Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
On her way to History, Angel noticed a hand lettered sign on the door to the girls restroom, declaring it out of order. She didn't think anything of it until she started walking by and found herself being pushed through that door, and grabbed.
She fought down an urge to unleash a biological attack on the two girls holding her, and to overcome her momentary surge of panic. After a moment, she stopped her physical struggle to get out of their grasp, and formed a quick plan.
"You don't want to do that." She said, in her closest approximation to the deadly serious tone she had learned to use when she was a boy. "Let go of me now, if want to keep the use of your hands."
"Shut up!" snapped one of her captors, a girl Angel recognized as one of the other girls from the mall incident. As she saw the bathroom door start to open, she used the trick Lena had helped her learn. She made the nerves in the two girls' hands lock into a state of maximum pain and sensations of heat.
They screamed and let go. She bolted through the exit door, past the startled Barb. The hallway was too crowded for a clean getaway. Although she was reasonably sure they wouldn't try anything that public, she went for some insurance - right out of playground 101.
"Fight! Fight!" She called out, pointing toward the restroom door. Combined with the sounds of pain from inside, it drew attention to that door like a magnet. A crowd surged into the room, to find the three girls seemingly struggling.
The problem with that tactic is that it's hard to get away with it. Angel made it all the way through History, but partway through English, a runner came to the room and handed Mrs. Veng a note. She looked at it, then handed it to Angel without comment. There was a quiet "ooh" from the class, the universal acknowledgement that somebody was in trouble.
The note itself was short and to the point. At the end of class, she was to report to the Dean's office. As Angel had learned in the orientation, that could only mean trouble. At the schools in the area, there were three top layers of administration. The Principal and Vice Principals handled administrative details, finance, and the other details of running a large school. The Deans handled student discipline and student complaints. She hadn't filed any complaints, so it had to be a matter of discipline.
With more than a little dread, she made her way to his office. After a brief wait, she was ushered inside.
He gestured her to a chair in front of his desk, but she just stood there with a deer in the headlights expression. He wasn't impressed.
"Sit." he commanded. Her resentment at the tone of that command broke her paralysis, and she sat.
He stood behind his desk and continued. "You know why you're here." It wasn't a question.
Angel recognized his dominance ploys. She had seen them plenty of times before. While they didn't really have the desired effects on her, she continued her not quite conscious imitation of a frightened animal. She shook her head to indicate she didn't know. And it was true. She wasn't sure what he knew or thought he knew.
"Come now, Miss O'Connor. We have four witnesses who saw you using your elemental powers to try and start a fire in the restroom. Two of them ended up with seriously burned hands when they tried to stop you. These are serious charges."
In spite of herself, Angel laughed.
He looked very serious, and was starting to look angry. "I can assure you, this is no laughing matter."
She gasped for breath. "It's impossible." she chortled.
"Do you deny that you are a powerful elemental?" he demanded.
"Yes. I'm an elemental. A BIO elemental. And a weak one, from what they tell me. I couldn't light a match with my powers. They made up a story and you fell for it!" Angel realized that she had gone a little too far with that, and her laughter died down.
The Dean sat behind his desk and started pounding his keyboard. Literally. Angel wondered whether he was going to break it. He looked at the screen, and seemed puzzled. But he was far from satisfied.
"All right. Suppose you tell me exactly what happened."
"Don't get smart with me, young lady."
"I wasn't. I really need to know the time frame."
"How about we take it from when you walked into the restroom."
"What do you mean, you didn't?"
"I didn't walk in. The door had an Out of Order sign on it, and as I was walking by, someone pushed me in."
"I didn't see. I don't even know if it was a boy or a girl. I just felt a shove, and I was through the door. Then the girls grabbed me."
"I don't know their names. They hang around with Barb Harriman and the other morf haters."
He looked like he had swallowed something sour, but motioned for her to continue.
"I warned them to let go of me. They were hurting my arms. When they refused, I made their hands hurt."
"What do you mean, made their hands hurt?"
"I stimulated their nerves anywhere they had contact with my body. It made them feel pain and heat, but that was just a neural illusion. They screamed and let go, and I ran out of the restroom. Right past Barb, who was on her way into the restroom. That was it."
"And the rest?"
"The disturbance in the hallway."
