Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay

Part 15

 

*Company's coming!* Radar told the others. *And something is happening at the compound.*

 

WHUMP!

 

Yamai had underestimated his fellow villagers. And those of the other village. Hunting parties had spotted him on his way to the shrine, and correctly guessed his destination. They had no idea that they had been "helped" to reach that conclusion, or "encouraged" to send runners back to stir up reactions in the villages. Nor were they aware that observers from the compound had seen the reactions and reported them to the compound.

 

And of the people in the area, only Radar had been aware that the whole purpose of creating all of those reactions was to draw the attention of the compound to the villages. And that the whole thing had been part of a plan to shut down the compound and rescue the prisoners there. Their part had been worthwhile in its own right, but it was only a small part of a bigger plan.

 

A plan that had apparently gone wrong. How badly wrong, Radar didn't know. But the explosion at the compound and the fact that the powerful telepath who was her contact with the other group was too busy to do more than let her know he was that busy were not part of the original plan.

 

But first things first. *I'll explain in a moment. David, she'll warn him about the activity and send him home.* As CP had the image respond appropriately, Radar gave him an impression of parties of angry men from the villages and armed men from the compound swarming over the area. While she would help a bit with the villagers, he would need to be very careful while he hurried home. With a final smile of blessing, she faded from view.

 

Radar took a moment to silently fill her friends in on the situation. She admitted she knew before hand, but had been asked not to share the information. Her boyfriend was not exactly pleased about being kept in the dark, briefly creating an illusion of a floating mushroom with an angry face. The rest were only a little more understanding. But they all agreed that the knowledge would have been more of a distraction than a help up to then.

 

Now that their priorities, and her job, had changed, Angel quietly took charge. She would use her elemental senses to keep an eye on the local wildlife, and Rosetta and Cassandra would help as needed. Their priority was to remain safe until they could be 'ported home. Their next highest priority was to get Yamai safely back home. After a quick round of brainstorming, it was decided that The Lady would appear to parties from the villages, somewhat larger than life. She would "tell" the leaders that she had summoned Yamai to the shrine and that he was special to her and important to both villages. She would also warn them about the armed men from the compound and advise them to return home quickly.

 

That done, they would keep watch over Yamai and guide him away from contact with any of the others.

 

The first problem came almost immediately. One of the men, a religious leader of sorts, reacted in an unexpected way. While Radar had given him the feeling of believing the apparition was The Lady, he decided to make use of the situation to boost his status within the village. Despite her size and unearthly appearance, he demanded proof. He had what he believed to be "secret" knowledge about her, even though half the men there shared the "secrets". At his urging to "show" that she was who she claimed, she lowered the left shoulder of her dress to show a scar he vividly pictured. She answered the first of his questions then turned an angry face to him. "Who are you to question me?" she seemed to say. "You, who as a young man..."

 

Radar had used the approach before. It was virtually guaranteed to make the person think of something unworthy or even shameful that he had done at that age. This was no exception. The thought came and went so quickly that he was barely aware of it, but Radar was watching and ready for it. Suddenly, everyone in the party was aware of it. And of her disapproval of him. And of her approval of Yamai. Instead of boosting the man's status as he had hoped, she had cut the legs out from under it.

 

The "Lady" gave them a look which clearly conveyed (with a little help from Radar) "what are you standing around for? Go warn and protect your village!", turned her back, and vanished.

 

The other groups went better. The suggestion to hurry back home was helped by the appearance of several government aircraft speeding overhead in the direction of the compound and the sounds of several more explosions from that direction.

 

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*Heads up!* Radar warned them. *Those SOBs are on their way to destroy the compound. They don't want the rescuers finding evidence tieing it to the more corrupt elements of the government. And they don't care if innocents - or the rescuers - get hurt in the process.* Her warning to the other telepath had been more compact and to the point, but it had been enough to get everyone to safety.

 

Unlike the Pope Hill gang, the others had been operating semi-officially and in limited cooperation with the government. They had only informed their liaison about the target moments before they began their operation, so there was too little time for that information to leak back to the compound. The government would be taking credit for routing the "foreign criminals" running the place, and the rescue team would remain unsung. They had underestimated the extent of government complicity in the enterprise.

 

They managed to get the captives away, but not before one - a particularly angry chemical elemental - started a chain reaction which ended up leveling two buildings a few minutes later with an explosion that was heard miles away at the shrine. With the captives safe in their headquarters, the rescuers concentrated on capturing the leaders and collecting evidence. Both had been complicated by the explosion. They did end up with some prisoners and evidence before the bombs started falling, however.

 

Radar, David, and the others were keeping busy as well. Using a combination of mental nudges and well placed illusions, they managed to keep the gunmen separate from the villagers. The villagers ended up safely home, and most of the gunmen found themselves with mysteriously malfunctioning weapons as they walked into the waiting arms of government ground troops.

 

By the time the black doorway opened up to take them home, they were exhausted.

 

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Rose was barely awake when they appeared in her room.

 

Radar caught everyone's attention before they did anything else. *We have to go back tomorrow to help with the followup. But right now, we need to get some rest. We can meet tomorrow after lunch.* And then out loud "Go ahead and get ready for bed, Rose. We'll see ourselves out." She gave a smile and a wink as she said the last part.

