Angel's Tale: A MORFS Universe Story
Everything was wrong. The alarm sounded like a ringing phone. The bed was, well, too nice. The subtle sounds of morning in the house and the neighborhood were missing. But there was something familiar about it, at the same time.
The spa. She spent the night at the spa again.
She answered the phone, and thanked the woman for the wake up call. When she got back from the shower, she was not surprised to find her clothes from the day before, or the other set of her clothes that had arrived from home. She was surprised to find new duplicates of the blouse and bra that had been destroyed the day before. And the old ones vacuum sealed in a plastic bag marked "Evidence".
She was also surprised to find two breakfasts. In addition to hers, which was prepared exactly as she liked it, there was a serving of something like Eggs Benedict, with the sauce a sort of off pink. There was a knock on her door, so she put the lid back on the eggs and went to answer it.
Yet another surprise, although it shouldn't have been. Robin wrapped her in a big hug, then invited herself in. When she flopped down in the guest chair and lifted the cover on the eggs, her eyes lit up even more.
"They remembered!" she all but squealed, grabbing a fork before the bemused Angel got back to the table. She took a bite, and a look of pure bliss crossed her face.
"I take it breakfast was part of the deal?" Angel asked, amused.
"Oh, yeah! This is the only place I've ever seen this."
"What's with the sauce?"
"Oh, the color? Sun dried tomato and a little different spicing." After another bite, she looked around the room. "This is really nice. I've never had a room here. We're well off, but not that rich."
"How much is it?"
"You don't want to know. Just enjoy it while you can." Robin laughed.
"I've been told that this is not even one of the high end rooms."
"I believe it. I visited someone in one of the suites, once. Wow!"
"Wait 'till you see the bathroom." Angel laughed. "It's a whole experience itself."
They finished their breakfasts, and Angel finished getting ready to go. Robin made an excuse to go into the bathroom, and came out looking impressed. Angel decided to leave her previous day's clothes and the blouse from home there, so all she really had to do was grab her books.
She expected them to teleport out from the room, but Robin just smiled and shook her head. "In polite society," she intoned, "There are appropriate ways of doing things." Angel got the impression that Robin was imitating a female relative.
They went down and almost to the lobby, when Robin opened a door Angel hadn't noticed. There was a symbol on the door, an oval with a starburst above it. They went inside, to find a short corridor with four rooms off of it. Robin looked at the first one on the right, then opened it.
Inside was a small, fairly plain room with a circle on the floor and a mural on one wall. They stood inside the circle, Robin hugged Angel, and...
They were in a restroom stall. A familiar restroom stall. Even though she couldn't see her, she got an impression of Robin leaving through the door of the stall. Then the door opened fully, and a smiling Robin gestured for her to come out.
"You know," Angel quipped, "If you don't start finding a better place to do that, people are going to start calling you TG."
Angel looked around, to make sure nobody was listening, then lowered her voice a little.
Robin groaned. "I gotta get a good name!"
Angel grinned, and agreed. Robin wouldn't tell her what she was getting, other than that breakfast, for helping her. But it was clearly a good deal.
"I've got to start doing more stuff for you." Robin joked. "You're a good friend, but the perks are terrific!"
Angel laughed at that, and the speculative looks Robin's comment had caused. A couple of girls from the Spectrum meeting happened to overhear it. She could just imagine what they were making of the comment.
Those were not the only looks she got, and certainly not the worst. She was getting disturbing looks from a number of the Pures and even their less radical friends. Almost as disturbing were some of the congratulatory looks from some of the Supers and their friends. And a lot of people looked puzzled and conflicted.
Angel wasn't sure what to make of that, until a sophomore girl she barely recognized came up to her.
"I saw what you did for your winged friend, yesterday. That was very brave."
"Thank you." Angel was still a little puzzled by the girl's apparent attitude.
"But how could you get burned? Aren't you an elemental?"
