Tammy meet Jade, she’s going to be helping with the installations later.”

“Hello Jade, has Willard tried to offer you a job?”

“No, is he supposed to?”

“Well no, he is supposed to be minding his manners,” she said with a smile.

“Ah well, I’ll just make a note to pester Jade on Career Day, won’t I?” he asked of Tammy.

Jade watched as Tammy pulled out a PDA and tapped quickly at it, “Jade, last name?”

“Sinclair,” Jade blinked as the lady nodded and seemed to add that bit of information.

“Freshman?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ah good,” Willard smiled and pointed at Tammy, “see? I’m not recruiting.”

She rolled her eyes at him, “Yes boss.”

Jade smile uncertainly as the lady put the PDA away, “Boss?”

“He hasn’t regaled you with his tales of ownership, his life of adventure and luxury?” she asked drolly.

“Um no?” Jade said quickly.

“I’ve only just met her,” he said with a grin, “give me an hour and she’ll get the works.”

“Willard be nice,” Tammy chided as they walked out of the elevator.

“I am being nice, I have my not at work clothes on,” he protested.

“His idea of not at work may differ with yours,” Tammy warned with a smile.

“Ah that’s the problem with hiring excessively smart and talented people, I can’t get away with murder,” he beamed as he walked backwards, “still, having sharp people around you will make you sharper too.”

Jade nodded politely and pointed to a large open doorway, “The first floor common room.”

Willard nodded and walked in, Jade watched he came to an abrupt stop and turned to look at Tammy, “This won’t do.”

“It’s not that bad, they are still trying to fix some of the cottages that got shot up at Halloween,” Jade quickly said as she gave the room a critical look as it seemed normal to her.

“Hmm, didn’t this place take some damage as well?” he asked as he poked around the room.

“The roof and connecting tunnels,” Jade said as her nose wrinkled, “I had to help with the plumbing that got wrecked.”

“Tammy, I’m going to go bother Ms. Carson a bit, walk around with Jade. Take notes of the things that obviously need priority fixing,” Willard turned and headed towards the door leading out of the cottage.

“Right boss, and what will you be doing?” she asked with a knowing smile.

“Me? I’m going to spend money,” he stopped and smiled, “you should know that by now, it is what I am good at.”

As the doors closed Tammy shook her head, “Actually he’s good at making money, spending it is just his hobby.”

“And what are you good at?” Jade asked and then looked away, “Sorry, I shouldn’t pry.”

“Me?” she laughed and pulled out her PDA, “I keep track of things and people, among other bits.”

“Not money?” Jade asked.

“Only my own.” She smiled and then winked at Jade, “People who work with us tend to make money, lots of it, but that isn’t a recruiting pitch.”

“It's not?” Jade asked as she suspiciously studied Tammy’s face.

“Oh no, I’d be showing you business cards, folders, Four-Oh-One Kay plans, various enticements and all of that sort of thing.” She grinned, “Wait for the Job Fair, then you will see.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jade said and shrugged, “though I am not sure I ready to look at jobs yet.”

“Well you are here for a few years, we’ll just have to find a suitable carrot,” Tammy said with a smile.

“Oh boy, I can see Career Day is lively.”

“Nah, its tame compared to the Science and Magick Fairs on campus.”

“Really?”

     “Really.”


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
Meeting Hall
Tuesday, November 21st, 2006


“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” - Sigmund Freud

 “Its like I’m dressed up in my mothers clothing, its like I’m talking to a voice that doesn’t exist. Its like I got a wire crossed upstairs. They say I’m mental but I’m just confused, they say I’m mental but I’ve been abused, they say I’m mental cause I’m not amused by it at all.” – Mental – The Eels

Awakening was a slow process, as it seemed like I was escaping from a dream that had no end. It was a timeless sort of drifting where my mind refused to track on anything, wallowing in the shallow sea of warm blankets and soft pillows. On some level I was aware that I was not alone in the bed, yet it didn’t matter, I felt safe and I was very reluctant to leave that feeling behind.

A faint snore intruded on my secure world, poking me obscenely in that I knew for certain that Sara didn’t snore. Sara had obliquely hinted that I occasionally did snore; but that it was cute, well that was the impression she gave me. Silently I listened for a time, trying to catalog who I was, much less how long I had been asleep.

Certainly I didn’t feel much different on the outside, well much more different. I did have an odd sensation in my left hand, but I chalked that up to being partially asleep, though it did itch. I felt the bed move slightly as someone slid into it carefully, and then there was a kiss on my cheek.

“Hi sleepyhead, how do you feel?” asked Sara’s voice.

I debated the question, then I heard my voice start to say, “I fell like…” recognizing a familiar quote.

“A military academy, bits…” I heard as an odd sensation crossed my mind.

“And pieces of me keep passing out,” I seemed to finish.

“Yes, I see, but who are you, really?” she asked.

“I’m Merry,” I said hearing and feeling a faint echo in the room.

“Hmm, ok let us try a different question. I want you to look deep in your mind and say who you think you are.”

“I’m me,” I said and again with the same odd echo.

“Hmm, I can see this might be tricky,” Sara placed her hand on my lips, “now say who you are.”

“I’m Merry, who else would I be?” I heard as I tried to speak the same words.

“Hmm, ok, lets try another tactic, who is in your head with you?” she asked has her hand remained on my mouth and she looked down at me with a smile.

“Mai…” I heard as I tried to say ‘Chaddy.’

As her hand lifted I looked at her quizzically, “Ok now who are you?”

“Merry?” I asked looking up at her, then there was an odd sensation of stunned astonishment from Merry prompting me to close my eyes tightly. “Wait, I feel Merry as a different voice, did something go wrong?”

Sara placed her hand on my head and I felt a strange sensation before she spoke, “No, it’s a side effect, but one my Dad said might happen. You are Chad, and this,” there was a pause and I felt the same sensation distantly, “is Merry… Your souls are bleeding across each other or reconnecting somewhat.”

“Um, she feels like she went back to sleep…” I said after a moment.

“Yes, I sent her back into sleep, it was easier than sending you back and she wasn’t really awake and she needs some more rest.” Sara smiled and then kissed me, “You see Chad, she has a bit of unconscious healing to do. Though it is more like she has to reshuffle the deck of cards in her head yet.”

“And I?”

“Well you had the advantage there, as I had plenty of blank space in which to ease you into place.” Sara paused and then added with a sincere kiss, “Happy birthday Chad.”

“Uh thanks, I think,” I lifted the sheet and peeked down at my left arm, “I have a whole left arm.”

“Yes you do Chad,” she paused and licked my neck provoking a rush of heat up and down my body.

Sitting up slowly I looked over past her at the other sleeping girl, Merry, “She’s me, isn’t she?”

“She was you, but isn’t any more,” Sara pulled me against her and hugged me tightly, “you should remember what happened, yes?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t feel real, it is like I dreamed it.”

Sara nodded, “It’ll take some getting used too, but I suspect you and Chaddy will merge over time, more so than Merry and Mai will. Though I could be wrong.”

“Ok so umm, which of us is the made up person now?” I asked.

“Well both of you, but and this is a big but, you are not made up, up here Chad.” She took a moment to tap me on the forehead, “Which is the important thing.”

“And Merry?” I asked feeling odd about the question.

“She’s partly you, partly Chaddy, and part of someone else… Supposedly they copied or grafted part of another female telepath’s memories onto yours, not the best choice I think.” Sara sighed loudly, “But it worked more or less.”

“So now what?”

“We’ll have to figure that out later, but you really need to rest yet Chad,” Sara grinned, “You need to expand and decompress some, as you were getting crowded in there,” Sara pointed over to the sleeping semi-feline Merry, “squished even.”

“Yeah, maybe you are right,” I said through a yawn.

She placed her hand on my head gently and I felt my eyes close, “Sleep now.”


It was dusk when Sara led me over to the Donner’s house, me Chad, that is. Merry was still out cold and Sara thought it likely she would sleep well through the night. Frankly I found it really damned odd to say Merry was a different person than I was, am, something like that. Part of me wondered at the odd rule in D&D where exact clones went made and tried to kill their original off.

“Um Sara?”

“Yes Chad?”

“Isn’t it a rule where clones try to kill off the original?” I asked aloud.

“No,” she paused and then added, “well not that it has been documented. Why the question?”

“Well I don’t have a frame of reference for this,” I stopped and looked at her, “I’m not sure how I should feel about Merry.”

“Hmm. Ok, do you hate her?”

“No.”

After a moment she asked, “Do you envy her?”

“Umm, I am not sure,” I said honestly.

“Ah, what is the biggest difference you think; between you are now, and what you were in the same body with Merry?”

I closed my eyes for a moment then opened them feeling a bit shocked at the sudden thought, “I’m a guy…”

“Where as Merry is a girl?” she asked and stepped around me to wrap me in a hug.

“Yes.” I looked down to where her arms were under my breasts, “Um, but I don’t look exactly like how I feel in my head.”

“But you were a girl all along with Merry?” she half asked.

“Not exactly, Merry was the girl, is the girl.” I closed my eyes and then shook my head trying to force my thoughts into some semblance of order, “This is so confusing to me.”

“It will be ok Chad, you are not the first guy trapped in a girls body. However you do have an advantage compared to some of my friends, in that you were not thrown head first into the deep end of it.” She kissed the back of my neck softly, “And you did have all that time watching life though the same set of eyes as Merry. So you will have a cushion of prior knowledge to fall back on.”

“I guess,” I sighed and hugged her arms.

“Come on,” she said releasing me after a moment, “let us get some food in you. Being you will come to you in time, I think, if not you can always go mad and become someone else.”

Blinking I had to look at her critically for a moment, then as a smile crept out onto her face I realized she was pulling my leg, “You brat!”

“What?” she asked with a grin, “You can’t handle normality?”

“What’s normal?” I asked uncertainly.

“When I figure that out I’ll let you know, but in the mean time, all we can do is muddle along, right?”

     I digested that briefly and rolled my eyes, “Sure thing, if I don’t sort it out first.”

“That’s the spirit!”


Our entry into the kitchen was greeted with surprised silence. Eloise and Ben seemed to be both relieved and startled, though slightly worried. The others of what Sara had said, were Eloise’s clan, were surprised but they quickly smiled. The Fathers on the other hand seemed to take my presence as a given, and I suspected that they had peeked in. Mrs. Donner only rolled her eyes as she cast a glance to the girls' everyone had simply called the twins.

“So, who do we have here?” asked Father Pete as the silence seemed to sit heavily on the group.

Sara smiled and pulled me forwards by my hand, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Merry’s other half, Chad.”

Father Rico snorted, “Some how I don’t think Merry and this young lady are married.”

“Ah, I know what ye meant,” said Father Pete as he gave Father Rico a mild elbow jab, “though this one seems solidly themselves.”

“Hello Father Pete, hello Father Rico, nice meeting you all again, I think.” Shrugging I nodded to the others, “I suppose we’ve met, sort of.”

“Sort of,” said one of the ladies, the slightly shorter twin if my memory was right, “I’m Michelle.”

“And I am Denise,” supplied the other taller one, “we didn’t really get a chance to say hi.”

Nodding I sat down in an empty chair, “I guess its nice to meet you, though I think I could have skipped all the physical trauma and emotional drama,” I said with a pointed look at Eloise.

Mrs. Donner gave me a thoughtful look and walked over to the stove, “Well we can’t change what has passed, but we can move forwards and at least try to make up for it.”

Reluctantly I nodded and then said, “I am not very good at forgiveness.”

“No I expect not, considering what ye have endured in your young life,” said Father Pete as he reclaimed his own seat, “but we do work in that business, when we’re not trying to save the world.”

“Uhh, yeah, am I in that business and is my, I guess she is my sister now, Merry?” I asked looking down at the ring carefully.

“Well the ring has not mysteriously fallen off of your finger, has it?” asked Father Rico as he too sat back down.

I gave the ring a tug, but it was firmly in place, “Nope, still stuck there.”

“Well then, I guess we’ll have to keep ye,” said Father Pete as his eyes twinkled, reflecting his smile.

Mrs. Donner placed a plate in front of me filled with mashed potatoes and steak, “Eat slowly, you’ve not had any food, ever, and you don’t want a belly ache.”

I thought about that and then nodded, “I guess this is my first meal ever.”

“I would offer you a shot of whiskey Chad, and wish you a proper Irish birthday, but I think it would go to your head,” offered Father Pete.

“Not to mention being illegal in this country,” chided Father Rico, “apart from communal wine.”

Blinking I looked up from the plate of food, “So where do I and Merry sit now, in the Church?”

“Eat Chad,” instructed Sara as she leaned against the wall.

“Well that is a tricky thing,” said Father Rico as he sliced into his own steak carefully, “as you do have the ring on your hand, and she does not.”

“I see, so you are kicking her to the curb?” I asked indignantly.

“No, but from what I gather she is likely going on indefinite sick leave,” said Father Rico as he lifted his fork and appeared to study the portion of steak on it, “you see it is quite possible you both could share the Knighthood, slightly.”

Father Pete sighed and tapped the table, “There is a great many things uncertain in all of this, but we’ve not had a cloning, ever. People coming back from not being completely dead, yes, cloned no.” 

“So Chad,” Father Rico closed his eyes briefly, “it is all uncharted waters.”

“Wonderful, so we won’t know if she’s escaped the snake bit until it’s happened again or not?” Sara asked cautiously.

“I am afraid so,” said Father Pete as he looked at me critically. “I think Chad, as much as you are Chad, the name doesn’t seem to suit you currently.”

I didn’t quite choke on my bite of mashed potatoes, but it did take me a moment of sputtering and a hefty swallow of water before I could speak. After an unobstructed breath I glowered at him, “You think?”

“Ach, such a fierce look you are giving me.” Father Pete seemed to shrug uncomfortably and then nodded, “Yes, I know you’ve just woke up as you, however it might be a good idea to pick out a new name soon and get used to responding to it.”

Sara walked over and placed her hands on my shoulders as I tried to stand up, “Relax its not urgent, but Father Pete is right, to some extent.”

“Says you, it feels very wrong from where I am sitting,” I protested but gave up trying to stand.

“Ah, yes,” Ben looked over to Eloise, “well?”

Eloise looked briefly flustered but she nodded and eased her plate to one side. “We do owe you and your sister reparations. I won’t force you to agree to it, but I would like to formally adopt both you and your sisters.” She looked over to Ben and then up to Sara before looking at me, “Sisters, plural.”

“As in Joni too?” I asked her.

“Well yes, admittedly I am not sure I am ready to be the mom to three teenage girls.” Eloise shrugged oddly, “But if you will have us, we’d try to do our best by you.”

“But I am not a Were, nor do I think Joni would want to become one,” I interjected after a moment's thought.

“It’s not a requirement,” said Ben with a chuckle, “there is precedent, as the peoples have adopted others due to either mischance or just sheer love of children.”

I actually managed to chew through a bite and eat it before being prompted to add, “I bet they have some odd essays, ‘My dad is a Were-Wolf,’ and so on,” from Chaddy.

“Well yes, but the parents try to keep that to a minimum,” said Mrs. Donner with a laugh, “though Eli here did do that as a Kit.” 

Eloise looked briefly flustered and then she nodded, “Yes Mom, I remember. I turned it in to my teacher and my teacher told me to try again, ‘without telling the whole world we were Weres.’”

Ben snickered loudly as the rest of the table seemed to grow smiles as well, “We all have silly cub tales.”

“So what is it like?” asked Caleb as he pointed at me, “Being in the new body?”

“Well,” I paused and took a mental inventory, “it’s quieter for one thing, but I’m not exactly used to the girl thing at all.”

“Chad’s memories and so on were mostly male,” said Sara into the silent moment, “so while she has both sets of equipment, Chad seems to feel more guyish in her head.”

Sighing I looked at my empty plate and then took a drink of my water, “Up here, in my head, it’s like Merry was always the girl. It might be that I just let her be the girl, hiding from it.”

“So you’re having a time of it now?” asked Father Rico as he sat back in his chair.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat and said, “Yes.” For a time I just concentrated on the supportive warmth Sara was sending though her touch, and from what felt like her mark, but it wasn’t anywhere close to my neck. “So you could say I’m a bit scared by the idea.” 

“Knowing you have the fear, Chad is the first step in getting past it.” Father Pete smiled and pointed at me, “I think I have a name for you, what do you think of Petra?”

For a brief moment I was awash with the Greek translation of the name, courtesy of my ring, “It means ‘Rock’ correct?”

Father Rico seemed to relax and with a smile added, “Yes, if is also the feminine version of Peter.”

“Rock of the Church, Peter?” I asked as a swirl of odd information that was totally out of context swirled around in my head.

“Well that is one of them,” Father Pete gave me a knowing smile, “gives your head a whirl doesn’t it?”

“No kidding,” I said after I was able to open my eyes again.

“So what do you think of Petra?” asked Sara as I sat there.

Chaddy seemed noncommittal and I wasn’t up to deciding on anything major at the moment, so I said, “I think that I will think about it.”


Whateley Campus
Hawthorn Cottage

Toni rapped on the open door, “Is the Doctor in?”

“Hi Toni, mind the lack of gravity,” Diz rolled her eyes and pointed to the boy who was floating in front of a computer, “Doctor Space Cadet is trying out his new toy.”

Taking the hint Toni took a careful step and pushed off carefully into the air, “Oh, what sort of toy?”

“The entire cottage got computers today, new ones.” Diz grinned, “they even made sure to fit them to the people they were going to be for.”

“Color me impressed,” Toni smiled and tapped Diz to counter her slow float forwards. “Have you been working on your exercises? “

“Yup, it still takes a while to get real food through, but I’m not eating through a straw any more.” Diz beamed and added with a roll of her eyes, “Mrs. Cantrell is worried I may get a cavity, but you would not believe how good chocolate tastes if you have not had any in a few years.” 

Tony nodded and pointed to the computer, and the NEXT Logo in it, “I may be jealous, all we got were second rate no-brand laptops.”

There was a loud sound of dismay as the screen flashed brightly, the digitized voice for the speakers declaring shield failure. “No-o!” yelled the boy as he worked the keys frantically to no avail, “Ah man, I died.”

“I was beginning to think Diz and I had a zombie in the room,” Toni said as the boy spun around, “I hope you have been practicing.”

“Practice! Ha! I’ve been working,” he pointed proudly to the computer, “behold my wages.” 

“I see, and how did you earn that oh master of the gravitonic waves?” she asked.

“Well, they were having trouble moving all the boxes, and desks around for installation.” He paused and smiled and then floated up and down quickly, “So I went out in the halls and they were able to float them slowly.”

“Well Fuub did,” said Diz with a laugh, “you should have seen his Cheshire cat bit as it floated on the boxes.”

“So what did Fuub get for all his work?” Toni smiled as the kid’s comical but happy expressions were nice to see. “Don’t tell me they put one in his tank?”

“Nope, they gave him a computer and a tricked out closet for it,” Doctor Heavy grinned, “But his room has way cool speakers that feed from the computer to it.” His voice dropped to a whisper, “But his music is so o-l-d.”

Blinking Toni solemnly nodded, “It’s because he is an a-d-u-l-t.”

A Cheshire cat blinked into existence, “I heard that,” it said as it’s tail twitched violently.

Toni effected an innocent expression, “Hey Fuub, how goes the war on boredom?”

