Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story By Joreymay

 

Part 13

 

As the morning wore on, the snowfall started to slack off. By late morning, it was light enough that the neighborhood children were out playing in it.

Of course, there are children and then there are children. Rose was startled by a knock at the door. Even with her MORFS augmented hearing, he hadn't heard anyone walking up to it. The mystery was solved a moment later, when she caught a glimpse of a familiar form standing on her front porch.

"Hi, Robin!" she greeted the 'porter as she opened the door to let her in. She was even more surprised when Lena, David, and Angel followed her in. After they exchanged greetings with Rose and her family, they invited the sisters to join them for some traditional snow day fun outside.

They didn't have to ask twice. Rose quickly changed into her snow clothes and beat Tara back downstairs by about 5 endless seconds. With much noise and handwaving, they all trooped outside.

All but Lena.

*We need to talk.* She "said" to Rose's parents. *And I don't want Rose to hear what I'm going to say. The others will keep her too busy to worry about where I am or what we might be discussing, so feel free to talk normally.*

"What's this all about?" Rose's mother asked, more puzzled than anything.

*You two are heading for a very big fall, and all of you are in danger. Again.*

She waited a moment for their mental chaos to subside, then went on. *How old is Rose?*

"Thirteen. You know that - you were here for her party." her mother indignantly replied.

*And since that party, have you seen her interact with her peers?*

"We've seen her with you and your friends, and she seems to be doing just fine."

*That's just it. We're not her peers. While a few years' difference in age is all but meaningless to you, it is critical at her age. And not much less so at our ages.* She sensed their urge to interrupt, and disrupted it before she continued.

*At school, she faced down a girl who was at the top of the school social order - a girl who used to intimidate her by just looking at her.* she went on. *She slapped her down like a vaguely annoying 8 year old, and didn't even notice she was doing it. She has no sense of connection with her school, or with the other students. Since her change, she has been spending her time with older teens and adults and doing so as a peer. And you've been encouraging it.*

*Sit! Down! Now!* While her powers couldn't really control them, her mental "tone of voice" was enough to startle them into obedience. Almost.

"What's wrong with that?" Rose's mother demanded. "She's acting maturely for her age - better than Tara was at that age, and she was better than most."

*Exactly. She was acting* Lena put extra emphasis on that word *like someone older and more mature. But she isn't. She's 13 years old and went through MORFS. Everything about her has changed and will continue to change for some time. Her body, her brain, her social situation, and especially her hormones... they all are doing things she has never experienced before. And on top of that, she has been in the middle of things nobody should experience. Especially anyone that young.*

They still didn't get it. *Think about it. She is a 13 year old who is getting used to the privledges and power of an adult. Of a well placed adult. But she is going through everything Tara did and more. When you get into it with her, when her hormones drive her to the emotional states Tara went through, do you really want to be facing someone with exceptional abilities and an illusion of adulthood? Someone who is so dissociated from her peers that she doesn't really see that they are going through most of the same drama and finding ways to cope with it?*

The man of the house finally jumped in. "What do you suggest we do?"

*Remember Tara's thirteens. Be prepared for what you know perfectly well is coming. Treat her like the talented young teen she is, but prepare for the inevitable. And remember one thing: she can spot a lie a mile off. Even a well intentioned one like "it will be fine, you'll see" or the like. Protect her like the daughter you know and love...*

She went "silent" for a moment, then *Shit!*

"What?" they both asked.

Aloud, she said "More trouble. I'm calling them in."

Seconds later, five snow covered figures came laughing through the door.

Lena faced them. "Cassandragram." was all she had to say. The group sobered up immediately.

While they quickly shed their snow covered outer clothes, Lena was in full Radar mode. While she gathered more information from Cassandra, she started "looking" around the nearby streets and yards. Once they were done, she turned a part of her attention to them.

"Another attack on your family is coming soon... I think." She told them, while keeping up her mental conversation with Cassandra and scanning the area. "Two men from Japan are, or were, at the airport. One of them had a brief malfunction of his shield, due to a bored traveler. In that time, brief images came out - something about taking you two," she indicated Rose and her father, "and finding out what you had to do with the destruction of their organization. They're supposed to be meeting with two others, who are already in place."

David spoke up. "Why the 'I think' part?"

"Cassandra says it doesn't feel right," Radar replied. "She feels like something is missing. Something vital. And she doesn't have a sense of when it would happen."

