Whisper (Chapters 31-35)
I start to follow Barb and Amanda, but I can’t leave my mom. I only get 20 meters before I stop and look back. My mom looks very brave and the dudes getting out of the Escalade look a little tougher than I expected. They are all sporting military style haircuts and are wearing bulky jackets that look like they have armor in them. Kind of like motorcycle jackets, which seems strange since they aren’t riding motorcycles. What I should I do?
>Mission Success Factor=95%
No! I can’t leave my mom. I have to help her! Even though my dad never sat me down and told me that it’s my duty to protect my mom, that duty is just something that has always been understood. When Dad isn’t available, it’s my job to protect my family. A new window pops up in my HUD.
>New mission parameters accepted...
>Assessing Enemy Target threat ratings...
>Assigning enemy target priority...
“I’ll get the little mutie bitch while you all deal with the breeder!” Target_4 yells, exiting the front passenger door. His face is twisted with rage and hatred. I’ve never seen that in anyone before and it is more than a little intimidating. Plus, he has a nasty looking knife in his right hand.
The knife in his hand actually helps me focus. The knife, I can handle. I have performed tons of simulated self-defense drills with knife wielding opponents, but the prospect of actually doing that for real has me feeling a little frightened. Okay, more than just a little, a lot.
>Target_4 Weapon Identified!
>USMC OKC-3S Bayonet
Oh, that’s helpful to know, not. My vision switches to something that is a combination of low-light with thermographic. The thermographic part shows me that he is definitely wearing some kind of armored jacket because I can see large cool spots that cover all the more vulnerable parts of his upper torso. These bastards aren’t here by random chance. This is an ambush and that tells me what I have to do. I have to fight these assholes and that really pisses me off. Why couldn’t they have just left us alone?
>Administering Combat Stims
The fear and uncertainty fade, leaving me with only one thing; a calm fury. I have never felt this pissed, yet clear headed and rational at the same time. The only thing that matters to me is stopping all these assholes from hurting my mom.
They aren’t people. They are targets. The enemy target on an intercept course with me is just something that needs to be eliminated before I can proceed with the primary mission of protecting my mom.
Target_4 closes to within 10 meters of my current location before I respond to the threat. It looks like he and everything around me is moving in slow motion. I can’t help myself, I smile. I just feel so alive and in control. It’s like I’m playing Ghost Warrior at the store again.
I almost laugh when a look of confusion briefly flashes across the face of Target_4. He is running at me with his stupid knife out-stretched, like he expects me to run in panic at the sight of it or stand there and let him stab me with it.
Unlike my last combat mission, as I spring forward to engage the enemy, I remember to cast my Blur spell to help confuse him. The spell seems to help. He pauses for a nano-second as he tries to make sense of what he is seeing.
“What tha?” Target_4 asks as his knife hand moves forward in an unguided and desperate effort to stab me. I grab his wrist with my left hand to control his knife. It’s like, “dude, you’re moving so slow.” Then, I rotate my body counter-clockwise into him as I grab him just above his right elbow with my right hand and bend slightly at the hip to help kick him up and over me. He sails over me and I add to his momentum by using his arm to swing him like he is a baseball bat. His body slams into the parking lot. Unlike in class, I don’t try to go easy on him and pull my throw, but at the same time, I don’t use all my strength on him either. Not because I don’t want to, but because it would waste energy and slow me down by putting my body off balance for a few critical nanoseconds.
Again, it’s The Mission that’s important. Not my personal feelings or anger. Getting to my mom and protecting her is the only thing that matters. Anything that stops or slows me down will affect The Mission.
>Mission Success Factor=72%
>Agent Survival Factor=61%
Target_2 is watching me from between the driver’s side door and the Escalade while Target_1 has a hold on my mom’s left arm.
Target_2 looks surprised. “Holy shit! John!” He yells.
I guess that Target_4’s name is John. Not important, I am 20 meters away when I begin my run to intercept Target_1.
>Enemy Firearm detected.
>Enemy Target_2 priority rating altered.
>Mission Success Factor=63%
>Agent Survival Factor=52%
At 10 meters, Target_2 rushes to aim a gun at me through the open window of the driver’s side door.
>Target_2 Weapon Identified!
>Browning M1911A1 Caliber .45
He doesn’t have the weapon aimed anywhere near me when I duck under the window frame and punch into the open door with my shoulder. The impact of my body plus the extra full strength push of my shoulder catches Target_2 by surprise as the door he is hiding behind slams into him and knocks him into the Escalade’s door jamb. I hear his legs make a crunching sound as they are caught between the door and the running boards. The impact also knocks his weapon from his hand as he starts to crumple to the ground.
