Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story
It wasn't fair!
Rose spent the late afternoon talking to the girl, learning about her family and her pets and her village. Sharing the quick friendship such little girls give so easily, and even older girls like Rose remembered how to accept and cherish. Watching her face light up when she had someone, anyone, who could talk to her in her own language. Laughing about the antics of the animals and the other children back home. She was so happy, so alive.
Then she collapsed. Rose yelled for help, and got pushed out of the way by a bunch of people in doctor and nurse uniforms. Even her new friends moved her away. First, they pulled her out of the room, then zapped her home with hardly a word.
When she tried to "ask" Lena what was happening, she just got a brief image of guts and blood, and a promise to tell her later. Then, nothing.
Her parents weren't even home yet. She ended up throwing herself into the arms of her puzzled and concerned sister, sobbing incoherently. For all her newfound language ability, all she could communicate was that she was upset.
Some time later, their mother came home and replaced the soggy Tara. When she finally got bits and pieces of the situation from Rose, she found herself in the uncomfortable position of not having any answers.
Even the usual platitudes wouldn't work. When she tried saying that she was sure that things would work out for the best, Rose recognized the lack of conviction behind the words. But she also recognized that her mother, however helpless in the face of the emergency, sincerely wanted to help and comfort her. That helped, a little.
Lena felt bad about cutting Rose off... for about a quarter of a second. She had been dropped into one of the most complex, intricate, frightening activities she had ever experienced, and doing so with no preparation whatsoever.
And she was not alone. The sudden change caught the hospital somewhat unprepared. The girl had been scheduled for a few hours of imaging and prep, then a methodical procedure. Their team was hours away from being ready.
And the crisis was immediate.
A freak accident had left her body perforated with needle-like capsules of a highly reactive - and toxic - chemical mixture. Normally, these were handled in a completely sealed environment as part of a process for breaking down certain manufacturing byproducts into usable materials.
Most were fairly easily - if extremely carefully - extracted at the regional medical center. Three were not. Two were lodged, somewhat superficially, in her heart. The third, in a tissue mass adjacent to a major artery.
The problem was that they were cracked. The tissues they were embedded in were the only things holding them together. If any of them broke open, she would be dead in minutes.
The regional medical center couldn't handle it. No facility in her entire country could handle it. Nor could the usual assortment of morfs. Only a rare combination of equipment and skills, such as those found at that hospital, would even have a chance.
And they weren't ready.
The crisis came when a crack widened, allowing a tiny leakage of the contents. Not enough to trigger the normal reaction of the core, and not enough to immediately kill her. But close... far too close. And it was damaging her heart.
Lena had expedited the bond between two of her friends, Angel and Robin, and the surgeon. What they did was probably a violation of any of a number of regulations, but an innocent life was at stake.
With the doctor taking the lead, Lena coordinated the team of her friends. They explored several options at the speed of thought. Robin could not teleport the capsules out - her control was not that fine, and they had breached too many dangerous places. Angel didn't have the range to deal with any of them. Even with Robin giving her "ghost hands" to get close enough to do some good, the capsules were too brittle and thin for her to do anything about them. Even the surgeon, with ghost hands or regular tools, couldn't do the job.
Her heart was badly damaged, and barely beating. Using her ghost hands, courtesy of Robin, she got the blood flowing and repaired some of the heart damage. Some parts were degrading as fast as she could heal them, so she concentrated on the other parts. She got the heart going enough that it could sustain the girl for a few minutes without her, then pulled out.
They needed more help. At Lena's suggestion, Robin brought David to the operating theater. With Dr. Baker providing knowledge and guidance, and Lena coordinating them mentally, and effectively sedating the patient, they began.
Robin gave Angel the ghost hands again, which she used to get close enough to stop the damage and reverse it. David went in with his telesense focused down to microscopic detail, and centered on the needles. One by one, he transmuted first the toxin, then the covering into a copy of her blood plasma. Then he chased down and neutralized the traces that had escaped earlier. In the process, he found another capsule. The scans had missed it, because it was hidden by a bone. He quickly transmuted it, as well.
With the needles and toxin gone, Angel was able to heal the damage they had caused. With relief, she withdrew her hands and they became solid again. Partway through the process, some people came in and "fed" energy to the three girls, and the patient. They offered the same to David, but he didn't want to risk the distraction.
