Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay


Part 7




SCREECH...BOOM... tinkle... crash!


"Shit!" Rose almost never heard her father swear. but his eyes were in the rearview mirror, looking shocked.


Looking back, she saw a large truck sitting across the traffic lanes behind them. The front end was on the other side of the road, blocking part of that traffic as well. There was wreckage everywhere.


*Lena! What happened? Are you ok?*


*I'm... fine. Just before the crash there was something... some big psychic burst in your general vicinity. Then the crash.* Lena's tone got more upset, *I was watching when it happened. The cars with the men in them... both were destroyed. Like they were the targets or something.*


Rose had never seen Lena lose it like that. She was always the strong one, keeping everyone else together. The kidnappings, the torture, the other horrors she had told Rose about - the ones before they met - for everything that was bad, she was a center of (relative) calm.


But not now.


"I need a 'com. Quickly. Please!" her mother gave her a brief look, then handed over her eCom. She punched in a number from memory.


"O'Connor" came the professional sounding response. The figure looked at the screen. "Oh... Hi, Rose. What's up?"


"It's Lena. Something bad happened here, and it got to her. Badly."


"What happened?"


"I'm not sure. She was mind talking to me, then something upset her, then there was a ginormous crash behind us. Then she was even more upset. She needs her friends."


*I'm... I'm ok. It was just a shock, that's all. Thank you. Both of you.* Rose hadn't remembered that Lena could talk to more than one person at a time.


"Thanks, Rose." Angel assured her. "I'll take it from here."


The connection went dead.


Rose wished she hadn't thought of it in those terms. She handed the 'com back to her mother, thanking her mechanically.


"What's wrong?" her mother asked.


Rose paused a moment, considering. "It's Lena. She was watching and talking to me when the accident happened. Something about it hit her hard."


"Should we be worried?"


Rose deliberately chose to misunderstand. "I don't think so. Her friends - her other friends - are on the way and they should be able to take care of her."


"Young lady!" Even without her abilities, Rose would have understood the intent behind that one.


"I don't know. Some of the people in the accident were following us - me - when they got hit. They were wearing thought shields, so Lena couldn't be sure. She thinks they have been watching us for a couple of days, but that they didn't seem inclined to do more than follow and watch."




They were almost to the Museum by then, so they decided to continue with their plans.


Rose had one somewhat unnerving moment, when she was asked to help with a tour group. When she got to the staging area, the group was oriental, and some of the men were dressed in suits. She was a little relieved to feel her power kicking in, indicating they spoke a language she hadn't learned.


It turned out that they were from China, and were in town for a convention of some sort. Their tour guide had slipped on some ice at a previous stop, and was getting medical attention. The company that arranged the tour was sending another guide, but he was not there yet.


Teamed with one of the regular docents, she took the group around the Museum. At times, she described the exhibits and answered their questions based on her own knowledge. Other times, she relayed the questions and answers. She was really in her element when she took them through the traveling exhibit - her exhibit - giving them the VIP treatment.


While they were intently examining one of the displays in that exhibit, the docent pulled her aside.


"Why am I even here?" The docent's question was angry and hurt. Rose knew she had to make it up to her.


"You are the one who knows where to go, and when. You know how to make them enjoy the tour, and get the most out of it. Sure, I speak their language, and know a few things about the exhibits from the years I've been here, but you are the director... the docent. Without you, it would just be aimless wandering and random facts."


As Rose spoke, she watched the docent's reactions. By the time she had continued in a similar way for a few more minutes, the docent clearly felt better. She took up the tour with a renewed energy and enthusiasm that made the tour a lot better for the group.


The tour went well, and they were thankful for her services. One of them offered her a tip, as token of their gratitude for her stepping in at the last moment. She had to decline, explaining that it was against Museum policy. However, they were more than welcome to make a donation to the Museum on their way out.


As one of the women in the group shook her hand, Rose felt a piece of paper being pressed into her hand. Her first thought was that it was another attempt at a tip, but the paper did not feel right. She put it in her pocket, then waited until the last of the group was out the door.