>Mission Success Factor=81%
>Agent Survival Factor=73%
With the driver’s door now mostly closed, I can see Target_3, the middle rear passenger starting to move out from behind the driver’s side rear passenger door while my system tracks Target_5, the passenger side rear enemy running around the back of the Escalade.
>Enemy Firearm detected.
>Enemy Target_3 priority rating altered
>Mission Success Factor=76%
>Agent Survival Factor=67%
Armor jackets and serious firepower, what is up with these guys?
>>Target_3 Weapon Identified!
>Benelli M4 Entry Shotgun
>Recalculating Mission Success Factors...
>Mission Success Factor=64%
>Agent Survival Factor=53%
That doesn’t sound good. Target_3 has his shotgun pointing down and into the ground. He looks startled by my arrival too. “Son of a bitch! She’s so fucking hard to see!” He yells as he starts to bring his shotgun up to fire it at me.
I should be peeing my pants right now. Whatever that “Combat Stim” thing is, it must be helping me somehow because this totally feels like a video game to me. All I need is my own gun to make it 100% like a video game. With my own gun, I could just snap a few shots at each target and save my mom. Just like in the sims, easy peazy.
I guess that I’ll just have to do this the hard way. It is a shame that I don’t have the time to grab the gun that Target_2 dropped, but fortunately for me, Target_3 is right handed and the rear passenger door is partially blocking his aim. He can’t just snap it straight up and fire it at me. He has to take a step to his left to clear the door before he can bring it fully to bear on me.
I use that extra fraction of a second to jump up and towards him, hands in the guard position; I tuck my legs up and into my chest to keep them from getting hit by the shotgun.
Target_3 fires the shotgun as I sail above the spot where he was pointing the thing when he reflexively pulls the trigger.
From the edge of my vision, I notice as Target_1 pushes my mom away from him and he reaches for something inside his jacket. I want to take advantage of the fact that he let go of my mom and eliminate him, but Target_3 has priority. As my jump takes me over Target_3’s still rising shotgun barrel, I lash out with a front snap kick to his face, hitting him square in his nose with the ball of my right foot. His head snaps back from the impact as blood flies from out of his very broken nose.
The shotgun fires one more time. I hear the sound of the shotgun pellets hitting the Escalade and based on the weapon’s firing arc, Target_2 may have been hit by friendly fire. I don’t have time to verify that condition because Target_5 has rounded the back of the Escalade and he is in a firing stance with his weapon mostly aimed at me. The only thing that was stopping him from firing at me sooner was the fact that Target_3 was between me and him and now that Target_3 is falling toward the ground while I am still up in the air, he has a pretty good shot at me.
>Enemy Firearm detected.
>Target_5 Weapon Identified!
>Browning M1911A1 Caliber .45
No shit, but the fact that I am about to be shot doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
“Brianna!” My mom screams in panic.
>Enemy Target_5 priority rating altered.
>Mission Success Factor=43%
>Agent Survival Factor=22%
That little bit of data is what bothers me. There isn’t a lot that I can do about getting shot, but I might be able to lessen the damage and retain some mission capability. Maybe even enough to still succeed with my primary mission. Based on the angle of his weapon, if he pulls the trigger right this nanosecond, he will hit me in my stomach, dead center. As I fall back to the ground, his aiming point rises to more critical portions of my upper torso. I twist and rotate my upper body to the left to try and reduce his odds of hitting a critical system. My feet hit the ground, straddling the fallen Target_3.
>Enemy hit detected!
>Right shoulder destroyed.
>Combat effectiveness reduced to 62%.
>Mission Success Factor=36%
>Agent Survival Factor=18%
The force of the impact spins me around, clockwise, but I don’t feel a thing. Destroyed? That sounds bad. How come that doesn’t happen in the movies? Shouldn’t I just have a little hole in my shoulder and only need to say “ouch” or something more R rated? Why is my shoulder “destroyed”?
>Damage consistent with Hollow-Point Ammunition
I can’t let him shoot me a second time. My right arm doesn’t want to respond to my commands, but I am still able to move the rest of my body. As Target_5 takes another half-step towards me, I continue the clockwise rotation that the hit to my shoulder started. Spinning on my left foot, I rotate my body out of his direct line of fire while performing a roundhouse kick with my right leg. I hit the side of his left knee with my right foot and as his knee starts to collapse, I transfer my weight into his knee, pushing my foot down and his knee into the pavement.
His weapon fires again, but this time the round flies harmlessly past me and ricochets off the pavement next to the Escalade. He starts to look up at me as I continue my clock-wise spin and I hit him in the side of his face with my left elbow. A few of his teeth and some blood spray out of his mouth as he begins to crumple to the ground, unconscious.
