Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay


Part 17


Angel was in danger.


During an afternoon class, Lena had gotten an urgent Cassandragram. She needed to use her powers to "listen in" on Officer John - the one who had been so hard on Angel when asking about Ms. Wilson.


What she discovered was disturbing on many levels. The two men talking to him were expertly and heavily shielded. Lena could hardly sense them at all, except by way of their effect on the officer.


They played on his self image as a cowboy among cops - a man who did things his way and left the constraints of "procedure" to his more timid coworkers. They also played heavily on his suspicions about Angel, bringing him to believe that they had evidence she was involved in the Wilson disappearance, and that they were from a Federal agency which was preparing to do something about it. They hinted at official recognition if he helped keep the department out of it when they were ready to move.


By the time they left, he was feeling very full of himself. And very well disposed toward the Feds, as he thought of them.


Lena had acted quickly. She fed him doubt, and a suspicion that they knew a little too much about the Wilson disappearance. She also played on his image of the FBI and other agencies, as glory thieves, who come in and interfere with local matters for their own purposes, then take all the credit for what the locals had done. It had already happened to him. Twice.


The bottom dropped out of his good mood. They had played him. Even if they were legitimate Feds, which he now doubted, they would just end up screwing him over again. He couldn't trust them. Or their organization.


Lena would have done more with him, but the bell rang and she had to go to her next class. She had gotten a significant look from her teacher, with the thought that it had better have been important, and she would do well to get class notes and the assignment from a classmate.


"What do you think they're going to do?" Angel asked.


David answered. "It seems obvious. They're gonna make you disappear, like Ms. Wilson and the other bio elementals you told us about. After that... who knows?"


The girls shuddered at the thought, but agreed it seemed all too likely.


Angel was faced with a dilemma. Who should she tell? Who should she avoid telling? She put off the issue of telling her parents, and went for more practical concerns.


"Lena, can you contact Mrs. Tabor? I start work at the spa on Monday, and I don't want this thing to catch her unaware."


"What do I tell her?"


"All we know. Or whatever the two of you decide."


Angel turned to Robin. "How much energy does your time travel take?"


"It depends. I can go backwards my limit and come back without being too tired. Why?"


"I want you to be our alarm system. When it happens, whatever it is, I want you to find out what, where, and when it is and then warn us well in advance. If you don't know about it happening right away, you may have to make some shorter hops in time and space to find out, and then go back to warn us. Can you do that, and then be able to act? My life may literally be in your hands."


If Robin had any doubts about her place in the group, or her value, that last statement eliminated them. She would do anything and everything she could to keep from letting them down.


Lena told Angel that she would be picked up after school on Monday. The driver would be someone Angel knew, and would check in with Lena before Angel would get in. She would then be taken directly to the spa.


That settled one thing. She would have to tell her parents about those arrangements.


David would get his chance to play spy. Once they knew when and where, he would be able to look around to see who, and track them. He and Robin could do the switch and snatch with her to get her out of the bad guys' hands.


The rest they would play by ear.


They discussed their strategies all the way to Angel's house, and on inside. Lena would coordinate their actions, and would be the point of contact for Future Robin.


"I gotta get a good name," Robin grumbled, after that last description.


They arrived at Angel's house, and went inside to continue the conversation.


Robin and Lena established some code words, to quickly convey status and trigger actions.


They all agreed that they would need to seem to be going about their normal business, and not alert the bad guys to their suspicions. They also agreed that they would probably not do anything until after the weekend, as long as Angel wasn't alone.


David brought up another possibility, and immediately wished he hadn't.


"What if they try to take one of your parents, for leverage?"


Angel agreed that she would have to tell them about the potential danger, and they would have to keep watch on her parents as well as herself.


David revisited an earlier statement. "Maybe we've seen too many of those movies. I never thought I'd say that."


The girls reassured him that it was better to think of such possibilities than to be caught flat footed when they came up.


"Besides," Robin concluded, "there will be more than enough unexpected bits no matter how much we anticipate."


With that cheery thought, they split up. Robin announced her intention to go swimming, then 'ported home. David and Lena headed for Lena's house.


When Angel's mother got home, she mentioned that the school had contacted her about Angel's exoneration, and that she had seen the records concerning the punishments of the Dean and the three girls. And a note about one of the mothers being banned from the campus.