“You are not that innocent,” Fubar said as he slowly morphed until he was his usual ghostly form, “but boredom is losing all over the cottage.”

“So I see,” Toni watched as the kids gravitated to the computer, “I was going to stop by and stuff, but they seem to be doing well today.”

Louis pointed to the door and Toni could feel a helping push to help angle her that way. “Come on let’s let the kids have fun.”

“Later guys,” Toni called over her shoulder only to receive the briefest of waves. “Boy I rate, don’t I?

Louise smiled as Toni lightly landed, “Well it has been like Christmas around here.”

Toni glanced at the odd bits of paper and Styrofoam peanuts that lay about the building, “At least the detainees won’t have much mopping.”

“This is true,” Louis smiled as they went down the stairs.

“So why all of the presents?” asked Toni as they passed a boy going up the stairs, clutching a box in his tentacles fondly.

“Ah, well you might say it is a bit of the old greasing of the wheels,” Louis chuckled, “not that the grease was not unneeded.”

“Yeah, the campus could use a lot of that kind of grease,” Toni complained good naturedly, “I think the only building in worse shape than Hawthorn and Poe is Whitman.”

“Well yes, it getting shelled slightly didn’t help that.” Louis mimed covering his ears, “My own ears rang for a few days after the headache stopped.” 

“Erg, how are you doing?” She asked as they rounded a corner, ”I know some of the kids are still shaken up by it.”

“Well… I do have some unpleasant dreams,” Louis admitted and then tapped the wall, “from what Jimmy says there were some thousand odd souls in the device they shattered on my proverbial doorstep and I got the full effect of it.”

Toni stopped and looked at him with a puzzled frown, “Ah, and he would know this how?”

“Jimmy talks to dead people and they talk back,” Louis held a finger up to his lips, “it’s a secret.”

“So why are you telling me?” Toni tilted her head to one side as he just stared at her, “Oh my god, like in ‘The Sixth Sense?’”

“Yes,” Louis motioned further down the hall away from his room, “come on you have to see this room.”

“Not going to show me your closet are you?” she teased.

“Well maybe, afterwards.” He seemed to blush for a moment, “It is a rather cool closet.”

“So is this where Jade has been schlepping off to?” Toni asked as she took in the odd door and the odder sign,

‘Danger Electrical Hazard. Do not enter if sign is lit.’ Pausing she pointed to the last line of text, “You have to be kidding?”

“Well I think there is a bit of implied humor in it,” Louis laughed for a moment, “The ‘feeding times’ could be interesting, if what they have told me is accurate.”

“And why would they need a lunar calendar next to the door?” Toni asked as the door seemingly unlocked itself.

“Ah, she is a Were-Cat.” Louis motioned to the wall and the light switches clicked on, “Tada.”

“Wait, Were-Cat, as in like Were-Wolf, as in like Bloodwolf?” she asked taking in the room that seemed a cross between a natural enclosure in a zoo and a dorm room.

“Not exactly,” Louis smiled as Toni peered around, “if I were one to be jealous of a cage, I might admit to jealousy.”

Briefly wandering into a short hallway and back out she said, “Oh man, a private bathroom, and a tub you could swim in…” Toni blinked and then added dryly, “and a giant litter box.”

“Well yes, she can’t always use normal facilities due to her mutation.” Smiling Louis watched as she climbed the odd cat ‘tower’ to look out the window. “What do you think of the view?”

Frowning she looked back to him, “Not much of one is it?”

“No, but it is windows, like I said I could be jealous.” Louis took up residence on an overstuffed couch, “Don’t open the large window, it sounds an alert in Security and upstairs.”

“If you say so,” Toni dropped to the floor as Louis picked up a remote, “but don’t you get to see the world through the other folks eyes?”

“Yes though windows of the soul, with all the extra baggage.” He waved the remote at her, “It’s like the one in my room, all the classroom feeds, television channels, and surround sound.” He pushed a button and the wall opposite the couch lit up with CNN, “Many rooms in the Cottage have something similar.”

“Color me impressed, and the bedroom is it as posh as this?” Toni asked as she walked into the next room, “Oh man, if this is what you get for being a Were-Cat, she can bite me.”

“Yeah, it is a bit much for a student, and I have no doubt she will catch some flack for it.” Louis looked over to her as she opened the refrigerator, “It’s not been stocked yet.”

Calling over her shoulder as she looked in the bedroom, “Ok, if this a bit much, then why did they allow it?”

“Well, it is going to be hers for a long time,” Louis said as Toni walked in and plopped herself on the couch.

“As in a permanent guest of Hawthorn?”

“As in she’s untrained, emotionally unstable and dangerous, among other fun things.”

Toni laughed, “You could be talking about half the school.”

“Well yes,” he paused and added, “but then your friends did break her out of a nut house.”

“Sure they did,” she gave him a smirk that slowly faded away at his frown. “What! Those, those fiends, argh! They go off and have an adventure and leave me behind! I’ll, I’ll strangle them!”

Louis smiled and nodded, “Galling is it?”

“Ok Fuub, dish, why would they go and do that?” Toni seemed to focus on him intently, “An it better be good or I’m gonna be upset.” She huffed in her indignation, “Leave me behind will they?”

“Well from what I have learned it was because the Fed’s had botched her care, add in a real monster getting loose about the same time, and it is a wonder that anyone got out unscathed.” Louis nodded as she blinked, “By the way we’ll have another young girl here by January, she is about Diz’s age.”

“Ok, but you are switching topics,” she waved a finger threateningly at him, “no detours.”

“Well, she is uniquely gifted, of what I won’t go into,” he shook his head, “but she ran into problems in her escape, and ended up getting infected with the Were… Virus. Which didn’t help her other problems with electricity, Electro Magnetic Pulses, and an odd form of Multiple Personality Disorder.”

“Gee, she’d fit in Poe real well.”

“Actually, yes.” He shook his head; “She was a he, well after the surgical corrections for hermaphroditism. His BIT switch got thrown and he reverted, well she did.”

“Fuuuun, so she is like Jamie?”

He snorted, “I am not sure anything is like Jamie. Though genitalia wise, yes she is.”

“OK, so she’s nuts, powerful and a Were-Cat,” she gave him a suspicious look, “you are up to something.”

“Yes I am.” He smiled and pointed a finger at her, “You and your friends have a good rapport with the kids here, that is when they are not computer crazed.”

“So what? You want me to teach her the secrets of the Chi, unstick her BIT somehow, what?”

“Well, she may need some help, but she’s more than likely going to be needing a friend.” He chuckled and pointed to the room in general, “A gilded cage is still a cage.”

 “So what is in it for me?” She paused at his odd look, “Not that I would not try and be friendly in any case.”

“Hmm, I could find a way to obtain several gallons of your favorite ice cream and have them stocked here on a regular basis…” He gave her a bland smile, “It’d give you a reason to drop by, do movies, and do girl stuff.”

“Won’t she get suspicious that I only show up for munchies and movies?” Toni asked with a thoughtful frown.

“Well I am sure you are devious enough to figure something out, along with the other kids perhaps?”

“Louis, this may be the start of a beautiful friendship… Or something like it.” Rolling her eyes she pointed at him, “You derailed the subject again.”

“Yes, so I did.” He tossed the remote to her, “I think Jackie Chan is on forty-seven.”

“Oh?” she scooped it up and gave him a sidelong glance, “This isn’t over you know?”

He nodded and slouched comfortable on the couch, “I know, but I suspect her telling of the tale would be more interesting.”

“Ah, so all this is just to have company?” she asked in teasing voice.

He smiled lazily, “Would I do that to you?”


Medawihla Nation,
Tribal Protected Lands
The Loft, Eloise’s House

I gave the monitor and computer in front of me a glower, and then sat back in the chair angrily, “Ok Sara what is wrong with me?”

“Well Chad, you’ve not exactly given yourself a chance to settle into your body,” she said and eased a chair next to mine. “Also you seemed subtly different to me, when I put you in there, so it is quite possible that you’ve changed some.”

“Yeah, I still see the lines of power the same way was before. Though I do have the faint edges of blue, color wise.” I motioned to the comforter on Ben and Eloise’s bed, “It’s not much but it is noticeably blue.”

“Ok, so how zappy are you?” she asked and touched my hand, “I can feel a charge in you, but it’s deeper somehow.”

“I have not fried the computer in my agitation,” I motioned to the monitor and it barely wobbled, “yet.”

“Well that’s a nice change isn’t it?” she asked thoughtfully.

“I suppose,” I looked at her and sighed, “I hope I have not lost that part of my gift.”

“I doubt you would have, as you had it before. Still,” she placed her hand at my neck, “I’ll look under the hood, just the same.”

“Ok, I suppose,” I closed my eyes briefly at the odd sensation that crawled up and into my neck.

“Just relax, breath in and out like when we were doing the shielding bit, remember?” she asked in a teasing voice.

Closing my eyes I took a breath, “Yes teacher.”

I felt rather than heard her giggle, ^I’m in you now, a part of you so just relax, and breath.^

“Easy for you to say,” I muttered and took another breath.

^Yes, but then neither of you two meditate or try to meditate or that matter, ^ she chided and I felt an odd tingle distantly, ^I think that is the key there.^

Taking another breath, I felt the tingle spread further across me, “Ok something is odd.”

^Just relax, breath in, breath out, no words, try about five or six times more, ^ she instructed as the tingling sensation grew.

Skeptically I did as she asked feeling the tingle grow in intensity, then suddenly there was an odd flowing sensation. Opening my eyes I looked out on the familiar glow of the Net. Suddenly a great deal of my tenseness evaporated and I sagged slowly down to rest on the surface of it. A hand squeezed at my shoulder and I looked up to see Sara there, dressed in a glowing red robe that held red pinpoints of light.

“Welcome home Chad,” she said simply and smiled.

I stood up and hugged her tightly, “I’m here, really here?”

“Yes you are, it is not a trick.” She stepped back and gave me a wink, “Not that I mind your lack of attire, but you should wear something if you plan on roaming tonight.”

For a moment I considered copying Merry’s outfit, then I stopped and looked at Sara, “I’m not Merry, so my being Arc is out.”

“Well no, you are a different person,” she motioned to me and smiled, “though you are similar.”

“Hmph,” I closed my eyes and concentrated envisioning my self to look like Trinity from the Matrix, just in white rather than the slick back she wore. Opening my eyes I looked through a pair of sunglasses, “Well?”

“The painted on pants are nice, as is the top, but the jacket, well you could have left the coat black.” She mock pouted a moment, “Maybe a bit more skin should show as well.”

I grinned and then closed my eyes, “More skin she says.” For a moment I tried to envision how a white corset would look like in the same material and sighed, “Ok we need to do some online looking, if not shopping for real.”

“What are you trying to create?” she asked gliding towards me.

“Well I was thinking about a with PVC corset sort of thing, but, apart from seeing one in a magazine, I have no idea how it should feel, much less look on me.” I shrugged and converted the top to a white PVC bra, “This I can manage though.”

“I like that look on you,” she smiled wickedly, “we’ll have to go shopping for a corset for you, and maybe the rest of the outfit.”

Blushing I nodded, “As long as you try on stuff too.”

“Deal, so where do you want to go now?”

I gave the local Net a dubious look, “Well someplace with more oomph to it, Ben’s computer is nice, but it is not a real Net.”

“Ok,” she took my hand and grinned, “we do need the paperwork to get your sister enrolled at Whateley.”

“Yeah, both of them.” I took a breath and then placed us at the What09 Server, “Welcome to the Whateley external router server. Next stop the Administration computers.”

“Um don’t look now, but we have company,” Sara said and turned me to look at a dimly glowing ball.

“Cute it is a Bit,” I looked at it critically then addressed it, “so Bit, is Clue or Blue your User?”

“Yes, yes!” it replied changing color and shape briefly.

“Ah good, did they leave you here for a reason?”

“Yes.”

Sara gave me wan look, “Yes and no only huh, real informative.”

“Well Blue seems to be stuck on Tron, so it is not surprising.” I tugged the air with my hand and placed it at eye level, “Ok Bit, are you here to tell Blue or Clue that I have arrived?”

“Yes!”

I rolled my eyes and sighed, “Blue seems to be infatuated with Arc…”

“Well she is hot,” said Sara mischievously, “as are you.”

Blushing I addressed the Bit, “Well go tell Blue I am here.” I looked back at Sara, “We may as well get this over with.”

As the Bit winked out Sara smiled and gave me a hug, “Stealing hearts are we?”

“No, I don’t think we are ready for guys yet,” I said giving her a kiss in return, “if ever.”

She giggled and turned me slowly as a figure rezzed in, “Yep that’s a Tron bit.”

I nodded, and clasped her hand in mine, “Yep, so which are you this time Blue or Clue?”

“Ah, I’m Blue, is that you Arc?” he asked uncertainly.

“Not exactly,” I shrugged after a moment, “Arc is my sister though.”

He looked at me carefully and seemed to glow with embarrassment, “Um, ok. So what are your handles? Considering you know mine already somehow.”

I paused and thought furiously for a moment, “I’m Nexus.”

Sara coughed, “That’s taken I think.”

I turned to look at her dubiously, “By anyone like me?”

“Well no,” she admitted, “but Nexus is a fairly notorious Hacker, not a good choice.”

Snorting in derision I nodded, “He’s a dullard compared to what I can do, but ok, I’ll try for something else.”

Blue chuckled and nodded in agreement, “Not to mention he’s in jail currently, and likely doomed to wear a white hat for the rest of his life.”

Sighing I pulled up a seat in midair and sat cross legged, “Ok, what about Locus or Loci?”

“Locus is Latin for place, or in mathematics it is a the set of points satisfying a particular condition, often forming a curve of some sort,” said Blue as he seemed to quote from someplace.

Sara appeared to think for a moment, “I am not sure if anyone of note or infamy has claimed that yet.”

“And Loci?”

“Well it is a bit more feminine,” Sara quickly said and rested her hand on my knee for a moment, “I like it.”

Feeling Sara’s not so subtle silent urging I briefly stuck my tongue out at her and nodded, “Ok, Loci will do.”

 “And you would be?” Blue asked Sara and I had the joy of watching her look briefly nonplussed.

“I’m…”

“Rider,” I helpfully supplied with a grin.

For a moment she seemed to balk at the name but then she slowly grinned, “Ok that works.”

“Well you are hitching a ride currently,” I said with a smile.

“She is hitching a ride?” asked Blue and then he suddenly nodded thoughtfully, “Such things should be possible, I’ll have to give that some thought.”

“Yes, well currently anyways, in time I might be able to get in on my own, but that is miles down the road I fear.” Sara chuckled, “In the mean time I’ll just have to hitch a lift with Loci or Arc.”

“So what brings you here?” Blue asked and then smiled shyly, “Not that the company is unwelcome.”

“Just stopping by to grab a few forms from the Admin side of Whateley,” Sara quickly supplied, “we have to get a few students enrolled who really need a safe place to grow up.”

“You, Rider, and Arc?” he asked pointing at me.

“Well Arc in any case,” Sara said and shrugged, “Loci may have to go abroad for a time.”

I gave her a dubious look of which she merely tugged on my ring in emphasis, “Yeah, I can’t do that bit at Whateley can I?”

“No,” she said reluctantly, “unfortunately you do need to train on that side of things.”

“I’m confused, what can’t you train at Whateley?” Blue asked after a confused look at the pair of us.

“It’s complicated Blue, and you really can’t train for what Loci will have to learn, at Whateley,” Sara smiled and poked me in the side, “even if she has other talents.”

Blue frowned and then asked, “What of you Rider?”

“That’s my business,” she smiled tightly, “I’m just a friend of the family, a close friend.”

“Ah sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” Blue sighed unhappily, “it’s just rare to find anyone in the Net like this.”

Sara gave me a thoughtful look and her slow smile caused me to blush, “Well Arc and Loci are rather unique.”

Inwardly I suppressed a groan and I turned my thoughts to obtaining the files we needed, “We really need to talk Rider, so let me grab the files and we can get out of here.”

“Oh,” Blue’s face was slightly crestfallen, “so when will you be back in the Net?”

Closing my eyes I sighed, “When we get here Blue. I don’t mean to be rude, but I share the same physical problems as my sister does, the whole not quite a girl or a guy sort of problem.”

“Arc is more girl than Loci is, well mentally anyways,” Sara said in a lightly teasing voice.” She paused and poked me, “Loci has a few issues to resolve.”

“And you don’t?” I countered with a pained grin.

Blue looked faintly startled, “Oh, I did look that up on the web, don’t they surgically correct that?”

“It’s in their BITs Blue, and they regenerate,” Sara supplied, “so if you should date them some time down the road, in real life maybe, you have to accept that.”

“I see,” Blue smiled and produced a disc, “in any case here are the files you will need.” He paused before placing it in my hands, “I suppose I will have see you in real life some time later then?”

Sara grinned at me, “We’ll see, but Loci has to go abroad for a bit.”

“Yeah, I do.” I waved at Blue, “We’ll work out a blind drop email sometime later, in the mean time don’t end up in jail.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind,” he said and smiled, “you try to stay out of the nut house. Deal?”

“I think I’ll definitely try to do that,” I shook my head, “laters dude,” and with that I put us back at Ben’s computer.

“You are not one for long goodbyes are you Chad?” Sara asked and poked me in the side deliberately.

“Well I really don’t want a boyfriend, and as far as I can tell Merry doesn’t want one either,” I pointed at the disc and then scanned it quickly, “he did leave us his email.”

“Not his Whateley one?” she asked.

I shook my head, “Not it’s a public mail server. Why did you recognize him?”

“I think so, for a brief moment he was not dressed up as Tron.” She shook her head and smiled, “As fast as you do things in the Net, I have the edge in visual perception, I think.”

“Well you are different from me, even though you seem to forget which way gravity is,” I said pointing upwards as I abruptly spun on my axis, watching her suddenly chagrined expression.

“You both are brats, did you know that?” she asked with a giggle as she hung upside down.

“Well it’s all about perception,” I said with a grin, “even if I didn’t see it.”

“Right, I’ll alter your perceptions later,” she mock threatened.

“Promise?”

“Do I need to?”

“No,” I said and leaned over and kissed her, Spiderman style upside down.

“You’re mine, even if it seems like I am collecting the set.”

“We are not collecting my Uncle,” I warned her with a shake of my finger.

“No, Chad I don’t think we are,” she savagely agreed.

“Good.”


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Eloise’s Home, Loft

"Every exit is an entry somewhere else." - Tom Stoppard

Once out of the Net I suppressed a giggle, “So Rider, what is so funny about your handle?”

“Oh,” she blinked and then smiled, “Rider Waite is know for having created a Tarot deck, it is commonly called the Rider Waite deck. So it’s a play on my name slightly.”

I thought about it and grinned, “It works then.”

“Yes it works, you are in an up mood,” she stated and gave me a thoughtful look, “but not giddy or drunk.”

As her hand came away from my neck I chuckled and gave her what felt like demented grin, “Yes I do feel pretty good. Really good.”

“Maybe too good,” she shook her head and pushed at my arm, “up you, I want you to go outside and see if you can dump some of your charge.”

“Going to help me?” I asked as I stood up giggling.

“No, I need to find Father Pete and button hole him for a minute or three.” She shook her head with a somber smile, “Come find us when you are feeling a bit more calmer ok?”

“Aww, you are acting like I should not be happy,” I protested and tried to tickle her, “it’s a good happy.”

