Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
After the movie, they went to another part of the shopping center. One of the stores there was set up to sell the bus passes, so she went ahead and bought one. She was careful to keep the receipt for the promised reimbursement.
They spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool, just enjoying the day. Angel had not had many chances to do that since she changed.
When she got home, there was a message from the theater. On Saturday, she would do the other one that was not near the stops. For the next three days she would be doing theaters near bus and light rail stops. She was to call the manager or an assistant manager at the Chinese to let them know she got the message, and to let them know if that presented any problems.
She decided to wait on making that call, since her parents would be getting home soon. That way, she could find out if they had any problem with the schedule before talking to anyone at the theater.
She found a chicken in the refrigerator, and seasoned it for roasting. While the oven was preheating, she peeled and cut up some potatoes to roast with the chicken. After setting things up the way she wanted them, she put them in the oven and set the timer.
She decided to tease her mother, so she went up to her room and got one of the old action figures (boys still couldn't stand to call them dolls) she had kept, and sat it on the sofa. She sat next to it, and turned on the tube. By the time her mother walked in the door, the illusion of an afternoon spent goofing off was somewhat spoiled by the smell of roasting chicken.
"What, no boy this time?"
Angel indicated the figure next to her. "I think I overdid it," she pouted.
After a startled laugh, her mother commented on the smells from the kitchen. After a brief conversation about dinner, she went upstairs to change. Angel followed, telling her about her new schedule and asking about problems.
"I don't see any problem... help me with this, will you? ... but you need to run it by your dad and see if he has any problems."
"Is he coming home on time?"
"He's supposed to. One never knows." The phone rang. "Could you get that, honey?"
It turned out that her father was not coming home any time soon. Yet another integration crisis had reared its ugly head. He listened to her proposed schedule, and only had one reservation.
"You'd probably better not count on me for a ride tomorrow or Sunday. The last one of these took five days of massive overtime and headaches to fix. Other than that, it sounds good."
She assured him that she would make other arrangements for a ride, then sent her love and ended the call.
Her mother was disappointed about the call, and about missing it. She knew she could call and talk to him if she really wanted to, but he was going to be pretty busy. She checked her calendar, then told Angel that she could take her on Saturday.
Angel called the theater, and talked to the manager.
"I'm glad you called. Make sure you get there on time tomorrow, and let me know if there are any problems. In fact, please call me after you leave." He wouldn't say any more about that, so she let it drop after agreeing to call. Not for the first time, she wished she had a little of Lena's powers. Or even what David would be getting.
*I heard that!*
*Hey, I'm on the phone with my boss! I'll call you in a minute.*
She finished the call on a more upbeat note, then called Lena.
Lena answered with "That doll was a cute touch!"
"Action figure, thank you very much! Snooping again?"
"No, but your mom was more startled than she let on. I wondered what the fuss was."
Angel told her about her schedule, and the odd way the manager acted. Lena offered to try and find out what was behind it, but Angel decided to let it drop for the time being. She did mention that she wouldn't mind at all if Lena paid some attention to her vicinity while she was at work the next day. Lena agreed, and offered to meet her at the theater after work.
"And of course," Angel giggled, "since we will be right there and all, you wouldn't mind seeing another movie."
"And the popcorn. Don't forget the popcorn!"
"I knew it! You just like me for what I can get you!"
"I thought you already figured that one out!" Lena was barely restraining her own mirth.
They talked for a few minutes, then Lena added "Before I forget, do you have any dinner plans next Friday?"
"Not that I know of. MOM! Any plans for dinner next Friday?"
"Hey! Cover the phone when you do that. What'd she say?"
"Apparently not. Why?"
"My folks want me to invite you guys over. Your dad's been here, but they'd like to get us all together."
"Daddy might not be able to make it," Angel cringed a little about the way she described him, "He's got some big problem at work. I'll see about Mom." This time she held her hand over the pickup while she consulted.
"What time do you want us over there?"
They exchanged arrangements, then goodbyes.
While Angel was on the phone, her mother was making a salad to go with dinner. The rest was just about ready, so they set the table and talked. She told her mother about the invitation, and her mother surprised her by thinking some sort of acceptance back to Lena. She could see what David meant about the look of such activity.
After that, They described their days at work, and impressions of coworkers.
Over dinner, Angel talked about the conversation with David, and what she had seen in him.
"If he's that powerful, he'll probably have to register."
"What does that mean?" Angel asked.
She explained that the registry had been created after a number of incidents with unusually powerful morfs. In addition to being listed in a special part of the central registry, they need to report their status to their school, the police departments where they live, work, and/or go to school, and to their employers.
