By: Darian Deamos
Chapter Five: Finding Center
Wolf looked around and sighed. It had been just over a day, and he was glad of the respite, but he needed to get off of the train before it got to Seattle. It was too bad that the collar kept him from actively betraying anything, or he would have done something here, but even the thought of leaving some blood on the ground had frozen him. He turned and opened the back of the car, and leaned out into the whipping wind, looking around, and then he hauled himself up, closed and re-locked the door, and leapt off into the trees of the right of way.
There was a crashing sound as he hit, and then silence. Moment’s later a dark form rose in the late afternoon woods and sprinted after the train.
Speeding away from this unannounced and un-remarked departure, the train buzzed along its rails. In the forward most freight car Jet and Quartz were sitting, planning for their imminent arrival in the emerald city. “So,” Jet was saying, “do we have a house?”
Quartz looked up from her tablet. “Sorta.” She grimaced. “We have a place, and it looks alright, the problem is going to be getting from here to there.”
Jet raised an eyebrow.
“Other side of the city from the train station.”
Jet’s mouth made and ‘O’. “And we aren’t even out of the car…”
Quartz looked up. “Can you do that thing with the one way wall again?”
Jet looked puzzled. “Sure, now that I know what I’m doing, it’s rather simple.” Her look of confusion cleared. “Oh, I get it. No problem.”
Quartz leaned back and powered her tablet off. “Good, then I’m going to wait till our telepathic ‘friend’ gets back.”
A voice in both their heads chimed in, *I’m hurt, you don’t trust me?*
Jet chuckled. “There are degrees of trust, my dear. We trust you wish to help us, we do not yet trust that your idea of ‘help’ is the same as ours.”
*My, my, suspicious a little, aren’t we?*
Quartz grinned mirthlessly, “Do you blame us?”
A mental chuckle is an odd thing to experience, second only to the telepathic shrug. Quartz thought it sort of tickled. *Not at all. If you DID trust me off the bat, I’d be a bit more concerned for your safety. Now, the doctor I’m with wants me to tell you that she would very much like to meet you. I’ve reserved rooms at the Edgewater, so I’m sure you can find us. You have your own housing arrangements I take it?*
Jet smiled, “The Edgewater, eh? I think we can find it.” She looked at Quartz and then nodded. “We’ll see you tomorrow night then.”
There was a moment of silence, and then their unseen conspirator replied, *All right, that will give us some time to play tourist, and to pick up some presents for you two. I’ll see you then. In the flesh this time, eh?* There was no overt sign, but the twins got the distinct impression that Nora had left.
Quartz raised an ivory brow at her sister. “Presents eh? And it isn’t even our birthday.” She opened her hand and very slowly drew a small white orb into existence over her palm. Then she looked at her sister, smiled, and crushed it. “Back to waiting.”
Davies looked up as the train pulled into King St Station, and the FBI agent got out of the shower on the sleeper car that she had shared with her two traveling companions. She winced a bit as Lisa walked by, and tried to hide it. Unfortunately, Lisa caught it.
“What,” she asked, very quietly.
Davies blushed. “Nothing. Or at least nothing you did wrong. I’m just not used to getting fantasies about me colored in quite that way.”
Lisa just laughed. “I’m sorry, I really am, but it’s just the way I am. I’ll try to keep it under wraps, alright?”
Davies smiled slightly. “All right, just don’t be quite so, huh, loud, about it, mm?”
Lisa chuckled under her breath and the vague images that Davies was getting from her suddenly switched to a different woman. Lisa walked into the bathroom to clean up before they disembarked, and Davies sat down at the table, and grabbed a left over sandwich.
“Lisa giving you fits, Agent?” Malcolm asked. He had his case open and was doing maintenance on the massive rifle he had concealed within.
“How anyone can be that, that…” Davies trailed off in search of the right word.
“Horny?” Malcolm smiled. “Don’t be surprised. MORFS gave you green hair. It gave Lisa a sex drive that puts a teenage boy to shame. She’s actually very lucky that she such a powerful Bio-elemental. If she wasn’t, she’d have half a dozen kids and a VD or three by now, the way she goes through bedmates.”
Lisa’s amused voice came from the bathroom over the sound of running water. “You weren’t complaining before, solider-boy.”
“I’m not complaining, just stating the facts,” Malcolm called back. Then, in a lower tone of voice, “it really isn’t her fault. She’s actually gotten a lot better about it. The one telepath we knew in high school said that being around her was like watching a playboy channel lesbian marathon.”
Davies laughed. “I know what he meant. It’s just a little weird to see me in one of the starring rolls.”
Lisa walked out. “Oh, why, you have the nicest body. That hair of yours makes you quite exotic.”
Davies shook her head. “You are completely incorrigible, you fiend. Come on, we need to get moving, or we’ll wind up heading back to San Francisco.”
Malcolm put his weapon away and closed the case. “Yes, fiend, come. We have a new city to corrupt.” Lisa laughed, and the three of them left the train and walked out over the platform to head to the baggage claim. Malcolm headed over to an attendant to retrieve his bike from the car it had been packed on, and the two girls sat down to wait for their luggage to arrive. When it did, they got their bags, including Malcolm’s, and then caught a cab to the Edgewater. Malcolm would meet them there.
Malcolm followed the attendant out into the train yard to get his bike out. When he got there, he frowned, and then looked up into the back of the car it was next to. He motioned for the handlers to pause for a second, and then hopped up and stared at the ground. Carefully, he scooped up the few small hairs he had spotted.
He called down to the chief stockyards man, “Hey, anyone bring a dog carrier on here? Large breed, black?”
The crew chief frowned down at his clipboard, and shook his head. “No, sir. I don’t know where that came from sir. It may be from a previous run.”
Malcolm nodded. “That must be it. Thanks for checking, chief.” He sounded dismissive, but he pocketed the hairs. He was frowning under his helmet as he started up his bike, and headed out. As he punched the address of the Edgewater into the bikes navigator, he was going over the possibilities. There hadn’t been any hairs there when he had rolled the bike in there in San Francisco. And there definitely hadn’t been one stuck in the join of the saddle on his bike. It looked like there were more people on that train than even he had thought. He was very serious as he sped through the busy streets of the Emerald City. They hadn’t been here for an hour, and already there was trouble.
A hunter had followed the twins to Seattle.
On the outskirts of Seattle, a dark shape moved in the shadows of the verdant trees that gave the city its moniker. Wolf settled in to wait for the city to fall into its nightly rhythm. He knew his target was in the city. The trail of its scent stretched out before him like ribbon. He would wait till he could move about undetected. Then, he would hunt again.
A bead of sweat dripped down the back of Jet’s neck, as she held the illusion of the false wall between her sister and the stockyard crew. Holding it steady wasn’t difficult, but the mental strain was irritating, especially since the imbeciles unloading their car seemed to be taking their time about it. Eventually, though, the last of the pallets and crates were gone, and the car was shut up again.
The twins sat in silence as the car was moved, this time into an auxiliary holding area, and the sound of the crew left. Slowly, Quartz moved to open the door to the car, and peered out. “It’s clear,” she hissed to her sister, “let’s go.”
The two of them quickly moved out of the car, and into the train yard. They needed to find a hiding spot, and then figure out a way to get to the old industrial district. Quartz was annoyed that this was Seattle, not L.A. or New York. Hell even Chicago. In any of those cities they could have used the underground subway tunnels to move around almost undetected. Seattle, being situated between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, relied far more heavily on bus and ferries for its commuter travel, and as such had no subway system to speak of. It has a fine monorail, out to the Seattle center and the space needle, but that helped the twins not at all.
So they needed to find a way to get around. The two of them hid under a loading dock, where trucks would come to load or unload cargo to be packed onto the trains. As Quartz hunkered down, Jet waited only a few moments, and then slithered out. “Wait here,” she hissed, and then she was off. Quartz sighed, and cursed her luck. She had enough power to blow a military assault transport out of the sky, and here she was cowering under a loading dock, useless.
She swallowed her pride and waited for her sister.
Jet stood up and looked around the loading dock. It looked deserted, and she concentrated briefly. From the outside, it looked like a mist formed around her, and them melted into her skin. When it was gone, there was a nice young woman, completely normal looking, in a white leather trench coat, standing there. Jet looked around, and quickly set off to the terminal.
She slipped inside a service door, and got a look at the fire escape map to get her bearings. Then she started walking. She slipped around a corner and on a sudden impulse stepped into a utility alcove and threw up a fake wall over the front. Right as she did so, two security men walked around the corner, chatting. She waited till they turned the corner, and then moved on. A few more turns, and one quick dash past an open office door, and she was out onto the main concourse.