“Erk! Stop that!” she said with a laugh and swatted me firmly on the ass, “Out you, go ground a bit of your charge.”

Laughing I gave her an exuberant kiss, “Ok I’m going.”

“No you are kissing me, you are hardly going,” she not quite laughed as she said it around my kisses. “Behave you.”

“But I don’t feel like behaving,” I said with what felt like a crazy smile.

“You can misbehave later, right now I really need to talk with Father Pete.” She gave me another firm swat on my buttocks and seemed to concentrate.

Suddenly I felt a slow lassitude seem to fill me and the smile on my face seemed to wane, “Um, what is going on?”

“I thought so,” she seemed to say more her own benefit, and then I was filled with a sudden crushing despair that washed away as quickly, “not good.” For several moments my emotions seemed to bounce all over the place and then a calm settled in place upon me. “Well you don’t have the giddy drunkenness bit, but you do go way over board on the emotional roller coaster, it seems.”

Blankly I looked at her, “Um?”

“I fear that your emotions are amplified by your electrical charge.” Giving me a somber look she pointed to the stairs, “Father Pete will have to wait, let’s get your charge down and try this again. Ok?”

Feeling oddly blah I nodded, “Ok, I guess.”


Once outside and a bit away from the houses and cabins, Sara pointed to the ground, “Ok, sit you.”

“Yes teacher,” I paused and grinned at her, “all though you seem over dressed.”

Sara rolled her eyes at me and smiled, “While I like this side of you, we have to get you a bit more mellowed out.”

“But I feel good!” I protested and tried to drag her closer by snagging her hand.

“Yes you do, but it isn’t completely real,” she sat next to me and pushed my hands into my lap, “if you are still this happy once your charge is lowered, then its ok.”

 Grumbling under my breath I frowned, “Ok fine.”

“I know Chad you think I am being unreasonable, but I want you to humor me on this one.” At my slow nod she continued, “Please put your fingers in the dirt and push out as much energy as you can.”

“I don’t know what it’ll prove,” I said and placed my fingers in the soil. For a long moment I sat there looking at the night sky with my fingers in the dirt and then I said, “I don’t think anything is happening.”

I actually felt her exasperation though the mark, “You are not trying either.”

“I never had to try before, hell Sara half the time it was all I could do to not charge up, much less let it go.” I pointed off to where I thought ARC was, “The only nice thing about ARC was that I didn’t have to fight to not charge up.”

Sara actually blinked at me and then I felt a soothing flow of warmth ease into me from her mark, “Easy Chad, let it go, ok? Just relax.”

Sagging as the flash of anger left me I looked over at Sara, “Um sorry.”

“Ah, I think that was my fault Chad, I let my emotions leak over onto you and your body amplified it greatly.” Shaking her head she moved over and sat closer to where she could put her arm around me, then she patted my stomach. “Ok down here you have an organ, no not that one pervert. Focus.”

Trying not to smile, I nodded, “Organ.

“You are such a smart ass…” She tapped me on the head firmly with something and continued, “We don’t have a name for it, so we will just call it your Battery for now.”

“Oww, ok Battery,” I rubbed my head and sighed, “sorry.”

“Right, I want you to close your eyes and I am going to step in your head, like we did the meditation bit to get you into the Net.” Sara waited until I had closed my eyes and then she placed her hand at my neck, “Ok, I’m going in.”

“I’ll be here,” I said and tried to not wiggle too much.

^Wow, all this empty room, ^ she seemed to giggle, ^sorry.^

“Yeah, I know,” I could feel the silly grin on my face, “so now what.”

There was an odd sensation from somewhere below my stomach, ^Ok this is your battery, you can actually feel it, correct?^

“Yes, and that was odd,” I said as my hand reached up and tweaked my nose of its own accord. “Hey!”

^Just checking out the wiring Chad, ok I am going to see if I can get the charge to go down and out your arms. I figure if you can feel what is happening you will be able to do it.^ As my arms moved down to my sides she continued, ^I expect it is likely going to be instinctive on your part once you can feel it happening.^

“Sounds reasonable, though this is odd from my perspective.”

^Yes, it would be.^ Then there was a tingle that swelled up from my stomach and up to my arms, ^Just relax Chad, don’t fight it, it is not a heart attack.^

“Goo-od,” I could suddenly smell ozone start to pour out from someplace, “we got ozone,” I announced as I started to glow brighter.

^I see, are your, never mind I can feel that they are closed, ^ my eyes opened and I looked down, ^ah, your blood may be acting as a conduit.^

“It’s going to be hard to conceal in a dark room,” I said and waved my brightly glowing had as a spark shot down from it.

^Worry about that later, ^ she chided and my arm dropped down to the ground again, fingers seeking the dirk.

It took several moments before I could feel what it was Sara was pulling from, “I can feel the battery.” I tugged hard on it a moment and there was a loud crackle near my side, “Um yeah.”

^Ok now follow that tug or pull up from there to your arms, ^ she instructed as she illustrated by doing just that.

“Fun,” I muttered and with a slow exhale pushed it upwards.

^Stop!^ she all but blasted into my head as the area around me was washed with light.

“Fuck! Easy!” Clapping both hands to my head I moaned from the sudden spike of pain, “Seriously, take it easy.”

^Sorry, you didn’t do what I showed you, and the effect of what you did surprise me.^ My head turned and I could see the faint flicker of burning embers fading as we scanned the area, ^You created a charged field that sparked up from the ground, useful maybe, but not what we were after.^

“I pushed up and out from the battery,” I shook my head and immediately regretted it, “damn that hurt.”

^Sorry Chad I am wired a bit deeply into you at the moment, ^ there was a rush of heat that stirred up from my groin that rushed into my head and the pain melted away. ^There much better.^

Suddenly contented, I smiled and leaned against her, “MMMMmmmmm, yes.”

She laughed and then she pushed up from my battery and I could see little tendrils of electricity flicker up from the ground. ^That definitely has potential, ^ she seemed to pause and then we both snorted though a chuckle, ^argh puns.^

 “Hey I didn’t say that one aloud, you did,” I pointed out and then tried to not swat myself in the face as she moved my hand up. “No fair!”

^Sorry, ^ she said not sounding like she meant it, and then she spoke as her hand came away from my neck. “Now I want you to work on gently pulling the energy out and down your arms to your hands and out.”

 “Pulling, not pushing?” I asked.

“No, not pushing, we don’t know if it is a new effect or if you are sending an EMP burst out as well.” She pointed to the house where the lights were burning unsteadily, “Though the lights are on, mostly.”

“Joy, so what are you going to do?” I asked as she walked back to the house.

“I am going to make sure the computer is turned off, not that a major EMP jolt would not kill it regardless, but we should avoid it.” She seemed to sigh, but then she smiled, “Still it is a good sign that the lights are on, usually if you were grumpy the lights would go out.”

“True enough,” I laughed sounding bitter even to my ears, “some semblance of a normal life would be nice.”

“You will get there Chad, but you will need to work at it.” She walked back and gave me a quick kiss, “This is just day one Chad, Rome wasn’t built in a day you know.”

Returning her kiss I nodded, “I’ll have to ask Arturo, he might actually know how long it took.”

“Hmm, maybe.” She swatted my butt and then pushed down on a shoulder, “Ok sit and get rid of as much energy as you can, without feeling empty. Then if you get that far, I want you to meditate, just breathe in and out until I get back.”

“Ok, I feel kind of hungry now though.”

“Energy hunger or?”

“Food hungry, I think, but the two are kind of in the same area…” Just them my stomach grumbled at me, “never mind, its food hungry.”

“I heard, well once I get back I think its time for a snack and maybe sleep time for you.”

“That sounds like a plan,” I said as I closed my eyes.


Medawihla Nation, Tribal Protected Lands
The Stone House
Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006


"The fastest way to travel is to be there already." - Terry Pratchett

My bladder was screaming at me as I rolled my legs over the end of the bed to the sounds of birds exuberantly chirping. I was nowhere near awake as I walked the few steps to the semi private stall and sat down… On cold porcelain. Not quite screeching my indignation I walked over the bed and thumped the nude shoulder of my other self soundly, “Don’t leave the seat up!”

“Wha?” was her sleepy protest of indignation.

I ignored the muffled reply and Sara’s perplexed look as I walked back to attend matters of urgency, after lowering the seat properly. ‘It’s morning, I am so-o not a morning person.’ I was mostly though my business, when the two realizations slammed into my head with all the grace of a Mack Truck running over a cockroach. Firstly, the girl in my bed next to Sara was me or rather the other me. Secondly, Sara never left the stool up, much less needed to use it.

Taking a deep breath I focused on finishing the task and not sobbing loudly. I suppose that I had kind of accepted not being able to pee standing up or thought I had. Though the unfairness of it galled me to no end. I mean really, I lost my arm, and they got to be able to pee upright, where the hell was the justice in that?

As I stepped back around from the semi-private toilet, a worried looking Sara pulled me into a tight hug. I buried my face in her shoulder and clung tightly to her as the tears fell from my eyes. A second set of arms slid around us and I could feel an odd blurring sensation in my head, then the both of them moved us back to the bed. One of them pushed me down to sit on the bed, and then they snuggled up next to me. Chad pulled a blanket from around her side of the bed and Sara tucked it around me.

“Merry what’s wrong?” asked Sara after a quiet moment.

“What’s wrong she asks?” I said looking down at the floor, “Lets try…”

“What is right?” asked Chad off to my left or at least I think it was Chad, there was an odd echo in the room.

Sara sat quietly for a moment and appeared to nod to herself, “Ah. Well the separation was a success, you are entirely you with Mai, and Chad is entirely Chad along with Chaddy.”

“But Chad can pee standing up,” I protested.

“Um, no not really,” Chad sighed and pointed to the stall, “I um, left the lid up after tossing my cookies.”

“You were sick?” Sara asked quickly. “I missed that.”

“I over ate,” Chad shook his head with a pained smile, “Sara had gone out, and there was this cake in the kitchen, and I was hungry.”

Sara rolled her eyes, “Don’t tell me you ate the whole cake?”

“Well no, but I did have a third of it after the five sandwiches,” Chad wilted slightly as Sara scowled at him, “I didn’t eat it all, I thought Merry would like some.”

“Five sandwiches…” Sara reached around me to whap him on the head, “Someone warned you not to over eat.”

“But I was hungry,” Chad said with an agonized look on her face.

Sara gave Chad a look that promised much abuse later, and then she turned and looked at me critically. “So you thought Chad could pee standing up, and this made you upset?”

“Well yes, I mean, look at it from what has happened to me from the past few days. I break out, get darted in the ass, I loose my arm, I end up a freaking Were-Kitten, darted once a freaking ‘gain. Then we, more like you, do some mystical hoodoo and Chad ends up out of me.” I paused to gulp at the air a moment as my throat threatened to seize up, “Then I get up, half asleep mind you, only to end up sitting on a cold toilet… How do you think I should have felt about it all?”

Sara winced as I stopped on a high note; she rubbed her ears briefly and then squeezed me gently against her side. “Yeah, put like that, it’s enough to trigger that kind of reaction.”

“I can’t pee standing up, sis. Hell I can barely get into the Net with out serious unstressing and relaxing.” She poked me in the side and pointed at Sara, “She even had to work me through letting go of the charge, and I have a few problems there.”

Sara gravely looked at her then me, “She has a sensitivity to the charge as well, but unlike your going all loopy, Chad goes to polar extremes. What ever emotion she is feeling goes into over drive.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad as being drunk from it,” I countered.

“Well if she had any defenses against Empathy, yes, it might be something she could work with.” Sara gave her a worried frown, “But Chad reacted to what ever emotion I threw at her through the Mark.”

Chad blushed darkly and seemed to glow brighter to my eyes, “Um, yeah all emotions.”

“Admittedly some part of her emotional roller coaster peaks and valleys are interesting,” she snickered softly as Chad pulled the covers up over her head, and fell backwards. “After all we had to test all the equipment, to make sure there were no defects…”

I made a rude noise and shook my head as I could feel Chad trying to die from embarrassment under the covers. “Ok, I have to ask, why the hell can I feel her stuff?”

“You are twins, perfect twins if you will.” Sara grinned and tapped an exposed nipple, “All the way down to your toes, you both shared many the same thoughts or memories and your soul is half here.” Sara stopped to tap my chest, and then she leaned back to thump the blanket where Chad was hiding, “Half there, so some bleed over is to be expected.”

There was a loud rumble of hunger from under the blanket and I grimaced as it seemed to echo in me, “I should be hungry, but she’s really hungry, you should feel how hungry.”

Sara laughed and jerked the blanket off of Chad, who was really feeling embarrassed, “Up you two, get some clothes on and we’ll find you some food.”

 “Good,” we said simultaneously and then started to giggle.

“Hmm, twins… This could take some getting used to,” Sara said and then looking intently at us, she slowly licked her lips, “well some aspects of it are nice.”

I didn’t have to feel Chad’s embarrassed flush of emotions; mine were strong enough for the two of us.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Eloise’s House, Kitchen

“An so I says to his Holiness, ‘ye should never try to out drink an Irishman, especially with Irish whiskey!’” Announced the odd but cheerful sound of Father Pete’s voice as we trooped into the kitchen.

“Don’t tell me you are a morning person?” I asked Father Pete with a groan.

“Well a few days of the week lass, when I have to be one,” he smiled and then added, “an it annoys the blazes out of some people.”

I shared a look with Chad and we both said, “You don’t say.” At his surprised look I grumpily sat in a chair, “We are not morning people.”

“Ever,” added Chad as she walked around the table to sit further away from me, “that seems to help slightly.”

Father Pete looked at her and asked, “What does?”

“They are twins, it comes with the package,” interjected Mrs. Donner as she placed a plate in front of Chad.

Sara grinned and cocked her head to one side, “Is it an optional thing or does it come standard?”

“Oh it definitely comes standard,” muttered Eloise oddly as she wandered by, clad in a bathrobe and with a towel about her head.  

“Don’t mind her,” said Ben with a lazy smile as he walked over to the coffee pot, “she was up late last night for some reason, and she is not a morning person either.”

Eloise actually blushed but she managed a retort on her way out of the kitchen, “You didn’t complain at the time!”

“I was a bit busy, at the time,” he said and I could see his neck darken as he faced the wall determinedly.

Sara seemed to smirk knowingly, but I managed to not ask the question that was on the tip of my tongue, Chad did it for me, the Bitch. “So you had a hand in that?”

“Um, metaphorically,” Sara looked briefly abashed, “I had to go eat about then…”

Father Peter gave Sara an amused glance, “I would worry about your soul, but well, I think it’s out of my department.”

“As in if you can’t affect it you may as well enjoy the joke?” asked Chad as I was too busy eating.

“Well there is that,” he briefly shrugged and picked up his cup of coffee, “some of the members of our Order are less than chaste, one or two are even married.”

“Oh dear, and what does the Pope say about that?” asked Sara with a bland expression.

“’Fifty hail Mary’s, followed by a dozen Our Fathers,’ and he follows that with, ‘Go forth and sin no more.’” Father Pete winked and drawled, “’At least until next week.’”

Shaking with silent laughter Sara covered her mouth and evidently had to force herself to not laugh, “Oh my.”

“There are some really pious and devote types in the Order, but the key thing to remember is that its made up of people,” added Father Rico as he walked in., “Some of us like things orderly, tidy and planned.”

“Aye, and tis a wonder anything gets accomplished in the Rose’s side of the house.” Father Peter held up a hand as Father Rico gave him an affronted look, and then continued, “Now don’t get your knickers in a knot, they serve a needed function and the do keep things in check.”

“Which is his polite way of saying he thinks we are all sticks in the mud.” Father Rico sat down and pointed across the table at him, “Where as they are very good at finding impossible solutions in difficult situations.”

“Which is how he politely says that we thrive in chaos and could not be tidy about it to save our Asses,” countered Father Pete with a grin, “not that either side would admit to using the other’s tactics at need.”

“Well when things go south you either adapt or die,” Father Rico rocked his head to either side and I could hear the muscles and tendons snapping as he flexed, “which is also why our Order is a Marital one.”

“Speaking of orders, what is the order of the day?” asked Chad quickly as if to forestall the coming feud.

“I suspect we have to do some paperwork,” said Ben calmly, “adoptions and new identities for you two.”

“Then some shopping, you two will need clothing and other bits,” added Sara with what could only be a lewd smile, “no men invited for that part.”

“Dare I ask what bits?” asked Ben.

“No,” said Eloise with a smile as she wandered back in, “if you are lucky you might see some of it later.”

I suddenly had a feeling as to what the bits were and the look Sara gave me caused me to blush. There was a cough off to my left and I turned to see Father Pete pointing at me, “Ten Hail Mary’s for you.”

“But!”

“Twelve, care to deny it further?” he asked in a semi-somber tone.

“Awwwwe man, she’s the knight,” I countered and pointed at Chad who suddenly gave me a dirty look.

“Indeed, so she is, twelve for you too missy,” added Father Rico in the brief silence.

“But, but I am innocent!” Chad protested vigorously.

“Thirteen,” said Father Pete as he gave the semi-devoured cake on the far counter a thoughtful look, “one for gluttony.”

“But I was hungry! I am supposed to eat!” she said indignantly, scowling at everyone who seemed to be smiling.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Access Road Seven

“… And that makes twenty.” I handed the rosary back over to Father Pete who was in the backseat with Sara, “Sheesh.”

“I’ll have tae see about getting ye a proper rosary again lass.” Father Pete smiled and tucked it into a pocket, “At least ye did na’ forget that.”

“Small wonders,” I glanced in the mirror to see the car with Father Rico and my brother were still behind us. “So, any word on Doctor Palm’s nightmares?”

“Not really, the Philadelphia Police are still looking for the monster there, but I suspect it is either dead or has moved on.” He waved a hand to the wilderness, “I doubt you will find him anywhere near here.”

“Good,” I looked over to Eloise who was driving with one hand and drinking coffee with the other. “Are we there yet?”

She snickered glanced over at me, “Oh dear, am I going to have time of it, am I not?”

“Oh yes, all the actual joys of parenting without the diapers.” Sara grinned wickedly, “Consider this as your training wheels for the real thing.”

“I am in no rush, really,” Eloise adjusted her sunglasses and smiled, “a time for that will come.”

“Are you so sure you and Ben want to be my parents,” I looked over to her cautiously, “I’m not exactly without troubles.”

“Well as with anything, time will tell,” Eloise motioned with her cup, “it’s like anything, the proof is in doing.”

“That’s not a yes or no answer,” I rebutted.

She laughed loudly for a moment, ”Yes, I know. I could say I was absolutely certain, and be lying to you. Frankly I am nervous as all get out.”

“Ah, okay,” I turned and looked out the window for a time.

 I felt a hand squeeze my leg and I looked over to see Eloise smile, “Relax you.”

“I, am relaxed, you are the one who is twitchy,” I grinned as her hand jerked back, “see?”


Medawihla Tribal Lands
The Medawihla Nation Tribal Center


"What am I doing here?" - Rimbaud writing home from Ethiopia

“And this is Agent Tim’s office,” Eloise grinned, “he is the local undercover Fed, but we don’t hold it against him.”

This pronouncement was greeted with a loud guffaw of laughter, and I studied the hulking brute of a man that sat in a tired looking office chair. He was wearing a tan suit jacket that had seen a few miles over a polo shirt and blue jeans. I grinned as he slipped his feet in to a pair of sandals before he stood up to hug Eloise. “Hi Eli, so what can I do for you this day?”

