Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story By Joreymay


Part 11


"This is going to be fun," Maki thought. The last time they took their new American friend shopping, it was a frantic effort to help her blend in with the crowds and disappear from those hunting her. This time, she was just another girl and they had all the time they needed. And Aoi's father was paying for it.


One of the company cars picked them up from cram school, and she spent the ride to the office mapping out the stores she wanted to take Rose through at a more reasonable pace. While she was doing that, and mentally consulting with Aoi about her ideas, Kohaku was playing with one of his toys.


One of his real disappointments about his change was that he had not become a technopath or a cyberpath. He was already a techno nerd, so it would only have been natural. And in a way, he had come close. He could sense and manipulate electrical currents - even those in complex electronics. The only problem was that as soon as he got beyond simple electrical circuits, he had no clue what shifting a particular bit of current in a particular way meant in terms of the device. Worse, most of them functioned so quickly that by the time he noticed a particular flow, it was way too late to change it.


He could do things like stop cars and change traffic lights and other slow-changing displays, but that was about it. He had all but given up on getting beyond that, but then they met Rose. Her talk about learning new ways to use their powers inspired him. And her demonstration of his ability to do things he had thought of as limited to other elementals - things like turning his hands into electromagnets - had broken some of his self imposed barriers.


He got himself a children's electronics set, the kind that taught the basics of elementary circuitry. And now he was playing with some of the simple circuits that were the building blocks of the more complex (and interesting) things. He played with them, trying to get the "feel" of things like resistors, capacitors, and simple logic gates.


Maki figured it would be about a week, tops, before he found some other hobby to waste his time on. He was an intelligent boy, and a good friend, but sometimes he had the attention span of a vid executive. Despite his teenage hormones, even girls had to work to keep him interested for very long. He wasn't fickle or anything - just easily distracted.


Maki hoped her friend would grow out of that. For his sake, as well as those of any future girlfriends.


Maki took a moment out of her planning to enjoy her anticipation of their arrival. She had only been to the company headquarters a couple of times before, and never to Aoi's father's office. She wondered what it would be like.


They arrived at the special VIP entrance, and piled out of the car. They would be taking the car, and the primary driver, of Aoi's father himself. "Nothing but the best for Translator Rosetta," Maki thought with a giggle.


She was still grinning with anticipation as they approached the huge office. Out of habit, Maki scanned the room as they arrived. As she expected, some of the people were shielded technologically or otherwise. But then, as she stepped through the doorway, she caught an unexpected thought that shattered her mood.


Someone was going to shoot someone else there. Right then. She didn't understand the words, but the image was clear enough. She reacted quickly, broadcasting a warning to everyone in the room: *Assassin!*


After that, things moved quickly. Before the man she had read got his shot off, someone dressed like a security guard turned, aimed a weapon she hadn't seen him draw, shouted an accusation about betraying their heritage, and fired at Aoi's father.


A fraction of a second later, the other man, her original assassin, fired as well. Neither shot found its mark, since the man dressed as a driver had thrown some sort of shield over Aoi's father and Yuko. One or both of the bullets must have ricocheted, because Rose spun like she had been shot in the shoulder and went down, and the man standing behind her - the one the security guards had been flanking - went down as well.


Aoi shrieked angrily and destroyed the weapon of the fake security guard - and the hand holding it - with a gout of fire. Kohaku knocked out the other gunman with a lightning bolt of some sort. Maki read the uncontrolled anger in Aoi's mind, and stopped her before she could reduce the fake guard to a fine ash.


Rose seemed to have hit her head on the way down, and Maki recognized that she was unconscious. A bloodstain on her shoulder showed where she had been hit. The man who had been shot sat on the floor, in shock, his hand over a growing dark stain on his arm.


As quickly as it had started, it was over. After a very brief consultation with her danna, Yuko got to work. She made sure the shooters were not about to die, then sent them into temporary comas. They would not be making any more trouble for the time being.