>Mission Success Factor=82%
>Agent Survival Factor=41%
Oh, that’s good. At least my success and survival chances have gone up now. Target_5 is no longer important to me as I scan for Target_1.
>Enemy Firearm detected.
>Target_1 Weapon Identified!
>Browning M1911A1 Caliber .45
Come on, assholes! What in the hell?
>Combat readiness increased to 63%.
>Mission Success Factor=72%
>Agent Survival Factor=15%
Nice, an entire 1% combat effectiveness increase there. Go-go Gadget nanites! The survival percentage has me a little worried, but now I am pretty sure that I can kick his ass even if he shoots me. It doesn’t matter if I die. As long as my mom is safe.
Target_1 has his weapon aimed right at me, but he’s hesitating.
I’m not. With my left hand, I reach down and pick Target_5 up by the back of his handy armored jacket. Using his body as a shield, I throw the unconscious Target_5 into Target_1 as I rush forward.
>Mission Success Factor=92%
>Agent Survival Factor=55%
Wow, now that is a good increase! Target_1 is knocked back by the impact of his buddy and as he hits the ground, his weapon is knocked out of his hand. He’s sprawled on his back and in that position, he’s going to be a little harder to grapple with now that my shoulder is worthless, but I think that I can still eliminate him pretty fast.
Target_1 confuses me. He is crying like a little baby. “I’m so so sorry! I didn’t mean to try and hurt you.” He says while looking up at me with something that looks suspiciously like love to me.
That doesn’t matter. He’s a threat. I need to eliminate the threat to have a 100% mission success factor. I jump on him with my left knee in his chest, stunning him the impact knocks the air out of him. My right foot to holds down his left arm. A knife hand strike to his throat should take care of him.
“Brianna! Stop!” My mom yells.
>Combat readiness increased to 64%.
>Mission Success Factor=87%
>Agent Survival Factor=95%
Now I am really confused. Why would my mom order me to stop? If I don’t eliminate Target_1, how can I have a successful mission? I look up to my mom. Her nose is bleeding. Did Target_1 hit her? Is that affecting her tactical assessment?
“I know that relationships caused by stressful situations never work out, but will you marry me?” Target_1 asks as he gasps for air as his eyes begin to tear up.
I look back down to Target_1. Something isn’t right. Why would he try to kill me, and then ask me to marry him? He isn’t making any hostile moves. I can still eliminate him.
“I’m sorry! Please forgive me my love.” Target_1 says.
Now I know that something isn’t right with him. He is clearly delusional. Maybe the stress of combat broke him or something. Whatever it is, it has eliminated him as a threat.
>Combat readiness increased to 65%.
>Total Mission Time: 15.02 seconds
>Critical Repairs in progress...
>Agent Survival Factor=100%
>Estimated Time to 100% combat readiness: 9.29 minutes
I stand and scan the area for additional threats. None of the other Targets are operational and it looks like Target_2 was hit by the shotgun. He has a huge hole in the side of his jacket and his body is already cooling. I still don’t feel anything. I think that I should be grossed out by the sight of the dead dude, but I’m not. He doesn’t seem real. None of this seems real to me. The only thing that is real to me is The Mission and my mom.
I drop my Blur spell. There is no reason to maintain it anymore. It seemed to provide some benefit, but I still got shot. Perhaps next time I should try further counter-measures. Now what do I do?
>Gather enemy intelligence
“Bree? What’s wrong with you?” My mom asks, sounding worried.
I look over to her. “I sustained damage to my right shoulder that initially reduced my combat readiness to 62%. Repairs are currently in progress. 100% combat readiness in 9.03 minutes.”
I turn back to Target_1. Thankfully, he has stopped crying. “Who are you and why did you attack us?” I ask him.
“I’m so so sorry! I didn’t know who you were! Please, forgive me my love!” He says, not really answering my question.
Has he been conditioned to resist direct questioning techniques? “Who are you and why did you attack us?” I ask him again.
Now he starts to cry again. “I know that you don’t know me, my love, but I’m David Gillespie. I don’t know why now, but I hated all muties for how they are planning on enslaving all of humanity. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to call you a mutie. Your name is Bree?” He asks, sounding contrite.
I didn’t know that getting a prisoner to talk could be so easy. “Yes, my name is Bree. Why did you attack us?”
“Brianna! What’s wrong with you? Why can’t I feel you?” My mom asks as I feel my body move. I look over and see that she has grabbed my right arm in an attempt to interrupt my interrogation of the prisoner. I look down at my hand. It is covered with blood, my blood. I still don’t feel any pain.
She lets go of my arm and recoils. “Oh my god, Brianna! I’m so sorry.”
How much blood did I lose?
