Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
Once they were fed and rested, Angel's mother drove them to the Chinese. While they were in their meeting, she would be at a nearby market, shopping.
"When you're done, give me a call and I'll pick you up. And Angel," she paused, giving her This Is Significant look. "Use the phone. Lena is not a public utility."
Both girls laughed, but it made Angel think. "I have been kind of taking you for granted," she apologized. "It's just kind of, I don't know, addictive. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Most of my friends go through it. And the practice is good for me." Then she got her own grin. "Besides, my tan might need a touch up from time to time. And there's always the free movies."
"And the popcorn. Don't forget the popcorn." Angel laughed, happy to give Lena her own line back.
When they got to the office, the manager thanked them both for coming. After offering them seats, he repeated his earlier apologies.
"Please believe me, I had no idea it could turn out like that. Some of us had suspected he had such attitudes, but we couldn't prove it or do anything. I didn't tell you because I didn't want to prejudice you against him. That was a horrible failure of judgment on my part."
She accepted his apology - again - and he went on to fill them in on the fallout of the morning's excitement.
The abusive manager was being fired, for cause. He tried claiming that she had set him up and had lied to the management about what happened, but that stopped when Mr. Moore started playing part of the recording he had made of Angel's call. They made it clear to him that if he bothered her, or any employee of the theater chain, or so much as bad mouthed the chain or any of them, they would go forward with the prosecution. Angel's age, and his (now former) position of authority, made the potential charges very serious.
He was also to seek psychotherapeutic help.
For the time being, he was still in jail. He still faced charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, and wouldn't get a bail hearing until Monday.
Andy would be running that theater for the rest of the Summer, temporarily promoted to manager. He cancelled the early matinees until the crew could complete cleaning and disinfecting the concessions area and the restrooms. The public reason is that a (now) former employee got careless with cleaning supplies, and the closing was a precaution while they cleaned up the problem and aired out the theater. Which was true, as far as it went.
Andy requested that Angel return as soon as she reasonably could, to inspect the cleanup. He was not comfortable opening some parts of the concessions stand without that.
The employees at that theater, especially the leads and assistant managers, were to be screened for such attitudes toward the transformed. They wouldn't be fired, but they would be warned to behave and would be watched.
Turning to Lena, he said "Radar, you've already played a big part in this. Would you be willing to help with the screening?"
She reminded him about the legal limitations on what he could do with the information. Including the fact that if she uncovered individual wrongdoing, such as pilferage, they couldn't do anything more than use that as an indication to keep an eye on the thief in the future. Once he acknowledged that he understood that, and that it would be the same with any other telepath they engaged, she got a familiar gleam in her eye.
"Ok, what's in it for me?" she grinned.
He offered a fairly generous consulting fee, then added a sweetener. "I could also throw in some passes, so you won't have to keep mooching off of your friend, here." He returned the grin. There was some good natured give and take over details, but in the end it was agreed.
While Lena quietly conferred with her parents, he turned to Angel.
"Another misjudgment of mine was your initial status. If I had thought things through a little more thoroughly, some of this could have been avoided. But we can remedy a part of that. Would you be willing to continue, if we promoted you to Manager, and made it clear that you work directly for the chain? Your salary would increase accordingly, and you would gain some additional benefits."
"Would I still get the free passes and concessions?" she asked, mock seriously.
He grinned. "I think we can arrange that."
The down side was that she would have to do more paperwork, especially reports.
"Ugh. More homework!"
"School comes and goes, but homework is forever." He grinned. "But at least you get paid for the time you spend writing these reports."
She nodded, ruefully.
"At this rate, you could be my boss by the end of the Summer." He grinned.
Angel asked for some privacy, to consult with her mother by phone. He agreed, and rose to leave. before he did so, Lena formally accepted his offer. He smiled and nodded, then left.
Angel called her mother and filled her in. After some discussion of the commitment it represented, and the responsibilities, she agreed to let Angel decide for herself. She asked Lena where the manager was, and learned he was up by the box office.
She found him, and let him know that she accepted. He smiled at the news, and asked her to wait a moment. When he finished what he was doing in the box office, they returned to his office. He had her give him her ID card, then ran it through the machine. It no longer showed her as working for the Chinese, and it indicated she was now a manager.
"Your new badge, a shiny gold one like mine," his smile quirked, "will be waiting for you tomorrow at the next theater on your list. Along with some company equipment. Thank you again."
He made a Contractor ID for Lena, which would also get her the passes and limited concessions, and handed it over with a flourish.
After the girls left the office, Angel called her mother. She would be there when she finished the shopping, so they had a few minutes to wait. Angel decided she was hungry, and Lena agree, so they headed for concessions.
