THE TALE OF JET & QUARTZ

By: Darian Deamos

 

Chapter Six: Puzzle Box

  

“Ten, Two!

“Four, One!

“Six, Four!

“One, One!”

The count rang in her ears, and Quartz moved with speed and vicious strength, striking at the numbered metal plates that ringed her, each blow bringing fourth a series of ringing chimes.  Sometimes they matched the first call of the count, and sometimes they didn’t.  Each failure brought a surge of shame flooding through her, and she channeled that into making her blows more precise, her strength more controlled.

Finally, after what felt like hours, but was most likely only a minute or two, Malcolm fell silent, and she sagged with exhaustion.  It wasn’t any exertion of strength that had exhausted her; it was the strain of not using her full strength that wearied her.  Power was of no issue; the ability to control power was her aim in these exercises, and she felt that she was failing miserably.

“God damn it,” she muttered to herself, feeling furious at the errors she had heard herself make during the exercise.

She felt Malcolm walk up next to her and pause just out of reach.  “Give it time.  You’ve only been at this a week, and we’ve only been working together for ten days.  Given that, you’ve made amazing progress.”

Quartz growled at him, “Yeah, I’m making great progress.  I have what, an eighty percent error rate on this?”

She was facing away from him, so she didn’t actually see his shrug, but it made itself known in the conversation anyway.  “Forty five, actually, and always within one chime.”

Quartz snorted, still irritated, but mollified.  She really was making progress, then.  She walked out of the rough circle of targets and watched her sister run through one of her billion and a half katas.  She really was a pleasure to watch.  A ceramic clicking sound behind her drew her attention, and she turned to face Malcolm.  “Target practice?”

Malcolm nodded.  “We’ll break for lunch after, and then head back.”

Quartz grinned as they headed off towards the shore of the wooded island.  “Seeing Agent Davies off?”

Malcolm gave her a slight smile, and nodded.  “She’s heading back.  Her vacation’s up, and she needs to be back in San Fran to accomplish anything on her end of things.”

Quartz gave the Special Forces soldier a sly look, but left it at that.  Moments later the two of them reached the shore, and the small mountain of clay pigeons stacked there.  Malcolm picked up a handful and looked over at Quartz.  “Ready?” he asked.

Quartz raised her hand, and a glowing ball of light formed around her fist.  She narrowed her eyes, and focused out over the sound.  “Whenever,” she replied.

Malcolm started slow, throwing only five the first toss.  Quartz waited till they hit their apex, and had separated as much as they were going to, and then five wire thin lines of light blazed out, and each pigeon was blasted to bits.  She didn’t even flinch, and Malcolm threw out the next batch.

For the next twenty minutes this continued, with Malcolm varying the number and pattern of the targets at random.  Sometimes he would throw two handfuls of pigeons, one shortly after another, to provide two sets of targets.  And occasionally he would toss a blue pigeon that Quartz was not to shoot.  It was a fiendishly hard shooting pattern, and he was fairly confident that no marksman with a conventional weapon could have managed it.

But Quartz was no mere conventional weapon.  She didn’t miss a single target, and never hit any of the non-targets.  As it was, when the pile of targets was gone, Quartz was feeling much better, and Malcolm was grinning like a fool.  Without a word, the two of them walked back to the clearing in the center of the island, and sat at the picnic table that they had set up, as they heard the sound of a motorboat approaching.  Soundlessly, they looked at Jet.

The ebony young woman cocked her head, narrowing her eyes, and then blinked.  “It’s Lisa and Nora with food.  Hope you guy’s like KFC,” she smirked as she sat down.  Her training was different.  She was trying to refine her precognitive abilities.  They only ran about a minute ahead, but as they had learned these last ten days, they showed her ALL the possibilities for the next minute or so.  That made predicting what was going to happen less a matter of power, and more a matter of skill.  Jet had to wade through millions of possible futures to determine what was most likely to happen.  In most cases, it was easier to just ignore it, and just let things happen.

Still, it was useful for things like knowing who was at the door before they rang the bell, and once an attack was committed to, she saw it, but she was hardly the golden man.  Still, it was less then a minute later when Lisa walked out of the tree line with a pair of giant KFC buckets, and a moment later Agent Davies followed with two large bags bearing the logo of the self-same establishment.

Smiles and greetings all around, and the five of them settled in for lunch.  Quartz snagged a fried chicken eighth and asked politely waited until the others had seized their own bounties of crispy fried goodness before beginning her interrogation.  “So, how’d the sleuthing go?”  She tried not to sound too anxious, but it was a challenge, and one she just barely lost.

Lisa chuckled at the rather uncharacteristic loss of the young white woman’s detached calm.  “Quite well, but its bad news on my end I’m afraid, darling,” she all but purred after she swallowed.  “I’ve confirmed the identity of your pursuer, and I was correct in my analysis earlier, much though I wish I wasn’t.”  Her tone fell from winsome to wistful.  “Are any of you familiar with the name Jack Daniels?”

Assuming that she didn’t mean the whisky, and rather a very unfortunately named person, Malcolm and Agent Davies shook their head.  Jet looked like someone had just stabbed her, though, and Quartz let out a totally unmanly screech.  “WHO!?” she exclaimed, loudly enough to startle a nearby bird into flight, and glared at Lisa.

Lisa bowed her head, and then cocked her head and looked at Quartz.  “You knew him, then?”

Jet spoke up.  “In a manner of speaking.  Quartz was sorta an online pen pall of his.  I traded jabs with him on one of the message boards over a few fighters once or twice.  Why does it matter?  He’s dead.”

Quartz sank back down onto the bench, and grabbed another piece of chicken, growling darkly.  Lisa just cocked an eyebrow at Jet and asked calmly, “If so, then what is a post MORFS hair from him doing in the baggage car with Malcolm’s bike on the ride up here?”

Jet looked flummoxed.  “That… That’s… That’s not possible.  He’s dead.  Hothead held an online memorial.  I was on for it.  He died of MORFS complications at a clinic in New York.  I know where he’s BURIED damn it!”  She slammed her fist into the table hard enough to make the plates rattle.

Lisa frowned mightily, an odd expression on her pretty face.  “I know.  I’ve been investigating his death myself.  The clinic he was at had a doctor, a MORFS survivor who was a gender swap.  Came out looking really nice, but that’s it, no powers, no real upgrades, just a straight swap, boobs for her dick.”  She smirked.  “She seemed to think it was a bad trade, though I have no idea why.  She had an unusually high number of MORFS related deaths, so an inquiry was launched into the standard of care after she let the oldest son, a certified genius, of the two most famous American game designers in the last twenty years die of depletion.”

At the puzzled looks from around the table, she clarified.  “It’s why the clinic program got railroaded through congress over people like your father.  In some cases, if the body tries to change too quickly and doesn’t get the right nutrients, or enough of them, it cannibalizes itself.  It’s like starvation, only much faster.  Neither pleasant nor difficult to prevent.”  She snarled, “And there is NO reason for it to happen under any sort of care.  You mostly see it in the homeless or the children of fanatics who refuse to get their children care for one reason or another.

“Apparently, this woman had been passing off a number of death certificates due to depletion as a result of poor funding.  After the Walker death, an investigation was launched.  It found that the woman was a Pure, of a sort.  She was much like your father, even belonged to a few of the same political groups.  Believed that there was nothing wrong with MORFS itself, per se, but rather with hybrids or those with unusual anatomical changes.  She apparently took her gender change as a challenge, and was researching MORFS, attempting to find some sort of way to reverse its effects, and was apparently diverting funds from the clinic to fuel her obsession.”  She shook her head.  “When it all came out into the open, it was a huge scandal in the medical profession, and New York.   The good doctor was found dangling from a rope in her apartment a few days later, just before being subpoenaed by the Queens District Attorney’s office.”

Jet looked at her.  “So, what does this have to do with Black Label being our stalker?”

Quartz spoke up, her voce quavering slightly with suppressed rage, “Think it through, Jet.  She declared him dead from depletion, and supplied a body for the press.  Then he turns up here, over a year later, being used like a hunting dog.”  She paused to let that sink in.  “She SOLD him, and then listed him as dead.  She probably did it a lot, and this time she didn’t recognize that she had someone who had once made the papers.  Most of her,” she paused, and then spat out, “merchandise,” was likely orphans or homeless kids.  Nobody would notice if a bunch of them died from something like this.”