Rose was her next priority. Under her direction, Kohaku lifted her to a nearby couch, stretching her out to make things easier. She examined Rose, quickly evaluating her injuries. Luckily, they were superficial. The bullet had done little more than graze Rose's shoulder and knock her over. She healed that injury, then went to work on her head. The concussion wasn't serious, but there was no sense taking chances. She carefully healed the brain damage, then the external impact damage. Rose's unconsciousness shifted to a natural sleep, and Yuko left her that way.


As she healed the arm of the embezzler, she noticed something else. Leaving him as he was, but no longer bleeding, she consulted with her danna. He gave her a grim smile and let her do as she suggested. She finished healing the bullet damage, but did nothing about what the bullet had carried.


Two things were obvious to Yuko. First, the bullet that struck his arm was the same one that had grazed Rose. And second, that Rose was still in phase 3 of MORFS.


Rose's blood was giving him MORFS. And from what she had read during her studies, he had a better than average chance of undergoing a sex change in the process.


More security people arrived on the scene - real ones, this time - and carted off the unconscious shooters.


Rose woke up, catching a fleeting glimpse of the one handed man as they took him away. The images that briefly flowed through her mind, of men tortured to death in a basement room, shocked Maki. What had that nice young girl gotten herself into? No wonder she had been so desperate - and so resourceful - when they had first met. Maki regretted waking her, even though it seemed necessary.


The memories of the events in the basement briefly disoriented Rose. After a moment, she realized where she was, and what must have happened. She was surprised to notice that she didn't hurt anywhere, even though she could see blood on her blouse. She mostly felt tired. After some of the things she had experienced and heard, she suspected that indicated that she had been healed by a bio elemental - undoubtedly Yuko.


Right on cue, Yuko came into her field of vision and crouched down to talk with her. "How are you doing?"


Rose gave a half smile. "You're the expert," she replied softly, "you tell me."


Yuko was relieved. If Rose could joke like that, her emotional state couldn't be too bad. That was both good and bad. Right now, she had a job to do. Pitching her voice so low that only Rose would be likely to hear it, she advised "Follow my lead." Rose caught the meaning that they urgently needed to convince someone there of something. Then, in a normal voice with overtones of concern, Yuko asked "Are you still out of it?"


Rose gave the answer Yuko clearly wanted, a carefully crafted "Yes." The overtones of almost-little girl wanting to go back to sleep seemed to please Yuko.


"I'll take you into the inner office, where it's a bit quieter. You can rest there." She gave it her most reassuring tone. She turned to the uniforms who were interviewing witnesses, and added "She wasn't in a position to see much, anyway."


After one of them nodded her permission, Yuko gathered Rose in her arms, stood, and walked into the inner office.


"You're strong." Rose gave it her best "half asleep youngster admiration" tone as they passed through the doorway.


Once the door closed behind them, Yuko put her down on her feet. "You really could use some more rest, but right now there are important things to discuss."


"I figured. What do I need to know?"


Yuko gave the impression of a rare creature: a bio elemental with a headache. "Your presence and participation complicate matters. You are a juvenile morf on a temporary visa - one who is officially missing and presumed kidnapped. You are not anywhere you were authorized to be without your father, and you don't look like your entry scan. If they interview you, things could get... complicated."


Rose nodded her understanding.


From behind his desk, Mr. Tanaka spoke. "Yet another stone added to the weight of my shame."


From what she had read about the history and culture of the country and their attitude toward honor, Rose was somewhat taken aback by his tone and posture. He really was deeply ashamed.


Before she could say anything, he continued. "When you accepted our hospitality, I became responsible for your safety and well being. What is more, I directly promised your father that you would be safe. Because I sought to use your abilities for my own benefit, you have been shot and are in danger of having your identity exposed. I owe you a debt I cannot hope to repay."


Rose began to wonder whether they still practiced ritual suicide ("seppuku" her ability supplied), and worried about what to say. She knew a simple "That's all right" or "No harm done" wasn't going to do it. She tried to ask Maki for advice, but she couldn't get any sense of connection. "Is this room shielded?" she wondered out loud, before she could stop herself.


"Yes. You may speak freely."