Now it made sense. At least some sense. The rumors Barb and her friends spread were taking hold.
"I'm a bio elemental. And not a very strong one."
"But everyone's been saying..."
"I know. The girls who got kicked out for attacking me were spreading false rumors about me. They jumped to the conclusion that I was a fire elemental or the like, and started the rumor based on that."
"Then... you could have been killed."
"Believe me, when I woke up that thought occurred to me. And I wasn't sure I wouldn't have preferred it. But at the time, I didn't think about anything like that. I just reacted."
"Because he was your friend?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I like to think I would've done the same thing for anyone, but unless it ever comes up, I won't really know."
"I like that. Oops! Gotta go." the girl hurried off. Angel went to her new locker, and was about to open it when Robin got a case of the cautions. She used her powers to look around inside, then declared it safe.
Angel got out her stuff for Spanish and MA, and then headed for class. On the way, she ran into David and Lena. They asked about her evening, and anything they should know about. She didn't gossip about the classmates - and one faculty member - she had worked on that evening and night, but she did generally describe some of the kinds of things she did. Luckily, she didn't have time to go into any detail before it was time to get to class.
Much of the day went like that. One freshman boy, who was known as a sort of morf groupie, asked her specifically about what she had done to the girls. He seemed fascinated by the idea of the nerve manipulations when she briefly explained it.
At lunch, they ate on campus again, with Robin doing delivery duty. This time there was no comparable entertainment. Angel noticed some familiar faces from the night before, but kept her observations to herself. Or tried to. The grin Lena gave her told her she hadn't been completely successful.
While Angel was showering after her last class, she got a mental call from Lena. She needed to go to the office again, before she went to work.
When she got there, she was directed to the Vice Principal's office. Lena wasn't there, and hadn't warned her about anything, so Angel figured it probably wasn't something bad. She knocked, and went in when invited.
She was not surprised to see the VP in her own office, but she was surprised to see her mother there. She and her mother hugged, then were invited to sit. In the first part of the interview, they were told that the school had reviewed the restroom incident, and found that she had acted purely in self defense. But the response was considered somewhat excessive. She would be expected to keep the pain levels less extreme and, if possible, less permanent if she defended herself in that manner in the future. Her record would only contain the self defense conclusion. The Dean's initial report was removed.
The VP went on to commend Angel for her actions in the cafeteria fight. In particular, the fact that she risked serious injury in order to protect another student. The morf who threw that power packet was being disciplined, and as part of that would reimburse her for the costs of her damaged garments. On the other hand, the VP reminded Angel that the school frowned on students putting themselves in unnecessary danger.
Angel had a brief mental image of the VP as one of those Hindu goddesses she had seen paintings of, with all the "other hands" that were coming up in that conversation.
The VP invited them to take a few minutes to visit, and left the office to give them some privacy.
They hugged again. Angel noticed she was doing more of that since the change. Her mother told her she was proud of the recognition Angel would be getting at the meeting that evening. She also mentioned that she missed having her daughter around. Finally, she admitted that she was afraid for Angel, with all the talk of kidnappings and attacks.
Angel responded that she was afraid for her parents as well. She promised to be very careful as long as her parents would make the same promise. That agreed, they exchanged a final hug and left the office. Robin was waiting outside and, after Angel's mother left, the two girls ducked around a corner and vanished.
The room had a different mural, but otherwise seemed the same as the one they had used that morning. Even the circle on the floor looked the same. Robin remained in the room as Angel left and went to get changed.
Angel had two clients scheduled for before the meeting, and three for after. The first was fairly easy, a girl with superficial burns and a need to even out her tan over the affected areas. The second was not so easy. His burns were equally shallow but more intense, and he had lost patches of hair ranging from his scalp to his pubic mound. And his hair was not a uniform color. Working on him took the better part of an hour.
When she was done with him, Angel went to the service bar and got one of the herbal energy drinks. Then she changed into her manager clothes. Her tablet told her where to meet Robin, for her jump to the meeting.