She went on to point out that it wasn't as bad as it sounded. Under most circumstances, they couldn't legally be discriminated against or unduly harassed. And many employers and school groups regarded the powers as potential resources rather than threats.
"Like the way Mr. Moore, the theater manager, thinks about me?"
"Exactly. Without your abilities, you'd be just another teenaged body to clean the theater, sell concessions, or work the ticket booth - for little more than minimum wage. Instead, you're a valuable asset, a specialist who might save the theater a lot of money and trouble."
"Or like Miranda at the boutique."
"Right. I imagine that Lena is registered as well. Her teachers will take steps to keep her from being able to cheat on tests and such, and when she gets old enough, she will not be welcome as a customer at certain kinds of gambling establishments. On the other hand, those same places might pay her an excellent wage to help spot cheaters, thieves, and other threats to their businesses."
"Am I registered?"
"Not in that sense. You are in the central registry, but your evaluation showed that you weren't dangerous enough to meet the requirements. So you don't need to do the other things, and most people won't find out unless they're told or shown."
"How is Lena dangerous?"
"Well, aside from the danger to people's privacy and the like, just think about what she could do if she put her mind to it. While it's not in her nature, someone with her powers could drive someone to a killing rage, a suicidal depression, or a deeply delusional state. Such a person could cause someone's hand to push the wrong button at the wrong time, or turn a steering wheel the wrong way. Any number of things."
"You sound like you're afraid of her."
"I'm afraid of her potential, but not her. If I didn't trust her implicitly, I wouldn't let you two spend so much time together. Besides, didn't David make a similar comment about your own potential for destruction?"
"Of course not. But it is the difference between what your powers could do, and what you would do. Such acts would go completely against your values. Against your whole sense of who you are. So I'm not worried."
"Yes. That was before you knew what you could do. And even then, it's a lot milder than some people your age would've conjured up if they had the chance."
The conversation shifted to more trivial topics as they finished the dishes and went their separate ways. Angel went to her room to check her mail. She really didn't expect many replies from his old friends. It was too soon, and it would be a lot to accept. But there might be one or two.
To her surprise, nearly all of them answered. Some thought she was joking, and said so. A few were very upset, and their abusive messages reflected that. She had expected that, so it didn't hurt as much as it might.
But the real surprise was the number of positive ones. Especially from his female friends. In terms they usually used for a loss of virginity, they welcomed her to womanhood and expressed their support. They also commented on the reactions of some of the others, and shared the local news and gossip.
She didn't understand why there were tears running down her face by the time she was done reading.
*It's a girl thing, silly.*
*Was I that loud?*
*Kinda. Especially when you read a few of the more emotional things. By the way, sorry I overheard your dinner table talk. My 'ears' perk up when someone mentions me."
*Like the old horror movies and fantasy novels? She Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken?*
*Gee, thanks, plague girl.*
*Well, since you heard anyway, are you?*
*Yes, I'm registered and all that. And wait till you see the hoops they jump through to avoid even the suspicion that I might be cheating.* There was definitely laughter in her mental voice.
They talked some more, and Lena asked whether she wanted her to ride to the theater with her.
*If it wouldn't be too much trouble. I didn't want to have to drag you there and have you wait around.*
*S'ok. There are a couple of stores there that I haven't been to in a while. Think one of your folks can drop us off at the park-n-ride on Monday? It'll be easier from there.*
*I'll check, and let you know.*
Her mother said that it would be no problem. She also said she was happier with Lena and Angel riding together. Less chance for trouble.
After relaying the response to Lena (who heard it, anyway), Angel decided to get ready for bed. She would have to get up earlier in the morning than she really liked.
And she was right.
After dragging herself out of bed and into the bathroom to get ready, she got some good news. She was apparently done for the month. She would take precautions that day, anyway, but it was still a relief.
She made a mental note to research ways to use her elemental abilities to make it less of a problem.
She had no problem deciding what to wear. The uniform shirt was clean and ready, and the rest was prescribed by theater rules anyway. Her only real choices concerned underwear, and she went for comfort.
She made sure Lena and her mother were awake and getting ready. Her mother was cooking breakfast, but was not fully dressed. She thanked her, then reminded her about her need to go to work.
While Angel was eating, and her mother was changing, Lena added her two cents worth.
*What a waste of a perfectly good Saturday. You owe me, working girl.*
*Would another free movie do it?* Angel thought, with a grin.
*Throw in a Brunchie and a drink, and you got a deal.* Angel could almost see Lena's grin as well.
Even with directions and an early start, they only got there ten minutes before she was scheduled to start. For some reason, the road crews were more active on Saturdays than on weekdays, and apparently more active during the summer.
"Of course!" Lena explained. "They avoid the rush hour traffic on the weekends, and they can't do a lot of their work with snow on the ground. Or even with the asphalt frozen."