 

Rose went down and said goodnight to her family, declining an offer of food, then all but crawled back upstairs to get ready for bed. When she got back to her room, everyone there was gone. She got ready for bed as quickly as she could (which was none too quickly), then snuggled under the covers. As she dropped off to sleep, she thought she heard hushed voices. Including her own. Too tired to care, she finished falling into a deep, restful sleep.

 

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She woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed. her muscles were still a bit stiff from the exercise in the jungle, but a hot shower soon took care of that. She dressed casually, then went down in search of some breakfast.

 

"The Beast awakes!" Tara greeted her, with dramatic flair. She smiled and went on. "They're at work, but said you could call them if you want to."

 

That was a significant concession. Usually, work time was off limits to anything but emergencies or brief reminders. Rose decided she must have looked even worse than she thought when she dragged in from the jungle.

 

"I'm off to the mall," Tara continued, "but I can do an egg for you before I leave if you want. There's sausage, bacon, and pastries if you want them. Leftovers from last night, too."

 

That last bit caught Rose's attention. Tara was saying that she didn't approve of the way she acted the previous night.

 

Sometimes she hated her powers.

 

Irritated, she shot back "Fine. Next time you can spend your afternoon in the jungle dodging groups of armed men, government war planes, and wild animals and we'll see how polite you are when you come home exhausted." With that, she stomped back to her room.

 

A loud gurgle reminded her that she hadn't grabbed any food. In fact, she hadn't eaten since yesterday afternoon.

 

*Never mind,* a familiar voice sounded in her head. "You are hereby invited to Casa O'Connor for some of Angel's special pancakes and a briefing about today's events.*

 

Rose barely had time to think about accepting before she found herself standing in Angel's kitchen, being handed a plate. Flit express strikes again.

 

"Food is more than usually important when we use our powers a lot." Lena continued, out loud this time, as Angel piled some pancaked on her plate and pointed to a tray with three different kinds of syrup and some melted butter. "The good news is that we aren't likely to gain much weight from all the eating, as long as we eat right. The bad news is that we really need to eat after a workout, even when we are too tired and cranky to want to think about it."

 

"But all I do is listen, talk, and think," Rose objected, while adding some berry syrup and butter to her pancakes. Angel looked her over briefly, and she felt a light probe from Radar. Then Angel cracked a couple of eggs in a bowl and started whipping up an omelet.

 

"You'd be surprised how much energy and other stuff your brain uses for things like that," Lena answered.  Then she grinned. "Besides, we're teenagers. We need the extra nutrition" she shifted her voice into her best imitation of a Changes class vid, "for all the changes our bodies are going through." She returned to her normal voice. "Not to mention all the running around we did."

 

"Speaking of which," Angel cut in, as she flipped the omelet, "now that everyone's here, shouldn't we get started?"

 

David was pouring out glasses of juice, and put one by Rose's plate and others by other plates she saw on the table. "We can wait until you're done over there," he said. Even though "over there" was only a few feet from the table, his tone told Rose that he considered the difference important.

 

Lena turned to Rose. "I explained a couple of things to your sister, and told her you would be busy for most of the day. She was a bit upset about what you said. It was good that you avoided telling her the sensitive parts, but probably not the best idea to throw the rest in her face."

 

Rose reluctantly agreed with the last part. She nodded as she moved a little aside to give Angel room to slide the omelet out of the pan and onto her plate. A few slices of crispy bacon appeared next to it. She looked up, and saw Robin grin. She nodded her thanks.

 

Angel put the pan back and turned off the stove, then sat down with her own plate of food.

 

Since their mouths were occupied with food and drink, Radar did the honors.

 

*There are two parts to what we will be doing today,* she began. "First, we'll all be debriefed." Robin saw David get a quick grin, and Radar rolled her eyes. "Behave. They need all of us for that part, for our different perspectives. And remember, they will think we've only taken an hour to wash, change, and grab a bite. We'll let them think that Angel had a way to refresh us in place of a good night's sleep. There is no need to let them know about that aspect of Robin's powers."

 

Robin batted her eyes. *A girl's gotta have some secrets, ya know.* She then spoiled the effect by sticking out a tongue coated with half chewed pancake at David.

 

While everyone laughed, Radar privately told a puzzled Rose about Robin's limited time travel abilities.

 

*After that, we will be helping them sort out the captives they rescued and get them back home. Or if they need it, getting them medical or psychological help and then getting them back home. David, Robin, Penny... you probably won't be needed for that part, but it couldn't hurt to have you standing by just in case.*

 

*I don't know,* David "said" with a grin, *Do you think my girlfriend will get upset if this makes me late for our date tonight?*

 

Lena gave him a look. *I think she'll understand. Especially since she will be equally late.*

 

Rose looked at the two of them, and wondered whether she would be that weird when she gets a boyfriend. *Probably,* Radar replied, with a mental laugh. Rose shook her head, wondering whether it would be worth it. *Definitely* came in reply.

 

*We'll be leaving from Rose's room again. We need to be quiet - she was falling asleep. Oh, and one more thing. From the time we get to her room to the time we reach our destination, I won't be able to do this. The two of me would interfere with each other.*

 

Now last night made sense. She really had heard those voices. But she had another question. *How should we dress?*

 

Lena took a quick look around. *Everyone should be fine. We'll be indoors, and we won't be doing anything all that active. Or formal.*

 

They finished eating, cleaned up, and were ready to leave.