Once she was out here, she was a great deal more relaxed. She straightened up, and strode confidently to the information kiosks, and started looking at the maps. She got so wrapped up in her search that when she heard a voice behind her she nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Can I help you miss?” the polite vice asked.
Turning, she saw a police officer standing there staring at her. Her heart nearly jumped out of her chest. Quickly concentrating on making sure the illusion of her face matched what her actually face was doing, she started talking. “Oh, you startled me Officer.”
The young police woman smiled at her, and nodded. Jet idly noticed that her uniform name badge read Walker. “Please, call me Joanne. Were you looking for something?”
“Well, sorta. I need a street map. I just got in, and I wanted to plot out my sightseeing routes, and I’m having trouble finding a good street map to the whole city.”
Officer Walker nodded. “I think I have just the thing.” She glanced at the rack, and picked out one of the maps. “Here you go; it’s the whole city, and a bit beyond. Should be what you were looking for.”
Jet nodded, nervous sweat dripping invisibly down the back of her neck, under her illusion. “Thanks Joanne, you’re a lifesaver.” She took the map, noted that it was a courtesy item, and tucked it in the inner pocket of her coat, and then turned to go with a wave to the helpful policewoman. Thankfully, another train pulled in, and she lost herself in the press of people quickly.
Quartz was getting impatient, and the sun was starting to set, when Jet finally got back. “What took you so long?” she hissed at her errant sibling.
“Cop,” Jet hissed back. “Lets go, I’ve got a map.”
Quartz rolled out from her hiding place and stood. The two of them opened the map up. “Ok,” Quartz said, “here we are,” she pointed out the train station on the map, “and we need to be here,” indicating yet another point.
Jet looked up. “We could always wait about two hours and then fly.”
Quartz nodded. “I’d rather wait till about midnight.”
Jet shrugged. “Till then?”
Quartz grinned. “The gravel under this loading dock is nice and comfy.”
Jet shrugged, and the two of them climbed under the ledge and hid.
Quartz looked up at the sky and hefted the four large duffel bags they had packed. They didn’t even seem that heavy. She shifted her shoulders slightly, and twitched her hands a bit, settling the weight some. She looked at Jet, and smiled. “Ready for takeoff?”
Her sister grinned back. “Got the North Star, so I’m oriented, I’ll lead?”
Quartz nodded, and unfurled her pale wings behind her. She crouched and leapt into the air, rowing her wings for air. Slowly, she gained altitude. It took almost ten minutes for her to gain what she considered to be a safe altitude. Then, after what felt like an eternity of laboring for height in the cooling summer night, she leveled off, scanned the sky for Jet, and finally found her. She was above her, despite Quartz taking of earlier.
Quartz nodded at her sister, and the two of them went off towards the warehouse that Quartz had found. It was on the other side of the bay, by the Boeing plant. She had found the place on a list of upcoming foreclosed property auctions, along with a whole string of other places that had been listed at the same time. It wasn’t due to go up for auction for another six months, so it should be rather deserted, but it did once to have a bathroom and office, so there should be power and water. They just needed to do some refurbishing. The whole area had gone under at the same time, some failed development, and apparently there was a bit of a stink about the ‘urban blight’ that it was turning into.
It was just what they were looking for, and less then an hour later, they were finally standing in front of the place.
While no city ever truly shuts down, some neighborhoods faked it, and this was one of them. They stood in a deserted street, looking at a two story red brick building with illegible lettering faded above a pair of large cargo doors. There was a small entrance to the left of the cargo doors, and the front of the building had large, many paned windows on the second floor. There were no windows on the first floor. Not the coziest place that either of them had seen, but it beat under a bridge somewhere, which had been Quartz’s secret backup plan.
The surrounding buildings on this street, and the two adjacent, were all just as abandoned, and Quartz hoped this meant that she could practice her abilities in peace. She needed to get more control over her energy blasts. She nodded at Jet. “Shall we?”
Jet grinned slyly, an expression that suddenly made her seem much more like the cocky young football jock she had once been. “After you, O Great Opener of Buildings.”
Quartz smirked back. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going, ya wimp.” She tossed two of the duffels to Jet, who caught them deftly, and she walked her way over to the smaller entry door. A quick snap broke the padlock on the chain, and sharp blow at the lock disabled the deadbolt. She gestured at the now open door. “Our domicile awaits.”
Grinning to each other, the twins walked inside. The interior was a disaster. They walked into a small office like area, which was filled with clutter. Odd bits of scrap and pipe, along with the remains of a drop ceiling littered the floor. Carefully picking their way through the disaster, the twins worked their way into the building proper. The actual building was even worse. The interior was two stories, almost completely open. There was a walkway running along the exterior, with stairs leading up to it right next to them. The area immediately in front of them was a loading dock, and behind that was what was obviously the old warehouse. It was mostly a pile of scrap, now. It had apparently once been an electronics warehouse, but something had knocked the fifteen foot tall shelving units over. The entire center of the building was taken over by the twisted pile of scrap. At the rear, you could see an enclosed space that took up two floors, obviously the old offices. With an unspoken accord, the twins headed to the rear of the building, and those offices. They found that this area, at least, had been mostly cleaned out by the previous owner, however long ago he abandoned this place.
Looking at each other, and the mostly clean and enclosed spot of floor, Jet looked at Quartz. “Please tell me you brought a cot or something?”
Quartz suddenly looked pained. “No. I actually didn’t. Do we actually OWN any camping gear?”
Jet looked morose. “No. Crap. You’ve seemed to have everything else figured out, I was hoping you would have magically produced a bed from somewhere for us.”
Quartz sighed. “No. But it can’t possibly be worse than the floor of that cargo container.”
Jet sighed. “Blankets, at least?”
Quartz perked up at that. “Yes, actually,” she said. “They’re in your bag, I think.”
Immediately, the two of them began rummaging through the duffels, and sure enough, they found the bedding that had been vacuum packed. Quartz grinned. “Open those. I’ll go get something to use as a bed frame.”
As Jet got to work, Quartz walked back out to the mess, and found a shelving unit that was still mostly intact. Its frame and back were still in one piece, and seemed to have most of its interior shelves intact. It should support their weight. She hefted the thing, and then carefully toted it into the office.
Jet paused in her work to get out of the way of the woman toting the gigantic hunk of metal. “That?”
Quartz slit the thing into the corner of the office. “It should support our weight, and get us off the floor. Now let’s make ourselves an impromptu bed here, eh?”
Jet looked dubious, but shrugged and brought the pile of bedding. There was quite a lot of it, and between the two of them, they made an acceptable, if unorthodox bed.
Once that was done, Jet immediately started stripping out of her clothes. Quartz looked at her peculiarly. Jet glared at her, topless. “There is no fucking way I’m sleeping in my clothing two nights in a row. I unpacked some of our clothes.” She held up a nightgown, bra, and a fresh pair of panties.
Quartz looked down, and suddenly felt the grimy clothes she had been wearing for two days now. She grimaced, “Right.” She went and got her own nightclothes. Soon, the two of them were cuddled up in their nest of blankets, and sleep rose up with jaws of exhaustion and ate them whole.
Wolf crouched in the train yard, and looked up. The target went up. God damn. He had forgotten that it could fly. He had no idea where it went from here. With a snarl, he headed out. All he knew at this point was that it was not here. Leaping onto the roof of the building with a snarl, he headed out to scour the city. He was going to have to do this the hard way. If there had been anyone to see him as he slunk from shadow to shadow, they would have been hard pressed to tell if he was grinning or snarling. It was the tail that really gave it away though.
He was grinning.
Later that night, Jet woke from dreams of blood and gore, shaking. She could still feel the blood on her hands. As she rolled over, shaking, trying not to wake her sister, she felt a touch on her shoulder. Quartz’s voice whispered in her ear, “I’m here sis. It’s all right.” Emotion killed her voice in her throat, and she just lay there as her sister wrapped her arms around her, and held her. Finally, she found her voice just as sleep claimed her again.
“Thanks,” she whispered to her sister, as she fell asleep in her sister’s strong arms.
The next morning, the Jet woke to find herself still in her sister’s arms. It was strange, she mused, to find herself in this situation. There was real comfort here, if only emotional. The ‘bed’ they were in was hardly the most comfortable thing she had ever been in. What was even stranger was to find herself in her sister’s pale arms. That was an entirely different bit of strangeness, even if she understood it. She shifted a bit, trying not to wake her sister.
Quartz, apparently, had been mostly awake already. She shifted, rubbing her chest against Jet’s back, a very odd sensation for the both of them. “Hmm,” she murmured, “time to get up, I think.”