When the college aged girl behind the counter brought their Brunchies and saw Angel's card, she couldn't help herself. "No way!" She ran the card, and it verified Angel's status. "How the heck do you make Manager and a staff position in less than a week?"
"Save the chain millions of dollars, then get beat up by a psycho manager." Lena responded.
"I wouldn't have put it quite that way," Angel added. "But yeah, pretty much."
Angel had never seen someone's attitude shift that quickly. "That thing downtown?"
Lena looked at her briefly, then said "Yes. She was at ground zero for the fireworks."
"Geez. I guess I don't need a promotion that much. You ok?"
"Pretty much," Angel answered. "It was pretty bad for a while, though."
"I bet. Well, I'd better get back to work before some manager sees me slacking off. Take care."
Munching their snacks, they headed out the door and went to wait for their ride. They were just finishing them when the car pulled up. They brushed the crumbs off of themselves, then piled into the car.
On the way home, they told her about going back to the other theater that afternoon. She shuddered a little, but accepted it. Their tentative plan was to get a ride there with her, then make arrangements when they were done.
She offered to get them lunch before they went, but they declined. They could get something at the theater, when they got there. When they got home, they helped put away the groceries. Angel's mother suggested they change into outfits more in line with their new status. Lena thought that was a good idea, but Angel groaned. She just knew her mother was going to make a big deal out of it.
She had an idea what she needed to shoot for. Andy wore nice slacks, with a shirt and tie. Mr. Moore wore a suit, and she was now ranked with him. She dug through her closet, ruefully remembering all the times her earlier self had laughed at the image of a girl with a full closet wailing about having nothing to wear. She grabbed what she was starting to think of as her "interview dress", and some matching flats. She would be damned if she was going to spend the afternoon in heels. Not with what she was going to be doing.
While she neatened her makeup, she left it as light as she had done it that morning. The woman from the chain office didn't seem to have much more, so she figured she was fine. A quick run of the hairbrush, and she was ready to go.
Lena appeared a few minutes later, just as Angel was starting to rethink lunch. The Brunchie was nice, but not all that filling. Before she could act on that, they were back in the car and on their way. All the way there, she was developing a growing desire for pizza.
*Yeah, pizza sounds good. Now cut it out! You're making me hungry.* They exchanged grins.
When they got to the theater, they piled out of the car and wished Angel's mother a good afternoon. They walked into the theater, and spotted Andy standing by the concessions area. He was talking with the woman from the chain - the one from that morning.
"Ready to start?" he asked, with a smile.
"Actually, I was hoping to inspect the pizza first. And then do a little quality control. It's been a long day."
"I think that can be arranged." He smiled. "But I would like to get this going as soon as I can."
"No Problem. It looks a whole lot better than it did this morning. I can tell you that already."
"Great. You two go thumb in, and we can get started."
Angel showed Lena where and how to thumb in. Angel's new status came up when she demonstrated. Lena's title as Consultant came up for her. That done, they went back out to the lobby. Angel took a close look at the pizza carousel. Most of it was fine, and the pizza itself was "clean". There were a few spots of contamination in parts that didn't contact the food, so she got Lena a slice and then passed it over as she reported that to Andy.
As Lena and the woman walked off toward the office, Angel started a more detailed inspection of the area. As she was doing so, she noticed Andy sending the workers up to the office, one at a time. All told, she found about a dozen small areas of contamination, none of which threatened the food. When she reported that to Andy, he signaled his people to open the concessions for business. He suggested she get her pizza and a drink, then take a break.
That struck her as a wonderful idea. She couldn't believe how tired she was. She served herself, then had one of the cashiers run her card for her stuff and Lena's pizza. Then she found her way to the break room, and collapsed into a chair.
Half a slice, and a third of a glass later, she was just starting to feel human again. The door opened to two female voices.
"...scary. I mean, what if there were other people here when he wigged out?"
"He always was kinda... oh!" The girls stopped just inside the doorway, drinks in hand. They looked at her like mice eyeing a python."
"What?" Angel asked. "Do I have pizza on my face or something?"
They relaxed a little, and gingerly sat down at the table. Both were older than her, but they knew she was someone important. She was dressed nicely, and their new manager was deferring to her.
The older one worked up her nerve. "Is it true?"
"That depends. Is what true?"
"Did Mr. Hooper go nuts, and beat up some girl from the regional office?"
"Sort of. What else did you hear?"
"Um..." the younger one ventured. "We're not supposed to gossip about stuff." She looked at the older girl, significantly.
"That's ok. Consider it a request from the regional office." she laughed.
"Well... he's always been kinda creepy about some things. Especially morfs."
The older one added "Yeah. When my little brother went through it, I had to make sure we didn't say anything about it here. Even though half the people here knew about it, if he ever found out I'd be out on my can."