Am I still bleeding?
>Negative. Surface layer external tissue damage repaired.
Oh, that’s good. I bet that my clothes are ruined, but I need to continue with the interrogation of the prisoner. I turn back to look at him. “Continue, please.”
“Oh, well, umm, my friends and I attacked you because we’re in Humanity First. One of our sympathizers called our hotline and reported your position. I can’t believe that I considered them my friends after what they tried to make me do to you!” David says as he starts to cry again.
My mom interrupts his debriefing. “Brianna Nicole! Stop this instant! What is wrong with you?”
I look back to her. “I told you. I sustained damage to my right shoulder that initially reduced my combat readiness to 62%...”
“Brianna! Stop it!” My mom orders.
She reaches for my left arm and studies my face for a second. “What is wrong with you? Why can’t I feel you?”
Feel me? I’m right here. I don’t understand. Her nose looks like it has stopped bleeding. Did she take damage elsewhere? Where are the police?
>Local Law Enforcement radio transmissions detected.
>Two vehicle based radio transmitters detected ~0.5 miles away.
>ETA 33.2 seconds.
“The police will be here in 33 seconds.” I say to her. Maybe they can help her.
Okay, intelligence gathered, now what?
>Report to command
Oh yeah. I should contact Mr. Reilly now.
>Attempting to connect....
“Mom, we need to notify command of our situation.” I say.
My question seems to help her focus, she stops crying. “Command? Who’s that?” She asks.
“Deputy Director Nicholas Reilly and President of United States are current recognized command authority figures.” I say.
My mom digs into her purse for her cell phone. “I can’t call the President and I don’t know Mr. Reilly’s number.”
I decide that it will probably be faster if I dial his number for her. I reach for her cell phone, but as my hand touches it; her cell phone opens up to me. I tell her cell phone to dial Mr. Reilly’s number. “Your phone is now dialing Mr. Reilly’s number.” I say, as I let go of her cell phone.
Mr. Reilly answers his phone in only two rings. “Nicholas Reilly speaking.” He says.
“Hello? Mr. Reilly? It’s Jennifer. We went to the Patrick Henry Mall with Barb and Amanda and someone from Humanity First attacked us on our way out. Brianna is acting weird, I don’t know what to do and Brianna says that the police will be here in 30 seconds!” My mom says, hysterically into her phone.
I check on the status of the police cars.
>Two vehicle based radio transmitters detected ~0.25 miles away.
>ETA Unknown. Position Stationary.
“The two police vehicles have stopped at approximately .25 miles away from our current position.” I say using my mom’s phone to provide Mr. Reilly with a current update.
“Whisper, what happened?” Mr. Reilly asks, using my codename.
“Sir, Five enemies in an Escalade SUV attacked us as we exited the mall. Current position is southwest parking lot. GPS location 37.110824, -76.496714. One enemy KIA via friendly fire, three disabled, status unconscious, one enemy detained for questioning. Humanity First affiliation confirmed by enemy combatant.” I say.
“Okay, Whisper. I need you to stand-down. Do not resist. The police are probably waiting for backup. They are probably going to be confused and nervous. Do you understand?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“Yes sir. Standing down.” I say.
>Suspending Combat Stim production...
“Oh my gawd! Bree!” Amanda says as she rushes in to give me a hug.
“Amanda! Stop!” Barb yells with has her cell phone up to her ear. She must be on the phone with the police still.
My legs suddenly feel like pudding as what just happened hits me full force. Amanda slows my descent as my legs collapse from under me. I end up sitting on my knees and butt. The only reason don’t fall completely over is due to Amanda’s hold on my left arm. She sinks to her knees beside me and pulls me close to keep me from falling over. My head is resting on her shoulder and I feel so tired.
“Oh no! Bree! You’re bleeding!” Amanda says as she rapidly removes her hand from my right shoulder.
For the first time since I was shot, I feel something from my shoulder. Pain, and pain is good. It means that I am still alive and the pain actually helps revive me, a little. I pull away from her and I am able to sit up under my own power, but I don’t think I am ready to try standing again.
Barb starts to speak again. “Yes ma’am. It looks like the five attackers are down. Umm, Bree beat them up. Umm, I don’t think that I can say. Yes ma’am, sorry. Oh, my daughter just ran to Bree. It looks like she has been shot. Please, can you send someone to help now?”
Amanda looks concerned. “Bree? Are you okay? Why aren’t you saying anything?” She asks.
I look at her and point to my head while silently saying “On the phone.” Amanda looks a little confused by that.
>Two vehicle based radio transmitters detected ~0.23 miles away.
>ETA 20 seconds...
“Sir, the two police vehicles are moving again. ETA 20 seconds.” I say as I start to feel a little pain from my shoulder.