Angel told her about the girls' confessions, and about the mother hitting her. Angel had healed the injury right after leaving the conference room, barely giving it a thought. She also told her that there was something she needed to talk to both of them about, when her father got home.


With a concerned look, her mother went up to change. By the time Angel's father came home, her mother was in the kitchen heating up dinner.


Angel barely noticed her food, which would have been an insult to her mother if it hadn't been for the way her mother was picking at it as well.


The after dinner conversation was not entertaining. The worst part was the fact that all three knew there was nothing more they could do. The police were potentially compromised, so no reliable help. And contacting them would almost certainly tip off the bad guys. They couldn't stand and fight. The bad guys were an unknown quantity, but were sure to be dangerous. And they had already kidnapped a far more powerful bio elemental than Angel was. Possibly more than one.


Angel got her parents to promise they would mentally shout for Lena if there was any sign of trouble. She would be listening for them, and in touch with the others. Angel assured them that she would do the same.


With the major issues up in the air like that, Angel took refuge in the familiar. She finished her homework, then snuggled in on the couch to watch shows with her parents. She couldn't stay up too late, because she had a theater inspection the next morning.


As before, Mandy would be picking her up. Lena would be checking Mandy for distress, duress, or bad intentions before Angel got in the car.


She laid out her clothes for the inspection, then got ready for bed.


Her sleep was troubled, with dreams of mysterious figures, movie style chases, and medieval dungeons interrupting her rest. When her alarm woke her in the morning, she wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or relieved.


The inspection was in a place called Louisville, between Denver and Boulder. Angel learned early on that it was not pronounced like the place in Kentucky, after hearing another recent transplant making that mistake.


The inspection itself turned out to be routine. But there was a little bit of tension as she was moving from one place to another. She noticed two men, in their early to mid twenties, watching her and acting suspiciously. With all that had happened, her paranoia quotient was high. She kept an eye on them, and used her eCom to take pictures and holos of them in case she needed to identify them later.


After they saw that she was remaining in plain sight, they went to concessions and bought some popcorn and soda.


She went into a storage room and peeked at them through the gap in the doorway. She was fairly sure they would not see her. And she apparently was right. After watching her go into the room, they looked around and then furtively ducked into one of the theaters.


She suddenly realized what was going on. The theater they ducked into was in a different direction than they had come from. They were nothing more than nervous house hoppers.


The chain allowed individual theaters to set their own policies about the practice. In general, they had done the right thing to be tolerated. The theater made more profit from the concessions than from the tickets. A large part of the ticket revenue went right back to the studios.


She went to the office and quietly checked with the manager. With some exceptions, such as making sure ratings restrictions were honored, he tended to let it pass when they bought concessions.


She saw no reason to put anything about it in her report. She had time for a "quality check" of a couple of things from concessions while she finished her report and waited for Mandy to finish her audit.


On the way back from the theater, her suspicions kicked in again. She noticed a dark blue van which seemed to be following them. Not quite the unmarked black vans of the movies, but disturbing. It was even more disturbing when they got off the freeway to get some lunch, and the van followed. But when they pulled in and stopped at the sandwich shop, the van simply drove by.


That might have been the end of it, but when they got back on the road a suspiciously similar van followed them onto the freeway. Angel used her eCom to document it, but didn't say anything to Mandy.


She got home with no problems, so she dismissed the event. If it was them, they were just scouting her out. But it could have just been an innocent coincidence.


That night, she got a call from a doctor in Sun City. The doctor didn't say much, other than that she was an elementologist and she wanted to talk to Angel about some interesting questions. She would be in the area the next day, to interview a couple of other young morfs, and asked whether she could stop by for a brief chat.


After consulting with her parents, and learning that the other morfs were David and Robin, Angel nervously accepted.


Angel told Lena about the van, but she wasn't able to find out anything more about it than Angel had.


That night and the next morning, Angel spent some time on the net looking up anything she could find about that Dr. Miller. She found a number of research papers, and other references that appeared to support her legitimacy. She also found out that she was the administrator of the Elementals registry database.


She was pondering that discovery when Lena interrupted her thoughts.


*You got company.* Lena announced. *Apparently your Dr. Miller. She's fairly well shielded, but her emotions seem about right.*


*Thanks!* Angel replied, then headed down to the door.