"Oh. That. I was afraid they'd chase me or something. They were angry with me because Barb got arrested for assaulting two little girls in the mall, and I think they were out for revenge of some sort."
*You're right.* came a familiar mental touch. *Watch out. He's a member of their congregation.*
He continued talking, not noticing her momentary distraction. "And the burn marks?"
"What burn marks?"
"On the paper trash and the girls' hands."
"There weren't any when I left. If I had to guess, I would say they were a crude attempt to frame me. Are there really burn marks on their hands?"
"They were red and swollen. They said they were burns."
"I'm sure any competent doctors will say otherwise. Unless the same people who burned the trash also burned their hands."
"Why should I believe you, over the word of four other girls?"
"Because it's the truth. And because what they claimed was impossible."
The phone rang, and he looked at the display. With a scowl, he answered it.
*They found the sign. It was one of the things in the trash that started to burn. And they found witnesses who saw you getting shoved into the restroom. He doesn't want to believe them.*
He got off the phone, then addressed her again. "I will investigate further, and notify you about my decision. I will also be contacting your parents about your involvement in this altercation. You may go now."
Angel was furious. He knew she was innocent. He knew it! And he was going to do what he could to punish her anyhow.
*You have two strikes against you, in his eyes. You're a morf. And you made a fool of him. He counts both as personal affronts.*
*I know. But that is how he sees it. Come to the Admin office, and we'll do something about it.*
*He was as bad as the rest of those Pures hypocrites. Worse! He should find himself on the other side, and not able to pass his shit on to kids.* Angel was so involved with her internal rant that she didn't notice what was happening in her body or in the room.
The Dean came around the desk and stood over Angel. "Miss O'Connor, I said you may go. Please leave my office." When Angel didn't budge, he took hold of her arm and lifted her to her feet. Angel was tempted to demonstrate what she did to the girls, but she didn't.
She was too disturbed by the feeling in her arm where he held her. An altogether too familiar feeling of release. She let him guide her out of his office, almost in a state of shock.
*Angel!* Lena's thoughts broke through her mental fog. *What have you done?!*
Angel got her thoughts together. *I... I think I gave him something. He grabbed me, and I released something. Like the virus packets or something.*
*Couldn't have happened to a nicer man.* Lena's sarcasm came through clearly. *Don't sweat it. You didn't kill him or leave him writhing on the floor. Your power responds to your values. You probably just gave him AMORFS or something. Whatever it is will take a while to manifest. So let's deal with the immediate problem - keeping him from railroading you.*
Realizing that was a good idea, Angel made her way to the office. They met with a woman Lena introduced as a Vice Principal - and the Dean's boss. She listened to their story, including the reactions of the Dean. When they were done, she had some questions. Including one she considered very important.
"This thing that you did to their hands. How badly does it damage them?"
"Not really at all." Angel answered. "It hurts like he... anything, but doesn't damage any tissues."
"And how long will it last?"
"As far as I can tell, until someone stops it."
"A bio elemental, like me. Or a healer. Or anyone else who can manipulate nerves directly."
"Why did you limit the effect to those parts of their hands?"
"My field of effect is only about a quarter inch from my skin. I pretty much have to touch someone to do anything, and the effects are literally only skin deep."
"So to all intents and purposes, it's purely defensive when you do it that way."
"Yes. Not too good for attacking anyone."
The Vice Principal was already aware of the other witnesses, the ones who saw Angel being pushed into the supposedly out of order restroom. She was also aware of the disciplinary records of the girls - and the Dean.
In the end, she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt until he acted. Then she would evaluate his actions and take the appropriate steps. Knowing that Lena was aware of it as soon as she thought it, she confided that the Dean had been protected by the political situation. And that the situation had changed when the preacher changed.
But he was aware of those facts as well. And he was not a stupid man. So she would wait and see what he did. If he did the smart thing, and handled things appropriately, that would be the end of it. But if he tried to turn it unjustly against Angel, there would be consequences.
On the subject of consequences, there would likely be further consequences for her attackers, although their pain would be taken into account. Their actions were premeditated, and serious.
On the other hand, self defense or not, Angel had permanently injured two students. There could also be consequences for that. If she reversed the damage, that would be taken into account. And if they were to recant their earlier stories, and admit to the conspiracy and assault, while they were there for such treatment... well, that would be taken into account as well.