The docent was starting to thank her as well, and she acknowledged the thanks but pleaded an overfull bladder. Once safely in a stall and ready to take care of business, she took out the paper and opened it up. Her first thought was that it was gibberish. The neatly lettered message was in the usual alphabet, but the words were meaningless.


She tried sounding a couple of them out, and then she understood. It was the same Chinese language that the group spoke, but written phonetically, using American conventions. After she puzzled out the message, she was glad she was where she was. The note disintegrated, and the dustlike residue flew between her legs and into the toilet. She took care of her bodily needs with unusual vigor.


It was a warning. There were three groups interested in her father's negotiations, and her part in them. One was a group inside the company he was negotiating with, and the other two were outside. One of the outside groups had arranged the accident, as a message to the other two.


Finally, it indicated that she had at least one friend in the process, part of a group that was more interested in the activities of the other three groups than in the negotiations themselves. She was not sure how comforted she was to think that the "friend" was watching her in there, and had the power to do that to the note. In fact, it was kinda creepy.


She spent the rest of the day in the exhibit, losing herself in explanations of cave paintings and ancient lifestyles. She was extremely happy to be so busy.




Despite her assurances, Lena was anything but ok. She had a splitting headache, and had a weird, very unpleasant feeling in her head - something she had never encountered before. And both got worse when Robin flitted her to the one place she was most likely to get the help - and the answers - she needed.


The spa.


There, she got checked out and herbed. But more importantly, she got comfort, information and perspective. This situation was one which crossed many normal barriers. The entire community of local telepaths - except for a couple of "secret" telepaths - was involved. And even the secret telepaths were helping indirectly. Police, government and military types, criminals, corporate workers, freelancers, and even the youngsters - everyone. It was that much of a threat to all of them.


Working together, and with a number of their less-local compatriots, they quickly formed a fairly complete picture of what happened.


The mind blast was a powerful result of a rare combination of psi abilities and raw power. There were only three people in the world known to have the ability, and none had been known to be in the US. None of them had more than a 50 mile range with it because of the nature of the combination. They quickly narrowed it to one of the three.


He was a powerful - and very expensive - freelancer. He was 'ported in about two hours before the blast, and out immediately after. Unlike the other two, he had a particularly fine degree of control - he could confine the effect so narrowly that others would be hard pressed to detect it, or take out the better part of a city block.


The truck driver was an innocent. He was subtly maneuvered into place, and then blasted. His mind was destroyed, and his body crudely but effectively controlled.


The accident itself killed 9 people (including the truck driver), and seriously injured 17 more. The mind blast killed one nearby telepath, and sent three others to the hospital. 23 others, including Lena and (secretly) Mrs. Tabor, suffered lesser effects.


They had been allowed to find out more. There were four groups (not counting the two companies) that were interested in shaping the outcome of the negotiations Rose and her father were involved in. One, an ultra nationalist group in Japan who objected to international ownership of Japanese companies, had hired the contractor as a way to send a message to the other interested parties. The widespread effect was deliberate.


The five "businessmen" were subcontractors, hired by two other interested parties from the Neo Yakuza to watch (and potentially take other action against) Rose . One was hired by a group within the target company, with a hidden agenda. The other by a rival company, with plans of its own for the target company.


The fourth group was largely unknown, with an equally unknown interest in the matter. The telepaths knew about Rose's note (and its disturbing exit), since she hadn't thought to shield the information.


Conferencing with a speed and effectiveness otherwise impossible, they made some plans. For the public and all but the most select parts of the local governments and police, the driver had an undiagnosed, rare condition that resulted in sudden death by brain embolism. Nobody's fault (not even his or his doctor's), just a senseless tragedy happening in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Select elements of the police and governments (US and otherwise) would get a more complete report... eyes only. Those elements, in turn, would make the decision about who in Rose's family or her father's company would be told what. It was acknowledged that Lena and her friends would be watching over Rose.