She gave him a peck on the cheek, “I’ve got a few children I am adopting.” She pointed at Chad and then me, “So we have to do paperwork and what not.”

“I see, they are falling off the radar?” he frowned briefly at Eloise’s nod.

“They are recently orphaned,” Sara added softly.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he nodded slowly as he appeared to think, “though it happens often enough around here.”

“Well I need to get into my office and torment the adoption paperwork,” Eloise rolled her eyes, “You can trust Tim, he is furry occasionally too.”

“Oh, ok,” Sara said as she glanced around the office at the odd piles of paperwork and equipment. 

“Yep, which is how I landed a job here.” He shook his head, “Anyways, you two are twins?”

“More or less,” said Chad with a grin.

“Ah, hmm, ok let me fire up Dilbert here and I’ll see what is in the old files.” He walked back to his desk and patted the computer that had comic strips attached at odd places upon it. He shook a finger at it, “Now you behave,” he told the computer and poked the power button.

 “So what do you do down here?” Sara asked.

“I help out, set up witness protection stuff, and run the occasional odd errand for Uncle Sammy.” He smiled sourly, “Mostly I play games.”

“So you are a spy?” I asked cautiously.

“Nope, I am a Federal Marshall, at least that is what my paycheck says,” he sat back in his chair and smiled.

“Ok, so?” I asked.

“How did I end up furry?” he asked with a grin.

“Yes,” I said cautiously.

“I had the misfortune to end up on the wrong end of an angry Were-Wolf,” he rolled his chair over to a wall and pointed to a picture with a large black ‘X’ drawn through it. “I did rectify the situation a week later.” He then tapped a fancy certificate, “Of which landed me a medal and a transfer out here.”

“Oh,” Sara nodded with a smile, “good for you.”

“Well kind of, I get the odd job or case when things get beyond the normal jobs of the Service.” He shrugged and poked his computer, “Damned thing.”

“What’s wrong,” I asked quickly.

“Nothing a new computer won’t fix,” he gave the machine a pained smile and pushed the restart button, “typical Government Issued equipment, you know how it goes, they take the lowest bidder.”

“Want me to look at it?” said Chad with an impish grin.

“No, no, its just persnickety after sitting off overnight.” He waved a hand at it; “I’d leave it up all the time except we get hackers now and again.”

“Are they a problem?” Sara asked.

“Sometimes,” he gave the computer a foul look, “the worst they have been able to do was give me some unwelcome porn.”

“Unwelcome?” Sara asked mischievously.

“Yeah, I don’t go for scat play at all,” with an amused snort he added, “if I wanted to see shit I can make my own.”

Giggling I wandered to look around the room, “Looks like a DVM in here.”

“Ah there it goes,” he started typing, “yeah, I have to make up all sorts of stuff on the job.”

“Oh?” asked Sara seemingly casual, thought her curiosity was flowing freely from her mark.

“Yeah, I make people disappear in the healthy kind of way.” He glanced up to look at me then Chad, “How old are you two?”

“Sixteen,” Chad supplied quickly.

“Yeah right, tell me another one,” Tim said with smile.

“Jeeze,” Chad muttered.

“Try fourteen,” Sara interjected quickly.

“That I might believe,” Tim laughed, “not that I could not make you appear sixteen or older, but anyone looking at the ID would say ‘Fake,’ and cause problems for you.” He typed in a long series of numbers and waited as his screen filled, “And now the fun begins.”

“Ok,” I gave Chad and Sara a look and motioned a with finger to the computer, of which earned me a glare from Chad, though Sara mouthed the word ‘Later.’

“Hmm, local birth or distant?” Tim asked as he looked at the monitor intently.

“Local might be best, if Eloise is adopting them,” Sara suggested.

“Ah, ok.” He clicked on a few items and waited briefly as his screen filled with information. “Ok, I’ve got a few easy slots, that helps.”

“We won’t have any odd relatives come looking for us, will we?” Chad asked hesitantly.

“Nope, we tend to discourage that,” he paused and looked up at Chad. “Ok, you are now born in nineteen-ninety-two, in August, on the tenth at eleven fifty-nine pm.” He then looked over to me, “you were born on the eleventh at twelve oh three am.” He reached over and pulled out a party horn and blew it loudly, “Congratulations.”

Laughing I poked Chad, “Gee and I got nothing for you.”

“Ok, sadly your mom died due to complications in delivery.” Tim mock pouted, “You were brought up by your aunt and dad, though he was a loser.” He gave us a mournful look, “Seems the death of his wife affected him oddly and he ended up in trouble with the law frequently. He apparently was into drugs and died in a bar fight that went badly.”

“Jeeze,” Chad shook his head.

“On the upside, your aunt was a sweetie and she did right by you two. Until a tragic sickness struck, leaving her in a coma for a few months until she died just recently.” He gave us a look; “Naturally you both are despondent about your Aunt Millie.”

I affected a mournful sob, “Alas poor Aunt Millie, I knew her well.”

He grinned at me, “Yes, something like that just try not to grin so much. Ok, now for school records,” he pointed at Chad, “you are a B student excepting Math, somehow you C’s a lot of them.”

“Gee thanks,” Chad muttered dourly.

“You on the other hand are a model student apart from some difficulty focusing in class,” he smirked at Chad then me, “like now.”

“Huh?” I asked as I drifted back into awareness.

“Precisely,” with a few taps he added, “the teacher tried to suggest medications numerous times, but your Auntie would have nothing to do with the idea.”

“Ugh, no drugs, ever.” I shivered unconsciously as the memories of drugs and how reacted to them roiled through me, “I hate drugs.”

“A healthy attitude to have, keep it,” He suggested and he looked thoughtfully at his screen. “Ok so you, have you got a name figured out?”

“I guess Petra will do,” Chad said with a seemingly indifferent shrug.

“A middle name would help, have you thought of one?” Agent Tim asked as he glanced up.

“Ah, no I hadn’t, Sara?” Chad looked over to where Sara was frowning at the poster-strewn wall, “Sara?”

She turned and walked back over, “Carolyn, which will give you the initials of P-C.”

“Fun, fun, at least there were twins born on that day” He motioned to me; “There were a pair of twins that were born at that time and place, except they were male and female.”

“Oh, ok, is there less chance of detection if only one birth record is fixed?” Sara asked as she peered over Agent Tim’s shoulder.

“It helps, though I am tinkering with both of them” he closed his eyes briefly and then looked at me, “How does the name Paige suit you?”

“Umm, I suppose I can use it,” I shrugged with a smile, “what about a middle name?”

Tim smirked openly, “Well the considering you dad was such a loser he probably named you after a porn star he liked. How about Jenna?”

“He liked or you like?” Sara asked with a wicked gleam in her eyes.

“Guilty,” Tim said with a smile in her direction.

“Fine,” I said with a much put upon sigh.

“Blood type?” he asked.

“A positive,” Chad supplied, “the both of us.”

“Ok, I’ll let the printer make up your birth certificates while we get your Learners Permits made up,” he smiled as Chad’s eyes widened.

“Cool,” Chad said with a grin.

“Thought you might like that, in any case it is the fastest way to put you in the system.” He motioned to a counter as he walked to the other side of it, “I’ll do your passport stuff as well. So step up to the line young lady and I’ll get your picture.”

There was one brief moment of distress when the computer processed our fingerprints. Tim gave Chad then me an odd look and then nodded slowly, “A bit young to be a Fed aren’t you?”

“It’s complicated,” I said and motioned with my hand at Chad, “odd magicks.”

“One of the reasons they have to disappear,” Sara quickly added.

He nodded slowly, “I seem to remember a story about some little slip of a girl and some mess in Philadelphia.”

“Guilty,” Chad said slowly, “I helped out and we saw some stuff…” trailing off she looked at the floor, “it was ugly.”

“Ah, now it makes a bit more sense, so the suits hid you out here to keep you safe?”

“More or less,” I shrugged noncommittally, “not that it helped much.”

“It says you are medically unavailable,” he tapped the terminal next to the fingerprint scanner. “Needed a break from reality did you?”

“I had one, you can call me coo-coo if it helps.” Chad shrugged again, “Like I said, we saw stuff.”

Tim sighed with some sympathy, “It happens, you are young so you should have an easier time bouncing back.”

“The voice of experience?” asked Sara softly.

“Yes, you don’t chase serial killers and not encounter the worst of humanity or the remains,” Tim looked over to the wall that held the photo with an ‘X’ through it.

“So will I have to worry about them finding me now? Or am I invisible?” Chad asked with a look over to Sara.

He nodded and looked back to her then me, “Don’t worry, when someone goes into the Witness Protection Agency files, only god can find them.”

“That’s good, as the killer is still on the loose,” Chad walked over to a row of Wanted pictures and glared up at them.

“Did he make the Most Wanted wall?” Agent Tim asked as he walked over to look.

Chad paused and then froze, with a shaking finger she pointed at a police sketch, “Yeah.”

Tim frowned and eased the thumbtack out of the paper, “Ok, I’ll fax this over to the Sheriff’s office with a friendly note asking him to keep his eyes open.”

“Can anyone look up my records?” I asked as he sat back down.

“Not easily, most likely anyone tracing you would find a dead end.” He shrugged, “You don’t have any warrants or misdemeanors, so a random check would say nothing.”

“But they could find her through them?” Sara asked with a hint of worry in her voice.

“They would find a note to contact me, if they ran their prints after this morning in the Agency; but only if the person in question had any real authority.”

“Lovely,” I commented feeling a bit off, “and if they look hard?”

“They won’t find you, not with out a very damned good reason.” He leaned back in his chair, “I run things in this area for the WPA.” He motioned to the computer; “Dilbert here is a dumb terminal when it connects to the secured lines. Nothing is stored on it except some games and junk email.”

“What about interception?” I asked slowly.

“Well, first they would have to figure out which of one hundred lines it is using at any one split second.” He smiled, “Then they would need a small army of code breakers to uncork the compression and then crack the encoding.”

I frowned though Sara gave me a warning glance, “So after today?”

“You are a blank,” he pointed at me, “though technically a Fed,” he chuckled. “One of many, trust me on that.”


New Hampshire
Dunwhich

The rest of the morning passed quickly, though Chad and I could have skipped all the shots we got. Evidently the Doctor was not going to let us get away with us not having current immunizations. In my case I got a few odd ones, like rabies and distemper, complete with tag. Sara of course decided it would be funny to get me gothic style collar and she had fun making the ‘owners tag’ up for it.

Naturally the collar drew a few odd looks once we got into Dunwhich. Though most of the time it was a followed by an amused smile. Father Pete took Chad off to see about suitable religious wear and such while I was left with Sara in front of a small shop. Sara had a mysterious and yet mischievous look on her face as she all but pulled me inside.

“I was wondering when you would darken my doorstep today Sara,” the woman said with a warm smile, “I’m Cecilia, and you are?”

“This is ah, Paige,” Sara said with a mild look amusement, “she’s going to be a new student at Whateley so I am helping her get settled.”

Cecilia’s smile wavered a second but she nodded, “New identity?”

Sara nodded slowly,” Yes.”

“I thought it might be the case, as she didn’t seem to react to it,” she looked at me, “a new name is tough to get used to. So you will have to watch yourself carefully for a time.”

“Oh, yeah,” I glanced around the shop and sighed.

“Really enthused about the process isn’t she?” Cecilia asked.

“It has been a rough few days,” Sara supplied helpfully.

“I can imagine, any thing I should be aware of, aside from the tail?” she asked with a smile.

Sara leaned forwards and whispered to her briefly causing her to laugh, and Cecilia added aloud “I could see that silly, I am a seamstress you know.”

“She generates and absorbs vast amounts of electricity, to the point where she burned most of her clothing off one day…” I watched Sara frown and she looked at me carefully, “Also in her ‘normal form’ she is missing her lower left arm, so she may need a prosthesis.”

“Ah,” she frowned, “I can’t help you there, but I know a good place in town, nothing exotic I am afraid.” 

“It’s ok, exotic can wait.” Sara grinned and pointed at me, “Care to be Miss Robo-girl Two Thousand?”

“No, I have enough troubles just being me,” I said with a grin.

She laughed and pointed to a booth, “In you go dear, just follow the instructions while I get Pamela on the phone about your arm.”

I looked at Sara who nodded, and wandered carefully into it and shut the door. Once inside I was greeted by a soft voice that instructed me to remove my clothes and put them in a small box that recessed into a wall. That done it lead me though several stretches and positions as it scanned me with red lights. The hard bit was when it asked if I was a shape shifter and if I had another form. It took what seemed like an hour to relax enough for my body to slowly shift back to a less furry me.

“Are you alive in there?” asked Sara mischievously.

“Mostly, trying to shift down, I am not sure I want to try shifting up,” I said as my stump slowly took form.

“Ah, yeah,” Sara’s voice took on a soft tone, “we’ll have to work on a hypnosis control for you to shift back later.”

“Ok,” I said as I rubbed my stump, “dumb thing hurts still.”

“Going to finish up soon?” Sara asked.

“I hope so, the writing in here is fuzzy though,” I said.

“Oh, we need to get you glasses I suppose,” I heard her giggle “and maybe less wild looking contacts little miss kitty.”

“Fun, fun,” I muttered and resumed my directed posing.


Standing in front of the mirror I shook my head in protest, “Skirts, skirts and more skirts!”

“But you look good in them, besides, your tail would be a problem in jeans all the time, as it could chafe.” Cecilia noted aloud with a grin to Sara, “Also you have the figure to pull off wearing them and they conceal much.”

“You will be able to steal some of Petra’s later Paige, when you get a grip on it.” Sara said as she smoothed the skirt down.

“Ah the missing sister?”

“Not missing just off getting a few other things,” I said and rolled my eyes. “I am not a fan of skirts.”

“Yes, but you do look good in it,” Sara said with a smile, “and they do conceal much, as she said.”

“Funny, I would think a stiffy would show no matter what,” I shook my head, “that would go over well.”

Cecilia coughed in evident laughter and then she nodded, “Well we will make sure you have a comfortable gaff or ten just in case. Also I know a few tricks that will help you conceal that, but I fear tight clothing may be a problem for you without prudence. Which is why I recommend that you focus on skirts and such, until we can take some dedicated time to work on that.”

“You may have a problem in combat classes as well because of that.” Sara said as she frowned, “It may be best to hold off on the martial arts until next fall, give you a chance to get used to your body.”

“And temper?” I asked in resignation.

“Yes.” Sara rolled her eyes, “The last thing we need is for you to get mad and infect a third of the class.”

“Joy.” I looked at the stack of clothing, “Gloves?”

“Well you may have a time getting them on one handed,” Cecilia noted, “though you won’t shock people through them.”

“At least we managed to work around the buttons,” I wiggled my fingers at the stack of clothing that was off to one side, “so doing all this stuff, with the tools will help.”

“Speaking of one handed, I scheduled you an appointment with the local prosthesis supplier.” Cecilia smiled, “While it won’t shoot disintegration beams and the like, you should be able to get something that will help you grip things at least.”

“Oh, ok,” I looked at Sara, “so do you have a favorite outfit picked out for me?”

She giggled, “I liked the leather one, very punkish.”

I moaned in mock annoyance, as I liked how it looked but hated getting into it, “Ok but you have to lace me up.”

“With pleasure,” she smiled with a lick of her lips, “we’ll have to get a few of those Cecilia, and maybe some extra cording?”

“Plan on cutting her out of it?” She quickly held up her hand, “No, I don’t want to know.”

“And the Puss in Boots, style of boots are cute too.” She smiled and held up the collared boots.

“You are having too much fun with this,” I said with a giggle, “I suppose I will have to learn how to fence?”

“Well it would help with your balance clumsy kitten,” Sara smirked, “how many times did you stumble today?”    

“A few, a few.” I smiled and slid the dark leather skirt up, and then I eased the corded belt tighter about it.  After a moments struggle, I pulled the gray tube top down to my waist and then back up to hold things in place and then I gazed at her expectantly, “Ok bring on the torture device.”

Cecilia smiled, “It is not that bad, and once the ties are fitted you will only have to get the hooks connected to put it back on.”

Sara helped tie me into the dark leather corset and I nodded, “Just not too tight Sara, I want to be able to breath you know.”

“Now would I do that to you?”

“Yes!” I said with a gasp as she cinched it up, ”You would, back it off some please.” 

 “Sorry,” I heard her giggle of which meant she wasn’t very.

“Uh huh sure you are. I think the denim jacket would be good too.” I looked at the pile of clothing and frowned, “I need more sweats I think, I don’t want to be in a skirt and knickers all the time.”

“I can understand that, bath robes and night gowns too?” Cecilia asked as she walked to her machine to start the process.

“Yes please, the whole shebang with undies and so on,” I said with a chuckle. “Seeing as I’m not the one paying for it.”

“Throw in some silky stuff too Cecilia, she needs to learn to enjoy being pampered,” Sara grinned wickedly, “and a few naughty bits.”

There was a scolding chuckle from Cecilia, “Sara are you trying to corrupt this innocent girl?”

“I’m not that innocent, really!” I said with a giggle.

“I don’t think I want to know, just be careful with it you two,” Cecilia admonished.

“Yes mom,” I muttered.

Sara traced a finger up the side of one slightly catty ear, “Maybe some gold hoops?”

“They would heal over,” Cecilia noted aloud, “the next time she shifted without them in, poof.”

“Erg, let us not and say we did?”

“Hmm, maybe, “ Sara reached out and tapped my partial arm, “Or maybe they would stay intact. In the mean time, a few small ear cuffs?” Sara suggested.

“We’ll see.”

“What no handcuffs?” Cecilia asked whimsically.

I felt my face warm as Sara licked her lips, “Later.”

“Kids!”  Cecilia protested with a laugh, “I am going to put some armor plates in the leather duster, it’ll weigh more but you can’t beat the protection so that will take a day.”

“Working me into the cyber-punkette motif?” I asked.

“It seems to suit you,” Cecilia said with a smile, “a good fedora too perhaps?”

“May as well,” I said with a smile.

“Laura Croft will be in second place I think.” Cecilia walked to a shelf and took down a box, “Here this should do I think.”

I took the box she offered and opened it to uncover a black fedora with a gray headband. I put it on and Sara immediately reached up to make sit rakishly on my head, “Look out Laura Croft, there is a new raider in town.”

“Yes, all she needs is the guns, and a whip perhaps?” Cecilia smiled, “Though you will have to get the guns and whip elsewhere.”

I tugged the sole glove on with my teeth, and then wiggled my fingers to loosen it a bit as I pointed ignored it’s mate, “So now what?”

“A trip to the optometrist, lunch and then to see the lady who does prosthetics I think,” said Sara quickly.

“Be sure to get a brace for it that you can slip in and out of easily,” Cecilia added and tapped my good arm, “that way if you shift it won’t hurt more.”

“Ok,” Sara nodded to the growing stack of clothing; “we’ll pick that up later.”

“It’ll take some work to get your order added to hers, do you need it today?” Cecilia asked.

“No you can send it up to the school when it is ready, Paige here is the needful one, her sister will need to stop in later though.” Sara patted me on the shoulder; “Just put it all on my bill if that is ok?”