At the meeting itself, Angel got a chip of documents to review. Most of them had nothing directly to do with her - they were for all the managers. She slipped the chip into her theater tablet, and glanced through them while she waited for her food.
The meeting started shortly after the food arrived. The regional vice president chaired the meeting, and announced a departure from the usual agenda. "For the first time I can remember, two of the people we are here to discuss and honor have to go to school in the morning." That got a laugh.
First to be honored was Andy, for his job in stepping in and handling the mess at the morf hater's theater (as Angel still thought of it). He had started classes that week, and would only be working as a floating manager on weekends. He was given an ovation, which Angel enthusiastically joined, a promotion to full manager, and a bonus check.
Angel was next. It took a while for them to go through all her accomplishments in her brief time there. They also discussed the effort to obfuscate her identity in the press releases about the bad chips. She also would only be working occasionally, but he let there be no doubts about those few hours being worth the salary and title of a full time manager. She also got an ovation and a bonus check.
The next honoree was given full credit for the first two. Mr. Moore was the one who had recognized their potential value to the chain, and had acted so effectively in the crisis situations. He was given a promotion as well, but not a title change. He would be dividing his time between the theater and the regional office, consulting on various issues. He also got an ovation and a bonus check.
Angel got a laugh when she turned to him and said "Darn! Now it's going to take me longer to become your boss." But a few of the other managers had a slightly worried look behind the laughter. Mr. Moore explained the joke, and some - but not all - of the worry went away.
The rest of the meeting was more routine, discussing plans for upcoming promotions and seasonal releases, discussing observations and suggestions from the individual theaters, and general business discussions. Andy and Angel stayed long enough to finish their desserts, then quietly left.
Back at the spa, the rest of Angel's clients were more routine. One wasn't even fallout from the fight. An older woman, maybe her mother's age, with hints of the same elegant bearing of Mrs. Tabor, wanted her eyebrows permanently reshaped, with the other hairs in the vicinity permanently eliminated. Eliminating the unwanted hairs was trivially easy. Changing the roots to grow in darker was also trivial. Adding the new hairs was more difficult. And growing in the new hair was energy consuming. The really hard part was getting the shape just right. This was a woman who routinely expected perfection.
Angel found herself hoping that the woman was charged a lot for the service, even though she suspected she would take some perverse pride in the extravagance. She suspected it wasn't exactly cheap, when she ended up with a $200 tip.
In addition to clients and homework, Angel helped her coworkers. No matter how experienced and professional they are, people working with hot things, sharp things, and corrosive substances are going to hurt themselves from time to time. She handled three burns, two cuts, and a skinned elbow. But she didn't have to play a role while doing so, and she had thankful clients. She was able to literally cure a burn while discussing a homework problem with someone else.
While she rested between clients, she alternated between studying her upcoming clients and doing her homework. As before, she had no problem getting help with the homework. She suddenly realized that it was a little too easy. Someone, probably someone assigned by Mrs. Tabor, was making sure she was getting the homework done. It made sense. If she started getting behind in her homework, she would not be as available for clients. Her parents would see to that. Besides, Mrs. Tabor was a benevolent employer. Angel had seen and heard about a number of instances where she had acted in support of her people.
She went to bed satisfied with her night's work. Between the bonus, her tips, and her commissions, she had made more money than she knew. But it wasn't real - it wasn't all that important. It was nice, but not all that important.
What was real and important was that two sets of people had recognized her. They had said that she was valuable and a good person, and they had done so honestly. And some of them actually liked her. It was like something she sometimes heard and read - they validated her. That was what sent her to bed happy.
Glancing toward the bathroom, she decided to act on an earlier decision. She used her tablet to order robes for herself, her mother, and Lena. She shuddered at the price, even at the employee rate, but smiled at the notion that they would be embroidered with their names.
