Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay

 

Part 10

 

David was surprised... and impressed. While his observations of Rose's late night were pretty boring - she got to bed early, so he just saw her sleeping - her father was another matter entirely. That man could drink! And from the internals David could sense, it seemed like he was faking his seeming impairment as he played the bar games. And he wasn't using any anti drunk pill or anything.

 

He thought people like that only existed in the movies.

 

There was nothing to tell him - Rose was sleeping safely in the same house she spent the afternoon in - so he kept his observations silent and invisible. Besides, he had to get ready for school.

 

It wasn't until he looked in between classes that he finally saw him get back to the hotel. It seemed like a good time to reassure him, so he popped up his image and caught his attention.

 

"David?"

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Good. I was afraid I got a bad neutralizer pill. What can I do for you?"

 

"I just wanted to let you know that Rose is safely sleeping at the house I followed her to. I'll look in on the two of you while you sleep, and let you know if anything changes."

 

"Something has changed." He filled David in on the meeting at the bar.

 

"Oh... shit. Is she really safe then?"

 

"Yes. Hurting her wouldn't benefit him. Keeping her safe is good for his honor, and keeping her away from the negotiations is good for his business. He won't keep her a prisoner, but keeping her safe will involve keeping her away from the office and hotel." He explained to the tiny apparition.

 

"oh, yes... and he knows about you. He probably expects you to let her know what is going on, so go ahead and do so when she wakes up." He paused a moment, then went on. "And tell her I love her and I'm glad she's safe."

 

The tiny David smiled. "I will," he said, as he vanished. He only had one class to go when she finally started to wake up. "Wake up, sleepyhead!" he smiled as he appeared.

 

"Wha.. who.. David?"

 

"In all my terrible majesty." the tiny figure intoned, striking a pose. "I come bearing tidings."

 

"Daddy?"

 

"Safe, sound, and sleeping it off. He sends his love."

 

Rose waited, knowing that David would not be going to that much trouble if everything was fine. After a brief pause, David gave her a brief outline.

 

"So he knows about me, and assumes you know everything. I can fill you in more in about an hour, when I get out of school."

 

"What do I do?"

 

"Pretend you don't know. And your host will pretend he doesn't know. It's a social thing. I've gotta get to class. I'll be back after school."

 

"Ok. Bye."

 

"Bye." There was a quiet popping sound, and the brief image of a small cloud of smoke, and he was gone.

 

"Cute." she half grinned. She knew the theatrics were an attempt to distract her from what she had just learned, and it wasn't working.

 

There was a knock at the door, and Aoi poked her head in. "Oh, good... you're up." She stepped into the room, wearing an embroidered bathrobe and carrying another. "You were too tired last night, but we can give you a couple of choices for a morning clean up. You can have a western style shower, or you can experience a more traditional Japanese bath." She was clearly pushing for the latter.

 

Rose had read a little about the baths, and a hot soak did sound nice. "I would like the bath, please."

 

"Good choice." Aoi grinned. "Throw on your robe, and I'll show you what to do."

 

She was as good as her word. Rose quickly understood that the whole room was effectively a bath/shower enclosure. She would take a bowl of water to get wet, thoroughly wash herself, rinse with another bowl (or bowls) of water, and only then get into the tub.

 

"The main thing," Aoi explained, "is to not get any soap or stuff into the bath water. In the big public baths, a number of women will be sharing the same water and it would quickly get nasty otherwise. In the old days, the water in the home tube would be reused as well, after getting reheated. Now it's filtered and put to other use instead - at least we do so." Rose caught the pride in Aoi's voice. Both pride in her family and pride in her culture.

 

Aoi showed her the controls, then helped her wash up. Her casual attitude toward their shared nudity put Rose at ease as well. While they were both washing and rinsing, and scrubbing each others' backs, Aoi had the tub filling with pleasantly hot water. The water stopped when the sensors determined that the tub was full enough for the two of them to use it without overflowing. Aoi explained that their tub was somewhat larger than the usual home tub, since her parents wanted to be able to share it. Rose easily caught the overtones of suspected sex in the description.

