By: Darian Deamos
Chapter Four: Blowing Town
Sergeant Malcolm Stark was in a rather lot of pain. It has been several hours since the Carmichael twins had left. He was convinced now. The two of them had to have been the twins, not some kidnapping terrorists. What a load of bull. With something like two hours of observation, he knew that, and he was just a grunt.
Well, maybe not just a grunt. You didn’t get the kind of position he held if you were just a grunt. And maybe that was part of the problem. He thought too much. Usually that wasn’t a bad thing, but then again, usually his targets weren’t American kids. Even if they were MORFS victims. Maybe that’s what happened, like the kid had said. Their father the senator was certainly well known for his position on the issue. But still, they were his kids. Malcolm just sighed, and then winced. The com unit in his ear chimed in, “You alright sergeant?”
He sighed again, more carefully. “Yeah,” he said, softly into the mike taped under his collar, “just thinking about how this whole thing has gotten FUBAR.”
“I hear you, solider,” the voice on the other side of the com gear said, and it actually sounded sincere. “Help’s on the way.”
Help, in this case, was not another Delta Force unit. It wasn’t even another military unit. It was a FBI forensics team and a local EMS team. In yet another example of how amazingly screwed up this entire op had been, there was no evac or contingency in place. Then again, he got the impression that the Captain had lied about his orders. There hadn’t been any time to check this out, and he wasn’t sure this had been entirely legitimate. Thankfully, he had put his reservations down in writing, and handed them to the officer of the watch to be given to the base commander, so his ass was covered. The Captain however, was not. That idiot was going down, even if only for violation of standard procedure.
Just as he was getting really worked up over it, he heard voices downstairs, and whispered into the com, “I hear them, tell them I’m upstairs.”
“Right, sergeant,” the com spat back. Moments later, he heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and then there was an eager looking young man in a suit, with a FBI tag hanging from his suit standing in the doorway.
“He’s in here,” the young agent called, and then he noticed the two bodies. And promptly left, looking like he was about to loose his lunch.
A moment later, a woman entered, looking like she was in her early thirties. And she was obviously a MORFS victim. She had green hair, including her eyebrows. It could have been a dye job, but he guessed not. Especially given her age. Her first comment confirmed it.
“Yes, sergeant, I am a MORFS survivor.” She made a point of that last word. She looked him up and down, and then he heard a voice in his head, *We need to talk.*
Malcolm just nodded his head, and focused on thinking back at her, *Yes, we do, but let’s keep this between us.*
She raised an eyebrow at him, and calmly introduced herself. “I’m Agent Davies, sergeant, and we seem to be in a bit of a situation here.” *What happened here.*
“My squad was wiped out by unknown MORFS survivors, after being ordered to eliminate them,” *I believe they were the Carmichael twins, post MORFS, and that the evidence of them as terrorists and kidnapers was manufactured. I saw no evidence supporting, and quite a bit to the contrary.*
Her eyebrows shot up into her hair, and she whispered, “Oh god.” Then, in a more normal tone, “Were you given any reasons for these orders?” *And you just went along with this!?*
“No, ma’am, I inquired, and was told it was classified. My objections are down in writing, “ *Hell NO! I was told there was evidence, and there was nothing to arouse suspicion until I was on site. My objections were overruled.*
“So, what happened? And yes, EMS is on its way.”
“Thank you,” *Call someone for me?* “My squad was inserted through the balcony behind me. We entered the room, and found the white twin lying on the bed here, in a nightgown. I ordered privates Di’Orio and McDowell to cover her while I sent privates James, Nelson, and Lasher to the other side of the building to eliminate her partner. I then went to put a bullet between her eyes.”
Agent Davies raised an eyebrow, and said, “Continue.”
“I don’t remember what happened next,” *The bullet hit her right between the eyes, and all it did was shove her head into the pillow. Well, and wake her up. She grabbed my wrist, and pulled me down into the nightstand, rendering me unconscious.*
“I see. Anything else?” *She was bulletproof?*
“Not really, I woke up and they were gone, I called you guys, you know the rest,” *Yeah, when I woke up, they were there, and we had a chat. They claimed to be the missing sons of the senator, and they’re either the best actors I’ve ever seen, or they’re telling the truth. They said that they were going to rabbit, and didn’t seem to have any agenda other then being left alone. And yes, she was bulletproof.*
Davies eyes drew down in consternation, and she was about to say something, when an audio message came in on the phone. There was some shouting downstairs and then the two of them heard Quartz’s voice echo from the speaker phone in the wall.
“Hello father, or more likely, the forensic investigators. This is Quartz Carmichael. My sister Jet and I used to be called Samuel and Daniel. We are the offspring of Senator Michael Carmichael. We just wanted to be left alone. That isn’t going to happen. Know that we aren’t going to start a damn thing, but we’ll sure as hell finish anything that does start. Don’t chase us. Leave us be. Let us live our lives in peace. Not that I expect you to listen. It would just be nice, for once, to be pleasantly surprised. Not that I expect that to happen. Not after what happened to our mother and sister. The files are on the desk in my old bedroom. Take a look. We’ll see you around.”
That young agent ran up to the door, and quickly looked away. Staring studiously at the wall to his left, he snapped out, “Ma’am, we traced it. It’s a payphone at Overlook point. Henderson and Blake are already on their way.”
Davies looked at me, and then looked at the EMT’s who were already pulling the gurney past the young rookie. “Thank you sergeant, your assistance was appreciated,” was her only comment, verbally. *I’ll find them, and keep them safe.*
Malcolm stared at her as he was loaded onto the gurney. *Call Lisa Braynt, tell her Mal could use a hand.*
Davies just nodded, and then Malcolm was rolled away. Moments later, as he was being rolled out of the house, there was a massive explosion from the west, and a fireball rose into the sky. Panicked shouts rose from the mansion behind him, and the FBI agents were scurrying about madly as he was being loaded into the ambulance. It was absolute panic out there. Malcolm just laughed.
Quartz dropped from the edge of the cliff, and plummeted towards the rocks below. Her sister Jet was moments behind her. She pushed her body out, fighting the pull of her bags, and strained to angle her wings to catch the air. When she did so, the snap and pull of the air catching in the hollow of the wings was a shock that nearly drove the breath out of her. But now she had something to brace against, and she angled her plummet into a dive, and then, with her sister following in her wake, she turned that dive slowly horizontal. She skimmed over the bay, her coat whipping behind her, mere feet above the waves and she nearly screamed in exhilaration. She felt a similar exuberance flowing from Jet, and the two of them flapped a bit for altitude, That has been very close, she hadn’t counted on the bags making it so hard to get control of the plummet, and the two of them had very nearly smashed themselves to bits.
As they swooped silently and invisibly over the bay, nothing more then two specks to anyone watching from shore, Quartz carefully took both of the bags in one hand, and rummaged in the inner pocked of her coat. After a moment she found what she was searching for, and pulled the small black disk out of her coat. Flipping it open, and making sure she had a good grip on her bags, she hit the small button inside the transmitter, sending a signal to the small transceiver in the bottle of mixed cleaning supplies hidden in the niche next to the hydrogen storage matrix in the jeep back at Overlook Point.
The transceiver got the signal, and released a small electric current into the liquid. The current stimulated the volatile mix of chemicals, starting a reaction of explosive dimensions. That explosion first destabilized and breached the hydrogen storage matrix, and then ignited the highly volatile hydrogen. The jeep, the surrounding clearing, and a large chunk of the woods of the park went up, instantly incinerating scores of innocent squirrels and birds, and one, poor, lone eagox that had unfortunately wandered too close. The fireball erupted up into the sky, sending out a deafening blast of sound that set off the car alarms for the few cars in the lot, and woke everyone anywhere near the park. The fireball was visible from the entire bayside, and from most of the city.
“Whoooooo hooooooooo!” Quartz screamed, as the shockwave from the blast sent a wave through the air, throwing the twins forward, and nearly pitching them into the bay. Jet shot her a dirty look, though Quartz could feel that she was just as excited by this as she was.
“You’re NUTS, you know that?” Jet cried back, and Quartz just grinned at her sister, and the two of them made their way to the opposite shore of the bay, and landed atop a warehouse in the industrial part of town.
Jet was glaring at Quartz, and trying not to smile and Quartz could tell. Quartz grinned back, and whispered, “I didn’t think it would be quite that big.”
Jet just sighed. “So, what’s the plan?”
“Freight train. Hopefully up to Seattle.”
“Right, then it’s the train yards.”
Quartz looked at her sister, and nodded to herself. “Jet, gimme your bags, I’ll carry them.”
Jet looked at her, looked surprised and a little insulted. ‘What?” she hissed.
“No offence, but you’re flagging. Flying with these things is killing you.” Quartz held up her two bags in one hand. “This isn’t even hard for me, I can take yours. We’re gonna need you fast and sure here, and you aren’t either, while you’re lugging those things around.”
Jet snarled, but handed over the bags. Quartz looked her sister in her gemlike black eyes, and nodded, and the two of them headed off towards the freight yards.
Twenty minutes later, the two of them were sitting on the roof of the freight yards, with Quartz’s tablet out, and a splice running into the cable line for the building. They weren’t actually in Salicia anymore; they were in one of the neighboring towns, a much less prestigious area, and they had run into a problem. This wasn’t one of the national line’s hubs; it was the local light rail and an Amtrak hub. Useful, to an extent, but they needed to find something that would get them out of the immediate area, today, unobserved. Hence the hack, and the attempt to gain access to the yard’s computers.