Lisa nodded.  “What’s more, about half a dozen of the staff on her floor of the clinic vanished right after her suicide.  And I really don’t buy the suicide.  She left a letter that basically claimed that she couldn’t bear the suffering of being in a body warped by MORFS any longer.  That’s bull.  Her research was brilliant, and from her notes, she obviously believed that she was getting somewhere.  Even if she was convicted, and lost her license, her work would have been snapped up by one of the pharmacorps, which it was, and pursued.  She lived over twenty years using that work as a bulwark against the confusion caused by her mental state.”  She shook her head.  “And I doubt she was Gender Dysphoric either.  She knew about the condition, and had gotten counseling about it.  I think that she was just pissed off at loosing her prospects as an athlete.  She was supposedly a big deal back in her younger days on the football field.”  She arched an eyebrow at the twins at that.

They looked at each other and shared a look indecipherable to outsiders.  “Well, now that we’ve figured that piece of hellishly bad news,” Jet snarled, “how about we figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

Malcolm shrugged.  “Not much to do,” he replied while munching on his chicken, seemingly unperturbed.

Agent Davies looked shocked.  “What do you mean?  There has to be something.  We’ve got PROOF of at least part of this thing here.  We have to do something!”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow, and then pointed at her with his half eaten drumstick.  “Yup, you’re right, we’ve got proof.  And if we show anybody this proof, their gonna ask where we got it, and then HOW we got it, and they why we drew the conclusions we did, and then we get to go to jail for about half a dozen felonies that we’ve committed on this trip.”  He sighed.  “We can’t do squat.

“Yet.”

Agent Davies sighed, and frowned slightly.  “Maybe…” she muttered, “no, but, huh…” she trailed off.

Everyone at the table stopped eating and stared at her while she crunched her way through a chicken thigh.  Finally, she noticed the attention.  “What?” she asked the assembled stares.

Malcolm sighed.  “Dear, you’ve obviously had a thought.  You may as well share.”  Malcolm glanced at Jet.  “Or the obsidian one may decide to simply split your skull and take it from your brain with her bare hands.”

Agent Davies raised an eyebrow at Jet who snarled theatrically and hefted the katana on the table.  Raising her hands in mock panic, she explained.  “I’ve been going through the good Senator’s muck files, and I’ve come across something interesting.  Have you two ever heard of a man named Linus Caverhall?”

Jet shrugged in silent expression of her lack of recognition.  Quartz however, seemed to latch onto some fragment of distant memory.  “Huh, Caverhall?  I think I recognize it.  Tall guy, stupidly thin, sunken eyes and cheeks?”

Davies nodded.  “That matches the few photo’s that were in the files.”  She frowned.  “That man is remarkably hard to track down.  Even your father couldn’t get much on him.  Talk about black holes, that man is a PIT.  Thing is, what I CAN find about him is fucking scary.”

Everyone at the table stopped and stared at the FBI agent.  They had known her for about two weeks now, and she simply didn’t curse.  She shot a stare around the table.  “What?  Do you know what he does?  He’s a doctor.  He’s got eight Ph.D.’s in everything from Biochemistry to Zoology.  The thing is, that’s just about it.  His current employment, his residence, his everything, all classified D.O.D.  Everything but his religious affiliations.  He’s a Deacon in the Church of the Divine Image.”

Davies stopped and let that little piece of information circulate through the brains of everybody present.  Jet seemed to sum up the thoughts of everyone present, save Malcolm, with the simple and expedient statement of, “Well, crap.”

Malcolm looked around.  “What am I missing?”

Jet and Quartz shared a look, and then Quartz seemed to be delegated as spokesperson.  “Well, our father isn’t QUITE a member, but they’re one of his larger donors.  We’ve had a few gatherings of the nuts in the house from time to time.  They’re a fairly normal Christian church; as such things go, except for one small detail.  They take that line in genesis about how Adam was made ‘in the image of God’ to mean that the basic human form is what gives you a soul, and that having animalistic features means you DON’T have one.  Fucking wankers, the lot of ‘em.”

Davies spoke up.  “And this guy is one of their Deacons, and is heading a D.O.D. Black Box on MORFS, according to your father.”

Malcolm scowled.  “Right, well, if we’re looking for someone capable of this kind of atrocity, then it looks like we’ve hit our own little version of the perfect storm.  Brilliant, driven, and fanatically religious, and in such a way that he honestly believes that his victims don’t have souls anymore.”  He thought for a minute.  “Hey, Li, what about the doc from the clinic, or better yet her staff?”

Lisa frowned, and then nodded.  “That is not a bad avenue to pursue.  If there is a connection there, then we might actually be on to something.”

Davies nodded.  “I’ll leave that end of things to you, then.  I’ve got my own end of things to work on.”  She paused, and interjected, “Oh, did I tell you?  I’ve gotten a transfer.”

Lisa looked at her in surprise.  “No!  Isn’t that a bad thing?”

Davies smirked.  “Well, normally, it would be, and don’t any of you start gossiping about this, but I got a call from the director of the Internal Affairs department.  It’s funny, really.  They spotted the order that got me up here on leave, and it set of every red flag they have.  I mean, really, telling a professional investigator that her job isn’t to investigate a suspicious circumstance.  Really now.”

Malcolm shrugged.  “So, what’s the deal?”

Davies leaned forward and smiled.  “I get my own team, hand picked by The Director Himself, no less, to investigate what REALLY happened in that house, what influences are being brought to bear to influence the conventional investigation, and the files that were uncovered in the initial investigation.  It seems that there have been several attempts to bury that whole line of inquiry.”

Quartz grinned like she just found a presidential pardon in her chicken.  Jet pumped a fist into the air.  “Boo Yah!  Finally, a point for the good guys!”  She spiked her gnawed bone into the empty bucket.  “What are you waiting around here for?  Get out there and prove we are who we say we are, why don’t you,” she taunted the agent, grinning ear to ear.

“I’ll get on that,” she grinned back, “you just remember that you’re going to have to make this work from your end too, you know.”

Quartz smiled.  “We know.  It’s just nice to see something go our way for a change, finally.”

Malcolm stood up and grunted.  “Well, then we’d best be getting a move on.  Can I trust the two of you to mind yourselves for a bit?”

Jet leered at the Special Forces soldier.  “Yeah, yeah, we’ll be good, I promise…”

Malcolm shook his head at the young woman, and put his arms around the other two departing women, “Well then ladies, shall we?”

Lisa and Davies started giggling madly as the three of them walked away, and Jet and Quartz busied themselves with cleaning up their picnic lunch.  “Well,” Jet opined, “back to the salt mines?”

Quartz shrugged.  “Might as well get in as much practice as we can,” she opined.  She held out her fist to her sister.  “Looking up.”

Jet rapped knuckles with her sister.  “Looking up.”

They got back to practicing.

 

Malcolm stood on the platform with agent Davies and hugged her tightly.  “I’ll miss you, Nora.”

The departing FBI agent hugged the big man back.  “I’ll call you when I get in.  Give me a ring when you get to Chicago.”

Malcolm sighed, and stroked her green hair.  “I’ll see you around?”

Agent Davies smirked.  “You bet your butt you will.  But it’s time for us to get to work.  That means that I have to get out of here, so that you aren’t distracted.  It’s time to go to work, Mal.”

Malcolm released her, and stepped back.  He nodded, “That it is.”  She smiled, and boarded the train.  She stared at him from the window of her compartment, and as the train pulled away, she snapped him a parting salute.  He returned the salute, grinning, and watched until the train was out of sight.  Then he bowed his head, and nodded.  “Time to go to work.  Damn straight.”

He spun on his heel and strode away briskly, his manner all business and professional violence.

 

The next morning, his mood had mellowed somewhat.  The day began with a meeting at the twins.  The four of them were seated at the table in the twin’s makeshift home.  Malcolm took a break in devouring his Patented Breakfast Sandwich™ to comment on the surroundings.  “It still surprises me what you managed to accomplish here.”

Jet shrugged, and tossed a balled up wrapper into the trash across the room.  “Eh, not really a big deal.  Most of the makings for this thing were already here.  I just did some impromptu shopping, and there we go.”

Lisa raised an eyebrow.  “I’m actually impressed that you knew what you would need, given your background.”

Quartz laughed.  “You mean since we were spoiled rich kids, we shouldn’t know how to put together something livable?”

“Well,” Lisa laughed, “yes, actually.  It’s a skill one wouldn’t expect.”

Jet laughed.  “We never particularly wanted that little condo that father made our wing into.  We were going to Duke for more then just the wholesome religious atmosphere.”  She snorted at that last.

Malcolm snorted.  “Wholesome religious atmosphere my ass.  I went to West Point, and let me tell you, if you want religion, find a foxhole.”