Before she went to sleep, she called home. Mostly, it was just to say goodnight to her parents and remind them that she would be home the next day. But she also told them about her meeting, and some of her encounters with coworkers. It was one of the nicest brief conversations she had with them in a long time.
The next morning, she had no trouble recognizing where she was. She answered the phone in a well rested voice, and thanked the caller. She carefully packed all but one set of her cleaned and pressed clothes, and the new robes, then went in to take her shower. She smiled when she came out to see two breakfasts waiting again. Robin cut it closer this time, getting there before she could get dressed. Angel joined her friend, eating in her spa provided robe.
Robin demonstrated a new trick she had learned. she sort of poked the air for a moment, then a bacon crumble disappeared from her plate. She had Angel cut open her omelet at a point near the center, where the fold had created a small gap, and there was the bacon bit.
Angel applauded her friend's effort.
They joked about Angel going to school in the robe, but in the end she got changed. While she was dressing, she had Robin send her bag to her own living room, back home. Robin had been there enough to target it easily.
It no longer surprised Angel that they didn't see anyone else while they walked and rode to the 'port rooms. She understood how the magic was done.
Before school, there was a small meeting of the Pope Hill Gang. They agreed that Angel should go back to her normal activities. They also reiterated the plan, such as it was, for a response to any attempts against her (or any of them).
It seemed that the other students had moved on somewhat. She still got the bad reactions from some and the good reactions from others, but they were somewhat muted by comparison. The worst thing that happened before lunch was a poor grade on a vocabulary quiz in Spanish.
At lunch time, they got the alert. While Robin was getting the food, she suddenly walked up to the table and told them there would be an attempt after school. She told them when and where, and that Angel would fall over and be picked up by a man and carried to a car.
Having said that, Robin left. When she returned with the food, Angel noticed that she did not have a small stain on her blouse. A moment before, it had been there. Obviously, their informant had been Future Robin. They did not discuss the visit from the other Robin, since there were potential problems with paradox if they told Present Robin what Future Robin said.
Despite a minor loss of appetite, from the news and her contemplation of time travel issues, Angel made sure to finish her lunch. She would need the resources later. She was amused to watch Robin drop some sauce from her sandwich on a familiar part of her blouse, however.
The last few classes dragged. They had their own demands, mental and physical, but they paled beside her knowledge of what was happening after school.
She doubted that the timing was accidental. Lena, David, and Robin would have a rehearsal for Changelings after school, so Angel would be expected to walk home alone. Depending on what time she left, there would be very little time when she would not be within eyeshot, and shouting distance, of other students. The place Robin mentioned would have a very narrow window of unobserved time.
Of course, the three of her friends wouldn't be at rehearsal. They would be at their "action stations". Robin was following Angel a short distance behind, invisible and mostly intangible. Lena and David had gone ahead to Lena's basement, courtesy of Robin's powers.
Angel took a deep, cleansing breath, released it slowly, and set off for home. She was so concerned with making her actions look normal that it took her a second to notice the impact of the injection round in her shoulder. She "knew" that her recently created reflex was isolating the injected material and keeping it, and the infection from the not quite sterile needles, from spreading to any part of her body. Her body also clogged the needle, so no more of the stuff entered her body. She collapsed like a rag doll, on the assumption that the round was either poison or a knockout drug of some sort. The latter, she hoped.
She allowed the isolated fluid to drip to the ground in a small cascade of spit.
*I've been hit! Everyone in place?*
*Yes. You ok?*
*No problem so far. My powers isolated the stuff. When I'm gone, have David analyze it.*
Angel felt herself being lifted into a fireman's carry, then felt the man carrying her break out into a trot.
While Angel wasn't aware of it, Robin chose the moment after she had notified Lena of the location of the car to go back in time to lunch and warn her friends.
The conversation in the car wasn't what Angel expected. One of the other men said to the driver "Let's get her to Med, fast. We don't know what they hit her with." The driver agreed, and they were off.