“Crap,” Quartz cursed lightly, “well, looks like a freight train to Seattle is out.”
Jet scowled again. “Why?”
“Apparently, it’s cheaper to go up there by boat. Everything freight out of here is down to San Fran. We need to find a way to get to either Portland or Seattle and the national freight line, and then we should be set to get into Chicago. Give me a minute.” Quartz scowled at the computer, and paged through several pages of lists, and then smiled. “Got it, there’s an Amtrak line up to Seattle with a light freight shipment heading up there at three this afternoon. It’s mostly passenger, but there are a few freight cars on the train for things that need to get shipped up. A mail car, three containers going all the way, and the luggage cars plus the passenger crap. We should be good. And as a bonus, it’s one of the new maglev monorails. We should be there in about a day”
Jet nodded, and then frowned. “Food and water?”
Quartz frowned. “We’ll have to hit the gift shop in the terminal and borrow some. That or get something in Seattle.”
Jet just nodded. “They’ll notice it in Seattle.” Quartz just shrugged. “Well what are we waiting for,” Jet said, as she rose to a crouch, “let’s go shopping.”
Quartz focused herself on her tablet, and motioned for Jet to wait. “One sec. I’m gonna try to get into the security system here.”
Jet nodded, but moved over to the edge of the roof anyways, and began to look around.
Quartz suddenly nodded, and hissed, “I’m in. Give me thirty seconds to loop the video and you’re good. This system is a joke compared to the one at the house.” She began to fiddle on the tablet as Jet began to silently count to thirty. “There. Round the back, second door. Service entrance.”
Jet’s only reply was to drop off of the roof, and vanish.
From Jet’s perspective, it seemed as if the world had stopped. Well, not quite, but nearly. She watched the bird’s wings flap in slow motion, looking so slow that it seemed that she could reach out and pluck a feather. Then she hit the gravel and she saw the individual bits slowly start to float up like one of those shots of stuff in a null-g flight. It was surreal. She allowed herself a heartbeat to absorb it, and then she started sprinting. It seemed like the world around her was on pause, almost. She saw smoke sitting there, stationary till she ran through it and pushed it out of the way. She looked down as she ran across the gravel in the predawn, and saw the bits of rock shift when her boots touched them, and then immediately slow to near motionless as they stopped touching her boots. She realized that the world wasn’t stopped, just moving really slowly. She felt a grin stretch her lips as she found the door, and opened it.
Moving swiftly, with the world still in it’s wonderful slow motion, she noted the time on the clock on the wall, and grabbed four large souvenir tote bags off of the merchandise rack. Moving slowly and taking her time, she filled them with food and drink. It wasn’t great fare; mostly nuts, Twinkies, candy, soda, and assorted ready to eat food. Stuff that would last. She didn’t want to have to leave a trail till after they got out of Seattle. She did grab an assortment of the ready made sandwiches that were in the cooler, and looked like they would last they day un-refrigerated. Two packages of industrial bagels and a few other odds and ends, and she was set. She looked back at the clock, and laughed. It felt like she had been in here for almost an hour. It had been 5 seconds.
Still, she thought, better not to push it, she was beginning to get a headache. Moving quickly, she found that the world around her was starting to move faster. And her headache was getting worse. By the time she got back to under where Quartz was, her headache was blinding, and the world around her was moving at its normal speed. She panted, and held up the bags, blearily. Quartz nimbly jumped down, scooped her sister up, and leapt back to the roof. She glared at her sister, and shook her head.
Quartz watched her sister blur off, leaving a trail of footprints in the gravel. It looked like she stepped in each one almost at the same time. She vanished around a corner before Quartz had even realized that she had moved. Quartz just let out a low whistle. Then, a few seconds later, she saw her sister coming back, and that alarmed her. Because she actually saw Jet moving. She was moving insanely fast, but traceable. And she was getting slower as Quartz watched. She seemed to return to a normal speed a few steps before she reached the part of the building immediately opposite Quartz, and then Quartz just jumped down, grabbed her sister, and vaulted back to the top of the roof.
She glared down at her sister, wondering why Jet had felt the need to overexert herself like that, and then the forced the expression from her face. Jet didn’t realize she was doing it. The two of them really needed to figure out their abilities and Jet more so than Quartz. Time to get to the train. But first, her tablet.
She lay Jet down and whispered a quiet admonition to lie still, and went and closed down the hacks and uplinks she had used to gain access to the security and scheduling systems. She repacked her gear, and put all the bags over by her sister. Kneeling at Jets side, she whispered, “You good to go?”
Jet nodded, blearily, and hauled her self up. “All right, I have got to get that under control. I’ll be good.”
Quartz gave Jet a once over, and then nodded. “Follow me, and keep up. You have the food.” Since all four bags of food weighed less then one of the bags of junk they had packed, Jet just nodded, and followed her sister.
Quartz led them both along the roof for a ways, and then they glided silently over to the car yard. It took them a few minutes to find the car they were looking for, a few more to bypass the security code on the door, and then Quartz was hauling the door to the cargo container open. Jet staggered in, and Quartz climbed in, after resetting the lock on the door to reengage after the door closed. Then she hauled the container door shut, and the two of them were alone in the dark.
Jet sighed with exhaustion, and then there was a rummaging from one of the tote bags, followed by a snap, and then there was a diffuse glow filling the car. “Glow sticks,” Jet called out.
“Good idea,” Quartz responded, and the two of them looked around for a place to rest. They wove in and out of the pallets, till they found the end of the container that didn’t open. Then they sat down, made themselves as comfortable as possible, and by mutual consent, attempted to get some sleep.
Malcolm lay back in his hospital bed. His arm was strapped to his chest, which was taped to hold his broken ribs. His wrist was in a cast, his shoulder was immobilized, and his neck was in a brace. He was sitting up, watching the morning news shows, and plotting his vengeance. Upon whom he was plotting said vengeance was still up in the air, and was being considered in the plotting. There were, after all, several potential targets.
The Carmichael twins were the obvious ones to blame for the fiasco. They had killed his men, and seriously wounded him. But they had simply been defending themselves, and he understood that. It didn’t make the deaths of his squad any easier, but it did mean that he couldn’t blame the twins for those deaths. Unfortunately.
If the opponent was out, then that left his superiors. Specifically the colonel who issued the orders that sent his squad out. The major who had been commanding his squad was dead, incinerated in the blast that took out the carrier. But that meant the he could focus on that stupid colonel. But he had to consider something else. Where had he gotten their orders from? Who really sent them in on an assassination? There were only really two possibilities.
The general in charge of the MORFS response brigade. He was a one star, but still, it was technically his call. But Malcolm knew him, and this didn’t feel like his style. Too crude, and the intell was horrible. The general knew better then to initiate an operation like this with intell this bad. And by the same logic, so did the Special Forces command, letting them off the hook as well. And that left only one choice.
The father. Michael Carmichael, the wealthy senator. His views on MORFS survivors (he decided he liked that FBI lady’s term) were well known. If he was as crazy as the twins had implied, then he really was capable of this. It was a factor that he had to consider.
He also had to consider that he was completely wrong, the colonel was right, and there was a simply a blunder in the intell department somewhere. But every time he tried to think that one through, his gut rebelled, and he was certain that his initial read was correct. Those kids were the Carmichael twins, and not some terrorists. And if that’s the case, then the entire justification for the mission goes away.
So he sat, pondering vengeance for his team, and watched the news media wonder about what exactly happened at the Carmichael manor. It was interesting entertainment, but that was all it was. A lot of noise and speculation, with no real bearing on what had happened that morning. It irritated him, but there wasn’t anything else to do at the moment, so he put up with it. But it made his mood, already black from the debacle, fouler as each moment passed. And his mood was foul indeed when the nurse poked his head into Malcolm’s room.
“What,” he snarled at the poor man, venting a measure of his irritation at the convenient target.
“Sorry, sergeant, but you have visitors,” the little man squeaked.
“And those visitors are coming in, like it or not,” an imperious voice called out from the hall. Hard on the heels of that voice came its owner, a very attractive woman dressed in simple denim pants and a white cotton tee. Her hair, a pale gold, seemed to gleam for a moment, and there was the tattoo of a caduceus on her right cheek. Her smile at his glower was radiant, lighting her grey eyes with a sparkle of a young girl. “And you’d better like it, solider boy.” Her voice was stern behind the grin in her eyes, and her smile was infectious.
“Lisa, you pirate, when did you get here?” Malcolm’s voice was light with relief. He levered himself a little more upright in his bed, and smiled at his old friend. “Here to spring me?”
“What’ll it get me?” she asked, laughingly. Malcolm just wiggled his eyebrows, and she laughed again. “Sure, why not, you reprobate.” Turning to the nurse, she asked for a chair to be brought and the moved to help Malcolm out of bed. Once the nurse was gone and Malcolm was standing, she reached around behind her and snagged a duffel bag from the hall. “Can’t have you walking around in that silly gown, now can we?”
The bag contained some clothing that looked like it fit approximately well, and with some help from Lisa, Malcolm managed to get it all on. He buttoned the shirt over his arm, and then tossed on the jacket. The empty sleeve of the jacket flapped uselessly against his side, but there wasn’t anything he could do about that. He looked down at himself, and then at Lisa, “Presentable?”