Quartz saluted with her coffee.  “Amen.  Or a locker room.”

Lisa smiled.  “I take it you like a good, wholesome religious atmosphere?”

“God yes,” Jet said, “pardon the pun, but that was one of the things I liked about Benedict.  He may have lost half the faithful over it, but the Decree of 2010 was the best thing that man ever did.”

“Pissed of father something fierce, though,” Quartz mused.  “It’s why we were baptized protestant.  Mom never did approve of that.  Why’d you bring it up?”

Lisa smiled.  “I’ve been in touch with an old friend of mine from high school, and he’s agreed to take you in while you’re in Chicago.”

Malcolm smiled.  “Ah, Doug agreed?”

Lisa nodded.  “I just told him you were persecuted MORFS survivors who were being railroaded back home by an influential father, and you needed to get out of town, if you’re concerned.”

Malcolm snorted.  “Not exactly a lie, anyway.”

Lisa jabbed back, “He knows I’m omitting things.  He trusts me.”

Quartz chimed in, “So what makes him competent to hide us, then?”

Lisa and Malcolm both smirked.  “Because,” Lisa began, “his full title is Monsignor Douglas Rosenfield of Her Lady of Angels O.F.M.”

Quartz just stared at her, and then Jet squeaked, “He runs a freaking cathedral?”

Lisa smiled.  “And is a Franciscan Monk, to boot.  He played football with Mal, back in high school, and managed to luck out in the MORFS department.  He got an eye/hair color change, end of story.  Most mild case I’ve ever heard of.  Then again, he still looks and sounds like he’s in his early twenties despite being my age, so take that for what you will.”

Quartz smiled slightly.  “What the hell.  If you can’t trust a priest, who the fuck can you trust, eh?”

Jet shrugged.  “Not much we can do about it anyways at this point.”  She smiled eerily at the two older members of the group.  “So, what’s the plan for getting us there?”

Malcolm shrugged.  “Well, I figured that you’d just take a train.”  When the twins shot him an un-amused look he shrugged.  “It worked last time, right.  Look, there’s no way you can make it through airport security, so flying into O’Hare is out.  I really don’t think you want to try to drive it, much less walk, so rail it is.”

Quartz rolled her eyes, a gesture more of the head and neck then her actual eyes at this point, given her unique ocular apparatus.  “Well, I’ll grant you that it’s probably the only option at this point, but can we travel in slightly more comfort this time?”

Lisa nodded.  “That’s the plan.  If the dark one here can hold an illusion over two people at once, we can set up a chartered car on an Amtrak liner headed into Chicago.  That’ll give you privacy, and comfort.”

Jet smiled.  “I like that.  I really really like that.”  She cocked her head to the side, and blinked slowly.  “I think I can manage it.  Only one way to find out, I guess.”

Malcolm shrugged.  “So we go take a walk, and I guess I go as somebody else today.”  He smirked at his partner in crime, all four of them laughed.

When the mirth subsided somewhat, Jet inquired of her sister and Lisa, “So, while me `n Mal are out strolling around, what are you two going to be up to?”

Quartz shrugged, but there was a certain air of expectation about her that was most interesting.  Lisa simply smiled, and nodded at the tablet in the corner.  “I think we’ll try to get the train situation worked out, how about that.”

Malcolm stood, and rolled his shoulders under the shirt he wore.  “Sounds good.  Well, come on girlie, we’ve got work to do.”  So saying, he strode towards the door, and Jet scrambled to follow him.

When they had gone, Quartz looked at Lisa, and shrugged.  She stood, and slowly stretched.  “Well,” she drawled, “we should probably get to work ourselves, then, eh?”  Lazily, she wandered over and picked up her tablet

Lisa smiled slowly, and stood herself, and dumped the empty wrappers, bags, and other detritus from breakfast into the makeshift trash bin.  “How about we adjourn to a more comfortable setting first, though,” she replied, with a sly look at her chalk white companion.

Quartz smiled slightly, and without a word left the room and headed down to the twins more private room.  The one with the bed.  It was quite some time later till they got around to doing anything with the tablet, though.

 

Jet closed the door behind her, with both herself and Malcolm wrapped in an illusory disguise.  She shot Malcolm a look as they walked down the street towards the bus stop.  “If that bed smells like sex when I get in there tonight, I’m going to kill you, Mal.”

Malcolm laughed, a deep, full, belly laugh.  “We’re leaving tomorrow, kid.  Let’em have some time to themselves.”

There was nothing that Jet could say to that, so she shrugged, and the two of them walked in silence for a few more minutes.  Then Jet smiled, and glanced over at Malcolm.  “Well, they’re definitely making some good use of that time.”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow, and Jet made a point of having the disguise follow suit.  In response to his unspoken question, she responded, “Empathic link, remember.  She’s either having sex with Lisa, or in the bathroom giving herself the hottest hand job I’ve ever heard of.”

Malcolm laughed again.  “Good for them.  You’re all right with this?”

Jet shrugged.  “The sex, yeah, you go girl,” she pumped her arm up and down.  “The fact that my sister is falling in love with your friend there,” she shrugged, “that’s harder.”

Malcolm nodded.  “How so?” he asked, politely trying to draw the self contained young woman into a discussion.

She shrugged again, an uncomfortable gesture.  “On one hand, I’m thrilled that my sister is falling in love with a beautiful person, who seems to love her just as much.  Even if their relationship is just a bit hinky.”  She smiled slightly.  “On the other, I’m rather jealous.”

Malcolm sighed.  “Why not you?”

“Yup.”  Jet sighed.  “You know, like, how does she get this lucky.  Is there anyone out there that I’ll feel that way about?  What if I do find someone, and they aren’t immortal like me?”

Malcolm looked around a bit, and not seeing anyone, he nodded, coming to some internal decision.  “Look, that last one, don’t concern yourself with.  This isn’t something that anyone wants getting out, but Li can do more then her own youth bit.  She can do other people too.  Only with that, it’s a physical reset more then anything else.  It’s not something that she wants becoming common knowledge, for obvious reasons.”

Jet nodded.  “Well, that’s certainly helpful.  I suppose that looking at it long term, if I’m around long enough, I’ll find someone sooner or later, eh?”

Malcolm nodded.  “Yup.  Sooner or later, you’ll find someone to spend your life with.  It’s a perk of agelessness.”

Jet looked up at the sky.  Then she turned, and smiled at Malcolm.  “Thanks Mal.  Now, since we both know that I can do this, what’s the real point of this trip.”

“Other then giving your sister and Li a chance to be alone together for a few hours?”

Jet shot him a look, and just then, the bus pulled up to the stop.  As they waited for the door to open, Malcolm got in the last word.  “You’ll just have to wait and see.”  And then the door opened, and the ritual of paying the toll and seating themselves prevented any reply on the part of Jet.  She sat sulked, while Malcolm smiled this content little smile, and the bus carried them into the heart of Seattle.

 

As Wolf watched the two figures, who he assumed were Jet and Malcolm, walk away, he leaned back and smiled a little.  So the targets watchers, that ever so dangerous soldier and the damned Bio-Elemental, were leaving tomorrow, and the twins were staying put for another two days.  That was good.

When the moaning started in the headset, he turned it off and put it aside.  He strolled over to the bed and flopped down.  The white one would be at it all day with her lover, and the black one was obviously out on the town with the soldier.   It would be hours till they got back, and he could go over the tapes later.  He needed sleep now, so that he could get into position for later, and he really didn’t need to listen to a pair of lesbians going at it.  It reminded him of how alone he was.  He would strike tomorrow, at any rate; hopefully the targets would provide him with a good opportunity.  He hoped that the target would be strong enough to fight him off, though.  He could use a turn of good luck.

 

Quartz hugged Lisa as the sun set over the city, and a single tear rolled down her cheek.  “I’ll see you in Chicago, right?”

“I’ll be waiting.  You know the place?” she whispered back into her lover’s ear.

Quartz smiled tightly.  “Her Lady of Angels, how could I forget?”  She paused for a moment, and then continued, “I’d come to see you off, but I can’t, can I?”

“Not really.  Relax, it’s only for a few days, and I think that today was memorable enough to keep us both sated for a while, eh?”

They both laughed for a bit, and then they separated, slowly and reluctantly.  Quartz’s hand lingered on Lisa’s for a long moment, and she sighed.  “Four days, right?”