On the way, she called out to her parents that their visitor had arrived, then opened the door.


Unfortunately, she opened her mouth as well. "What the hell ARE you?" she practically shouted.


After a moment of shocked silence, in which she realized she had said that out loud, Angel blurted out "OhmygodI'msosorryIdidn'tmeanitthatway!" It hadn't been the doctor's striking appearance that had startled Angel. She had seen pictures of the cat woman hybrid while doing her research. It was something else. Something she sensed.


"I mean, you're an elemental. A really strong one. But you're not any kind of elemental I've ever seen before. And I thought I had seen them all." Angel explained, apologetically.


The woman smiled a little, and nodded an acknowledgement of the apology.


"Oh, God." Angel exclaimed. "I'm doing it again. Come in, come in." She held the door open for her visitor. As she entered, Angel's parents came and introduced themselves. She returned the favor, inviting them to call her Sanura, and was invited to sit.


After offering refreshments, which were politely declined, her parents retired to the kitchen to give them some semblance of privacy. They knew Lena would monitor the situation, and alert them if they were needed. Angel was aware of that as well.


"From what I've heard," the doctor started out, "you have some remarkable skills. I have never heard of a bio elemental who can read morfs better than screening telepaths, or recognize and predict the onset and nature of a case. Yet you, a young and - forgive me - supposedly underpowered morf, can apparently do so. In fact, several very reliable sources have verified those abilities."


"Well," Angel replied deferentially, "there is no supposedly about the underpowered part. Except for my own body, I can only extend my elemental power about a quarter inch from my skin."


Dr. Miller opened her briefcase, and removed some kind of electronic device. "May I?" she asked, indicating the device. Angel nodded, and she aimed it at her and looked at the display screen.


"Well," the doctor continued, "Your readings are certainly consistent with that. Which makes those abilities all the more remarkable. How did you develop them?" Angel was amused to notice that the doctor had put the device on the table, and it was still pointing at her. It didn't matter - she wasn't hiding anything about her elemental energy.


Angel recounted her grandmother's advice, and described her different kinds of observational training. She left out the part about modifying the microbiota, but sketched in the rest.


Dr. Miller was impressed. "How do you explain the fact that other, more powerful, bio elementals don't have these abilities?"


"I don't. Explain it, that is. I would imagine that they have the potential, but haven't bothered to train that part. They can do all those other, more impressive things that I can't. If I had their power, I probably wouldn't have done so either. It was just my need to leverage what little power I had that moved me to work on that."


"What else have you been able to do within those limitations?"


"I've been able to do some cosmetic stuff, like eliminate superficial scars and stretch marks. There was one little girl, an accident victim. She had a lot of surgery, and the insurance wouldn't cover treatments to eliminate the scars. Her doctor convinced me to do what I could for her. She still has some internal things they are working on, but she doesn't look like a rag doll any more." She stopped to think a moment.


"I've given some friends tans, even in tattoo like shapes. I've used my ability to see infectious stuff and destroy it in my job at the theater chain. Oh yeah, and I've made my mom and my friend's dad look better, by rejuvenating their skin. That kind of thing."


"I see." She made a couple of notes on her tablet, then changed the subject. "As I mentioned to your mother, I'm also here to find out about a couple of students at your school. Do you know David Streight or Robin Brown?" She looked at Angel expectantly.


"Sure. They're both friends of mine. And David's going out with my best friend Lena."


"What do you know about their post MORFS capabilities?"


"I know what they are, and I perceived them just before they started changing. Why?"


"An odd coincidence. And I don't like coincidences. They both got exceptional combinations of abilities, combinations which had not been seen before." She looked pointedly at Angel. "Do you know anything about that?"


Angel looked embarrassed. This was going to be the acid test for Pope Hill. If she didn't blow it.


"Kinda. I know some things they told me, but I'm not sure I believe them."


"What sort of things?"


"Well, you see... there's this story going around, about strange things happening at Pope Hill."


"Pope Hill?"


"Over in the State Park." Angel waved her hand in the general direction. "There's some story about a Pope, who was later made into a Saint, doing something there. There's even a marker there, from some historical group." Angel shrugged.