 

Whatever the reason, they were soon relaxing in the hot water. And they were still relaxing in the water when a voice in Rose's ear said "Am I interrupting anything?"

 

"David! Get out! We're taking a bath, and it's girls only Captain."

 

"Spoilsport. I'll look in a bit later, when you're done."

 

Aoi was looking like she was caught between righteous indignation and a severe case of the giggles. "So the angel's a pervert, huh?"

 

"Pretty much. His girlfriend usually keeps him in line, though. She's a telepath, and he can't get away with much."

 

"The one you called Radar?"

 

"That's the one. I think she's the one who gave him the hero name 'Captain Peeper' though." Rose automatically used the "hero name" term Aoi had mentioned, rather than her more familiar "code name".

 

Since the spell of relaxation was broken, and they knew he would be back soon, they got out, started the tub draining, and quickly dried themselves and restored the room to its earlier condition. Rose had noticed that they didn't seem to let cleaning tasks accumulate like at home. With a few exceptions (like clothes and towels), things were generally cleaned and stored immediately after use. The guide books mentioned it in passing as a cultural thing.

 

The two returned to Rose's room, and Aoi helped her dress quickly. Then, to give her some privacy with David and to get dressed herself, she went to her own room. As soon as she was gone, he appeared.

 

"Is it safe?" he grinned, knowing perfectly well she was alone and dressed.

 

Rose pretended to check the door, window, and bed before she said it was.

 

David finished filling her in on the situation, and answered her questions. Yes, she should stay there even though Mr. Tanaka is a business rival and gains something from her absence from the negotiations. She was much safer there than on her own or back with her father. No, David had no idea who the girl at the bar with Mr. Tanaka was. As far as he knew, Rose's father didn't know either. He wasn't certain how much her host knew about her powers. And so on.

 

He promised to pop up from time to time to keep an eye on her (and her father), but admitted that he had social plans in a few hours that might distract him. And Radar. With a grin, and a quick goodbye, he vanished.

 

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Tanaka San was annoyed. More than annoyed. And in the privacy of his home office, he allowed himself a brief expression of that annoyance.

 

The meeting that day, with an executive of the Brazilian branch of the company, was vitally important. There were irregularities, and he suspected the man was complicit in them. But the carefully planned meeting to investigate and confront the man was starting to fall apart. The corrupted data transfers and the like were bad enough. But now he had lost his very special translator, who was a key part of the plan.

 

He considered a possible solution, but he didn't like it. The girl knew he was a business rival of her father's, and Tanaka had pledged to keep her safe. And it would be a gross breach of hospitality to even ask, much less expose such a young girl to the inevitable unpleasantness. On the other hand, she had been prepared for her father's negotiations and the potential (and as it worked out, real) unpleasantness there. And the situation at hand would have no impact on her father or his company either way - the branch was in an unrelated business area.

 

In the end, he had little choice. He would ask her, and make it worth her while. She would undoubtedly want to check with her father via the winged boy, which would only be proper in any case.

 

Aoi was startled by her father's appearance. She knew he was preparing for an important meeting, so his suit and grooming were not unusual. But a subtle difference in his bearing told her something was wrong. He was upset, but had it locked behind his professional mask. Whatever it was, it could not be good.

 

"Is our guest awake?" he asked, almost formally. Aoi knew that this was not a time for familial informality.

 

"Yes, father. She is dressed and in her bedroom. I believe she is speaking with her friend in America."

 

"The winged boy?"

 

"Yes, father."

 

"When she is finished, I need to see her in my office." He indicated the direction of his home office with a small wave of his hand.

 

"Yes, father." Was her new friend in even more trouble? Was she in danger? As her father nodded at her response then turned and walked toward his office, she grew worried. But there was no choice for her - she would do as he asked.

 

Rose read the worry in Aoi's voice as she relayed the request. But, in the end, she had little choice in the matter. From what her father had told David, this was the man who was keeping her safe from the people who were still looking for her with bad things in mind. And he was the man whose hospitality he was enjoying.

 

She followed Aoi to the door of the office, and (at her urging) knocked. When Mr. Tanaka opened the door, he seemed to be all business but not angry at her. If anything, he reminded her of times she had been to see school officials as a witness to something that had happened rather than as a participant or suspect.