In the end, it had taken more than two hours. Angel was exhausted. They all were.
The usual post op specialists took charge of the girl. As far as anyone outside of that room was concerned, the process was carried out as originally planned. The specialists, having been there for parts of the process, were happy to let it stand at that.
One by one, the teens vanished and appeared in their own homes. Lena, the second to last to leave, conveyed the thanks of the medical staff to the members of the team.
When she got home, she "looked in" on Rose. The poor girl had cried herself to sleep, worrying about the patient. Lena woke her, and told her the good news. She gave her a brief replay of what they did, reinforced it with a little emotional boost, then let her get back to her family.
Rose was happy that her new little friend was going to be all right. But it had been a sobering experience. As powerful as those women had been, they were almost unable to help that little girl. It took all of them, and others, to do the job.
She hoped she had helped. She hoped that her visit the next day would help. But she had learned that even incredible powers like theirs had limits. And that teamwork and knowledge could push those limits.
Maybe she could make a difference in the world, after all. With a little help.
Rose was not able to visit the hospital Saturday morning, since the doctors wanted their patient to get a good rest. She didn't understand all of it, but the collapse and the "surgery" apparently drained her in some ways. So Rose spent the morning watching her shows, and fooling around on her computer.
The afternoon was a revelation. After getting together and talking for a little, the patient dropped her voice and confided in Rose.
"I had a scary dream." Rose understood her to say. "I was almost dead, and I could see myself. Then some angels came and saved me. One put her hands right inside me, and fixed everything. Another, a man angel with big wings, did some kind of magic. Something made me feel confident and loved and relaxed while they were there. And when they were done, they just vanished."
She saw the smile on Rose's face, and misinterpreted it. "Don't laugh at me! It seemed so real."
"I'm not laughing. Not at you. And it was real. Those angels you saw? They were morfs, and friends of mine. The one who put her hands inside you is even named Angel. They all had to help each other help you. The doctor was a big part of it, too. He told them what to do and where."
"But we kind of have to keep it our secret. The doctors were not ready yet when you collapsed. The 'angels' weren't supposed to do anything, but they risked getting in trouble just to help you. A lot of trouble."
"Like the people who got me here." The girl added.
Rose didn't understand what was involved, but the girl was saying that some people had already put themselves at risk to get the girl to the country and to the hospital.
"Everyone else will think that all the doctors did the work," Rose explained. "and that Angel just healed the scars. Let's let them keep thinking that."
With a very solemn look, she agreed to keep the secret. Then she smiled, and they went back to talking about their lives.
Some doctors came and went, asking questions through Rose, and often getting answers the same way. Then a man and a woman came, and they were not doctors. And when they introduced themselves, they weren't telling the truth. For a moment, Rose didn't know what to do. Then she remembered: she had friends.
Rose shot her a quick image of the two, and their lies.
*The bad news is: they're shielded. The good news is that I can probably get through the shields if you keep them talking.*
"They say their names are Mr. Tower and Ms. Strickland." Rose told the girl, with an emphasis that conveyed her disbelief to the girl, but not necessarily to them.
*Be careful. The woman speaks a little of the language.*
"What do they want? Who are they with?"
"Good questions." Rose turned to the adults. "She asked who you represent, and what you want."
"We're with the government, and we just want to make sure she is being treated well."
"Which government?" Rose hadn't needed any other help to pick up the almost-lie in the first part, and the outright lie in the second.
"Ours, of course." The woman snapped. "Now just tell her, so we can get on with this."
When Rose turned to relay their claim, she made sure she blocked part of their line of sight. "Push the button." While the girl moved to comply, she continued. "They claim they are with the government, and that they just want to ask you some questions to make sure you are being treated well. The angels want us to keep them talking."
"What do they want to ask?"
"What do you want to know?" Rose asked them, warily.
The woman turned to address the girl directly. "How do you feel?"
"It's just a polite question. She's asking how you feel."
"With my hands, usually." the girl giggled.
The woman was already looking a little annoyed when Rose formally translated "She says she usually feels with her hands."
The man rolled his eyes slightly, then waited for the woman to continue.
Recovering her composure, the woman asked "Were you comfortable on the way here?"