"He was supposed to have done something major there, so the place is special or something." Angel paused, fishing for the right words. "Anyhow, there have been rumors about strange things happening there, going back at least a few decades. From a couple of people, we even heard about wishes being granted or something."


"Then, a little while after we moved here, I was walking near there with a couple of friends and we felt something. It was coming from the hill. It registered on my elemental sense in a way I hadn't encountered before. And Lena sensed something different."




"My next door neighbor, and best friend. She’s a telepath and an empath, and she sensed something weird too. We kinda put that together with the stories, and thought maybe there was something to them after all. Over the next few days, the odd stuff came and went."


"And?" Dr. Miller looked like she didn't believe a word of it.


"Well," Angel looked down, like she was a little ashamed. "We kinda talked David into trying out the stories."


"How?" The monosyllable replies were starting to get on Angel's nerves.


"Like a lot of teens, David had spent some time dreaming about what the best possible outcome of MORFS would be for him. What he'd look like, what powers he'd have, that kind of thing. We had him go to the hill when the odd stuff was strong, and think hard about what he wanted."


"And...?" The doctor acted like she was pulling teeth.


"And later that day, I sensed he had some kind of infection. It was the kind that triggers MORFS, but there was something different about it. Like it was changing him first, then triggering the MORFS. The next day, I could make out where it was going, and I saw all those powers. The timeline looked clear enough, so we warned his folks. When we convinced them, they made appointments for him. Then nature - or MORFS - took its course."


"I see." Two syllables that time. Was it progress? She still didn't look convinced.


"Look, it's weird stuff, and I don't understand it myself. And I'm not explaining it very well. But it worked the same way for the others, so something is happening there."




"Robin did the same thing, and got what she wanted. And some guy from Smokey Hills... well, he's a guy now. And he's saying the same thing happened to him. I never met him, so I can't say what the timing was. But he says he went there, and he got what he wanted."


"And his name is...?"


"I don't know. I heard about him from Cassandra."




"Penny Johnson. She goes to Smokey Hills, and she probably knows his name." Angel felt like she was babbling. And it was clear that the doctor wasn't buying it.


"And how do you explain all that?"


"I don't. The rumors have gone all the way from Divine Intervention because of the Pope to indian spirits to morfed prairie dogs."


"Prairie dogs?"


"Burrowing animals, about this big." Angel held her hands a little way apart. "There are a bunch of them around the area."


"I know what they are. How would they explain what happened to your friends?"


"Well, a whole bunch of them live together in a system of tunnels. I think it's called a town. Anyhow, it's like maybe some of them got powers, and they can work together to make it happen or something." Angel knew she was running off at the mouth, but couldn't stop herself.


"And you think that's what is happening?"


"Not really. I really don't know what it is. I don't really think it's the prairie dogs, because it feels like one thing rather than a bunch of them. And it doesn't feel like them, or like bunnies."


"What do you mean?"


"I can sort of sense living things. I know what things like them feel like because I have seen them where I felt their nature. I couldn't do that with whatever it is at the hill."


"But you're not sure?"


"Hey, gimme a break. I've only been... like this for a few months."


"I understand. I was a boy before I changed, too."


"What? How did you...?"


"I am in charge of the Elemental Database. I have access to all the information in the central registry." She mentally added "Including the parts that weren't in the stolen records."


*We need to talk. After she leaves.* Lena told Angel.


Angel hoped her reaction to Lena's comment would be interpreted as a reaction to finding out that the doctor knew her secret. That secret, anyway. The one about having been a boy.


Seeming to change subjects, she asked Angel "How are you doing with that change? Any problems?"


Angel described her struggles with defining her sexuality, and Lena's help in resolving parts of it. She also reiterated and expanded a little on her description of the Girl Boot Camp her relatives put her through. She also mentioned the advantage of having moved to a new place after all that, where she was only known as a girl.


The doctor asked her some general medical questions, and seemed satisfied with her answers. She thanked Angel and her parents for their time and cooperation, and left her card. Then she left.


*She's on her way to interview David.* Lena told her.