"Or any of his little spies. And you notice, there's nobody here who even looks like a morf."
'So when this, like, super morf comes from the head office for some big inspection, he was going ape shit. Last night, everything had to be cleaned twice."
"Twice? What were you using?"
"Oh, just this cheap shit he gets. Supposed to be saving some big bucks and making him look good to the Powers That Be, but we have to work twice as hard to get stuff clean."
"Ok, so... you cleaned everything twice?"
"Yeah, and he's saying shit like if that inspector sees anything, we'll all be fired and they'll close down the theater. And how she'll probably make something even if she doesn't find it, just because she's one of them. A morf."
"What was she supposed to be like, this inspector?"
"To hear him talk, she must be eight feet tall, with big fangs and horns, but she can shape shift to look any way she wants."
"And she can be invisible, read minds, and teleport. And make other people into 'her kind'."
"Morfs. When he's not being careful, that's how he talks about them."
"What about everyone else?"
"Most of us have friends or family who have changed. But we have to be careful what we say. His assistants, and some of the leads, are almost as bad as him."
"So what happened?"
"He was going to make sure she didn't wipe out his career and close the theater. But when some girl from the office got here, he went nuts and beat her up. Then he attacked someone else from the office, and a cop. That's when they took him away."
"What about the girl?"
"She went to the hospital, or something."
Angel was having a hard time keeping from laughing. "Or something. Actually, she's pretty much ok. She's a bio elemental, but not a very powerful one. her nature lets her see biologically active contamination, and neutralize it. That is why the chain is having her do the inspections. Not to punish anyone, but to spot and eliminate potential sources of food poisoning and the like."
"It also let her heal her own injuries. After the beating, the chain people and the police took 'grams of the injuries, then she healed them."
"You know her? Of course you do. You work for the main office. What is she like? What else can she do?"
"I think she's pretty nice. And she's easy to talk to, apparently. She can do things like heal shallow wounds, and give you a tan. And heal scars. Even old scars, like that one." She pointed to a scar on the back of the older girl's hand.
"If she was here, would you want to get rid of that scar?"
"Sure. But how would she do it?"
"Probably about like this." She drew her finger over the scar, urging the cells to go back to what they knew was right. When she pulled her hand away, the scar was gone. The two girls stared at the hand, then at Angel.
"You... you're her. You're.."
"Angel O'Connor, at your service." She grinned. "And apparently, resident boogey man." She looked at the older girl, as though waiting.
"Tina. Tina Pierson. Thank you, Ms. O'Connor."
"Ouch! C'mon. I may be a manager, working for the chain office, but I'm still younger than both of you. It's Angel. At least, when we're not out in public."
"It's ok. Sometimes I have that effect on people." She grinned, and turned to the younger girl.
"I'm Shelly Butler. Shel, to my friends and occasional family members."
They exchanged smiles, then Angel glanced at her watch. "Oops. I'd better get back to work. Any idea what other damage your former boss might have done?"
The girls looked at each other, then chorused "Restrooms." Angel groaned, then nodded.
She swallowed the last bite of her now cold pizza, and washed it down with a swallow of her soda. She tossed her plate and cup, then headed out.
She had a conference with Andy about the cleaning supplies, and suggested he check the books. Maybe it was just the bad taste the confrontation had left in her mouth, but she had a nagging feeling that not all of the savings from the cheap supplies was going back to the company.
Since the public was already there, the restrooms were a little tricky. They waited until the lobby was empty, then put a "closed for maintenance" sign on the door to the menís room. Andy went in first, to check for stragglers. Once inside, Angel was surprised the chain hadn't gotten complaints about it. Her earlier self had been in some pretty poor restrooms, but this one had no business being in a family theater. She pointed and described, suggesting a very thorough cleaning - with proper supplies - as soon as the theater closed. She also noted that the paper supplies were not up to the standards of the other two theaters, and mentioned it.
If anything, the ladies room was worse. She caught hints of something that bothered her even more. After having Andy open the wall mounted vending machine, she found the inside contaminated and the sanitary supplies substandard. The packages of the supplies were intact, so at least the products themselves were not contaminated. But girls would be handling the outsides and then the product. The thought made Angel a bit ill. She sterilized the machine and the wrappers, then they closed it up and left.
Walking back toward the concessions stand, she told him "Well, the good news is that they're not an immediate threat to the health of the customers. But I'm surprised that the health department hasn't already shut down this theater."
She heard a sudden drop in the background noise level, and something metal hit the floor. The people in the concessions stand were just staring at her, with a range of emotions from fear to anger.
*Wake up!* Lena's mental voice caught her by surprise. "Did you really mean for all those people to hear you order Andy to shut down the theater?*
*Of course not. That wasn't even what I was saying.*
*They think it is. Your move, oh great Manager.*
Angel spoke up, making sure they could hear what she was saying to Andy. "We want to keep this place open, so you really need to get things like that cleaned up."