 

After offering her a comfortable chair, and watching her sit, he turned to shut the door. By keeping an eye on her surreptitiously, he caught her reaction when the closing door activated the suppression field in the room. Her slightly enervated slump told him that she was more than a little uncomfortable under such a field, but her otherwise attentive demeanor told him that she knew the feeling and was not afraid of it.

 

Still, he had an obligation to ask. "Are you feeling unwell?"

 

Rose wasn't sure how much he really knew about her, but that particular aspect didn't seem to be all that secret. "A little. Suppression fields make me feel icky."

 

He gave her a small bow. "I apologize. The field comes on automatically when I close the door, and I have little control over it otherwise." She reacted to his lie, but he couldn't be sure whether it was just natural disbelief or something more specific. "Unfortunately, what we must discuss is... very delicate. It is vitally important that we are not overheard."

 

Rose nodded, reading him as believing that last part to be true.

 

He continued. "I will try to make this as short as possible." As he picked up some papers from his desk, Rose glimpsed a picture of her as she was before Yuko's handiwork. If she had any doubts about what David had told her, they were gone.

 

"I know much about your abilities," he continued, "but I need to ask you a few questions if I may. I know about your ability to learn languages almost instantly, but are you otherwise telepathic?" When she shook her head, she was surprised to hear him say "Excellent. Are you able to learn the written language as well?"

 

"Not by way of my power. If I can learn the rules for the written language, and any letters that aren't part of our usual 26, my knowledge of the spoken language can help. That's about it."

 

He seemed somewhat disappointed by that reply, but determined to press on. "Are there any other abilities?"

 

If Aoi had briefed him, there were a couple of parts he should already know. "My hearing is sharper than normal, and I can understand what people intend to say - no matter how garbled."

 

That was useful. Now for one more critical part. "Do you have to translate to English when you deal with your learned languages, or can you go right from one of them to another?"

 

She thought for a moment. "Yes, I can go directly from one learned language to another. I will still understand both as though they were English, but it should have no real effect on what everyone else hears."

 

That was just as he had hoped. "I find myself in an awkward position. One in which your abilities could be of immense help." At her shift in body language, he hurried to assure her. "It has nothing to do with my business with your father or his company. I would not ask you to be involved if it did."

 

He took a moment to gather his thoughts, then looked at her seriously. "You are, of course, completely free to decline my request. But before we go on, I must ask you to agree to tell nobody - not even my daughter and her friends - what I am about to tell you. It is... very sensitive information."

 

That set off some minor alarm bells for Rose. "I may need to talk to my father about some of it. I really can't tell until I know what this is about."

 

"That is reasonable. When we are finished with our discussion, it will be clear what you do or do not need to discuss in that way. But I would ask you to keep the rest confidential."

 

"I can do that."

 

"Very well. I find myself in need of an uncommon sort of translator. There is to be a business meeting this afternoon, and the other main participant does not speak much Japanese. Or English, for that matter. And he is likely to lapse into his primary language when things get... unpleasant."

 

The expressions that briefly played across her face startled him. Whatever it was that she had experienced, it must have been horrific. And there was nothing close to that in his reports about her. Her features settled almost immediately, but her voice was somewhat flat as she asked "What is at stake in this... unpleasantness?"

 

"Money, certainly. Most likely, the man's career as well. It is serious, but not life and death."

 

He saw her relax a little, and continued. He told her that the man was in charge of a Brazilian branch of the company, and that he had reason to believe that the man had been less than honest in his dealings. He didn't want to tell her too much, for fear of affecting her perceptions of the exchange. "There would likely be a confrontation, however."

 

Rose could tell that he was embarrassed by the next part, but thought it was important. "As a matter of tactical necessity, I intend to arrange the meeting in ways that are likely to play to his weaknesses and distract him. And one such weakness is a certain... attraction... to young girls such as yourself."

 

Rose understood what he was trying to say, enough that she did not take offence at his description of her. But the thought of dealing with such a man was not entirely pleasant. She also found herself having disturbing - unbelievably unrealistic - images of what could be involved.