*Let him know I told her the cover story about him and Pope Hill.*


*Already did. Robin, too.*


*What did you want to talk about, before?*


*There was more to the visit than she was saying. Someone got into the database she administers, and copied all the files about bio elementals. It didn't have the part about your past, but it did have your current information.*


*Ouch! Does she have any idea who or why?*


*Not that she thought about. In fact, she was fishing for clues while she was there.*


*O... k. Nothing there to tell, as far as I know.*


Other than a few brief flashes of paranoia, and descriptions of the doctor's interviews with David and Robin, the afternoon passed fairly normally.


The next morning, she reminded her parents that she would be going directly from school to the spa. She reminded them that Lena would check in with them periodically, and that they should give her a mental shout if anything at all suspicious was happening. She wasn't sure how seriously they took her.


It couldn't last. Angel was clear about that. All that preparedness and precaution would wear them down. Especially Lena, who was a vital link in the whole thing. But this was the first weekday after the threat became apparent, and they were all on edge. If nothing happened that day, they would cut back to their more sustainable reactive plan.


When something did happen, it had nothing to do with her problems. Robin had popped out to pick up their lunches, and after she returned they were eating at the school on the theory that it would be safer. A sophomore morf approached the supers table with his lunch and tried to sit down. While he did have a power, it wasn't all that impressive - his skin could change colors, and mildly glow in the dark.


Some of the supers objected, in no uncertain terms. Others took the position that a morf was a morf, and powers were powers. A would be peacekeeper invited him to sit with her friends at one of the neutrals' tables, and he snarled that he didn't need her pity. Some of those present, both super and neutral, took exception to that. Pretty soon fists were flying. Worse, zaps and projectiles were flying.


Angel and her friends started to duck under their table, but David was having trouble because of his size and wings. She moved to help him, then she saw it. A ball of light was moving directly toward him at a pretty good clip. Without thinking, she threw her body in the way. The next thing she knew was an explosion of pain and shock. She heard Lena telling Robin "Get her to..." before the blackness closed in.


She woke up in the nurse's office, in severe pain. She used her powers to kill the pain, then evaluated the damage. While she did so, she became aware of a number of groans and whimpers around her. Apparently, she was not the only casualty.


A large part of her upper back had second and third degree burns. Melted remnants of her blouse were stuck to parts of it, as well. She knew what she had to do, from the accident at the party.


While she was working on that, she became aware of someone pressing a bottle into her hand. Looking up, she saw it was David. He had given her a bottle of sports drink, and was holding out a high protein energy bar. Angel nodded her thanks, and took the bar as well.


"Thanks for the save." David said, quietly. "I hate to think what that would have done to my wings."


"Others...?" She replied, shakily.


"Robin and Radar are fine. After bringing you here, Robin got Radar out. By the time she came back for me, it was all over. Nothing else hit me, either."




"You took the brunt of it, but I got a little around the edges. Nothing serious, just a sunburn and some lost hair."


"Sorry." She was starting to feel a little better, after the healing she was directing at her back and the food (such as it was) and drink David gave her. But her need for concentration and her residual reaction to the shock reduced her to one word responses.


"Sorry for what? Saving my butt? Getting yourself hurt in the process? Being there for me? For us? What do you have to be sorry for?"


"Lower your voice, Mr. Streight," a woman's voice reprimanded him. Angel assumed it was the nurse.


"Sorry," he replied. "I guess I'm still a little shaken up by what happened." He turned back to Angel. "Are you going to be ok?"


"Yeah." She replied. "Healing." Progress - a two word reply.


"If you don't need me, I'd better get to class." He apologized.




It took her almost another half hour to finish healing herself. During that time, she had Lena reassure her mother, who had been called by the school. She also asked her to get her PE shirt and sports bra from her gym locker. A quick glance in the mirror had shown her that her blouse was backless, and not in a good way. And her bra was similarly strapless.


By the time she was ready to leave, she had missed Calculus entirely. She asked Robin to meet her after Biology, to take her home for some replacement clothes. Robin agreed.


When they met, they ducked into a restroom stall and vanished from there. Out of habit, Robin had them invisible and intangible when they arrived. That was a good thing, because they were not alone.


There was a man in Angel's bedroom.


Reflexively, Robin ported them back to the restroom. She told the now visible Angel to wait there while she checked it out, then vanished again. A few seconds later, she was outside the stall, asking whether Angel was about done. Angel figured Robin had found the restroom too crowded to have them step out together inconspicuously.