Lisa smiled, and caressed her lover’s hand.  “Four days.  I’ll see you then.”  She quickly backed up, sliding her hand out of Quartz’s, and slipped out the door.  Quartz leaned back and slumped against the wall, as the woman who had become a large part of her life climbed on the back of Malcolm’s bike, and the two of them drove off.

Once they were away from the twins’ hideout, Malcolm slowed down a bit, and asked over his shoulder, “How serious is this one, for you?”

Lisa sighed, and leaned into his back.  “Quite.  I may have actually fallen for this one.  How ironic.  Me, the lesbian succubus-nymph, smitten by a living statue.  How Pygmalion.”

Malcolm let out a chuckle.  “I’m fairly sure that your living statue is just as smitten as you are.”

Lisa smiled, slightly, at that.  “Then this little separation is for the best then.”

“How so?”

“Well, right now, our relationship is driven primarily by our libidos, both of which are rather high.  By being apart, we can let that part of ourselves cool off, and we’ll both find out if this thing goes deeper then just mind-consuming lust.”

Malcolm laughed.  “I’d have thought you’d be used to that kind of lust by now.  It’s been what, fifteen, sixteen years since you MORFed?”

Lisa punched him, lightly.  “We’ll both be thirty five in August, which makes it twenty to the day.  You know that.  Gods, getting MORFS on my birthday.”

Malcolm shrugged.  “Yeah, not the best birthday present I’ve ever heard of, eh?”

Lisa smiled under her helmet.  “Oh, I don’t know.  I rather like it.  It’s certainly fun enough,” she said with a lewd undertone.  “I know I bitched about it at the time, but looking back, MORFS is probably the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Malcolm sighed.  “Even if it did break us up?”

Lisa smiled.  “Hey, it worked out in the end.  And besides, I didn’t hear you complaining when we tested our compatibility junior year.”

Malcolm laughed again.  “No seventeen year old boy is EVER going to complain about having wild sex with a professional nymphomaniac, ever.  And no man worth his balls is ever going to regret plowing YOUR field, you minx you.”

Lisa laughed.  “Why thank you for that honest and homely complement, Mal.  I’m flattered.”  She changed the subject with a sudden interrogative.  “So?  What about you and Nora?”

Malcolm chuckled.  “We’ll see.  We’re certainly compatible.  Long term remains to be seen.”

“You know, for all our intensity in high school, we never really had that quiet peace that you and her have.”  Lisa leaned back into Malcolm and sighed.

“I know,” Malcolm sighed back at the feel of her pressing against him.  “It’s taken me a while, but I think that something slow, relaxed, in a relationship is really what I needed all along.”  He smiled, “And it would have done nothing but piss you off.”  Lisa giggled into his back.  “As you said, it all worked out in the end.”

Lisa smiled.  “Yes, it did.  Now we just need to keep it from falling apart.”

 

Back in the warehouse, Quartz sighed, and levered herself up.  Her sister poked her head in, and inquired, “So, all the sighing and longing looks over with?”

Quartz smiled at the gentle mocking humor in her sister’s voice.  “Yup, at least till we get to Chicago.  Then you get to endure the hugging and kissing and general sappy reunion.”

Jet smiled, and walked her sister back towards their bedroom.  “God I hope so.  Seeing you two together is a pleasure.”

“Even if it does make you jealous?”

“Even if.  At least one of us has someone.  I’ll find someone eventually.  One of the perks of immortality, as Malcolm pointed out.”

“Well, thank you for that.  I really do care for her, and I didn’t want to hurt you…”

“I know,” Jet laughed.  “Empathic link, remember?  I just hope I do have to suffer through your rendition of ‘Sappy reunion in Lesbian Major’, I really do.”

Quartz suddenly turned serious.  “A vision?”

Jet laughed.  “Oh god no.  I would have told you.  More of a hunch.  It feels like for these last two weeks we’ve been lazing along, having a bit of a rest as we drift down the river.  And now I’m hearing rapids.  Things are going to pick up speed again.”

Quartz frowned.  “So, what, we’ve got another disaster incoming?”

Jet laughed.  “Oh gods no, at least I don’t think so.  More like events are going to start picking up again, only now, instead of being driven along in front of them, we’re meeting them head on, and we’re in control.”  She slapped her sister on the shoulder, and walked inside the bedroom.  “Come on, we’ve got a picnic out on the island tomorrow, and we need to get some rest.  Get in here already.”

Quartz shook her head, and smiled.  Jet was right, she really needed to relax and get some rest.  So what if events started moving again, she liked it when things were happening.  Only this time, they were ready, and they would be the ones doing the happening, not the other way around.  She shook her head one more time, and walked in to her bedroom to get some sleep.

 

That night the twins slept holding each other, and had dreams of days to come, where they lived in peace, and all was well.  In a nearby warehouse, with line of sight to the one they slumbered in, a disturbed Wolf sat in thought.  They had given him the perfect opportunity, in the picnic, and his programming wouldn’t let him pass it up.  He had hoped that they wouldn’t expose themselves, but they had, and now he had to act.

He curled up on his pile of cardboard that he used as a bed, and whimpered to himself.  He didn’t want to do this, but the collar left him no choice.  Tomorrow, against his will, and with a heart heavy with regret, Jack Daniels would do everything in his power to capture two innocent girls, and haul them off to a life of pain, torture, and slavery.  A tear rolled it’s way down his muzzle under his fur as he prayed to any God that would listen for forgiveness for what he was about to do.

Slowly, fitfully, he lapsed into a sleep that was blissfully dreamless.

 

The next morning dawned crisp and clear, a perfectly beautiful day in early July, and the absolutely perfect day for a picnic.  The twins took off from the front of their building without a word, cloaked in invisibility by Jet, and Quartz took pains to stay as close as possible to her sister.  They each carried a small bag, with a bathing suit bought on Jet’s outing yesterday and a fresh pair of underwear.  Jet also carried one of her katana.  She hardly ever went anywhere without one, if she could get away with it.  Quartz was beginning to think that it was like a security blanket for her sister.

They landed in a small clearing screened on all sides from view from the water, and slowly laid there things aside and stretched.  There were already blankets and lounge chairs here, a gift laid out a few days ago by Malcolm and the gang specifically for today.  The two stripped down, laying the now customary flying outfits and coats aside, and pulled out their swimsuits.  Jet had kept them in the packaging until now, and had packed the bags, so this was Quartz’s first time seeing them.  She was shocked.

“What the hell is this?” she finally managed to sputter.

Jet looked over, the mirth coming off of her in waves.  “It’s a bikini.”

“It’s two tissues, a napkin and some string, is what it is,” Quartz retorted.  The swimsuit in question really was rather revealing.  The bottom was modest enough, if rather tight, but the top was ridiculous.  It was just two triangles of fabric, meant to go over the nipples, with some string to tie behind the neck and around the back.  It left absolutely nothing to the imagination and everything on display.  And as always, it was black.

“What, it’s not like anyone but me will see you, anyways.  Besides, you’ll look hot,” was the only reply from Jet.

Quartz sighed, but slowly and reluctantly donned the garment.  “And this is why you kept these things in the bags and didn’t let me see them before today.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Jed shrugged.  “You’d over react, like you did, and besides, you’re the one who gave Birdie a free show back home.”

Quartz finished tying the minimal covering on herself, and adjusted everything so it felt comfortable.  “Well, happy birthday, you.”

Jet, who had finished donning her white but otherwise identical swimsuit, slowly lowered herself down onto one of the lounge chairs, and sighed.  “And a happy Independence Day to you, as well.”

Quartz reached into the cooler she had hefted over, drew out a beer, and tossed it to her sister.  Taking one out herself, she saluted her sister with the bottle, and lay down on the other lounge.  The two of them relaxed, and caught some sun.  They had a breakfast of fruit and bagels, and wiled away the morning, taking their ease.

In the mean time, a pair of wolfish eyes watched from the shadow of the trees, and a dark bulk shifted in shadow, waiting.

 

The morning passed without incident, and noon arrived without fanfare or herald.  The twins had planned to cook up some burgers on an old charcoal grill, but when they went to look for it, they found that their supply of fuel had been exhausted by the week’s earlier activities, and never refilled.

Jet looked down into the ash filled bowl of the barbeque, and then into the charcoal bag, and shook it.  A few bits of loose dust made a hollow rattling.  “You would think, being as how I can fucking see the fucking future, I would have fucking spotted this.”

Quartz chuckled.  “This isn’t a total disaster.  I think I remember a few more bags in the boat on the trip back.  Malcolm must have just forgotten to bring them over.  Let me go get ‘em.”

