Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay

 

Part 12

 

Shielding sensitive information from a telepath is best done in layers. It helps to have some natural shields to begin with. Then the outermost conscious level - keep the information out, and fill it with a compelling, emotionally charged image. Preferably, one that is profoundly disturbing. In a pinch, one that is overwhelmingly attractive will do. Either way, it does two things: makes it believable that your mind keeps returning to (and dwelling on) the image, and makes it emotionally difficult for the telepath to push through that layer.

The next layer is the brief thoughts triggered by any questions or statements. The real trick there is to casually give some of the information that is being sought in a way that it is less than useful (downright counterproductive, if possible). Mixed in with that you have reactions to the circumstances and the relatively trivial questions, concerns, and observations that make up common mental "chatter". With a little bit of practice, any train of thought at that level will quickly lead back to the compelling image(s) of the outer layer.

Radar had taught her well, and Rose was prepared. Her mental image of her father being injured, his injury, a combination of his injury and the spike, and what could have been the consequences. These were heavily charged with her feelings of fear, loss, helplessness, and even abandonment. With the help of her new friends, she practiced new "hero names" and associated images for them. "Cutter" was the redheaded boy associated with an image of a flame cutting through metal. "Welder" had blue hair and an image of arc-welding metal. Green haired "Flora" was associated with images of plants moving at her command. And the taller, elegant, dark haired "Nightengale" with her healing, sometimes including a half remembered part about very short range for that power (or was that someone else?). Her mental images of their faces and bodies were blurry and indistinct, but their hair stood out.

Her hosts were just "Welder's Parents", with the generic "adults I don't really know" features common to early teen perceptions.

On the other hand, her images of her American friends - especially the winged form of Captain Peeper - were more clear and detailed. As were those of home and her family.

The police request to use a telepath as part of their questioning was pretty much pro forma. She was a foreign morf who had disappeared and reappeared under suspicious circumstances and eluded detection for almost all of the time she was gone. They were going to probe her. Her power's reading of their statements and questions left no doubt.

Even after the warnings and preparation, the interview was rough. It was clear to Rose that the woman didn't want to believe her.

Where had she been? After a brief time in the city, at Welder's house. Where is that? she didn't really know. Her new friends guided her, and she couldn't read any signs or the like. And she was overcome by the events leading up to the time she was going there. And those events ran right back into her father's injuries under (she imagined) similiar circumstances.

What happened? The gas in the office was fairly clear in her mind. Waking up by the unconscious men was a little more fuzzy and disjointed. Running away, with CP's help, was more like a movie than a personal experience. And that blended into the Captain telling her about her father and from there into the injuries.

Taking a train to an unfamiliar part of the city, hoping to lose whoever sent the men, was a frantic blur. Imagined scenes of the kidnappers showing up in the train brought her back to the attack on her father.

Finding the teens was colored with uncertainty, then relief. They were complete strangers, but they were willing to help her. Images of shopping for clothes and makeup for her disguise had the incomprehensible writing (such as the shop names) blurred to unreadable. Hands helping her with the makeup and the unfamiliar styles of clothes were clearly female, but otherwise somewhat generic - truth be known, she wasn't all that clear who did what when it happened. Images of makeup being applied around her eyes reminded her of her father's eyes and the injury. She never got beyond fairly generic images of the clothes and makeup, so any other details of the disguise were lost.

Questions about the teens brought brief, rehersed images of Cutter, Welder, Flora, and Nightengale. But the first thought of Nightengale brought her back to her father's injuries and the frantic hope that someone like Nightengale could heal him.

Taking a train to somewhere near Welder's house was intercut with images of men in suits everywhere, and imagined images of them pulling guns, knives, swords, or other weapons and attacking her and her helpers. Which always brought her back to her father's injuries.

The questioning seemed to go on for hours. They asked the same questions over and over again, in different orders. They also asked her about her home and her family, which seemed to be designed to elicit some responses they could use to calibrate their interpretation of her more relevant answers.

On the other hand, what she got from them - mostly indirectly - was more interesting. Her disappearance was a problem for some of the police. Pressure had been applied from high places to find her. Others were upset at a juvenile alien morf running around without proper escort. She had probably violated several laws in the process. So had her helpers and hosts, who she "couldn't" properly identify.

In the end, the facts that her powers were considered innocuous and that she hadn't apparently caused or gotten into trouble counted very much in her favor. So was the fact that her disappearance started with a kidnapping attempt. She was advised, however, that it would probably be a good idea to cut her visit short once her father was discharged. She barely needed her abilities to be certain that it was not a mere suggestion.

So much for tourist stuff and shopping trips.

They asked her whether she had somewhere to stay, and she told them that she assumed the room her father had rented for them at the hotel was still there. But she had promised her father she would wait by his bed while he rested and recovered. With all that had happened, she tearfully explained, she couldn't stand to be separated from him again. She put every bit of her ability into communicating the vital necessity of staying there.

After all that, they let her stay in the room and returned her things to her. As they left, she reflected on the

advantages of being thought of as a young girl. Sometimes.

*Bravo!* came a familiar mental voice.