“Yup, now once that nurse gets back with the chair…” Lisa was saying, and trailed off as the individual in question arrived with the requested object. “And now we can get going,” Lisa finished, and the two of them headed down to the nurses station to check out, and then down to the lobby to get out of here. On the way down, they made small talk, mostly catching up on the details of their lives since the last time they had gotten together. Growing up in a small town, you got to know the folks around, and the two of them had been friends all through high school. Malcolm had even taken her to the prom. They lost their virginity to each other, and while they cared deeply about each other, they had both decided that making a permanent thing out of their relationship would be stupid. They were TOO much alike, and would undoubtedly irritate each other. Besides, after that one time together, Lisa had confided, that while it was definitely fun, Lisa actually preferred other women. So the two of them became best friends instead. The fact that Lisa had gotten MORFS back in eighth grade, and become an extremely powerful bio-elemental and shape shifter, hadn’t hurt their relationship, despite some stresses.
Malcolm had counted it extremely lucky when the General had assigned him to this squad, because it meant that he was back in the San Francisco area, and he could look Lisa up. They had gotten together a few times since then, and had found that there was an even better reason for them to have stayed friends. They had the same taste in women. A few strip club trips later, and they were hanging out fairly regularly.
So the two of them chatted like the old friends they were, until they got to the lobby, where they found an older gentleman, in an army general’s uniform, sitting by the door, waiting for them. He rose when he saw them, and motioned for Malcolm to stay seated, as the injured man attempted to rise to attention. “At ease solider. Don’t want you aggravating that injury.” He nodded to Lisa, “Ma’am, I need to talk to my solider for a moment. Could I have a minute of privacy in your car before the two of you leave?”
Lisa stared at the general, correctly reading the rank insignia on his uniform, and simply nodded. The general accompanied them out to Lisa’s car, and the general waited as the Lisa helped Malcolm into the passenger’s seat. Once that was done, Lisa opened the driver’s door, and motioned at the general. He nodded at her politely, and remarked, “This should only take a minute or two, doctor, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
Lisa nodded politely, and then walked over to the entrance and leaned against the wall. She took the keys with her.
The general got into the car, and closed the door. He looked over at Sergeant Stark and ordered, “Report Sergeant.”
Malcolm immediately began to tell the General everything that had occurred up to this point. He summarized how his team had been ordered to eliminate two confirmed MORFS terrorists in the Carmichael manor, who had kidnapped the twin sons of the senator. When he asked to see the intelligence reports he was given a one page document and the floor plan of the manor. The document contained little information other then a brief physical description of the terrorists, and the fact that they had empathic, telepathic, or some other mind influencing abilities, and were to be eliminated post haste.
Malcolm stated that he asked of the official intelligence report, and was told that it was classified, and that he would have to make due with the summary he was given at the briefing. He made an official complaint to his immediate commanding officer, who rejected his request, and then wrote up an official complaint voicing his distaste for the fact that he was entering a mission with inadequate intelligence provided.
The squad then immediately deployed, and he was one of three observers on the house for several hours. Mostly watching the two ‘terrorists’ pack up several duffel bags and boxes with what appeared to be personal items and clothing. Then the two of them changed into nightgowns, had a brief conversation, and put the packed bags in the hall closet near the twins bedrooms. They then went to those self same bedrooms, did a passable evening routine, and want to bed. It took them some time to get to sleep.
He noted several disturbing facts in his watch. The two targets didn’t seem unfamiliar at all with the house, and seemed extraordinarily comfortable in the twins rooms. There was no sign of the twins, nor were there any signs of trouble or struggle in the house. He had come to the personal conclusion that there was something wrong with the mission, but when he mentioned that to his CO, he was told that the mission would continue as normal, and to follow all orders.
He reluctantly led his men into the house, and sent half his men to deal with the second twin while he was to execute the first. He retrieved his sidearm, and very deliberately put a bullet right between her eyes. All it did was wake her up. It didn’t even bruise her. She promptly seized his weapon hand, and yanked him down, sending him into the nightstand, rendering him unconscious.
When he came to, he immediately realized that he had been disarmed, and searched. They left his com gear on him, but it was off. When he opened his eyes, he saw the two targets. They claimed to be the Carmichael twins, and seemed rather annoyed at their father, seeming to blame him for this. They decided to run, and began to leave immediately. The white twin wrote a letter to some unnamed individual, while the black one immediately began to carry the packaged belongings and objects out of the house. They then left the estate, and he called for backup. An hour later, the FBI arrived and along with them, the EMT’s. He was interrogated politely by the lead FBI agent, and then loaded into the ambulance for dispatch and treatment. Malcolm closed his report.
The general sat back and looked at his solider. “Do you believe that the targets were in fact the Carmichael twins?”
Malcolm nodded. “Yes sir, I do.”
The general nodded. “I agree with your assessment. From what you told me, and from what I know of the senator, I think I know what happened. I’ll begin an investigation of the mission immediately. I can think of at least three men who will be in serious trouble before all this is done. Now, my orders to you. One, your conclusions on the identity of these poor kids has got to stay to yourself, or you’ll suffer more severe consequences than you can comprehend. Two, you are as of now on official medical leave, indefinitely, until such a time as you are declared fit for duty. Three, you will not be declared fit for duty until this matter with the Carmichael twins is resolved. Understood solider?”
Malcolm nodded, and said, “Yes, sir. Perfectly, sir.”
The general simply nodded, and got out of the car. He walked over to Lisa, and nodded to her as he headed to his own automobile. “You take care of my boy, doc.”
Lisa nodded back, “Yes, sir.”
Lisa got into her car and started it up. As she hummed out of the lot, she asked her passenger, “What was that all about?”
“I needed to report on my last assignment,” Malcolm replied. He looked out at the road, “I’ll fill you in later.”
Lisa looked at him, and then considered what she had seen on the news before she got that call from Agent Davies. She frowned, and focused on the road again. “This is about the Carmichaels, isn’t it?”
Malcolm bowed his head. “Yeah, that would be about right.” He grimaced, expecting an explosion.
Lisa snarled, and smacked the wheel. “Damn it, Mal, you know what I told you about this kind of thing.” She smacked the wheel again. “All right, solider boy, what the hell is going on here.”
Malcolm sighed in relief. She wasn’t going to be too angry at him. “First off,” he began, “How much do you know about the Carmichaels?”
“Only that the senator’s an ass.”
“Right, then I should start at the beginning. The senator has two kids, a pair of twin boys. Yesterday morning he supposedly received a call from his manor, from a pair of MORFS terrorists, or so he claims. He immediately reported it, and my team was sent in to eliminate them.”
“All right, so since this is obviously not as cut and dry as all that, what went wrong?”
“What I said before was fact. From this point on, it’s all conjecture,” he hedged, and at her imperious gesture, he continued. “When I arrived, I began to observe the targets; I was struck by how at ease and familiar with the surroundings they were. They didn’t act like terrorists, even ones with telepathy or some other mental control. They acted like a pair of nervous kids getting ready to be thrown out of their house, to be perfectly honest.”
“Which, given some of my senator’s speeches, I can understand, assuming they were the twins.”
“Yeah, well, I was a little leery of going after them, but the intell on the mission was classified, and I didn’t have anything concrete, so my objections were overruled, based on the classified information.”
“Which is a load of crock.”
“Yes, but not one I could do anything about. So my team went in there, and we got wiped out. I’m the only one left.”
“Damn,” Lisa whittled in appreciation. “Nasty kids.”
“Yeah,” Malcolm agreed, “I put a bullet between the eyes on one of them while she was asleep from about two feet away, and it didn’t even bruise her.”
“Yeah, both of the targets appeared to be monochromatic females. And the twins were a pair of football jocks.”
Lisa just whistled. “Sounds like a wicked power.”
“That’s what I thought. I have no idea how this got blown so way out of proportion. But those kids seemed like decent people. And I go the same read off of them that I got off of Mika in our junior year.”
“Yeah. They looked really female, but their body language read male. Football jock male. So did their conversation, and the chat I had with them after I woke up wasn’t exactly stress free.”
“Yeah, they waited around till I woke up, gave me an incredibly bad interrogation, and then decided to scram.”
“And your opinion?”
“They were the Carmichael twins. I have no idea how this happened.”
“That’s because you’re too trusting of the system.” Lisa’s voice was bitter with cynicism. “You haven’t seen any really corrupt people in the system laid bare.”
“You mean that you think that it was deliberate?”
“I think that running like hell may be the best thing those two ever did.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” Malcolm made it a statement, not a question.
“There have been disappearances out of several public clinics recently. I’ve seen the medical files. Severe MORFS cases have disappeared shortly after their recovery. All in clinics receiving money from the federal MORFS assistance act.”
“And that has something to do with the Carmichael’s how?”
“Not sure,” Lisa shrugged, “but all the MORFS were extreme physical modifications. They all turned up dead several months later. They had to be identified by DNA matching. There wasn’t enough of them left to make a visual match.”
Malcolm frowned. “Experimentation?”
“Torture, I think.”
“Show me the files.” Malcolm scowled. “But how does this connect to the fact that my team was sent in early and unprepared?”
“It doesn’t. But it may be one more thing the twins have to worry about. That is the assumption you’re operating on, right? That your targets were really the Carmichael twins?”
“Yeah. And you’re right. If someone is snatching up MORFS for experimentation or something, and only powerful, extreme degree MORFS, they definitely qualify.”