Radar was so focussed on her "conversation" with Cassandra and with her scan of the neighborhood that she was as blindsided as everyone else by the response.

"NOOOOO!" Rose shrieked. "No! It's not FAIR!" As the tears started flowing from her eyes, she turned from one to another of her older friends. "Make it stop! It's too much! It's not fair! Make it stop!" She threw herself into her mother's lap, sobbing into her shoulder "Make it go away. I don't want it anymore," came the the muffled complaint.

Her mother automatically wrapped her arms around her shaking daughter. She looked from face to face of the others there, clearly out of her depth. Finding no help there, she drew on her "mommy wisdom" and gently said exactly the wrong thing.

"It'll be ok." she murmured. "Everything will be ok."

Rose jerked upright, like she'd been slapped. "NO IT WON'T" she shouted in her mother's face, then all but jumped to her feet. "Nothing will be ok! You don't get it. They'll keep coming and coming until they kill you. Until they kill all of us! and it's all because of me!" She turned and ran up the stairs to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Eyes wide with fear, her mother turned to Radar. The teen nodded her understanding, then reassured her.

"I'll make sure she doesn't do anything foolish, and help her wind down safely. Too much of a change would hurt more than help right now. She needs to cry it out."

For the first time since Rose's reaction started, her father spoke up. "But what about...?"

"David can keep an eye on the perimeter, and Robin can back him up. All of you'll be safe enough. But right now, she's got to be my first priority." She sat back and closed her eyes, effectively blocking off any more conversation.

After a moment, Tara got up. Radar opened her eyes and nodded at her. "Go ahead and try." Radar told her. "It might help."

Tara went up to Rose's door and gently knocked.

"Go away!" came the muffled reply.

"It's me... Tara. Please let me in."

There was a moment of silence, then the door cracked open. Tara slipped in and closed the door behind her. Wordlessly, she wrapped her little sister in a hug which was slowly returned. After a moment, they sank to the bed, still wrapped in each other's embrace.

For what seemed like days, Tara hugged her sister and let her cry herself out. Finally, her sobs wound down and her breathing deepened. After she felt her body relax, she lowered her the rest of the way. She lifted Rose's feet, removing her shoes, and straightened her out. After loosely covering her with a blanket and giving her one more gentle hug, Tara slipped out of the room and downstairs.

Radar and David, drink cans in hand, gave the impression of looking around the room. Robin was talking quietly with Tara's mother on the sofa. Her father was not in the room, but the door to his office was open. She joined her mother, quietly leaning up against her.

"She's asleep" Tara explained, then let them go back to their conversation. As they talked, she took quiet comfort in her mother's soft warmth.

Lena took no pleasure in being right. Instead, she was annoyed that she had not been able to prepare them earlier. But they should have known better. Rose was thirteen, for crying out loud.

After a fruitless hour of scanning the area, Radar noticed something odd. A car was driving down the street, but it didn't seem to have anyone in it. She called David's attention to it, and he saw almost the same thing. When he concentrated, he could tell that there were two men in the car... barely.

They had heard about very high end shields which could completely cloak a person from their enhanced perceptions, but they had never encountered them (as far as they knew). They alerted Robin, who got back into her snow things and ready to jump as needed.

When the car pulled up in front of one of the rental houses down the street, Robin did one of her patented invisible flits to a spot nearby where she could see what was going on without standing in the snow (and giving away her location). Two men in expensive looking suits got out of the car and walked to the door. One of them knocked, but nothing happened. The other pulled out a com, and seemed dissatisfied with the results of his call. He shook his head at the other.

Finally, one of them passed something in front of a concealed sensor plate and the door opened. After a brief glance up and down the street, they went inside. Robin waited until the door closed, then flitted in after them.

While she was relaying her observations to Radar, Radar and the Captain were busy "searching" the house themselves. For the most part, it seemed just a little off without there being anything in particular. There were clothes and shoes belonging to two men (none of them the right sizes for the two from the car), food in the kitchen, the furniture that came with the house, and that was about it. Nothing personal. The sort of place an agent might maintain. Or an assassin.

Or a couple of single traveling salesmen on a short assignment.

The issue seemed to be resolved in one of the bedrooms. Captain Peeper saw it first, then notified Radar and Flit. There, under a dresser, was what looked like a small detonator. Flit quietly made her invisible way to the room, then 'ported the object back to the others.