Andy finally caught up with what was going on, or else Lena told him. "Sure thing, boss lady." He grinned. "I want to keep this nice cushy job."
The normal sounds of activity in the concessions area resumed, just in time to face a wave of people as one of the theaters let out.
"Any idea how much longer Lena's likely to be?"
"At a guess, another two hours or so today. Got something in mind?"
"I want to snoop around, and see what else there is to see. I just have this feeling there's something I need to see. I'll let you know what I find."
He thought it was a good idea, and they went up to the office to get her a spare set of keys.
"Don't bother. I QUIT!" One of the assistant managers came slamming out of the office, barely missing them with the door.
Miss Miller, the woman from the Chain office, was typing something into the computer. "I've cancelled his ID. Is he planning anything?"
"He knows where Mr. Hooper kept his secret stash, and plans to get it before anyone knows that he quit. It's in the back of the mop closet between the restrooms." Lena told her.
Andy heard, so he turned and ran down the stairs. Angel followed. They caught up with him just as he was unlocking the door to the mop closet.
"Excuse me!" Andy called out. "That is for employees only!"
The former assistant manager tried to bluff it out. "But I'm..."
"The person who just resigned. I will take those keys now, and your nametag." Andy was taller than the ex-employee, and in much better shape. Looming over him, he had him trapped between the still locked door and himself. For a moment, it looked like he was going to try to fight his way out. But then he deflated and gave in. He tore his nametag off, breaking the pin in the process. He slammed the badge into Andy's waiting hand, followed by the keys. Andy didn't even blink.
"Your ID card has been deactivated, so don't bother trying it. And with so many people hearing your shouted resignation, any attempt to stir up trouble probably won't get you very far. Now I suggest that you leave, unless you want to join your former boss." He didn't have to spell out that alternative.
Angel let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, while she watched the guy tromp out of the theater, shouldering a couple of customers aside in the process. Andy waved one of the leads toward the couple, then turned back to Angel.
"Let's take a look." He said, as he unlocked the door and opened it. He turned on the light on the way in, then closed the door behind them.
"Ow! Sunofabitch, that hurt!" he swore quietly, turning his hand to show her the gash the broken pin had opened on his palm. "Can you do anything?"
She looked carefully. "It doesn't look too deep for me, so let's give it a try." She put her finger over the injury, finding the "wrong" and urging it to make itself right. At the same time, she drove the staph infection out, before it had a chance to take hold. She was right about the depth - it was easily within her limits.
A moment later, all that was left of the injury was a small blood stain around the wound site. Andy washed his hands in the utility sink while he thanked her. Then he asked her to look around for anything unusual, commenting that the closet looked too shallow. The ones at the Chinese and the other theaters he had worked were deeper. It didn't take her long. There was an active stain spreading from under the apparent back wall of the closet, and what looked like the residue of a number of unwashed handprints - also active enough for her to notice them - on one part of the wall and under an adjacent shelf. Looking under the shelf, she saw what looked like a smallish wad of used chewing gum. But it looked wrong. Like it was plastic or something. And the only evidence of biological action was from the smeared fingerprints.
Also, it didn't quite touch the wall.
She pointed it all out to Andy. He tried pushing on the "gum", and they heard a soft click from the back wall. Andy went to pull on one of the things hanging on the wall, but she told him there was no hand residue there. He then tried pushing on the wall at the spot she had seen. It moved slightly inward, then stopped. He let go, and it sprang open like a cabinet door. A brief glance inside showed some equipment that had no business in a mop closet.
"We'd better get the others." As he opened the outer door, the back wall closed itself. He shrugged, then walked out. She followed, and then looked to him for advice.
"I'll watch the door here. This is something for you headquarters types. Go up and figure out the next move together. I doubt it's going anywhere."
He was almost wrong. Angel went upstairs, and sketched out what she saw. Lena was unusually quiet, and not in the way that seemed to indicate a telepathic conversation. Miss Miller listened quietly, then got on her eCom to the office. They sent out another team, to take a look.
Angel looked at Lena, who just said "Don't talk to me. I can't talk to you right now."
Miss Miller took up the theme. "We have to be very sure that none of our information about the stuff downstairs comes from her, in any way. Otherwise, we can't take action on anything we find there, no matter how illegal."
Angel understood, and said so. But it was frustrating. From the looks of things, Lena was even more frustrated than she was.
Twenty minutes later, she was showing the team from the office the secret door and describing the way they discovered it. She warned them about the secret door closing when the outer door opened, then waited for a good time and left. She went and talked to Miss Miller.