 

Mr. Tanaka quickly assured her that she would be perfectly safe, and that he would not ask her to do anything really untoward. She would be dressed in a way that was completely proper, but which played into his fantasies. There would be another girl there, who he described as his assistant. Rose understood that she was an assistant in the same way that Yuko was to her danna.

 

"Her appearance will be modified to make her seem to be about your age as well. Her job will be to assist me and to observe and learn from the meeting. And, of course, to subtly distract him. Yours will merely be to translate. Your presence and appearance will be all that is needed to distract him as well. He will be across the table from me, and in no position to do anything untoward. And he knows better than to overtly say anything untoward, though he may try a few hints or the like."

 

Rose thought she had a pretty good idea what the whole thing would be like. Not her idea of fun, but not horrible, either. What he said next caught her attention.

 

"Because of your age and status, I cannot employ you as such. Nor could you become my assistant, even if you wanted such a thing. However, there is no reason I can't give my daughter some money to cover what she and her friends spent in a certain shopping trip... and maybe treat my honored guest to a bit more shopping in a less frenzied manner."

 

In other words, her family would be off the hook for all her new clothes, and more. It sounded good to her. But... "I'll still need to check with my father."

 

"Of course. That would only be proper. But I would suggest that you do so by way of your winged friend, for security reasons. Can you contact him in some manner, or do you need to wait for him to contact you?"

 

Rose paused a moment. Would she be giving away sensitive information? No, that seemed unlikely. "I have to wait for him, unless I phone him or something. And I need to be outside of the field when he gets here, or he won't see me. He'll have a pretty good idea I'm in here, but the field would keep his projection out."

 

He stood up. "Please let me know when you have checked. And I would appreciate you saying as little as possible about the meeting, the man, or the strategies." He moved to the door and opened it.

 

"Of course." she agreed, enjoying her relief from the oppressive heaviness of the field.

 

As soon as she was around the corner from the office and alone, a familiar voice sounded in her ear.

 

"I was worried." David confessed. "Were you in that suppression field? Are you ok?"

 

"Yes, and yes. But I need to ask a favor." She outlined the message for her father in the most general terms practical.

 

David nodded, and disappeared. Rose felt a little bad for using him in that way, but he didn't seem to mind. She would have to get him a nice souvenir or something.

 

A couple of minutes later, he reappeared. He told her she had her father's ok, and that her father's business should be finished that day. Once that was done, the danger should be over and they could go do the tourist thing if she still wanted to. Or they could go home.

 

David also reminded her that he had personal plans, so his appearances would be a little less frequent. She wished him a happy date, and he grinned and disappeared.

 

She found Aoi, and together they found Aoi's father. He described the look he wanted, and they set to work. She was to be subtly eye catching, but not openly sexy or sassy. A look that would not be obviously out of place in an office, but with a suggestion of a youngster not quite successfully dressing up for the role.

 

After going through the available choices, the girls settled on a look similar to a school uniform. The skirt was just a little shorter than they would actually have worn, and the blouse was barely translucent enough to occasionally suggest the bra she wore under it.

 

As they worked, Rose felt a new kind of... nervousness? A strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was like she was getting ready for sex, but not really. She knew there would not really be any danger of sex, especially with the creepy Brazilian man. But there was that same kind of feeling. At least, that was the closest she could come to figuring out the meaning. She was a total virgin - hadn't gotten anywhere near having sex with anyone - not even with herself all that much.

 

When they were done getting her ready, they presented her to Mr. Tanaka. He hid his first brief flashes of disapproval, and after a moment gave his approval. After giving Rose one more chance to back out, he escorted her to his car.

 

He directed his driver to pick up his assistant at her okiya. Rose had almost forgotten about the other girl who was to join them. She wondered whether the girl would be a bio elemental like Yuko, or someone like Radar or even a female equivalent of David. She assumed that she would find out, so she kept her questions to herself.

 

As they arrived at the okiya, he got a call on his eCom. Although he held it in such a way as to keep her from seeing the display, she could not help hearing the few spoken words. Not that knowing it was a "status update" told her all that much.

 

His response, however, did.