Angel flushed the toilet, then opened the door and walked out. As she went to wash her hands, Lena relayed Robin's findings.


The men first arrived in a van at about the middle of Angel's first class. The van had a sign on the door saying "Virtue Home Electronics", but otherwise the image Lena relayed was the same as the van that had followed her before. They acted like they were waiting for someone to answer the door, while they put some device over the locks. After a moment, they made a show of giving up, making a cell call, and leaving.


They arrived again near the end of Angel's lunch period. This time, they had keys and used them to open the door. They acted like they were speaking to someone inside, who had seemingly answered the door, then they went inside.


Inside, they were putting what looked like tiny spy eyes all around the house. They were still there and still doing so. David was keeping an eye on them.


Angel thought she had two basic approaches available. She could call the police, preferably just after they broke in, and report the break in. Or she could leave them in place, to keep them from knowing they were compromised, and use the bugs to feed them misinformation.


Those options collapsed almost immediately.


*David says the things they're putting in now aren't just bugs. They look like little bombs.*


*Damn! Tell Mom. Have Robin take her back in time, and to your house in space, to make the call. Her reason can be my need for clothes. Do they have the license number of the van?*




*After she takes Mom back, can she take David back, too? He could disable the van, to keep them from getting away or calling in reinforcements before the cops arrive.*


*I like the way you think. It's done.*


The police response was quick and efficient. The questionable officer was off duty, so he was not in any position to help or hurt the process. The van was mysteriously inert, and the bad guys' communications went dead. And the back door and windows seemed welded shut. The front door, on the other hand, gave the police easy access. And Angel's mother was somehow able to say exactly how many were inside, and where they probably were.


Once the police cleared the house of the intruders, and carted them away, Angel's mother walked up to them and gave her statement. While she was doing so, she checked the house for damage and the like. She also picked up a blouse and a bra for Angel. When the police were done with her, she went next door to where Robin was resting.


Robin made two short time jumps to get them to when and where they needed to be. David let himself catch up with the time he left, and returned to school cloaked in illusion.


Lena and David monitored what happened with the bad guys. They claimed to be working for Homeland Security, and presented seemingly authentic identification. They also named their supposed superior, for verification. Unfortunately for them, even that cover wouldn't excuse some of the things they were caught with (and doing). They were being held on local and State charges, but their Federal charges were delayed pending clarification.


Robin brought Angel the clothes, which she took into the locker room with her. Everything had happened so quickly, and been so compressed by Robin's time travel, that Angel's part was done in plenty of time for her to get changed out for Challenge.


As she was showering after class, Lena let her know that her ride was waiting, and her driver showed no signs of coercion or other inappropriate states. Angel thanked her, and finished dressing. She quickly grabbed her school things, then headed for the car.


She was amused to learn that her driver was her nameless experimental subject, and erotic entertainer, from the special request at the spa. Dressed in a chauffeur's uniform.


With full formality, her driver opened the back door for her. Angel nodded and smiled as she got in. When the door closed, it sounded a little wrong to Angel. Once they were buckled and underway, she asked about it.


"This thing is armored. An anti tank round, or a small nuke could take it out, but anything less will do little more than mess up the paint." her driver grinned.


"You just happen to drive a heavily armored car?"


"It belongs to the spa. You'd be surprised how many clients are afraid of assassination attempts. And how often those fears are well founded."


"Maybe not all that surprised." Angel commented wryly.


That reminded her. *Lena!*




*Did you bring Mrs. T. up to date?*


*Not yet. I'll do so now.*


"Who's the telepath?" her driver asked.


"My friend Lena. Also known as Radar."


"Oh, yeah. The boss lady knows her pretty well."


"So I understand. Say," Angel realized. "I still don't know your name."


"That's right." she grinned.


"And now I'm coming to work at the spa." Angel remembered the terms the other girl had set. "So spill."


"Call me Donna." she replied with a grin.


"Ok, Donna. Now what's your name?" Angel grinned back.


Donna looked a little nervous. "Donna is short for Madonna." she conceded. "My mother was an optimist."


"You're talking to someone named Angel." she reminded Donna. "I know all about optimistic parents." Then she got an evil glint in her eye. "And if you really want to let her know what she did, come to me when you're about ready to give birth. I can finish what I started."


Donna shuddered. "I don't think so."