Miss Miller was actually pleased with the way that part had worked out. "You're not the only transformed specialist on staff. John is a very specialized electricity elemental, what's sometimes called a technopath. He can read a computer or other electronic device the way you can read microbiota. And unlike Radar, his testimony is admissible. Since he can do that without touching anything, David could gather fingerprints while he was working. Nasty stuff, apparently."
Angel shuddered. Lena spoke up. "The natives are getting restless."
Grateful for something to do, Angel volunteered "I'll let Andy know. You want to continue the interviews?"
"No. We've pretty much covered today's shifts. We can get the rest tomorrow. Remind them not to talk about these events until after then. It won't stop them, but they'll be more discrete."
Angel grinned, remembering Tina and Shel. Then she went down to talk to Andy.
Andy had a good idea what to do. After taking people aside and reminding them not to say anything where the customers could hear, he made sure everyone was too busy to get restless. Any time the crowds thinned out, he had them cleaning and restocking. While there were a few mutters of "Yessir, Massa" and the like, it seemed to work.
When he had a spare moment, she asked him about something that had been bothering her. "What did you use for the cleanup this morning? I heard he had switched to some cheap stuff."
"I noticed that. I sent one of the leads over to the store with some petty cash money and a very specific shopping list. More expensive than getting it in industrial quantities, but readily available. I have the receipt, and they assured me they would authorize the expense."
She was moving to get herself another snack and drink, when something clicked in her mind. The thing she needed to check was so obvious. With all the shortcuts the old manager had taken, was the food ok? Especially the refrigerated products and ingredients?
She went to work, making a quick but thorough survey of the refrigerated storage and the active stocks. Much to her relief, it was all good. Some of the meat was uncomfortably close to its expiration date, but even that was not dangerous. When she reported to Andy, he told her that he had checked that, too. There had been some questionable cheese and bread products, which he had pitched, and a couple of storage containers that needed a more thorough cleaning. But all that happened before she got there.
After an unexpectedly long and eventful day at work, the girls were ready to go home. Angel's father would be there in about a half hour to pick them up. They munched on some more pizza and washed the bites down with their soda while Angel reviewed the summary of the report the team had written.
It covered her actions and Andy's, but the interesting parts were what they found in the room. One alarming part was that the equipment and the room were booby trapped. At a remote command, the contents of the room could be destroyed and the secret door sealed. Only the fact that the former manager was in jail had prevented that signal from being sent.
More disturbing were the images. He had a computer getting images from hidden ceiling cams in the restrooms, and some of those images were apparently finding their way to a profitable voyeur themed website. Including some from the Saturday matinees and special kids' shows.
The team speculated that his aversion to her checking the restrooms that morning had at least as much to do with a fear that she would find the cameras as with his fear of her seeing the contamination.
All things considered, she was glad that she had only read the summary. The details were likely to fall in the WTMI category. As it was, she felt like the day had aged her to at least her early thirties.
"Welcome to my world," Lena commented sourly.
"Ouch!" Angel commented, understanding what she meant.
When the girls were safely strapped in the car, Angel's father asked "So how bad was it?"
"I really earned that microburger today." Angel replied, not quite getting the humorous tone of the joke all the way to her voice.
Her father just nodded, and turned on some music he knew she liked.
Dinner was a subdued affair, with her parents trying to balance being supportive without being intrusive. They both had been through things at work that they couldn't talk about from time to time, so they had an idea what she was going through in that regard.
Angel's sleep that night was troubled.
When she woke up, she was giving serious thought to quitting. The job wasn't as much fun as it had been. In fact, she was having a hard time facing the idea of going in to another theater. She was assured that the other two managers were more like Mr. Moore than like either of the other two theater managers, but still...
Then again, maybe it was just the drag of getting up so early. Especially when it was still Summer.
Maybe that was the key. School could be just as much of a drag, and she would have to get up in the morning for that. And she couldn't very well quit school, just because it wasn't always fun. Maybe this was a little bit too much like being back in school already?
Truth be known, she wasn't all that thrilled with the idea of going back to school, either. So far, she had just been doing things in mixed company, mostly with more adults than teens her age, or with just a few friends or family members.
But school was... school. All those other teens, judging, evaluating possible conquests or rivals, watching for any sign of weakness or difference. And not just for a day or two at a time. Five days a week, for months on end, with just the occasional interruption. All those boys - and some girls - trying to get into her pants any way they could, or trying to "put her in her place" one way or another.
*Aw, c'mon. It isn't that bad.* Lena chided her. *You used to like school.*
*I used to hate being the new kid. And I still do. But this year it's worse. I'm the new girl, all right. New to the school, and new to being a girl.*
*So today should be a piece of cake.*
She couldn't answer that logic. It was wrong, but she couldn't answer it. Conceding defeat, she got up and got ready to face the day.