Very slowly, the two of them disentangled themselves from each other. Bemusedly, Quartz noticed that her problem of morning arousal hadn’t changed due to her swap in gender. She was very grateful that her new skin didn’t show a blush. Once she had disentangled from Jet, who was taking her time getting up, she grabbed some fresh underwear, and a pair of pants and a tee. “I’m going to change in the bathroom, so take your time,” she called, and left the room with Jet’s murmur of consent following her out.
After relieving herself, both in terms of bladder and, ahem, other things, and dressed in casual, work ready clothes, she started assessing what she would need to make this place livable. She had made sure to download several of the technical manuals for electrical and plumbing work, so she had a vague idea of what she was doing. She started to go through the pile of crap that took up most of the warehouse, and started to clear it off to the side. A stray sound from the ‘bedroom’ made her stop for a minute.
“Jet!” she hollered, “stop frigging your self and get dressed! I’m gonna need your help out here.”
A few minutes later, Jet appeared in the door. “Ok, upside to all this, that is fun.”
Quartz shot her a look. “I am FULLY aware of how, fun, that can be.” She smirked. “But if the bed smells like a brothel you get to find a way to clean all those blankets.”
Jet’s face fell, and Quartz laughed. “Why do you think I went into the bathroom, sis?” The two of them both broke into giggles. There was no other work for it, it was definitely giggling. When the mirth had subsided somewhat, Quartz continued, “Grab your coat, you get to go shopping.”
Jet nodded. Suddenly businesslike, she snagged her white leather trench from the floor and shrugged it on, snagging the list of things from her sister. Looking it over, she looked a bit concerned. “How, exactly am I going to pay for this?” She looked concerned. “I don’t want to steal if I don’t have to, and this is a lot of stuff.”
Quartz shrugged. “I have no idea. We do have a lot of money at our disposal, but it’s all in accounts, and we can’t get at any of it.”
Jet nodded. “I can’t have you doing all the work. I’ll figure something out.” She looked around. “You going to try to make this place a bit more livable?”
Quartz nodded. “A bit. I’ll see if I can get the power and water back on, and the lights working.”
“All right,” Jet said, while nodding. “I’ll see what I can do about this stuff.” She closed her eyes. “Tell me what you think of my street clothes.”
So saying, Jet began layering her illusions over herself. There was the faint suggestion of mist over her, and then it wasn’t Jet standing there. It was a tall, stunningly attractive woman with pale skin, white blond hair, bright blue eyes, expertly and subtly made up, wearing a conservative blouse and slacks and a stylish grey overcoat.
Quartz was stunned. “Isn’t that hard to maintain?”
Jet shrugged. “Sort of. I have to focus on keeping the disguise up, but not on the disguise itself. I think it’s a byproduct of the other training I was doing yesterday. If I understand how my powers work, everything should be fine.”
Quartz was concerned, but nodded. “If you think it’ll work, go for it.”
Jet nodded. “I’ll get going. See you later.”
Quartz nodded, and Jet headed towards the door.
After picking her way through the wreckage in the outer office, Jet stood in the bright sun of a Seattle morning, and looked around. She pulled the map she had gotten from Joanne out of her coat, and looked at the bus route information. There was a stop two blocks away, and the bus should be by in half an hour. She looked around, and then started walking.
Half an hour later, a Seattle city bus drove by, and almost didn’t stop. When the bus stopped just past her and the door hissed open she walked in and shot a look at the driver.
The driver, a huge Samoan who seemed to strain his uniform, just looked at her and shrugged. “Don’t get pickups ‘round here much, lady,” he rumbled at her, as she dug out her old wallet and gave him the bus fare out of her ready cash. She didn’t have a lot of that left. Just enough for lunch, which was good since she had left the last of the food from the train with Quartz.
The bus driver was still staring at her, and cocked an eyebrow, “What’s a lady doin’ out here, anyways?”
Jet felt that a quick explanation was warranted, if only to allay suspicion. “I was inspecting one of the buildings, and my cab ditched me…” she grumbled.
The bus drive nodded, his curiosity mollified, and she took her seat on the nearly deserted bus. This event definitely made the effort she spent coming up with a story worth it. She felt all secret agent-y. Is that even a word? Ah, well, doesn't matter. She had time for lunch, and a trip to the space needle, and then she’d work on some funds…
Quartz watched as her sister left the building, and then turned her attention to the pile of junk occupying the center of the building. Looking at it, it seemed a massive task. There were the shelves, and the bits of walkway, and then all the electronic odds and ends that had been abandoned. All of it in a gigantic pile. She let out a sigh. This was going to be a chore.
She started by removing the shelves. It was noisy, but with those massive pieces of debris out of the way, the sheer volume of mess was reduced dramatically. She piled the shelves against the doors to the loading dock, and left them there, out of the way. Next, she turned to the bits of scrap and walkway. Those, she sorted into ‘usable’, meaning strait, flat, and otherwise useful bits of metal or grating, and ‘unusable’, that which was twisted, bent, or otherwise unhelpful either due to design or mischance. The usable, went by the door to the bedroom, the un, under the stairs.
Next, she sorted through the assorted supplies. Apparently her earlier assessment had been correct; this was an electronics parts warehouse. She found many things that she could use, including industrial power cable, interior power line, networking cable, and soldering supplies. And she also found many things she had no real use for, such as broken televisions, smashed radios, and speakers and unlabeled circuit boards. The useful things went in a pile with the usable scrap metal, the rest, in the ‘trash’ under the stairs.
It was an hour later that she looked at the place in satisfaction. It was actually clean. Now for the rest of the building. Her first order of business was the second floor of the office structure in the back of the building. A quick hop up to the walkway, and she found the offices up here. What it contained surprised her.
Apparently, she wasn’t the first person to think about living here. There was an old, but reasonably clean, mattress and a small kitchenette. Looking it over, Quartz decided that maybe nobody had lived here, after all. The bed was in the wrong spot if you wanted to sleep on it, but it made a fine couch. That was probably it. This was the old businesses version of a break room, and they had gotten an old bed as a couch. It was only a twin, probably junked on a sidewalk and hauled here to serve as a seating arrangement, but it was still softer then that pile of blankets they had used last night. It was smaller then anything Quartz had used since she was out of boarding school, and would have to bed two, but they would manage. For even a lumpy, smelly mattress, she would cram in with Jet.
Unfortunately, it was on a rough, plywood base. One that was almost certainly not made to withstand the nearly eight hundred pounds of the twins combined weight. So back onto the proven support of the old shelf. Then she piled the blankets on top of that. Hauling a pair of the shelves into the room, she arranged all of their clothing on them, and looked around again. A handy boudoir if she did say so herself. And she did.
So, back upstairs to what she was calling the kitchen. There was a small fridge/freezer combo, a sink, a microwave, an oven, and a stove. Thankfully, the latter two were both electric, so she wasn’t going to have to play with gas and blow the building up. That was a relief, even if it did mean that the cooking was going to suffer. There was also some cabinetry and a table in there, though no chairs. She wouldn’t want to live here long, but for the next few weeks, this would do.
Now all she needed to do was restore the power to the building. She grabbed the industrial power line and walked outside, to see what she could do. Thankfully for her peace of mind, the power junction for the building was obvious, and mostly hooked up. She didn’t even need the cable. It was just a matter of breaking open a lock on the utility box and hitting a switch. The water controls were right here too, but those she left alone for now. No use flooding the place, and she had noticed at least a few broken sprinkler system pipes.
So that was that, time to head in, grab some lunch, and think about that plumbing. She was suddenly very glad that Jet had left the food. She was going to need her energy.
It was going to be a long afternoon
Jet stood there and leaned out over the railing, and munched a french fry. Seattle really could be a fascinating place. And the view from five hundred and twenty feet up was amazing. She took another bite of her burger and leaned over the railing, and focused for a moment on making sure that the illusion that hid her from view from the rest of the observation deck was intact. Then she turned her attention on the city.
Her morning had been spent in tourism, but it hadn’t been totally wasted. She had ventured into the public library, and found what she needed. Every city had its underbelly, its dark corner where those outside society gathered and formed their tribes. She had identified that area in Seattle. And now, she waited, and took in the city.
She finished her lunch, and walked around the needle. She had to pay more attention to her illusion now that she was moving, constantly adjusting for changes in angle and perspective. It wasn’t for long though. A few minutes, and she was facing the opposite side of the monument, and without a moments pause, she hurled herself off.
The illusion changed in mid air, going from a warping blur to a bird. From the ground, she looked like any other bird of prey, perhaps an eagle. Only a true bird watching enthusiast focusing on her with binoculars would be able to tell the difference. She winged her way to the southern waterfront.