The slight misunderstanding gave Rose an idea about where to go with this. She only hoped she was not going to trip over her cultural ignorance again. "As you are aware, I have a group of friends back home. Friends with impressive powers and powerful connections. Even though my powers are pretty insignificant, and I am a lot younger than they are, they have welcomed me as a friend and as one of their group. They do their best to keep each other safe, and that includes me."


Her listeners looked as though they were going to say something about it not being the same, but she set her body and tone to convey the idea that it was important to let her continue. "For all that, their actions as friends have sometimes gotten each other - and me - in danger or potentially in trouble. Much more danger or trouble than I faced here." Her expression and tone left no room for doubt on that last part.


"When that happened, they - we - worked together to limit the danger and consequences. And while we have apologized when our errors have caused such problems, we accept them as part of our friendship. We know that such actions may come from mistakes, or sometimes from friendly mischief, but never from malice. For all their powers and connections, they - we - are just human."


"And we ask for, and do each other favors. That is part of friendship. Many are trivial, like an easily obtained movie pass or a brief translation of some vid dialog. Others have been anything but trivial, and some have even been dangerous. We know we would never put each other in danger deliberately, unless the reason was overwhelmingly important. And even then, we make it clear that the favors are voluntary - that we understand if someone can't do it for whatever reason. And yes, we've been known to offer bribes and payments of one sort or another to sweeten the request."


Her non stop talking had accomplished one of her goals. It had distracted her listeners from their whole "depth of shame" mindset, leaving them somewhat confused and curious about where she was going with all of that. It had also set the stage for the important part. Before they could break their state and interrupt, she continued.


"My own family has done much the same thing. Most of the danger I have faced lately was because of my helping my father with his business thing. For all his focus on business, there is nobody in the world who is more concerned with my safety and well being. Except, maybe, my mother. But here I am, halfway around the world to translate business meetings. I have been followed, gassed, kidnapped, and the like - all before I even met Yuko, Aoi, and the others."


She shifted her tone. "When I met them, I was a stranger - a foreigner - alone and on the run from powerful people I didn't know. Despite all that, they offered me friendship, help, and shelter. They changed my appearance, helped me buy some clothes that would help me blend in, and even loaned me the money to do it so that the transactions couldn't be used to find me. They helped me find shelter, and you took me into your home and offered me shelter and hospitality."


She shifted her voice again, to convey a slight change of subject. "Isn't coincidence a strange thing? Just like my father, the father of my friend - the man who was giving me hospitality and acting as my temporary stand in father - asked me for a favor. Like my father's favor, his favor was likely to be somewhat... unpleasant. Like my father, he offered me some nice sweeteners, but also made sure that I knew I was free to say no. Like my father, he made sure I knew what I would be facing and what I needed to do, and reminded me that I could back out. Like my father, he took all reasonable steps to ensure my safety. And some unreasonable ones as well, I would guess."


She took a deliberate breath, then continued. "And like my father, he was right there when all that failed and something happened to me." She deliberately left out the whole part about business issues, strategies, and relationships - it didn't matter to her argument.


"When my friends' requests cause unexpected problems, they do their best to fix any damage and we go on with our friendship. There is no question of honor or shame, and the only debts come from borrowing each others' money or things. I owe Aoi the return of these borrowed clothes, and my best efforts to make good the damage to them. And I would owe her an explanation for that damage if she hadn't been there to see it for herself. As a friend, she knows that I did my best to care for these clothes. While I am sorry that they were damaged in my care, and will do my best to see them repaired or replaced, there is no shame, no debt of honor involved."


"We are friends," she nodded at Yuko, then turned back to Mr. Tanaka, "and family friends here. My friend healed my injuries, and I am confident that my family friend will help me make good for the damage to his daughter's clothes." She gave him her best "you gotta buy sumthin' " grin - the one she usually reserved for relatives. "but nothing has diminished the friendships. And I hope nothing will."


There. She had shot her bolt, and it would work or it wouldn't.


He was bemused, and somewhat stunned. This was not the frightened, injured child he was expecting. She had taken control, and kept it with more authority than most senior executives he had encountered. It was possible that some of that came from her powers, but the inescapable logic of her argument was compelling and persuasive.


And she was offering a way out of this situation without any loss of face.