"I guess that makes sense. Well, here we are. Can you show Mom around while I'm busy here?" And she added mentally *And keep an eye on my situation?*
*I should have held out for a Banuba to go with the others!* "Of course. No problem."
She tried the side door that should have been unlocked. It wasn't. She tried the other doors, with the same results. *Lena,* she called, *I can't get in. Is someone there?*
*Yes, and he is aware that you're there. It is some kind of company politics. Try calling Mister Moore.*
She did, and he called the office there. After another couple of minutes, a tall, impeccably dressed man came to the door. As he opened it for her, he growled "You're late."
"I'm sorry, but I was told to be here at nine o'clock. I got here at ten till, but the doors were locked."
"I have no use for excuses! My employees know they are to be here at least fifteen minutes before their shifts."
*Don't back down. It's not personal or a MORFS thing. He just likes bossing people around and setting impossible standards so he can yell at them."
"My understanding is that I work for the chain, rather than you. If I do work for any one manager, it is for Mister Moore. Do you have information that contradicts that?"
"I'll have to look into that. Go thumb in, then get to work." He wasn't going to give an inch.
*He is angry at the implication that his theater is not as clean as it should be. Be careful how you say things, but it is mostly something between him and the other managers.*
If Angel thought it was tough the day before, going through the process with Mr. Moore hanging over her shoulder, it was absolutely nerve wracking doing so with this guy all over her. He never did anything "improper", just glowered and glared.
She found four hot spots, and a little less of the general contamination than at the Chinese. With each thing she found, his frown got deeper. She sincerely felt sorry for the kids who did work for him. Especially those on early shifts that day.
When she tried to lighten the mood by pointing out that he had done better than the Chinese, he chewed her out for spreading gossip. Lena let her know that he was secretly pleased, but he had no intention of letting her know that.
Finally, she was done. She thumbed out, and went toward the front. She had "asked" Lena to have the two of them decide what movie to go to, preferably before she got to the box office.
They did, but she groaned at the choice. It was the chick flick David had avoided the day before. She got the tickets, filling out more paperwork than before (and annoying the other people in line) in the process. And it was the same at concessions. But soon, food and drinks in hand, they were on their way into the theater.
As they settled into their seats, Angel noticed one of the air vents. It had some mold and mildew at the edges, and was spraying a fine mist of mold spores when it blew. It was a relatively harmless variety, as far as she could see, but she wanted to make it a point to check the vents in the Chinese when she did her next shift there.
She was surprised to find herself caught up in the movie, reacting much the same way as her mother and friend, at much the same places. For just a fleeting moment, she wondered whether Lena was doing that to her.
*No, I'm not! Now shut up and enjoy the movie.*
Angel was embarrassed to have even had the thought, much less letting Lena "hear" it. She would have to learn to shield her thoughts. In the meantime, just what *was* that guy doing at the house of his girlfriend's sister?
She laughed. She cried. She gasped. She sighed. And all too soon, it was over. Time to go.
"So... what do you think of chick flicks now, Angel?" her mother asked, teasingly, as they got into the car.
"Hmmmph. Must have been a fluke or something. Would have been better with a chase or two."
They weren't buying it. *I'm such a girl!* she thought.
"Got that right." Lena chuckled, out loud.
When they got home, there was a message to call David.
He let her know that he had a late afternoon appointment for suspected MORFS. He said that the advance notice helped, and the fact that it was Saturday. "Sunday appointments tend to be emergency only, and even then they're hard to get."
He asked whether she could come over for a brief snack and introduction. She asked her mother, who agreed. He said they would swing by in a couple of minutes to pick her up. She hurried up to her room and changed out of her work clothes. She threw on a t-shirt and her shortish denim skirt, then hurried through refreshing her makeup.
When she got downstairs, her mom and Lena were talking to a man and woman she didn't know. Since David was there, too, she assumed they must be his parents. His father was about six foot four, with an athletic build. His mother was about five foot ten, with slightly pointed, ears, green eyes and vertical slit pupils. Her build could be described as lithe, Angel decided.
Lena excused herself and left.
*Don't leave me!* Angel mock begged.
*You'll be fine. They're good people. And David didn't tell them about the scam part - just Pope Hill.*
Everyone else exchanged goodbyes, and Angel left with David and his parents. They exchanged pleasantries on the short drive to their house.
The drive to their house was short but pleasant. When they got inside, they sent David to get the food ready, and asked her to sit.
"I hope you understand," his mother began, "that our main concern is David's well being. He is convinced you are genuine and one of the good guys. We don't know you, and can't judge."
His father took up the theme. "What we really need is some indication about your abilities. So, if you don't object, we propose a small test."
"What kind of test?"