Cecilia nodded, “Sure thing,” she paused and smiled, “you should ask for Anthony Castilian, he’s a good optometrist and he is not weirded out by exotic eyes.”

“Sounds like a winner, thanks for everything Cecilia,” Sara stopped and gave her a quick hug. “As ever, you are marvelous.”

“Thanks girls, do stay out of trouble. I would hate to lose some of my favorite customers.” She chuckled, “As I plan on selling you clothing for some time.”

“We’ll try.” Sara gave me a slight push in the direction of the door, “Come on Paige we have to get you glasses.”


New Hampshire
Dunwhich

Peering over my third hamburger I frowned at Sara, “I look like a dork.”

“No, you look like a geek, a cute geek,” she countered and sipped at a shake slowly.

Pushing the rectangular glasses back up my nose I sighed, “I guess, at least I can read the menu now.”

“True, cats normally use their whiskers for figuring out close up things, and their use of smell.” She giggled and picked up a French fry, “It’s fun to watch you eat.”

“Speaking of eating, I thought you didn’t?” I asked and pointed to the shake.

“I don’t get anything out of it true, well not much anyways. But the flavors,” she paused and licked the ketchup off of a French fry, “flavors are very important now.”

“Is that why you are so oral?” I asked with a teasing tone.

“You! I’ll show you oral,” Sara said with a leer.

“Promises, promises,” I countered with a slight blush.  

“Ha, so there you two are,” said Petra as she gave Sara a quick hug and sat next to her, “hi sis.”

“Hi Petra, I see you are looking spiffy,” Sara said with an appraising look as she took in her tidy dress with a smile.

“Well she put up a good fight,” said Father Pete with a grin. “An how are ye doing Paige?”

I paused and made a so-so motion with my hand, “I had to get glasses.”

“Yes, you look quite scholarly in them,” he replied.

“Geek!” Petra added then quickly guarded his ribs as Sara poked at her.

“Be nice you,” Sara warned, “she looks good in them.”

“That she does. Having any troubles with the locals?” asked Father Pete as he pulled out a chair and sat.

“Not really, I did get asked why we were not in school by the Sheriff though.” Sara shrugged, “Once I told him I was here with Ms. Carson’s good blessings and that I was escorting a new student, all was well.”

“I expect he called there,” noted Father Pete as he picked up a menu.

“True, but Ms. Carson does know what I am up to.” Sara pointed at me then Petra, “Just not for who yet.” She appeared to think for a moment, “I may have to get another days extension, unless we get Paige here, there tonight.”

“Fun,” I muttered and picked up my forth burger.

“Ms. Carson is a good lady me lass,” Father Pete smiled, “if you are familiar with the hero crowd, she used to use Lady Astarte as her handle.”

I shrugged nonchalantly, “I may have heard of her.”

Petra snickered deviously, “Might she says, I know for a fact there were several screen shots of her in the computer at home.”

“Geeze Petra, blurt it out loud why don’t you,” I angled a kick under the table at her and succeeded in hitting the center post of the table, “ow.”

“See,” she pointed at me, “she’s blushing.”

“Awww, that’s cute,” Sara said and looked meaningfully at me.

“It. Is not. Cute,” I growled at her feeling a rush of warmth fill me.

Petra leaned back quickly, “Easy sis, relax.”

One lip curled up slightly as I announced, “I. Am. Calm.”

Then I felt a wave of calming warmth flood my thoughts and it seemed like I was captured in a timeless moment. I slowly looked over to Sara who was looking at me, “Easy love, just relax,” I dimly head her say.

Father Pete frowned and then slowly smiled, “Easy lass.”

“That was rude,” I said slowly as the world returned to normal speed.

“Sorry Mmm… Paige,” Sara shook herself. “Here I promised your mind would be free and yet I’m using it against you.”

“As long as ye recognize the risk lass,” Father Pete scolded slightly then his tone turned warm, “ye will do what is best.”

Sara nodded and then sighed, “I can hope.”

I took a breath and reached out and tapped her hand, “No blood, no foul, and nobody got injured,” licking my lips I looked back at her face, “I’ll just exact revenge later.”

Sara blinked and then drolly said, “Promises, Promises.”

I picked up a fry and did my best to lick it in a teasing manner, “Oh?”

“Ten more Hail Mary’s for you,” chided Father Pete as he looked away quickly.

Petra had the good graces to say nothing, but I could feel her laughing on the inside.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Thursday, November 23rd, 2006
Eloise’s House


"Eat dessert first. Life is uncertain." – Anonymous

It was Thanksgiving Day, and I scarcely felt thankful. Admittedly I was alive, as was my new sister and somewhere out there, Joni was too. The rest of my family I was rather ambivalent about, well apart from my Uncle, him I wanted dead. 

Sara had to return to Whateley for part of the day. She was turning in paperwork, seeing if my room was ready and making sure they had a kitty litter tray large enough for me in it. Yes I was litter trained, as evidently I kept enough of my wits when in kitty form to use one. With luck we could get me one that was automated, as that chore was not fun; as a two hundred pound Were-Cougar kitten is much larger than your average house cat kitten… Much larger, as is the mess.

Father Rico had left us the prior afternoon to ‘sheer the sheep’ as Father Darcy put it, before he admitted that Father Rico held pleasant services. Evidently Father Pete didn’t sit in the Pulpit much, due to his needing to travel ‘hither and yon’ on Church Business on an irregular schedule. Apparently he also handled a variety of problems ‘Ethical, Clerical, and Terrifical’ on a regular basis.   

Since today was Thanksgiving, the house was filled with the scents of cooking turkeys, ham and other wonderful scents. Ben evidently was expecting a party to take place as there was also a pig in one of those large cooker things, being cooked and smoked. Eli’s Mom was doing something on the stove, which required several kettles, a rack of spices and many tomatoes along with other tasty bits. 

Today was taking on a festive air as Eli’s family portion of her Clan was running in and out to set up things. It was amusing to watch; as the various members would run in, try to sample things from the various pots only to get smacked with spoons or other utensils if they were too slow by Eli’s Mom. I had managed to get a few nibbles before being shooed away, so I didn’t blame them for trying to get their share of tastes.

Father Pete was burning up the phone lines between here and Vatican City. Evidently it was in the early to late afternoon there and he was chatting up the Knight Commander of the Order about me, Petra and Sara. He had taken up residence on one end of the couch and was animatedly talking to the person on the other end and watching television. Most of the time they seems to jabber at each other in Latin, though occasionally Father Pete would throw in a smattering of English, and other languages for emphasis.

Petra had retreated quickly upstairs and into the Net due to the Ring amplifying and translating the discussion in near real time. Having been under the deluge of information from the Ring many times, I didn’t fault her for hiding. I seemed to do ok, I wasn’t getting nearly the flood of information Petra was. So basically I could follow the one sided conversation to some extent, though some words completely threw me for a loop.

Father Pete finally hung up the phone and looked at me expectantly, “So lass, how much of that were you able to follow?”

“About sixty-five to seventy percent of it,” I frowned and then shrugged, “it was very foggy at other times.”

“Enough for general comprehension,” Father Pete smiled and pointed at me, ”which means you will have to learn the languages instead of leaning on the Ring to do it for you.”

“I guess, so what should I expect from the big Kahuna’s in Rome?”

“Well, they are planning to send a new Ring to Whateley just in case you should need one.” At my sharp intake of breath he motioned for me to sit back down. “You don’t have to put it on, but having it handy, in case of real troubles may help. As it stands, there seems to be a bit of oddness in the Vault where they store things.”

“If you say so, frankly I have no desire to go through the testing again,” I said and ignored the faint itch of my missing arm.

“Well I doubt you would have to do that again lass, one trial per customer, you pass or you don’t.” He shrugged and then continued, “Evidently you and your sister are both joined to the Ring and Pact somehow, I expect the Librarian would like to examine both you and your sister in person one day.”

“Why?”

“Well there are two orbs in the Vault now, one seemingly connected to the other.” He blinked and then nodded as I must have appeared confused, “When you take the Trial a solid unbreakable orb appears in the Vault, with it we can tell if you are alive, injured and so on, occasionally we can scry for information as to if the person is in trouble or not.”

I am sure the sarcasm oozed out of my voice as I said, “Magickal Peeping Toms, just what I need.”  

“Well, it has happened in the past, but largely they are checked only when folks have not reported in or are deep under cover.” He waggled his eyebrows and pointed up to the loft, “I fear your sister will get poked and prodded some in Rome.”

“And what of me?”

“Well you are officially on indefinite medical leave,” he rolled his eyes, “the Knight Commander after consulting with yours truly, has decided for now you would best serve the needs of the Order by healing up, learning things, and watching Sara’s backside.”

“While I do enjoy the view, why would they want me to watch her?” I asked feeling a bit odd about the idea.

“Well folks did try to kill her on Halloween,” he paused and motioned for me to sit again, “though to be truthful lass, we don’t so much need you to watch her, but to watch one Reverend Darren Englund and his associates. An few others.”

“Ok, I’ll bite, why?”

“Well we are concerned that Reverend Englund is misusing his Religious Authority. Not that we suspect the man of any sexual misconduct, he’s celibate from what we can tell, but this bit with Halloween has Rome concerned.” Father Pete tapped his nose, “Something smells lass. You can’t bring assassins onto Whateley without pulling some strings or making foul deals.”

“So I’m going under cover?” I asked casting a look up to the loft, “I’m not exactly subtle at times Father.”

Laughing loudly he nodded, “Aye that you are not, we’ve put a wee suggestion or two in Ms. Carson’s ears as to the classes we would like you to take.”

“Why am I suddenly dreading the direction this is going?”

“Oh, I think you will like the classes, well a few of them.” He smiled and pointed to the phone, “Languages old and very old for a start, the Reverend teaches several non-standard courses in ancient tongues, which will put you in proximity to him.”

“Well that makes sense, I suppose.”

“Then there is a very good teacher in the Mystical Arts Department, a Ms. Claudia Banacrof, of whom if’n ye will, is the  ‘Laura Croft’ type if ever there ever was one.” He smiled and pointed a finger at me with a thoughtful expression, “We do need someone to occasionally go fetch or retrieve the odd item on occasion.”

“My clothing choices are starting to haunt me I see,” I rolled my eyes and pointed up to the loft where the computer lay then out of the house, “that isn’t exactly where my talent lies.”

“Yes, but if you think about it, the last place a person would look for someone of your nature would be tromping through the ruins of old temples.” He grinned and then with a longing smile added, ”Something I used to do before I got caught up in other bits.”

“Ah, so you used to play Indiana Jones?”

“Not so much playing involved in it, and occasionally it is dull as hell.” He looked down at his hands for a moment, “I do miss it now and agin’, seeing something no one else has seen in ages, holding things older than the Pharaohs. Its quite enlivening.”

More than a bit curious I asked, “So why did you stop doing it?”

“We’re a bit short handed lass.” He shook his head and sighed, “We don’t exactly recruit openly, and the Church and the World in general has some nasty enemies.”

“Ah, I suppose the Churches enemies are now mine as well?”

“I am afraid so, but look on it this way lass, the Ring would not have tested you if ye were not able.” He pulled his leg up across his lap and then tapped his booted foot, “I suspect you will be more than apt for the tasks, as will your sister, considering you are the same person or were.”

“I suppose, but I’ve not exactly made a good showing of it thus far have I?” I asked after a moment had passed.

“Oh I don’t know, you’ve made a few good friends and possibly a family.” He winked and pointed up to the loft, “You discovered a sibling, and while you may become furrier on occasion, it won’t kill you.”

Grinning I rubbed a semi-pointed ear, “Well I can’t say that I am any worse for Were.”

There was a loud groan of pain behind us and I turned to see Ben holding his head with both hands, “Ow, the pain, she uses puns.”

“Grin and bear it Ben, you are stuck with me,” I pointed to a folder that resided on an end table, “at least until I am legally eighteen, maybe longer if I like you.”

Smiling he nodded and made a point of pulling at his hair, “Good thing this grows back, I expect I’ll be pulling my hair out on occasion.”

“I’m not that bad am I?” I batted my eyes at him and put on my cute face, “Pwease mister bear, don’t throw me into that brier patch.”

“Ah, she’s haring off on a tangent,” said Father Pete with a wicked smile.

I nodded gravely to Father Pete, “But tricks are for kids.”

The floor shook as Ben dropped to the floor with a miserable sounding sigh, “Make them stop, please make them stop.”

I peered over the couch at him taking in his smile, “Faker.”

“Yep, now if you two are done discussing things, I want to turn the television on and see what the scores are.” Ben put his hands out as if in prayer and pleaded in faux-whiney tone, “I really, really want to see the games.”

“Football sucks,” I said pointing to the television.

Clutching at his heart Father Pete looked at me, pointed with an excessively shaking hand, and then pronounced, “Heathen!”

“What? I never got the point of moving a weird ball up and down the field with the intent to smash other people into the dirt, sue me.”

“Well, yes, there is a lot of that, but I fear the games must go on.” Father Pete gave me a knowing look, “One does not aggravate the cooks.”

I stopped and considered that for a very brief moment, “Um, right! Must not annoy the cooks.”

“Precisely,” said Ben as he picked up the remote and thumbed the television on.


Whateley Campus
Ms. Carson’s Office

“Dear lord that is quite the twist on things,” Ms. Carson finally pronounced.

Sara nodded unhappily, “Well fortunately she’s very adaptable, and though while she puts up a strong facade most of the time, she is close to the edge.”

“Yes, I can see where that is likely, not that she was far from it, if I read through Otto’s report correctly.” Ms. Carson tapped the notepad on her desk, “Father Darcy requested a few courses to be added to her curriculum.”

“Ah, dare I ask?”

“Well I suspect some small ulterior motives on his part.” Ms. Carson gave Sara a critical look, “His suggested additional courses would place her in proximity to Reverend Englund, on a daily basis.”

Sara sat back in her chair and studied her claws for a time thinking furiously, “Which courses?”

“World Religions, Greek, Advanced Latin, then there are a large assortment of ancient languages as well.” She stopped and gave Sara a measuring look, “How much of that does she really need?”

“Certainly not all of that at once?”

“No, even I am not that sadistic.”

“Hmm, well all of that could not hurt if she remains working with the Knights.” Sara glanced to the windows then back to Ms. Carson, “More to the point, I don’t see the Church just letting her be either.”

“Ah, there may be a reason for that.” Ms. Carson paused and looked at Sara for a moment, “From what I have been able to ascertain they’ve taken some heavy casualties in the past few decades.”

Concern washed across Sara’s face as she grappled with the thought of Paige in a war zone, “How so?”

“Well while the Church doesn’t advertise who is a Knight, however it is rather rare for Bishops to die under the age of sixty.” Ms. Carson frowned and tapped her hands on the desk, “Add in all the lesser rankings if you will and the numbers would suggest they have lost about forty percent of their Order in that time frame.”

Wincing Sara looked up, “That seems a bit excessive, do you think they are that under strength?”

“No, but I don’t think that they are fielding a full team either.” Ms. Carson appeared to doodle idly for a brief time, “So I suspect that they would welcome both of the two girls in any capacity, with open arms.”

Sara let out a long soft sigh, ‘We’ll worry about that later.’ Refocusing she looked over at the pad of paper, “So her curriculum?”

“Well it is too late in the year to drop her into any real course load and expect her to survive in it.” Ms. Carson laughed lightly, “Not that we won’t find ways to keep her busy in that time.”

“Well then, for spring?”

“Yes, I think we’ll squeeze in a few of the Father’s requested courses. The World Religions Class, Advanced Latin, if she can pass the pre-testing, then the courses in magic for non –mages…” She rolled her eyes, “Evidently they want her to understand how it works.”

“’Understanding how magick works’, most of the active practitioners cannot agree on that,” Sara drolly replied. “Still given that Dr. Palm has ensorcelled his soul into a program and spun it away onto the Internet, it cannot hurt.”

“Ah yes, then we toss in the usual powers labs and classes, not that we should let her practice her real gift there.” Ms. Carson’s eyes twinkled mischievously, “We’ll dump her head long into the Hacking and computer classes, on the firm understanding that she is to strive for a ‘C’ average in them…”

“Oh dear, from what I know of her ability, that would be a challenge.” Sara studied Ms. Carson’s face thoughtfully, “Are you up to something?”

“Well yes, I am going to place Ms. Hartford as her faculty mentor or guide if you will.” Ms. Carson smiled tightly, “We’ve received reports of some rather unpleasant attacks by Dr. Palm’s AIs. The attacks ranged from seemingly harmless bits to deadly accidents, of the chemical and nuclear type.”

Sara frowned, then closed her mouth and thought for a moment, “New Delhi?”

“Among others yes,” Ms. Carson pursed her lips and then shook her head, “so you see we can’t really afford to let her sit idle.”

“No, I expect not.” Sara fidgeted in her chair for a moment, “She does not respond well to people who do not respect her… Or treat her unfairly.”

“Yes, I had a very long discussion about that with Otto on Sunday.” She blandly smiled and added, “A very long discussion.” 

Sara looked down at the floor, “Otto may not exactly be unbiased in regards to her. He was under a very nasty compulsion geared to make him that way.”

Ms. Carson coughed into her hand once, “Well yes, he did say that as well. However, he is sending someone of whom he thinks Paige already has some rapport with. A Doctor Chris Summers, I trust you know him?”

Sara smiled slowly, “Yes, he is a good choice, as he actually managed to get her to open up some.”

“Good, well he will be here two times a week, and seeing Paige one to two times a week.” Ms. Carson tapped her desk soundly, “Otto was adamant about that.”

“Ah, yes he had mentioned dragging Paige back to ARC if she didn’t get real care.” Sara rolled her eyes and then sighed, “Which would not be good for either of them.”

“Why is that?” Ms. Carson asked with a frown.

“Well, Paige has changed physically,” Sara motioned out the window, “you can’t cage a wild thing and expect it to flourish.”

“And this would be bad for Otto as well?”

“Well Paige had already figured out how to unleash her gift in a constrained environment, peacefully.” Sara glowered at the floor, “While she would not unleash anyone like Maelstrom or seek to deliberately injure people, she would make her displeasure known.”

“As in turning ARC inside out to make her displeasure known?”

“Well, yes. I think Paige only tolerated her captivity because she had no where else to go.” Sara frowned and then added, “I suspect at the time of her initial incarceration, if you will, she was longing for death.”

“So what changed that?”

Several words flitted though Sara’s mind before she simply said, “Hope.”

“Not love?” asked Ms. Carson carefully as she studied the younger girls face.

“Well, yes that too, but you can’t really have one without the other.” Sara smiled and looked away, “Her friendship or love when she gives it, is total.”

“That could be a problem, as there are unscrupulous people out there.” Ms. Carson pointed to the window and then motioned further away, “People would use that against her.”

Sighing Sara looked back to Ms. Carson’s face, “Yes, but I think if they did abuse that, they would get what they deserved from her.”

“And you? Would you let that happen to her?”

Sara smiled tightly, “Only to an extent. She doesn’t trust easily as it is, so if they had designs on her they would have to take the long slow route to get there.”

“Ah, good.” Ms. Carson scribbled briefly and then looked up, “So to other matters, her sisters in point.”

“Well Petra is going to Rome for a time, whether she returns to here in the fall is anyone’s guess.” Sara smiled and added, “They need the time apart to learn to be themselves, and not reflections of each other. They have to build up the differences in who they are, so that when they are close they don’t overshadow each other.”