Before he could answer, he was distracted by a soft signal from his desk. His people knew better than to interrupt for anything less than urgent, so he stepped over and glanced at the text. He turned back to Rose, and quietly said "There was another attack."




Despite his desire to give all his attention to his date, David had been keeping sporadic watch on Rose and her father. It helped that Lena was just as concerned about them as he was. Still... there were things they'd rather be doing.


Rose was still in the shielded conference room, so he went to check on her father. He was in his conference room as well. As David prepared to withdraw his attention back to the dance (and especially Lena), he noticed a sort of not-flash near the stairway door. Three men appeared, and each had a gun in position for a fast draw. And they were dressed in what he had started to think of as gangster suits.


The problem was that they could just as easily be there to head off trouble as to cause it. Until someone did something, he wouldn't know. And even then, his powers were limited at that range. He could disable the guns, in a way that he could undo fairly quickly if he had to, by transmuting a small mechanical linkage. His limited range forced him to "move" from gun to gun to do it, but it took very little time to do so.


It was funny... he had not thought to focus his viewpoint so small to do such precise changes until he had little choice about it. His limited range at this distance left few alternatives here, but that approach could be just as useful back "home".


He pulled away to look them over again. He thought it was a little strange that they seemed to be carrying a few nails with almost nonexistent heads and an oddly familiar energy signature around them, but before he could investigate things started happening.


The suppression field in the conference room switched off, and the negotiators started to exit. The three men drew their guns, one shouted something, and they tried to fire. It seemed to take them no time at all to realize that the guns didn't work and switch to plan B. They started throwing the nails, almost faster than David could make out.


He quickly shifted closer to one. Its tip was coated with some chemical he didn't recognize, and it seemed to be trailing something like a piece of yarn. He started turning the chemical to pure water as the nail hit one of the people from the room. He was glad there was no physical part of his being there; otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to hold on through the impact and finish the job.


Pulling away, he realized his mistake. The men had already thrown another volley of the nails and were reaching for the third set. He moved to the men, and used the dart trick to knock them out. One dropped his nail before he could throw it, another threw his wildly as he passed out, and the third got in a clean throw before dropping.


And hit Rose's father.


Lena's "voice" came through to him. *Robin!*


Startled, he asked *How can you reach this far?*


*I'm right next to you. Your body, anyway. I've called Robin. Come back and brief her, then you can do what you need to.*


He was back at the dance, standing next to Lena. Then he was outside in the snow, facing Robin. He quickly told her what was happening.


"We'll need a better base to operate from." She said, finally. A blink and they were standing in her bedroom. A second later, Lena appeared.


"Before you go back, let's take a moment to think." Lena was in her best Radar mode.


David gave them as clear a mental image of the situation as he could, using Radar as a relay rather than creating an illusion. He had the feeling that he would need every ounce of power he could muster.


They made a list of rooms in their houses, then a list of what needed to be done. They had learned that, like Radar, too many of himselves too close together interfered with some of his powers. As long as he was physically separated, he could move his foci fairly close together with minimal problems.


Just as they were about to start, something clicked. No wonder that energy signature looked familiar. And he even understood the not-flash he had "seen" before the men arrived.


It was him. Robin flitted him to her basement and a few moments before the action started. He moved his focus to the office in Japan, just to the right of the stairway door. When the men appeared, he moved to the "nails" in the closest man's pocket. He transmuted the coating to water, then did the same with the tips of the nails. The result was a slightly damp, rounded tip in place of the sharp, poisoned point. It would sting when it hit, but should have the penetrating power of a cheap stylus.


On his third return, he was feeling the strain. He fully changed two of the nails, but barely managed to round the tip of the third. Exhausted, he felt his focus shifting back to his body, which was safely in his bedroom. Since he was already sitting on his bed, he just let himself fall back on it and drift off to sleep.


He woke to sunlight, and a sinking certainty that he was not finished with the time traveling.


He had to go back, make sure the job was done, and let Rose know.


*Yes, I know.* There was a genuine touch of sympathy in Lena's mental voice. *Poor baby. And I forgive you for skipping out on the dance. Even if it did take me hours to look that fabulous.* The humor had crept into that "voice" as she went along. Then she got back to business.