"Look at us, and tell us what you see."
"A man and a woman, parents concerned with their son."
Her father gave a half smile. "We were thinking more of the way you saw what will happen to David."
"Oh. I shoulda figured that. Let's see..." she looked at the father and let her subconscious tell her what there was.
"You," she pointed at him, "are very fast, obviously strong but not superhumanly so, and some kind of elemental. Metal, it looks like. Cool. You also have some sort of mental shield thing."
She looked at the mother. "How shocking." she grinned. "An electricity elemental and a metal elemental married to each other. That must make the sparks fly."
His mother blushed, as the father barked out a short laugh. Just then, David came back into the room.
Angel went on. "You also have some kind of shields, made from your element. You can see well in the dark, and have improved balance and flexibility."
They were impressed, and suggested making a start on the nachos before they got cold.
After some small talk, punctuated with enthusiastic eating, they asked if she could take a last, preMORFS look at David.
Angel decided to make a point. "Sure, if I get to see some of your parlor tricks."
"Ouch!" David's father responded. "I guess we deserved that. I'll go get something while you start."
As he left the room, Angel took a good look at David. She munched on a cracker as she let the information gel. His father returned as she cleared her mouth to speak.
"He's going to have large, feathery wings and a strong build. He'll be as tall as you," she indicated his father, "or maybe a little taller. Despite his build and weight, he will fly easily. He will have telesense, both audio and visual."
She drew a breath, and let it out. "He will have illusionist ability, and a limited ability to transmute matter."
"Limited?" David and his parents chorused.
"He'll only be able to change a relatively small volume at first. Like his other abilities, that will grow with age and practice. I don't think he'll ever be strong enough to change the world," she grinned, "But if you ever wanted a solid gold Cadillac, he might eventually manage it."
His father let out a low whistle.
Angel waved her hands theatrically, as though over a crystal ball. "Thus speaks Madame Olga."
"Hey, I thought Cassie was the fortune teller?" David quipped.
"No, she's the MISfortune teller. I just tell your future." She returned. Everyone laughed.
"Ok, my turn." His father said. He held a small chunk of a silvery metal in his hand. It seemed to melt, yet never seemed to be liquid. From the middle of the blob, a head emerged. A very female head. Soon the body followed, dressed in graduation style robes. In front, arms formed, and hands, holding a small sphere. In back, wings unfolded. The features and details became more refined and lifelike. The figure, about two inches tall, seemed to shake her head and flutter her wings. She turned and "looked" at her sculptor, then up. Some strands of her hair rose as supports, and a small halo formed. The figure smiled, and froze.
"Wow!" Angel was clearly impressed.
He handed the figure to his wife, who ran her fingers over parts of it. The robes became blue. The face, a pale pink. The hair yellow. Finally, the wings became an iridescent rainbow. She handed it to the stunned Angel.
As Angel admired it, David's father told her (with meaningful glances at David), "It's a titanium alloy. Very light, and very strong. And uniquely suited to electrical discoloration like that. We both had significant power to begin with, but it took us years of practice to get that degree of control."
As she went to (reluctantly) hand it back, he said "It's for you. A gift. To thank you for your help with David."
She felt a little bad about that, wondering what they would think if they knew she had been the one who caused him to transform in the first place. But she didn't let it show.
David had an idea what was going through her mind. "You deserve it," he assured her.
"Here," his father held out his hand for it. When she handed it to him, he pulled a necklace chain out of his pocket. As he turned the figure over, she noticed that some of the hair arched out to form an opening. As she watched, the jump ring at the end of the chain deformed to slip through the opening, then reformed. He handed it to his son.
David turned to Angel. "May I?" he asked, holding the chain open. She nodded, and he fastened it around her neck.
Seeing Angel's embarrassment, David's mother changed the subject. "What are we going to do for flying clothes?"
"Well, we can't do much until we know his measurements. Maybe we could go with something like that." his father grinned, pointing to the necklace.
"Aaagh! Not that!" David responded.
Angel giggled. "He's still afraid he'll wake up as a girl."
"Yes, dear. We know. And we'll love you just as much as a daughter as we did when you were our son." His mother had a devilish sparkle in them.
"You will? I will?" He turned to Angel. "What did you tell them?"
The others laughed. Angel explained. "Only what you heard me tell them. Your precious Y chromosome is safe. But your overreaction to your mother's teasing was a wonder to behold. Believe me, if you did switch sides, it wouldn't be the end of the world."
David opened his mouth to say something, then bit down on it. That moment, and the way it turned out, told her she could trust him.
After some more talking, and eating, they were all fairly comfortable with each other. But David was starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable. He was feeling nauseous and fluish. He made a crack about his father's cooking, in reference to some of the later snacks.