On that note, the conference dissolved.




After they got home from the museum, Rose pulled her father aside for a private talk. She told him the rest of what she'd learned about the groups interested in his negotiation. He nodded and said that it explained a couple of things. When he didn't elaborate, she got a little impatient.


"So what do we do about it?"


"Nothing." He replied, then relented. "Well, you don't need to do anything. When we go in tomorrow, I'll warn a couple of the more trustworthy people at the company, and they will take it from there. You and I will just go on as planned. I suspect it will take a while for the groups to get more people into place."


He didn't entirely believe it, according to Rose's gift. But he firmly intended to do as he said.


Her next step was to call Angel, and ask about Lena. Before she could finish dialing, she had her answer.


*I'm fine.* came the familiar mental voice. "Just a little shaken. Thank you for helping, though. Robin got me to somewhere I could get the help I needed.*


*The Spa?* Rose asked, remembering the aftermath of the horrors in the basement, and suppressing a shudder.


*I forgot you knew about that. Yes, the Spa. They got me fixed up and helped me get more information.*


They swapped information about the "accident", with Lena leaving out the body count and the specifics of the attack. She did tell her about the nature of the group that hired the killer, though.


It made sense. And it scared Rose spitless.


Still, she was reassured to know that Lena was ok, and that the whole thing was over for the moment. She also felt safe, knowing that her friends were looking out for her.


After spending some more quality time with her homework, and making sure it was safely sent to the Dean's email address, she joined the family in front of the tube for some good old fashioned mind rot. Somehow, they all seemed to feel that was the right entertainment for the evening.


During the breaks, there was a discussion of what she should wear the next day. While it was mostly between her parents, with a few suggestions from Tara, she did get a word or two in. Eventually, an outfit was decided on. It fell somewhere between her "good" school clothes and her Formal Occasion outfits. The partial emphasis on the schoolgirl look was intended to help make the other negotiators underestimate her, while the more formal parts would help avoid any excuse to exclude her.


After a quick good night to her family, and another to Lena (quickly returned), she was off to sleep in no time.


And all too early, she was (more or less) awake again.


Despite the technicalities, this was effectively her first day at work. She was nervous and a little excited. She dragged herself into the bathroom to take care of the immediate necessities, then took her shower. She washed more thoroughly than usual, for fear of making a bad impression.


She dressed just as carefully, and was ready to go. She and her father would be stopping for breakfast on the way, and he would be briefing her about the negotiations. With quick goodbyes to her mother and sister, they were on their way.


The condemned girl ate a hearty breakfast. The restaurant they had eaten at before still didn't seem very kid friendly, but at least the food was good.


The office was the same as before. But this time, knowing that it would be for real made it even more daunting. And the looks and body language of her father's co workers hadn't softened, either.


The conference room doors were closed, but the window shades were open. Inside, there were people sweeping the room with a variety of instruments (none of which she recognized). Standing outside the room and watching, were three oriental men in business suits. When she got close enough, she noticed that she didn't get a new language from either of the closest two. The third, however, gave her a sensation she recognized. It was the same feeling she had from her Gram - someone who speaks one language she knew and a second language she didn't. She absorbed the new language, then turned her attention back to the other two. There was a ghost of the feeling, as though they also spoke two languages - two languages she already knew.


The third man was a little different, now that she knew his other "unknown" language. He seemed to know three languages, two of which she had already known. And those two were the two the other men knew. She guessed that the two common languages were English and Japanese, but she had no idea what the third language was.


A small light by the door went out, and the technicians came out. They gave a gesture partway between a nod and a small bow, and indicated that the suppression field was fully functional.


While that was going on, two other people from her father's company joined them. She recognized them from the practice session. She acknowledged them, and they her. Once the techs were done with their report, the two groups of businessmen came together. Her father introduced the other men on his team - and her - to the oriental businessmen.