By this time, Angel and Lena were late for class. The Vice Principal wrote them passes, and sent them on their way.
Since she had missed lunch, and been through a lot that day, Angel stopped at a vending machine and got an energy bar to wolf down on her way to class.
Angel's Calculus teacher glared at her late entrance, but waved her to her seat and continued the lecture. At the end of class, she handed in the slip and the previous day's homework.
After school, Angel was not particularly surprised to find a lot of morfs at the Spectrum Club meeting. Over the last half century, MORFS had done a lot to redefine sexuality. Was a boy, who became a girl and was then attracted mostly to boys, gay? Was someone who became fully functionally both male and female bisexual by definition? What does it mean when someone is primarily attracted to such hermaphrodites? It was confusing.
Angel was reluctantly settling into the role of a heterosexual girl, with the advantage of having very few people know she was ever a boy. It was still uncomfortable.
Most of the meeting was organizational, signing people up, answering questions, laying out the scheduled events, and naming committees. They gave out some informational bleeps, and generally got things started. Before anything of substance could be discussed, meeting time was over.
Angel went over to the music room, where Lena and David were rehearsing for the show with the Changelings. The sound was a little muffled as she approached, but the song they were practicing had a gospel sound to it. It ended with a solo by someone with a surprisingly deep, rich voice, then a final chord by the group.
Somebody said something Angel couldn't make out, and the room was filled with a rumble of voices and footsteps. The doors opened, and a small river of people gushed out. Some were obvious morfs, but others weren't so obvious. On the other hand, the average stranger wouldn't have known she was a morf, either.
Angel spotted Lena and David, and moved to join them. As they moved through the door and headed toward the shortcut, Robin appeared behind them. Angel wasn't sure whether she simply hadn't noticed her approach, or had been fooled by Robin's powers. She couldn't resist asking.
"When are you from?" Angel got a couple of odd looks from people walking by for that one.
"Just the here and now, I'm afraid." Robin replied, shaking her head.
Angel had questions, but waited until they were on the shortcut to ask them. "How does that work? I mean, do you have some sense of a "normal" time that you go back and forth from?"
"Kinda. There's a moving time that it is easiest for me to jump to and from. I can go back about a week from there... then... whatever. I'm still working on how to say it. I can sometimes jump a couple of days ahead from there, but it's a lot harder. They tell me there's more to it than that, but I sorta got lost in the transdimensional physics."
Robin was not an airhead by any stretch of the imagination. So if it was too much for her, Angel was content to leave it at that.
"If you change the past, do you go back to a changed present?" David asked.
"Yes. I tried some harmless stuff, like moving some things in my room. When I got back, they were in the new places." Robin shrugged. "I didn't try anything major."
Lena got into the spirit of the conversation. "What about space? Do you have a place it's easier to go to and from?"
"Again, yes and no. It's easiest for me to go to and from places I really know. And when I shift in time, it's easiest for me to come back to the same place I went back in time from. I can go other places, but it's just not as easy."
Angel grinned, thinking about the times she had noticed Robin's love of hearing herself talk. And here they were, feeding it.
Angel found herself agreeing with Sherry and Robin, in their earlier comments about the pool. It was a perfect day to spend some time there, but it was closed for the season.
When her mother got home, she had a serious look on her face. She told Angel that once her father got home, they would have to have a talk. She wouldn't say anything more until then. She just went upstairs to change.
Angel had a pretty good idea what was happening, and learned that she was right. When her father got home, she was confronted with the story the Dean had told her mother. At work. And it bore little resemblance to what had happened.
In his version, she had gotten into a fight with one of the girls and, when the other tried to separate them, Angel used her powers to cause massive, apparently permanent, nerve damage to the two of them. Then, when confronted with her actions, she had tried to lie her way out of it. She was facing anything from an extended suspension to outright expulsion.
In his version.
Angel told her grim audience what really happened, including her interviews with the Dean and the Vice Principal. She forgot to mention the part where she might have infected the Dean, but the rest was detailed.
"That does sound more in character for you," her father conceded. "But the fact remains that you used your powers to hurt those girls."
"Only in self defense! And there is no real damage. Just some overactive nerves. I could fix it in seconds."