“That makes sense oddly enough, and her other sister, Joni is it?”

“We have to extract her before Friday night,” Sara briefly reviewed the information Gypsy had passed along, “or we risk losing her forever.”

“Another bit that was foretold?”

Sara nodded and rolled her eyes, “Prophecy and divination are so enlightening.”

“I can relate, the only warning I had for Halloween was to ‘keep the tools of the past handy.’” Ms. Carson shook her head angrily, “and you saw how well that went.”

“Well we survived, mostly.” Sara pointed to the window, “Chief Delarose says we have a lot of sheep yet, not so many sheep dogs or wolves.”

“Yes, he has brought that up a few times in meetings, we are working on it.” She smiled and looked back to her desk, “So turning back to Joni, she’ll need a place here?”

“Yes, though she won’t need a room in Hawthorn, Dickinson perhaps would work, or any of the others, its not like she lacks for money.” Sara rolled her eyes, “Her sisters seem bent on enriching hers and their accounts, legally, if not oddly.

“So who is paying for her?” She held up a hand and smiled, “Paige only has three people paying her way, at last count, as much as we need the money it would be a bit unfair to make her pay as well.”

“Well I am sure we could wrangle and endowment or two, help a few others, and maybe get some places fixed up,” Sara grinned, “Paige likely would have an idea on that.”

“Yes, though I would insist on legal methods,” Ms. Carson rolled her eyes, “As much as we coddle the darker aspects of some students, we don’t need an economic revolution.”

Sara chuckled, “So you would prefer no electronic forms of Fight Club?”

“No, so how do you plan to get Joni out of her current predicament? Much less get yourself to Philadelphia in such a short time?” Ms. Carson asked and turned the page of her notepad over expectantly.

“Well I am going from lunch, to my Dad’s realm and out from there.” Sara smiled as Ms. Carson blinked rapidly, “Think of it as using a Teleporter or Warper to get there.”

“Alright, and from there?”

“NEXT and Father Darcy have people watching her, so if something happens they’ll move to intercept, and keep the body count down.” Sara paused and looked at Ms. Carson frankly, “But according to what has been seen, they will fail.”

“Fail to intercept the girl or keep the body count down?” Ms. Carson asked critically.

“Well the body count will be low, oddly enough, but there will be more than a few wounded.” Sara blinked at the angry look from Ms. Carson, “But don’t worry the girl will be out of there before then.”

“Do tell,” Ms. Carson instructed.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Eloise’s House

“So why does Ben need a separate house?” I asked looking across the pots and pans to Eli’s Mom.

“Ah, well, Eli and Ben are um,” Mrs. Donner blushed, “not limited to just loving each other.”

“Oh, like Sara?” I asked as she busied herself with stirring.

“Well something like that, are you familiar the term polygamy?” she asked and looked up from her stirring.

I hazarded a guess, “More than wife? Like the Mormons?”

“Well, somewhat. They’re married if you will to several others, thus having more than one husband and wife.” Mrs. Donner smiled, “So they need more than one home.”

“That sounds slightly familiar.” I motioned to the house and outward, “Sara has wives, not so many husbands.”

“Do you count?” Mrs. Donner asked frankly, “As a husband, I mean?”

I considered the question for a moment, looking back at dreams and other things before I nodded slowly, “As such I might sort of be. Though I think she favors ladies more so than guys.”

“Which would make you doubly special to her then,” Mrs. Donner smiled gently and stirred a pot. “So what do you think of her taking male Were as a mate?”

I shrugged and eased up on a stool, “As long as he keeps his paws to himself, and doesn’t try to push me or the others away, he’ll be ok. I am not into guys.”

“Ah, so you would not surrender your place to him?” she asked with the sound of approval in her voice.

“Hell no, give up her love? No, I think he’d find himself a few balls short if he tried to force that issue.” I tapped the counter and looked at the selection of knives pointedly, ”Though they would only grow back, wouldn’t they?”

“Unless you used a silver knife,” she said bluntly, “but silver is dangerous, you could injure yourself gravely with such a knife.”

“But should I obtain one?” I asked looking directly at her.

“That depends, are you Alpha?”

“Um, will you define Alpha for me? As I am sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“Alpha is a variety of things, are you dominant to Sara?” she asked after placing a lid on a pot.

“Um, not sexually, well not most of the time…” I blushed all the way to the bottom of my feet I think after I said that.

“Well I would say Sara is very much an Alpha,” Mrs. Donner rolled her eyes, “so you are not Alpha to her, that isn’t unusual, she does lead your pack.”

“If you call it that,” I rolled my eyes at her.

“Would you let any of her other lovers take your place?” she asked.

“No. Though from what I understand they would not let me take their places either,” I snorted, “Sara doesn’t pick weak people as her lovers.”

“Would you fight to keep your place?” she asked carefully.

“What do you mean? Keep my place? You are not making much sense to me.”

“Hmm, well I suppose it is cultural thing, you’ve only recently been made a Were. We are creatures of nature, tied closely to the land and the moon.” She paused and looked at me thoughtfully, “Wolves have a pack structure, with two leaders male and female, they are the Alpha Wolves, they guide and lead their pack. They are the stronger ones of the pack, they establish the order of things for the pack.”

“Ok, it sounds fairly familiar, Animal Planet-ish even.”

“Well it is a natural thing,” she said with a smile. “The other members of the wolf pack are not alphas, you could call them Beta’s if you wanted to. Occasionally the younger males will challenge the alpha male for leadership of the pack, for dominance if you will.”

“Ok, so what happens if they win or lose?”

“Well if they lose or submit, life in the pack continues as it was. Should they win, either the Alpha Male dies or leaves, then the pack follows the lead of the new Alpha Male.”

“And the Alpha Female what happens to her?”

“Well the male usually kills off her cubs, to force her into heat.” Mrs. Donner rolled her eyes at my worried look, “Don’t worry we are a bit more civilized than that.”

“I should hope so, but?”

“But dominance fights do happen, and occasionally the Alpha Male dies or the challenger does.” Mrs. Donner sighed, “Some males don’t control their beasts as well as the ladies, so we provide a needed stability in the packs.”

“And Eli?”

“She’s the strongest leader in the tribe, perhaps stronger than me,” Mrs. Donner smiled proudly, “perhaps stronger than the leaders on the other councils.”

“Alright, so back to keeping my place?”

“Well there is Carl, the young man who forced himself on Sara, while changed and out of control in his beast.” She looked at me thoughtfully, “One of our laws is that you do not come between a mated pair, with out invitation from both partners. Sara had your scent and seed on her, making it clear, scent wise, that she was yours.”

“As if I could own her,” I shook my head trying to picture that, “she is untamed, a force of nature, you don’t own that.”

“No I suppose you don’t. But Carl is of the wolf, he reacts like a wolf would. He took your mate, while in his beast; his beast seeking to supplant you, taking your place.” She tapped her nose, “You scent should have been enough to dissuade him, but he didn’t stop.”

“So he broke your laws.” I looked at her expectantly “So what does that mean to me?”

“Well, he has to legally marry Sara at the very least. At the worst he will lose his balls, permanently.” She gave me a very direct look; “Sara doesn’t strike me as the kind who would cut his balls off, even if he needed it.”

“She doesn’t do cruelty, she would knock him around if he needed it.” I grinned, “That you could bank on.”

“Ok, now I want you to consider that if Sara marries him, given that he is of the wolf, what comes next?”

I thought for a moment, “He would come after me, given that I am a male, of a sort.”

“Yes, it would be likely.”

A felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked back to see Eli looking at me, “But Carl thinks you are female, as you didn’t smell male when we found you.”

“Well no, I do bathe you know?”

She laughed and nodded, “Yes, but he doesn’t know of your dual nature either. So you can likely expect him to try and replace you as the Alpha Male to Sara.”

“That isn’t going to happen, he doesn’t have a say in that department, only she does.” I smirked at her, “She leads if you will, not him.”

“Yes, I did gather that.” Eli smiled and squeezed my shoulder lightly; “His parent’s pack is joining ours for the feast today. So while there is a chance he might challenge you, I think his parents will knock him on his ass before it goes any further. You are technically just a cub, even if you are likely a Male alpha to Sara’s Female Alpha.”

“What Eli means is that he is not allowed to fight you for leadership or dominance, by more than custom. Cubs and kits are the future of the peoples, we don’t let anyone jeopardize that.” Mrs. Donner pointed at Eli and smiled, “She was a feisty kit, but she is strong enough to lead.”

“If not occasionally stupid?” I asked bluntly.

Eli coughed into her hand and looked down at the floor with a faint blush, “Guilty, but we were given some really wrong information about Sara.”

“OK, so why isn’t the person who screwed you, and by secondary events me over, still alive?” I asked bluntly.

“Politics. We can’t just kill someone in Whateley Security without destabilizing things all over.” Eli shook herself angrily, “Believe me I would like him dead, soon, but we have to find a political reason to do so, not because he mislead us.”

Mrs. Donner gave me an approving look, “We’ll explain more about that another day, Whateley is complicated in what is allowed and not allowed.”

“No kidding,” Eli tapped me on the shoulder, “it’d take a few hours to lay it all out for you. But today is Thanksgiving, and I would rather think about gorging, relaxing and laying about the house on a full stomach, wouldn’t you?”

I didn’t have to consider that very long, “Yeah, I’m hungry.”

“Kits are always hungry,” said Mrs. Donner as if this were a common fact.


In the Net

I Chad, ok maybe I am not Chad any more, sat doing what I do best, coding. Sure Merry was good, but then she was me or I was her, personally I am more than a bit confused on the matter. But it really didn’t matter then, who was doing what; we just did it.

Which is why I was in the Net, I was here to make sure I was distinctly me, and not a copy of Merry. Yeah I am more than a bit conflicted on the whole swap, transplant, whatever you want to call it. Frankly I think we could have shoved Mai into the shell and been better off. Instead we ended up Mai and Merry, Chaddy and me, neither one of us getting a good deal out of the mess. But still we are nothing if not adaptable or at least good at seeming like we are.

My mental buddy, Chaddy if you will, is firmly nestled in my head. He is if you will a not so silent partner to my crazy new life. Since he is me, a very younger, more naïve me, we mostly get along, though he tends to get bored by the whole sit and code until the world blurs thing. Of which can be annoying, but since there is no way to separate us, we take turns. Fortunately I multi-task, ok we multi-task.

So in the same time slice it takes for him to make a move in GEO, I reroute a few hundred thousand dollars to China. Wait a game-tic, buy stocks, sell stocks and net a profit. Rinse and repeat. Of course he has by then killed a few things and cheated an electronic form of death a time or two. So it works out.

Then of course I reroute the money into three different accounts one for me, one for Paige and one for Joni. I would route one for Sara, but she has her own money, lots of money. I would be slightly jealous if I didn’t know what sort of headaches come with the IRS, and being able to draw on that money. Personally I was making sure that our money ‘hung out’ in numbered accounts, off shore and untraceable… With the exception of the working accounts.

The working accounts would hold a tidy five hundred thousand, and should it drop lower than three hundred thousand, it would automatically replenish. Poverty was never ever going to be one of our problems, we had enough problems, we didn’t need more. Yes, many people say ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness,’ but it does buy stuff, and since we were assured of being loved, by at least Sara and our sisters, stuff was good.     

Between the various tics of time, I had noticed Blue or Clue’s arrival. It’s hard to miss that whole ‘rezzing in thing’ he is fond of, the guy seriously had Tron on the brain. Waving I created a chair for him and pointed to it as I sat at my odd desk. “Have a seat, take a load off, etcetera.”

“Thanks I think, what’s up?” he said with a lazy smile as he sat down.

“Up and down are relative Blue,” I figured it was Blue by the mostly human sounding dialog. ‘Whee.’

“Ok, what are you up to in the Net?”

“Working out a few accounts, coding, playing GEO, the usual post escape work load.” I shrugged and sold off another block of stocks and looked at the results for a moment.

“You are moving a lot of data,” he said as he seemed to concentrate.

“Well yes, I’ve got lines running in and out of six different countries,” I rolled my eyes at him, “currently I am waiting on the Japan markets.”

 “I don’t get into stocks and bonds much,” he smirked, “I don’t need to.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I bet you don’t make four hundred thousand in under four minutes, legally either.” I pointed at him and smirked back as he blinked, “That’s not counting the half cent tricks I could pull, should I want to.”

“Yeah, that is always an option.” He stretched and looked around, “Nice desk, but very little in the ways of an ‘office’.”

I looked around at the wide-open vistas of the Net and shrugged, “There isn’t much need for a decor, as I am not setting up shop here.”

“Ah, what about Arc?”

“She’ll figure out if she needs one or not.” I gave him a blunt stare, “If you push her you won’t like the results.”

“Is that a threat?” he asked sitting up slowly.

“Blue, Blue, Blue, you really don’t want to get in a pissing contest with either of us.” I reached out and tapped a button on the desk closing it down, “We’ve been through too much crap to take any, from anyone.”

“Sorry, but I can’t see how you could,” he froze as his presence seemed to dim suddenly and he looked back into the Net worriedly.

“You were saying?” I asked slowly as it was taking a measure of my will to fix him in place.

“I see,” he seemed to concentrate for a moment then he sighed, “ok you made your point.”

I relaxed and sat back in the chair, “Sorry I really didn’t want to do that but you needed to know that we were not paper tigers, here.”

“How do you even get into the Net?” he asked as he studied me. “You don’t have a thread to a server or even seem to be connected to it.”

“Well, its all natural talent, of the mutant kind.” I rolled my eyes, “It’s like Telepathy or Astral Space, if you ask Rider for her take on it.”

“No hardware?” he asked incredulously.

“Well not in the sense that I would have to put wires into my head to get here, no.” I laughed at his disgruntled expression, “It has its disadvantages, as I am stuck using whatever computer is around to spring board up into the Net.” 

“Must be nice,” he finally said after a time, “but limiting if you are in a place with no computer.”

“Well Arc’s stay at ARC was annoying, but kind of needful,” I admitted, “apart from the lack of communication side of things.”

“So you were not in ARC?” he asked with an odd tone in his voice.

“Not as such no,” I glibly lied, “though I was hiding.”

“Why?”

“Well, we had done some White Hat work for the Feds, only the Feds were full of people working for the wrong team.” Frowning I aimed a finger off to where the Langley Servers lay, “They were infiltrated by a yet undetermined group.”

“Ugh, which is why I will never work for a corporation or the Feds,” he proclaimed loudly.

“Yes well being solo was not really an option,” I shook my head and transformed the area we were in to look like the sewers under Philly. “Living in a sewer, is not appealing by any stretch of the imagination.”

He stood up and looked around in fascination, “This, this was a real place?”

“Very real, and very under Philly,” I moved us to where the HAIT was created, “containing a real nightmare as well.” I left the bodies in the body bags, as I had vivid enough memories of them out of the bag. “Welcome to the birth place of the first Palm AI into a flesh body.”

“Body bags, I heard something about a mass murderer in Philadelphia.” He spun and looked at me critically, “You didn’t?”

“We found them,” I let the sewer-nightmare fade away, “needless to say it was not fun.”

“Damn, so you went white hat because of that?” he asked with what sounded like approval in his voice.

“We could not just sit back,” I reached out and woke up the desk again. “Something had to be done, so we did it.” I tapped a screen to make it face him and put up the loose AI’s face on it, “Meat HAIT, a Human AI Transport, AKA public enemy number one.”

“Ugly bastard, so is he still lose?” he asked as he studied the image.

“Yeah, I think he is in Philly yet, it needs to be around a source of communications I think.” Looking up at him I sighed, “I’m not good with pure electronics, but I think the only thing keeping it alive is the regeneration of its host. Surely a wireless phone or something embedded in the skull would cook the brain?”

“Yeah, cell phones heat up in use, and if it needed a lot of data going back and forth it would run hot.” He smiled and added, ”I’m good with tech stuff. So how is it eluding the Police, do you have any ideas?” he asked as he sat down again.

“We have had time to think on that, not much else we could do while we were either in ARC or hiding.” I motioned I and created a glowing screen and moved it to out to where it could sit as it grew movie screen sized. “Picture if you will, the various police, FBI and other agencies having tied their communications into the Net.”

“Well the do have police scanners tied to the Net, hobbyists and such.” He then pointed to the screen as I popped up such a web site, “Precisely.”

“So if you had an AI following all of those lines of communication, and then feeding it to the mobile AI,” I trailed off as I watched the data fill the screen.

“It would know where not to be.” Blue shrugged and watched as the screen blanked and started to fill with domains, “Jeeze, I can see how easily it could evade them, hell anyone with that sort of data mining capacity could do the same thing.”

“Yeah,” I spent a few moments idly tracking the ports in use and sighed loudly, “I am going to have to create from scratch, a way to filter out the millions of connections to find the needle in the haystack.”

“The record industry would love you for that,” he said with a disgusted look at me, “talk about killing shared music.”

I snorted in derision as I lazily formulated a plan, “Like I would just give that out.”

“Well Arc did give the Feds quite a bit of code.”

“With good reason, shit even you should know the Fed’s tools are weak when facing a Palm AI.” I pointed at him, “My sister has killed and decoded PALM AI’s using the code I helped her create.” Technically I had created it, as us, Arc, but I wasn’t going let him know that. “As it is I taught my sister what she knows of coding, so if anyone has a say in where that code gets used or who uses it, it is us.”

“Defensive much?” he asked sarcastically.

“Walk a mile in our shoes,” I said and then shut everything down abruptly, “in any case it is time to get out for a bit.”

“Um, did I say something wrong?” he quickly asked.

“Not so much, but I need to eat.” I lied and looked at him with a smirk, “Must feed the body so the mind can play.”

“I see, well la-,” he tried to say as I winked out.

“Yup, time to go,” I said after storing the data some place safe on the Net, and then I exited.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
Eloise’s House, Loft

Petra was sitting, more like slouched immobile in the chair when I tapped the, ‘Lunch is nearly ready, come and get it,’ message into the computer. Though she didn’t stay immobile long, as she sat up and nearly fell out of the chair in surprise. Grinning I gave her a surprised poke and said, “Boo!”

“Gah! You!” she protested as I tickled her for a moment, “Cut that out!”

I relented quickly and sat on the bed, “Ha! Welcome back sis, do anything fun?” 

“Just setting up bank accounts and so on, you know, wash the trail, blind accounts and all of that.” She gave me a bored look and then added, “I had to jerk Blue’s chain hard, that guy is really starting to annoy me.”

“What happened?”

“Oh he tried to go all macho and tough and I shut him down to a thin connection,” Petra squeezed one hand into a fist briefly, “I may have shocked him a bit.”

I could feel her annoyance and indignation as she frowned so I asked, “Did he get angry about it?”

“No, well he didn’t seem to be,” she shrugged with evident irritation. “I just got tired of his smug bullshit and dislike of White Hats.”

Rolling my eyes at that I nodded and patted her on the arm, “You are pretty charged up, lets get you grounded some and get lunch, you would not believe the amount of food they put out.”

Her stomach gave a rumble and she grinned sourly at me, “Well the flesh is willing.”

“Well yeah, you only missed morning snack time.” I shook a finger at her, “Net hog.”

“Mea Culpa,” she said with a warped sounding giggle.

“Ok outside you, time to ground,” I poked her with a finger and pointed to the stairs.