“Okay. I have some calls to make. Just do what they tell you, but do not let them take you away.” Mr. Reilly says with a sigh.
“Yes sir, sorry sir. I didn’t mean to.” I say with a slight whine in my mental voice. My shoulder is really starting to hurt now and I’m starting to worry about what I just did.
“I know. That’s what Nikki says to me all the time too.” Mr. Reilly says with a soft sigh before he hangs up his phone.
The two police cars finally arrive. The officers look a little nervous as they exit their vehicles and draw their weapons. The drawn weapons cause my targeting system to lock on to them and identify them as Enemy Targets seven through ten.
“Yes, they are here now, thanks! Okay.” Barb says into her cell phone.
>Combat readiness increased to 68%.
>Estimated Time to 100% combat readiness: 8.57 minutes
>Resume Combat Stim production? [Y]/n
Umm, no thanks. The police aren’t enemies, I hope. I debate listening in on Barb’s conversion with the police, but she hangs it up after that. One of the officers from the second car has his shotgun out and is standing watch while his partner works with one of the officers from the first car to check on the fallen H1 dudes. The fourth officer is heading over to our location. He looks very concerned and hyper alert as he divides his attention between his fellow officers, the H1 dudes on the ground and the four of us.
“Are you ladies okay?” He asks while he looks a little closer at me.
Barb, Amanda and my mom all nod their heads as I divide my attention between him and the other two officers as they begin their inspection of the Escalade and the H1 dudes on the ground.
“Ma’am, have you been injured?” The officer asks, his eyes widen with surprise as I look up to him.
I glance down at my shoulder before looking back up to him. “Umm, yes. I was shot in my shoulder.” I say as calmly as I can. My shoulder is throbbing with pain, but it is also slowly starting to feel better. Like maybe, I went from a 10 to a 9.5 on the pain scale. I can’t believe that I didn’t feel it sooner. I look over at my mom and she is looking a little relieved by something.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” I ask, trying to ignore the nervous looking police officers. One of them has his gun out and that is setting off all kinds of alarms for me.
“I can feel you again.” She says with a slight smile.
“Oh, I guess it was the fight...” I say.
“Ma’am?” The police officer asks me again as he holsters his gun, takes out his flashlight and steps closer to me.
“Umm, sorry sir. I’m feeling a little bit of pain right now.” I say, understating how I am feeling by just a tad. The blood dripping down my arm and soaking my top is a little distracting, but I am glad that the bleeding has stopped.
>Local Law Enforcement radio transmissions detected.
>Three vehicle based radio transmitters incoming.
>ETA 37.6 seconds.
The radios attached to the officer’s vests update the officers here with the inbound help arriving and they visibly relax. I guess that the sight of one dead dude, plus three unconscious dudes and copious amounts of firepower lying around kind of spooks them a little.
“Holy shit!” One of the officers inspecting the Escalade says as he checks the back of the SUV.
“What is it, Banks?” The officer with the shot gun asks nervously.
“The back of this thing is fucking loaded with weapons, body armor and ammo!” He says, incredulously.
The officer’s eyes widen with surprise as shines his light on my shoulder. “Ma’am, you should be lying down. I can’t believe that you aren’t showing more signs of being in shock right now.” He says, incredulously.
Even with the police here, I don’t want to stay sitting on the ground. What if one of the H1 dudes wakes up and tries to attack me again? “Umm, except for the pain, I feel mostly okay.” I say as I try to sit up a little straighter in preparation for standing back up.
I look back over at Amanda. She looks extremely worried about me. “Umm, Bree?” She asks.
“Umm, can you help me a little?” I ask, looking to Amanda.
“Ma’am, you really shouldn’t try to stand right now.” The police officer says, frowning with concern.
“I’m okay...” I say as I cradle my right arm to keep it from moving and somehow find the strength to push myself up with my legs. Amanda decides to help me for the last bit and I find myself leaning a little against her after I am on my feet again.
The police officer frowns. “I hate to ask this, but I’m going to need to report the fact that an apparent mutant was involved here. Do you have your MID card?”
I glance to my mom. She doesn’t look happy. “I’m sorry sir, but I just manifested this weekend and I just started my Powers Testing today.” I say, feeling guilty and worried about not having my card yet. I’ve heard that mutants can get into a lot of trouble if they don’t have their card, but I’ve also heard that there is a small grace period for recently emerged mutants.
He smiles at me. “Oh, okay. If that is the case, I’m sure there won’t be a problem. Sorry, but I had to ask.” He says as he glances over to a shivering Amanda before looking over to my mom and Barb.
He turns to my mom and Barb. “Ma’am, it’s freezing out here. Do you all have any jackets?”.