*You have time to shower, dress, and eat. If you have to do more there, you want to be ready.*


Lena was making sense. As usual. That's what he loved about her.


*Sure it is.* she laughed, sending him an image of herself in a much more daring version of the dress she had worn to the dance.


*One of the things.* he admitted.


Soon he was refreshed, dressed, and ready for action. When he found himself in Lena's bedroom - without her - he was almost distracted from what he was there to do. He recovered quickly, and sent his focus to the scene of the battle. Hovering near the ceiling, he watched the events unfold again.


He noticed that a young Japanese man seemed to notice the three men without them noticing him. He moved to a desk even more out of their view, and started typing something.


One of the first three nails - the one with his own energy signature at the tip - wobbled a little in its flight and hit one of the Japanese men in the collar of his suit coat. Another hit one of the men in the temple and he went down, seemingly stunned. The third hit another Japanese man in the neck, raising a welt. He put his hand over the injury and managed to look frightened and annoyed at the same time. In the second round, one hit the first man again, this time in the neck. The other two hit the women who were exiting the room together, both in the neck.


The final one hit Rose's father in the left eye. The damage looked serious - and very painful - from what was flowing down his face, but not life threatening. The three attackers were in a heap on the floor, and the other attack victims were coming to the aid of the fallen. As one of the women moved toward the desks, the young man risked another look at the situation and then spoke rapidly with her.


The front door and the stairway door burst open, the latter smacking into two of the fallen attackers rather than opening all the way, and two groups of armed, uniformed police officers swarmed in. At least, David assumed they were police.


He shifted to Rose, just in time to see her being carried into the inner office. He was about to follow when he noticed that the room was shielded. From what he had seen, she was not injured (despite the blood on her torn blouse).


More police were in the outer office, apparently interviewing everyone about something that happened there. The room was the worse for wear with the three B's - blood, burns, and busted stuff.


He went to the desk of the man who was apparently some sort of assistant to the boss, but saw no indication that he spoke any English. He was looking at a screen and typing something at another. Whatever it was that he was typing about, he didn't look happy.




"What kind of attack? Where?" Rose asked.


"At the office where your father is negotiating. And there isn't much information available yet. There was violence, and weapons, and the police are there now, in force."


"And my father?"


"We don't know yet."


"Oh, God! I have to go there - I have to get to him."


"I can't let you do that. Not yet."


"What? Why?" Her tone was heartbreaking and heartbroken at the same time, without any trace of a little girl whine.


"It is still too dangerous." He took a breath, remembering her argument of moments before "As a family friend, as the man who is acting as your temporary stand in father, I cannot allow you to blindly go into such danger. Again."


"But my father..."


"Would not want you to put yourself in danger on his account. He undoubtedly has enough to concern himself about without adding that. He would call it a violation of my promise to him, and he would be correct."


At that point, Yuko quietly interrupted him to point at his screen. He looked, and then nodded. "Is your office clear?" he asked Yuko. Rose heard the implication as stripped of all confidential materials.


"Yes. It currently contains general study materials rather than the more sensitive ones."


Hearing that, he turned to Rose. "It appears that you have a visitor. My assistant tells me that a very small winged man has appeared on his desk, and seems distressed by the shielding of my office."


Rose grew hopeful. "That sounds like David," she acknowledged. "I should go see him."


"It would be... inappropriate for you to go back among our able constabulary just now." he said, with Rose slightly amused by the choice of translation her power had used for that description of the police. "And for security reasons, it would be even less advisable for me to stop shielding this room. However, there is another alternative."


His look turned more serious. "I can drop the shielding in her office without compromising mine. If you are in there at the time, will he be able to sense your location?"


Rose thought for a moment. "I'm pretty sure that he can."


He nodded to Yuko, who invited Rose to follow her. Despite her "I'm among adults" dignity, Rose all but ran after her. It had to be David, and he just had to know what happened. Just then, she wasn't the almost-adult making her way in the working world - she was the little girl whose Daddy is far away and maybe in danger. Danger she couldn't do anything about.