For the past decade or so, the southern waterfront of Seattle and decayed and moldered, a victim of the vagaries of economics. It was hardly deserted, not like the warehouse district that the twins had made their home in, but it was hardly the picture of wealth and prosperity that the north shore was. The gangs and the drug dealers had moved in, and they refused to budge. Well, Jet had decided if the poison pushers weren’t going to move then they could fund some decidedly small scale urban renewal.
It took her less than an hour to find her target. It was an apartment building, hard used and run down by neglect and time. But unlike every other building on the block, there were no gang tags on this building, and a dealer was standing out front. Now, Salicia might have been upscale, but a high school is a high school, and when there’s that much money around, the druggies are going to find their way in. Jet had seen drug dealers before, only not quite as brazen as this. Not quite so well armed either.
They didn’t seem very smart though. She could see the money on a table through a window from the roof across the street. She couldn’t make out the denominations, but it looked like quite a bit, unless they were all ones and fives, and that was unlikely. It looked like she had found a distribution house. Lots of cash then. Good. She took her time, and spent a good twenty minutes casing the place. She made plans and analyzed the people moving about. And then, when she felt confident there would be no undue surprises, for her at least, she moved.
She began her very first act of for profit vigilantism by gliding across the alley to her target’s roof. That was their first mistake, they didn’t have a guard on the roof, or if they did, he was too busy getting high downstairs to do his job. The door wasn’t even locked. Inside, the poor lighting in the stairway made her job even easier, and a simple illusion of even deeper shadow made her all but undetectable.
Slowly, she moved down the stairs. The room she had identified as the cash room was on the third floor of the six story structure. Slowly, she descended the stairs, being careful to keep her illusions firm, and her movements silent. She encountered no one, and that made her nervous. Where was everyone? There should be people here somewhere, so where were they? When she got to the third floor, she found out.
The third floor had undergone some impromptu renovation, with a sledgehammer. It was now mostly one large open space, and that space was filled with people. There was a deal going down here, and it must have been happening since before she arrived. There was definitely some impassioned debate going on among these people. She sized them up, taking the measure of her opponents. This thing had definitely been split into two factions.
On one side was a trio of well dressed men, two of whom were holding briefcases. They looked like mafia, stereotypical mafia anyway. Then she got a good look at the face of one, and saw his features. Decidedly mezzo-American. Probably the out of town supplier then. Lovely, this was a deal. And from the size of those cases, not a small one either.
The other side of this negotiation was more what she was expecting. Street punks, in all their ghetto fabulous glory. What she didn’t expect, although in hindsight she should have, was that three of the gang bangers, and likely at least one of the suits, were MORFS enhanced. One of them was obviously displaying his power, making both of his hands burn like they had been soaked in kerosene. The other was just huge and splotchy blue/black. The suit she suspected just had really long blue hair. It looked like there was some spirited discussion going on over price and purity, and things looked like they might get ugly. Jet grinned. These poor saps had no idea just what ugly was.
She hid in the stairwell, under a cloak of shadow, and bided her time. Just when the money came out, and was assessed, and the deal was finally finished, she struck. She used her most basic trick; she flooded the room with black mist, as far as she could see within the building. Her victims panicked, but they didn’t have time to do much. Jet began to move as soon as she unleashed her distraction.
She stopped time and dashed up to the trio of suits, and struck hard. First was the blue haired one, she didn’t want to have to deal with him and whatever he could do, if anything. Three precise blows, full force, one each to sternum, throat and face and he dropped. She resumed time for a split second, to ensure he did indeed fall, and then went after the other bodyguard suit.
This one had a split second to react, and had a pistol half out of his jacket when she got to him. A blow to the side of the right knee, another to the head, and then a third to the chest, and he was down, and time resumed just long enough for him to fall. Then it was the torch’s turn. He went down much the same as the first, and then she was on to the big blue guy.
This one, she couldn’t be gentle with, she struck with vicious precision. A blow to the eye, the ear, and the throat began the beating, and a pair of brutal blows to the knees ensured that he not get back up to complicate matters. The rest of the freak show was of no real challenge. They fell into confusion as Jet moved among them with impossible speed, blind in her black mist, lurching about, looking for a target, and falling before a brutal and blindingly fast assault, one by one. It took less then a minute, and all that was left in the room was groaning bodies and a woman who looked like a statue made of ebony, wearing a white coat.
Jet walked over, took the duffel bag, and opened it. It was cash, and quite a bit of it. God bless street thugs, they never did use banks. A cashier’s check would have been so much more awkward. She hefted the bag of money and started back up stairs, when she heard a whimper. She whipped her head around, and saw a lovely young woman looking no older then fifteen, in ragged men’s clothes, staring at her from the landing on the floor above. Jet nodded at the youngster, and walked up the stairs.
On the fourth floor, the young woman stood before the landing with a gun pointed at her. “Diablo,” she hissed at Jet, facing her down with the gun shaking in her hands.
Jet stared at her, and cocked her head. “Not quite, I think. I have no wish to harm you, if you would stand aside?”
The young girl stood there in her ripped clothes pointing the pistol at Jet with shaking hands, and hissed at Jet, “Demon, I will kill you and prove that I am still a man…” She glared at Jet with desperation, “I will prove to my brother that I am more than a whore!”
She spat at Jet, and pulled the trigger. Jet didn’t even think, she just reacted. As soon as the trigger twitched, time slowed. The bullet came out of the gun at a snail’s pace, and Jet simply stepped around it and walked up next to the girl. She grabbed the gun out of the girl’s hand, just as time resumed its normal progress. Jet punched the young woman lightly in the gut, just enough to make her double over, and scooped her up. She didn’t weigh much.
The kid’s eyes bugged out, and she went limp. On the way up, Jet stopped at what was obviously a bedroom, and grabbed a cell phone. As she climbed to the roof she hit 911, and made an illusory male voice say into the phone, “Hey, I want to report an assault! I’m at 8752 Clearview Ave, and I saw a man hit a girl with a gun and drag her inside! There’s a big commotion going on in there, send cops quick! Oh my god! Get away!” Then she added the sounds of gunfire, and dropped the phone. She vaulted off the roof, and glided three buildings over, and down into an alley. She dropped the kid, and opened the bag. It was full of bundles of money, twenties, fifties and hundreds, in pre counted bank style wrappers. She pulled out three of the hundred packs, and tossed them to the girl, who caught them in numb hands.
As she turned to go, the kid stared at her. “Why,” she asked.
Jet turned back. “What, you think I’m going to let you get gender swapped and turned into a whore?” She smirked. “I’m not that heartless kid. Just tell the cops everything that happened here today, and hide that cash, eh?” She turned to go, pulling an illusion disguise around herself as she went. “Good luck with your life, kid. Don’t make me come and beat the snot out of you too, eh?” She walked out of the alley, carrying a bag full of money, and leaving a befuddled young girl holding more money then she had ever dreamed of in her hands as, in the distance, sirens could be heard approaching, and a crowd had heard the commotion from the third floor and was starting to cautiously gather.
As Jet walked away, she wished the young survivor well. She couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through, and she didn’t want to. It wasn’t like there was anything she could do, anyway. The kid would be fine in the cops’ hands, and the three stacks of hundreds would be enough to at least start her on a new wardrobe, or something. In any event, Jet had the money she needed now. A quick ferry trip and she was off to shop.
Quartz looked around at her handiwork, and was pleased. She had managed a lot in the three hours since she had stopped for lunch. She was standing in the little office that now served as their entryway, and it was finally clean. Well, cleaner, anyway. All the debris that had covered the floor had been swept and bundled up, and dropped unceremoniously in the junk pile with everything else. Her real accomplishment, however, was the plumbing. That’s what had taken all the time.
It had been a painstaking process, finding each and every pipe, tracing it out, and making sure there were no open pipes. She had found several. In each case, the solution had been the same. Fold the opening end in on itself, and spot weld it shut using little tiny energy blasts. It had taken some practice, but it had been excellent for her fine control. Now, it was time for the test. Time to open the water main.
Now, since these properties were supposed to be sold eventually, the utilities were still hooked up, just off. For the phone lines, that meant disabled at the utilities end. But for things like power and water, that just meant that you had to throw a switch, and there’s your service. In this case, the switch was really a big ass valve in the utilities room, just behind the office. She strolled over there, whistling. You know, she thought, I have got to be the hottest plumber ever. For some reason, this thought amused her, and she giggled as she grabbed the wheel for the main water valve to the main outside, and twisted. It stuck for a moment, and then there was a snap, as the lock keeping it closed broke open, and the valve turned. The gurgle of water rushing through pipes greeted her ears, and she waited a moment to see if it stopped, or if she heard the fatal sound of dripping. It did, and she didn’t, meaning that there were no open pipes, and no major leaks. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized that she was holding, and moved to the water heater.