She relayed that tidbit to Lena, who acknowledged seeing what could be another group of people involved in the action. Between David and Lena, they kept track of the two groups. With their attention on them, neither of them noticed yet another car. The two men in that car were following the car that did not have Angel.
Unseen by all three groups, a dark figure slid deeper into the shadows of some trees.
Angel waited until she got the word that her friends were in place, then gave the signal. To the people in the car, she moved a little bit in apparent response to the motions of the car. After a few tense moments, she found herself in Lena's basement.
The next step would take even more concentration on David's part. He would drop the illusion of Angel in the car, and create an illusion of three impressive, heavily armed men forming a triangle, with their weapons pointed toward the center in such a way that the other two were not in any one's line of fire, and the kids were not in any apparent line of fire.
As soon as the illusion was in place, Robin transported the man from the back seat to the center of the triangle. Angel stood where he could see her, but could not get a clear shot at her. As soon as he appeared, Robin stripped him of every concealed weapon and tool on his body. Including something hidden in a fake tooth. In a mood to show off, she even relieved him of his briefs, without disturbing his pants.
They noticed that he was wearing a smart camo outfit, which explained why Angel hadn't noticed him before she was hit.
After an initial probe, Lena used her reinforced Command Voice to demand that he drop his shields instantly. When he didn't, the gunmen adjusted their aim. She added that she had two more sources of information to choose from - the other two men in the car. She played his emotions with all the virtuosity of her years of experience.
He looked at Angel and trusted her implicitly. He proclaimed that he was one of the good guys, not one of the ones who shot her. After looking at her impassive face, he briefly dropped his shields.
Lena had heard of the ASA, but not much. It seemed very likely that he was telling the truth. He certainly seemed to think so. At a gesture from her, the "men" withdrew and then vanished.
A quick conversation followed, while David found, and continued tracking, the other group. The man was part of a squad assigned to watch Angel. He didn't know why. He did know that the plan did not call for her to catch a bullet or a tranq dart, so when she went down he reacted. Yes, he had been aware of the other group stalking her. No, he didn't know who they were. The other part of his squad - the ones who hadn't been transporting Angel - were following that other group.
Lena caught that he actually had two sets of orders, which came down through channels from two different sources. The other set explicitly called for his squad to protect Angel, without letting her - or anyone else - know that was part of their orders.
He jumped when Robin asked "What is the smallest tracking beacon you guys have with you?" He indicated that he had, among his things, a small bottle with some rice grain sized devices. Another small device would activate them and track them.
She gave him back his gadgets, and had him activate five of the trackers. Then one by one, they vanished. She suggested he call his by now puzzled and worried friends, and have them track the devices. He asked where they went, and she just said that she planted them on the men in the other group, in a way they were not likely to be able (or willing) to get rid of them.
*She put them in their scrotums.* Lena told Angel and David. They both turned a little green at the thought.
Lena told him about the possibly suborned police officer, and the group jailed after being caught trying to bug Angel's house. He told them that his people would take care of things, and that they should keep their heads down and let the professionals handle it.
They assured him that they would, then Robin sent him back to the car. After he was gone, she saw that she had forgotten to return something. She wondered what Lena's mother would think of the garment. The ASA agent had a much larger build than Lena's father.
The team contacted Angel's mother and father. After giving them a chance to make excuses, Robin transported them to the basement as well. Once everyone was assured that they were all right, they went upstairs. While David kept an eye on the real attackers, Robin went next door to check out the place. A quick skim back through time showed no signs of entry from the time Angels parents left to the present. Back in the present, she brought the parents over one by one.
Lena relayed the information that Angel would remain next door for a while, in case a bug or two was missed. She assured them that arrangements would be made for their cars.
Angel called the ASA man, and asked him to have the two cars checked for tampering, then delivered to her house. She was mildly surprised with how readily he agreed.
Angel caught some motion out of the corner of her eye, and saw the now visible Robin slump to the sofa. She had exhausted herself with all her efforts. Within moments, she was snoring softly.