“Right, well, lets get you inside, so I can start working on you,” Lisa said as they rolled up to her house.
Malcolm spotted a familiar looking car out on the street. “Lisa, did you expect company?”
“I saw that car at the Carmichael house, when the FBI got there. We have visitors.”
Lisa pulled into he driveway and the two of them got our and headed around to the front of the house, where they found a rather familiar green haired woman sitting on the stoop. It was agent Davies.
Malcolm raised an eyebrow at her. “Hello?”
She looked up from the collection of folders she had been fiddling with. “I have a problem.”
Lisa gave the FBI agent a very obvious once over, and then looked over at Malcolm. “Mal?”
Malcolm looked at Lisa, then at agent Davies, and then looked up and down the block. “Inside,” he stated quietly. As Lisa walked past to unlock the door he whispered, “If you still have it, that graduation gift I gave you would be really welcome right now.”
Lisa, to her credit, didn’t react, but her hand was trembling as she unlocked the door. The three of them quickly moved inside the house, and Mal promptly crashed on the couch. With his good hand, he gestured for them all to be quiet, and then motioned for agent Davies to sit. She did so, and the two of them waited for Lisa to get back.
It took a few minutes, but Lisa eventually came back with a small white object, that looked a lot like a walkman. She handed it to Malcolm, who put it on the table and hit the button on the top. It let out a low hissing noise, like static, and Malcolm smiled. “There we go, that should let us talk without anyone nosing in on us.” He sat back with a pleased look on his face, and then took pity on the two of women. “White noise generator. It makes boom and parabolic mikes freak out. I think that someone is following you.”
Agent Davies nodded, and looked glum. “Yeah, well, it gets worse. I’ve been ordered off the Carmichael case. Misguided priorities.”
Malcolm looked irritated, and leaned forward. “Ok, explain.”
Davies looked like she was about to, but Lisa interrupted. “First, let me get to work on Mal. We’ll need him working if I’m any judge.”
Davies nodded, and Malcolm leaned back. Lisa put her hands a few inches above Malcolm’s shoulder. “You can talk, I just need to concentrate, so no raising your voice. And no moving.” This last was directed at her patient. “This should only take a few minutes.”
Agent Davies nodded and started her explanation. “Right after you were carried out, there was a detonation in Overlook Park. We already had agents en-route, so I started going over the manor. It looks like the twins had their own little apartment set up in there. Full kitchen and everything. We found the bits that they used to make a bomb of some kind, hardly high yield, but still. I had teams do a full sweep of the area, and then we took everything to the mobile lab. I also told one of my agents to track you down.” She nodded at Lisa, and then continued. “The interesting thing is, we found four sets of fingerprints. Two sets belonged to the twins. The other two weren’t in the system. The thing is the unknown prints were mostly under the twins prints. We also got some strange variants on the twins prints. The print was right, but the finger shape was off.”
Malcolm nodded. “Smaller and narrower?”
Davies smiled, “Almost. Longer and narrower. The finger was basically the same size, just proportioned differently. Like it was long and slender instead of broad and thick.” She smiled at Malcolm.
Malcolm smiled, and Lisa spoke up, “So Mal was right, and the two women he was after were really the Carmichael twins?”
“Yes, but this didn’t prove it. So I did a DNA profile on a hair that I’m fairly sure belonged to the targets, and hair that belonged to the twins.”
Malcolm interrupted, “How did you get the hair?”
“They had brushes in the bathroom. I wonder where those extra long white and black hairs came from.” She smirked again. “The twins base samples were easy. We tossed their clothes. One nice pubic hair from each twin, in their underwear. God bless slovenly teen boys. Well, long story short, we checked, and they matched. And that’s where I made my mistake. I didn’t log the hairs properly, just rushed the test through as a ‘Genetic Sample’, and that screwed me. One time, just once, I skip procedure, and it screws me.” She shook her head. “Well, anyways, I pulled the LUDs on their phones and their E-Coms, and got Lisa’s number. I called Lisa while I went over the LUDs, and was getting ready to reclassify this, when I got a call from my supervision. One spirited conversation later and I was off the case for, and I quote, ‘following the victim, not the suspect.’ What a load of bull.
“So the official line on the incident this. The twins had a party a few days ago. They turned off their father’s security system to do so. Apparently they did this often. During the festivities, the deranged Jet and Quartz, who are now not malicious terrorists, but delusional psychopaths with superpowers, snuck in, and once the partygoers were dispersed, killed the twins. They then disposed of the bodies, and attempted to assume the twins lives. They ordered new clothes on the twins credit cards and paid a local boy to pick up and deliver the items to them. The ‘plan’ began to unravel when their father called home to ask how the party went, and the ‘new’ twins answered the phone. He immediately called the task force in, and they sent a team to capture the terrorists, and ascertain the location of the twins.”
Malcolm and Lisa stared at agent Davies for a long moment, and then Malcolm laughed. “And who exactly buys this?”
“Everyone. I screwed up the original DNA test, and the retest was made against the DNA data on the twins in the security files of their father’s detail. It didn’t match.”
“What!” Malcolm exclaimed, jarring Lisa, and forcing her to shove him back. “Sorry, sorry, what did you mean, they didn’t match? That’s impossible.”
“The only explanation I have is that the data in the detail’s computers was altered. Most likely before you even went in on your mission.”
“Crap, had to be the father then. Proof?” Malcolm was incensed. He couldn’t believe that someone would try to set these kids up like this. And there was only one suspect.
“The father. You remember the message the twins left? About their mother and sister? The file was right where they said it would be. It makes interesting reading. Apparently, several years back, the Carmichael daughter contracted MORFS, and turned into a hybrid. Cat-girl, from the photos in the file. The father flipped. Accused the wife of cheating on him, rejected blood ties to the girl, divorced the wife, banished them both, and did his level best to ruin them both for life. Did a decent job of it, too.”
Malcolm leaned back. “Why didn’t the mother demand a paternity test? That would have settled things, and given her a LOT of ammo for the divorce.”
Davies looked irritated. “She did. Apparently the judge in question was a friend of the senator, and ruled that since the child had contracted MORFS and mutated in an obvious non-human direction, then that proved deviation from a pure bloodline. He summarily granted the divorce.”
Lisa gasped in outrage. “What the hell, why didn’t she appeal?”
“Apparently the good senator convinced her that appeals would just be more of the same, and since the senator wasn’t letting her use any of his wealth to fund it, she couldn’t afford legal council on the matter. It was dropped. The two of them went off into the sunset, never to be seen again. By court order, under penalty of incarceration.”
Malcolm snarled. “So this bastard just throws away a faithful wife because it doesn’t suit his image? He’s nuts.”
Lisa frowned. “But what if he really believes this.”
“He doesn’t.” Malcolm voice was filled with certainty. “He blocked the paternity test. If he really believed the whole ‘purity of blood’ shtick, he wouldn’t have blocked it. He knew his wife was faithful; he just couldn’t have a hybrid as a child. So he didn’t. If anything, he’s a megalomaniac. And he got seven good men killed.”
“Well, six and a half,” Lisa jibed, “The major was an ass.”
“True, but he didn’t deserve to die,” Malcolm responded. “He was just following his orders, without sufficient evidence to overrule on ethical grounds; he had to do what he did. This whole thing sucks.”
Lisa sat back and nodded at him. “Yeah, but your bones are fixed. And it gets better. You want me to tell her about the kids?”
Agent Davies looked up from the report on the ex-Mrs. Carmichael at that. “Kids?”
Malcolm nodded at Lisa as he took off his shirt and began to unwrap his bandages. Lisa sat back and began to talk. “About a year ago, I got involved with the federal MORFS clinic program. I was going over the records when I found something odd. At the site I was at, there were three cases where the subject just vanished after their symptoms subsided. I went looking for them, because all three were extreme physical transformations. I found them, in the obituaries. When I investigated, I found that they had vanished just like I thought, and about a year later their bodies had turned up. They had been seriously mutilated. I studied the autopsy reports, and the conclusion I came to wasn’t a good one
“Someone out there grabbed these kids out of the clinics and had been experimenting on them. Serious, disturbing, Dr. Mengela type stuff. That’s what killed them, these twisted experiments. They had had implants of some sort, signs of torture, and the bodies had all been opened up and examined once already.”
Lisa sighed, and looked vaguely ill. “That wasn’t the end of it though. I went online and looked through the records. There have been disappearances nationwide, all out of the clinic program. Most of them turn up dead about a year later. About a dozen are still unaccounted for. All of them were extreme or improbable MORFS transformations, or had demonstrated extreme levels of abilities. It looks like someone’s trying to build super-soldiers.”
Malcolm looked at her. “You’re sure?” Agent Davies stared at her in disbelief.
Lisa nodded. “Yes. I don’t have any proof, but the pattern is there, and the damage shown in the autopsies is consistent. Someone is using the MORFS clinics to go shopping for test subjects, and they aren’t nice people. And this Jet and Quartz are perfect candidates for his pattern.”
Malcolm leaned back and sighed. “So we’ve got a four way race. It’s us, trying to catch them to help them, the rest of the feds trying to capture them, the senator trying to kill them, and this bunch of unknowns trying to snatch them for reasons unknown. Wonderful.” He shook his head. Then he sat up. “Agent, does that report give a last known location for their mother?”