When they settled in Yuko's office and dropped the shield, two things happened almost immediately. Maki mentally asked her how she was doing and what was happening, and David's avatar appeared.


*I'll get back to you in a minute.* Rose "told" Maki. *David is here with news about the new attack on my father.* While she knew that Maki didn't share Radar's empathic powers, Rose was pretty sure her mental voice carried enough emotion to make her urgency clear.


"What happened?" She asked David, anxiously.


David was startled and a little confused by her question. He hadn't said anything yet, so he wasn't sure what she was asking about. Even with her power, she hadn't provided enough context. He decided that she had the idea that he was there because something was wrong, which was true as far as it went.


He briefly described the attack, omitting any reference to Flit's time travel power. He knew that some of Rose's new friends spoke English (to some extent), and that aspect was still sensitive information. When he got to the part about the damaged eye, Rose all but lost it.


"What's the matter?" Yuko asked, having caught very little of the exchange.


"My father," Rose told her, the anguish clear in her voice. "He's been hurt... bad."


"Is he...?"


Rose didn't need her power to complete the sentence, but it did so anyway. "No, they didn't kill him. They tried, but they didn't. But his eye... one of them destroyed it with a nail." In translation, there was no question that it was a spike rather than a finger tip.


"Oh, Rose," The sympathy was heavy and sincere in Yuko's voice.


A note of desperation crept into Rose's voice. "Can you help him? I know you can fix it. You've just got to fix it." She was almost begging.


"It's... it's not my choice to make." Yuko apologized. Then she shifted to all business. "What is happening there now?"


Rose translated the question for David. He vanished, then came back a moment later.


"Things are somewhat calmer," he told Rose. She provided a running translation as he continued. "Your father and the three gunmen are strapped to gurneys. Some people who look like EMTs are working on your father's face, and police are guarding the others. Your father is conscious, but hurting. He was yelling something about the need to file some papers. Something about being safe after that. Other police are talking to the other victims and witnesses. There are police at the doors and at the elevators. The situation seems to be stable, but tense. I wouldn't want to startle anyone there right now."


Yuko had made sure that the scene in her office was sent to her danna, so he was up to speed on the situation. A beep called her attention to her desk screen, where she was instructed to step back into his office. She excused herself, and went through the door.


"You can repair the damage?" It wasn't entirely a question.


"Yes." She kept her response factual, as she had been taught. "If necessary, I can regrow the eye from the optical nerve out. It is merely a matter of time and energy."




"Such weapons are often poisoned. I am concerned about exposure that close to the brain. Also, the possibility of infection exists. Degeneration could also be a problem with time. Without the poison, his life is probably not in immediate danger."


Then she shifted tone, to indicate a somewhat different topic area. "Access is the big problem. Unless I go with Rose, I have no reason to be anywhere near him. And if she does reappear, there will be questions about where she has been all this time. It could be... awkward."


Tanaka Sensei considered. "Delay would likely make such questions even more problematical. The real issue is when and where. If we wait until he is at the hospital, there will be fewer people to deal with and it will be easier to manage the situation."


He paused in thought, then continued. "Another complication is the paperwork. He is largely correct that they will be safer once the papers are filed. That should also simplify any actions we take. Pay attention."


Yuko paid close attention while her danna set things in motion. Soon, for differing reasons, people ranging from police and government workers to Mr. Reid's superiors were suddenly deciding that it was urgent to get those papers filed - regardless of cost. And none of it would point directly back to her company. She found the subtlety and leveraged effect breathtaking. This was the reason she had committed her life to the program - the sort of thing she could only learn from a danna such as hers.


The police were also of the opinion that it was vitally important to make sure Mr. Reid was safely transported to the medical facilities.


As Yuko stepped back into her own office, she saw David's avatar reappear. She guessed that he was going back and forth between Rose and her father. And she needed answers to her questions.


"Any more news, Rose?"


"They are getting ready to take my father to the hospital. Also, he just got a message from his boss... something about the papers. He gave his briefcase to one of the people from his office, then seemed to relax a little."