 

"There has been a slight change of plans. A young woman will come to the car and, as we pull away, will teleport us into the building. From there, you, my actual assistant, and I will be teleported to the office."

 

"Is there a problem?"

 

"Nothing to worry about. My security people feel that there is somewhat more risk than usual, and that we may be under observation. If so, the observers will see what is expected - my assistant getting into the car and the car driving to the office."

 

"What about the driver?"

 

He was impressed with her calm response and her concern. "He will be safe enough. He has his own resources."

 

Rose understood him to be saying that the driver was a morf, without actually saying it. One of those social fictions, she assumed.

 

A young lady she didn't recognize got into the car, and they started to drive away. She 'ported him first, then came back for Rose. When she walked out of the now familiar type of small room, she was surprised to see who the assistant was.

 

It was Yuko. Rose quickly recovered from her surprise, then greeted her friend with a big smile. "Gonna lose the old woman look, huh?" she teased.

 

Yuko smiled briefly, then took on her business persona. "It is time to do what is necessary." Rose clearly "heard" the message that it was time to be all business. She also understood the warning that she might not like watching the transformation. She nodded and turned to face their employer.

 

A moment later, Yuko merely said "Done." then turned to her danna for his evaluation.

 

"That should do," he said as Rose turned to look. "As soon as you are dressed, we must leave."

 

Rose saw a girl who could be Yuko's younger sister. She looked a little older than Rose, but only a year or less. Her clothes did not quite fit her, especially about the bust and hips. Rose felt a pang of sympathy for the loss of Yuko's breasts, and became more conscious of her own lack of development. They weren't entirely gone, but they weren't much bigger than Rose's.

 

Yuko quickly returned in an outfit which seemed identical other than the fit. Rose assumed it was some sort of a standard outfit for someone in Yuko's position.

 

Thinking about Yuko's position, and some of the implications of it, reminded Rose of the sexual nature of what she was about to do. The funny feeling in her stomach was back in full force.

 

As in the car, Mr. Tanaka left first. Yuko went next, which Rose took as a sign of her status. Rose smiled at the teleporter as she stepped into the room, and thanked her after the room changed to what she guessed was her destination.

 

As she emerged from the room, Mr. Tanaka started to move away. Yuko gestured for Rose to fall in beside her, walking three steps behind him. Given the movies she had seen and such, Rose was surprised that they walked with their gaze ahead rather than turned down. She would have a lot to ask Yuko when she got the chance.

 

Outside of a conference room, they encountered a man Rose assumed was the guest of honor. He was fairly tall, slim, with features Rose thought of as South American. Although she couldn't put her finger on it, there was something about his suit that struck her as... different. It wasn't quite like the business suits her father wore, or the more expensively tailored suits she had seen Mr. Tanaka in. And his thick, dark brown moustache almost obscured his upper lip.

 

She didn't dwell on his appearance, because she sensed her powers working overtime. He seemed to know four and a half languages - two deeply and two somewhat superficially. The superficial languages were not surprising; he knew some English and even less Japanese. She didn't recognize the others, other than to note that what she thought of as a half language was a patois of the two deep languages and a smattering of English.

 

Unless he addressed her in one of the deep languages, she did not know which one to use. He greeted Mr. Tanaka, but his strained Japanese was no help. When she was introduced as their translator, he merely smiled, gave her a small bow, and repeated her name. In that single word, he demonstrated the lechery and tastes that she had been warned about.

 

She noticed, in passing, that Mr. Tanaka had used her "hero name" of Rosetta and did not specify a last name. She barely had time to wonder about that before he turned and introduced Yuko as his assistant (using the more formal term for her position). He only used her first name as well, so Rose figured it was a status thing. They were the hired help, in a respected sense.

 

She did the only thing she could think of - she indicated an urgent need to use the restroom, and subtly indicated that Yuko should accompany her. Once they were out of earshot, she explained the problem.

 

Yuko had been briefed more thoroughly. "Can you tell which of the deep languages he learned first?"

 

Rose thought for a moment. Only one of the languages seemed to have early childhood vocabulary, so that was probably it. "I think so. But I can't be sure"

 

"Is one of them sort of like Spanish?"