"Do I really snore like that?" Angel jumped at the voice behind her. It was Robin, fully rested and wearing different clothes. "I recovered for the rest of the day and night, and now I'm ready to go. But first..." She vanished, then her sofa self vanished. The newer version returned.
"I always sleep better in my own bed. Besides, I like what Mom made for dinner." she grinned. "I had seconds."
"It sure seems useful," Angel commented, "for you to be able to flit around like that."
"That's not a bad idea." Robin replied, somewhat incongruously. "What do you think of Flit for a name?"
"Clit?" David half smirked, distractedly.
"No, Flit! You twit!" Robin replied.
"Works for me." Angel smiled.
"Why not?" Lena gave a wry half smile. "It's no more hackneyed than Radar."
"It's better than Captain Peeper." David commented absently. His attention was still mostly elsewhere. Literally. Then he went on.
"Radar," he sounded concerned, "what would they be doing at the police station?"
"Giving themselves up?" Angel quipped.
Robin smiled, but Lena joined David in looking distracted. Angel and Robin decided to leave them to it.
It wasn't until later that they learned what had been happening at the police station.
The apparent leader of the group walked in and found the Police Chief. He handed him a document, which the Chief did not like one little bit. He tried protesting, but was rebuffed.
"Sorry, but the federal charges supersede your local case. And the judge agrees. This is a matter for Homeland Security and the Federal courts now. So please produce our prisoners, and let us get on with it."
It was not quite that easy. The Chief checked with their named superior, his own liaison, and the judge's office. All three verified the authenticity of the documents and agents. The Chief reluctantly exchanged the prisoners for a signed receipt.
The attackers and their manacled prisoners got into a van with Federal plates, and left. They said nothing en route to the Federal Center, which seemed in keeping with their apparent roles. Once inside the building, however, that changed somewhat. They went to a part of the complex which was devoted to HS, and through a special, locked door.
The prisoners were released from their shackles, and silently disrobed. So did the attackers. Their clothes were sent down a chute, and they went through what David recognized as a decontamination shower. It did not look pleasant. David thought that the next step, the enemas that the prisoners endured, were a bit of overkill... until an alert tone drew their attention to a screen. They had flushed out two tracking devices in that way, in addition to the others which had been on their clothes and in their hair.
The devices were not apparently as small or sophisticated as their ASA counterparts, which remained undetected.
They moved to the next room, and put on jump suits provided there. They also started discussing what went wrong.
"Your identities are hopelessly compromised. We will have to produce new ones. In the mean time, you will remain out of sight. How did you come to be captured?"
"The creature's mother came home. Apparently, there was some sort of incident at the school, and the girl needed new clothes. The mother arrived in time to see us enter the house, and called the police. Our comm units went dead, so we were not able to get any warning about their arrival. And the rear doors and windows seemed to be welded shut. They knew how many of us there were, and where we were."
"Unfortunate. What about our contacts in the department?"
"They were unavailable, and unable to intervene."
"Worthless. Well, for the moment you can fill your time producing a detailed report. The Elders will want a full accounting."
The prisoners were shown to a small office, where they collaborated on a report.
The others changed back into their thoroughly inspected clothes, and dispersed. Their apparent leader went to what appeared to be an office set aside for his use, and sent a brief, heavily encrypted report to a department superior. He then summoned Tele Taxi, which took him to D.C. in a few brief jumps. He went to the office of a major functionary in Homeland Security, but when David tried to move his point of view inside, he was blocked.
In fact, he found himself back in his own body. And a little nauseous. And hungry and thirsty. David hadn't made much of a deal of it, because it was a sore point with his girlfriend, but the range of his power was worldwide and as far out as the moon. Lena's was much more limited. As was Robin's teleportation. The distance didn't seem to affect how much energy it took, either. But there were limits to how long he could keep his telesense relocated.