"And you will." her mother added emphatically. "But you should have found some other way. Those two are in terrible pain, by your own admission."
"And if they had their way, I would have been. I can heal myself, but they didn't know that. Lena confirmed that they were out for blood. And even after that, they tried to frame me for elemental arson."
Her parents seemed satisfied for the moment. Not happy, but satisfied. They would be talking with the Vice Principal, and would put off any response until then.
After dinner that night, she was watching the tube with her folks. On the news, there was a report about an upcoming Royal Wedding that almost wasn't. The talking head was dancing around it, but the upshot was that a political faction claimed the princess was not a virgin, but a thorough medical examination had shown them to be wrong. As a side note, the report mentioned that one of the Royal Physicians involved did not make it to the press conference. Apparently, he was severely injured in a traffic accident, and later died of his injuries.
For Angel, that settled it - it must have been her client. And despite what he had tried to do, she felt a guilty responsibility for his death. She couldn't help wondering whether the "accident" was arranged by his co conspirators or was a suicidal attempt to stay out of their hands. Either way, his death seemed a direct consequence of what she did for her client.
After the news, Angel went to her room. She went through the exercises Lena had taught her, isolating the news report from any thoughts of the spa, or her client. And isolating thoughts of the spa from any thoughts of her client or the special arrangements. After the Doctor's demise, and Mrs. Tabor's warnings, it seemed important to do so.
Since a distraction was a necessary part of Lena's exercises, Angel dove into her remaining homework. She caught herself mentally whining that it was not fair to have that much homework that early in the school year. It was almost like each teacher thought he or she was the only one assigning homework.
Then she laughed at the childishness of the thought.
The next morning, she realized she had one less thing to worry about for a while. Still, she took the usual precautions as she got ready for school.
As they walked to school together, Robin got annoyed with herself.
"Damn! I must have left it in my room!"
"What?" Angel asked.
"My French homework. Merde! I'll have to go back for it." She looked around, and then got a little gleam in her eye. "I'll catch up." She said.
A moment later, she reappeared beside them, a noticeably heavier bag over her shoulder.
Looking at the bag, Angel asked "How much can you carry?"
"I dunno. I've lifted a 50 pound bag of... gardening stuff, but I only carried it a few feet."
"No, I mean when you do your thing. How much can you move? Or vanish?"
"Oh. I can bring another person to me, or take myself and someone else somewhere else. That's about it. Why?"
"Just wondering. David," Angel turned to him. "How long does it take you to create a people sized illusion somewhere else?"
"Depends on how much refining I have to do. Someone I have a good image of, pretty much instantly. Why?"
"Her jump got me thinking. What if you two could coordinate, move someone away from somewhere and leave an illusion of that person behind? That could be pretty cool."
"We could try."
"No time now, my Captain." Lena reminded him, with a laugh. "Class awaits!"
"What about after school?" Robin asked.
"We have the Changelings thing." Lena replied. "How about after that?"
They all agreed. And since it was Angel's idea, the others declared that it had to be at her house. A little reluctantly, Angel agreed.
When they got to the school, Lena got a quiet communication. Angel and Lena were to report to the Vice Principal's office. When they got there, Lena was asked to wait outside the door, and Angel was told to go in to the conference room.
*I'll monitor, and keep in touch." Lena offered.
*Thanks!* Angel squared her shoulders and knocked on the door. The door opened, and she saw that the room was fairly full. In addition to the Vice Principal, the room held the Dean, the two girls whose hands she had done the nerve trick to, two women and a man who were clearly the parents of those girls, and another man Angel didn't recognize. The mystery man was standing next to the VP.
*He's from the School District. There are interesting things at stake here.*
*Lena? Can you project an illusion of feeling something? Not emotion, pain?* As she thought that, she moved toward the chair indicated by the VP.
*I want to run a bluff. Have the girls told their parents the truth about what happened?*
*Not even close. And they're aware their fabrication is falling apart.*
*Good. When I take away the pain in one hand, try to make her think she feels it again right away.*
"Before we begin the meeting," the VP announced, "We have two students in a lot of pain, and another who may have the ability to relieve that pain. Miss O'Connor?"