 

Again, Rose thought a moment. "Kind of. Sort of like the way Spanish and Italian are similar."

 

"Then use that one. He spent his early years with one of the more remote tribes, and learned their language first. When his family moved to the city, he learned Portuguese. Well, the Brazilian version of it anyhow. He will expect you to be translating to and from that one. He may lapse into the other one under stress, so use your judgment about whether to translate it."

 

"That's a relief."

 

"Do you really have to go?"

 

"No, I went just before we left."

 

"We'd better get back then. My danna will not appreciate being kept waiting."

 

Rose nodded, and they returned to the conference room.

 

With a slight bow, Rose apologized to the man and he seemed impressed with her command of his language. He commented on that, and Rose dutifully translated the compliment. Mr. Tanaka told her "Would I employ anyone but the best?" in such a way that she knew he wanted her to translate it. When she did so it seemed to amuse the man.

 

They entered the room, and the men took their places opposite each other and sat. Yuko moved to the seat to her danna's right, so Rose went to his left. Once they were seated, the suppression field came on. Rose was careful to avoid any overt reaction to the field, despite the way it made her feel.

 

At first, the meeting was pretty much what she had come to expect from a business meeting. A lot of passing papers back and forth and short, barely complete questions and answers. Every now and then, the man would drop in a double entendre or other supposedly subtle sexual remark in a way that he could readily deny any such meaning. Rose dutifully translated those as well, allowing Mr. Tanaka to set the tone of any responses. Other than the occasional implied reprimand, he largely ignored them.

 

As the meeting went on, he changed that pattern and suggested that she reply subtly in kind. He also indicated that it was time to start catching a little more of the man's attention. Yuko started leaning foreword more, while dealing with some of the papers. This gave him the illusion of seeing down the opening of her jacket. Rose adjusted her own posture a little to pull her blouse a little tighter across her chest. This had the effect of flashing hints of the contrast between her chaste white bra and her tan skin.

 

The whole thing was very strange to Rose. The translations took virtually none of her attention, so she was free to dwell somewhat on what they were doing. And there were no two ways around it - she and Yuko were deliberately doing things to get him sexually excited. And it was working.

 

It was strange and disturbing in some ways, but it was exciting, arousing, and empowering in others. On one hand, his increasing use of innuendo, sexual imagery, and suggestive body language was just... wrong. He was an old man - in his thirties at least - and he thought that they were little more than kids. And he clearly would have liked it to go well beyond talk.

 

On the other hand, she had a feeling of power, of being able to take this man with all his money and authority and almost force him to react to the barest hints of sexual promise. Even in public. Even in front of the man who held his future in the palm of his hand. It was heady stuff.

 

The man struggled to keep his concentration, but it was ultimately futile. Mr. Tanaka started quietly pressing for answers on the more sensitive issues. At one point, he suggested that Rose start shifting into the man's birth language for some of the questions and suggestions.

 

In short, he played him like a Stratocaster.

 

After a while, the man seemed to realize what he had been saying. He unconsciously shifted back to Portuguese, and tried to backtrack and explain. But by then his actions were all too clear. When he realized that he was exposed, he tried to play for sympathy. When that met with a stony response, things got ugly. After shouts and threats did him no good, he tried lunging across the table.

 

He never had a chance.

 

Mr. Tanaka stunned him with a well placed blow, then pressed a button to release the suppression field. Yuko gestured toward the groaning man, and he stilled (apparently unconscious). The door opened and two men in unmistakable security uniforms came in and took him by the arms.

 

When he came to, he found himself back in his seat and flanked by the guards. Looking at his superior's flinty expression, he wilted. While Rose translated, making sure he understood each word, his fate was spelled out. He would be allowed to return all the ill gotten gains - and everything he bought with the money - and then resign for "personal reasons". He would have no contact with the company or any past, present, or future employees of the company. Nor would he have any contact with any rivals of the company. He would drop out of sight, and do his best to assure that nobody even close to the company or the industry ever heard of him again.