Here, she had a problem. It looked like something had gotten into the computer that controlled the thing, and eaten it. The damage, while not extensive, was crippling, and beyond her ability to fix. She cursed under her breath, and then sighed. Well, there went her half formed plans to build a bathtub. They’d just have to find some other way to get clean.
She shook her head, and headed out into the large central room of the warehouse. She looked up at the windows and assessed the failing light. I hope nothing happened to Jet, she mused, concerned. Her sister had been gone most of the day, and Quartz had been stuck in this hole the entire time. She felt the beginnings of jealousy bubble up in her emotions, and quashed it. It was nobody’s fault that Jet could walk around and see the sights and she couldn’t. She could blow up tanks, and Jet could barely fly carrying a bag. They had differing talents and abilities, that was all. Equal, yet opposite.
So why did she feel like Jet was taking care of all the important stuff while she played homemaker? It didn’t make sense, but then again a great many emotions don’t. She would just have to work through it with her sister, and find a solution. As she sat on the edge of the loading dock, thinking these deep thoughts, her reverie was interrupted by the sound of a truck pulling up right in front of the building. She started, and moved to the office, only to find her sister walking in the door.
“Hurry up,” she called. “We need to get the truck unloaded fast. I need to have it back where I found it in an hour.”
Quartz frowned, “When you get back, we are going to have a conversation about that last line.”
Jet smiled. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hurry up!”
Quartz smiled back at her sister, and the two of them hurried to unload the contents of the truck. Things that would make their life in this little hole much more livable.
Quartz lay back and flipped on the television, flipping through the channels looking for something to watch while her tablet went on a web crawl, trawling through the net on a search for news on them and their father. She looked at the pile of money in the half empty bag on the floor and tried to count how many crimes they were committing right now. At least five, she figured.
She wondered where Jet got that truck, not to mention the money. As she was mulling the possibilities over, the subject of her conjecture walked into the impromptu living room/kitchen that they had set up above their equally improvised bedroom.
“Thank you, by the way, for rigging that ramp,” Jet said as she walked into the room, referring to the ramp of old shelf parts that Quartz had made so that you could reach this floor without using the collapsed sections of the walkway.
“Not a problem, where’d the cash come from and how’d you get the truck?” Quartz responded, her tone casual, her attention seemingly more on the television then her sister.
Jet shrugged. “The cash? I knocked over a gang crack house during a drug deal and took the cash,” she deadpanned.
Quartz stared at her for a moment, unsure of whether to be amused or outraged. Amusement won. She burst out laughing. “Oh, that’s good.” She turned to her sister and smiled. “And the truck?”
Jet smiled back at her sister. “’Borrowed’ from a rental yard for a few hours for a few hundred from the bag, no questions.” At Quartz sudden surge of concern, she continued, “And yes, I used a disposable disguise.”
Quartz shook her head. “I suppose secrecy was too much to hope for…”
Jet dropped onto the floor next to her sister with a pair of instant dinners. “Hey, nobody saw me, ‘cept for one girl.”
Quartz took her dinner from her sister and stabbed the fork into the macaroni and cheese. “Yeah, I know, but I give it a few days till they figure out we’re up here.” She took a bite and regarded her sister calmly. “Within a month, we’ll have to bail.”
Jet finished chewing what was in her mouth and swallowed. “Do you see better options?” she asked sharply.
Quartz shrugged. “Not particularly. That’s part of the problem. I can’t think of anything you did particularly wrong, but I know that it could have been better.”
Jet shook her head. “Well, it’s done. It’s not like we’ve had a lot of practice at this.” She took another bite.
Quartz leaned her head back and stared at the ceiling. “That’s the problem. All we’re doing is reacting. We’re never going to get out from under this if all we do is run.”
Jet sighed. “So we go to the Edgewater and pay a visit to Nora then?”
Quartz heaved herself sitting and stared at her food. “Yeah. I guess we have to. I wanted to avoid bringing more people in on this but…”
Jet sighed. “…But we can hardly keep ourselves from getting caught, much less help Mom and Sarah. So we go get help. What’s wrong with that? We’re not even in college yet, what’s wrong with looking for help with something like this.” She gestured in an aimless way that seemed to encompass the whole room, and included the entire mess of a situation they found themselves in.
Quartz shook her head. “Maybe its pride, but this was a family thing. I wanted to keep it that way.” At Jet’s look, she shook her head. “Irrational, I know, but still, true.”
Jet shook her head. “Finish up; it’s almost dark enough for us to fly over to the waterfront district.”
Quartz just nodded, and the two of them applied themselves to their food. Both of them were silent, but they could both fell the cold, underlying fear. They couldn’t keep this up forever. They needed to find a solution, and soon. Hopefully Nora and her friends would have some good ideas, because they were both out.
Two hours later, it was full dark, and the moon had risen in a startlingly clear sky. Quartz stared up at the sky, and slowly unfurled her wings. I trust my sister, she told herself, I do trust her. She closed her eyes and bounced a little on the balls of her feet, enjoying the feeling of her breasts bouncing as she did so. The irony of the moment was not lost on her. She looked at Jet and raised an eyebrow. “Well?”
Jet looked around the ally they were in, and sighed. “Here we go.” There was a ripple around them, and then Jet nodded brusquely.
Quartz spread her wings, and leapt into the sky, pulling for altitude. She had located the hotel earlier, and once she had gotten to a decent altitude, she looked around for her landmarks and got her bearings. She headed out, knowing that Jet was right behind her.
The view of the city as they flew over the bay was spectacular, and Quartz was thrilled by the sight. She heard Jet glide up beside her and felt more then saw the grin on her sister’s face.
“Yeah, it’s impressive,” Jet commented softly, as they flew. There was a moment of silence that stretched out between them, before Jet broke it. “I missed you out here today, you know.”
Quartz sighed softly. “Yeah. I missed being out here. I know that I had a job to do back there, but it felt so much like busy work, I was getting stir crazy.”
Jet shrugged, and interesting motion to make while in mid flight. “So, we need to find something to occupy our time. I know that I’d go nuts if I have to sit around all day in that dump and couldn’t leave.”
Quartz laughed. “Heh. What, exactly? It’s not like I can actually DO anything.” She laughed again. “Other then blow stuff up, of course.”
Jet frowned, sensing an undercurrent of bitterness in her sister. “Do you really think that that’s all you’re good for, Q?” she asked quietly.
Quartz frowned, and slowed, forcing Jet to do the same. “What do you think I meant?” she answered, just as softly.
Jet sped up, till she was just beside her sister, and looked at her. “I think that you seem to be under the impression that you’re somehow second fiddle here.” Quartz started to speak, and Jet cut her off, “No, shut up and listen. I may have the powers that are useful right now, but you’re the one with all the brains.” Quartz again tried to say something, and again Jet spoke over her, “I know, I’m no idiot. That’s not the point. The point is that all my vaunted knowledge is in the most useless things right now. I know twenty two ways to kill a man with my bare hands, and another forty with my feet. I know how to evaluate and authenticate antique swords and weapons. I know a nearly limitless amount of trivia about anime and Japanese culture. And precisely none of that means a damn thing right now. You’re the one who figured out how to get us out of Salicia without a trace. You’re the one who figured out how to hide in Seattle without us getting caught. You’re the one who made sure that Dad didn’t bankrupt us, and made sure that we had our piece. You’re the one who found out what really happened to Mom and Sara. What have I done? I do what you tell me to do. We’re a team. Alone, we’d both be done. Together, we’re unstoppable.”
Quartz listened to her sister’s rant, and felt a tear run down her perfect white cheek. She looked down, and saw three drips of white fall to the distant street below. She choked back a sob, and did a roll to let her at least pretend that Jet didn’t see her wipe her eyes. “Thanks,” was all she said, but the feeling of gratitude did not go un-discerned by her sister.
“No problem,” Jet quipped, pleased to see her sister shaken out of her funk. “Come on, you’re the one who knows which room Nora’s in. Hurry it up.”
Smiling, Quartz was only too happy to comply.
Malcolm was cleaning his guns, again. He had just finished watching the late local news, and he was having a minor panic attack. Or perhaps panic was the wrong word. He wasn’t really panicked, per se, but he wasn’t really sure what the word to describe his feelings at the moment would be. “What the hell were they thinking?”