Agent Davies head snapped up. “Yes, one second.” She scanned through the file, flipping the pages, looking for the requested information. “Here we go. She was in Chicago, at last report. Why, you think that’s where the twins are going?”
“Yeah,” Malcolm replied, “think about it. They apparently found this out about the same time they underwent MORFS. It would make sense, especially since MORFS is what got their mother ostracized from them.”
Lisa looked thoughtful. “Well, there is another thing. How did they survive MORFS, especially such an extreme case, without at least minimal medical care?”
Agent Davies looked thoughtful. “One second,” she muttered, as she went through her stack of folders. “Here we go; their E-Com records. This would be, what, seven, eight days ago? That’s when the security system went down. Would make sense that they turned it off when they found out.”
Malcolm nodded. “Right, so wha’dya got?”
The three of the hunched over the list. Agent Davies muttered to herself. “Huh. Well, that’s interesting. A few hours before the security system was turned off, they made two calls. First to a Dr. Henry Higgins, and then about an hour later, to one Diane Smith. I can’t really approach either of them, especially if I’m being watched. You guys?”
Malcolm looked at Lisa, and they nodded. “I’ll take the doctor,” Malcolm spoke up.
“Then I’ll find this Diane,” chimed in Lisa.
“But first,” interjected Malcolm, “lets see if we can’t second guess these two. Assuming they’re trying to get to Chicago, how are they going to manage it?”
“Drive?” Lisa suggested.
“No,” Davies opined, “they blew their car up on Overlook Point. Likely to prevent us from tracking it. They left their E-Coms behind for the same reason. They’re trying to go ghost on us. That means using unmonitored transit. So they’ll either steal a car or hitch a ride.”
Lisa looked at the security photo’s of the twins leaving the manor. “Hitchhiking might be tricky given their appearance. They’ll need to stay out of sight.”
Malcolm looked around. Then he noticed the model train sitting on the mantle over Lisa’s fireplace. “Trains. They’ll hitch a ride in a cargo container on a train. Up to Seattle, and then over to Chicago, using the freight lines.”
Agent Davies looked stunned. “Brilliant. It’ll be almost impossible for us to track them.”
Malcolm shook his head. “Don’t track them, track their computer. Quartz had a tablet. She’ll hack herself internet access. More then likely, she hid a bunch of assets to live off of. We need to get up to Seattle, and then we’ll try to find them.”
Agent Davies nodded. “I’ll check in with a few friends on the team, and then put in for some leave. I’ll book us some tickets up to Seattle. Amtrak.”
Lisa laughed. “All right, let’s get going. What time?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Swap numbers, we’ll keep in touch. Let’s go. We’ve got work to do, and I need to get back to base for my things.” He flexed his formerly injured hand. “I want my bike back.”
The three of them nodded, and they headed out. Malcolm observed that the car he noticed down the block was still there. He hoped that the snoops had gotten their earful of white noise. He knew they were being followed. It was time to make some moves of his own, rather then react to other people. Time to start playing this game.
An hour and a cab ride later, he was back on base, just outside of San Francisco. He walked into the computer lab and looked at the technician there, and smiled. “Specialist Franks, good to see you.”
Thin, wiry and balding, David Franks was the resident techie, and used as the research guy, both officially and unofficially, by almost everyone on base. He was also the gossip king of the base. “Hey, Sergeant, I thought you were out of action?”
Malcolm smiled. “I am. I got banged up, and put on indefinite leave. I need some info from you.”
Franks frowned. “Looking for a little revenge, Mal? That’s not like you. I feel bad about what happened, but…”
Malcolm scowled. “No, not revenge. Last night was FUBAR man. I promise, when this is all over, I’ll give you the entire write up, but till then, I gotta keep it under wraps.”
Franks sighed. “Right, so whadda ya need?”
Mal smiled at him. “Info. Doctor Henry Higgins, MD. Who is he, and where does he live?”
Specialist Franks broke out into a broad grin. “Something small, eh? Give me five minutes.” The Specialist promptly pulled out a chair and plopped down in front of his computer. “Scram, go get your gear, find me before you leave, I’ll have your data.”
Malcolm saluted. “Thanks, Franks. I owe you a beer for this.”
The Specialist just nodded. “Take me out clubbing with that lezzie friend of yours some time; we’ll hit up a tittie bar.”
Malcolm just laughed, waved and headed back to his quarters. The first order of business was to change his clothes and get clean. Ten minutes later, he was dressed in a black T-shirt and black cargo pants. He quickly began to pack his bags, including his personal weapons. He made sure he had his sidearm, his knife, and his spare clips. He grabbed his coat out of his closet, and headed down to the armory.
Once downstairs, he grabbed his less utilitarian weaponry. An MP5 and a M82A1M. Old weapons, but effective. He took out several boxes of ammo for each. The supply sergeant gave him an odd look, but he informed him that he was on special assignment, and would have little time to re-supply. He took the weapons back to his room, and stowed them in the concealment carrier for his bike. It looked like a standard rifle case, and any inspection would show a simple antique Winchester, disabled, inside. It has a biometric lock, as befitted a carrying case for an antique, and was very secure. It was his favorite souvenir off of any of the ops he had been on.
He grabbed his duffel and the gun case, and headed down to the motor pool. He checked out his bike, a newer Honda model that ran on the same Bio-diesel derivative that the army and most trucks used. He would have to fuel it at truck stops, but the thing wasn’t quite as combustible as the standard fuel cell auto or bike, and had a hell of a lot more punch in the engine department. He strapped the luggage onto the bike, and headed down to the computer lab.
Specialist Franks was waiting for him. “Mal, you’ve got problems.” Malcolm raised an eyebrow, and the Specialist continued. “Your doc’s dead.”
Malcolm frowned. “Huh. That’s irritating. How?”
“Car crash, on his way back from a house call or something. Salicia cops have the case. You going to look into it?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Not sure. I’ve got a little R&R to catch up on,” he lied, “this’ll keep.”
Franks laughed. “Well, don’t let it lie too long. The smell can get terrible.”
The two soldiers shared a laugh, and then Malcolm headed out. He was lost in thought as he headed back to Salicia. This was unfortunate. He needed to find out what happened to that doctor, and what he was doing when he died. Hopefully Lisa was having better luck.
Lisa was standing outside of a modest house in what amounted to the poor part of Salicia. That meant that the properties were valued at less then two million dollars, so she supposed that poor was subjective in this case. The house she was looking at was very nice, and what was better, she could call it a house; unlike some of the miniature mansions she had seen on the way over here.
This particular dwelling was modest, homey, and altogether lovely. She wouldn’t mind retiring to a place like this, one day. Then again, there were a lot of things that she wouldn’t mind that weren’t going to happen. She straitened her blouse, and got out of her car to meet the Smiths.
She wasn’t wearing Lisa today. She had changed her clothes before she left her house, and even more telling she had changed her face. She had several faces, and while she identified herself as Lisa, and had even defined a face for herself (an idealized version of herself, thank you very much, her abilities to manipulate bodies wasn’t going to be wasted), she had set up a series of additional ‘faces’ that had names and personalities of their own. She used them like garments, putting them on and taking them off as easily as she would a dress. For this little meeting, she had decided to wear Maggie.
Maggie was an elegant, shapely black woman in her early twenties. Stunningly beautiful, with a white caduceus tattoo on the back of her right hand, and ankle length ebony hair, she was a favorite of Lisa’s for a night on the town. She really did enjoy watching men hit on her and seeing the expression when she turned them down, or frenched another woman. It was an entertaining diversion. She wondered just what this Diane looked like. It might be amusing to ask her out.
She shook her head as she walked up to the door. Head on the business. Keep your mind out of the gutter. She shook her head and let her hair fall down her back. Approaching the door, she rang the bell and stood up straight. *All right Lisa, here we go* she thought to herself, as the door opened.
The first thing that struck her was that the very pretty young woman who opened the door was making her hot. The second was that she wasn’t in her real shape. The third was that this was Diane Smith.
“Hello?” Diane asked the strange black woman who had rung the bell. She was confused as to who this was. She didn’t look like a Jehovah ’s Witness or a saleslady.
Lisa shook herself mentally, and held out a hand to Diane. “Hi, I’m Maggie. I’m looking for a Diane Smith, are you she?”
Diane nodded, suddenly nervous. “Yes… What’s this about?”
“Can we talk inside?” Lisa wanted a little more privacy then standing on the street. No telling who the neighbors were.
“I’d like to know what this is about first.” Diane had her mental feet under her, and wasn’t having any.
“It’s about a private matter, dear. I’d like to get inside where we can take our masks off.” Lisa played a bit of a risk with that, but she was hoping to get this done quickly. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be.
“Di, who is it?” A male voice called out from inside the house. A large, well muscled man with big feathery wings walked up behind Diane. “And you are?” he asked.
Lisa noted that he was quite handsome. Male beauty was a bit of an abstract concept for her, but still, she could pick a few things up from her colleagues. “I’m here to ask a few questions about the Carmichael twins. I’d rather we had this conversation in private.”
Diane and the winged youth exchanged a look. Diane spoke up first. “All right, come on in. We’ll talk.” They both wore guarded expressions, and Diane was being very defensive. They led her into very comfortable living room, and they seated themselves on the couch. From the way they sat together, Lisa deduced that they were lovers. Pity that. Lisa sat in an easy chair that wasn’t quite opposite them. She had decided to try to minimize the adversarial tone this encounter had started on.