Yuko understood, far better than Rose did. But Rose didn't need to know the details. And Yuko needed to know other details. "Those weapons, those throwing spikes..." Rose noticed there was a specific name for them, but her power used that descriptor. "... It's not unusual for the tips to be poisoned. Can your friend..." she indicated David, who clearly didn't understand a word she was saying. "... find out whether that was the case this time?"


"He already did. All nine were poisoned, but he was able to neutralize the poison before they hit anyone. He also significantly blunted the tips. He says that if he hadn't, it probably would have gone into my father's brain."


Yuko could see that Rose was near the breaking point again. Not that she blamed her. Before she could ask anything else, Rose launched into her appeal.


"Can you help him? I've got to go to him! I need you to help him. I'll do..." Yuko stopped her with a finger over her mouth. One thing she had learned is that promises made under such circumstances might be kept, but they were almost certainly poison to the relationship. Especially when such promises would make no difference.


"Don't make foolish offers of promises!" The sharpness of her tone brought Rose up short. "I should be able to help him, but not yet. And you should be able to go to him. But there are preparations that must be made first. There is no point running into danger or trouble, when you can get what you need with just a little patience."


Rose saw the mature businesswoman in Yuko, rather than the friend and almost-peer. And she found herself trusting Yuko all the more in that role.


Yuko saw the shift, and used it to push on. "Have your friend keep track of what is going on around your father, while you come back to the inner office with me."


"He can't go in there. How can he let us know if something happens?" Rose knew it should be obvious to her, but she was so upset that she couldn't think.


"Ask him. I'm sure he can think of something. I will leave the vid pickup open, if that will help."


David's answer was immediate and simple. "Have her leave some paper with a little writing on it where it will see it. I can rearrange the ink to write on it. "


"Duh! I knew that. Why couldn't I think of it?"


"Because you are upset. Because your father is hurt, and you are helpless to do anything about it right now. Believe me, I understand. We all do."


Rose warmed at the reminder of her friends back home. They were too far away to do her any good right then, but they were there. She relayed the communication suggestion to Yuko, who put a routine report on her desk in range of the pickup.


"You may need to do the reading," Yuko warned. "I can't read English as well as I should, and I honestly do not know how well my danna does." Her voice turned more businesslike. "Now, there are preparations to be made. Follow me."




First, there was the unexpected commotion. They had stepped out of the conference room only to find themselves attacked by three men in suits. They brandished guns and shouted something, then dropped the guns and threw something. Then there was the literally blinding pain in his eye, and the room started spinning around him. The papers! They had to get filed!


The next thing he could remember was a familiar voice saying that the attack was over, and that their bosses wanted the agreement papers filed immediately. And offering to take care of the process. He trusted that voice, and released the case.


More shouting. This time, men and women in uniforms were filling the room. More uniforms, this time not shouting. He was moved, strapped into something, and carried or rolled out of the room. Elevators. Halls. Inside something moving... an ambulance? Talking that he can't understand - was it Japanese or just English he was too out of it to understand?


Corridors. Elevator. Room. Lights. People in masks. Darkness. Blurs.


He was awake again. Or was he? His eye didn't hurt, and it seemed to work. Rose was there, but there was something wrong with that. She looked just like she did when she disappeared. Wasn't she... she had been changed. But now she wasn't. She was even wearing the same clothes she had on when that first attack happened. It must be a dream.


There was another girl there. The one who was at the bar with Tanaka. Somehow, it almost seemed like they were friends.


"It's ok, Daddy." Rose was saying. "You'll be fine. She healed your eye and the other damage."


"That..." he rasped out, "that was nice of her." He turned his head a little more toward Yuko. "Thank you."


The girl smiled briefly, then schooled her face. She looked almost like an out of uniform nurse. "You need to rest, now. Rose will be here with you." She turned and left.


"That's right. I'll be right here." Rose assured him. Despite his weariness, he could see the tracks of tears dried on her face.


"Be ok..." he mumbled. As he started slipping back into oblivion, he saw a policewoman come into the room and start talking to Rose. He couldn't understand what they were saying, and he couldn't stay awake to even try to understand.


End part 11



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