Rose understood a little more. "This is a way to sneak up to the important stuff. She asked whether you were comfortable on the way here."
"I don't know. I was asleep."
"She was asleep, so she can't really answer that."
The man and woman both looked a little disappointed. But the woman pressed on. "Who brought you here?"
*Whoever they are, that is a big part of what they want to know. And they don't exactly want to congratulate whoever it was.* Lena warned her.
"They want to know who brought you here, so they can do something bad."
"Tell them I was asleep."
"Again, she was asleep and can't really say."
The woman was about to press the point, when the nurse walked in. She asked the adults who they were and, without waiting for an answer, told them that visiting hours were over. She indicated the door, standing open, and the uniformed security person visible just beyond it.
Rose and the security guard tensed when the man reached into his jacket, but he just pulled out an ID wallet. The man and woman walked out of the room, and were talking to the guard as the door closed.
*The guard doesn't believe their story, either. They were a little concerned when he said he was going to check their credentials. I guess they figure they will stand up to a superficial check, but not a deep one. They said they would be back, but they might not.*
Rose was comforted by Lena's reassurance.
"They're gone, for now," she told the girl. "They won't be back for a while. If they come back at all."
The girl seemed to relax at the news. Soon, they were visiting again and enjoying each other's company.
All too soon, it was time to go. With a wink at the girl, she mentally asked Lena to ask Robin to 'port her home.
*She'll see you.*
*She saw the rest of you leave that way. She still thinks you're angels.*
*Well, one of us is. And the hunky one looks like it.* Rose could hear the laughter in the first part, and something more personal in the last.
With a little wave to her friend, she watched the room suddenly change to her living room.
Rose didn't care what "Poor Richard" said; early to bed and early to rise makes a girl cranky. Especially on a weekend.
First, there was Church. Usually, they went to the later service. But they had a shift at the Museum and their usual service would have conflicted. On the way in, Rose took some comfort in the fact that Tara was almost as grumpy as she felt.
It was unusual for them to have two Museum shifts so close together. But they had family plans for Thanksgiving weekend, and they wanted to keep up their hours. So Rose found herself at the Museum once again, talking about cavemen and their art.
During one of her breaks, Rose wandered across the way to a part of the permanent Egypt exhibit. They had a replica of something called the Rosetta Stone, left over from an earlier traveling exhibit. It was this big, broken stone tablet thing, with three different kinds of writing on it. Looking carefully at it, and concentrating, she found that she couldn't read a word of what it said. Apparently, she needed more than that to learn to read a new language.
Robin was just finishing another cart demonstration - this time, on flint tools - when she got the call.
Rose jumped, much to the amusement of her audience. *What?*
*Your new friend is frightened. She is calling for you, and almost incoherent. I can't understand her thoughts, except for a few images and her emotions. I don't speak her language.*
*Just a second!* Rose thanked her audience and excused herself. She called over another volunteer to take the cart, and went outside the exhibit. She pretended she was talking on her phone.
*Can you tell me what she's saying or thinking?*
Lena relayed the thoughts. The girl was convinced she was in danger. The duty nurse was unconscious - not just asleep - and the girl heard struggles. She thought they were bad people from the groups that were fighting in her country. Rose told Lena what was said.
*She's right. The nurse is drugged, and there are three heavily shielded people on the floor. We should get her out of there.*
*Tell her this.* Rose suggested, then switched to the girl's language. *I am the angel Radar. You can talk to Rose through me. We will get you to safety. Do you need to take anything with you?*
The girl answered in the affirmative. A second later, even Lena could understand her request that they hurry.
*We have her at Robin's house. Where are you?*
*In the Museum, just outside the new exhibit.*
*How do we tell her where she is, and what we're doing?*
*What are we doing?*
*We'll bring you here, then make sure she will be safe.*
Rose gave her the words to use, which Lena passed on. Rose asked Lena to tell her mother what was going on, and that she would be disappearing (literally).
*She is not happy about you skipping out on your shift and the family stuff. She doesn't entirely believe the emergency.*
Rose was not surprised. Her parents were very stiff necked about such things. Still, it would have to do.
*Found you. Robin will be there in a moment.*
Almost as quickly as she "heard" the thought, Robin was walking up to her. They went to the ladies room across the way, made sure nobody was watching, then vanished.