Angel shrugged and gestured to the nearest girl, indicating that she should give Angel her nearer hand. The girl hesitated, then extended the hand. Her palm was red and a little swollen. Angel held the hand with her left hand, and ran her right hand slowly over the fingers and palm of the "injured" hand. *Lena! Now!*
The girl had started to look relieved, then jerked her hand away with a cry. The hand looked pink and healthy, but she acted like it still hurt.
"That's weird." Angel commented. "It's like some part of her doesn't want her to be healed. The only other time I've seen something like that was a guy who was in the middle of a big con. Part of him would not let him let go of the pain until he admitted his lies. The more we healed him, the worse his mind made the pain. Are you hiding something from these people? Or from me?"
The girl started to answer, but her mother cut her off. "That's none of your business, you little freak!" She snarled. "Just get on with fixing the damage you've done, before we have you thrown in jail for that attack!"
*When I reach for her hand, make the pain worse.*
"I'm sorry, Ma'm, but I'd be afraid to try. If she's like that man, anything I do to relieve the pain will only make her body work harder to counter it."
"Bullshit!" The woman's shout startled Angel, and shocked her a little. A parent, talking like that in front of her daughter? In school? In front of school officials? The woman continued her rant.
"Just do it! Now!"
"Very well, I'll try." Angel shrugged, and reached for the girl's other hand. The girl started to hold it out, then screamed and pulled away.
"Stop that!" the mother screamed, backhanding Angel across the face.
Angel rocked back in her chair, as the other adults grappled with the woman. "I didn't do anything!" Angel shouted. "I couldn't! My field doesn't go that far."
"She's telling the truth." The VP told the woman, once the others had forced her back into her chair. "And if you try anything like that again, you will be the one spending a long time in prison - for felonious assault on a minor."
Angel allowed the bruise to form naturally on her face, neither augmenting it nor limiting it. She turned to the girl. "The only way you, or your friend, will make the pain stop is to tell the whole truth. All of it. Why were you two waiting in the restroom?"
The girl looked around wildly, and everyone was watching her. She started to get a stubborn look on her face, then screamed again. She cracked like a dozen eggs in a washing machine. When she got her breath back again, she started crying. And answering.
"We... we were going to teach you freaks a lesson for getting us busted at the mall. And for getting in our way when we were dealing with those other little freaks."
Angel was a little surprised by the reaction in the room. Or lack of it. Nobody seemed at all shocked by the admission. Angel pressed on.
"What were you going to do?"
"Barb was going to mess you up, and make sure you knew your place."
"Mess me up how?"
She shouted in her pain. "She was going to beat you up! And tear your clothes and stuff. Is that clear enough?"
Angel just shrugged. "Your mind is the one to judge that. How did I end up in the restroom?"
"Trina came from behind you and shoved you in. Then she was going to stand guard at the door."
*Reduce the pain a little, please.*
“What happened after she shoved me in there?”
“We grabbed your arms, so you couldn’t fight back.”
“Then you burned our hands! And they still hurt like hell!” she sobbed.
“You ran out while Barb was coming in. She said you must be some kind of fire elemental, and we should make it look like you went out of control.”
“Whose idea was the story about me attacking you and trying to set fire to the room?”
“Barb’s. All of ours. She started it out, and we all filled in details. The evidence would back us up.”
“How did the out of order sign get on the door?”
“I put it there, before I went in.”
*Reduce it some more, please.*
*I’m almost out of there as it is. She just hasn’t noticed. But the other hand is still active, from your nerve thing.*
“Who made the sign?”
“Barb.” she sniffed.
*Drop it entirely, please. Is she holding anything important back?*
*Yes. But I can’t read it through all the chaos.*
“What else? What are you holding back?”
“I... I lied to my parents. I lied to the Dean, and everyone here. And to the cops.”
“And we poured stuff in your locker after you left school yesterday.”
“Is that it?”
“I think so.”
“How is that hand?” Angel indicated the healed hand.
The girl looked surprised. “It’s better. But the other one...!”
Angel held out her hand, and the crying girl hesitated, then gave her the other hand. As she relieved that hand, Angel noticed the VP using her eCom almost covertly.
*She’s calling in the Resource Officers.*
*The real cops stationed on campus for legal stuff.*
When Angel was finished with the hand, the girl looked relieved but afraid. Her mother still looked angry.