Jet sighed.  “Right.  You know, given that this is our birthday, I should just hope that this is the worst thing that goes wrong today.”  She looked at the grill, and shrugged.  “I guess I’ll clean this out, and have it ready to go for when you get back,” she said as her sister turned to go.

Quartz’s only response was to raise a hand and wave, as she vanished into the trees.  Jet looked after her for a moment, and then sighed, and hauled the grill to the lounge that she had spent the morning napping on.  Setting it down, she walked over to the garbage pail that they had left about, and dragged that over as well.  With a sigh of resignation, she tipped the grill over into the trash can, and started to shake it out.

Now, one might think that, given her demeanor and casual attitude, she would have been surprised when the seven foot wolf man leapt from the edge of the woods, almost ten yards away, and with nearly silent grace crossed the distance to her position in three great bounds.  Wolf certainly thought she would be.  But she had seen it coming well in advance, and was simply waiting.

Moments before his outstretched claws would have closed around her neck, she slowed time.  Moving quickly, so as to not exert herself unnecessarily, she rolled out from under his grasp, seizing her katana as she did so, and with a single upwards motion, unsheathed the blade and sliced through his outstretched arm, connecting at the shoulder.  The razor sharp blade sheared skin, muscle and bone with contemptuous ease, and a spray of blood drenched the poor helpless lounge chair.

She dropped the time dilation as her blade connected, and took a step back.  Wolf’s reaction to his seemingly unaware prey suddenly blurring out of his grasp and in the same breath having his arm lopped off was rather predictable.  He screamed.  His next response did startle Jet more then somewhat, though.  He spun, seized his severed arm, and roughly slapped in against the bleeding stump.

The two of them stood there, staring at each other, separated my only a few feet of air, and a blood drenched lounge.  Wolf’s breath came in ragged gasps, as he fought off pain, and he clutched the arm to the stump.  They stood there staring at each other for a span of ten heartbeats.  And then the real shock came, at least for Jet.  The fingers of the severed right arm twitched, and he slowly released the arm, and straightened up.  He spread his hand, flexing the fingers, almost as if he was testing to make sure everything worked, and then stood and flexed.  He rolled his head and shoulders, and seemed to settle.

Jet looked on shocked as the evidence suggested that this monster had just reattached his own severed arm.  Quickly recovering her senses, she smiled and jibed, “Neat trick.  What did you miss when I said that I could see the fucking future though?  The see, or the future?”

Hearing human speech from a seven and a half foot tall wolf man is an odd thing, especially when that same voice is deep, rumbly, and has the sort of sound that implies that the owner of said voice would be just as happy to eat you as chat with you.  It’s even weirder when that same evil movie villain voice cracks wise back at you, such as when Wolf responded to Jet’s taunting jibe with a wry, “The part where it meant that you could move that fast.”

He lunged at her again, and she spun out of the way, bringing her sword cleanly through his ribs, and skipped back a few steps as he tumbled forward.  He turned the pain filled sprawl into a forward roll, and cleanly came to his feet and turned to face her.  “You know, you can’t beat me, Jack,” she remarked as she faced him down over the blade.

Wolf looked at her, startled, and for a moment paused.  “You know my name...,” he growled, and then started as the collar prodded him into attacking again.

Again, Jet smoothly evaded the lunge, and again Wolf was left with a bloody gash through his chest that healed nearly instantly.  He snarled, and then began to circle.  “How, if I may ask, do you think you know who I am?”

Jet kept her guard up, and followed him with her blade.  “I used to chat with you online, till you vanished last year.”  She shrugged without loosing her guard.  “My sister was more involved then I was.  Remember Crystallis?”

That actually stopped him for a moment, and he cursed softly under his breath.  “Kill me,” he snarled.  Then he leapt at her.

She sidestepped and put a slice between his fourth and fifth ribs as he passed.  This time he didn’t stop when he landed.  The wound had already healed, and he simply spun and attacked again.

They danced in this manner for several minutes.  He would attack.  She would flow aside and administer a lethal blow.  He would heal before he even stumbled, and turn and attack again.  Over and over they continued this, until Jet, even with her trained skill, fighting conservatively, was beginning to tire.  Wolf had noticed this.

“Stop fucking around and KILL ME!” he screamed at her as he leapt at her again.

Jet slipped aside and laid his throat open nearly to the spine.  He stumbled that time, but a moment later, he recovered, and turned to her, momentarily silent as his vocal cords re-attached themselves.

“I’m trying here, Jack,” she gasped, “but you’re just a little hard to hurt.”

He swarmed at her, low, and she was forced to leap away, unable to strike without giving him an opportunity to get a hand on her.  When she landed, he snarled, “Then I guess you’re going to find yourself in the cell next to me, then.”  He paused as she looked slightly puzzled, and then continued, “You’re getting tired.”

She evaded his next rush, and realized that he was right.  Even fighting at her most conservative, she was tiring out.  While she could warp time to keep out of his reach, when her blade was in him he moved at the same time frame as she did.  It limited her options, and against an opponent who seemingly didn’t get injured or exhausted, she could not win.  Eventually, she would exhaust her reserves, and then he would be on her.  There was only one outcome.

She had lost.

But that assumed that she was fighting alone.  She wasn’t.  It should only be a matter of a few moments, and then her sister would get back with the charcoal, see the fight, and then it would be over.  Quartz could just hold him down.  It was as simple as that.

She began to smile slightly, and a witty retort began to form on her lips, when a crashing sounded through the forest.  Her incipient smile inverted itself rather promptly, and she found her hope harried by concern.

Wolf sighed audibly, and lunged again.  Jet didn’t even bother trying to counter, she simply evaded.  Counterblows would do no good, and she needed to conserve energy.  Wolf growled at this change in her strategy and shouted.  “What do you think that crashing was?  I put a deadfall up for your sister back there, and she isn’t coming to help you!”

Jet dodged again, and laughed.  “A deadfall?  Is that all.  I’m sorry Jack, but this is going to hurt you.”  She laughed again.  “But then, you did ask for it.”

There was an even louder crash, and then a loud and clear voice rang out over the island.

Who the fuck do you think you are DEALING WITH!?!”  Quartz’s voice rang out, clarion clear, as she raced into the clearing.  She was holding most of a tree by one end, apparently the thing that had fallen on her, and with astonishing ease, swung it around.

While wolf stopped to stare at the astoundingly beautiful white woman in the black string bikini, Jet swiftly stepped back.  This was a very wise move, as Quartz swung her tree like a gigantic baseball bat.  With Wolf as the ball.

The tree struck with a bone shattering crack, and the blow picked wolf up, bent him double around the tree, and sent him sailing into the air.  As he flew into the air, Quartz raised her hand from the perfect batters pose she was in, and an orb of angry light formed around it.

“See you later, dog breath!” she called, and blasted him.  The beam of light that flew out was the largest that Jet had seen her sister use, and when it hit Wolf, the explosion was enormous.  The fireball roared out, and the shockwave nearly flattened Jet.  When the smoke cleared, there was no trace of Wolf.

 

Jet slowly walked over to her sister, and slowly, calmly, asked, “Why, exactly, did you do that?”

Quartz snarled at her sister.  “Because that fucker dropped a goddamn TREE on me.”  She gestured with the offending piece of flora in her hand.  “He’s lucky that’s all I did.”

Jet sighed and looked up.  “Thank god that you hit him in the chest.  He’ll probably live.”

Quartz looked puzzled.  “Uh, what?  I’ve hit an airship with a blast weaker than that and it went all ‘blewey.  What do you mean he probably survived?”

Jet shook her head.  “I’ll explain on the way home.  Let’s get changed and get the fuck out of here.  That little fireworks display you just put on is going to be noticed.  Let’s just hope we’re out of here before the fire service comes to check it out.”

Quartz shook her head, and looked chagrinned.  “Right.  Um, sorry about that.  I think I got carried away, there.”

Jet shrugged, her own adrenalin high fading.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll explain later.  It was probably the best thing you could have done for him, if you did kill him.  Let’s go”

They two of them quickly finished changing back into their clothes, and vacated the island with all haste.  As they left, they saw a small boat speeding towards the island.  The boat was marked with Seattle fire department logos, and the twins looked at each other, and flew a little faster.

 

As the twins retreated back to the safety of their lair, the fire boat wasn’t the only thing in the water around that island.  On the far side, caught in a current that would drag him out of the bay, a large furred body floated.  There was a large hole in the upper torso, and burn and scorch marks all over.

As it floated away, the hole was slowly closing, and the body twitched slightly, a small motion, almost random, only not the result of some random impact or current.  Slowly, inexorably, the body of Wolf, once known as Jack Daniels, floated away.