Now, since he was alone in his room, with the door to the hotel locked, he was rather surprised when a voice from nowhere came from behind him.
“What was who thinking?”
It was rough, a very masculine drawl, but in a higher, feminine register. He spun towards it, drawing the sidearm he had holstered under his left arm, and looked for the source of the voice. He seemed to be alone in the room. Warily, he looked about, suspecting deception.
Again from right over his shoulder, the same voice came, “Looking for someone?”
This time, he recognized it. “Carmichael…” he growled, as he holstered his weapon.
There was a distant giggle from the direction of the balcony, and suddenly the Carmichael twins materialized in a swirl of black fog. The white one knocked politely on the glass of the door, and they smiled at him, feigning innocence
Malcolm walked over to the door and slid it open, and gestured for the twins to join him in the suite. He raised an eyebrow at them, “Were you followed?”
Jet laughed. “Only if they can fly and see in the non-visible spectrum.”
Malcolm just stared at her. “So if there was a spotter with a thermal scope on a roof, then whoever it was now knows exactly where you are,” he said, with deadly earnest.
The mirth in the twins suddenly vanished. “Yes,” Quartz responded. “If there was anyone watching the hotel with any sort of imaging gear they had even odds of spotting us.” She cocked a barely visible eyebrow at him in an expression that inquired without words if he considered it likely.
Malcolm answered her concerns by stepping back and picking up the phone on the desk without his eyes leaving the twins, who were leaning on the wall just inside the room. He dialed without looking and when whoever he called picked up, all he said was, “Yeah, it’s me. Those guests you were expecting are over here. You may want to drop by.” There was a pause. “Yeah, that would probably be wise.” He hung up the phone, and sat down on the bed.
“Make yourselves comfortable, please,” he motioned for them to take the two chairs in the bedroom.
The twins seated themselves and a long moment of uncomfortable silence stretched out before them. Quartz was the first to interrupt the awkward pause. “So, Malcolm, have we done something to upset you?” Malcolm’s eyes hadn’t left the twins, and he had kept a posture of alert readiness that implied impending violence ever since they had arrived.
When that question was aired, he took stock of that readiness, and then carefully answered them. “The last time I actually saw you, you had just killed five of my friends between you.” They moved to respond, and he waved a hand at them, interrupting them. “I know, I know, it wasn’t on purpose, and you more then had cause. I know that. That, combined with what I learned about your situation, and I’m rather firmly on your side. My gut just doesn't seem to trust you. Sorry about that.”
Jet looked nonplussed by that, but Quartz just shrugged. “Understandable, really. Just don’t shoot me again, eh? It stings like mad.”
That got a laugh out of Malcolm. He looked like he was going to say something else, but before he could do more then open his mouth, there was a knock on the door, and a look crossed his face. Without a word, he got up and walked out into the main room of the suite. Jet shared a smirk with her sister. When he returned, he was with two ladies who the twins thought looked just fine.
One was older, most likely in her early thirties, with a shapely body that Quartz noted was not quite as curvy as hers, and then wondered where the hell that thought came from. She was certainly a MORF, given her green hair and eyebrows, especially on a thirty year old woman. She was dressed in a conservative pantsuit, and was rolling a large case behind her.
The other woman was young; it looked like in her early twenties, not much older then the twins themselves, and carried herself with a poise and motion that screamed of sex. She seemed to be straight out of a porno flick, from her curvy body that gave the Quartz’s Barbie doll body a run for its money in the curves department, to her too-tight belly shirt and daisy dukes. She was wheeling a similar case to the green haired woman, and her blond hair fell over the right side of her face, partially screening the caduceus tattoo on her cheek.
“Girls,” Malcolm said as they entered the bedroom, “Let me introduce you to Lisa,” he gestured to the blond, “and Agent Davies,” he gestured to the green haired woman.
Jet got up and wrapped Davies in a hug. “Nora, it’s good to finally meet you in the flesh, so to speak.”
Davies let out a rush of breath. “Woof girl, watch it, you’ll break my ribs.” She grinned at the young woman. “You must be Jet, then?”
Quartz, who had hung back a bit, smiled. “Yes, and I’m Quartz,” She looked at Lisa, “and you must be that bio-elemental that wanted to see us. I take it that I have you to thank for Sergeant Stark here not needing a sling?”
Lisa rolled the case up against the wall, and smiled at Quartz, incidentally thrusting her breasts out at her. “Yup, that’d be me. I can tell already, this is going to be one of the good ones.”
Malcolm looked around, and then seemed to come to a decision. “Well, ladies, I think we’ll only be able to do an exam on one of these fine young women at once, so why don’t one of you two go and take a shower, and we’ll take the other off into the main room and do our exam.”
Jet and Quartz traded looks, and then, without any other communication, Jet went off towards the bathroom. She called back over her shoulder, “Oh, thank you god. I don’t think I’ve gotten clean in like three days.”
Quartz raised an eyebrow at her sister, and then shrugged. She started towards the door. “So, what’s the procedure here, then?” she asked Lisa.
Lisa looked at her, and seemed to come to a conclusion. She turned a half lidded stare on Quartz and drawled, “Why don’t we adjourn to the other room…”
Quartz turned her head just slightly so that she could see the youthful bio-elemental, and a slow smile pulled one corner of her mouth up. “Sounds fun,” she said, slowly. “But business before, hmm, pleasure.” She made a deliberate effort to sway and strut as she walked past the other two dumbfounded people in the room.
As she past, she heard Malcolm whisper to Lisa, “I think you met your match, Li,” and slowly smiled.
Quickly, Lisa caught up with her, and put a hand on her shoulder. She froze at the touch, suddenly sobering, and the arousal that had rendered her half dazed vanishing in an instant. Lisa whispered in her ear, “You’re right, later. But now, business, and if I don’t do this, we’ll never be able to focus.”
Suddenly calm, she sat on the couch, while Lisa sat in the armchair across from her and stared at her intently. Malcolm and Davies busied themselves with unpacking several pieces of diagnostic equipment from the cases, while Lisa stared intently at Quartz. Quartz stared back, and then asked, with a restrained calm, “What did you just do to me?”
Lisa shrugged. “I suppressed your sex drive. It’s strictly temporary, it’ll only last about an hour, and then it’ll come back strong as ever. I do it to myself whenever I need to focus.”
Quartz nodded. “And you did that, why?”
Lisa laughed. “I thought it was obvious. If we kept that up, we were going to wind up playing tonsil hockey, not figuring out what MORFS did to you. If it’s any consolation, I had to do it to myself too.”
Quartz grinned. “Strangely enough, that makes me feel good.”
Lisa smiled. “Well, my initial scans are done. You’re an interesting case, young lady.”
“Young lady?” Quartz smiled. “You don’t look that much older than me.”
Lisa smiled back. “I know. It’s a blessing of my power. I’m a sufficiently powerful bio-elemental that I prevent myself from aging. It’s a perk. I’m actually Malcolm’s age.”
Quartz nodded, feeling suddenly depressed for some reason. “I see.”
Lisa cocked her head. “What was that about…? Oh, no, no.” She shook her head. “We slept together once in high school, but that was it. I’m a lot like you. Lesbian with Bisexual tendencies.”
Quartz looked up, shocked. “I thought that Nora said that telepaths couldn’t get into our heads…”
Lisa laughed at the stunned expression on Quartz’s face. “I’m not a telepath. Just a bio-elemental with a lot of experience and a doctorate in human neurobiology.”
Malcolm and Davies had finished taking out the equipment and sat down, Malcolm on the other armchair, Davies next to Quartz. Agent Davies took Quartz hand and started to massage it, slowly. The human contact was enormously reassuring, to Quartz, who glanced at her, and smiled softly.
Lisa was continuing. “I think that you might benefit from hearing my credentials. My full name is Doctor Lisa Braynt. I have a General Practitioners License, and Degrees in Neurobiology, Genetics, and Physiology. I don’t read your mind. I perceive the chemical changes in your biology and interpret them. It’s not nearly as fast or as effective as true telepathy or empathy, but it does serve.” Lisa shrugged, as if her accomplishments were nothing to be concerned about. “I’m also a board certified Plastic Surgeon in California, but that’s neither here nor there. My talents as an elemental were what made most of that alphabet soup after my name possible, not any real genius on my part. You’re far more interesting.
“From what I can tell, you’re one of the most extremely low probability MORFS cases I’ve ever even heard of. First, let’s get into the purely physical aspects of your change, eh.” She smiled, and waited for a reaction from the stunned girl. When Quartz nodded, she continued.