In turn, the older of the two-language men introduced himself and his team. He asked why she was being included in the negotiations, and her father answered that she was there as an interpreter, in case language problems came up. The man's body language and tone of voice expressed his reservations, even as he formally indicated acceptance of the explanation.


Once they were settled into their seats, Rose felt the oppressive indication that the suppression field was in place. From that point on, it went from bad to worse. The practice session had been mild compared to this one, and she didn't have the way out she had used then. They had scheduled breaks, but until then, she was stuck.


The others seemed to know something about her. They started saying things - false things - quietly, in the hope that she would pass them on. As they had practiced, she passed them on quietly with a subtle indication of their validity. More annoyingly, they quietly made some very personal, very embarrassing comments about her (and her father). Those, she didn't translate - especially the ones that they somehow seemed to believe. With the help of some of the exercises and perspective Lena had taught her, she managed to avoid reacting to them.


By the time of the first scheduled break, she had learned another valuable lesson: it was far better to be thirsty than to have to sit there with an overfull bladder. She would try to balance the two, but just to be sure she added an extreme absorb pad where it would do the most good.


In the longer than usual session after lunch, where they seemed to be trying to take advantage of the usual after lunch lethargy, she came to appreciate her precautions. She was also glad that she had eaten somewhat cautiously - a chicken salad without dressing - when the field clamped back down on her. All in all, it was a tense, miserable experience for her.


She was not having fun.


It was a relief to get home, even though that meant working on her homework. Somehow, her usual stress over the homework just didn't seem all that important. She was later than usual, so dinner came before homework this time. She barely noticed what she ate, or what was said around the table.


She was barely back into her room, when she "heard" a familiar "voice".


*Tough day, huh?* Lena "sounded" sympathetic.


*You don't know the half of it!* Rose grumped. *I don't know how those people do it!*


*For one thing, they don't have the suppression field affecting them. It makes a difference.*


*Oh, yeah.* Rose responded emphatically. *I noticed.*


*Also, they were taught and trained for it, and grew into the role. Did you notice how old they were?*


*They all looked ancient to me. But so did my father.*


Lena "laughed". *Yeah, I know how that is. I'll let you get back to your homework. Call if you need anything.*


*Ok. I don't suppose you have a good excuse for skipping the homework entirely?*


*No such luck. If I did, I'd use it myself. Bye.*


Rose was relieved that Lena seemed to have recovered from the events of the previous day. She had been so busy that day that she had not really thought about it until then. She shuddered at the memory of the accident and the note, then determinedly got back to work.




What Rose didn't know was that her father was on the phone, talking with Angel.


"I have a favor to ask, for Rose." He told her, leading with his strongest argument. "It's somewhat confidential. Is there somewhere we can meet?"


Like Lena, Angel was not entirely comfortable with Rose's parents. Something about them just set her teeth on edge. But Rose herself was a friend, and Angel would do anything she could for her. She needed help walking this tightrope.


"I can't get away, right now. If we can't discuss it on the 'com, maybe I can get Radar to help." She wasn't sure why she chose to use Lena's nickname - it just seemed the right thing to do.


While he had been hoping to avoid the telepath in this matter, it did make sense. And he really did not want to discuss it over the 'com. "Maybe that would be for the best."


Lena, who had just finished "talking" with Rose, contacted him almost immediately. *What can we do for you?*


*I have a problem.* Lena wisely kept from commenting, and let him continue. *I was arranging a trip to Japan for Rose next week, but suddenly something or someone is blocking the paperwork.*


*And you think our "friends in high places" might be able to unblock it?* Lena could not keep a hint of acid from her mental voice.


To his credit, he picked up on it. *Yes, part of it - a big part - is wanting to have her there in case we need her for the business part. But I really do want to give her the experience of traveling there and getting to see the sights.*


Lena could tell, as she relayed the conversation to Angel, that he was being fairly honest about that part. She didn't have Rose's ability with it, but her "read" of his emotions and supporting thoughts seemed to support the conclusion.


*Who is blocking it?* Angel asked through Lena.