*Maki? Are you sure I'm not still being monitored?*

*Doesn't feel like it. She "listened" for a couple more minutes after they left, then went on to other things. I can still sort of listen to her if I'm "quiet" while I do it.*

*Doesn't she have shields?*

*Yes. Very good ones, too. But when she actively probes someone, I can passively recognize her and get some feel for what she is doing.*

Something about that made Rose a little suspicious. *How long have you known her?*

*Oops! I have known her my whole life... she's my aunt.*

*Telepathy runs in the family?*

*Maybe. She's the only other one I know about, though.*

*I probably won't have a chance to say goodbye properly to the others. Could you do the honors?*

*Sure thing. Say hi to the angel for us when you get back.*

*You got it.* Rose smiled, as she felt her new friend's mind withdraw.

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The policewoman smiled discretely in satisfaction. Her neice didn't know as much as she thought she did about the tricks of the telepathic trade. She fingered the silver pin on her collar which identified her as an official psi, as she thought about what she had learned.

The girl was good. Between her natural shields - which she had made a show of lowering as much as she "could" when she agreed to the telepathic probe - and her obviously learned mental disciplines, there was not a scrap of useful information from the interrogation connecting her with the people who really helped her. If she hadn't recognized the combination (disguised as they were) and been suspicious, she would never have guessed who they were. She particularly liked the touch of using images of her neice moving plants with her TK as a misdirection for the nature of her powers.

But now she had to decide what to do about it. Her initial report about her observations from the interrogation was still valid, as far as it went. And knowing who the girl was really involved with satisfied her that she was in good hands while she was off the grid, and was neither causing trouble nor in trouble.

Tanaka San might be a ruthless businessman, but he was honorable, wise, and loyal to the country.

Her only question was what part the girl played in the events at his office. Superficially, the reports seemed to indicate that she wasn't even there. But the whole group of friends was there, and where they were concerned it was best not to take anything at face value. She had no doubt that his bio elemental protoge was capable of completely changing the girl's appearance. In fact, that would explain some parts of the girl's adventures.

On the other hand, all the significant players were clearly identified. The most likely candidate was the girl who was hit by a ricochet. She was clearly identified as being of Japanese heritage, but there was no indication that she was questioned. And her only apparent role in the events was getting knocked over by a glancing blow from a stray bullet.

In the end, she saw no reason to change her initial report. Even in the wrong hands, the report would do no harm to the relatively blameless parties (including her neice), while preserving the evidence concerning the real attacks.

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The police were back a few hours later, with questions about an attack on some business offices. At first, she was confused. Her powers, such as they were, clearly had nothing to do with the attack. And the businesses had nothing to do with her father's company as far as she knew.

The connection was more disturbing.

Between what was said (both true and false) and what was asked, a picture began to emerge. An ugly picture. The victims of the attack were known or suspected of being associated with an ultra-nationalist group. A group that had become increasingly violent lately.

The group responsible for a runaway truck in Denver, an attack on the office of a certain Mr. Tanaka, and the attack which injured her father. Among other things. Among other very bad things. And they thought that she might know something about all that - something they didn't know.

But she didn't. She didn't know that the quiet words Mr. Tanaka had spoken to his assistant had resulted in a strike of near-surgical precision, taking out critical links in the chain of command of the ultranationalists and sending them the clear message that they had gone too far. Or that it had done so in a way that would not be connected to him or his, although that part would not have surprised her.

Nor did she know that he had not been the only target of that group to survive and take action. The other companies who had been unsuccessfully targeted - and some which had lost key people in the attacks - had not coordinated their responses with each other or with Tanaka's people. The result was a widespread attack that could not be traced to anyone.

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Rose found herself back home early on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, her body - still on Tokyo time - thought it was very early Monday morning. After getting the welcome home treatment from the rest of the family, the two travelers retreated to their bedrooms, took their medicine, and stretched out on their beds to reset their inner clocks to Colorado time.

When she woke up, she realized their mistake. It was Sunday night, and she would need to go to sleep again all too soon. Tomorrow would be a school day, and she just knew her parents would make her go. And thinking about school reminded her about one other thing - homework.

She had done some of the assignments from Thursday and Friday while she was sitting with her father.

The apparently ordinary tablet she was using had gotten a looking over by the police while she was

being questioned, then returned to her. She had been assured that there was little or nothing about it to attract their attention, when the cyberpath receptionist/assistant to "Welder's father" had given it to her. The real "magic" would happen when she sent the files to the innocuous address he had supplied. The assignments would end up in the right computers at the school with time stamps and electronic trails proving that they had been done, sent, and received at appropriate times.

Her half hearted request that he create the files while he was at it was met with appreciative laughter and instant dismissal. If anything, their culture was more concerned with homework - and doing it properly - than her school was. And since the homework was mostly aimed at test preparation, she would only have been hurting herself. Still, a girl has to try.

She had given some thought to getting out of some of the assignments. Some teachers might accept the copies of the police report concerning her kidnapping (one in English, one in Japanese) as an excuse, but she was pretty sure she knew one that wouldn't. She suspected that teacher would hesitate to accept a death certificate as an excuse.