“As you’ve most likely noticed, you are now fully and genetically female. Also, all of your body tissues are the same opaque white color, including your blood. It’s very unique. Your eyes, I would theorize, and this is only a theory, work rather differently now. Have you noticed any difference in your night vision?”
Quartz stopped to think about it, and then nodded. “Yes, now that you mention it. I’ve never had any problem seeing, even at night.” Quartz was rather stunned by the transformation of what she had initially seen as a rather flirty beach bunny into such an intellectual giant.
Lisa, the intellectual giant, nodded sagely. “That’s what I thought. I think that your entire eye is a photon detector, behind a thin film to protect it from debris and such. Now I can’t tell exactly how it works. I’ve never really studied optometry, other then changing an eye color and iris shape, so I really am out of my depth here.” She shrugged. “Not that it matters much. We’ll run some vision tests, define parameters, and leave the specifics for a more leisurely time, eh?” She shared a smile with Quartz and Malcolm that Davies somehow missed out on.
“So,” she continued, “lets move on to the rest of the body, hmm? You have quite the extraordinary skeletal and muscular system. Your bone and muscle density are quite a bit above normal, as is your tendon and ligament strength. Your skin elasticity and tensile strength is well above normal as well. Practical translation, you’re a lot faster, stronger, and far more flexible then a normal person.” She raised an eyebrow. “That’s before any extra-normal abilities you may have acquired.”
When Quartz moved to speak, Lisa raised a perfectly manicured hand. “I’m not done. You’ve got a few other purely biological tricks up your sleeve. Your metabolism is accelerated, your cellular replication is flawless, and your repair functions are far more thorough then any other I’ve seen not being assisted by, well, me.” She paused, waiting for the implications of that to sink in.
Quartz sat there and stared at the doctor. “Ok, so, I, what, regenerate?” she asked incredulously.
Lisa shook her head. “No, or no faster then any normal human.” A brief pause. “Let me rephrase that. Not much faster, at any rate. No, what you do is heal perfectly. No scars, no lingering handicap or injury. If you break a bone, your body isn’t going to just put the pieces back together and leave off. It’s going to fix that bone as if it was never broken. If you survive an injury, if some trauma fails to kill you, you will, eventually, recover to exactly the state you are in now.”
She paused for a moment, and then let the real shocker drop. “And that includes aging.” The other three just stared at her, speechless.
Davies worked her mouth for a bit, unable to find words. “You mean…
“I’m never going to die.” Quartz’s voice cut through the near silence like a knife. The expression on her face was completely blank.
Lisa shook her head. “I didn’t say that. You can most certainly still die. You may even still age. I don’t know. What I do know, with certainty, is that you will live a very long time, sans outside intervention. It is more then possible for something to kill you.”
Quartz shook her head. “Not with what I can do.”
Lisa shrugged. “I can see at least three ways to do it right now. Hell, if I wanted to, I could kill you myself.”
Quartz raised an eyebrow. “You think yourself that formidable?”
Lisa shrugged. “No. But there’s nothing stopping me from giving you a fatal stroke, heart attack, or aneurism, right here. It’s all a matter of perception. If it’s any consolation, I’m in the same boat. Talk about it with your sister, or me if you want. But later. Lets finish these tests, and then you go get cleaned up, alright?”
Quartz still looked shocked. Lisa snapped her fingers. “Oh, one more thing. You’ll never have to shave again. Anywhere. You’ve got no hair follicles below your eyes.”
Quartz laughed. “Wonderful. I’ll be a perfect Barbie doll forever. Just what I always wanted.”
Lisa shrugged. “I wouldn’t think so. Then again, I never wanted to be an immortal lesbian bimbo either, but I turned out fine.” Malcolm started to say something, and Lisa cut him off. “Don’t, Mal. I know what I am. I’ve made my peace with it.” She turned to look at Quartz. “Now you have to do the same. Not right now though. You can put it aside, deal with it when you have the leisure.”
Quartz nodded after a moment. “Right.” She forced all the issues that this shocking pronouncement had raised into a little mental box and shut the lid, for now. She looked up at Lisa. “Now, what about those tests.”
Almost an hour later, the tests were done and they were exhaustive. Quartz had lifted weights, many weights, both with and without using what Lisa called her “kinetic assist”. She stared at cards with color wheels and patterns of colored dots. The most interesting part was the demonstration of her energy blasts. That got entertaining.
In any event, by the time that Jet emerged from the bedroom, clean and dressed in a different top and presumably fresh underwear, the four of them were back sitting down, discussing the results. Quartz looked up when her sister arrived, and smiled. “Ok, it’s your turn to have your mind blown, Jet. I need to wash up.” Quickly, before any of them could try to stop her, she left the room and headed into the bathroom.
Behind her, she heard her sister comment, “What was that about…” Before she could hear the response, she shut the door.
She staggered over to the shower, and slumped against the wall. Slowly, she turned on the water, and pulled on the hot water at full blast.
Slowly shucking off her clothing, and piling it on the counter by the sink, she stepped under the scalding hot water without a sound. She stood there, under the hot water, barely feeling the heat of it, and considered what she had learned about herself. She was ageless. That was the best way to put it. She was going to watch Diane, Brian, and all her other friends grow old and die, and in that time she might age a year. If she ever found someone she loved, man or woman, they would only be together for a fraction of her life, and then she would be alone again. Always, she would be alone.
Immortality is a lonely thing, she realized. That’s a fundamental fact that you only really notice when it’s staring you in the face. And now she had to.
And another thought occurred to her. What if Jet wasn’t as physically identical as she seemed. What if she would have to watch her SISTER die, while she stayed ageless and eternal? What would she do?
*Don’t worry about it,* came the mental voice of Agent Davies, *Lisa just finished scanning your sister, and it looks like she’s just as ageless as you.* The mental voice fell silent.
Quartz sagged against the wall in nearly palpable relief. That was at least one worry off of her mind. So she wouldn’t be alone. She thought about it for a moment more, and then shook her head. While it was good to know, it really didn’t matter, when it came down to cases. The only thing she could do was learn to live with it. Well, or kill herself, which just didn’t seem all that palatable of an option.
So, then she would do nothing. She would live her life as if she didn’t know. She would most likely be happier that way. She sighed and leaned against the wall of the shower. She had a plan, at least, even if it was a non-plan. She could move forward with her life. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have enough things going on to distract her, anyway. She smiled as she stood there under the scalding spray, sensation and a certain warmth flooding through some very particular parts of her anatomy. She definitely had some distractions.
Quartz walked back into the main room of the suite clean and dressed in new clothes, and feeling very relaxed. As she walked over to sit next to her sister, Malcolm raised an eyebrow at her and asked, “So, did you leave the rest of the hotel any hot water?”
Quartz looked puzzled, and the brilliant reply of, “Uh…” was the best she could manage.
There was a pregnant moment of silence, and then the other four burst into laughter. Quartz looked around, a slightly petulant expression on her face. “What?” she asked, crossly.
Jet cocked her head to one side, and quizzically asked her sister, “Did you even turn the cold water on?”
Quartz blushed invisibly. “It didn’t seem that hot.”
That set off another round of laughter. Agent Davies draped an arm around Quartz conspiratorially, and whispered just loud enough for the others to hear, “Dear, anyone else here would have boiled their skin off.”
Quartz digested that for a moment, and then smirked. “I guess I enjoy a good steam cleaning, then, ‘cause that was definitely refreshing.”
Lisa smiled slyly. “Was it the water, or something else?” she whispered as she leaned over towards the sisters.
Quartz froze for a moment, mouth agape at the implications that comment sent careening through her brain. Then the absurdity of the comment struck her, and she burst out laughing. The five of them shared a laugh at the absurdity of the situation, and when they had all settled down, began a serious discussion of their situation.
Malcolm looked the twins over, and then sighed. “All right,” he said reluctantly, “I might as well lead with this, then.” His gaze suddenly sharpened, and focused on Jet. “What the hell was that stunt with the damn gang this afternoon?”
Jet blushed, not like anyone could tell but her and Quartz, well perhaps Lisa. “What? None of them saw me.”
Malcolm continued staring at her. “What about the girl?”
Jet raised an eyebrow. “She ID’d me?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Not as such, no. She did give a description of a ‘demon woman’ who came and brought judgment to her brother, at least according to the news. They do have a decent description of you, and the hit could only have been done by someone with your abilities.”
Jet shrugged. “And?”
Malcolm nearly blew his top at her casual indifference. “And? And? And you just told anyone who hadn’t figured it out that you were up here!”
Quartz shook her head. “Not quite. She told anyone who knows what her powers are and hadn’t figured it out that she was here. Not that many people do, yet.” Malcolm shrugged, reluctantly.