 

He was given two documents to sign. One seemed to be in Japanese, the other in Portuguese. While Rose could not read either one, she assumed they were his letter of resignation. He signed those, then started writing down details Mr. Tanaka would need to recover the money and other resources.

 

He had barely started on that document, when Rose noticed him shifting his grip on the pen. There was a quiet click, too soft for anyone without her extra sensitive hearing. His body language shifted from a brief flash of determination and triumph to one of pain. Rose turned to say something, but Yuko was already ahead of her.

 

Yuko reached toward the man and gestured. "He has poisoned himself. I am holding it off for the moment. What do you want me to do?"

 

"Can you eliminate it entirely?"

 

"Easily."

 

He turned to Rose. "Tell him this: 'You will not be allowed anything so easy. I want you to spend some time remembering what you did, what you had, and what you have lost by your dishonorable actions. The time may come when you are allowed such an escape, but it will not be until after we are convinced you have returned everything it is possible to return.' "

 

Rose repeated the statement, with the inflections and emphasis added in as appropriate. Her voice was essentially Mr. Tanaka's, but pitched higher and speaking another language. She put the last sentence in his tribal tongue, making it clear that they knew about his extended family as well as the people he knew in the city.

 

Part of Rose was sorry for him. He was a creep and an embezzler, and he betrayed the trust of his employer in many ways, but he was a person. A person facing a life he would rather die than experience.

 

In what looked like a painful convulsion, he dropped the pen and his hand went flat on a blank piece of paper on the table. Out of the corner of her eye, Rose could see Yuko gesturing and apparently concentrating. After a couple of moments, a couple of drops of inky liquid all but squirted out of the pinprick wound on his hand and landed on the paper. At Mr. Tanaka's gesture, one of the guards carefully took the paper and slid it into an evidence bag and then did the same with the pen.

 

The man was given an ordinary pen, and, after glaring around the room for a moment, went back to writing down the details.

 

Soon - but nowhere near soon enough for Rose - they were on their way to the car. Rose noticed some damage to the car, and looked sharply at the driver. She was sure he was the same one, despite the damage to his uniform. He briefly grinned in a somewhat sheepish manner, then resumed his professional attitude.

 

Mr. Tanaka had a brief word with him. They spoke quietly, but not too quietly for Rose to hear them. The driver reported that there was some trouble, but "nothing I couldn't handle." He went on to add that the car would be taken in for repairs as soon as they were done with it for the day.

 

Rose wondered about the kind of man who would be that focused on his duties. She didn't even know whether he was injured until he seemed to relax a little. Mr. Tanaka gestured to Yuko, who nodded and moved to the driver.

 

"He'll do well enough for a while, but I'd rather get him inside and do this now." Rose thought that Yuko sounded like a doctor or EMT on the tube. And it just seemed so wrong coming from someone who looked her age. When Yuko was being the businesswoman, she at least had her mentor there. Rose could sort of see her as a student, or something like a girl scout, acting a role. But this was different - it was all Yuko.

 

Was that what she was like when she was translating for her father and Mr. Tanaka?

 

They went back into the building, and made their way to a large office. It reminded Rose of a doctor's waiting room, with chairs and a couple of sofas around the walls and small tables between them. It was bigger than any she had seen, and the decor said business rather than medical. The young man at the desk in front of the inner door stood when they arrived, holding some papers and opened his mouth to speak. Mr. Tanaka stopped him, and showed them into the inner office. He practically had to order the driver to settle in on the sofa, as Yuko explained it would make things easier for her.

 

Rose was impressed - almost awed - by the room. It made her father's office seem like a broom closet, and that was the most impressive office she had seen before. Even the gazillionaires in movies and vid shows didn't have offices as impressive as that - and those were supposed to be exaggerations.

 

Rose drifted out of her contemplation of the office in time to hear Yuko scold the driver. Her hands were near his torso, and she was saying "You should have had that taken care of months ago. What were you thinking?"

 

He tried to make a joke of it. "I was saving it up, just for you."

 

Yuko shot him a dirty look, then went back to what she was doing. Two things were clear to Rose. His injuries were not as superficial as he had indicated, and this was not the first time he tried to tough it out rather than seek help for his injuries.

 

Rose thought he was an idiot.