And then followed it back.

At first excitedly, David gave the device his best Captain Peeper examination. It was a detonator, all right. No doubt about it. The only problem was the dust. It had enough dust on it to make it clear that it had been sitting there before the current renters moved in.

For the rest of the afternoon, David and Robin alternated keeping an eye on the men. And David also alternated with Lena in the process of watching the neighborhood. And learning from her earlier mistake, Lena kept a psychic "ear" on Rose as she slept.

Nervewraking as it was, the afternoon passed without further incident. Rose eventually woke up, and grumpily rejoined the others. Nobody said anything about her earlier pyrotechnics. Tara had put on the tube, and without being asked she turned it to one of Rose's shows.

With promises to keep watch, Flit sent the other teens home and then followed them.

Late that night, Radar woke Rose for some quick translation. The men, still alone in the house, had gotten a call. Flit was there to listen in, but they were speaking another language. Radar got one side of the phone conversation from Flit, but needed it translated as they went along.

It was fairly short, in Japanese, and mostly consisted of "We haven't made contact," "Yes," "No," and "I understand." Luckily, the one who had been on the phone turned and spoke to the other after finishing the call.

"They are either running or dead. Knowing Nakamura, I would bet on dead. This assignment is not important anymore, and we are to return at once." was her translation of his remarks.

The other acknowledged the remarks, and they quickly removed all traces of their occupancy. And that of the men who had rented the house. They got into the car and left.

They returned the rental car, took a shuttle to the airport, and there the three friends quickly lost them.

"I don't trust this." A tired and frustrated Radar commented. "I just wish I could read them."

"I have an idea about that." Flit answered. "The big problem is their shields, right?"

Everyone agreed, so she went on. "We need to disable one or both of them, but they are self protecting. I can't flit anything in or out of them or reach through intangibly, CP can't transmute anything in them... in fact, there's nothing we can do at a distance. And we can't really confront them either. Is that about the size of it?"

Again, everyone agreed.

"Their shields aren't force fields - they don't provide physical protection."

CP spoke up, a light sarcasm coloring his voice. "But if we hit them with something strong enough to have a chance of breaking them, I think they'd notice."

Radar elbowed him in the ribs, then nodded for Flit to continue.

"Right. But physical force per se isn't our only option. What if we had a solvent, something that could eat through the case and mess up the electronics?"

"How would you get it there?" Rose asked. "You just said you can't flit anything in or out of it. And they'd feel something like a needler."

"Leave that to me." Flit assured them, then turned to CP. "Captain, can you make up something like that?"

"I've been looking at solvents and stuff like that, so I probably can. How much would you need? I'm kinda limited in the volume department."

He blushed and turned toward Radar, in response to a thought the others didn't hear. She just grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.

Flit, struggling to suppress a laugh, went on. "O... k... I'd only need a few drops. I have something to carry it in." She vanished, then reappeared holding a small, stoppered vial, with a glass rod extending from the stopper. Lena recognized it as part of the equipment Robin had gotten during her brief flirtation with making her own perfume.

CP took the vial, and in a slightly distracted tone said "This should do." A small amount of liquid appeared

in the vial, filling it about one third.

After he stoppered it again, Flit took it and vanished.

Unknown to the others (except Radar), she stepped back in time to just before the men left the house and arrived invisibly and intangibly. Standing behind one of the men as he made his final preparations, she opened the vial and made the rod tangible. She carefully moved it inside his collar and positioned it over the main shield module. Making the vial and its contents tangible (but still invisible) she carefully poured a few drops of the liquid down along the rod and onto the module. Satisfied, she withdrew the rod, capped the vial, and made them intangible again. She watched him for a moment, to make sure he hadn't noticed anything, then returned to the place and time she'd flitted there from.

"It worked." Radar announced as Flit reappeared, then turned to Rose "May I?"

Rose nodded, and felt the familiar connection with the translations flowing through her brain almost too quickly to catch. She got some vague impressions, which Radar confirmed a moment later.

"Our man doesn't think much of the two missing men. He respects their skills with weapons and things, but considers them too prone to unnecessary violence and somewhat lacking in subtlety. Still, they were professionals and he finds their disappearance somewhat troubling. He wonders whether they fell victim to one of their rival organizations."