 

One by one, Flit sent them to Rose's room. Rose couldn't help a quiet exclamation when she saw herself in bed. The others hushed her gently. After they were all there, the blackness appeared in her doorway. In a loosely formed line they stepped through...

 

...into an underground complex, right out of the vids.

 

Rose found herself facing a man wearing sunglasses. She wasn't sure why, but she quickly got the impression that he was the most powerful telepath she had met - stronger than Radar, Maki, and that police telepath in Japan. Maybe even stronger than all three put together. Without thinking, she hid behind her shields.

 

"Don't worry," Radar told her out loud. "He's one of the good guys." Rose recognized a feeling of calm reassurance as coming from her as well. After another moment of uncertainty, she dropped her meager shields.

 

Without being otherwise introduced, the mystery man laid out the agenda for the day. They would be debriefed (Rose snickered at the term) about the mission at the shrine earlier that day, then help take care of sorting out the refugees from the compound. Radar and Rose would go first in the debriefing (snicker), then move on while the others gave their reports.

 

Rose wasn't sure what to expect. Would she be sworn in like in court? Would there be some other formal rituals, or hard edged questioning like she had seen from the police? She was almost disappointed when they simply sat down and were asked to describe the events in their own words. She felt the nameless telepath lightly brush the surface of her thoughts as she gave her story, and he asked a few questions along the way, but that was it.

 

She was almost disappointed when they were done, with none of the drama she had expected. The whole thing was more like giving a class report about a field trip than some important part of a big professional mission. Both telepaths smiled as she thought that. The man quipped "School will come and go, but paperwork is forever." Radar just shrugged and smiled.

 

The next part was going to take a lot longer. The first thing they would do is sort the former captives from any of the guards, workers, or other people voluntarily involved in the operation of the compound. Then they would find out where "home" was for the former captives, evaluate their needs, and make the necessary arrangements. Rose and Radar would be helping with the information gathering, with their special link.

 

At least, that was the way it was supposed to go.

 

In the short time between the rescue and their arrival, things had shifted somewhat. Despite the language issues, the rescuees had realized that they were no longer in the hands of their former captors. By the time their rescuers got a suppression field covering the room where they were holding the refugees, the sole voluntary guard from the compound had been reduced to something barely recognizable as having once been human. While Rose and her friends were largely spared the sight of the wreckage, the danger of being in a room full of angry, personally hostile elementals was clear to everyone.

 

Rose flashed on the scene in the basement, and was surprised that her reaction was little more than serious distaste. She was also a little surprised to notice that the reaction was purely her own, without the signature of Radar's meddling.

 

*I heard that.*

 

*And?* Rose challenged.

 

*And... you're right. You have worked through it.*

 

They returned their attention to the tasks at hand.

 

It was decided that they would do a quick sort by language, as a starting point. Since the rescuers mostly spoke English, they started with that. They quickly worked up a small script, and Rose stepped into the room to make her first announcement while her friends waited outside. The feeling of the suppression field was as unpleasant as ever.

 

"If you can understand what I am saying, please move over here to my left." She was careful not to gesture, so that reactions would be based mostly on her words. "We are going to see what we can do to help with your immediate needs and then get you home. For your safety and ours, we will be taking you to another room one at a time to as you some questions and see what we can do. You will have a chance to come back here before leaving, so you can say your goodbyes." A number of people had been moving toward her while she was talking.

 

She turned to her left. "If you understand me, please raise your right hand." she said, in a more conversational tone. Most of them did so, as did a few of the other people near her. "Ok, you can put them down. Who would like to go first?" Rose was somewhat taken aback by the lack of enthusiasm which greeted her question. Then again, she thought, what they had apparently gone through would leave just about anyone short of trust.

 

After a moment, a short woman in a torn lab coat stepped forward. "I'll go." Her tone was nowhere near as confident as her words. Rose smiled at her, and one of the people from the complex escorted the woman from the room. "The rest of you, please wait here and you will get your turn. "

 

Rose switched to the language the young man at the shrine primarily spoke, on the general theory that the group would be much smaller. "If you can understand me, please gather by the door to my right. I'll be with you in a moment." There was some more shuffling, and a few people moved to that door.

 

She turned back to the group at her left. "We'll try to answer your questions in the individual sessions, but if you have any immediate needs or concerns, please ask one of these people." She indicated the remaining people from the complex.

 

She moved to the people by the door and repeated her speech.

 

As she escorted her reluctant volunteer and a guard to toward the interview room, Radar got through to her. *Go back to the holding room! Some sort of violence has broken out in the group you were talking to.*

 

*What can I do?* There was just the hint of Rose's self image as a relatively weak little girl underneath the words.

 

*The guards are handling the physical part. You need to find out what is going on.*

 

Rose turned to the guard. "Bring her." was all he needed to hear. She turned to the woman they were escorted.

 

"We need to go back. Now." she told her in her language.

 

When they got back into the room, under the uncomfortable weight of the suppression field, the people she had been addressing were mostly off to the side, held at bay by three of the guards. On the floor near the door, one of rescuees was bruised and bleeding.

 

"What happened?" she asked in their language.

 

"She killed her!" "She betrayed the Heart!" "She's one of them!" "They killed the Heart!" Even with her powers, Rose had a hard time making sense of the noise. But what she did make out left her with a sinking feeling. She pointed to one of the speakers, told him to explain, and told the rest to be quiet.