 

Many miles away, a thin man dressed in plain, nondescript clothing was loosing his temper.  It had failed.  Wolf had failed.  This was impossible.  Nothing could defeat Wolf.  But he was dead.  The monitor on his heart had stopped, and all transitions were cut off, save for the GPS locator on the collar.  All it showed was that the animal’s body was washing away in the tide.

This was insufferable.  Impossible.  Unless…

Unless the Wolf had retained more free will then he thought.  He could have just done something that would freeze him, deliberately, and wait for the target to behead him.  That would kill him.  But self termination?  Just to spite the man who had trained him, shown him his rightful state, his place in the world now that his soul had been devoured by the syndrome?  He wouldn’t have thought it possible.  He still wasn’t sure.

But before that, he had business to attend to.  He could recover the corpse of the failed weapon later.  He had two new subjects to bring in.  Hopefully ones that were more resilient than usual.  They were going to be filling a large hole.

He picked up a nearby phone.  “Yes, do you have a location?”

“Good, you found his surveillance location?”

“You have his records?”

“When can you move?”

“I need this sooner, they may move.”

“All right.  Tomorrow night.  Do not underestimate the target.  Use overwhelming force.  This target has overwhelmed light recon units without effort previously.”

“Fine.  Better dead then in a competitor’s hands.  But alive if you can manage it.”

He hung up, and frowned.  This was a bad turn of events.  He picked up the phone again.  Arrangements needed to be made…

 

When the twins arrived at the warehouse, they slipped inside, and slumped into the makeshift chairs they had assembled.  The adrenalin that had fueled them during the fight and subsequent escape had run out, and they were crashing hard.

Quartz looked up at her sister, and shrugged.  “Ok, what the hell was that?”

Jet sighed, and looked at her sister sadly.  “Black Label.”

“Oh, crap.  I just killed Jack?”

Jet shook her head.  “I doubt it.  I chopped his arm off, and he just put it back on.  I nearly beheaded him, and all it did was inconvenience him for a moment.”  She sighed.  “I doubt you killed him.”

Quartz leaned back, and stared at the ceiling.  “Well, that’s good.  So, now what?’

“I guess we get packing, and get ready to scram.”

“One more day.”

“Yup.”

“I hope Jack’s all right…”

“Yeah.”

The two of them sat like that, just staring at the steel beams of the roof, for a long time.  Then seemingly of one mind, they got up and silently began to pack.  They managed to sort and pack a great deal of their things, before the sun set, and while they did so, Jet filled Quartz in on all her observations of Jack.  The white woman seemed lost in thought for a long time, and then, when the light had failed, the two of them decided to go to sleep.  That night, it was Quartz who needed to be held, as the fear of what she may have in anger done ran through her mind.

 

The shore of the Puget Sound, north of Seattle, was a forested and mostly wild place.  There were large swaths of the area protected as either state or federal parkland.  Many of these parks contained beaches, allocated either for bathing or boating.  Some however, were part of nature preserves, area’s set aside as wildlife habitats.

It was on one such beach that a pack of Dire Wolves were lairing in a rocky outcropping.  The dire wolf was an odd creation of MORFS.  It was a persistent mutation, much like the Eagox, only this mutation wasn’t a melding of two species, it was an enhancement of one.  The North American wolf was already a fearsome predator.  Make it the size of a horse, with the intellect of a chimpanzee or dolphin, and the ability to change the coloration of its pelt to better blend into its surroundings and mute sound around it, and you have a terrifying predator indeed.

This pack had decided to lair on this beach because it contained a large, rocky outcropping that allowed the half a dozen members of the pack to lair out of the weather.  It was a new pack, its members having just broken away from a larger pack that ranged further inland to the north, and they had decided to claim this area as the heart of their new territory.  It was far too close to the old pack for their comfort, but they had nowhere else to go.  They were nervous, and their scout was roaming the beach when he found it.

It was a body.  It was small, but it smelled like a wolf.  It smelled like Pack, like and Alpha.  The scout sniffed it, his curiosity peaked.  He liked this small wolf, and he felt that it was important to protect him.  He cocked his head, and sniffed at it again.  Then, making up his mind, he bent his head, and scooped the body into his mouth.  Turning, he headed back to his pack.  They needed to see this.

 

Wolf moaned softly as he swam back to consciousness, pain shooting through his body as he moved slightly.  He heard a voice at his ear, “Is it hurt?”  The voice was soft, and had the tone of a very small child.

Another voice whispered into his other ear, “Many scars…”  Again, it seemed like it was a small child speaking.  Wolf couldn’t place why, exactly, that it seemed that way.  Perhaps it was the sing song cadence.  Perhaps it was the slightly breathy tone in the voice.  Perhaps it was something else.

A third voice chimed in.  “Far from home.  Far from pack.  Collared.”

The second voice came back.  “He stirs…”

Wolf pulled himself upright, and blinked several times, and the world slowly swam into focus.  He was on a beach, under some rocks.  He shook his head, and a large black shape pressed into his frame of vision.  The first voice came back into his awareness.  “He wakes…”

His vision cleared, and the head of the biggest wolf he had ever seen swam into focus.  “Huh,” he muttered to himself, “I lived.  What a pain.”

The third voice seemed puzzled, “You hurt?”  A second massive wolf head leaned over him, and cocked itself sideways, seeming puzzled.

A third head poked it in the side.  “He hurt,” the second voice said.  The new head looked down at him.  “You lead?”

Slowly, Wolf forced himself to sit up.  As he did so, he heard the sound of large things moving away from him.  “What?” he asked, puzzled.  “Who are you?”

The first voice came back.  “We Water Rock Pack.  We are good wolves.”  As it said this, the largest wolf that Wolf had ever seen stepped in front of him, and crouched.  Lying flat on the floor, its head came up to his waist.

He leaned over to it, and slowly reached out to touch it.  “Dire wolves…” he murmured, still in shock.

The second voice spoke up, and he turned to see two more wolves lying flat beside him.  “You lead?”

“It’s you,” Wolf muttered.  “I’m hearing the wolves…”  He looked around, and saw another three Dire Wolves trying to hide behind the edge of the rock formation he and the wolves were under.  He turned to the first wolf and asked it, “How did I get here?”

The first voice came back.  “CleverSeeker was looking at Water.  He find.”  The large wolf pointed his nose at the smaller of the two wolves off to the side.  Wolf turned to address the indicated wolf.

Before he could speak, the wolf seemed to perk up; its ear’s going from flat to erect, and its head coming off the floor.  “I find.  I bored, so I go look at water.  I find.  You smell nice.  Like you help.  I bring back.  You be Alpha?”  As he listened to this, Wolf realized something.  He wasn’t actually ‘hearing’ this.  It was showing up in his head, half as images, and half as words.  He was just translating it into a spoken language because that was the closest thing he could get to this kind of communication.  Then he noticed that the other two were looking at the smaller one, almost like they wanted to attack him.  Not so much with anger, as if the smaller one had said something that they wished he hadn’t…

He turned to the first one.  Making an effort, he thought at it.  *You are the Alpha of this pack?*

*Yes* came back the reply, in the first ‘voice’.

*Why do you need my help?* he asked the wolf.

*We leave old Pack, come here.  Old Pack have good Place.  Much Prey.  Moose.  Bear.  Roc.  This Place not so good.  Not so much Prey.  Men.  Men to south, east.  Not get too close, or men come with Guns, hurt Pack.*

Wolf looked around.  The wolves looked lean, but not starving.  *Are you starving?  Is there not enough food?*

The second voice chimed in.  *No, enough food for us, now.*

Wolf looked puzzled for a moment, and then looked at the second wolf again, and reflected on the voice.  *Enough now.  But not enough if you have pups.*  He had realized something.  That second vice was female.

The first voice came back.  *Yes.  You show us new Place.  Where food.  Where we raise pups.*  The wolf looked incredibly sad.  *You be Alpha.*

Wolf looked around, and thought.  These wolves were here, and there was enough food for them.  But not for long.  There was only enough for a small pack, and they wanted to grow.  They were asking him to take them somewhere where they could hunt, and the pack could grow.  A jolt shot through him.  The collar wanted him to get going.  To hunt down his prey.  He steeled himself to ride through the reminder, and then sighed.  *I will take you to a new Place.  But first, I must do something.  I must find,* he showed them a picture of Quartz, *and free myself from this collar.  Then I will show you to a new Place.  Is this good?*

The two larger wolves looked at each other, and seemed to sigh.  *Yes,* the second voice said, *this good.  You Alpha now.  You find Quartz, free self.  We help.  Then you show us New Place.*  She seemed resigned.  Wolf resolved to determine what was wrong.  But first, he had introductions to make.