She sure hoped Lena was right about the limited impact of middle school grades.

*I am. Welcome home!* came a familiar mental voice. *I won't ask you how it went. David filled us in. He probably gave himself way too much credit, but what can you do? Boys!* Rose could almost see Lena rolling her eyes.

*I missed you. And he was a very big help, even if he did pop in while two of us were taking a bath.*

*Captain Peeper rides again, huh?* there was a clear laugh behind the thought.

Switching gears, Lena went on. *I'd better leave you to your homework. Do your best, but don't kill yourself. You've been through enough. "Call" if you need anything.*

*Bye. And thanks.* Rose responded.

A little over an hour later, she was finished with the homework and makeup work (for the missed in-class material from Thursday and Friday) and sent it off to the magic address. She spent a few minutes writing notes to Aoi and Yuko, thanking them for their help and letting them know she was home, and asking

them to let the others know. After sending them to another magic address, to keep them from connecting her with the Tanakas, she got things ready for school and got ready for bed.

While she would have liked to spend a little time with her mother and sister, they were going to bed early

because of their full schedules for the next day. And her father was in the same state she was. She didn't feel like watching the local news - what could have happened in the few days she was gone? She lifted her egg out of its cradle with only a hint of jealousy that Aoi's had the function her's didn't, and settled in to watch some of the vids she had downloaded to it.

Soon she drifted off to sleep, without the benefit of knowing what the weather was doing for her.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the snow had intensified and - combined with the near-zero temperatures and high winds - caused a number of effects. The one she might have slept better for knowing was that her school - and Tara's - were closed for a snow day. She could sleep in. Even better (from her point of view), her mother's office was similarly closed. Her father was officially on sick leave, so the whole family had some time to enjoy being together again.

On the other hand, she might not have slept as peacefully if she knew the somewhat horrific way the snow had saved her life and those of her family. Even in the morning, when they were enjoying the morning news (with its verification of their snow day), the story of the accident didn't mean anything to her. The combination of patches of black ice on road surfaces and blowing snow caused a spectacular chain reaction accident. Even the normally elevated traffic had been at surface level due to the winds, congesting the roads more than some people expected. While it was unclear what started the events, the final tally was a dozen vehicles damaged or destroyed, and a loss of life they still didn't have a final count for. One reason for the uncertainty was the fact that a part of the chain involved a passenger vehicle colliding with a chemical tanker and the combination exploding. There was an eight foot wide hole in the roadway, and the remains of three more burned vehicles had been removed from the scene.

The family agreed that it was a terrible accident, and hoped nobody they knew was involved. What they didn't know was the reason for the explosion. It was not, as they assumed, the chemicals in the tanker.

It was the bombs.

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Yakamoto was not a religious man. But he was beginning to wonder whether he should rethink that position. With events going so badly, surely some force beyond the natural - beyond even the powers of the morfs - must be involved. There were the amateurs who got in the way - and got caught - in their attempt to kidnap the elder daughter. Everyone was more alert after that, and their own mission was called off.

The Sword Of Divine Justice operation was worse than a disaster. Not only did most of the targets survive, but most of the agents were captured. Alive. And the resulting counterattack was devestatingly effective, taking out key parts of the leadership and the command structure, as well as a large part of their financial and material resources. They couldn't even target their attackers - the Sword had too many surviving targets and any of them (or any combination of them) could have launched the devastating attacks.

Without the high level coordination from home, he and his partner were left with only a contingency plan to execute. But even that plan called for help. Their partners were snowed in at the airport, under strict standing orders to avoid calling attention to themselves or their status as foreign morfs.

Without their help, the plan was reduced to its crudest form - destroy the targets' home. If possible, they would capture some or all of the family first. Otherwise, they would time it to catch as many of them as possible inside. Their shields were strong enough to keep any scrap of the plan from leaking out before or after they carried it out, and enough time had passed since the attempted kidnapping that their guard should be down somewhat.

The weather seemed to give them some advantages. They were much less likely to be spotted as they planted the devices. And the targets were less likely to come and go. But then the snow intensified, and they began to worry that they would not be able to see well enough to properly plant and arm the devices.

Yakamoto drove while his partner pre-armed the devices. It was a little more dangerous that way, but gave them more chance of success. As he made his way toward their destination, the snow grew more intense. There were moments when he couldn't even see the front of the car. and he wasn't alone in that - the road was filled with snow blinded motorists.

The thump of something hitting them from behind was startling, but not immediately alarming. He was well on his way to correcting his partial loss of control of their own vehicle when he saw the huge, dark bulk appear immediately in front of him... approaching at an alarming speed.

Any hopes for meaningful last words - or even some profound final wisdom - were crushed along with him in the collision with the tanker. His last thought was a half formed "What...?"

He wasn't even aware of the effect which followed, when the impact set off some of the bombs and they set off the rest. There wasn't enough of him (or his partner) left to care after that. And after the resulting fire and explosion of the tanker contents, there wasn't enough of their rental vehicle left to tell the authorities anything about the source of the initial explosion.

And their targets - Rose and her family - slept peacefully through the night, blissfully unaware of their narrow escape.

End part 12


 

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

 


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