This time would be a little different. Angel and Lena would take the light rail downtown, then transfer to a bus. And just to complete the difference, Lena's mother would be driving them to the terminal.
A quick bowl of breakfast and a couple of goodbyes later, she was on her way next door.
She was surprised at her reception. Mrs. Morgan met her at the door, with a polite smile. She did not seem her usual bubbly self.
*She knows about yesterday,* Lena explained. *Not everything, but enough. She understands why I'm going with you - why I went with you - but doesn't really like it.*
*Why are you doing it?* Angel was honestly puzzled. Yes, it was a major benefit for her, but what was in it for Lena?
Lena looked startled, then thoughtful. *I guess, because you're my friend. And you really need me.* Then she grinned. *It sure hasn't been boring.*
They both giggled at that, and Lena's mother seemed to relax a little. They were soon at the terminal. They waved goodbye to her and boarded the train.
"She's still worried," Lena told Angel. "But she's more confident about our ability to handle whatever comes our way. At least, when she doesn't slip back into thinking of me like I'm ten years old."
"Literally?" Angel asked.
"Sometimes. Most parents do it."
That set them off again, earning them annoyed looks from some of the other commuters.
*They think we're just some high school kids out to have fun on our vacation. Want to mess with their minds a little?* Lena suggested.
*What do you have in mind?*
"Now that you've got your promotion to the head office, do you think the managers will have problems taking your orders?"
"The last one sure did. I can't say I was sorry to see him fired, after that." It was a little close to the mark for Angel, but she had an idea where Lena was going.
*They're starting to wonder, but they think we may be bullshitting them.*
A real thought came to Angel, and it seemed to fit in. "Did you review the reports from yesterday?"
"Not yet. Legal says it has to go through all the channels first. What a mess."
"Yeah, well at least we didn't have to shut the place down completely. I think Andy will make a good manager, when he's ready."
"He sure showed what he could do, coming in and holding it all together like that."
"So, what's on the schedule for today?"
"After the inspection this morning, we need to go back and finish the screening interviews."
*How are we doing?* Angel asked.
*They don't know what to think. They don't believe teens could carry off such a conversation convincingly, if it wasn't true.*
*I'm not sure I could, either.*
Lena decided to mix it up a little. "Want to catch a movie after work?"
"Not today. Jerry is supposed to be up and around this afternoon."
"Are we invited to the grand unveiling?"
"Of course. But before we go there, I need to find some fairy wings for a certain little girl." Angel added a little emphasis on those last three words. "any idea where I can find them this time of year?"
A little girl, about seven years old, spoke up. "Try the castle store." she suggested, holding up a bag. Wrinkles and folds in the bag hid part of the name, but Angel could make out the word "Chest" on it. Her mother shushed her, reminding her that it's impolite to listen to other people's conversations.
"She's right, though." Lena conceded. "It's a magic and game shop shaped like a castle. And it's not too far from the theater. It has all kinds of costume stuff."
"Remind me to check it out after work, then. And remind me to pick up something for Jerry, too."
Angel spent the rest of the ride looking out the window and chatting with Lena. When they got off, she smiled and waved goodbye to the helpful little girl. They had a ten minute wait for the bus, but it dropped them off a block from the theater.
"What am I facing?"
"He seems ok. He's a little afraid of you, because of the rumors, but not angry or dangerous. Despite his fear of you, personally, he thinks the inspections are a good idea."
"Well, that's a welcome change. Will you be ok?"
"I'll be fine. I brought some of the Summer Reading with me, and watching you will help keep me awake through it."
They shared a laugh over that, then Angel headed in to the theater. The manager met her at the door, introduced himself, and showed her where to thumb in. After she did so, he handed her a lumpy envelope with her name on it. Inside was her new, golden badge.
He took her up to the office, and indicated a box on the desk. She saw that it had her name on it. She remembered that Mr. Moore had mentioned something about equipment. She opened the box, and her breath stopped. It was an eCom and a tablet. When she powered on the tablet, the screen was full of what looked like legal boilerplate text.
*Lena! They just gave me an eCom and a tablet! Is it on the level?*
*Seems to be. Listen to what he tells you, now.*
"I can translate for you," he smiled gently. "The short version is this. The company owns them. You get to use them. You have to take care of them. Personal use is allowed, but nothing illegal or disreputable. The company can search them any time, and if they find anything bad, they can fire you. And if you leave the company, voluntarily or involuntarily, you have to give them back. Clear enough?"
*He's on the level. He signed the same thing for his equipment.*
"Clear enough." She skimmed quickly through the wordier "official" version on the tablet, then signed and sent it.