*We don't know. We strongly suspect that it's one of the groups from the accident.*


All three of them shuddered at the thought. Of the three, only Lena knew about the hired assassin and the actions of the area telepaths. But all three knew about the watchers and their sudden death.


*We'll do what we can.* He couldn't tell whether that assurance came more from one of the girls or from both, but he knew he had done the best that he could.


*Thank you. I'll make sure that Rose has a good time there.* Neither of the girls missed the "unspoken" part - "after the work is done."




Lena wasted no time, and went directly to her onetime mentor and longtime friend and advisor. If anyone could find out what was happening and what it would take to unstick Rose's papers, it was Mrs. Tabor.


Besides, Lena had a deep suspicion that the Grand Lady enjoyed unraveling that sort of thing.




Worn out from a full day at the office and then her homework, Rose had no trouble getting to sleep that night. The only scrap of a dream she would remember somehow involved grainy, black and white images of ancient airplanes dropping bombs.


For a change, she woke up knowing the significance of an image from her dreams. Her review of her history notes had reminded her of what day it now was.


Pearl Harbor Day.


She wondered whether it was coincidence that she (through her father) was involved in serious - almost warlike - negotiations with Japanese businessmen on a day like that. A small, superstitious part of her did not exactly regard the timing as auspicious. More like suspicious.


She snorted quietly at the thought that she wanted - badly wanted - to go to school instead of to another day at the office. Who'da thunk it?


At breakfast (in the same restaurant), she snuck an innocent question about celebrating the day into the conversation (or was it a briefing?). Her father briefly choked, muttered about the need for a "Pearl Harbor File" (whatever that was), and assured her that it was probably a bad idea to discuss the matter within earshot of the negotiators.


By lunch, she was beginning to feel like one of the people from the naval base. It was clear to her - and apparently even clearer to her father - that negotiations would not finish that day. And the other team was leaving that night. And it was clear that the delay was a deliberate maneuver. She just didn't understand why. Presumably, they expected to have some advantage when they met again - in Japan.


On the way back from lunch, her father was given some news that made him almost smile. Rose didn't know what it was - she couldn't get the right angle to read it - but it apparently made his day.


He didn't have time to tell her until they were on their way home.


"Your travel paperwork has cleared." he told her with a smile. "We leave for Tokyo day after tomorrow."


He looked at her expectantly. She was tired, and wrung out from the negotiations, but she managed to express some enthusiasm for the trip. She had been promised time to play tourist, and to generally have fun while they were there. Unfortunately, there was a price.


"How long will we be working there?"


"Probably half a day. Maybe a little more." He was telling the truth as he knew it.


Still... Japan! She had not been outside the USA more than a few times, and that was either to Canada or Mexico - within an hour or so of the border. This trip was a Big Deal.


But first things first. Home, getting washed up, and dinner. At dinner, her dad told the rest of the family the news. Tara got briefly excited, thinking that she might be going along. And then she was pissy, when she found out it wasn't so.


Her mother (whose body language expressed her own disappointment) promised Tara some shopping - very expensive shopping she said with some emphasis, while looking pointedly at her husband - and other mother/daughter activities. Tara got an evil gleam in her eyes, as she returned her gaze to her father.


But exciting news or not, she had homework to do. Far too much homework to do. She went upstairs and got to work.


At least she would have one day back in school before she left.


Her mother interrupted her in the middle of her revision of the Changes essay to get her laundry. While Rose worked the night away, her mother would be doing laundry so that she would have clothes to take on the trip. Rose quickly changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt, and gave her mother her more formal clothes to go in the load.


Before she got back to work, Lena "called" to congratulate her on her upcoming trip.


*I'm not sure congratulations are right.* Rose admitted wryly. *I gotta work for it.*


*Oooh, pooor baby.* Lena replied insincerely. *A free trip to Japan and she has to sing for her supper.*


*Thank you for your support.* Rose grumped back. Then laughed.


Lena reminded her that she would be out of range of everyone but David. And then she promised that he would look in on her from time to time, if she wanted.