She got a look of deeper concentration for a moment, then smiled. "Cassandra says she gets the feeling that the danger is over. She also says that I woke her from a great dream, and it's my fault if she has problems in school tomorrow."

With that, everyone said their goodnights. One by one, the team disappeared as Robin sent them home. She waved goodbye to the family, then vanished to her own home. With their usual loving rituals, the family retired to their own bedrooms and beds.

Despite the strain and excitement of the earlier part of the night, Rose dropped off to sleep as soon as she was in bed. As she drifted off, she had a pleasant sense of someone watching over her.

That done, Lena threw herself in bed as well. She was a little too keyed up and paradoxically too tired to go to sleep easily, so she did her "sleep trick" and put herself to sleep.

Unfortunately (as far as Rose was concerned), the roads were clear and the schools were open on Tuesday. With the weird schedule the school used for finals, she only had two classes per day. And that day's classes were Changes and History.

Before class settled in, she heard some people talking. In the short time she'd been gone, three kids had come down with MORFS. She didn't notice any absenses in her Changes class, and there were no obvious changes in anyone.

The Changes class mostly went smoothly, with the test covering material she had studied well. And she had gotten an A on her paper, which made her confident of a good grade in the class. The only hiccup was near the end, when her teacher got a note from the office and passed it on to her. After class, she was to report to the dean's office.

"What now?" she wondered, silently. Or, at least, she didn't say anything verbally.

*Don't worry to much about it.* came the silent response. Lena almost sounded amused. "You're not in trouble."

Rose finished her class, dropped off her books at her locker, and dutifully trudged to the dean's office.

When the secretary told her to go in, she was surprised to see that the dean was not alone. There was a woman she didn't recognize, and a female pekingese dog morf who looked vaguely familiar (but who Rose couldn't place). She was about to apologize and leave, when the dean waved her to an empty chair with an almost pleasant "Have a seat, Miss Reid."

When he used her last name like that, she was sure something was up.

Once she was seated, the dean continued. "While you were gone, Miss Moore here went through MORFS."

Rose gasped and thought "Miss Moore"? There was only one student named Moore that she knew about. She turned to the girl and asked "Missy?"

The girl, her one time nemisis, nodded miserably. The smirk didn't even make it to Rose's face.

*Don't say it!* Lena advised her. *She has been hearing the "bitch" comment all day, and is very fragile.*

*I wasn't going to say it.* Rose retorted. *I was just going to think it real loud.*

The dean cleared his throat. When Rose turned her attention back to him, he continued. "We find ourselves in an... awkward situation. The changes to her face have rendered her unable to talk for the time being. With therapy and practice, she will be able to regain that ability, but for now she is effectively mute."

"I guess I understand, but what does that have to do with me?" Rose asked, genuinely puzzled.

"While she has acquired some special writing instruments to accomodate the changes to her hands," he replied, as Rose turned and noticed Missy hiding her hands in her lap, "she will need to be able to deal with classes which require verbal presentations and responses. She needs the kind of help only you can provide."

With the help of her abilities, she was able to understand what he was getting at. "I can't be with her day and night for the rest of the school year."

"We understand that. She only needs to get through this week, through the semester finals. After that, she can get the help she needs to regain her speech."

"What about my finals?"

"You will be excused from them."

*Tell him you want full credit for them.* Lena mentally advised her. *Make it understood, but not said, that you mean that you get the equivalent of aceing all of them. It's the most you can get for this.*

"I will need full credit for all of them." Rose stated, filling the word "full" with meaning that the dean would not mistake, and clearly including her English class in the "all" part.

"That can be done." His tone implied continuing negotiation. "You will need to accompany her throughout her school day." His own emphasis told her that he was including lunch, before and after school activities, and between class times, as well as the in-class time.

Rose didn't like that, but she understood it. Luckily, virtually all before and after school activities were done for the semester so she wouldn't have those to worry about. She gave him a look which asked what else was in it for her.

"As you know, the law prohibits us from paying you for your services. However, I can assure you that this office will not forget this favor."

He was offering her a "get out of trouble free" card, and that was as far as he was willing to go.

She turned and looked at the woman, who she assumed was Missy's mother. She didn't need her abilities to read the plea in the woman's face. Or the tension.