 

His story confirmed her apprehension. In the time since she had been taken, Yamai's mother had quietly become an icon among the prisoners. As she had at her village, she became the defacto "Heart" of the compound. But an effect of her presence was that it had inspired a somewhat irrational hope and an even more irrational bravery among the prisoners. Quietly and secretly (or so they thought), they started to plan a rebellion and mass escape. As far as he knew, the Heart took no part in the plans. In fact, she may not have known anything about them: the plotters didn't want to sully her with such details.

 

The plan was dangerous and desperate. And not as secret as they had thought. On the day before it was to happen, just a few days before the raid that freed them, their captors announced that as a result of that plan some changes had been made to security. They also announced that they were making an example of the new leader of the "workers". Everyone recognized her screams of agony, and understood the significance when they abruptly stopped.

 

Rose felt sick. She flashed on the basement, but realized that those people had been kidnappers and murderers. And probably worse. This was an innocent woman, a kidnapping victim herself. And she was the mother of someone Rose sort-of knew.

 

The man didn't know how the word started going around that she had been betrayed, and by whom. He just knew that he had heard it from a number of other prisoners. He also had the impression that the word had spread most quickly among the locals, and more slowly among the others. He didn't know how many people had heard it outside of those he considered locals.

 

He was telling the truth. About the whole thing.

 

Rose told the man and the others to behave, and accompanied the beaten woman and a guard to a nearby room that looked like a doctor's examination room. She was joined there by Angel and Radar. While Angel worked on her superficial injuries and "looked" for deeper, more serious injuries, Rose and Radar questioned the beaten woman.

 

She was a water elemental, and had been at the compound for more than a year. Most of what she did at the compound involved separating pure water from the things that had been dissolved in it, and moving the water to another container. Her captors were more interested in the stuff that was left behind than in the water. She never knew what it was, but suspected it was some kind of drug.

 

A few hours before the announcement and execution, they had taken her to a room with a suppression field and questioned her. They told her they knew all about the plan, and gave enough details that she believed them. They did not ask her about plan details, but about people. And they made it painfully clear that they would not hesitate to punish anything they even suspected was a lie. She knew those people were ruthless and smart, and that hurting her wouldn't bother them in the least. She wasn't so much afraid of dying - that might almost be a relief - but of what they could do without killing her and how long they could do it. She told them everything she knew about who knew what and who was supposed to do what. Everything but one. When they asked, repeatedly, who was at the center of the plan, she honestly said that she did not know. But she couldn't help the image of the Heart coming up in her mind. Finally, about an hour before the announcement, they sent her back to her work area and warned that they were watching her.

 

When the Heart was killed in that way, she had the horrible suspicion that one of their mind readers had seen the picture in her mind despite the suppression field. That she had betrayed her to her death. She didn't remember sharing that suspicion with any of the others, but several of them had seen her being taken in for questioning and then returned to her work station.

 

Rose didn't know what to do about the situation. Luckily, she didn't have to. *The people here will deal with the situation. They are better equipped for that sort of thing.* Radar reassured her. But Rose could tell that Radar wasn't as confident about that as she pretended to be.

 

By the time Rose returned to the holding room, the first English speaker had returned from processing and she had reassured the others about the treatment they could expect. Rose went back to sorting people by language and assuring them that they would be helped and returned home. Once she had sorted them, the people running the place mostly supplied their own translators to process them. The few they couldn't do that for were handled with Rose's help.

 

After what seemed like weeks, it was time to go home. Only Rose, Radar, and Angel were still there. The others had gone home shortly after their debriefing. Shortly after they arrived in her bedroom, Robin appeared in response to a request from Radar. after sending the other two home, she turned to Rose and grinned. "Get lots of rest. You'll have a busy day tomorrow."

 

With that, she vanished as well. Rose was too tired and hungry to worry about it just then. Even though she had eaten a good lunch at the facility, and a later snack, her body was telling her it was long since time for dinner. Unfortunately, her clock was telling her it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner. She didn't care what the clock said, and headed downstairs in search of food.

 

Tara was still out, presumably at the mall. It said something about how tired Rose was when she found the thought of a snack and rest at home more attractive than joining Tara and her friends at the mall for something from the food court. She grabbed some of the leftovers Tara had mentioned that morning, warmed them up, and settled in front of the tube for a distraction while she ate. She didn't want to spoil her dinner, so she kept her snack smallish.

 

It didn't help. After settling in on the sofa and turning on one of her shows (a benefit of Tara being out - no argument),  she barely had any of it before she found herself elsewhere.

 

The two teams were powerful, but somewhat suspicious of each other. And since they were from different planets, they couldn't even communicate very well. Time was short, and they had to complete their mutual quest before returning to deal with the issues of their own worlds. They needed a hero - someone  to bridge the worlds. Someone both teams knew and trusted.

 

Someone like her.

 

Each team would be acting as a unit, as before, but they would coordinate through her. They had different strengths and weaknesses, but together they could cover each other and deflect attacks aimed at those weaknesses. She was not clear about the details of the mission, but trusted the teams to know what they were doing as they all flew toward their objective. Before she knew it, everything was happening too fast for her to keep track of. She just allowed herself to do her part, passing their short hand comments back and forth between the teams so quickly that they were almost incomprehensible. The chaos around them increased, swirling and then coalescing into a looming figure which drew breath and shattered the world with the proclamation:

 

"You'll spoil your supper."