Jet spoke up. “Besides, what was I going to do, kill the poor girl? She had gotten her gender flipped, and then her brother goes and makes her a whore. I couldn’t just leave her there.” She almost glared at Malcolm, as if daring her to tell her that she made the wrong choice.
Malcolm shrugged. “Ok, I get what you did. What I don’t get is why?”
Jet and Quartz responded in stereo. “Ready cash.”
Davies looked confused. “But the financials… You cleared out all your accounts after you woke up. You’ve got over half a billion I think.”
Jet looked at Quartz, who nodded. “About that. Problem is, it’s all in numbered accounts in offshore shelters. I can’t get at it, and with our current situation, walking into a local branch to get an account with a debit card to use it could be rather problematic.” She shrugged, knowing that there was nothing that they could do about it now.
Lisa leaned back. “Well, explains it. You needed liquid cash, and there aren’t many places to get that. So.” She leaned forward. “Let’s take a look at your problems, and see if we can’t divine a solution, eh?”
When the other four nodded, she continued. “So, let me lay it out as I see it. You’re on the run; you’re wanted criminals, for the rather amusing charge of kidnapping and murder of, of all people, yourselves. Your family is AWOL, or in the case of your father, actively opposing you validating your identity.” At Davies irritated sound, she revised that last statement. “Ok, most likely but untraceably, at the moment, actively opposing you validating your identity.” Davies sniffed, but looked mollified.
Malcolm leaned in and added, “And don’t forget, our new acquaintance.”
Lisa nodded. “Ah, yes, the hairy one. I had almost forgotten.”
Jet raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry. Quartz mirrored the expression.
Lisa laughed. “Do you two do that on purpose? No, don’t answer that, I don’t want to know. It looks like you’ve been followed up here. But not by anything normal. Malcolm found hair on his bike when he pulled it out of the baggage car it rode in. It looked like wolf hair, as far as I could tell, but not quite.” She shrugged. “So keep your eyes open.”
Jet shrugged, while Quartz looked concerned. “Any idea who it might be,” Quartz asked.
Lisa leaned back. “Maybe,” she drawled. “I’m not certain of the particulars, but if the read I got off of that hair was what I think it was, then the people chasing you are a group that’s been snatching every odd MORFS survivor that can be grabbed without being missed. This is probably one of their success stories.”
Jet’s eyebrows rose until they looked likely to vanish into her hair. “You mean MORFS experimentation. Weapons development.”
Lisa nodded grimly. “Exceedingly likely. I’ve been looking into the disappearances, and they’re too orderly, yet the victims are too random. The only commonality is that all the victims were changed physically in some fashion that was not human. The more inhuman, the better. That and they’ve all been individuals whose disappearance wouldn’t raise much fuss. You two would be a prime catch.”
Quartz shrugged. “Let them come. They’ll find we aren’t so easy to catch. Between the two of us there isn’t much we can’t handle.”
Malcolm and Lisa shared a look, and then Malcolm shrugged and continued. “So, let’s figure out a plan to deal with this then, shall we?”
The five of them huddled together, plotting and planning, for an hour at least. In the end, the plan they decided on was a simple one. The twins would try to hide in Seattle for at least two weeks. That would likely throw the searchers off the track. Agent Davies professional opinion was that once the bureau got that description, they would throw a lot of manpower up here for about a week, and then they would slack it off. So by hiding for two weeks, they would miss the manhunt, and slip behind their chasers, so to speak.
In the mean time, they would be anything but idle. Malcolm and the twins would be first finding a nice secluded spot, and then Malcolm would be putting the twins through a rather intensive survival regimen, designed to get them as skilled as possible in controlling and using their various gifts. They would likely need the practice. Lisa would spend the time bumming lab space from an old colleague that had moved up here, and trying to match that hair sample to its owner. She had her suspicions, but she refused to elaborate on them without confirmation. Agent Davies would be playing the obsessive investigator. She would be calling her fellow agents, playing for info, and trying to find ways to get some traction on figuring out how the DNA in the security records got switched, and how deep the influence to railroad the twins went.
Later, when it was time to leave, first Davies would head back to San Francisco. She needed to start trying to find the hole that ‘whoever’ had used to alter the security files, and she could do that best from there. Lisa and Malcolm would head to Chicago by air. They wanted to be there a few days before the twins arrived, and would try to find a decent location for the twins to hole up while in Chi-town. The Twins themselves would come in by train. Just not by freight train. The new High Speed National Line ran directly from here to Chicago, and they could book a private suite with the money they had. It would just take some creative disguise work on their part.
Malcolm watched as the twins took flight off his balcony, and then the air shimmered around them, and they vanished. He turned and walked inside and looked at the two women he was with. He raised an eyebrow at them. “So,” he asked, “What do you think?”
Lisa leaned against the doorframe, her voluptuous form making interesting jiggling motions as she breathed. “I can see why you like them. They have a refreshing idealism about them. I like how they think. Did you notice it?”
Malcolm grinned. “Yeah. Reminds me of us.”
Davies leaned back on the bed, her athletic body relaxed for the first time in either of the other’s presence. “I like their sense of irony. Did you notice how they solved their cash problem?”
Malcolm smiled wolfishly. “Yeah. They need to rob someone for cash, so they head straight to the gangs. Stealing from the thugs and scum.”
Lisa matched his grin. “I think someone is borrowing heavily from the Tao of Peter Parker.”
Davies smiled. “There are worse philosophy’s to use to guide the use of power.”
Lisa nodded. “So, they really are the Carmichael twins?”
Davies nodded. “I think they forgot I was a telepath when we were going over their history. Their reactions were in line with what I would expect of the real twins. It’s not conclusive, but it’s the best anyone is ever going to manage. That mental static thing they have going is annoyingly impressive.”
Malcolm shrugged. “Irritating, but unavoidable.”
Lisa shoved herself upright, and sighed. “It’s late, and I’m going to be up at Oh God Early tomorrow, so I’ll catch you two later. Mal, it’s all right if I leave the gear her overnight?”
Malcolm waved at her that it was all right, and she left with a sway in her hips that left Malcolm in a most uncomfortable predicament.
Davies laughed. “It’s an act you know. She enjoys the attention, I think.”
Malcolm lowered himself down onto the bed next to her. “Oh, I know. You know it doesn’t matter? A man sees that body, moving that way, and certain parts of the anatomy leap to respond.”
Davies looked at him out of the corner of her eye, and smiled slightly. “And you respond just as readily?”
Malcolm smiled. “As I am indeed a man, yes, yes I do.”
Davies smiled, and rolled over and kissed him, on the mouth. When they came up for air, she gasped, “Then we should do something about that, then.”
The two of them shared a very interesting night.
Wolf sat on the roof of the butchers building he had just acquainted himself with, and took a gnaw off of the leg of lamb he had liberated. The raw meat wasn’t his favorite, but it was perfectly palatable. He had gotten used to it, over the last year. He leaned back and thought of his prey. Perhaps he would be able to kill them, rather then capture them. It would be refreshing to deny the cadaverous fool his subjects, and a mercy to the unfortunate target. He would have to be very careful in how he staged the encounter. That meant he would need to be careful and deliberate in his stalking. And that would take time.
And that didn’t disturb him at all.
He took another bite of his lamb, and followed it with a swallow out of a two liter of cola. He was in no rush. The outside world was refreshing, and he was going to savor it while he had it.
He leaned back, and stared at the moon, and smiled.
The twins secreted themselves back to their lair in silence, and stripped off their clothing, hanging the coats on an appropriately shaped piece of scrap. The dirty clothing went in a bin made of a section of upended shelving. They pulled their nightgowns on, and the Quartz thumped down on the small twin mattress. Jet looked at her, and moved to lie down on the bare metal, until Quartz pulled her onto the mattress with her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.
Jet grimaced. “You managed all this. You made this place into a real home. Something that we can live in in reasonable comfort. I figure that you should get the mattress till we find a spare.”
Quartz smiled at her sister. “It’s refreshing to know that I’m not the only one with self esteem issues.” She pulled her sister close, and lay down.
Jet struggled a bit, but couldn’t budge, and eventually gave up. The two of them slowly drifted off to sleep, taking comfort in the simple presence and closeness of their sister.
They had a plan, a direction, and the doubts and anxieties of the day somehow seemed to diminish in the light of that plan. They drifted off to sleep with the knowledge that tomorrow Malcolm would be arriving, and they would begin to learn what they needed to know to survive. That they had allies moving to help them. That the world WASN’T out to get them. For the first time in three days, they fell asleep with light hearts.
Tomorrow, they took the offensive.
END CHAPTER Five
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org