 

It was later, as the pack followed Wolf through the woods, that he thought things over.  There were six wolves in the pack, all of then enormous, all of them ferocious, and all of them loyal to him.  There was CleverSeeker, who liked to wander around, and had the curiosity of a fox.  There was ProudFang, the old Alpha, and the largest wolf in the pack, who also had a keen head for the hunt, and knew the tactics of his pack well.  There was MoonEye, the female, who was the peacemaker of the pack, and knew all the other wolves well, and kept the peace.  There was MooseTracker, A lean wolf with a white star on his muzzle, between his eyes, who was the best tracker.  And there was RiverChaser and TreeClimber, who were, in there own words, good wolves.  It was a lot to take in.

*So, MoonEye, tell me.  Why are you nervous?*

*I not scared.  I am a good wolf* she replied, a nervous tremble in her voice.

Wolf thought about it for a second.  Then he remembered about the dynamics of wolf packs that he had learned back in school.  It seemed like so long ago.  *You think that I will make you my mate.*

She hung her head.  *You are Alpha.  I am a good wolf.*

He shook his head.  *You are mated to ProudFang.*

She seemed to get even more morose, if such a thing was possible.  *Yes.  He is my Lifemate.  You are Alpha.  I am a good wolf.*

Wolf thought for a moment.  *Then I will not take you as a mate.*

MoonEye suddenly stopped, and then after a moment jumped forward and looked at him.  *Some thing Wrong me?  Me not good Mate?*

Wolf laughed.  *I’m sure you are a wonderful mate, MoonEye.  But you are ProudFang’s mate, not mine.  I will not intrude.  You will bear his pups.*  He smiled.  *I will find my own Lifemate, and she will bear me fine pups one day.*

MoonEye looked like he had just made her the happiest wolf in the forest, and on reflection, that’s probably what he had done.  He smiled at her, and reached up to rub her behind the ear.  She leaned into it, and made a rumbling noise deep in her chest.  He laughed, and asked her *Do you know where the path of the,* he showed her an image of a freight train, *is?*

She cocked her head and thought.  *I do not.  RiverChaser does.*

He nodded.  *Then send him to me, for that is where we go.  You go and spend time with ProudFang.  Tell him the good news.*

He smiled as she bounded off, and watched as she nuzzled with the big wolf.  It seemed so, domestic.  He turned as the lean wolf prowled forward, and nodded his head at Wolf.

*The path of Great Metal Snake this way, Alpha.*  He turned to look at where Wolf was staring.  *You are a good Alpha.*

Wolf smiled at the wolf.  *I try.*  He nodded.  *Let’s go.*  He turned to go, and the pack followed him.

 

Wolf looked down at the tracks, and then looked at the rising sun, and thanked his luck that he had made a habit of thoroughness.  He had planed for missing his target, if not this badly, and knew that there would be a freight train coming through here shortly.  This particular train was carrying goods from the port in Seattle, off to Chicago for distribution throughout the rest of the country.  He could take it all the way through without disturbance, and beat the twins to the city by two days.  That would give him time to get the pack hidden, and take up observation of the church.  He could see a plan forming, and knew that he would have worked it out by the time he got to Chicago.

He turned to the pack, who were finishing up the remains of the moose that had been foolish enough to wander too close to hungry Dire Wolves.  He had already cut himself the tenderloins and a few steaks, and had let the pack have the rest.  That would keep him, and the pack, for a few days on the train.  CleverSeeker looked up from his meal, and wagged his tail.  *We go?*

Wolf smiled.  *We go.  We will jump on the Great Metal Snake as it goes past, and then you will follow me inside.  The Snake is hollow, like an old log, and we will hide inside as it carries us to our destination.*  He smiled at the thought and imagery he used.  Talking to the wolves was a great deal like talking to a small child.  It helped if he used simple concepts and analogies to things they were familiar with.  He heard the sound of the train in the distance, and waved for the pack to come.

They all lined up beside him, his head barely reaching their fore shoulder.  As the train neared, he tensed, and then, when the engine drew in front of him, he leapt, and beside him, the pack did the same.  He landed on top of a car in the middle of the train, and heard heavy thumps behind him as the pack landed.  He let out a held breath when he heard the sixth one.  They had all made it.  He reached down, and unlocked a compartment door.  *MoonEye, Proudfang.  I think you deserve some privacy.*  The two of them took the hint, and scrambled inside.  It was a tight fit, but they managed.  Moving quickly, Wolf found two more empty compartments, and placed TreeClimber and RiverChaser in one, and he and CleverSeeker took the other.

Once they were inside, and the door was shut, CleverSeeker turned to him, and gave a wolf grin.  *That Fun.  What next?*  The innocent excitement in the young wolf’s ‘voice’ was infectious, and Wolf smiled at the youngest member of his pack.

“Ask me when we get to the city, my friend.  It promises to be more fun, though,” he said out loud, and then settled back to rest, while the train sped him forward, towards his goal.  He hoped that Crystallis and her sister would figure out what was going on.  How ironic.  The first time he was sent to hunt, he wound up hunting one of the few people he considered a friend.  And it was completely by accident.  But the knowledge that there was someone out there who knew who he was, and was trying to help gave him something he had never had before.  For the first time since he had been brought to the clinic back in Brooklyn, he fell asleep with a light heart.

He had hope. 

 

Quartz stirred from her restless sleep, waking from images of a torn and bloody Jack, begging her for help as her power tore him apart.  She shuddered as she woke, and felt her sister’s arms around her.  “Oh, God.  What did I do?”

Jet murmured in her ear.  “What you had to.”

“I could have helped him.”

“No, you couldn’t.  We didn’t have time to figure it out, then.”

“You think he’s still alive?”  Quartz was slightly astonished.

“You didn’t fight him.  You didn’t see him reattach his arm that way.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Quartz smiled grimly.  “You’re right.  I didn’t fight him.  I just blew him away.”

Jet sat up, and dragged her sister with her.  “Yes, you did, damn it.  You blew him away!  Think about it.  You couldn’t have disintegrated him, this isn’t the movies.  You probably blew him out into the sound, and he’s probably recovered and swum ashore by now.  He’ll be fine.  I opened his goddamned throat all the way to the spine, and it just healed back up.  Stop worrying.”

Quartz took a deep breath.  “Yeah, you’re right.  No way he’s dead.”  She sounded like she was trying to convince herself, but the conviction was there, if shaky.  “So, how did he find us, anyways?  He drop any hints?”

Jet shrugged.  “Not really.  I think he had us under surveillance.  Remember that news report last week, about the police precinct that had all its surveillance gear stolen?  I think he used that to survail us.”

Quartz smiled.  “You like that word.”

“Survail, survail survail.”  Jet smiled.  “You’re right I do.  But that’s neither here nor there.  If he’s been listening to us in here, then he probably heard that conversation two days ago when we planed our travel arraignments.  He likely knows exactly where we’re going.”

“So,” Quartz asked, “the question becomes, do we change our travel arrangements, or not?”

Jet shrugged.  “Can we, at this point?”

Quartz frowned.  “Well… no, not really.  Guess we’re stuck, then.  Which is a pain, but I guess we’ll just have to risk it.”

Jet nodded.  “Then it’s time to get everything put away.  That’s going to be an all day job.”

Quartz shrugged.  “Eh, something to do.  I’ll pack up the gear.  You gonna go do laundry?”

Jet nodded. “I’ll pick up dinner on the way back.  We’ve still got one set of Hot Pockets for your lunch.  Don’t forget to eat.”

Quartz mimed a blow at her sister.  “I won’t, mom, now get gone.  I’ll see you tonight.”

Laughing, Jet did just that, taking the duffle bag of clothing with her.  After seeing her off, Quartz turned her attention to the rest of the warehouse.  “All right,” she said to herself, “time to get to work.”

 

In a small hotel outside of the city proper, a group of men was sitting around a table in a rented room.  They were looking at a surveillance photograph taken from a hidden camera mounted across the street form the twin’s hideout.   The photo showed the twins clearly through the half open door, just moments before Jet winked out, and closed the door.  The leader nodded, and smiled.  “We have confirmation.  We’ll move tonight.  Use of lethal force has been authorized.  We shoot to kill.”

One of the men leaning against the wall grinned.  “All right.  Let’s bag us some freaks.”  The rest of the group chuckled, and began to prep their gear.