"Uh, David?" Angel responded. "They weren't tainted. I looked. You've started."
"MORFS. And right on time. Your appointment at the clinic is pretty soon. I guess that's my cue to leave."
"We can take you home on the way to the appointment." His father offered.
"No thanks. It's not far, and it's still a nice day out there. I'll walk."
"Are you sure?"
"I'll call Mom, to let her know, then take off. It was nice meeting you both. Thanks for the food. And especially for this wonderful necklace."
"You're welcome. We'd better get ready to go, then."
As they started getting ready, she said goodbye again and walked outside. She called her mother and told her the plan, then set off for home. She enjoyed the walk, and the day.
When she got home, her mother told her to call Robin.
Robin told her that a friend of the family, a pediatric surgeon who works with her mother, was impressed with what she had done with her scar. He wanted to take her and her family out to dinner, and talk to her about it.
The restaurant she mentioned didn't mean anything to Angel, but she really hadn't been in town very long. She asked her mother, who came and spoke to Robin. From the shift in the way she talked, she ended up talking to their would be host. She muted the phone, and turned to Angel.
"Do you want to go?"
"Sure, why not? What do you think?"
"It's fine with me. I'll make the arrangements. Did you need to talk to Robin when we're done?"
"I guess not." She went into the kitchen to get herself a drink. While she was there, she "called" Lena.
*Not really. Just slogging through the Summer reading. Whazzup?*
She told her about the phone call. Lena knew the doctor.
*He's an ok guy. And a good doctor. He was the one who first treated Robin after her accident. She could have lost the use of that hand if it wasn't for him.*
*What do you think he wants?*
*Probably something to do with your powers. He really cares about his patients.*
*So what do you suggest?*
*Eat his food, hear him out, and make up your own mind. He won't force you to do anything, and blackmail is not his style.*
*What about the restaurant?*
*It's kinda fancy and very expensive. But the food is really good. If he springs for dessert, go for it. They've got desserts you wouldn't believe.*
*Am I going to have to dress up?*
*Dress nicely, but not really formal. A clean, pretty dress or blouse and skirt. That sort of thing.*
*Bring me a doggy bag.*
Angel giggled, then went back out with her drink.
"You'll need to put on a nice dress. And shoes."
"Not barefoot?" She tried pouting.
"No!" Her mother couldn't quite hide her amusement. "And it is a good time for you to practice your makeup skills."
"Ugh!" She had long since lost her dislike of makeup per se, but the kind of makeup her mother was talking about was another matter. Elaborate and artificial, without looking as heavy and contrived as it actually was.
A waste of time, as far as she was concerned. But, with her mother so determined, it was time she was going to have to waste.
She groaned. "The food better be as good as Lena said."
It was better.
Her father was stuck at work, and very disappointed to be missing the dinner. The food was wonderful, but she remembered her promise to Lena and limited how much of it she ate. The talk over dinner was superficial, getting to know you stuff. How long have you been here... how do you like it... Have you been to...? And it went both ways.
When dessert came (and Lena was right about that, as well. It was spectacular.), the talk shifted a bit. The doctor said that he was impressed with Angel. Not just her abilities, which he praised, but her manners and her sense of humor.
"And you took us out for this horribly expensive meal just because of that?" Her tone was light, but with a slight edge.
"No, you're right. It's all part of my evil plan to make you feel like you owe me something." He smiled like a cartoon villain.
"My mother warned me about men like that." Angel quipped, in a little girl voice.
The startled doctor, and Angel's mother, blushed at the implications.
He recovered first, and complimented her on the job she did with Robin's wrist.
Angel shook her head. "I couldn't go deep enough. There are still adhesions, which pull at her skin and limit her flexibility. I hate that." There was no doubt about the sincerity of her distress.
"She had those before. But now, she no longer has the visible scar that has caused her so much trouble. She's very happy with the outcome, even if you aren't satisfied."
Angel conceded the point. The doctor went on to start talking about a little girl he was treating. She was five years old, and had been a beautiful child. Then she was in a bad accident. She had to undergo several serious surgeries, but she was finally out of danger.
The accidents and the surgeries had left her massively scarred. He took out a picture of her from before the accident. "This beautiful little girl will live to grow up, but she will grow up looking like something out of a Frankenstein video."
Angel felt herself close to tears. And stayed that way as the doctor went on to say that the family had never been particularly well off. And with her mother also hurt badly in the accident, what little money they had tended to go to absolute necessities and medical costs. They did have insurance, through the father's work, but the coverage was limited. They considered scar abatement to be elective, and didn't cover it.
"There are medical approaches that would help. But the conventional medical approach would cost upwards of ten thousand dollars. And they don't have that kind of money. As to work by a bio elemental who specializes in such things, her face alone would run about five thousand dollars."