Angel turned to the other girl. “Do you have anything to say, before we start?”
The girl looked afraid, then blurted out “What she said was true! All of it! And we helped spread it all over school about you attacking us and burning the restroom and stuff. And other Real Humans have talked about taking matters into their own hands.”
“Shit,” Angel sighed. Then her eyes widened, as she remembered her audience. Rather than try to say anything more, she held out her hand for the second girl’s hand.
After Angel soothed those hands, the girl fainted. Angel saw that it was a real faint, and that the girl was otherwise ok... physically. She reassured the adults on that point.
The VP handed Angel two hall passes, then dismissed her. The first girl’s mother looked like she was going to object, but she was quelled by the looks she got from the others.
On the way out the door, Angel noticed that one of the passes was for Lena. Then she noticed the two police officers heading for the conference room door. The girls went to the lockers. Angel saw a custodian in front of hers.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Shouldn’t you kids be in class?” he countered.
“We just got out of a meeting.” Angel replied, flashing her hall pass, “And that’s my locker.”
“Oh. Well, I imagine you’ll be assigned another one. Nobody will be using this one for a while. Did you have anything valuable in there?”
“Just my books and stuff. And my emergency supplies.”
“Anything you can’t replace?”
“No, not really.”
“Talk to the office about it during your free period. Those things are history.”
Angel got to Spanish without her book or her homework. She handed the pass to the teacher, then slid into her seat. The class was more than half over, and she had trouble trying to follow what was being said. At the end of class, the teacher asked her to wait, and speak with him.
She explained about her locker, the book, and her homework. He looked skeptical, but let it slide for the moment. He told her that she would have to make up the work.
Angel briefly thought about how unfair that seemed. It wasn’t her fault. But after a little more thought she accepted it.
By lunch, she was more than ready to get away from her fellow students. She was prepared for the poisonous looks she got from the friends of the Pures, but she was shaken by the congratulations and grins she got from the Morfs Supremists and their friends. They had heard the same rumors, and approved.
Before she could go get lunch, Angel had to stop by the office. They assigned her a new locker, and had her review a list of the damaged items from her old one. She initialed the list, and they said they would try to have replacement books by the end of the day.
More than half her books and papers were unharmed, simply because she had taken them home with her the night before. She groaned at the remembered weight.
When she joined Lena, Robin, and David for lunch, they had her food waiting (courtesy of Lena’s knowledge of where she was and when she would get there.), and it was still hot.
While they ate, she told Robin about an idea for a use of her powers. She could leave her books and papers at home, then call them to her hand as needed. It would save a whole lot of wear and tear on her back and book bag.
Everyone liked the idea.
At the end of one of her least favorite school days, Angel went to the Changelings audition. She picked up a copy of the schedule on the way in, and her face fell. With her two jobs and everything, there was no way she could do it. Still, she stayed to watch the demo.
Her favorite song that the group did was an old gospel song that Angel had heard before, with a few changes.
They sang the first part of the song with the traditional words:
Lord, I know I've been changed
Lord, I know I've been changed
Lord, I know I've been changed
The Angels in the Heaven done signed my name.
Went down to the river of Jordan,
The water was chilly and cold,
The water chilled my body,
But the water didn't touch my soul
On the repeat, they had new words:
Lord, I know I've been changed
Lord, I know I've been changed
Lord, I know I've been changed
The clerks down at the database entered my name.
Went down to the doctor's office,
I thought I had the flu or a cold,
That virus changed my body,
But the virus didn't touch my soul
That line was sung by a soloist, with one of the deepest, richest voices she had ever heard. She was startled to realize that the voice came from a petite girl, who barely looked old enough to be a freshman.
The choir finished the song with a repeat of the chorus. All the listeners applauded enthusiastically. The group members got down from the risers and moved among the listeners and would be members, talking and answering their questions. Lena stopped to talk briefly with a couple of students, then came over to Angel.
“What did you think?”
“It was wonderful! I liked that last soloist.” Angel smiled.
“Yeah, she got an interesting change. Aside from the voice she ages very slowly. That’s pretty much how she looked five years ago, before she changed. Are you going to audition?”
“I can’t. Well, I could audition, but I can’t do the group. Too many conflicts with jobs and things.”