“Trouble?” asked a bass voice, and I turned to see a guy dressed it blue jeans and a tie-died shirt standing behind us.

“No not really,” I motioned at him, “we need to go outside though.”

“I see, you would be?” he asked with a wave to us.

“Really needing to go outside,” said Petra with a second odd giggle.

I grabbed Petra by the hand and while I could feel the charge in her, I wasn’t picking it up. “Yeah, what she said.”

“It’s generally considered polite to give your names when asked,” he paused and then added, “I’m Nathan Mainwaring.”

“Hi Nathan, now if you don’t want to discover how a few hundred thousand volts feel, you should move,” said Petra as she started to snicker.

I gave him an imploring look, “I’m Paige, she’s Petra.”

We both chorused at the same time, “We’re twins, move out of the freaking way or risk getting shocked,” though Petra was giggling and trying to stay upright while she said it.

Blinking he stepped out of our way, “I see, then by all means,” he motioned to the stairs, ”after you.”

I took Petra’s hand and went down the stairs cautiously, as while Petra wasn’t falling down drunk, she was very, very silly. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,“ he said as he followed us down the stairs.

“Make a hole people, highly zappy kids coming though and you don’t want to get zotched by us!” Petra shouted as her feet hit the bottom stair.

I made like Moses and tried to part the sea of people by waving my hands at them. Then finally as they seemed to stare blankly I put my hands near each other and forced a bright spark to jump between the empty space between them. “See?”

Blinking they moved to either side and I grabbed Petra’s hand again before she could try the same trick, “Come on you, no lightning bolts in the house.”

“Awww you’re no fun,” she protested as we banged out the house.

Laughing I lead her by the hand around to the back and away from the house, “Yes I am, trust me.”

“Why?” she asked as she fell laughing to the ground.

I pounced her and started tickling her mercilessly, “Because.”

“Ai! Brat, no fair!” she protested rolling up on top of me trying to return the favor.

“Ai! You!” I countered as she dug her fingers into my armpits vigorously, “No fair I only have one hand!”

She paused briefly and smiled, “I seem to have the upper hand then,” she said before she resumed tickling me.”

“Argh!” I protested as she did so.

“I thought you were coming out here to get rid of excess voltage and not to wrestle?” intruded Nathan’s voice.

I looked up from the ground and glared at him for a moment, ”Yeah what of it?”

Petra smirked at me and rolled off onto the ground, “Yeah, what she said.”

“I really do need to talk to you,” he said with a smile, “about Whateley.”

I reached over and whapped Petra on the stomach, “Ok you, seeing as he’s determined to be a stick in the mud, ground out some.”

Petra sat up and placed both hands down on the ground, and with a smirk she did something. Suddenly the area of ground around her was covered with foot tall arcs of electricity that shot up from the ground. Fortunately they didn’t do much to me, but Nathan suddenly started jumping and moving further away from us in a hurry.

I thumped Petra on the head, “You did that on purpose!”

“Did not,” she scoffed.

“Did too!” I said poking her in the ribs.

“Not!” she replied and counter attacked.

I fended off one of her hands and protested, “Did!”

“Not!” she said and tried to tickle me.

“Did!” I countered and rolled on top of her, “Did so!”

There was a sharp piecing whistle, prompting us to look up, “What? Are you still here?” we asked as one.

Laughing he gave us a measuring look, “If I didn’t know better I would say you’ve been twins longer than a few days.”

I rolled off of her and snorted in derision, “It’s a perspective thing.”

“We’re close,” Petra said as she slugged me in the shoulder.

“Ow,” I looked at her and rubbed my shoulder, “what was that for?”

“General porpoises,” she said with a grin.

Grinning I looked at her then Nathan, “Something is fishy here.”

He held his hand out to me and I had to squelch the urge to take it, instead I looked at Paige, “Evidently they didn’t tell him.”

“Life is a beach,” she said with a wink.

Suddenly suspicious he backed up a few steps, “Ah let’s not shock the old man out of his boots again.”

Giving Petra a skeptical look, then at the guy who seemed to be in his thirties I said, “Darn!” I pushed myself up to my knees before standing, “No one ever wants to shake my hand.”

“It’s more like no one wants to lay on the ground like a beached wale for ten minutes while their synapses reconnect.” Petra pointed at me, “She is sneaky that way.”

“And you?” he asked as he ran a hand through his blond hair and seemingly checked his braided pony tail for damage.

“Oh, I have my share of deviousness,” Petra said as I helped her up, “I live with her, its purely self defense.”

“And which part of you is pure?” I asked her as I blew a raspberry in her direction.

“My left knee, well actually the spot behind the knee,” she said quickly.

“I’ll make sure Sara fixes that for you later,” I said watching her face flush.

“You, you…” she sputtered for a moment and looked a way trying to regain her composure, “truce?”

“Truce,” I said and we shook hands formally.

“Are these two giving you grief Nathan?” asked Mrs. Donner as she walked over and gave him a hug.

“Well I was trying to talk with them, but they are a handful.” He returned the hug and looked at us, “Twins huh?”

“Yes, I am afraid so.” Mrs. Donner smiled and stepped back, “Come children, lunch awaits.”

“Good, we’re starving,” we both said and we started to giggle.


Food, food and more food, pretty much summed up the banquet laid out before us as we waited for Father Pete to finish blessing it. Evidently he got roped into or it was expected of him, but he didn’t seem to mind, as it put him at the front of the line. I suspected ulterior motives myself. Dozens of hearty ‘amens’ followed his and the line surged into existence.

I know I was not far from drooling with hunger as the lids and covers were whisked away. Petra, well I could feel her stomach rumbling as well as hear it, though mine was not far behind. Fortunately we didn’t have to contend with the adults as us cubs, kits and kids had our own laden table of food.  

There was a loud laugh and Father Pete announced that there would be ‘no penance for gluttony today.’ I gave Petra a nudge, “He means you.”

“Right, tell me another one,” she said as she picked up a plate and handed it to me.

I laughed and moved to the table with the food, “Left knee.”

“Oh like you can talk,” she said as she smiled.

I ignored the impulse to tickle her and started putting large quantities of meat on my plate, dead bird, dead cow, dead pig and a nice slab of salmon that had my name on it. Figuratively speaking that is. Vegetables, well those could wait for plate number two, if I had room. Maybe plate number three I decided as I looked at the deserts, deserts would be plate number two.

“Gee save some for me,” Petra said as she worked on filling her own plate.

“There is plenty of food kids,” said one of the twins as they looked at my plate, “be sure to eat some veggies.”

I moaned, “Do I gotta?”

“Yes, though I am not sure where you would put it on that mountain of dead animal flesh on your plate,” they smiled and I had the suspicion that I was going to be forced to rethink plate number two, “there is plenty of time though.”

“Oh all right, take all the fun out of it,” I said in my best mournful voice.

“Just promise you will eat some and we will stop nagging,” they said.

“Ok, ok, I’ll eat my weggies,” I said quickly.

They looked away as a car tooted its horn, “Good, the rest of the family finally made it.”

“If you say so,” I shrugged and looked at her, “can I eat now?”

“Yes, you may.” They smiled and pointed to the meeting hall as the walked away, “More tables and stuff are in there.”

“Ok,” I looked for Petra but she was already on her way in that direction and eating with her fingers as she did so. I thought that was a plan, so I picked up a drumstick from my plate and headed that way as well.

I tuned out the car doors and loud voices as my taste buds went nova. Suddenly sweating, I must have blinked more than a few times as the bite burned slowly down my throat. “Jeeze,” I managed to gasp out, “that was hot.”

Dimly I registered someone shouting, “I’ll show you she is not a male!” A moment later a pair of hands rudely jerked my sweat pants roughly down, taking my under shorts with them.

The sudden cool chill on my private parts declared my semi-nudity, much like a plane crash announces some folks will not be ‘on time.’ Utterly mortified and frozen in shock, my eyes tracked from my plate to my sweatpants, and over to the asshole who had just de-pants me.

Slowly I placed my plate on the ground and pivoted slowly in the sudden hush, I pointed a finger at him and asked incredulously, “What the fuck is your problem?”

“But, but you were a girl!” he protested loudly as he looked at my crotch.

“You dumb fuck, I am a hermaphrodite, I have both fucking parts!” I gave the silent crowd a glare, “Does anyone else need to see my dick or my ass?” I asked with a loud groan of annoyance. 

He looked at me oddly, “But you can’t be a male.”

I tried to cover my bits with my one real hand and glared at him, “Oh really, how the fuck would you know?”

There was a cough off to my left and I looked over to see Nathan and the woman he was holding looking at me, as he instructed me, “Use both hands,” while motioning downwards,

I blanched and a quick glance around showed that various women in the crowd were flushed red and no few guys seemed amazed. Quickly I pulled up my sweats and scowled at the guy who had exposed me, “Well?”

“You are not a guy,” he seemed to be telling himself as he scowled back at me.

“Just what the fuck is your problem?” I asked poking him in the chest solidly.

“I am Sara’s mate,” he finally said in a guttural tone.

Today’s earlier conversation with Mrs. Donner snapped into sudden focus. As did my temper as he hit me in the face. I blinked and touched the side of my face, it stung somewhat but then again, I had been hit harder by a Senator.

A heat filled my mind as I announced in a nasty tone, “Oh you must be that boy Carl, the one who can’t keep his dick in his pants, not that it is much of dick.” I pointed down to the crotch of his pants and said with a sneer, “You don’t even have a real bulge.”

There was some rough laughter to my pronouncement, and Carl stood there blinking in consternation, his face flushing red. “I’m man enough,” he said as he took a step towards me.

I danced away from my plate as I planned on eating the food on it later, “Oh I don’t think so, otherwise Sara would be in your bed and not mine. But then, she did say you were likely trainable, like a puppy.”

“I am her mate,” he doggedly insisted as he swung at me.

I whipped my prosthetic arm up in a hard outward circle blocking the punch, and then I slammed a three-point field goal though his uprights. “No, what you are is stupid,” I said as he stood there with a stunned expression on his face. “What you are is pain,” I added just as I snapped a second harder kick into his groin.

Somehow he managed to stay upright and in return he clumsily hit me in the jaw, of which only seemed to piss me off even more. As the world seemed to dim down to just his stunned but angry face, the sound of blood filled my ears. Then as my throat tensed in what felt like a growl I added, “What you are is fucked.”

“Boy is he ever,” said a voice, I was not sure it if was Eli’s or Petra’s, but then my world was fire and pain, and it consumed me.


Medawihla Tribal Lands
The Stone House

Dimly I was aware of a discussion that seemed half amused and half annoyed. Considering that I had a distinctly foggy feeling in my head, I could guess that I had been tranqed again. I frowned slightly as that seemed an annoying trend, though if I had done half of what I wanted to do to Carl, it may have been justified.

I wasn’t very sore, though my face and eyes seemed to have a slight tenderness to them. I touched them both and considered that I would live. Opening my eyes I looked over to see my plate of food sitting on a chair, pleased that I had not damaged it I sat up carefully. Looking around I discovered that my prosthetic arm was sitting outside of the cage and that the door was shut.

“Back with us sis?” asked Petra with a smile, she too was outside the bars, with Nathan and the lady he was with earlier.

“Yeah, I suppose, did I win?” I asked her as I picked up my plate, the food was cold, but I was ravenous.

Nathan nodded gravely and said, “And then some, they had to tranq you out when you started to use your prosthetic as a club on his head and shoulders.” Nathan gave Petra and then me a look that was mixed with amusement and sternness, “I don’t think he’ll be challenging you ever again.”

“I thought he wasn’t supposed to challenge me at all,” I sated after a bite of cold salmon. Part of me suspected I would have to revisit my stance on sushi, as the cold salmon was damned good.

“Well yes, the Charlie said the Laws are geared that way,” said the lady as she sat in a folding chair, crossing her legs at the ankles she then added, “I think you were set up slightly.”

“You think?” I rolled my eyes at her, “Mrs. Donner had gave me the whole Alpha Male speech today.” I stopped and gave her a look as she sat there in a near matching tie-died shirt as the guy was. 

“Ah,” Nathan nodded to himself, “politics.” He shook his head covered his eyes with one hand briefly, “I think you just proved for Eli, to the others, that your ‘pack’ is strong a strong one. If not small and young.”

“Wonderful, don’t tell me that I am going to have to fight every single time there is picnic?” I asked the ceiling after swallowing a burst of outrage. Sighing I looked back at the man and woman, “Ok, just so I know who and what are in this nightmare existence of mine, who are you again, and what is your place in it?”

The blonde haired woman smirked and thumped Nathan on the arm, “See, I told you she was a character.”

“And how would you know that?” I asked her suspiciously.

“We are friends of Doctor Tanaka, the man who pulled the bomb out of your butt.” She paused and added, “We didn’t exactly meet then. I’m Lisa and this is my husband Nathan, collectively we are the Mainwarings.”

“We work with Doctor Tanaka, his wife and Charlie Lodgeman.” He smiled thoughtfully, “Charlie works as the Lore Master for Eli’s Pack, when he isn’t chasing of to New York on School Business.”

“Hi, I’m Paige, now,” I shrugged as they nodded, “so what brings you all here?”

“Well ‘a little bird’ told Charlie that you had some difficulties and might need some assistance.” Nathan rolled his eyes, “But Charlie has his hands full with the MCO, some really nasty sorts, legal snafus and what not.”

“So he asked us to stop in, see for ourselves how you were doing.” She rolled her eyes, “Not that you do not seem to be unable to handle yourself in a fight, but if things were dire, we would have taken you directly to a safe house.”

Nathan laughed loudly, “I was bout to step up and stop things, but you seemed to be handling things well enough.”

Lisa smirked at him and gave me thoughtful stare, “That and a Were slipped in front of him and growled slightly.”

“I could have taken him, you know that?” he asked her.

“Yes Stony, but because you can doesn’t mean that it is polite to do so.” She rolled her eyes and smiled gently at the very tall man, “Besides I called dibbs.”

“And I think you cheated when you called it,” he groused good-naturedly at her.

The was a cough and we collectively looked over to see a new man standing at the door to the room, “Am I interrupting?”

“Nothing earth shattering,” I said with an exasperated sigh.

“Paige, meet Dahveed, Dahveed meet Paige,” Nathan said with a laugh, waving back and forth to us.

“Hello,” I said after quickly putting my plate down and waving a bare hand at him. I blinked as somewhere I had misplaced my glove, shrugging I picked up my plate, “I’d shake your hand but I misplaced my glove.”

“I have it,” helpfully supplied Petra with a grin, “you took it off during the fight.”

“That’s alright, I just came to check up on you.” Dahveed smiled and motioned to the cage, “You have got the Blood Rage bad, not that you seemed to forget how to fight.”

“So they say,” I sat the plate aside as talking and eating were not working out, “not sure what I can do about it.”

“Yes, well I suspect you’ll grow out of it, kits and cubs do get past it.” He smiled and ran his fingers through his hair, “But don’t worry about Carl or anyone else bothering you like that again. Charlie called and laid down some serious thunder as to what would happen if folks forget the Law again.”

“Yeah right. You people have some damned convenient memories,” I said bitterly through the drugged fog of the tranq.

He nodded and shrugged unhappily before standing tall, “It may seem like that, but I assure you it will not happen again.”

“Right, and how can you say that?” I asked him.

“Because I will kill or seriously hurt anyone who tries it,” Dahveed said coldly, “as will Ben or anyone else in the whole tribe. That is, until you are old enough and in control enough of yourself and your powers to do so yourself.”

Nathan nodded slowly, “Today was an unfortunate necessity, it seems from what I am given to understand. Though Charlie did pin back a few peoples ears for putting you at risk like that.”

“As did Father Pete and I put my share of words in as well,” Petra smiled and she pointed to a rifle that was sitting against the wall, “I will have to clean that later.”

“You didn’t shoot anyone?” I asked quickly.

“Oh no, but she made it clear that she could hit a cantaloupe at five hundred feet, without a scope,” Lisa sounded impressed and cautious, “then she said if they fucked with you again there would be a few heads with holes in them, silver holes.”

“Way to go sis!” I applauded her by slapping my bunk.

Nathan rolled his eyes, “People should remember young doesn’t necessarily mean harmless.”

Dahveed nodded, “You should know that Carl will recover from his broken shoulders, broken ribs, dislocated knees, concussion,” he paused and appeared to wince, ”ruptured testicles and other assorted bruises. And that is not counting the stuff you damaged at the start of the fight.”

I blinked and looked away trying not to smile, “Well that is good.” 

“The only reason that he isn’t dead, is because that he is a Were,” stated Lisa in a flat tone.

I quickly looked back to her and waited for the odd blurring sensation to fade slightly, “Look you, I never asked for this, by all rights he’s just plain fucking lucky I didn’t kill him at the start of the fight.”

Petra nodded and quickly interjected, “We know how to kill, and we have killed to stay alive. The fact that she didn’t go for crushing his larynx or other really nasty bits, means she wasn’t trying to kill him.” She waved to the rifle, “We were taught how to hunt and kill mutants, by my uncle and his friends in Humanity First.”

“Good lord, but you are just kids,” said Dahveed sounding stunned.

“Standard indoctrination for some of the Humanity First types, get them young, fill their heads with crap and send them out to kill or die.” Nathan sighed and looked at both of us for a moment, “How do you feel about mutants?”

“Well they didn’t kill my brother, unlike my Uncle” I picked up my plate and sat it on my lap, “and apart from a few assholes, they seem to be people like anybody else.”

“Ah, I didn’t know about your brother,” Nathan sighed and looked at me gravely, “you’ve not had an easy life have you.”

“No we’ve not had that,” said Petra as she looked away from the cage, “I hate this.”

“What?” I asked.

“You being in a cage, it’s not right. It’s like they put the wrong person in there, you didn’t go looking for trouble, hell you didn’t even hit him until after he had hit you.” She looked at me then at Nathan, Lisa and Dahveed, “Then you people tranqed her and not him, admittedly he wasn’t able to fight by then, but hell. Its hardly fair.”

Sighing I had to agree, “Yeah I know.”

“You are right, it is not fair.” I looked up from my plate to see Lisa scowling thoughtfully, “But I don’t think it will help matters to put Carl in there with you.”

“Well no, he’s not exactly on my list of folks I would tolerate well at the moment.” I rolled my eyes at Dahveed, “I just hope he’s been pounded enough so that he doesn’t try that crap again, supposedly that’s how that Alpha Male crap is supposed to work isn’t it?”

Dahveed laughed and he shook his head in evident amusement, “I don’t think you will have any challengers for a very long time. You probably don’t remember what you said after they tranqed you.”

I ate a bite as I tried to remember, “Nope, can’t say I do.”

“You snarled like an angry male cat and said that you would ‘rip the balls off the next fucker who tried this Alpha Male crap again.’” Lisa laughed and then she added, “Then you tried to do it to Carl.”

Dahveed laughed at that, “You did get his pants down before the tranq kicked fully in.” 

“But will he try it again?” I asked.

“No I don’t think so,” Dahveed leaned against the wall, “it doesn’t mean he won’t be an ass at times, but the answer for that is to knock him on his ass.”

Frowning I looked back at Dahveed, “Like Caleb gets knocked around?”

“Well yes, you will have to maintain order, but that is a ways off,” Dahveed said with a shrug and a dismissing toss of his hands. “By then I suspect Carl will have been thumped enough by older calmer heads that he’ll sort out his lot in life.”