 

The door opened, and Mr. Tanaka started back into the office. The man from the outer office was saying "... trace is almost complete."

 

Mr. Tanaka's reply was formal, as though he was repeating a ritual phrase. "Any response must be appropriate. I do not need details." Rose "heard" a rich blend of implications in those two sentences. He was giving his people the go ahead to take some sort of extreme action against the people in question, but he was isolating himself from it. If something went wrong, it would not touch him. And whatever action was taken, it would be extremely unpleasant.

 

Rose shivered at the raw power implied in that comment.

 

Yuko quickly finished what she was doing with the driver, then suggested he take it easy the rest of the day.

 

"I'll do my best. But..." he shrugged, conveying the effects of forces beyond his control.

 

Mr. Tanaka looked at Yuko, and said "It is time to become yourself."

 

Yuko bowed, then turned and walked through a side door and into what looked like another office - much more ordinary than her danna's office, but (from Rose's glimpse) well beyond the "ordinary" executive offices she had seen in her father's company.

 

She returned a few minutes later, looking like her old self. Rose figured that she must have had a change of clothes in the other office, since her current outfit fit her larger and more mature frame perfectly. There was a difference in her body language, as well. When she was in her younger persona, she seemed more like the Yuko she had met on the street. Now, she had the all business bearing of an executive assistant or a senior executive. It was uncomfortably similar to the changes she had seen in her father when he was in the office and in meetings.

 

And it reminded Rose of who she was. She was a barely teenaged girl, whose talent for languages and budding sexuality had just helped destroy a man. He was an embezzler, a pervert, and probably worse, but he was a person. And an adult, something a part of her saw as important. She had been acting like a peer with older teens like Yuko, Aoi, and her friends back home, and like an almost-peer with powerful adults like her father and Mr. Tanaka.

 

Her earlier friends, the ones from before her change, seemed like little children to her. Was that how these teens and adults saw her? She didn't think so. The teens seemed to treat her more or less like a peer... maybe on the young end of that. The adults seemed to treat her pretty much the same way they treated the other powered teens, which varied a lot but mostly seemed to be similar to the way they would treat adults in the same position. They treated her (and them) like subordinates or contractors.

 

Others, like her mother, sister, teachers, deans, and so on, seemed to treat her like a kid. Like she was still in elementary school or something. But those same school adults treated the rest of the students the same way, so it didn't seem personal.

 

Despite that link to her youth, it seemed a little sad. It was like she had lost the good parts of the last little bit of her childhood, and she was living more and more like a young adult. Or like an adult, period (without all the rights and privileges).

 

For the few minutes she had spent on those thoughts, life had gone on around her. Yuko and Mr. Tanaka were going over some papers, and the driver had settled in for a brief rest. Rose figured that the others simply assumed she was resting as well, and were going about their business.

 

After a few more minutes, the man from the outer office spoke through the comm unit on the desk and informed Mr. Tanaka "They're here."

 

He turned to Rose. "There has been a slight change of plans. My daughter and her friends will take you out shopping, and then back to the house." His tone was matter of fact, like something he could not conceive of anyone challenging. A part of her bridled at his presumption, but overall she just shrugged internally and went along with it. It sounded like a lot more fun than hanging around the office, though.

 

As she followed the driver into the outer office, she was surprised to see so many people there. The Brazilian was there, with two security types and a man who appeared to be his aide. So were a couple of women who seemed to be management types. The man from the outer office was behind his desk, as before. Mr. Tanaka and Yuko were behind her. And Aoi, Maki, and Kohaku were coming in through the outer door. Rose turned and half ran toward her friends.

 

Maki's face went from her "goin' shopping" grin to shock, and suddenly things were chaotic.

 

*Assassin!* Rose recognized the mental shout as Maki's.

 

Almost on top of that, someone yelled "Traitor!". Rose was spun around and knocked from her feet with a sharp pain in her shoulder. As she fell, the room seemed a chaos of flame, light, shouting, and movement. Then she hit one of the tables and slid to the floor with darkness closing in.

 

Her last conscious thought was "Not again!"

 

 End part 10

 

 

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

 


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