But that didn't account for what he experienced. His best guess was that he ran into some kind of a shield, specifically designed to stop people like him. Probably people like Lena, as well.
He contacted the ASA agent, and relayed his observations to that point. They were still tracking the attackers, and advised him to get some rest. No matter how polite their words, their message was clear: Butt out!
David and an equally tired Lena went up to her bedroom, cuddled for a few moments, then fell asleep in each other's arms.
Lena's mother was surprised to see Angel and Robin in the living room when she got home, but not unduly so. When she asked about Lena, Angel told her she was upstairs, sleeping with David. She looked amused, but went up to check on them anyway. She was reassured when she saw them fully clothed.
She invited the girls to stay for dinner, but they declined. Robin flitted next door, to check the situation, then returned and sent Angel home. Then she went home, herself.
As Angel and her family went through their evening routine, happy to be together again, they were unaware of the figure watching their house from the shadows. And that watcher was equally ignorant of his own watchers. All told, it was a very boring watch.
Nearby, a meeting was taking place. The ASA man the friends had captured, dressed in his more customary black suit, was briefing an important visitor. "It seems clear that the group that attacked the O'Connor girl is the same organization that compromised your database. They are partly an organization in their own right, and partly a rogue element within Homeland Security. The two parts are coordinated by a regional HS director, who apparently reports to someone else."
"Their party line is the usual Purist screed, but they seem to have been energized by the outbreak of AMORFS. They are almost certainly behind the Wilson disappearance, as well as others."
"But their pattern is not quite the same as other groups. They have ignored obvious opportunities, and put disproportionate resources into seemingly low value actions, like this one. The lower echelons are the usual kneejerk zealots. We suspect that the higher levels of the organization have some other agenda."
"Timing, for one thing. Last year, when there was that debate about reducing the domestic activities of Homeland Security, there was a series of particularly public attacks. A different group took the blame, after apparently taking public credit for them. But we have reason to suspect that they were set up by this group. The end result predictably benefited the HS contingent of the group, and their immediate superior. There have been other, similarly suspicious incidents."
"How many members are there?"
"There seem to be about 65 of them, total. The low level agents think there are a lot more, but that seems to be a function of the secrecy and isolation. And possibly deliberate deception on the part of their superiors."
"In addition, they have a network of sympathizers, recruited in much the same way as they approached that local cop. There may be a few dozen of them."
"Are you going to move against them?"
"Yes. They are a clear threat. But we are hoping to develop more reliable information about them first."
"What do you know about that Homeland Security director?"
"Career man, clean background. Good at departmental politics, but not spectacular. No real sign of a patron. Only two real anomalies. He sends coded email messages to an unused account. There are no records of the messages being read, which indicates the intended recipient has a high enough access to get the messages without leaving the usual trail. We have been able to break the primary encryption, but the messages themselves employ some sort of large key encryption."
"And the other anomaly?"
"An apparent taste for old science fiction. He has a number of such books in his office. The most heavily used one is something called 'Foundation and Empire', the second book of a trilogy. Does that mean anything to you?"
"Not really. Anything else?"
"They have a man watching the O'Connor house. We have a team watching him."
"Thank you. My regards to the monochrome trio, if you see them." She got up to leave, then turned for one last comment. "I'll be in the area, with mysteries of my own. Let me know if you need me."
The next morning included a breakthrough in temporal mechanics. Robin got (somewhat indirectly) information from her future self, and the universe didn't implode. It didn't even burp.
At the beginning of the school day, Lena got two messages about the same thing. The first was from Cassandra, warning of an impending attack against Angel that day, after school. The other was from Later-That-Day Robin, describing the place and nature of the attack.
It seemed like the only people not involved would be the people who attacked her the day before. Although Robin wasn't clear about the details, there were two opposed groups of Pures, and a group of Supers. There were also some ASA people, police, and Park Rangers. After the first group confronts and assaults her, the fight quickly escalates to a near riot. Angel isn't hurt beyond her ability to heal, but several others are.