With just the right show of adolescent reluctance, she agreed to do her best. Missy made a sound like some combination of a mumble and a yip, which Rose understood as "Thank you". The woman's words required no such effort to be understood. "We really appreciate your help. I don't know what we would do..."

Her meaning and subtext were a different matter. That was a woman used to getting her way, and one who knew how to use emotions and social conventions to accomplish that. Rose began to understand Missy a little better.

"You two should go and get some lunch. I will notify your teachers about the arrangement."

It didn't take long for Rose to see that the dean had been had, and had taken her along for the ride.

Missy used the lunch period to re-establish her social position. Speaking through Rose, she pointedly reminded her peers and competitors that MORFS had not robbed her of her memories or her contacts. And she had not lost a bit of her manipulative cunning. Or her attitude.

Rose faithfully translated words, nuances, and implications. And she hid her own growing distaste for the process. By the end of the day, she was more than ready to go home. They had faced down challenges, reassured allies, and generally acted as Missy apparently did before her transformation. To her relief, she wasn't asked to translate any acts of picking on someone.

The next day, she had to respond to an unexpected attack. And she needed a lot of help in doing it.

Rose never found out the why, whether they were people Missy had insulted or otherwise stepped on, or associated with her rivals, or were pures, or just immature jerks who thought it would be funny. Or something else entirely. And really, it didn't matter.

What she did know was the what. And at least some of the whos. For whatever reason, some people in and around Missy's two classes for the day were carrying electronic dog whistles. While they were clearly aimed at Missy, there were others in the school (including Rose herself, with her MORFS augmented hearing) who could hear them to some extent. Her first clue was in the morning, with brief, apparently random high pitched beeps. On their way into the first class, Rose and Missy were briefly overcome by loud, high pitched sounds from the hallway and from within the classroom. Missy stumbled, and the sounds stopped. Rose shook her head to clear it, and she noticed a couple of other people in the class looking puzzled and uncomfortable. More to the point, everyone else looked unaffected.

About half an hour into class, the shrieks were back. This time they seemed to go on forever. Rose, who could only hear some of it, found it somewhat painful and very distracting. Missy was collapsing on her desk, in obvious pain. Rose did the only thing she could think of.

*HELP!* she mentally yelled.

Lena sat up in class as though she had been slapped. A quick "glance" at Rose and her environs quickly told her all she needed to know. This was a job for The Captain. She held a brief conference with David, and between them they came up with a plan. Radar would sweep Rose's school (starting in the room where she was) for people thinking about the devices, and make sure they actually had them. David would "go inside" the cases and change the values of some components to change the pitch of the sound. Two boys and a girl in the classroom found themselves the center of attention - very hostile attention - as their toys became painfully audible to everyone in the room. After they were sent on their way by an annoyed teacher, class settled back down.

The rest of the day was punctuated by loud beeps and outraged trips to the Dean's office.

By the end of the week, she was mildly horrified by the whole thing. She had only played her designated role in one class, and that was French. In two other classes, she had answered the roll call but had the impression that the original "Yip" would have been adequate. If this had been one of those moralistic "young adult" adventures or romances ose sometimes read, she probably would have ended the week as a new lifelong friend to Missy, with an appreciation for the complex layers below the surface she had judged Missy by.

Life wasn't one of those books.

Rose left school Friday afternoon with a different attitude about Missy. Before, Missy was just an annoying part of the background. Now, she was someone Rose actively disliked. She wasn't stupid - far from it. But Rose couldn't accept her focus. Missy had a plan for her life, one her mother apparently encouraged. She would spend her middle school and high school years establishing herself at the top of the local social structures of the schools and networking with the sons and daughters of predictably important people. She would also be building her academic and extracirricular records to qualify for entry into a top tier university. Once there, she would again work her way to the social elite and would find and attract the most socially promising husband possible, and once married would guide him through the rest of his schooling and his career while building the family's social standing. Her entire life was mapped out. So were those of her (eventual) children.

Outside of those ambitions, Missy was shallow and dismissive. Not to mention rude, thoughtless, and narcissistic. Try as she might, Rose could not find one thing to like about her.

And she couldn't really understand her. She knew people who were socially far above anywhere Missy could hope to reach - heck, she even knew a queen - and none of them were anything like that. How could anyone live like that? Maybe Lena could help her understand.

But before she could even think out a request, a familiar "voice" was in her head.

*We need to talk.*

End part 13

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/

 


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