Angel dropped her fork, hitting the plate with a crash that she thought could be heard throughout the restaurant. No heads turned, so she decided she was probably wrong about that. When she recovered enough to speak, she reminded the doctor about the limitations on her power.
"That shouldn't be a problem. Due to her age, her skin is thinner than Robin's. And we're not looking for cures of underlying problems, just the cosmetic elimination of the scars. Just some sort of a chance for a normal life."
Angel recognized that he was laying it on a bit thick. But her heart went out to the little girl.
"I can't pay you much. And most of that will come from some generous donors rather than from her family or their insurance."
She almost opened her mouth to say she would be willing to do it for free, but he went on.
He said that if it worked out as well as he thought it would, he should be able to get her other work, at better rates. And there would be benefits from the occasional pro bono work. She knew that meant free. She would be able to write off the pro bono work at the full rate she would normally charge, rather than the discounted amount from this case.
He turned to her mother. He pointed out that the money could help pay for Angel's college expenses, and could become a good career in its own right. And the pro bono work would certainly look good on her college applications.
After all that, Angel decided she would accept the money if she did it. She looked at her mother, who had on her supportive face. She would accept whatever Angel decided.
Angel said that she would do it. The doctor was all smiles after that. They agreed that she would make the attempt on Tuesday, a few hours after she finished at the theater. When the waiter came and took Angel's remaining dessert to be packaged for her to take home, the doctor said something quietly to him. He nodded and moved off. He returned a short time later with the bill. The doctor added a tip, then thumbed the pad. It printed out a receipt, and the waiter thanked him. He was back a moment later with a bag containing the leftovers.
It wasn't until she got home that Angel found an extra container in the bag. On the top, it just said "Lena: Thanks!" Inside was a full portion of the dessert.
*Wow! I'll be right over."
She was at the door less than a minute later, grinning.
"I was going to ask how it went, when I 'heard' you think my name. Apparently everything went well." She was grinning widely. It was her second favorite dessert from that restaurant. A close second. As they nibbled their boxed treats, Angel described the evening.
"How do you feel about it?"
"Proud. Scared. I don't know. Overwhelmed."
Lena looked up for a moment. "Gotta go. The downside to this telepathy is that Mom and Dad can reach me any time they want to." She sighed theatrically. "Homework calls! And school isn't even in yet. Thanks for this!" she hefted the now reclosed container. They said their goodbyes and she left.
Angel put hers away, and went upstairs. As she was cleaning off her makeup, she heard her father get home. She rushed downstairs and gave him a big hug. While he slumped tiredly into his chair, she told him about the dinner. He managed a tired smile, which brightened as her mother walked in.
Angel soon went up to get ready for bed. She would have to get up early the next morning, since they would be taking the light rail to the theater. When she started down to wish them good night, she saw them hugging and talking quietly to each other. She went back up to the top of the stairs and called out her good nights. They returned them, and she slipped into her room.
Within seconds of climbing under the covers, she was asleep.
And almost immediately seemed to be trying to beat the alarm clock to death, trying to shut off it's annoying tones. Muttering darkly about finding the time manipulator and making him pay, she dragged herself to the shower.
Once she was awake, clean, and dressed, she went down to the kitchen to get some breakfast. Her mother was there, hovering over the coffeemaker
"Whose brilliant idea was it to have me ride the train with you?" her mother grumbled.
"Yours, of course."
"Since when do teenage girls listen to their mothers?"
"I must have missed that lesson. I'll try not to listen in the future."
"That's what I like to hear," her father interjected, walking into the kitchen in his bathrobe. "Mutual respect and cooperation."
At the identical glares from mother and daughter, he grinned and started backing out of the room.
"At least get the milk out before you run away." Angel demanded, rolling her eyes.
"Are you going in to work today?" his wife asked, as he moved toward the refrigerator.
"Unfortunately, yes. But only for a half day. I'll shower and dress after you ladies leave."
The banter and small talk continued through a brief breakfast of cereal. They all agreed that this was not the way Sunday breakfasts should be, but schedules weren't always what they would like.
As they were finishing breakfast, Angel called out to Lena. *You about ready to go?*
*Yeah, pretty much. If you don't mind me going stark naked.*
*Relax, working girl. I just have to rinse my plate.*
Moments later, the three of them were in the car, with Angel's mother driving them to the Intermode Terminal. A few minutes later, they were pulling in. Angel noticed the shadows of some old lettering on one wall. "Anyone know what a Park and Ride is?"
Lena answered. "It's what they used to call this place, when it first opened. When they redid the place a few years ago, they renamed it."