*How often?*


*Not too often. He still has school, and... ahem... other activities* Lena left no doubt that those activities involved her, and some degree of intimacy.


*oh, no... my poor virgin ears!* Rose quipped.


*Yecch! Who'd want to do it there? You'd never get the gunk out.*


*Ugh... Way too much information!* Rose complained, trying for her best little girl mental voice.


They exchanged goodbyes, and Rose got back to work. She was determined to turn in her homework through the newly established channel, rather than just take it all to school with her. Somehow, she just couldn't bring herself to trust The Nameless Teacher that far.


After she got to bed, it took her next to no time to get to sleep. And before she knew it, she was dreaming.


And all too soon, it was morning.


It seemed a little strange that she would be going to school rather than to work. And that was funny, too - she just thought about it as "work" now, rather than going into her father's office. She wasn't an employee, and she didn't get paid, but as far as she could see she worked every bit as hard as any of the other people she saw there.


At least she could dress more comfortably. Somehow, that made her feel younger than she had for the last two days. Or maybe it was just that her clothes and activities those days made her feel older. She shrugged off the question, and got ready for school.


Breakfast was almost disappointing, after the restaurant. And it was her favorite cereal, too. She hated to think what that would mean about lunch. Maybe her friends could disappear her to another off campus feast?


Walking into the school was even stranger. It was like she was in the student body, but not of the student body.


*I went through that, too.* came the welcome mental tones. *It comes from being more aware of what you are and what you have been doing than of what you used to be. It will wear off, shortly after you find a new balance.*


Maybe it was her gift, maybe not. But Rose understood what Lena was saying. And it made a certain amount of sense.


She still felt the way she felt.


Even the dreaded English teacher had no real impact. She seemed like nothing more than a minor irritation, a transient part of Rose's day.


Unfortunately, her middle school friends made no impact either. Neither her old friends nor her more recent friends there seemed entirely real. They were more like children she encountered while babysitting. Her high school friends were real, and important, however.


She was a little startled to notice that it was time to go home. All told, she remembered almost nothing of the day. Luckily, she had written down her assignments, or she would have forgotten about them as well.


Home was more real. So was the packing she had to do. The Laundry Fairy (as her mother sometimes called herself, with heavy irony) had cleaned her "work clothes", so it was just a matter of choosing her tourist clothes and getting it all packed.


*Excited about tomorrow?* a familiar mental voice chuckled.


*Lena!* Rose was happy to hear from her friend. *Yes. I've never been anywhere like that.*


*Neither have I. Bring me back a soo vee neer.* Rose laughed at Lena's playful tone.


*I'll do my best.* she laughed.


*I just wanted to remind you that we'll be out of range. Have fun, but be careful.*


*Yes, Mom.* Rose expertly blended the humor and sarcasm in that rejoinder. *But I would be happier to know that you guys were watching out for the rest of the family.*


*Don't worry. They'll be safe.* Lena assured her. *Gotta go. SOME of us have school tomorrow.*


*Ugh. Don't remind me. I have to keep up my homework while I'm there.*


After a quick goodbye, Lena left Rose to her efforts.


She had her packing done before dinner. The meal itself was not the usual dinnertime discussion, either. Tara was alternating between envy, excitement, and worry. Except for the envy, their mother was going through much of the same. Rose's father was going over preparations in his head, and completely missed the byplay between the female members of the household.


When she got back to her room, Rose noticed the pin David had given her for her birthday. She had not planned on bringing any jewelry on the trip, but the pin seemed to call to her. It would remind her of her friends, and give her strength to face whatever those negotiators might throw at her.


And when she was playing tourist, it would remind her to bring things back for them.


She got to work on her homework, sending it to the Dean's email as soon as she could. She knew she would effectively lose Thursday, due to the time difference, so she wouldn't have time to make up any skipped work. Luckily, the load was light. Even in English. All the teachers were concentrating on preparations for the upcoming finals.