“So I wasted my time with the fight?” I asked in disgust.

“Well, no not really,” said Dahveed with a smile, “Carl seems to know better now.”

“I should hope so,” said Nathan with a grimace.

I looked over as an old woman strolled in as if she owned the place. She looked at me and smiled brightly, “Hail and well met, young Alpha.”

Dahveed looked briefly startled as he quickly seemed to stand formally, “Paige this is Lindsey Porter, she’s a representative from the Grand Council.”

I blinked as Nathan stood up and offered her his chair, “Please sit madam.”

“I would speak privately with her,” she pointed at me.

“She’s been tranqed,” Dahveed said pointedly.

“Yes, I was there when it happened, she seems coherent enough, and I promise not to eat her,” she wickedly smiled and said, “she’s too scrawny.”

Petra looked at her suspiciously, “You are not going to torment my sister are you?”

“No young Knight,” she pointed at Petra’s hand, “you have such an interesting family.”

“What there is of it,” Petra said slowly, “there is only my sisters and I, so you could say we stick together.”

“An admirable quality in this day and age,” she seemed to nod in approval, “I give you my word that I will not torment her, is that sufficient?”

I suppose,” Petra walked over and picked up the rifle, rather deliberately she checked the safety on it, “I’ll be handy sis.”

The old woman looked at the two men and pointed, begrudgingly they turned and walked out. After a moment she laughed and looked at me, “Your sister is very protective of you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, she threw the man that tranqed you to the ground, after punching him,” Lindsey cackled for a moment and then added, “I’ve not seen such a spirited set of kids in some time.”

“Ah, well its us, we’ve sorta learned to roll with the punches,” I smiled and sat the plat to one side, again. “So what brings you here?”

“So of this, some of that, but mostly Eloise declaring that she had found a suitable Seventh for her council.” She peered over her glasses at me and smiled, “If not a young one.”

     “Ah, I’m not sure what Eloise thinks from time to time,” I gave the cell a bland look, “considering where I am.”

“This, this is nothing, in my day they had kits and cubs wear steel collars and chains while in the cages.” She chuckled and pointedly motioned to her own neck, “I damn near broke my neck a few dozen times as a kit.”

I thought about that and nodded, “Yuck, that doesn’t sound like fun.”

“No it wasn’t, but it was how things were done back then,” she patted her lap tidying her dress slightly, “I may have to apologize to you.” 

“What for?” My face felt odd as a frown formed, ”I don’t seem to recall you doing anything to me.”

“My being here may have prompted that mess of a fight,” she said with some hesitation and evident sorrow, “part of the onus of being on the Council of Councils is that people think they have to prove things. Fitness to lead, courage, the list is endless at times.”

“Nathan did say something about politics being involved.” I shrugged with annoyance, “its annoying if you ask me, this whole mess is about politics.”

“It frequently is,” she shook her head at my sudden look of consternation, “not that I approved of it.”

I muttered in my disgust, “I am so gonna deck Eli later.”

“Ah Eli evidently didn’t know either,” she chuckled and slapped her knee, “her mom evidently put the bug in the batter if you will.”

“Why would she do that?” I asked trying to sort out all the odd connections from earlier in the day.

“I don’t think she meant for it to deliberately happen, she was gossiping with Martha and I, as we were getting our food.” She paused and adjusted her glasses, “Then Martha’s boy goes tearing out of the line and straight for you.”

“That still sounds slightly suspicious, considering she gave me the whole Animal Planet bit about Alpha Males and Dominance earlier to day.“ I flopped back on the bed, “The timing is a bit suspect.”

“It could be or it was just in time,” she patted her knees and asked, “how would you have reacted otherwise?”

I thought about that for a moment, “I might have gone softer on him, going right for the nuts isn’t my usually starting attack.”

“Yes but it is effective,” she cackled merrily for a moment, “though beating him with your arm may have been excessive.”

“Ah, how did my arm come off?” I asked as I walked over to the bars and reclaimed it. Dismally I noted it was cracked as I put it on, I pushed the switch that would turn it on and it hummed oddly, “Damn it’s busted.” I tried to make the hand open and close but it refused, so with a sigh I switched it off and removed it. Letting it drop to the floor.

“Ah, he tried to jerk your arm off,” she shook her head, “you were not amused.”

“No I expect I wasn’t, fortunately I have a spare for when I am not furry.” I rolled my eyes and walked unsteadily back to the bed, pointing at my lack of arm I added, “This is annoying.”

“Yes, and very odd to my way of thinking, its genetics?”

“Evidently, I am regrowing the arm, but is very slow.” I sighed, “supposedly it is why I may be doomed to be a kit or cub for a long time.”

She smiled gently, “If you are ‘of the cat’ you would be a kit.”

“Ok, a kit then,” I motioned to my face, “it is also why I seem to have cat features in my normal form too.”

“Yes, they did say you had four forms, which not unheard of, odd genes or no.” Smiling she added, “My youngest grandson has four forms, and he is as much a handful as you are.”

“Is he as feisty as I am?”

“Oh yes, lords yes, you and him would either get on famously or try to scalp each other,” she laughed and clasped her hands together, “I’ll try and drag him down with me the next time I am able.”

I smiled and admitted, “He sounds like fun.”

“Yes he is a bright spot of sunshine in my life.” She sat silently for a moment appearing to think, “So what how do you think your mate will react to your beating Carl senseless?”

“Well I suspect the political side of it will piss her off,” I rolled my eyes, “I know it annoys me.”

“Ah yes, that.”

“As for this whole Alpha Male, Alpha Female baloney, she is the leader of her pack. Carl is not, I am not, but I won’t let him or anyone else take my place in her pack either.” I motioned to myself, “But I’m just one person in her pack, even if I am only sort of male and only sort of female.”

“Ah yes,” she cackled loudly and slapped her knee, “I dare say you can be a brassy male at that.”

“I was pissed,” I said in my defense.

“Yes, I think they could tell that, though some of the women were trying to figure out if they could borrow you when you are older.” She cackled and pointed a finger at me waving it back and forth, “Your Sara is a very lucky young lady to have such a specimen as you in her bed.” She paused and added with a lusty smile, “If I were younger I would be trying to borrow you as well.

Blushing I looked down at the floor, “Um, thanks I think.”

“Ha! Put some fire in your cheeks does it?” she asked with a leer. Then she waved her hands dismissively, “Don’t mind the whole hermaphrodite thing, little one. It happens in nature, if society were not messed up we’d have three or more gender pronouns to deal with.”

“Ah, so I won’t catch hell for being mostly a girl too?” I asked slowly.

She frowned and then nodded slowly, “Well society is messed up, and some of that bleeds over, more so in the past decade. Among the peoples, Native Indigenous Americans and us furry types, such people are were once considered blessed.”

“And now?”

“Well you are special, and I would say blessed by many good things, abused much by others.” Her smile was slightly sad, “And drug sideways into a war I am afraid.”

“Yes, well it sounds like you all are losing,” I paused and tapped my head, “at least that is the picture I got of things.”

She nodded gravely, “Yes, and while your Sara might bear some resemblance to the things we used to fight, in olden times.” I watched as she held her fingers up and peered through the dimly glowing box of her joined hands, “But by my looking at you I can see she isn’t an evil person. She is connected deeply to you, that I can see, but she doesn’t bend you to her will.” I watched as she peered at me, “Powerful, yes, corrupting no.”

I blinked as she let the glow fade away and smiled cryptically at me, “Sara isn’t evil, I should know what evil is.” I motioned out of the cell, “Eli isn’t evil either, she was desperate I think, but not deliberately mean or cruel.”

“Ah, your Uncle and others I take it?” She pointed away from the cell, “I spoke with your Father Darcy, you certainly have not had a gentle or easy life of it. Have you now?”

“No, I can’t say that we have,” I sighed and rubbed my stump gently as it itched, “losing my brother and a good friend didn’t help.”

“Your parents?”

“Were murdered,” I looked away as tears started to fall suddenly, “I do miss my mother.”

“But not so much your father?” she asked slowly.

“No, he and my Uncle,” I looked away as the tears started to fall in earnest, some were of sadness, some were of anger, “they killed my brother and then they covered it up.”

There was a soft clang as the cell door opened, and then the bed gave a bit as she sat next to me. A moment later her arms eased around me, and she softly said, “These old shoulders are good for crying into little one, and these arms are still good for hugging.”

I turned into her shoulder and held her carefully, “I am so tired of loosing everything and all of these fucking tests.”

“Its never easy, but we have you now. You are a part of us, and apart from some idiot males, we are good people. A large furry family, if you will let us be such.” I felt her hand move a few strands of hair out of my face, “You need not fear for a place or a home among us little one. Or any more tests for a time.”

“Promise?” I asked around a sob.

“Yes, I promise.” She smiled wistfully, “We are an old people much older the Indigenous Peoples and a part from some rogues, we are a community.”  She gently kissed the top of my head, “Though you may still have to thump a few unruly males now and again.”

I laughed and let her light lavender and roses smell comfort me, “I can do that.”

She laughed as well and added, “Yes, I know.”


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
West Bethel Baptist Church


"We are a plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them!" - Bilbo to Gandalf

“So are you having fun disintegrating things young lady?” asked the voice prompting Joni to look up.

“Hi Rev, well I managed to get your spreadsheet back,” Joni grinned as her brother would have been stunned by that pronouncement.

The older gentleman smiled in delight, his baldhead shining over the white clouds of hair that crested the lower sides of his head in the warm light of the evening sunset. “That is a wondrous thing, I had thought it gone for good.”

“Well nothing is ever gone for good, without a program to make it go.” Joni smiled as she reflected on what her bother had said when he recovered her report one time, “It was just misplaced.”

He smiled and sat down in a chair at the front of his desk, “When I was young, computers were big things, they took up whole buildings, and were only as smart as some pocket calculators now a days.

Joni smiled and gave him a nod, he was dressed down, in a black sweater, blue jeans and a white collar today, “Did you survive the potluck?”

“Yes, I think that I did, though I am glad I don’t have to exercise to recover from all those deserts,” he patted his stomach with a pleased sigh, “the virtue of good living.”

She motioned to her own plate, “I can relate, though it seems strange to have Thanksgiving without my brother around to pester me.”

“Yes I imagine so,” he smiled and pointed upwards, “though I would say that it is his plan, and for you to not worry so much about your brother.”

“And you would base this observation on?” she asked with a slight roll of her eyes.

“Faith, faith my friend,” he paused dramatically and then added, “and a few interesting phone calls.”

“And these phone calls, did they say anything important?” she asked as the Reverend tended to draw things out at times.

“Well yes, yes they did now that you mention it,” he smiled and pointed to the phone, “they said words.”

“These words,” she rolled her eyes and played along with the game, “did they have special meaning for me?

“Hmm, let me think,” he said and closed his eyes appearing to do so.

“Well?”

“I’m thinking, your don’t get as old as I am and not have to collect your thoughts now and again.” He opened his eyes briefly, “Have I ever said patience is a virtue?

“Frequently, along with how it is something I will learn as I grow older.” Joni smirked and made a rolling movement with her fingers, “You were thinking?”

“I was? Oh yes I was!” he beamed and closed his eyes again, “think, think, think.”

Joni smiled and waited the prescribed thirty seconds and said, “You and the Pooh, always thinking.”

He opened one eye, winked and closed it again, “Ah yes, I do recall now.”

“Annnnnd?”

“Well it seems I was supposed to do something important, but I forgot what it was, I suppose I will have to think about that some more.” He opened his eye and with a mournful expression he added, “It’s all those years you know, they are a catching up with me.”

“Right, is that why you gave up fighting crime? Early senility?” She asked with a grin, “Oh that’s right you didn’t give that up, much.”

He laughed and bowed his head, “Ah the sins of my youth are revisited upon me.”

“You say that a lot,” she smiled and pointed a finger at him, “surely I am not so much trouble?”

“No, but I must keep up the pretenses of my advanced age,” he smiled and reached over to the desk and tuned the clock to where he could see the time, “Ah yes, nearly time.”

“Time for what?” she asked, “Time for answers?”

“Of a sort, of a sort.” He motioned for her to stand, “Come, you mustn’t be late.”

“Late for what?” she asked as he walked to a closet.

“Well,” he paused and smiled, “you, much like Alice are about to go down a rabbit hole.”

“I don’t much care for mushrooms,” she responded dryly as he appeared to listen at the closet door.

“Ah, well then, don’t eat them.” He stepped back and said, “Yes this is the right door.”

“I’ve seen your ‘railroad cave,’ this closet doesn’t go there,” she said pointing to it, her mouth suddenly closing as a shaft of light appeared to slide up the edges of the door, much like an elevator. “Or does it?”

He chuckled loudly as there was a knock at the door, “Well Alice, open it and find out.”

“It’s your closet, shouldn’t you open it?”

“Ah, but it’s not for me,” he grinned impishly, “you could say its customary for me to be ornery when greeting strangers who show up knocking at closet doors.”

“Fine,” she paused and focused upon her odd senses, and then she quickly opened the door excitedly.

“Hello” said a voice, ”my name is Sara Waite…”

Joni not quite interrupted the girl before her and said “…And you are here to take me to my brother.” Joni gave the odd couple that were standing in the room beyond the closet an eager look, “Where is he?”  

Sara blinked at the odd reception and looked up to the handsome man, “That was odd.”

The man smiled and Joni felt herself freeze slightly as it seemed to capture her, “Hello, my name is Mogg, Mister Mogg, you are?”

Sara poked the man in the side, “Ease up Dad, she’s got the ‘deer in headlights’ look in her eyes.”

“Sorry,” he said and adjusted the suit he was wearing, as time seemed to skip back into its normal pace, he looked into her eyes, “better miss?”

Joni blinked and then frowned slightly, “Um yes, I think.”

Mister Mogg smiled and shook his long golden hair, “I forget at times that I can overawe folks.”

“Right Dad, every time a pretty girl is a round you forget,” Sara rolled her eyes, “every single time.”

“I suppose I do at that,” Mister Mogg smiled, “so this is the safe house and a hub of the ‘railroad?’”  

“Ah yes, that it is,” the Reverend smiled cautiously and looked at the pale girl, “I’m Reverend Carstairs, we spoke on the phone?”

“Yes, did you send everyone on their way?” Sara asked as she walked out into the office.

“With dispatch I assure you, and thank you,” he chuckled and motioned to the room and beyond, “they should be miles away before the attack.”

“Wait, attack?” Joni asked as she looked back and forth between the adults.

“Yes, your Uncle is coming with a small force of men to destroy this safe house and kill you and the good Reverend here.  Also the other mutants and ‘mutant lovers’ that would have been here.” Sara gave the shocked girl a smile and added, “We had other ideas on the matter.”

“This old church as seen its share of bullet holes and violence,” Reverend Carstairs smiled gravely, “intolerance is nothing new to it or me for that matter.”

“But that’s just wrong, we have to call the police,” Joni walked over to the desk and pointed to the phone, “if you know what they are coming to do, have the police arrest them.”

Sara smiled savagely and looked at the clock on the desk, ”Oh I would, if it were not a bit too late.”

There was a crash from the outer room that seemed to thunder into the office. Sara quickly lifted Joni and carried her to the closet and placed her with in, next to her father. “I think it time for you to be going Dad.”

“I would not mind helping,” Mister Mogg said firmly, “after all this is a family matter.”

“Wait, Reverend, aren’t you coming?” Joni quickly asked as Sara started to close the door.

“No Joni, I’ve a sermon to deliver to these ruffians,” The was a vibrant orange glow and the Reverend was replaced by a figure in red medieval armor, a single white cross sat neatly over the center of the breast plate. Cool blue motes of light seemed to peer out of the visor on the odd flat helm, “Rest assured the Lord is with me.”

Sara blinked as the Reverend quickly closed the door ignoring the thumps as Joni protested its closure. “I had rather planned on you going with her, you know?”

The eyes in the helmet appeared to wink, “Yes, but the Scarlet Knight tends to show up to discourage the violation of Churches.” The Reverend shrugged indifferently, “I suppose I will have to ask the Lord to forgive me for defending a building.”

Sara inwardly cursed and then choked back on her anger, “I had plans for her Uncle.”

“Plans always change with enemy contact,” The Reverend chided, “it is true in any war.”

“Are you bullet proof in that armor?” she asked as the door shattered under a hail of bullets.

“Let me think,” said the Reverend as an armed man charged in to room only to stop and stare in uncertainty.

 The man lifted his machine gun and sprayed the Reverend with a long burst. Sara blinked as the Scarlet Knight seemed to wink at her, then he turned and pointed at the armed man, “Yes, now I remember, I am bulletproof.” Suddenly producing a burning sword from nowhere, he took a step and flicked the tip of it through the machineguns middle. “Guns, how barbaric.”

“I would have to agree,” Sara said as she sauntered up to the man and relieved him of the two parts of the sundered rifle, smiling unpleasantly she slapped the unarmed man across the face twice, “you should run.”

Falling back in fear, the man shouted as he scrambled out the door, “Mutants! Mutants in the office!”

“Well, I suppose having them shoot up the office is to be preferred to them shooting up the rectory.” The Reverend appeared to sigh, “Lets see, grenades or massed fire, care to wager?”

Sara gave the Reverend a bland smile, “I expect a bomb.”

“Really? How uncouth of them,” he turned and gave the appearance of boredom as he looked at the door.

“Why do I get the feeling you are just playing with them?” Sara asked as a smoking bundled landed just inside the room.

There was a flicker of red light and the bundle exploded within a red orb of light. A smaller cascade of light flashed as it winked out, leaving semi-melted blobs of metal behind. “Ah, improvised munitions, you just have to love them”

“You don’t say,” Sara watched as the Reverend removed flowers from a vase and then poured the water on the smoking carpet.

“Ah, now for a bit of psychological warfare.” The Reverend turned and shouted loudly, “Grenade!” and then he hurled the vase out the door.

Sara cocked her head as the sounds of people diving for cover could be heard along with the sounds of shattering crockery. “Funny but helpful?”

“I do have my moments, I counted seven thuds, you?” He turned and seemed to expect her to confirm his count.

“Eight,” she rolled her eyes and walked to the door, “well shall we?”

“No, wait for it,” he seemed to be shaking with laughter and then there was a deep thud that seemed to shake the building. At her incredulous expression he simply said, “I did yell grenade, didn’t I?”

“You also said it was psychological warfare,” she countered as she peered out the door.

“Well yes, the vase was to mentally disarm them, the concussion grenade I had added to it was merely an afterthought.” Strolling forwards the Reverend added, “After all, I didn’t want to kill them.”

“But I didn’t see you put a grenade in it,” Sara said as she followed the seemingly mad knight, “you wouldn’t happen to be a Knight of the Church, would you.”

“What me? No, though I have met a few of them,” the Reverend paused to solidly hit a man who was weaving in his direction, “nice chaps, for the most part, though they tend work with a narrow mandate.”

Sara studied the Reverend has he waded among the wrecked pews, only pausing to fish out a dazed figure and toss him in her direction, “I see, and how do you feel about unnecessary violence?”

He held two men up and then smashed them together violently before tossing them in her direction as well, “Well, I suppose it happens, but then I usual take pains to make sure I find a necessary reason for it.” The Reverend paused and then added, “Then I pray that the Lord forgives my bad habits.”

Sara stood there for a moment then shook her head, “Well the man you are currently hol