>External temperature 38 degrees Fahrenheit
Okay, not freezing, but close. I don’t feel that cold, but I look over and I see that Amanda is starting to shiver. Using my left arm, I hug Amanda to me to help share some warmth. She stares at her blood soaked hand before turning back to me with tears in her eyes.
“Umm, back in the car.” My mom says.
“My new clothes and a sweater are lying back there.” I say with a glance to where I dropped my bags. I don’t even remember dropping them before I began my attack run.
Amanda isn’t sure what to about my blood on her hand. It doesn’t look like she got any of it on her clothes. I gently grab her hand and wipe it against my shirt. It’s ruined anyway. What’s a little more blood on it going to do? The pain has dropped some more and the estimated time to 100% combat readiness is now down to 8.3 minutes. I still can’t feel or move my right arm though.
“I’ll go get our jackets from the car.” Barb says as she turns to head back to her car.
Officer Heinricks, according to his uniform’s name tag, looks back to me. “So, umm, ma’am. It looks like you got tagged pretty good there and I am surprised that you even managed to stand. Do you have some kind of regen power or something?” He asks.
“I think so sir.” I say.
He nods his head. “Lucky. Okay, then well, the EMTs will be here in a minute or two. I will let them know to check on you. If you start to feel any worse, please let one of us know.”
“Yes sir.” I say.
Officer Heinricks turns to David, the H1 dude, with a stern expression. “You. Are you injured?” He asks without much sympathy.
“Umm, no sir and I’m really sorry.” David says, sounding very sincere.
An addition three police cars arrive with lights and sirens blazing. An ambulance is trailing behind them.
Officer Heinricks looks surprised by David’s response. “Okay, stand up, slowly and let’s get you into my cruiser.” He says as he watches David cautiously.
David stands and automatically raises his arms.
“Okay, turn.” Officer Heinricks says as he carefully frisks David for weapons. He finds a knife, some ammo, a cell phone and David’s wallet. After that, he places David in handcuffs and locks him in the back of his squad car. He speaks with some of the new officers and I see him pointing in my direction a few times. The first EMT’s start working on the more seriously wounded H1 dudes.
>Active CDMA Signal from device: Jennifer Peters <555-123-9909> Incoming call from Nicholas Reilly <555-333-0333>
I answer her phone before it rings.
“Whisper here.” I say.
“Whisper? Where is your mom?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“Oh, she’s here, but I answered it before it started ringing. I wasn’t sure if you wanted the police to know that we are talking.” I say.
“Oh, good call. What is the current status?”
“Well, three additional police cars have just arrived and one ambulance. Six additional officers are now here.” I glance over at the Humanity First enemies. Yep, the driver is definitely dead. “One of the enemy is dead, one is regaining consciousness, two are still out and until Officer Heinricks put him in the back of his car, the other one wouldn’t stop telling me how sorry he is for attacking me. I have no idea what his malfunction is. Maybe my mom did something to him?” I say.
Mr. Reilly groans. “Great, that’s all we need right now. Please tell me that the MCO haven’t arrived.”
“Umm, no sir. I have not detected any additional, umm, enemy forces, but Officer Heinricks did ask me about my MID card.” I say, counting the MCO as an enemy. Not sure if they are or not, but Mr. Reilly’s tone of voice and stress gauge seems to indicate that he doesn’t like them.
Mr. Reilly sighs into his phone over my last bit of data.
>Emergency Vehicle radio transmissions detected.
>Three vehicle based radio transmitters incoming.
>ETA 27.8 seconds.
“Correction. Three more ambulances are incoming. ETA 27 seconds.” I say.
“Okay. The Air Force is scrambling a copter for me and I managed to convince the President’s Chief of Staff that this is a problem and a Federal issue due to the Humanity First involvement. Hate crime and terroristic threats and all that, so the FBI are in route to take over.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Reilly.” I say with a slight quiver in my voice. I sure have caused a lot of trouble and all I did was go shopping at the mall. It is now official. I hate malls.
Mr. Reilly sighs. “It’s not your fault.” He says with a gentle tone. “If the MCO get there before the FBI or I do, do not let them trick the local police into taking you into custody.”
“Okay, my ride is here. Hang in there. I’ll let be there as soon as I can. Reilly out.” Mr. Reilly says just before he hangs up his phone.
I turn to my mom. “Mom, Mr. Reilly is on his way.” I say in a low tone to keep the police from knowing. Not sure why I think that I need to keep that a secret, but her face relaxes just a little as she nods her head.