 

Rose's eyes snapped open and, after a moment of disorientation, focused on her mother. She was standing over Rose, looking pointedly at the still loaded plate in front of her. Mustering all the eloquence her powers could provide, Rose blearily looked her mother in the eyes and said "Huh?".

 

Shaking her head, her mother went on. "And your sister probably spent the day loading up on junk food at the mall, too."

 

"I heard that!" Came the rejoinder from upstairs. "And no I didn't. Besides, mall calories don't count. We burn them right off again with our high energy shopping!"

 

Rose shook her head. How much had she slept through, anyway?

 

Rose put her "snack" away, and settled in front of the tube. Two barely noticed, ancient Christmas specials later dinner was ready. The only thing she later remembered about the meal was her sister's snark "She certainly spoiled her appetite." as Rose finished her seconds (or was it thirds?) of almost everything.

 

After falling asleep again about ten minutes into the traditional post supper Christmas vid fest, she gave up and went to get ready for bed.

 

Morning came far too early, after a night of deep sleep blissfully free of memorable dreams.

 

*Wake up! Get ready for the day! You have company coming soon.* Radar's mental voice sounded much too cheerful.

 

*It can't be a Cassandra-gram,* Rose grumped back, *you sound too cheerful. What's up?*

 

*It's a surprise. Get up!*

 

Grumbling about wakeups by irritating telepathic morning people...

 

*I heard that!*

 

...Rose staggered into the bathroom, did her morning routine, and showered. Back in her room, she faced the choice of what to wear. With company coming, she didn't want to be too casual or too formal. In the end, she chose a comfortable outfit that would be good for shopping or getting together with friends.

 

Friends.

 

Rose had friends. More and better friends than she had two months ago. Not just classmates she sometimes did things with, but real friends of her own. Of all the recent changes she had been through - the MORFS, her powers, her "adventures", and all the rest - her new collection of friends was one of the most surprising and cheering.

 

Her musings were cut short by the sound of the front doorbell, followed by Tara's shout of "Rose! Door." She hurried down the stairs, to the unexpected sight of a familiar figure. "Hi, Robin!"

 

"Got a delivery for you, Rose." she replied, in full Flit mode. She stood aside, showing:

 

"Aoi! Kohaku! Maki! Yuko!" Unconsciously, she switched to Japanese. "You're here! Why are you here? How? When?..." she was a little embarrassed to realize that her reaction sounded just as incoherent in Japanese as it would have in English. And more so to realize they were still standing outside in the cold.

 

"Come in! Get out of the cold." She grinned, "Have a seat. Take off your coats."

 

As Rose was enthusiastically hugging each of her visitors, Tara raised her eyebrows a bit, smiled, and commented "So I take it you know these people?"

 

"Omygod! Introductions. Tara, these are the people who helped me during that mess in Tokyo." She switched back to Japanese. "Everyone, this is my sister, Tara." Back to English. "Tara, meet Aoi, Kohaku, Maki, and Yuko." At each name, Tara shook hands with the named person. "And you know Flit."

 

*What does she know about us?* Maki "asked" Rose.

 

*Only that you all helped disguise and hide me in Japan, that one of you is a telepath, one of you is the daughter of someone somehow linked with the business matter our father and I were there for, that one of you is some sort of executive assistant to that father, and that I stayed with his family. I didn't think the rest was mine to tell her.*

 

As Tara collected Maki's coat, she commented "You must be the telepath."

 

Maki looked at Rose, who translated. Rose translated her startled reply: "How did you know?"

 

Hanging up the coat in the front closet, Tara replied "Because Rose was looking at you when she went quiet. She doesn't do that often." Yuko grinned at the comment. Rose translated, including the snark, and the others grinned.

 

While Rose took Aoi's coat and hung it up, Tara turned to Yuko and collected her coat. While she did so, she commented "You must be the one working for the father."

 

"Yes. How...?"

 

"You understood my comment. As an executive assistant or whatever, you would have more reason to know English than the others."

 

Rose kept up a running translation for the others, and they looked impressed.

 

"Why not me?" Aoi asked, in heavily accented English.

 

"As your father's daughter, you probably would have reason to know some English, but not as much reason or opportunity to use it." As Rose translated, Tara continued with a grin "It was a guess, but I was kinda confident it was right."

 

"Morfs?" Kohaku asked, as Rose took his coat.

 

"Nah. Just good genes and competitive friends." Tara replied, then hung up the coat while Rose translated.

 

"Huh?" That needed no translation.

 

"Mom and Dad are both pretty smart. And my friends and I like to see who can come up with the most accurate guesses about people we see at the mall or school most quickly."

 

As Rose translated, the visitors nodded in understanding. Tara, playing hostess, asked whether the visitors would like anything. Rose's translation came out more like "Argh, where are my manners? Would you like anything? Cocoa? Cookies? Something else?"

 

Noticing the slight tension her visitors showed, she went on to reassure them "Our traditions of hospitality are very casual. Your answers and choices will not insult us or unduly burden us." They relaxed a bit, and she went on. "Who would like some cocoa? It's nice for coming in out of the cold." All but Robin smiled and nodded. When Rose looked at her, she just looked puzzled.

 

Rose mentally slapped herself on the forehead. "Want some cocoa?" she grinned. When Robin smiled and nodded, Rose turned to Tara.

 

"Could you get us all some cocoa, and some cookies? Please and thank you."