As soon as they appeared, a very frightened girl all but threw herself on Rose. She was shivering and sobbing, and very frightened. Rose hugged her, and tried to comfort her.
"I'm here. The angels will keep you safe."
As they sat on the sofa, and Rose gently rocked the girl while Lena calmed her down somewhat.
"We told Dr. Baker and hospital security about the situation. They're closing off that area from the rest of the hospital and bringing in help." She paused a moment, then looked surprised.
"She wasn't the target. The boy in the next room is the son of a diplomat. He was injured in a failed kidnapping attempt, and they're trying again. Stay here."
Rose explained to the girl, as Robin and Lena vanished.
David moved his attention to the hospital corridor, and looked around. There was an armed woman standing outside one of the doors, watching the corridor. He moved his view inside the room, where two men were struggling to lift an uncooperative boy from the bed.
Using a trick he had learned on his visit to Sun City, he temporarily blocked the carotid artery on the one struggling with the feet. He knew he had chosen wrong when he "saw" an invisible Robin throw herself on the other and extend her energies. That could only mean he was a teleporter, and she was blocking him. In a move that David found more than a little disturbing, she shoved her intangible fingers inside her foe's neck and did her own version of the trick.
He unblocked his own now-unconscious victim, then used another approach on the woman. Remembering one of the attacks on Angel, he produced a small amount of the "dart juice" in the woman's blood. For good measure, he did the same to the two unconscious men.
Robin flitted out, and he watched as Security, alerted by Lena, collected the three sleepers. Seconds later, hospital staff were examining the boy and the drugged staff members. He gave Lena the All Clear as he withdrew from the room and followed the security people.
Taking a good look at the three sleeping prisoners, he found all sorts of hidden items. While he wasn't sure what some of them were, others were clearly weapons or communications devices. He had Lena relay the images to Robin, who popped in invisibly, removed everything with her teleport tricks, and stacked them neatly a distance away from the sleepers.
Neither of them could believe where the woman had hidden one of the communications devices.
Rose explained the situation to her little friend, as the others told her about it. Even with their assurances about her safety, the girl was too afraid to go back to her hospital room. After some consultation, Rose was flitted back to the museum to talk with her parents. Even though they had met Lena, they were still not comfortable communicating with her telepathically.
Ironically, much of that discomfort was in the name of protecting Confidential information - information Lena already knew and didn't really care about. In the larger scheme of things, it was trivial at best.
While she was starting to talk with her mother (her dad was busy with some visitors), the teens were busy dressing the patient as a boy. With much mental consultation with Rose, they explained that it was a disguise to keep her safer during her brief time in public. That done, they would take her to the Museum, to be with Rose.
Rose's mother easily agreed to hosting their little guest. Maybe a little too easily. Rose suspected Lena had a subtle hand in that. It didn't really matter. Once her mother made her mind up about something like that, it tended to stay made up.
Rose went to a secluded corner and "told" Lena that she was ready. Robin appeared, with someone who looked like an ordinary little boy. Even the flying hug "he" wrapped Rose in didn't spoil the illusion.
Rose finished out her shift with her new appendage. Soon, it was time to sign out and go home.
The weekend family ritual was slightly different from their weekday ritual. Since they were leaving around dinner time, it would be fast food en route and dessert at home. Rose's mother was the one to raise an important question.
"What can she eat? She's been in the hospital for a while, and that can have an effect."
"I'll find out."
"How? She probably doesn't know. Do you have Dr. Baker's number?"
"No. I have something better. Or someone."
Before she could get her thoughts together, she noticed the look she was getting. She explained the conversation to her little friend. Once she had reassured her, she made the "call."
*Yes? Is there another problem?* Rose seemed to catch an overtone of worry, quickly replaced by mild amusement.
*How...?* Rose started to ask. Then she was hit by the obvious. *Oh.*
*He says that she should be able to eat anything she wants, as long as it isn't too spicy. Your mother was right - she's been on a bland diet for long enough that her stomach needs a little time to get used to regular food again.*
In the end, she got a Hawkalo steak sandwich with fries and slaw. And enjoyed as much as she could eat of it. She was feeling guilty about wasting so much food, but they assured her they could save the leftovers for another time.