Angel enjoyed the novelty of the train ride. She had ridden busses any number of times in her life, but never anything quite like the Light Rail train. They got to their stop, and then walked the four blocks to the theater. They still had more than enough time.
Half a block from the theater, Lena stopped them. "Angel, I don't want to worry you, but the guy in there is kinda nuts. He hates morfs, and believes you have been sent here to destroy his career and put one of us in his place."
"You're right. He's nuts if he thinks that. It isn't that good a career to begin with."
"He thinks we want to control everyone's minds through some sort of tricks with the movies. And he sees himself as fighting for the human race, against the monsters who are taking their place. And he keeps thinking about some kind of traps he's set."
"He isn't thinking about them. Only that they will foil your plot."
"Is he thinking about those traps killing me?"
"No, just humiliating you."
"That's it, young lady." her mother insisted. "No job is worth that kind of danger. We're going home."
"No, Mom. I promised Mr. Moore. Besides, Lena can keep an eye on things and get help if things really get out of hand."
Lena spoke up again. "Call Mr. Moore. If he still wants you to go in, have him stay on the phone and listen, while you keep the line open."
Angel did so, and her manager readily agreed to the plan. Almost as though he had expected it.
Lena and Angel's mother stayed back as Angel approached the theater. Angel got into her "good little employee" persona, and tried the door. It opened and she was immediately face to face with the manager. He was shorter than average, but still taller than her. While he wasn't really fat, he was noticeably overweight.
"You the special inspector?" He asked sharply.
Angel bit back a sarcastic reply, about the fact that she was wearing the badge and uniform, but let it pass. She suspected he was trying to provoke her. He showed her where to thumb in, and she went to work. He told her to do the concessions stand first. She tried to tell him about the reason for doing the restrooms first, but he cut her off.
"Just do as I say!" he barked.
*He thinks you were going to pick up some sort of contamination in the restrooms, then take it to the concessions stand.*
*He thinks he's put a stop to that, but figures you have a backup plan.*
"Ok, get started!"
With her first glance, she was shocked. It was obvious that one of his "traps" was that he had washed the usual places just before she got there. But he had not used a proper disinfectant, and all he had really done was spread the contamination around. She started with the worst area she saw and pointed it out. She offered to try to sterilize the rather large area by one of the "butter" pumps, and started to reach out her hand.
He grabbed her wrist and yanked it upwards. "I knew it, you scheming little bitch!" he roared. "You were going to use your filth to contaminate it and claim you found it that way!"
"OW! Let go! You're hurting me." she cried.
He ignored her and continued his rant. "But I was ready for your tricks! I cleaned that area myself, not half an hour ago." There was an angry triumph in his voice.
"But you didn't..." WHAP! He slapped her face.
"Shut up! I won't listen to your lies!" He stood there, keeping her wrist in that death grip while he ranted on about her and her kind for what seemed like hours. He finished with "Get out! I will see you fired. And if I have anything to say about it, prosecuted!" He dragged her toward the door.
"Just let me thumb out, and I'm gone." She shot back.
"And let you try something else? Not on your life. Now get out, or I'll have you arrested for trespassing!" He released her wrist, propelling her toward the door.
He needn't have bothered. She wanted nothing more than to get out of there as quickly as she could. Lena and her mother rushed up to her as soon as she was out the door. Between them, they moved her to some benches in front of a nearby restaurant, and sat her down.
"Are you all right?" her mother asked, worriedly.
"Not entirely. He hurt my wrist. But I can..."
"Don't!" Lena stopped her. "I know it hurts, but don't fix it yet. Let them see it first."
"People from the theater chain. They're on their way. But right now, your Mr. Moore is getting kinda frantic, trying to get you to talk to him."
Angel looked around, puzzled. Then she remembered the phone. "H.. hello?"
"Thank God!" Mr. Moore's voice sounded a little horse, and very stressed. "Are you safe now? Did he hurt you?"
"I'm safe now. My mom and Radar are here with me. I'm about half a block away from the theater, sitting on a bench. He hurt my wrist, but I can heal it. Radar told me not to fix it yet, so your people can see."
"I'm so sorry, Angel." Mr. Moore replied. "Some people from the chain will be there any minute, along with the police. You have to believe me, I would never have sent you in there if I had any idea he would do something like that."
*He's telling the truth.* Lena supplied.
Just then, a dark blue van pulled up in front of the theater. And a moment later, a police cruiser.
"I think they're here now." Angel told Mr. Moore. "Would your people be in a blue van?"
"That's them. Hold on a moment."
Four people got out of the van, three men and a woman. One of the men pulled out an eCom and answered it. He turned and looked at them, then nodded. He spoke to the woman, who turned and walked toward them. He then talked to the police officers. One of them also started walking their way.
"They should be coming to talk to you."