Once they were all seated, Diane spoke up. “So, Maggie, what do you want to know about J, Sam and Dan?” She covered it quickly, but Lisa noticed the slip. She decided not to call her on it.
“I want to know why the twins called you right after Doctor Higgins left, and before they turned off the security system, and why you don’t show up on it.”
The two teens exchanged a quick look, and the winged one spoke up. “I don’t know exactly what you’re implying…” He trailed off at a look from Lisa.
Lisa sighed. She hated this part. “Alright you two, here’s the drill. I know you know something. Exactly what it is, I don’t know, but it’s there. Now, I’m not a fed, or a cop, or any kind of agent. I’m just a girl doing her best to help some kids that look like they’re in trouble.” The two kids on the couch traded looks again. Lisa sighed. “Here, I’ll relax for you.” She concentrated for a moment, and shifted back into her ‘normal’ form.
The thing about shape shifting, as far as Lisa could tell, was that anything you did was permanent, unless you decided to change it. At least if you were as strong as she was. She could always tell when she wasn’t in her ‘normal’ shape, her skin felt like it was slightly too small, but it took no real effort or concentration to maintain. To shift her form away from her normal form, or just away from the form she was in, took effort, and it took deliberate concentration to revert back. But staying in any one form took no real effort, and once she had taken the time to make a given shape one of her ‘faces’ the amount of effort it took to shift lessened dramatically.
In her case, her ‘normal’ form wasn’t the form she had been born in, it was the improved model. In addition to being a shape shifter, she was also a powerful Bio-Elemental. Sufficiently powerful, in fact, that she didn’t even age unless she wanted to. Physically, she hadn’t allowed her body to age since she had figured out how to stop it, and had even repaired some of the damage age had started doing to her. That little trick wasn’t something she bruited about, as her ability to affect similar effects on others was highly limited.
So in here case, she just relaxed a little, concentrating of looking normal, and felt her body flow back into its normal shape. She opened her eyes and looked at Diane. “Now then, why don’t you just relax and look normal, eh?”
Diane blanched, and looked at her lover. He shrugged at her, and she sighed. She closed her eyes and her body flowed into the shape of a very beautiful young woman with large breasts and pink hair. Lisa stared at her dusky skin, captivated by the sudden tightness of her shirt. “How did you know?” Diane asked. Her voice was the same.
Lisa sighed. “I’m a bio-elemental. A very strong one.”
The boyfriend looked at her. “How strong.”
She grinned. “Strong enough to know that you two are alone in this house and that you were about to get, hmm, intimate before I interrupted. Which is very distracting, by the way.”
Diane smirked back. “Lusting after my boyfriend, Maggie?”
Lisa’s grin widened. “No, dear, lusting after you.” The two of them had satisfactorily shocked expressions on their faces. “Now, while I have you distracted,” Lisa sailed on, “let me explain what I think happened here.” The two of them sat there and recovered, and waited for Lisa to go on.
She waited for a moment to ensure they were listening and then began. “I think that the good doctor proclaimed the young Carmichael boys MORFS positive, and issued scripts for the usual energy packs and sedatives. It’s interesting how the medical community treats MORFS like an inconvenient cold these days. Nothing to worry about, except in odd cases. But anyways, I figure that the twins asked you to go get their prescriptions, and then turned off the security system so you could get in and keep an eye on them during the change, am I right?”
The expression of shock on both of their faces told her that she was correct, and the boyfriend’s reaction told her that he was there as well. Curiouser and curiouser. She fixed them both with what she hoped was a firm stare. “Ok, I need you two to tell me what happened, all right?”
The two of them exchanged a look. Diane sighed and spoke up, “Right, well, you’re right, I suppose. A week back I got a call from Dan, saying that they had just been diagnosed with MORFS and to come over and pick up the prescription and fill it. Of course I did it. I’ve known the guys for years, ever since I moved here, and I owed them. So I went and got them the prescription and brought it back. I also brought Brian along,” she nodded at her boyfriend. “So when I got back, they said that they had turned off the security, and showed me a file that Dan had found when he used his father’s computer to turn off the security system. Apparently, he had forgotten to log off. The file was about their mother and sister…” she trailed off.
Lisa interrupted, “I’ve seen the file.”
Diane nodded, and Brian snarled, “So you know what that bastard did to his daughter?”
Lisa just nodded, and motioned for Diane to continue. “Well, the guys decided to just get it over with. I was keeping an eye on Sam, while Brian made sure that nothing unfortunate happened to Dan. It was odd, watching them change. Well, long story short, four days later Sam was a jet black woman with wings. Great big rack too. I was jealous.”
Diane looked mildly wistful, and Lisa just smirked. “If you want to, you could give yourself a rack just like hers, you know.”
Diane grinned. “I know, but that would be cheating. Anyways, me and Brian did a few things to help them adapt.” At Lisa’s inquiring expression, she explained, “I helped them with their wardrobe, and then I used a little trick of mine to try to read their powers…”
Lisa looked up, abruptly fascinated. “And the results were?”
Diane looked chagrined. “Mixed. Jet had some kind of weird elemental power. It was very narrow in scope, but strong as hell. She was also an illusionist and a minor precognitive. Quartz was another elemental that I’ve never seen before, as well as two others big ones that I think are physical enhancements. That and getting into their heads hurt like hell. If I wasn’t piggybacking on my empathy, I don’t think I would have gotten in. Some kind of link between their minds that makes it impossible to access their minds at anything deeper then a surface level. After it was all over the two of us went home, and that was the end of it till I saw that great big explosion up on the bluffs. So what happened up there?”
Lisa grinned. “Special forces were ordered to assassinate the twins. Their father apparently thought that they were terrorists who had kidnapped his sons. They put a bullet between Quartz’s eyes.” Lisa paused while Diane and her boyfriend looked panicked. Then she smirked. “All it did was annoy her. I don’t know all the details, but all but one of the soldiers who were on the team died, and the twins bailed. They took a jeep up to Overlook Point, blew it up, and vanished. We think that they’re trying to get to Chicago to find their mother.”
“And when you find them,” Brian asked, “What then?”
“We try to clear them. There’s a setup going down here, and I try to flatten those when I run into them.”
Diane looked troubled. “And the real feds? The army?”
“The feds think that they’re a pair of delusional MORFS victims who, in their delusion, think that they’re the senator’s sons, and have killed the twins and are attempting to replace them. The DNA sample in the senator’s security file has been altered and it doesn’t match the two of them any more.”
Diane looked shocked. “But we saw them change. We could prove that they are who they are.”
Lisa shook her head. “If you came forward, they would say that the delusional twins have twisted your mind with telepathy or something. We need physical confirmation, and we need the two of them in hand to confirm your story. But if it gets out that you two can confirm the story, then there are people out there who would be happy to kill you to keep the senator’s reputation intact. Keep your heads down.”
Brian nodded. “That explains the packages.” At Lisa’s confused look, he continued. “We got a package with most of their old things and a letter asking us to keep the stuff safe, and telling us to keep our heads down.”
Lisa nodded. “Put it in storage, and act normal. If the feds question you, tell them that you were invited over for a small get together and stayed overnight, then left. But don’t volunteer anything. If they miss you, and they might, stay out of the public eye and keep that stuff in the attic or something.” Lisa stood up, and put Maggie back on. “I hope the next time I see you it’s under better circumstances.”
As she was leaving, she shook her head. Well, they had their confirmation, for all the good it did. Now they just needed to find these kids. As she got into her car, she pulled out her phone and hit the speed dial for Malcolm. They needed to talk.
Quartz was jolted awake by a sudden movement, and a loud series of noises right by her head. She sat up suddenly, and found a hand pressed against her mouth. A moment of panic passes before she realized that it was Jet, and that the freight car they were in was open. Her eyes widened in fright, and Jet motioned for her to stay still. Slowly, Jet took her hand away from her mouth and motioned for her to not move. She lay there, still in her clothes, and watched as men began to unload the pallets concealing them. They lay there, in full view, as the loading crews removed all the cargo from the car. The rather irate leader of the train yard workers addressed an individual out of view.
“Now are you satisfied. Nothing in here but dust, ye can see the back wall yerself. Happy?”
There was a soft murmur from around the bend, and headman “Harumphed” and ordered, “Load’er back up boys, the agent is done here.”
Then the loading crew began carting the large pallets of boxes wrapped in plastic back into the car. This time the loading crew didn’t leave any real spaces between the pallets and their exit was quickly blocked, sealing them in. The noises of loading continued for some time before they heard the doors close again. The conversation they had overheard was enlightening. Once she was reasonably certain they wouldn’t be overheard, Quartz let out a loud gasp, and looked at her sister. “What the hell?” she whispered.
Jet managed to look both relieved and smug. “I had been up for about an hour, and had been practicing with my abilities, trying to get a handle on them, when I heard them coming. I saw what was going to happen, so I took a risk. I made a wall.”
Quartz gave her sister a look. “A wall?”
Jet held out her hand. “Like this.” Suddenly there was a bit of metal container wall floating above Jet’s hand. “About half an hour before they got here I finally figured out how to use the illusionist trick deliberately. I was just trying stuff more complicated than colored bits of fog when I heard them, so I tried making a wall just like the rear wall of the car between us and them.”