In the meantime, Rose was getting brief updates about what was going on at the hospital. A bug was found in the girl's room, and left functioning. They assumed it was left by the man and woman from the day before. David created an illusion of the girl coming and going from her room a couple of times, in case there were watchers. The doctor, and a trusted nurse, carried on a simulated examination of the girl, getting "uh huh" and "uh uh" responses courtesy of the illusion.
The doctor told the illusion that she would be well enough to go home the next day.
After they got home, and enjoyed a little ice cream for dessert, the deception bore fruit. Rose was told that the phony government types tried to sneak in. They were easily caught by hospital security, which was still on high alert after the kidnapping attempt on the boy. They were told that they could come the next day, and go through proper channels.
Lena warned Rose that Robin and the doctor would be appearing in a moment, and Rose warned the household. Even then, her parents found their sudden appearance a little unsettling. Rose invited Robin to have some ice cream while she waited, then showed doctor and patient to her bedroom.
While she translated questions and answers, the doctor gave the girl a brief examination. After using his portable scanners to verify a few things, he pronounced her fit to go home. He also told them that the records would show that she was is the hospital all that time, and would continue to be there at least another day.
The girl was happy she could go home, but sad she would be losing her new friend. Especially that suddenly. While Robin flitted the doctor back to the hospital, she tearfully told Rose and her family good bye, and thanked them for everything.
Robin returned with the girl's own clothes and possessions in a small bag. She changed in Rose's room, then she was ready to go. With a final sad smile, she waved goodbye and vanished with Robin.
Rose learned that Robin had taken her to a downtown spa, where she was met by the teleporter who had brought her to the US in the first place. After Lena read her benevolent intentions, the two vanished on the way to take her home.
While Rose checked her homework and then got ready for bed, she realized that she would really miss the little girl she had known so briefly.
The next morning, she got a brief contact from Lena, telling her that the teens would be busy keeping up the illusion that the girl was still in the hospital. Rose didn't quite understand all that would be involved, but somehow she had the impression that they would be fitting two days worth of activity into one day. It had something to do with Robin, but Rose didn't really understand that part.
Rose was glad that it would only be a three day school week. After a weekend filled with more than she usually did in a couple of weeks, she was looking forward to a short, easy week.
She wasn't sure, but she thought she set a new personal record for getting into trouble. Less than five minutes after getting to class. The teacher was passing back papers. The girl next to Rose, one of the more obvious morfs, didn't get hers back. When she asked about it, the teacher said she hadn't gotten one from her.
And it was a lie.
Rose blurted out "That's not true!" before she could stop herself. And that was why she found herself in the office of the dean. Again.
On the way, she realized that she had done what Lena had warned her against. But she still had time. And now that she thought about it, she had a way out. It wouldn't get her out of trouble, but it would keep her secret.
"I knew she got it. Linda used that bright metallic pink gel pen to sign her name. I saw when we passed the papers in. I saw the teacher..." Rose couldn't bring herself to use her name. "pick the paper up and look at it. Then she looked right at Linda before she put it down again. She got it, and she knew she got it."
"Why would she lie about something like that?" the dean asked, mildly.
"Because she hates morfs! She's a pure, or something."
"You are making some serious charges, young lady. Do you have any proof?"
Rose looked down. She had her power, but Lena had warned her that it wouldn't count as proof. "No."
"Even if you did have proof," the dean went into lecture mode, as in lecturing a naughty child, "you do not talk back to your teacher - to any teacher. Especially not in front of the class. And you don't throw around wild accusations without proof. Particularly not accusations against a member of the faculty or staff."
Rose noticed something in the way he said it, and couldn't resist. "Have there been a lot of complaints about her treatment of morfs?"
"That is none of your business, young lady." He might as well have said "Yes, but I won't admit it." Even without her "upgrade", she would have heard it.
In the end, Rose got a lunch-time detention. And her parents would be told.
She got out of the office barely in time to get to her second class. Later, when she got to her locker, there was a small thank you note from Linda. And a more practical form of thanks: a description of the classwork and homework assignment. Rose was confident that the teacher would try to penalize her if she didn't turn it in.
During her lunchtime imprisonment, she had a brief contact with Lena. There was a funny quality to it, like some kind of echo, but she didn't explain it. Rose learned that another couple of unauthorized visitors had gone to the hospital, and gotten close enough to see the illusion of the long gone little girl before they were stopped by security.