Lena was disappointed, but understanding. But she did insist that Angel wait until her friends could leave with her. Angel agreed.
While she was waiting, Angel went to the office and collected her new books. She put some in her bag, and some in her locker, and went back to the auditions.
When they got to Angel's house, she got out the snacks and fed her guests. She kept one apple aside, however, for another use. After their eating slowed down, she reminded them of the substitution trick she had suggested. They used the apple at first, because of its relatively simple appearance.
The first time, the apple seemed to disappear, then reappear a moment later. The second try went largely the same, with a smaller gap. On the third try, the apple looked funny for a moment, then returned to its previous appearance and faded slowly away.
David explained that he still got it wrong. This time, he started too early and didn't get the image completely aligned with the apple. When the original vanished, the image went back to looking normal. Robin suggested that they work from there. David could create a substitute illusion, then align it with the object. Once it was in place, Robin could 'port the original.
David loved the idea. Once the substitute was in place, and the original removed, he could animate the illusion. To him, it had tremendous humor potential. Something on the Dean's desk suddenly comes alive, but when he reaches for it, it falls over and is real.
"Or," Robin added, with growing excitement, "we could have a secret meeting with one or more of us sitting in class or some other public place. The ultimate alibi."
They promised to work on it, and Lena rather pointedly offered to help coordinate the attempts.
*Jealous much?* Angel grinned.
*Friend or not, she can't have him.* Lena affected the face of a possessive little girl. *He's mine!* Lena stuck her tongue out at the giggling Angel for good measure.
They were just getting ready to leave when Angel's mother arrived. They said their hellos and goodbyes on the way out.
Halfway across the country from that peaceful domestic scene, a rare event was underway. Orders were being questioned, and the questioning was being accepted. In that group, that was close to heresy.
"Why bother with the child? Her power is negligible, and she could not have had anything to do with the abomination."
"Why do you say that?"
"The information we extracted from the Wilson woman and the records we obtained would seem to show that she had not even changed when the infections began, and was miles away and still changing when the abomination broke out at the rally. She had neither the power nor the experience that would have been required. Even the Wilson woman would have been hard pressed to produce such a widespread result."
"Records can be falsified."
"True. But her family did not have the money or connections to do so."
"Correct. While we cannot conclusively rule out her participation in the abomination, it is vanishingly unlikely."
"You have been too narrow in your reading, brother."
"Forgive me. What have I missed?"
"Even in her weakness, she has developed an ability unheard of among her misbegotten kind. She can recognize the plague in its earliest stages, even before the victim starts to feel sick. And she can predict what form the degradation will take, and when it will happen. There are also indications that she can look at a person and tell whether they have been touched by the plague, and what the changes were. Do you now understand?"
"Forgive me. You are correct, as the Lord intended. Once she has become obedient to the will of the Lord, she can sniff out the damned and the would be assassins who pass unnoticed among the flocks."
"Indeed. And she can warn us when one of the righteous falls victim to the plague, in time for us to save his immortal soul. It is God's will that this degraded one become the instrument of our victory."
"I will leave immediately."
"Contact this man." The older man passed over a file folder. "He is not one of ours, but with this information, he may be convinced to be of help."
For Angel, the next day started like any other school Friday. End of week quizzes and weekend homework, and classes that seemed to drag on forever. The news she got from Lena at lunch time made the day a little more interesting.
The two girls from the restroom were suspended, pending an expulsion hearing, for assault, arson, and making a false report. They had also been ticketed for the arson, and would have to appear in court.
The mother who had hit Angel had been ticketed as well - for disturbing the peace - and was banned from the campus for the rest of the school year. She was also warned that she was subject to arrest on the assault charges if she attempted to harm or harass any of the students of the school.
Barb was suspended for 30 days, and ticketed for arson. She was also subtly reminded that she already faced another date with the judge, and that any more trouble would undoubtedly make things that much harder on her. And that her father was no longer in a position to protect her from the consequences of her actions.
The Dean was on unpaid leave, pending a disciplinary hearing. He had been advised to apologize to Angel and her parents, but had refused in rather colorful terms. According to Lena, he was seriously considering resigning.
Angel was in a much better mood for the rest of the school day. So what Lena told her after school hit her that much harder.
Angel was in danger.
End Part 16
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