Barb returns with my mom’s, Amanda’s and her jacket. I didn’t have one, but she has the bag with my new clothes in her hand. The police have the entire area cordoned off and each of the H1 dudes has an EMT and a police officer working on them. The shotgun dude is moaning in pain and complaining about his nose, but the others are still out. The EMTs from the fourth ambulance are directed by Officer Heinricks to finally check on me. He follows the EMT dude.
The EMT’s eyes widen with shock at the sight of my blood soaked shoulder and limp arm. “Ma’am? Are you hurt?” He asks.
I glance down to my shoulder. “Umm, yeah. That dude over there,” I say, pointing with my eyes to the guy currently being loaded onto a stretcher. “,shot me with a hollow-point .45 caliber at one meter. Hurts like crazy right now.”
Officer Heinricks jumps a little at that, shakes his head and mutters with disbelief.
“Let’s get you over to the rig so I can check you out.” He says before he turns back to look at the female EMT standing near their ambulance. “Jess! Can you bring me the stretcher? We have a possible gunshot wound here.”
“Umm, I think I can walk over there.” I say.
“That’s okay ma’am. I’m surprised that you’re even standing right now. I don’t want to take any chances. You must have gotten lucky and just been grazed by the bullet.” The EMT says.
I know that I wasn’t just grazed. What was hit in there?
>Scapula and Glenohumeral Joint damaged - Repairs Underway
>Additional Soft tissue damage - Repairs Underway
>Internal bleeding - Contained
>Estimated Time to 100% combat readiness: 6.03 minutes
“Oh no sir. My scapula and my glenohumeral something were damaged along with some other stuff.” I say as the EMT’s eyes grow even larger.
Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. He looks skeptical as the rolling stretcher thing arrives. I cradle my right arm and wince a little as the two EMTs help me lay down on the bed. My fingers twitch a little and I can feel part of my hand now. My mom follows as they push me to the ambulance. I glance back to Amanda and Barb has her daughter wrapped in her arms as Amanda sobs. I smile at Amanda to try and show her that I’m fine, but I’m not sure if she gets the message because she tries to break her mom’s hug and follow me. I can’t believe that she is so worried about me. Really, we just met. Her concern for me starts to make me feel like crying.
My mom glances back at Amanda before looking back down at me as she walks beside the stretcher. She smiles. “I’m really glad that you’re back, Bree. I was really worried about you.”
I don’t get a chance to reply. I’m pushed into the back of the Ambulance and the two EMT’s immediately begin to cut away my blood soaked shirt. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It is ruined and it was actually one of my favorites. My bra strap is cut next.
Crap, not my bra too! Crap! I can’t believe that I just thought that!
With my bra strap out of the way, the female EMT squirts some sterile saline water onto my shoulder to wash the blood away. “I thought you said that you were shot?” The male EMT asks, confused.
I look down and except for a red mark; my skin is completely smooth where the bullet hit me. “Umm, I was.” I say, just a little confused myself. I know that I can regenerate and my nanites have even been kind enough to provide me with repair times, but it is different when I can actually see myself heal.
“Are you a regenerator?” Jess, the female EMT, asks.
“I guess so? I’m not sure. Today was my first day of testing.” I say.
Jess looks up to her partner. “Well, Dan, I guess that explains that.” She says before turning back to me. “You’re lucky, but unfortunately, you will probably need to see a doctor at some point to get the bullet removed.”
I just nod my head in agreement. I don’t think that I should tell her that my nanites have already eaten the bullet.
Jess sighs. “Well, your top and bra are destroyed. Do you have anything else to wear?”
I look over to my mom, who is hovering anxiously by the back door. She holds the Aerie bag up. “Yes, we have some tops in here for her.” She says.
Where is the Victoria’s bag is with my new bras? My mom opens the bag and the pink Victoria’s bag is stuffed inside. Awesome.
“Okay, Dan. Why don’t you go check on the H1’s while I get her cleaned up so that she can get some fresh clothes on?” Jess says.
Dan nods as he steps down and bag in hand, my mom steps up and into the back of the ambulance with the two of us. Dan closes the doors behind him. Jess peels off the rest of my top by just cutting it the rest of the way down the right side and removes my bra. Placing both into a clear plastic bag with bio hazard symbols on them.
My nipples pop out and embarrassed, I cover myself with my left hand and arm. These things are so much more noticeable and sensitive than they were before my change. Thankfully, Jess doesn’t even react to my display as she quickly and efficiently cleans all the blood off my skin. I guess that she has had a lot of experience with that. I am able to make a fist and even move my arm a little by the time she is done.
My mom digs out one of my new bras and I wince a little as Jess carefully helps with my bra. My shoulder is still rather tender, but the pain is now down to a five. Even with the pain, I have never felt so relieved to be wearing a bra. My new thermal top thing is way nicer than my old top. If I get blood on this and ruin it, I’ll be pissed.