Rose told Lena where she was, and why. Lena reminded her to be more careful, but congratulated her on the misdirection. Rose got a sense of approval and encouragement from the contact.
When Rose got home, she was greeted with a list of things to do. The family gathering for Thanksgiving was going to be at their house this year, and they had to get ready. Tara and their parents had done some of the work while Rose was at the hospital, but there was still plenty for both girls to do.
Between the housework and her homework, Rose barely had time to notice the occasional feeling of contact she experienced. Some, she recognized as Lena. Others, she didn't recognize at all.
Lena seemed surprised that Rose noticed them at all. She said that most people don't. She reassured her that they were harmless, and advised her to ignore them. Somehow, that assurance sounded right - like the contacts were somehow saying "Just passing through".
Rose managed to get through the next morning without getting in any more trouble, but there were a few close calls. Before her change, she wasn't exactly in the popular groups because of her speech problems. But most either ignored her or were neutral toward her. Now, the ones who had been in the hostile minority were more so, and some of the others - the Pures and their friends - were hostile.
The other morfs were not automatically friends, either. She was too "normal" for the hybrids, and not powerful enough for the wannabe supers. Even though she had undergone a very significant internal change, she best fit with the morfs like her sister, who just had superficial changes.
But they were not a coherent group. They tended to keep most of their pre-MORFS friends and social positions. There was no real "them" to become a part of.
Her only real allies at school were her SE buds, and even they were seeing her more as an outsider now.
Between the rude comments, turned backs (and other snubs), and general hostility of some students, and the nastiness of some teachers and staff, school was becoming a difficult and even dangerous place. She didn't fear for her life, but the opportunities for trouble - already widespread in Middle School - had multiplied.
It was a relief when Lena invited her to join some of them for lunch. She had to laugh at the idea of the Magic Toilet Stall, but readily agreed.
Lunch was more than a relief. The biggest thing was that they didn't treat her like some kid, tagging along with her betters. They treated her like one of them. Whether talking about the events at the hospital, or about the latest songs, they accepted or rejected her comments the same way they did each other's.
It was like water in the desert.
Angel complained that she was so busy at the spa that she didn't have time to anticipate the holiday. And she would be busy right through Thursday morning. She hadn't thought about it before, but the kind of high end, high maintenance people who spent so much to frequent the spa tended to have significant family politics to deal with during such holidays. They had to look their best to maintain their status. And Heaven forbid that they sag or wrinkle anywhere inappropriate.
The others agreed that it seemed kind of sad.
She went on to mention that some of her other clients were attending less family oriented events. In face, two of her repeat customers were apparently attending some sort of political or diplomatic event in DC - maybe in the White House itself.
Rose was impressed - almost to the point of awestruck - that Angel was dealing with such important and famous people.
Angel waved it off. "An ambassador, or even a queen, is still just a person under all the makeup and clothes."
Lena shot David a dirty look, as he waggled his eyebrows in a way which clearly said that he was imagining some of those people under - or without - those clothes. Which struck Rose as dumb, since he could see all that with his powers.
*It's a boy thing.* Lena explained, rolling her eyes.
Robin mentioned that she had been - and would be - almost as busy. Rose hadn't been aware that Robin worked for the spa, too. Or that she made very good money for teleporting people to and from the spa. It was just not something she would think of on her own.
Near the end of their lunch, Lena gave Rose some books to study. She reminded Rose that she had promised to help her learn how to leverage her new powers, and said that the books would help. If she had any questions, she could ask any time.
"Oh, goody. More homework!" Rose commented wryly. Everyone laughed at that, including Rose herself.
After her reappearance in the restroom, when she learned about Robin's special two part entrance trick, she found it jarring to be back among her peers. They all seemed younger, somehow. And more petty.
Especially Missy, the girl who got in trouble for attacking her the week before. Every time they passed in the hallway, Missy made it a point to drop some comment or other to her friends. Listening, Rose could hear layer on layer of anger, fear, pretence, and finally, desperation. Somehow, Rose got an image of Missy stuck in her head - an image of a cranky toddler, lashing out at the world because she didn't get her nap.