 

"I'll help." Robin volunteered.

 

As Tara and Robin went into the kitchen, Rose sat in her dad's recliner and her curiosity overflowed. "It's great seeing you all again, and so soon. But why are you here? What brings you to Colorado?" Her powers helped save her from misunderstandings of her near incoherent babbling.

 

With the people who didn't speak Japanese out of the room, the conversation flowed more easily.

 

Aoi started off the reply. "My father and some other business people are having a big, formal party tomorrow night. When we learned that my parents would be coming here for that, I talked him into bringing us along. And part of that is that we really want to meet the friends you told us about and learn more about being a power team. Eep!"

 

A cup of cocoa had appeared on the table in front of her, followed by others in front of Yuko, Kohaku, and Maki as the conversation continued. Another appeared on the table beside Rose's chair.

 

"I'm glad you did. I'll see what I can do about getting them together while you're here."

 

With a grin, Maki added "And we wanted to see you again, and see where you live. Fair is fair... you got to see our hangouts."

 

A plate of Christmas cookies appeared on the table. Kohaku was first to the plate, and the girls took a little more time over their selections. All but Yuko, who stood, adopted her formal face, and faced Rose.

 

"And speaking of what is honorable, I have something to say. Please call your sister in, as well."

 

"And Flit?"

 

"That would be fine."

 

Rose raised her voice a little. "Come on back in, girls."

 

Tara came in and stood by Rose's chair, while Flit stood over by the others.

 

Yuko sketched a brief bow to the sisters, then intoned in English "My Dana has instructed me to remind you of our discussion in his office. He accepts your offer and terms of friendship. And as you described, he charges that I remind you that due to the unfortunate events that day you lost something you had been promised."

 

Rose was puzzled for a moment, until she saw the grins on the other visitors' faces. Then she remembered: "The shopping trip!"

 

"Indeed. And I am to help remedy that loss, with the help of those who would have been your companions." She indicated her friends. "And if you find it agreeable, we would invite your sister to join us."

 

Rose tried to keep a straight face as she mused "I don't know..." then she broke into a grin "Sure. I wouldn't want to keep her from one of the great loves of her life." Yuko nodded, but the others looked puzzled. Rose thought a translation of her comment to Maki, who passed it on to the others. They smiled.

 

Yuko continued. "There is more to it than that. As a friend, he would ask a favor of you. First, I should explain some things: As you heard, he is here with his wife to attend a holiday gathering of business leaders. Your parents, and the head of your father's firm, have been invited and have accepted the appointment. Because several of the attendees have children of our general age range, and because he feels it would be good experience for me, he has charged me with organizing an equivalent party for them. The two of you are invited to that party, and we have taken the liberty of securing your parents' permission for you to attend. As a favor to him, he asks that your shopping trip be expanded to include helping his daughter and her friends secure appropriate outfits for the occasion."

 

"Including you?" Rose grinned.

 

Yuko allowed herself the ghost of a smile. "Including me. He also asks that you look favorably on the requests his daughter is about to make. Before she does, I must ask: do you find his request reasonable, and agree to it?"

 

"Uh... sure." Rose answered, bemused.

 

Yuko turned slightly, to face Tara. "And do you find these invitations acceptable?"

 

"Me? Yes, sure. Sounds good."

 

Yuko gave another short bow. "Thank you." Then she smiled, sat down, and sampled her cocoa. Finding it to her liking, she smiled again and selected a cookie.

 

Aoi turned to Tara. "My English is not so good as Yuko. I'm sorry to speak Japanese to your sister."

 

"I understand." Tara grabbed a cookie and dunked it in her cocoa, took a bite, then sighed happily.

 

Aoi continued, in Japanese. "Would it be possible to meet your friends before we go out shopping? I'd like to invite them along, and invite them to the party."

 

"I can see if they're available."

 

*Lena?* Maki looked a bit startled, then puzzled.

 

*Hey, Rose. Steppin' out on me? Who's the other telepath?*

 

*These are the people who helped me in Japan. They'd like to meet the team they heard so much about. Can you and the others come over?*

 

*I can. I'll check with the others and let you know in a moment.*

 

*Thanks.*

 

Rose noticed the odd look on Maki's face. "What?"

 

"You were talking to another telepath?"

 

"Yes...?"

 

"I could feel the activity, but I couldn't get any content."

 

"Well, we were 'speaking' English."

 

"It's not that. I should have been able to perceive something, even if it seemed like gibberish. But there was nothing."

 

"Huh. I don't know anything about that. You can ask Radar when she gets here.*

 

*Ok,* Radar broke in, *The Captain and I are free, Flit is on duty there and on call for a couple of other clients, and Angel can come now, but she's got to work this afternoon and evening. When do you want us?*

 

*Now?*

 

Tara and the Japanese contingent were startled when Flit vanished without fanfare, and three other people appeared one after another. And then Flit returned. David was still tucking in his shirt when he appeared. His embarrassment went down when he spotted the cookies. Looking a question at Rose, and receiving a nod, he helped himself to a couple of them.

 

Maki looked even more concerned than before. Rose asked her what was wrong.

 

"That time I didn't notice anything."

 

"Nothing to notice. There was no telepathy, just body language and how well we know each other."

 

Maki nodded, relieved.