"So," Angel changed the subject. "What's on the schedule this evening?"


"First, the worst horror of all. Paperwork." Donna grinned. "If you live through that, you get your toys and then it's trial by fire. You already got the tour and most of the orientation. The biggest thing is customer service. The second biggest is supporting each other and the spa. We are not in competition with each other, so don't be afraid to ask anyone for help or advice. The boss is approachable, but busy. Come to your lead, or to me or someone first. We can usually get you what you need."


There was a beep from the dashboard, and Donna was silent for a few moments. She seemed a little shaken. "Do you have your eCom with you?"


"Sure. Let me make sure it's on. Why?" She had it on, but silenced. And she had an incoming call. "Oh."


She answered the call. It was Mrs. Tabor, looking very concerned. Angel assured her that she was ok, and would be able to work.


"I would very much appreciate it if, in future, you avoid life threatening injuries on the days you are going to be working here."


Despite the stern tone, Angel could hear the touch of concern. "Yes, Ma'm. I will do my best."


"See that you do. How badly are you drained?"


"Maybe by a third to a half. I can't top a sundae tonight, but I should be able to do just about anything else we discussed." Angel was aware that their calls were not completely secure.


"That's not on the menu tonight, anyway. See me when you arrive."


After the call, Donna appeared shaken. "How bad was it? The thing at the school?"


"I wouldn't recommend it as a recreational activity." Angel replied dryly. "Most of the people who caught things full on like I did were pretty tough, even for supers. The thing that hit me overloaded my nervous system, knocking me out. I woke up with blinding pain and second and third degree burns all over my back, and a newly backless blouse." Angel got a little catch in her voice. "Damn it. I really liked that blouse!"


"With what you make tonight, you can probably buy several more like it." Donna said gently. "How long will it take you to heal?"


"It took me half an hour or so, not counting what my body did on automatic while I was out."


"I thought you could only do skin and a little bit beyond."


"On other people. On myself, I can reach everywhere. Still takes energy and time, though."


"Oh. Didn't that drain you?"


"Mrs. Tabor asked pretty much the same thing. Yes, it took a lot out of me. But I've rested a little, and had stuff to eat and drink, so I've recovered some. I'm about half to two thirds my normal power already."


A few minutes later, they were driving into an unmarked garage entrance a half block from the spa. Donna answered the question in the look Angel gave her.


"Privacy issues. Some of our clients don't want to be seen coming or going. It also affords extra security for the justly paranoid."


Donna walked Angel to Mrs. Tabor's office, but didn't go in when Angel was invited in.


Angel handed Mrs. Tabor the signed and witnessed contract, and the other paperwork she had filled out. She offered Angel a seat, then briefly glanced over the papers. Seeing that everything seemed to be in order, she set them aside.


"I've spoken to your parents. You will be spending the night here again." It was not a question. And it was clear that it was not open to discussion. "I have a lot of work for you, and I have no doubt that you will be in unfit condition to travel by the time you are done. In addition, I will need your services tomorrow." Angel drew a breath to say something, but her employer continued.


"I am aware of your meeting. We will provide transportation to and from it, when the time comes. Your arrival comes at an opportune time. That incident at your school caused a lot of superficial damage to a number of children of very well to do members of the community. Their pet doctors can handle the real injuries, but these are people to whom appearance is often more important than reality. Your ability to address those appearances, coupled with our excellent stylists and other artists, have them flocking in."


At Angel's look of concern, she reassured her on one point. "They don't know who you are. Just what you can do. Or rather, what services your powers allow us to offer. We will be spreading them out as much as we can, to allow you to rest and refresh yourself in between appointments. And get your homework done. However, it will be a long couple of evenings, and sleeping here both nights will allow you to be on call for emergencies."


Again, it was clear that none of it was up for discussion. Angel wondered how much of it was for the reasons given, and how much had to do with the people who broke in to her house.


"I won't deny that the threat to you played a part in this. But we both know you will not be able to run from them forever. It is likely that it will take them a day or two to bring in new people for whatever it is they're planning. In the meantime..." She turned around a thumb pad, indicating that Angel should thumb in on it. After she did so, Mrs. Tabor continued.