She happily spent a few minutes setting up the tablet and eCom, and forwarding calls from her cell to the eCom. Her fun was tempered by the knowledge that she had to get to work quickly, so she could be done before opening time.
When she did start, it was clear that he had been paying attention to the notes the office had sent out about her earlier findings. Each of those spots was clean and sterile. She complimented him on that, and he seemed to relax a little.
She found a few minor spots at concessions, but they were less serious than the ones she had found at the earlier inspections. But she did find some problems in the restrooms. In the women's restrooms, there were some problems with the sanitary disposal containers. And in both sets, there was some contamination inside the "convenience center" vending machines. Not as bad as at the previous day's theater, but enough to make it worth another advisory. She had not checked those in the first two theaters, and she probably should do so next time around.
With all she had scheduled for the day, they confirmed their earlier decision not to stay. But she did use her concessions privilege to get them a snack.
They didn't have any trouble finding the magic shop. The castle shape was mostly just a facade, but it sure stood out.
She had no trouble finding the wings, and got a wand to go with them. She also found a plastic gila monster for Jerry.
A short bus trip later, they were at the previous day's theater. Lena and Miss Miller would finish the screening interviews, while Angel waded through a stack of paperwork or - as Miss Miller called it - the curse of management.
"But I thought the curse was..." Angel started. After getting the evil eye from both of her listeners, she meekly turned back to the paperwork. Luckily, relatively little of it was actual paper.
After two hours of reading and writing reports, while the others continued the interviews, Angel got some good news from Lena. Jerry was up and around, finished with his changes.
Another hour, and they were finished. Actually, Angel was done almost half an hour earlier, and was just waiting for Lena. Three people had resigned rather than come in for the interviews, and one other had resigned during the interview. There were a half dozen more on the "watch" list, including two habitual thieves. More than half the workforce had come through clean.
When they thumbed out and were getting ready to leave, Lena surprised her by saying that Penny would be picking them up. Apparently, Jerry wanted to see them and wanted them to see him. They could see her from the doorway, leaning against her car and waving.
Angel would have liked to have changed before the visit, but wasn't given the choice. At least the clothes were not completely uncomfortable.
Jerry was fairly impressive in his new and "improved" form. A little taller and significantly more muscular. Although he didn't have scales, his skin showed the characteristic patterns of color that she had seen when she looked up gila monsters online. He would catch some flack from the "pures" over his appearance, but he was far from unattractive.
The changes to his eyes would not be too much of a problem, but the changes to his tongue and teeth made speech difficult. He used his tablet to write things he couldn't convey with simple gestures or the like. His visitors sympathized, and all had stories of relatives or acquaintances who had learned to speak fairly normally after even more severe changes. And he still had almost a month before school started again, so there was time to learn.
He laughed when Angel gave him her gift, promising to treasure it.
While he was talking with the others, Angel took a "special" look at him. She could see that things had largely gone as anticipated. She asked him whether he had found his zap yet, and he said he had not. She reassured him that it would come to him sooner or later, and cautioned him that it could be dangerous if misused. But the same was true of most such powers.
His mother thanked them for coming, but said that she needed to get him some new clothes before the stores closed. Lena looked amused about something, so Angel assumed there was something more to it. She shot a mental question her way, but she just said it was private.
She did open up a bit, once they were in the car. "His upper chest isn't all that has grown. His mother was getting worried about the possible effects of a group of attractive girls paying that much attention to him." They all got a good laugh out of that.
When she got home, she just wanted to relax. She changed into some more comfortable clothes, put dinner in the oven, and got going on her long overdue summer reading.
For a change, both of her parents were home for dinner. Her father commented that it looked like he would have a more or less normal schedule for a while. Angel and her mother both commented that it would be nicer that way.
Before going to bed that night, Angel packed some things for her trip to the hospital. No sense wasting time after work.
For a change, her sleep was peaceful.
Another day, another theater. At least this would be the last theater on the list, for the first pass. And in many ways, it was the least interesting. An assistant manager lived near her, and gave them a ride to the theater. Lena was invited to make herself comfortable in the lobby while Angel worked. So Lena read (and "listened") while Angel did her thing.
The manager was polite and attentive, but did not hover, and she seemed to appreciate Angel's efforts and observations. The few things that Angel turned up were minor, and easily remedied. After all the drama and discoveries of the earlier theaters, she was almost disappointed.
The manager did mention that she had been careful to respond to the earlier advisories, at no small cost in terms of the efforts of her staff. But she made sure they understood the reasons for the cleanup and for the changes in procedures.
Angel was done early, and after thumbing out decided there was more than enough time for a movie. Besides, she owed Lena. They settled on a compromise, a date movie. It was a romantic comedy, designed to appeal to both halves of a date in different ways. Angel laughed hard, but was mildly annoyed to find that her reactions mirrored Lena's - and those of the other girls there - more closely than those of the guys.