 

In English, Rose said "Introduction time." Then she repeated it in Japanese. Then she went back to English. "Guys, these are the people who helped me in Japan. This is Aoi, Kohaku, Maki, and Yuko." She indicated each in turn, and the others waved greetings.

 

Then she turned to the others, and switched to Japanese. "Friends, these are the core members of the group I told you about. You already know Flit, and this is Radar, Angel, and the Captain."

 

Yuko gave David a frank looking over. "You look a lot better full size." she commented in English. Rose translated that to Maki, who relayed it to the others. They still looked puzzled. Radar moved over and put a possessive arm around his waist. That gesture needed no translation for the girls.

 

Rose explained in Japanese "She saw The Captain's doll sized projection when I was in the office after getting shot. He helped relay information about what happened to my Dad that day." Rose didn't know what he would want said about the role he played in saving her dad, so she didn't say anything.  David put out his hand and created an illusion of himself, at about the same size he appeared in Japan, standing on his palm. Little David bowed, then vanished.

 

Some mismatched chairs appeared in the room, and the newcomers sat down.

 

*Rose, may I hook in for translation?* Radar asked. *It should make the conversation easier.*

 

*Sure.*

 

The room quickly fell silent, other than the sounds of cookies being eaten and cocoa being drunk. Tara mentally offered the newcomers some cocoa by way of Radar, and they accepted. As Tara went back into the kitchen, Radar kept her in the loop. Aoi followed her into the kitchen and offered to heat the water for her. Tara accepted, and moved to get out more cups and the cocoa and colored mini marshmallows. Before she could get out more cookies, the water was hot.

 

While she was mixing some of the cocoas and getting the cookies, Tara thanked Aoi for the way she, her family, and her friends took care of her sister in her time of need. Aoi, mixing the other cocoas, replied that it was their pleasure.

 

By the time they returned to the living room, several of the others had paired off. Angel was talking with Yuko about bio elemental issues, Radar and Maki were silently head to head, seemingly discussing the subtleties of telepathy or the like, and David and Kohaku were talking about baseball.

 

As they set down the cups and plate, Flit turned to Aoi. *Will you be needing me in the next half hour?*

 

*We shouldn't.*

 

With that, Flit vanished. As if it were a signal, the others turned back to the rest of the group. Rose grinned. *I suppose you are all wondering why I called you here today.* Kohaku looked puzzled, and Aoi told him it was an old business joke.

 

Rose hadn't really thought of it as a business joke, but she supposed that made a certain amount of sense. She just considered it a general group joke.

 

*When I was in Japan, I made some new friends who ended up saving my behind. In more ways than one. Just as the two groups of my friends, I would have wanted you all to meet. But there is more. While they are all morfs, and they spend time together as friends, they commented that they really wanted to learn how to work as a powered team, like the ones in the shows. You are the most effective team I know of, and the only one I am even a minor part of.*

 

*Don't sell yourself short,* Radar retorted. *You are as much a part of the team as any of us.*

 

Rose blushed at the compliment, then went on. *Of course, with the glowing descriptions I gave of your fantastic adventures, they knew they just had to meet you.* The humorous tone she maintained kept the discussion light. *So I hereby call this seminar on the care and feeding of Power Groups as being in session. Who would like to start?*

 

Aoi jumped in. *I have the obvious questions. What do you call your team? How did you get started? And how do you train?*

 

Radar fielded the questions. *Mostly, we just call the team "us". As to how we started, some of us were friends before it really started. I was a well trained, experienced telepath, David and Robin hadn't even gone through MORFS yet, and we hadn't even met Rose. Then, last summer,* she shifted to an overly dramatic mental tone, *She Appeared. Angel.* back to more of a normal tone. *She had gone through MORFS during her cross country move to here, and kept her poor neighborhood telepath up all night with her morning for what she lost in the process. You see, before the change she was... Hispanic!*

 

"Viva la raza!" Angel exclaimed with a smile. 

 

*She was new in town, so I invited her to hang out with us. She had become a bio elemental, but not a very powerful one. But she also had a different way of looking at things. She was working on finding what unusual things she could do with what little power she had. And she encouraged the rest of us to do the same. At her suggestion, a light elemental friend of ours started working with light outside the visible spectrum and with creating laser effects. But her attitude didn't stop there. By the middle of the summer, she had two well paid part time jobs with great perks and a number of influential contacts. Then she got another idea. She wanted to do something like those "caper" movies. She had us catalog our resources - not just powers, but hobbies, contacts, parents, and all the rest - and we looked at that to see what we could put together. At about the same time, Robin and then David went through MORFS. We added their new powers to the mix, and started defining our roles and playing with scenarios for Angel's caper. We never really pulled that off, but other things happened and we handled them together. And last month Rose went through MORFS and came to our attention. We helped her with dealing with her change, and she helped us with some of the things that happened. She quickly became a full and valuable part of the team and a great friend.*

 

Rose blushed.

 

*I wouldn't say we "train" as such, but a lot of the time when we are hanging out together we suggest things for each other to try or for some of us to try together and then try them out. Like having the Captain scan a place and put an illusion there and then I transfer the location to Flit and she pops over to there.*

 

*Or one of my favorites,* Angel interjected, *where the Captain creates an illusion of something - or someone - in exactly the same place as the real one, then Flit 'ports the original away. To someone watching, nothing happens. Especially if they are not watching too closely.*

 

*And one really useful one is what we are doing now. I form a telepathic link with Rosetta and she subconsciously translates while I act as a communication hub for a conversation among people who speak different languages. That one really did take a bit of practice.*

 

Both groups looked startled as they realized how seamless and natural that process had seemed.