"Do you want me to stay on the line?" he offered.
"That would probably be a good idea." Angel replied. She noticed that one of the men heading into the theater was carrying something that looked like a smallish suitcase. "What's that thing he's carrying into the theater?"
"I would imagine it's the testing kit. They'll take samples and analyze them. Any ideas where they should start?"
By now, the woman was standing next to them, waiting. The officer was almost there as well.
"The worst bit was near the butter pump closest to the front door. But the whole place is a mess. It looks like he wiped it down with a wet cloth and maybe some soap. There are heavy pockets on or near all the food equipment, and smears all over the counters and everywhere else. I guess he wiped one of the bad areas first, then used the same cloth to wipe down the rest of the area." she shuddered.
"I'll tell them." he promised.
"I'd better talk to these people now," she said, then stood and turned toward the woman.
"Angel O'Connor?" the woman asked politely. When Angel nodded, she identified herself and showed Angel her theater ID. Angel started to extend her hand, then winced and dropped it. Both the woman and the officer winced in sympathy.
Angel noticed something else, and raised the phone. "Mr. Moore? Have them sample his hands. His handprint on my wrist is badly contaminated."
"Is it dangerous?"
"Not to me. But he'd better disinfect his hands before eating or drinking anything. It's nasty stuff."
The woman and the officer were impressed. The woman took out her eCom and spoke to someone. One of the men from inside came toward them. "Do you mind if we take a swipe of that hand print, before you wash it?"
They asked her to describe what happened, in her own words. She started with the warning from Lena, and that got the officer's attention. He turned to Lena. "You're Radar?" he asked.
She nodded. He smiled and said he had heard good things about her. Then he turned serious and said he would want a statement from her as well. She nodded again.
As Angel continued with her story, the man from the theater wiped the bruise on her wrist with something that looked like a mutated swab, then dropped it in a plastic bag and sealed it. He wrote something on it. The officer said something to him, and he repeated the process, giving the officer the second bag.
Both the man and the officer used their eComs to take pictures of the damage to her wrist and cheek.
*Geez.* Angel thought. *Does everyone else in the world have one?*
When they finished taking the pictures and 'grams, she asked whether they needed the bruises any more. They looked puzzled and said they didn't. But the officer asked why she asked.
"I'm a bio elemental. That's why I can do the things I was doing for the theater. If you're done, I can heal the damage and get rid of the rest of the junk he left on my skin." her face twisted in revulsion. Not for the microbes he had left behind. Truth be known, her months of study had given her a sort of an appreciation for them. But the thought of that man touching her that way was almost enough to make her sick.
They gave her their blessing, and watched in fascination as the bruises faded away and the swelling shrank to nothing.
After some more questions and answers, the officer asked the one thing she hadn't thought of. "Do you want to press formal charges?"
Angel heard her mother suck in a breath to answer, and held up her hand in her direction. "I'll leave that decision to my employers."
She turned to the woman. "If you do decide to go ahead, I'll help any way I can."
The woman thanked her. They were startled by a shout from the direction of the theater. The manager, hands cuffed behind his back, was being marched to the cruiser. The shouting continued, as he expressed his outrage at that treatment.
When the officer was finished, the woman formally offered her apologies on behalf of the company. She gave them her card, and invited them to call her any time. She asked them if their car was nearby, and they told her they came by light rail.
*Mr. Moore has an idea.* Lena told Angel.
Angel was startled. She had forgotten about the cell. Again. She raised it to her ear. "Yes?"
"I'm sending Andy to pick you up and take you home. He should be there in about twenty minutes. Is that all right with you?"
Angel told the others, and they agreed. She thanked her manager, and this time hung up. The woman asked whether they would be ok waiting there for him, and they said they would. She apologized again, then turned and went to the theater.
While they were waiting, Lena said "In this case, I don't think I'll hold you to the offer of the movie. And especially not the food."
They all laughed about that one. Then they made a game of asking each other whether they wanted to go to this place or that, and whether they should drag Andy into the lingerie shop with them. The humor was a little forced, but little by little they relaxed. When Andy arrived, the girls piled in the back seat and Angel's mother took "shotgun". Once they were all inside and strapped, Angel quipped "Home, James."
"Yes, madam," he returned, in a bad English accent.
"I thought his name was Andy." Lena remarked.
Angel was saved from the need for another comeback by her phone ringing. It was Mr. Moore. He asked Angel to come to his office after they got home and rested a bit. And he asked that Radar come with her. She agreed, and made a big show of hanging up after their goodbyes.
When they got home, Angel's mother suggested they watch some tv or a video while she made them some snacks. She knew what Angel had favored as comfort foods when she was a boy, and suspected that they would still work for her.
End Part 6
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