Quartz was impressed. Achieving that level of control over a power that fast was unheard of. “How?” Quartz was interested in learning how she had managed it, because she badly wanted to gain similar mastery of her own abilities.
Jet shrugged. “Hard to explain. I knew it was there, like a muscle that you know you can use. Like learning to wink, I suppose. Just a matter of isolating and utilizing the right set of signals to the body.”
Quartz sighed. “More of your Kung Fu again.”
“Yup.” Jet shrugged, knowing how useless that was to her sister. “Still, I can go over the basics with you, but we may want to wait until we get somewhere safer.”
Quartz sighed. “True. Illusion and super speed is one thing, but my tricks are a little more hazardous to the environment.”
Jet nodded, but Quartz could sense a current of disappointment in her sister. “I don’t want you to feel second best or anything…” Jet trailed off.
Quartz shrugged. “Have you noticed that we seem to be feeding off of each other?”
Jet cocked her head, and then nodded. “You’re right. I hadn’t really noticed. I can tell, somehow, what you’re feeling. That it’s irritating, but that you don’t blame me.”
Quartz levered herself up and leaned against one of the pallets. “Remember what Diane said, that we were linked?” At Jet’s nod, she continued, “Well, I think this is a manifestation of that. I mean, before, you were waving your hand at me, and I had no idea what the gesture meant, but I knew that you wanted me to stay still. And that you were scared spitless.”
Jet sat down opposite her sister, and snapped a new glow stick to illuminate the car. “And I knew when you woke up, and exactly where you were in the dark just now.”
Quartz sighed. “So I guess its useless hiding from you just how terrified this makes me?”
Jet laughed. “I think we can safely say that we’re both in need of some venting.”
They both were, in fact, about to break down. The impact of the last twenty-four hours was hitting them, and the weight of their emotions was crushing. Without further conversation, Quartz moved over next to her sister and they rested on each other, and they cried. They cried for the injustice that had been done to them, they cried for the cruelty of their father, they cried for the loss of their mother and sister, and they cried for the men they had killed. They lost track of time while they vented their emotions.
It was some unknown time later when they finally stopped. Not so much because the pain was gone, but because there just weren’t any tears left. Jet hugged her sister, and murmured, “I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”
Quartz hugged her back. “What, cried like a girl?” They both giggled a little, and Quartz continued, “If you haven’t noticed, we’re girls now. No shame in venting a bit between sisters.”
Jet shuddered. “I just keep seeing those three soldiers.. The looks on their faces while I slit their throats…” She trailed off into silence.
Quartz just held her. “They were trying to kill us, Jet. You defended yourself.”
Jet sniffed. “I know. Hell, I saw them kill me. I just think that, looking back, I could have kept them alive, disabled them or something.”
Quartz shook her head. “Hindsight is twenty/twenty, you know that. You reacted. We’ve had our abilities for less then a week, and while they give us a lot of power, we really don’t know what we’re doing. You did what you had to, to survive. Learn from it, regret it. That’s what makes you human. If you didn’t feel bad, then I’d really be worried.”
Jet looked at her sister. “What about you. I saw what you did to the ones who came after you.”
Quartz shrugged. “Actually, I tried to disable them. I killed them instead. Does that hurt, hell yes. What do I take away from it? That I need to learn to control my abilities, so it doesn’t happen again. Think about it. When you were taking all those martial arts classes, what was the first lesson they taught you, after the basics.”
Jet closed her eyes. “How to use what I learned responsibly, in a controlled way, so I didn’t do any more damage then I wanted to.”
“Exactly. That’s what we need to do. Learn control. We have enormous ability; we need to learn to control what we have.”
Jet sighed. “So what do we have, exactly?”
Quartz leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “Well, we have whatever minor ability it is that lets us fly, our link, and our improved bodies.”
Jet sighed, and nodded. “Not that we know exactly what our physical changes are, completely. We really need to find a way to have that checked…”
“Considering that apparently we’re wanted murderers now; getting that done might be tricky.”
Quartz sighed, and closed her eyes. “So, me, I have that weird energy blast thing, which I need to learn how to control. Apparently, I’m bullet proof, and that’s something that I’d rather not learn the limitations on the hard way. And I can magnify my strength by some unknown amount, but at least enough to accidentally turn a normal human head into mush. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out.” She laughed lightly.
Jet chuckled. “Yeah, well, I’m a precognitive. Can’t seem to see more then a few seconds ahead, but it’s always been detailed and accurate. Just need to learn how to do more then see disasters. I can make lights, sounds, smells, and heat, and I can slow down time.” She shook her head. “Sounds so different.”
Quartz nodded. “Light and shadow. Just like always, we’re mirrors.”
Jet just nodded.
There was a long silence. Then Jet spoke up. “So, Chicago, eh?”
Quartz nodded. “Figured it we have to run, we may as well look for mom and Sarah.”
Jet stood up and opened the bag with the food in it. She tossed Quartz a sandwich, and grabbed one herself. “Good idea. We need to find them, straighten things out.”
Quartz checked her watch, and found that it was just after noon. “Well, we’re going to be stuck here for a while, any ideas?”
Jet sat down and, in-between bites of her sandwich, said, “Practice, I would think.”
The two of them sat there and ate, thinking of what they were stuck in. It wasn’t a good situation. But they would survive. The alternative wasn’t really an option.
Overlook Point was overrun with agents, and the cadaverous man in the black overcoat drew no undue attention as he stood at the edge of the parking lot. He walked over to the crater that was all that remained of one of the nicer lookouts in the park. He cannot help but be impressed by the thoroughness of the subjects in their escape. They will make excellent weapons, he thinks, once they have been subdued. All these animals were the same, thinking that they were still human. He shook his head and headed back to the van he had come in, and headed down the road to the Carmichael estate. He looked down the driveway.
Even more silly agents. Them and their rules. They insisted on treating these things like they were still people. They weren’t. Their human soul was killed by the disease, all that was left was the animal meat, suitable only for whatever use the true humans had for it. These things would make excellent additions to his weapons array. But first to apprehend them. He made a quick phone call, asking one of his sympathizers to bring him some samples. Then he sat back to wait. There was a shuffling from the back of the van, and he soothed the beast waiting back there, with promises of the hunt.
About half an hour later, a harried looking agent came up to the passenger window of the van. He was holding a pair of nightgowns. One was spattered in blood, the other was torn to shreds. He handed them to the shadowed man, and walked back to the estate. The man looked at the samples and smiled. These would do nicely. He drove the van away from the estate and parked in a secluded side street, where he would have privacy, and exited the van, taking the samples with him.
He walked around to the rear of the van, and opened the doors. The beast lunged at him, only to be stopped short by the implants and the collar fastened to its neck. The man shook his head. When would it learn? It wasn’t a person any more, it was a hunting beast. “Wolf. Heel, Wolf.” He threw the samples in front of the beast. It slowly reached down and clutched them in one massive clawed hand. “Hunt them down, Wolf. Disable, do not kill.” The beast snarled at him, and then shuddered in pain. For a minute it fought the programming, and then it got out of the van. It stood to its full eight feet, stretching its long, furred limbs and clenching and un-clenching it’s taloned hands. Its feet dug furrows into the dirt of the lawn it was standing on. It snapped its jaws a few times, and turned its great head to look at the thin man. The hate in those eyes was overwhelming, but the man just laughed softly. “Hunt, Wolf.”
The beast snarled, and shook its great wolf like head, and brought the samples up to its nose. It took a sniff and then bounded off on all fours. The hunt was on. It was only a matter of time now. The Wolf was his greatest success. It would not fail to bring these two new beasts to heel, and then he would add them to his project. It would be a great success, especially after so many failures. There was no other possible outcome.
Malcolm walked into the train station and looked around. He spotted Lisa standing over by the newsstand and walked over to her. “Hey, toots.”
She turned and smiled at him. “Toots? Who talks like that?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Do we have tickets?”
Lisa nodded. “Agent Davies is getting them as we speak.”
Malcolm nodded. “Where do I check my bike? I need it brought up with me.”
Lisa pointed at one of the counters. “That’s the guy. You’ll have to pay though; Davies can’t really explain that one.”
Malcolm shrugged and headed over to make the appropriate arrangements. He then took his bag and gun case off the bike and let the attendants take it around to the cargo area to be loaded into the freight cars going along for the ride. When he got back, Lisa and agent Davies were both standing by the time board, obviously waiting for him. He waved to them and walked up. “Hey, what’s up?”
Agent Davies smiled at him. “We have our own car, a sleeper coach. The Bureau decided to reimburse me for the vacation; just to make extra sure I stayed out of their hair.” She smirked. “I think that my immediate supervisor likes what’s going down here about as much as I do.”
Lisa and Malcolm both laughed, and Malcolm bowed to the two ladies. “Shall we?” The two females giggled a bit at his exaggerated gallantry, and proceeded to the train.
There was a bit of a hold up at security, while Malcolm gave his little speech about the disabled Winchester in his gun case, but after that, they got through with no trouble. Once they were in the car, Lisa raised an eyebrow at Malcolm. “A disabled Winchester?”
Malcolm laughed. “Well…” he temporized, “there is actually a Winchester in there. But no, that’s not all. Just being prepared.”
Lisa smiled. “Prepared for what?”
Malcolm’s expression turned serious. “Anything.”
The car got very quiet as the implications of that answer sunk in, and before anyone could break the silence, the train started up with a lurch. The three of them looked out the windows as they departed the station. Then agent Davies spoke up. “They’re close.”