While she resisted the urge to pat Missy on the head or stroke her hair, she did give her the kind of tolerant smile she had given such children when she babysat. She wondered whether Lena was helping her somehow.
*Nope.* Came the amused answer. *It's just your ability. You know how to make yourself understand, too.*
It made sense to Rose.
When she got home, her first job was to finish getting the main guest bedroom ready. They would be picking up her great grandmother from the airport that evening, to allow her some time to rest and get used to the altitude before the family gathering.
While the family delegation was waiting at the area set aside for greeting arrivals, Rose overheard two men talking in an unpleasant manner. She let her attention wander to them, without turning her head and looking. After a moment, she found she could understand them.
"...we'll be able to get that royal bitch out of the way once and for all."
"If that fool of a doctor hadn't botched things so badly, this wouldn't be necessary. When the others get here, we'll take care of it ourselves."
Rose understood that they intended to harm the person in question - maybe even kill her. There was no question that they were both speaking the truth, as they knew it.
"We shouldn't be talking so openly about it."
"Relax. Nobody outside of the province knows our language. They think it's too insignificant to even put in the translation systems, and nobody in this" (something Rose didn't understand) "speaks anything like it. Watch. 'Oh, God! That man up there is aiming a gun at that girl! He'll kill her!'"
Several people, including Rose, turned and looked at him because of the tone of his voice. None of them looked up to find the gunman. Rose had recognized the comment as a lie, so her reaction mimicked those of the others.
*What is it?*
*Some men here are talking about killing someone. And they mean it!*
*Just a second.*
*Cassandra just got the same thing. Take a good look at them.*
Rose did as she was told. She knew that Lena could read the image from her mind.
*I can't really read their minds, damn it!* Lena exclaimed.
*Are they shielded?*
*No. Their self-talk is in some language I don't know. Whatever the language is, they think in it as well as speak it."
"Is something wrong, Tit?" Rose could tell that Tara was tired of waiting, and was concerned about something.
"Yeah, Prune." Rose replied. "But I'm talking to Radar about it. The angels will deal with it." For some reason, the little girl's description of them struck her as a good way to collectively refer to them.
"Yeah. Radar, Angel, and the others. But I might have to help. They can't understand some things."
"And you do?" Tara looked at her dubiously.
"Yeah, 'cause of my super power." Even Tara could hardly miss the implication that Rose considered her abilities as anything but super.
*Rose! Do you trust me?* Lena's question sounded odd, but struck her as important.
*Yes.* After all that had happened, she really did.
*Relax, and let your mind flow. I will be sending some of their thoughts to you and reading your translations of them. Hopefully, it will be so fast you'll barely notice it. Is that ok with you?*
*Fire when ready.* Rose leaned back on the bench, closed her eyes, and tried to relax.
The effect was kinda like a radio playing in the background, when something much more interesting was happening elsewhere.
Lena was not happy. Their target was Angel's re-virgin princess, now a queen. She would be stopping in Denver before going to Washington, DC for some sort of official reception and Thanksgiving dinner at the White House. For part of the visit, she would be at Mrs. Tabor's spa, and their plan had something to do with it.
And then, just as they were getting ready to give her some useful details, they were distracted by some nearby girls. Their thoughts and words were worthless after that.
Lena relayed what she knew to her friends. Angel suggested she contact Mrs. Tabor with the information.
And then she lost her use of Rose's mind.
"There she is!" Tara exclaimed, elbowing her sister to emphasize the point. "Gram!"
Rose got caught up in the excitement of seeing one of her favorite relatives. She joined Tara in swooping in for their expected hug. They were not disappointed.
Rose briefly felt a now familiar sensation, and realized that she understood what her Gran was murmuring. "My sweet flowers. Be blessed as you bless me."
Somehow, she knew it wasn't completely traditional, and it felt right to answer in kind "Safe roads, Gran, and clear skies."
Her Gran looked startled. "When did you learn Gaelic? And how did you learn to speak it so well?"
*Rose?* Laura interrupted. *I need your help again.*
"I'll tell you all about it when we get home, Gran. But right now, I need to do something." She closed her eyes, and let herself relax.
Tara caught on. "She's talking with a telepath, Gran. And it seems important. So, how was your flight...?" With one arm around each, she guided her bemused great grandmother and her seemingly sleepwalking sister toward the baggage area and their waiting father.