 

Jet returned home, as promised, with clean laundry, and dinner.  Two steaming bags of Boston Market.  “Hey, sis.  I’m back.  I got us some bee em, you ready?”

Quartz stuck her head out of the door to the ‘bedroom’ and called back, “Sure, just get the clothes in here so I can pack ‘em, and we’ll be good.”

A few minutes, and a vacuum run later, the clothing was packed away, and the twins were sitting at a small folding table they were leaving behind, eating their dinner.  “So,” Quartz remarked, “our last meal in Seattle.”

Jet nodded.  “If you don’t count breakfast tomorrow, yup.”  She chuckled.  “Some birthday this’s been.  We’ve found an old friend, who tried to kill us, and now we’re eating take out.  Somehow, it just doesn't compare.”

Quartz laughed.  “What, you want your full catering, with a staff chef and a maid?”

Jet laughed as well.  “Well… It was nice to have all those people around, to help with things.”

Quartz smiled.  “Yeah, I know what you mean.  I’m hoping that once this is all cleared up, we can hire a few of the better members of the staff away from father.”

“It would be nice.”

“So, other then the staff, what’s the one thing you miss most about life before.”

Jet munched on her food.  “The one thing I missed most, eh?  Huh…  Football.  Playing with the team, the feeling that I’m exerting myself to the fullest, and striving for victory with my comrades.  I miss that.”

Quartz nodded.  “For me, it’s the people.  It’s knowing that I’m somebody to those around me.  I like knowing that there are people out there who are my friends.  People I’d risk for.  And who’d risk for me.”

Jet nodded.  “Well, we’ve got some of that now.”

Quartz frowned.  “Well, Lisa sure.  But I’m not so sure about Mal and Nora.  Both of them have their own agenda, I think.”

Jet just ‘hurm’ed at that, and the tow of them finished their meal in relative silence.  When they were done, Jet got up to clean the plates, and Quartz to put the table away.  Just as she turned to head towards the ‘bedroom’, Jet froze, and screamed at her sister.  “Quartz, MOVE!”  Then she slammed her time compression all the way up, and leapt out of the way.  She didn’t get out of the way a second too soon.

 

Jet’s scream warned Quartz, with just enough time to hunch down, and furl her wings around herself.  Then the automatic weapons opened up.  It came from every direction.  There must have been a dozen or two men, in body armor, with military grade weapons, pouring fire into her position.  She knelt there and took it, the stinging as countless military caliber rounds slammed into her back and wings.  She sat there and endured, and got ready for her counter attack.  When the bullets stopped, she was ready, and then she made sure they regretted attacking her.

 

Jet rolled back into the cover of the doorway, and relaxed her time compression.  The withering hail of fire targeted on her sister chopped the table to bits, and blasted into both Quartz and the concrete around her.  It kicked up a cloud of dust, and completely obscured the crouching form of her sister.  The assault continued for interminable seconds that seemed to stretch out into hours.  Then the bullets stopped, and the calls of “I’m out” and “Reloading” came.  And then Quartz struck.

She stood, her wings blowing out behind her, clearing the air around her.  Her hands were outstretched, and two orbs that glowed like the sun surmounted them.  She cried out, a wordless scream of outrage over so feeble an attack, expressing her contempt of those that would think that they could defeat her with such weakness.  And then she released her strike.  From each globe shot dozens of lances, webbing out into spray of power that stuck at every point within the warehouse above the first story.  The lances of power crashed into the walls and ceiling with thunderous noise, and into the mercenaries that had attacked them with cries of pain and surprise.

It was over in that moment.  With that one attack, Quartz had disabled the entire force sent against them.  Quickly, the twins made sure of their attackers, moving among the bodies on the second floor, and binding and disabling the mercenaries with brutal efficiency.  They left the building moments later, each carrying two duffels, the mercenaries piled in a groaning heap on the floor, in the center of a ring of bullet damage.

As they walked out onto the street, they looked at each other, and then Quartz held up the phone she had lifted off of one of the mercenaries while moving the disabled men.  She dialed 911.

“Help, Help, I heard gunfire and then a great big BANG from the warehouse…”  Jet added some sound effects for good measure, catching her off guard.  She glared at her sister and then continued.  “Send somebody over, quick.  Oh, god I gotta get out of here…”  She trailed off, and then dropped the phone, leaving the rather frantic emergency operator calling out from the abandoned phone as the twins walked away.

Once they were out of the range of the mike on the phone, Jet asked, “Why call the cops?  A forensic sweep will prove we were there.”

Quartz nodded.  “Sure.  But it’ll take a few days, and we’ll be long gone by then.  I’m more concerned about those jerks recovering and deciding to make a chase out of it.”

Jet shrugged, and unfurled her wings.  “Shall we away, then?”

Quartz nodded and did likewise.  “May as well.”  Silently, and cloaked in illusion, the two of them departed.

 

Detective Lenny Logan looked at the mess that was the crime scene and sighed.  “Why can’t I get the simple ones…” he muttered to himself.

The EMT who walked up to him answered the rhetorical comment with a cheeky, “Because then life would be boring.”

Lenny sighed.  “I like boring.  So, what was the word on the casualties?”

The EMT shrugged.  “No fatalities.  Darnedest thing, though.  All the bums had a ton of bruises, and some first degree burns.  A few second degree, nothing too serious.  Most of ‘em had head trauma from being knocked around like a prizefighter’s punching bad, though.”

Lenny sighed.  “Great, thanks.  None of them decided to explain what happened here?”

The EMT shook his head.  “Nope.”

Lenny shook his head dejectedly.  “Right, get back out there.  Somebody’s gonna have a heart attack, and you won’t be there to save them if I keep you.  Scram”

The EMT scrammed.  Lenny looked around again, and sighed.  When the Crime Scene boys finished their work, the explanation was definitely going to be worth listening to.

 

Linus Caverhall sat in his dark office, listening to the suddenly timid voice of his spotter in Seattle telling him that the backup acquisition/termination team had been captured.  Apparently after being blown up.  He politely thanked the man in a voice that showed no emotion or inflection, and hung up the phone.

He stared at the monitors, all of them blinking red with “ERROR” messages, save for one.  The GPS locator on the collar still worked, but it showed Wolf on a freight train to Chicago.  It was possible that he had learned of the targets next destination and was moving to make a second attempt.  That was part of the programming.  It was a shame that he could no longer access the more detailed feedback provided by the collar.  But still.  Wolf had been tracking the target for two weeks.  It was likely that he had learned a great deal.  If only he could be recalled and debriefed, Linus could plan a foolproof acquisition.  He steepled his fingers, and began the tedious process of going over the footage of the battle with the targets one more time.

He was at the point where the white target had used a moderately sized tree trunk as a bat to swat Wolf, when his phone rang.  There were very few people who had this number.  Cautiously, he answered the phone.  When he heard who it was, he paled even further, if such a thing was possible.

“Hello, Sir.  How are you this evening?”

“No, Sir, unfortunately, they proved far more powerful then expected.  They evaded capture, and eliminated the assets sent against them.”

“No, Sir, that won’t be necessary, I’m reviewing the footage now.  I’ll have a new tactic tailored to them in a few days.  I’m confident of my eventual success.”

“Of  course, Senator.  These things won’t have the chance to ruin your image.  I’ll take care of it.”

“Good bye, Mike”

 

The well dressed young woman in the personally tailored silk suit and the white leather coat walked up to the ticket counter, and nodded imperiously at the attendant.  She demanded her tickets, for her and her silent companion, and presented her identification to satisfy the clerk.  She briskly walked over to the departure area, and moving through the crowd, entered the area marked ‘charter’.  Once inside, she presented her ticket information again, and then had her companion present the four large duffel bags to the guards for inspection.  Finding that all four contained a large amount of loosely packed clothing, the guards waved the two past, and they got on their chartered car.

Once inside the air conditioned and private area, Jet dropped her illusions, and the two of them sagged heavily into the plush armchair available.  “Thank God that’s done,” Jet moaned.

Quartz shrugged.  “I expect we’ll have a few more intrusions by well meaning conductors and such.”

Jet sighed.  “Crap.  Ah well.  At least we’re on our way.”

Quartz nodded.  “Yup.  Chicago, here we come.”

Jet stared at the end of the car, her eyes seeming to bore through it, “We’re coming, Mom, Sarah.”  Quartz just nodded in agreement as the car began to move

 

They were on their way.

 

END CHAPTER SIX

 

 

The entire MORFS  Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org

 


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