So light, that she was able to spend some time with the tube (and oh, yeah... her family) before going to bed.


Her dreams were unusual. Every time she started to get into trouble, she would rub her pin and find the inner (and occasionally, physical) resources to get herself out of it. Almost like a magic talisman.


The morning was hectic. She dressed in reasonable school clothes, since she would be going to her father's office before they left. She made it a point to add the pin before going down to breakfast.


Her mother had gotten up a little earlier than usual, to fix her a good breakfast before the trip. She joked about not knowing what Rose would be eating over there - "Probably raw octopus or something" (which Rose automatically translated as "Taco" in her head) - and wanting to sustain her poor daughter through such trying culinary times.


Tara enjoyed her servings, then hugged Rose goodbye and dashed off for school. Her mother's goodbye was a little less hurried, and more intense. All too soon, Rose and her father were on their way to the office.


After some last minute paperwork, they would take a teletaxi from the office to the Tokyo (Tele)port of entry. Her father gave her a last minute briefing about what to expect, gave her her paperwork, and sent her on her way to the departure room.


Her first thought was that the 'porter was nothing like Robin. Close on the heels of that thought was the observation that he was a hunk - maybe even better looking than David. After he gave her a thousand watt smile, he asked if she was ready. A brief, somewhat stunned nod, and they were gone.


And they were in another room. The room looked much the same, except for the paintings on the wall. He gestured her through the door, then vanished.


She was met on the other side of the door by a man and a woman in police style uniforms. "Miss Reid? Please come with us." Even knowing what to expect, it was a little unnerving.


Once she handed over her papers, they ran her through a scan and compared her biometrics with those in the documents. After taking much longer than Rose thought was absolutely necessary, they gave her back her papers and escorted her to Customs. They left her with a polite, pro forma "Enjoy your stay," and went back to their stations.


Her father was waiting at Customs, and they went through the usual bothers together. Just having him there made it a lot less uncomfortable than the whole biometric thing.


Even though it was about 9:00 in the morning for them, it was midnight in the city. They made their way to the hotel, and to their room. In the way of fathers since the dawn of time, her father went over the issue of changing their "internal clocks" to match local time yet again.


"We have two basic choices," he lectured. "Pay up front, or pay later. For what we are doing here, the first option will work the best." Basically, they would drink the contents of a little bottle, go to sleep, and a few hours later they would wake up with their bodies on local time.


They would have time to get ready for work, eat another meal, and get to the office. Before the negotiations proper, there would be meetings with various executive types. Rose would be expected to act as interpreter and advisor as needed during the discussions, speak if directly addressed, but otherwise play the silent, obedient underling.


English class was looking more and more inviting.


The meetings were polite and technical, and bored Rose stiff. The only part that directly involved her was when one of the female executives complimented her on her pin. But even with the boredom, it seemed all too soon when it was time to start the meeting.


The negotiators were the same three as before, plus one additional man. Rose did not feel herself get any new language pieces from the new man, so he didn't make much of an impression on her. On the other hand, she noticed that the bilingual man (trilingual, if you counted his limited but serviceable English) had a briefcase with him, much like her father's. She also noticed that his nostrils were flared somewhat more than before.


After some ritualized greetings, they went into the conference room. Even though the size, shape, and decoration were a different, there could be no mistaking the fact that it was the same kind of room as the one that hosted the negotiations back in Denver.


With a cup of ice in hand, Rose followed her father inside and took her place beside him. They were barely settled when she felt the suppression field settle over her, as uncomfortable as ever. Her only solace was that the new man seemed uncomfortable as well.


Her father and the other man opened their briefcases, and the others prepared for the talks. Something bothered Rose about the body language of the other man as he opened his briefcase, but she wasn't sure what. What bothered her even more was the quiet hiss that her sensitive hearing picked up.


Before she could mention it to her father, she started to feel... off. Blackness closed in on her, and she didn't even feel her head hit the table as she slumped in her chair, unconscious.


End part 7


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