*Can you focus on the men again?*
Rose nodded, and thought about them. The sensation of mental voices in the background returned. She absently noticed that there seemed to be two new voices, one male and one female. But she understood that any attempt to focus on the conversation would interfere with Lena. And that would be bad.
Slowly, she opened her eyes and let herself become more conscious of her surroundings and her actions. She didn't want to carry on a conversation, for fear of shifting out of her translation mode. She still wasn't sure what her limits were.
Tara noticed that she looked more like someone lost in thought than a sleepwalker, and decided that was a good thing. Still, she kept up her conversation with her great grandmother, and kept Rose pointed in the right direction.
Lena was beyond concerned. The conspirators included some powerful morfs, as well as more conventional agents. One, in particular, worried her.
He was a teleporter, like Robin. But unlike Robin, he had decades of experience and a new trick. He could follow - and anticipate - other teleporters. Worse, he could block them. Teamed with a telepath or telesensor, he could track the queen and intercept her any time a teleporter tried to take her anywhere.
She learned that he normally worked for the boarder enforcement agency of a country neighboring that of the queen - one that opposed her marriage. But he had come from the same small region as the other conspirators.
She also learned that this was not his first moonlighting assignment.
She warned her friends, and Mrs. Tabor. While aimed at the queen, this was a danger to them all.
*Why can't you just call the cops?* Rose asked.
*They're not terrorists. Just murderers - assassins, really. The police are limited in what they can do with what a telepath learns. Besides, with their contacts they would know almost as soon as we told the police. They'd just change their plans. And they would know that someone can understand their language.*
*What if I told them I overheard it?*
*Just as bad. They would find out you can understand them, and you would have a hard time convincing anyone to take you seriously. You'd just be some kid with an unlikely story.*
Rose didn't like being called a kid, but she saw Lena's point. *What can I do?*
*Go home. Do your homework. Enjoy your visitor. But be ready to open your mind.*
Rose was frustrated at the thought of being left out. She thought they were accepting her, that she was becoming a part of the team. One of the angels.
*You are.* Lena reassured her, having picked up her response. *You are our secret weapon, our biggest advantage. They have no idea that anyone can understand them, and that's made them careless. As long as you stay under the radar, we keep that advantage. I don't know what we're going to do, but you are an important part of it.*
Somewhat mollified, Rose turned her attention to her Gram. They had reached the baggage area while she was dealing with the crisis, and her father was coming to greet them. Her suitcase wasn't there yet, so they stood around and visited.
Once they were back in the car, luggage stowed, their Gram turned to Rose and confronted her point blank.
"What was that all about? Just what did MORFS do to you?"
"What makes you...?" Rose started, but stopped when she read her Gram's body language.
"It's still kind of a secret, even from most of the family. The only visible changes were the healed scars. But now I can learn whatever language someone near me speaks."
"Like learning Gaelic from me?"
"Exactly. I can do more things, too. I can tell what someone really means to say - even if they are doing it badly. And I can make myself understood, too. One of the most dangerous and secret parts is that I can tell whether someone is telling the truth, a lie, or somewhere in between. At least, whether they think it is the truth or not."
"That's really all I know about."
"So what was with the," something Rose didn't understand, "imitation back there?" Rose was startled to realize that they were conversing in Gaelic.
"What is that? An imitation of what?"
"I thought you understood the language. You speak it very well."
"Some things don't come through. Things I don't already know the concept of, for instance. Or slang terms based on someone or something I don't know about."
"What about reading?"
"I don't learn it instantly, but I can learn the written form of a language pretty easily if I already know the language. If I don't already know the language, I'm just like anyone else when trying to learn to read it."
"Now that we have that out of the way, what was going on back there?"
"I overheard something while we were waiting. Something in a language not many people speak, apparently. The people were planning to hurt or kill someone. I contacted a woman I know, a telepath with powerful friends. She couldn't understand what they were thinking, so she was using the special part of my mind to translate. That's what was happening."
"So why did you stop?"
"They apparently stopped thinking about what they were here for, and shifted to more mundane stuff."
"Well, it certainly sounds more exciting than my brush with MORFS."
"You're a morf? One of us?"
"Of course. Nothing useful, like yours. But it did get exciting in a sad sort of way."
End part 2
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/