When The group were discussing the issue, they didn't notice Robin coming up to them. It seemed that her stealth powers had spurred her to develop her more natural skills as well. She had gotten to the point where if you weren't watching for her, you generally wouldn't notice her approach or arrival.
She seamlessly joined in the brainstorming, adding some really creative ideas and insights. Just before they all split up to go to their first period classes, Angel realized what had happened.
"Crap! Robin, when are you from?"
"We just passed on information from your future self."
"Oh. I guess the world won't end, after all." She grinned, then turned and sprinted for class.
Angel shrugged and took off on her own sprint. The halls resounded with "No running!" in an asynchronous chorus of adult voices.
Strangely enough, that day's Morf Awareness class was about, well, morf awareness. More specifically, about the additional perceptual abilities of some morfs. He started with some of the more common things, like extended vision, hearing and smell. He then went into the opposites, like loss of color vision, near/far sightedness, blindness, deafness, loss of tactile sensitivity, and so on. Then he touched briefly on extrasensory perceptions, like telepathy, telempathy, and telesense. He said that they would cover those in more detail in a later class. The rest of class was devoted to the special perceptual abilities of elementals. She got thoughtful looks from some of her classmates as they streamed out of the room to go to their next class.
Through the day, Angel started to get a feel for what was happening - with a little help from Lena. The Pures were splitting into two camps. Apparently, a large part of the Pures community was not all that found of Barb in the first place. The authority of her father had gone a long way toward holding the group together. With him gone, they were polarized by Barb's abrasive personality and childish tantrums. The final blow came when her ill conceived attempt to frame Angel backfired, costing the Dean his career and bringing shame to the community in general.
Her supporters were mostly the lunatic fringe of the Pures, her handful of personal followers, and some with close relationships with those followers. The others, the ones who considered themselves good, moral people and considered morfs to be de facto neither moral nor people, were distressed and somewhat disgusted by the criminal activities and high handed, antisocial behaviors of Barb and her closest followers. To them, she was human, but morally suspect at the very least.
The Supers were getting angry at the attempts to frame and defame a fellow morf, and the way Barb's remaining followers were more or less openly plotting another attack on Angel. They decided they wouldn't strike first, but if they saw Angel, or any other morf, being physically attacked or threatened, they would act. And in the mean time, they would keep an eye on Barb's fan club.
Angel didn't know it, but one of the final pieces happened while she was out for Athletic Challenge. One of the fence sitters among the Pures made up her mind. She could not, in good conscience, support the followers' plan. She used one of the school computers, and a "borrowed" login, to email a report of the planned attack to the police, with a copy to the State Park rangers.
The ASA team would be watching Angel for the same reasons they already had been watching her.
After school, Angel was seen walking down the shortcut path as usual. For some reason, none of her friends seemed to be with her. But there were groups of students ahead of her and behind her on the path, so it would have seemed relatively safe. The group behind her seemed to be in a little bit of a hurry, and were slowly catching up to her.
To the lurker in the shadows, and the police and rangers watching from a slight distance, she didn't seem concerned about the other people as she rounded the curve to the place where she was attacked the day before. Not even when the group ahead of her turned and started advancing on her and the group behind her moved to catch up.
Both groups - actually parts of the same group - looked angry. This was the part that both Cassandra and Robin agreed was the flash point. The wrong move at that point would touch off the predicted riot. Angel seemed to ignore all that, and kept walking.
The watchers noted, with varying degrees of interest, that the boy at the forefront of the group in front of her - a large, second string football player - was wearing leather welding gauntlets. There was no indication that Angel noticed or cared.
There was no real avenue of escape, anyway. The group behind her was at least as strong and angry as those in front of her, and each group had started spreading out to prevent an escape to one side or the other. She seemed oblivious to that as well.
When she reached the group blocking her way, the boy snarled, and reached his gauntleted hands out to grab her.
End Part 18
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/