Lisa and Malcolm swiveled to face her. “The twins,” Malcolm said.
Davies nodded. “We’re the last passenger car in the train, but there’s someone in the next car over.”
Lisa looked confused. “But that’s a freight car…”
Malcolm nodded. “Exactly. They’re train hopping. Hard as hell to track. Can you confirm?”
Agent Davies shook her head no. “I know that there are two of them, and that they’re both doing something, but I cant get any deeper. It’s like there’s a shifting whenever I try to get into their heads. I could probably communicate with them, but I can’t get any deeper to confirm their identities.”
Malcolm shrugged, and Lisa nodded. “Diane said that it was extremely painful to read them, and that was right after they finished changing. Something about their minds being linked somehow and it causing interference.”
Davies suddenly looked pleased. “That makes sense; they’re shielding each other by hiding their thoughts under each others. I doubt they even realize their doing it.”
Malcolm shrugged. “However fascinating, it’s irrelevant. What are they doing?”
Davies closed her eyes. “Practicing, I think. One of them is lifting weights, the other is drawing. Or at least that’s the mental analogies they’re using.”
Malcolm nodded. “The one lifting weights is likely Quartz, and the drawing is likely Jet. They’re attempting to get more detailed control over their abilities. Seems like I could get to like these kids.”
Lisa nodded. “So, is agent Davies going to introduce herself?”
Lisa and Malcolm looked at the FBI agent, and she shrugged. “No reason why not, I know they’re innocent of everything but defending themselves. Give me a minute to get comfortable.” She seated herself in a armchair, and closed her eyes, preparing to make mental contact with the twins.
Quartz was lying on her back, her breasts jutting up into the air, and with both her hands stretched over her head. Her legs were splayed out, and she was panting heavily, her sweat making her hair stick to her head. She was trying to lift the pallets of boxes using as little of her power as possible. It was hard. Her natural impulse was to use her gift at its full strength, or not at all. Moderating the force she exerted was proving to be a challenge, but she had made progress. She was slowly gaining confidence in her ability to not cause any damage to her surrounding that she didn’t intend. And she had only dented the roof once.
Jet was practicing her illusions. She had already mastered the ability to make any image she could picture. She was now working on making them move. This was proving more difficult. They moved, but it was jerky and artificial looking. Right now she had the image of a body builder having sex with her sister’s body. It was amusing to watch.
The train had just gotten underway, and they were on their way to Seattle. The two of them had barely noticed. They were rather wound up in their practice, when suddenly a voice intruded in their heads. *Excuse me, am I intruding?*
Jet lost the illusion, and it vanished in a blink. Quartz dropped the pallet with a thud. They looked at each other, sensing each other’s panic. The voice came back. *Peace, chill, calm down. I’m on your side.*
They looked at each other, and Quartz said, “Who are you?”
The voice laughed. *My name is Nora. And you don’t need to talk aloud.*
Jet smiled. “Talking aloud lets us hear what the other is saying to you. And you didn’t answer the question. Who are you Nora?”
Nora laughed again. *I’m an FBI agent in the car right next to yours. And before you panic, I know you’re innocent and I know you really are the Carmichael twins.*
Quartz traded a look with Jet. “No offence, but why the hell should we believe you?”
Jet chimed in. “Yeah, for all we know, you’re just trying to buy time for your buddies to stop the train and isolate us.”
Nora’s voice was silent for a moment, and then came back feeling both tired and proud. *Very clever, you two. You definitely live up to your reputation. How about I tell you everything that I know about your case, as I learned it, and you can make up your own minds.*
Jet and Quartz exchanged another look. “Why not,” Quartz said, “let’s hear your story.”
The twins seated themselves and Nora’s voice started to play back the story of the last day in their minds.
Wolf ran next to the train. He was off in the woods, and was paralleling the train. The scent of his targets was in there. He could just rip into the car they were in and attack them, but that would make a mess, and break secrecy, and his controller wouldn’t allow that. He was tempted to do it anyway, but he knew better. It would just hurt, and he wouldn’t get anything accomplished. He needed to get on that train, and wait until the twins got off. Silently, he leapt to one of the freight cars trailing the train. He leaned over and unlocked the door, swung inside and closed it behind himself. He curled up next to the motorcycle and went to sleep. A good peaceful rest would be so nice. It had been so long since he had had any peace. He inhaled deeply, and let the smell of dust and motor oil fill his nostrils. In moments he was at rest, letting his mind drift away from the horrors his life had become.
Agent Davies lay back in her chair and continued her mental discussion with the twins. *So, that’s the story. Now the question. Do you believe me.*
Quartz’s voice echoed in her head. *I suppose so. There were too many details there about Diane and Brian in there.*
Agent Davies smiled. *Well, I’m glad that you believe me, if not trust me.*
Jet’s voice came back, *We don’t trust much of anyone at this point, Nora.*
*Which is understandable, really, given recent events. Do you understand the implications of what Lisa, Malcolm and I have discovered?*
Quartz responded, *Yeah. We’ve got two enemies here, apparently.*
Jet’s mental voice was dry. *Yeah, Father and the mystery men. Everyone else is just a dupe, or just doing their job. Solve the problem of father and these weirdoes and everyone else should just stop.*
*Well, that’s a refreshingly direct way of looking at it. We’ll be around, and try to keep things from getting out of control. You are heading to Chicago?* At the affirmative thought, Davies continued. *Then stick around Seattle for a bit. We’ll try to work out a way for you to ride in a real train car next time, eh? What are you doing for a toilet anyways?*
Quartz’ mental laugh was infectious. *I punched a hole in the floor. And there’s plenty of toilet paper here.*
Agent Davies actually laughed. *You have my number. Call me when you settle down. We’ll meet later. Stay safe.*
She opened her eyes, as the farewells of the twins echoed in her head, and looked at her companions. “Well, it’s them. They are an impressive pair.”
Malcolm just nodded. Lisa was smirking. “I want a look at them, if only to do a physical scan.”
Davies shrugged. “That may be difficult. The more contact we have with them, the greater the odds of them being exposed. To be perfectly honest, we’ll have more luck helping them working this from the other end.”
Malcolm shrugged. “True enough. But we should stay nearby. If we can get some samples and what have you, that would help.”
Lisa nodded. “If worst comes to worst, I can run a paternity on the father using their DNA.”
Malcolm nodded. “Well, in any event. There’s nothing we can do till we get to Seattle. We may as well relax until then.”
It was twenty hours till Seattle, and a long trip, and they spent it making plans.
After Nora had left, so to speak, Jet leaned back and tossed a bottle of water to Quartz. Quartz nodded in thanks and pulled out her tablet. “Think I’ll spend some time getting to know our new town.”
Jet looked a question at her. “We’ll spend some time in Seattle getting our heads wrapped around the situation. I’m looking for a place to hang our hats.”
Jet walked over and looked over her shoulder. “How you gonna manage that?”
Quartz smirked. “Municipal project advocacy. It’s a wonderful thing, really. You see, when ever a new major improvement or addition to an existing system is made, the public contracting laws require endless debate and publication of the plans. If you spend the time, you can find all sorts of abandoned properties and storage facilities we can use for all sorts of things.”
Jet smiled. “So you go through and find us a nice abandoned hidey hole.”
Quartz grinned again. “Yup. Preferably one we can leech power and water in. I want my toys to work.”
Jet smiled. “Just so I can take a crap in something other then a hole in the floor, eh?”
Quartz laughed. “No problem. Now make me a light and keep working on your moving porno.”
Jet laughed, but went back to practicing. As she was working on recreating a fight scene from one of their favorite movies in miniature, a thoughtful expression came across her face. “Hey, you know, I think I can make a disguise with this.”
Quartz didn’t look up, but her tone was intrigued. “What’da mean?”
Jet shook her head. “Look, you know how I made that fake wall, and it was transparent from our side?” At Quartz’s nod, she continued. “Well, I’ve been trying to figure out how I did it. I think I have it. I made a wall that was impermeable to light coming from our direction, and permeable to light coming from the other. Then I made the impermeable direction emit light that matched the light reflected off of the back wall. Make sense?”
Quartz shrugged. “Yeah, but I don’t know how much that means. I’m no physicist. I have no idea how we do the things we do.”
Jet shrugged, but continued. “So what if I do that around me. I mean, make a shell like that wall, shaped like my skin, and made the outside look like a normal guy.”
Quartz smiled. “Make that gal, and you’ve got a good idea. Unless you want to explain why your ‘guy’ has obsidian breasts jutting out of his shirt.”
They both laughed at that, and Jet nodded. “I’m gonna work on it.”
Quartz nodded again, once more immersed in her search for their own place. The two of them knuckled down and focused on their respective tasks. The rest of the trip passed in companionable focus on mutually beneficial goals.
In the baggage car, Wolf slept, and in a facility hidden away, the thin man was smiling. They were headed to Seattle. Good, the Feds were focusing all of their efforts on San Francisco. There would be no trouble snatching them out of Seattle. He made some calls, and got some of his men moving up there, just in case Wolf wasn’t able to bring them down. His dog would bring them to bay, but no good hunter ever relied on just one weapon. So it would happen in Seattle. He had always liked that city. The weather up there suited his temperament.
When the white and black subjects were brought in, he would be ready to welcome them, and teach them their new place in the world. As his tools.
END CHAPTER FOUR
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org