"Go down to Wardrobe and sign out your tablet, locker, and uniform. And Angel," she got a very serious look on her face. "This is important. If there's anything you need, or that would make it easier to do your job, let someone know right away. You are not a student here. You are a full member of a team. Our team. And no false heroics. If you are getting too tired or your elemental energy is running too low, say so. I would rather reschedule an appointment than deal with a mishap caused by some misplaced attempt to tough it out."


Angel understood that the team thing worked both ways. If one of the others needed her help, she would be expected to give it to the extent that it is practical. She also understood that it was time to go do as she had been told. She stood, nodded a silent goodbye to her employer and - she was becoming sure - friend, and left.


Donna was waiting outside to show her the quickest way to Wardrobe. After they reached it, she excused herself and went to do an assignment of her own. Angel found that everything was ready and waiting for her. Her locker would open to her thumb, so she didn't need to memorize any combination. She took her uniform, went into the women's locker room, found her locker, and changed. Her tablet had a schedule of her appointments and other scheduled activities.


She noticed that one thing she would be doing would be growing hair. Lots of times. She thought about the party, and the gelatin drinks. She sat down and pressed the Page Lead icon. A box popped up asking for the nature of the call. She entered "a way to make some of my appointments easier and better."


After she hit return, a familiar face popped up. "I'll be right there." Cindy told her.


When she arrived, Angel explained about the drinks and the raw materials. Cindy nodded, and typed something on her tablet. Then they went to the service bar. They explained the situation to the lead there, and he promised to take care of it. While they were there, Cindy also ordered an herbal drink for Angel, explaining that it would help keep her energy up.


Angel tasted it, and found it surprisingly good. While she drank it, Cindy suggested that she check her schedule for any special requirements, such as wardrobe changes.


Angel noticed that she had almost an hour before her first appointment, and was about to say goodbye to Cindy and go get her homework when a thought struck her.


"How much do you know about my current situation?" She asked Cindy.


"Other than the fact that you're overbooked for the next two days, and spending the night here, not much. Why?"


"I need to talk with Mrs. Tabor when she has a moment. About tomorrow night."


Cindy used her tablet to send a message. Angel got a response from Mrs. Tabor almost immediately, suggesting she send a note about it. Angel thanked Cindy, then input the message. In it, she suggested she could arrange very quick, secure transport to and from the school and the meeting. But they would have to offer something. Something nice.


The answer was a little unexpected. "Miss Brown is an occasional customer. Invite her to come talk to me."


Angel got out her eCom, and made the call. It didn't take much convincing.


That taken care of, Angel looked at her next couple of appointments. She would need a beautician's smock, so she went back to Wardrobe for one. Both clients were students at the school, but she didn't know either one. They would need cosmetic skin restoration and hair regrowth. And both were morfs.


The first was a sophomore, who she had seen around school but didn't know. She had bright green hair, pointed ears, and pale skin. Some of the damage to her hair was being handled by restyling to a somewhat shorter cut, but there were a few patches that would need regrowth. The notes showed where her skin needed work, and where the hair work was needed. It also commented that she was very concerned with the appearance of her hair.


Angel appeared in the designated room, nodded to her coworkers, and silently got to work. The skin damage was superficial - little more than a sunburn and some associated drying. Angel took care of that first, to get it out of the way. Angel had to work a little harder on the hair. There were a couple of patches where she had to recreate hair follicles, making sure they would match those of adjacent hair. Then there was the whole effort of stimulating the hair growth.


Knowing it would be a long evening, Angel drew heavily on the girl's energy and resources. The gelatin drink had done its job, and there were plenty of materials to work with.


The girl spent the entire time with her eyes closed, so Angel wasn't sure that she had even seen her. She wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.


When the hair was the right length, as indicated by her coworkers, Angel made sure the growth rate returned to normal. Then, with another nod to her coworkers, Angel disappeared through the "secret door".


By the end of the night, Angel had worked on eight people - three of them boys. She fixed burns, abrasions, hair, scales, and claws. She even did one tan. She was surprised to learn that she had earned more than $500 in tips, on top of her commissions.


And in between all the appointments, she had eaten and gotten most of her homework done. She had also learned that certain of her coworkers were good resources for help with that homework. Including the calculus.


It had been a full day, and she was glad when it was done. She got to her room and barely got undressed before she fell into bed.


 End Part 17






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