 

Kohaku was the first to recover and "speak up" while he reached for another cookie. *Is this the whole team?*

 

Angel answered that one. *Yes and no. We're what you might call the core group. We have other friends who do stuff with us but don't hang around with us as much. Star Dawn, the light elemental Radar mentioned, is one of them. Cassandra, Otter, and Flo are others. We aren't a formal group with strict criteria and procedures for membership - we are a group of friends who happen to spend a lot of time together one way or another. The others, for one reason or another, don't spend as much time with us.*

 

Aoi remembered a conversation she had with Rose back in Japan. *Do all of you have hero names?*

 

Angel laughed. *No, but it can seem that way. My name really is Angel. Angel O'Connor. Star Dawn is really named Star Dawn. And Flo, the water elemental, really is named Flo. Well, Florence, but she went by Flo long before she went through MORFS.*

 

Aoi and Yuko looked startled. Aoi asked *That water elemental, Flo... is that Flo Elway?*

 

*Yes. Why?*

 

*I know her. Her father and mine do business with each other. She will be at the party.*

 

*Party?* Angel asked.

 

Yuko explained. *Aoi's father - my danna - is one of the hosts of a holiday party tomorrow night for certain people in the international business community. He decided it would be a good idea to have another party at the same time, for their teenaged children. And that it would be good experience for me to arrange it. You all are invited, as well. Rose, Tara, and Flo will be there. So will all of us - even Kohaku.* she grinned.

 

Flit chose that moment to pop in. "What'd I miss?"

 

Angel grinned and replied. "Just the origin story for our team - including all your deep dark secrets."

 

"Not the prairie dogs!"

 

"We didn't get into your perversions. Just the other stuff."

 

Rose had been feeding a translation of the exchange to Maki, who relayed it to the others.

 

Aoi couldn't take it. *Prairie dogs?*

 

They described the legend of Pope Hill, and that Flit, the Captain, and Rose had all seemingly benefited from it. With emphasis on the fact that the whole thing was very mysterious. They mentioned some of the theories, including the "group mind" prairie dog notion. That started a discussion of power sets. The Americans described their powers. Yuko nodded when Angel demurred that she was a not very powerful bio elemental, although she was surprised at how short her range was. Rose simply commented that everyone there knew hers, conveniently leaving out the lie detector aspects. Radar went next, describing her telepathy, telempathy, and sight. She whipped out her collapsible cane and indicated her opaque eyes, mentioning that there were advantages to her physical blindness as well. Flit mentioned her teleportation, invisibility, and intangibility, but left out the time travel. When they ran down the list of David's powers, Kohaku slumped like he had just discovered he was the shortest in the locker room.

 

Yuko looked a little puzzled. *In the incident at the office, you signed the note as CP. I assume the C was for Captain, but the P?"

 

When David blushed and the girls burst out laughing, Yuko looked hurt. And Radar could tell that she was. They quickly filled the Japanese teens in on the origin of Captain Peeper, and soon all of the girls were laughing. Only Radar and Maki noticed that Kohaku was imagining himself in David's place, and all the sights to be seen. Both had "seen" far worse routinely, so they didn't pass the information on to the others. David was too busy blushing to respond, although he did see the humor in the situation.

 

Talk turned to the powers of the Japanese group. Maki described her telepathy and tk, lifting her cocoa cup to her hand in demonstration. Aoi described her fire elemental ability, manifesting a small flame on one palm in demonstration. When Kohaku described his electrical powers, David was excited.

 

*Cool! My mom is an electrical elemental. You two should get together while you're here. She'd love to meet you.*

 

*That reminds me,* Aoi commented, *We will be going on a shopping trip this morning, to get outfits for the party and some other things. I would like it very much if you could come along. And of course, choose outfits of your own - my father's treat.* she grinned.

 

Seeing their normal reflexive response to such an extravagant gesture starting to form, Rose thought to her American friends *If you say no, it will be a terrible insult. And a disappointment. Believe me, they can afford it.*

 

That said, they all happily accepted.

 

Yuko commented *The car should be here shortly. I will be in charge of paying for things and making other arrangements. And making the party arrangements. I know it is terribly presumptuous of me, but does anyone here have any suggestions about venues or caterers?*

 

The Americans cringed. *On a day's notice, this time of year? That could be... challenging.* Radar commented sympathetically.

 

Angel had an idea. *We know someone who knows a lot about such things. Let me give her a call. How many people, and how formal?*

 

Yuko replied *32 attendees, party formal. And thank you.*

 

*Don't thank me yet. She may not be able to help.*

 

Angel went up to Rose's room, and made the call. After a brief consultation with the lady herself, she was transferred to one of her assistants. As she had expected, the rooms at the spa were busy, as were most of the usual venues. On the other hand, some of the names involved carried a power even MORFS couldn't match. After promising to get back to her, the full power of Mrs. Tabor's organization bent to the task. Angel went back downstairs.

 

*I should know shortly.*

 

Yuko thanked her again, and let the others know that the car was out front. The car turned out to be a stretch limo, large enough to hold all ten of them comfortably. As they were settling in, their mental chatter went silent for a moment. Then Radar sent them all a single word: Cassandragram.

 

End part 15

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

 


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