As they were getting up to leave, and brushing Brunchie crumbs off of themselves, her eCom rang. It was Dr. Baker. He had some things come up, and wondered if she could come in a little earlier than planned. She told him where they were, and about their lack of transportation. He said he would be right over to pick them up.
He was as good as his word, arriving ten minutes later. He drove Lena home, and waited while Angel dashed into her own house to grab her bag and drop off her tablet and cell. Then it was right to the hospital. Angel was impressed; he had a personal parking spot there, with his name on it and everything.
On the way there, and on the way up to the pediatrics wing, he reminded her about the girl and her condition. Angel, in turn, reminded him about her limitations. And told him about the wings and wand. He thought the girl would like that.
After a small side trip to put on the wings, Angel followed the doctor to the little girl's hospital room, followed, in turn, by a nurse. When they got there, she was sitting up in bed and looking at a picture book. She looked up at them and smiled at the doctor. Her smile for Angel was merely polite until she saw the wings. After that, her look of wonder lit up the room.
Angel explained that she was going to use a special kind of magic to make the scars go away. She warned her that it would feel funny, and got her to promise to let her know right away if anything hurt or felt wrong.
She started with one of her hands, so the little girl could watch as well as feel. She giggled about the funny feelings as her skin realigned and repaired itself, and smiled broadly when she saw the two small scars were gone.
Next, she did the girl's head. The scars disappeared on cue, with the expected "wigglies" as the girl called the sensations. Angel tried to encourage the shaved patches to grow out faster, but quickly stopped when she felt it pulling on the girl's energies. Her hair could grow out at its own pace.
Next, she had the girl stretch out on the bed face down. The nurse untied her little gown, and Angel went to work on her back. About halfway down her back, Angel found herself stretching her power and starting to pull on the girl's energies again. She stopped, and took a break. She said she would be right back and pulled the doctor outside the door.
She explained about the deeper damage there, beyond what she could safely handle with the girl as weak as she was. He responded that he was aware of that damage, some of which would have to wait for another, much later, operation. They decided that she would stop when she needed to, and she would keep from trying to push deeper in such places. She would also tell him what she was sensing, while she was working. The girl was used to nurses and doctors working that way.
After taking a couple of breaths to center herself, Angel went back in. She finished her back, then had her turn over. She was shocked at what she saw. There was a battlefield map of scars, some from the accident, and many from the surgeries. She winced even more at the sight of one of the accident scars. Running diagonally across what would one day become her right breast, the injury had apparently torn away part of her nipple.
She decided to do that one first. Carefully, watching her depth and making sure she didn't pull on the girl's energies, she started at one end and healed it up to the edge of the nipple. Then she did the same with the other end. Then, slowly and carefully, she set to work on the nipple. It was hard to go that slowly and delicately, while dealing with so much damage.
She took a couple of breaks in the process, but finally had it done to her satisfaction. It felt "right" to her special senses. She moved on to other scars, telling the doctor about the deep (for her) damage in some places, and about the beginnings of infections in a couple of places. Since they were at and near the surface, she was able to take care of those as well.
As she worked, she realized she was getting her first in person look at a little girl pussy. She had been a boy when she was that age, and didn't have any sisters. It was interesting to see the ways it differed from hers, especially when she spread her legs to get to some scars on her thighs. Angel had been profoundly relieved to notice that there weren't any injury scars on or near that precious little slit.
When she was done, the doctor let her sit up and look at what she could see of herself. The nurse gave her a mirror so she could see her face and other hard to see places.
"Thank you, nice fairy lady. I thought I would be like that forever." She jumped up and gave Angel a full body hug, as only a child that age can.
Angel smiled and hugged her back. then she said it was time for her to leave. The nurse helped her back into her gown, retying the ties, then Angel gave her a small present. It was a silver plastic ring, with two fairies holding up a pretty "stone". It just seemed like a fairy present.
After leaving the room, Angel excused herself and removed the wings. The nurse drove her home, thanking her on the way and commenting on the difference it would make in the girl's life. When they arrived at her house, she handed her an envelope. She watched as Angel unlocked her door and went inside, then drove off.
She flopped down on the sofa, exhausted. It wasn't that she had used so much of her elemental energy. It was mostly all that careful, little at a time, detail work that had worn her out.
She opened the envelope. Inside was a nice thank you note. Inside that was a check. A big check, for a lot more than she had expected. She carefully put it back in the card, and the card inside the envelope. She dropped the envelope on the table, next to her new tablet and her old phone.
She was jolted awake by the ringing eCom. She hadn't even been aware of falling asleep. As she went to answer it, a glance at the screen made her hesitate.
It was Cassandra.
End Part 7
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/