I still have some blood on my jeans, but it’s dried and I don’t wanna mess with them now. For some reason, what really upsets me are my new boots. They have a few scuff marks on them. My mom helps me climb down from the back of the ambulance and as I do, I see two black SUVs rapidly threading their way to us right now. They must be the FBI. I hope they are, anyway.
I spot Barb and Amanda both speaking to a police officer. He has a notepad out and he is writing stuff down. I guess that they are giving him their statements. The two SUVs roll to a stop 100 meters away. Seven men and one woman wearing blue jackets with big yellow FBI letters emblazoned on them exit the vehicles. One of the police officers points toward my ambulance after briefly using his radio.
Three of the FBI agents detach from their group and head towards me, while the rest work their way towards the Escalade.
Their CAC IDs give them away. I think that the government needs to do something about those RFID cards, but it is kind of handy for me.
Special Agent Gilbert steps forward with a frown as the other two agents fall back a few steps. “Hi, I am Special Agent Gilbert, Counter Terrorism Unit, FBI.” He quickly glances back to his two partners before returning his attention to me. “And behind me are Agents Cheney and Crawford. You must be The One that I know so little about, but I’m supposed to take care of.” He says as he looks me up and down, as if judging how much of a threat I might make.
My mom’s hand tightens protectively on my left shoulder as I feel myself blushing from embarrassment. “Umm, sorry?” I say, looking up to him with my best pathetic girl expression, but I’m not sure how good I am at that expression. I’m kinda new to this.
It must work. He shifts a little uncomfortably. “Yes, well, the update from the local PD indicated that you had been injured.” He glances from me and up to Jess, who is standing anxiously inside her rig. “How is she?” He asks Jess.
“Well, based on her clothing, she lost a fair amount of blood, but she appears to have some good regen, so I really can’t say.” Jess says, shrugging her shoulders.
Special Agent Gilbert looks back to me. “Do you feel up to walking back to my vehicle so we can get started on your statement?” He asks as the sound of helicopters entering the area become hard to ignore.
He pauses and follows my gauze as I spot two Black Hawk helicopters fly in and rapidly enter a hover on either side of the parking lot. The first one is 150 meters east and near to the FBI vehicles while the second is 200 meters west of my location. Ropes are hanging down and soldiers dressed in full combat gear rappel down. I think that it’s pretty damn cool to watch and I hope that I will get a chance to try that someday. As soon as all the men from the second helicopter are down, the copter peels rapidly away. The first helicopter flies slowly towards a large open spot in the parking lot and begins to descend with one of the soldiers using a flashlight to help direct the copter into a safe landing.
“Well, it looks like my team isn’t the only people who got some love tonight.” Special Agent Gilbert says with amusement as he watches the first copter’s blades begin to slow.
I zoom in and watch as Mr. Reilly, Dr. Edmundson and some guys partially dressed in hazmat suits exit the helicopter. He turns back to me with a calculating expression. “You wouldn’t happen to know why two of the Air Force’s Combat Search and Rescue teams would be here and who those people are would you?”
I have a few ideas, but I’m pretty sure that most of them are classified. “Umm, well, the guy in the suit, carrying the briefcase and looking a little upset with me is DARPA Deputy Director Reilly and the man behind him is Dr. Edmundson from the, umm, I’m not sure if I can say, sir.”
Agent Cheney gasps with surprise as she tries to make out all the details I just mentioned. “How can you see all that?”
“Umm, that’s probably classified?” I say, hesitantly, wincing a little as I accidentally try to shrug both of my shoulders. It doesn’t hurt as much as I expected.
Special Agent Gilbert snorts with disbelief. “Well, I have no idea who you know, but I do know that whoever it is, they have a shit load of pull! I’ve never seen this kind of response before.”
“Umm, well, that would be Mr. Reilly sir.” I say as we all start to walk back towards their vehicle. Special Agent Gilbert walks with me and my mom while the other two trail slightly behind.
“Okay, so, how would the Deputy Director of DARPA have so much pull?” Special Agent Gilbert asks rhetorically.
“Well, I’m pretty sure that he had to call the President or something right after I called to tell him about being attacked by the H1 dudes.” I say.
Special Agent Gilbert misses a step as he looks over to me with surprise. I look up to him and out of the side of my eye, I catch Agent Cheney and Agent Crawford exchange a nervous glance with each other. “Really?” Special Agent Gilbert asks, speculatively.
I nervously nod. Should I have told him that? We get 40 meters from the FBI’s vehicle when Mr. Reilly and Dr. Edmundson spot us and alter their course to meet us.
I can’t read Mr. Reilly’s expression as he approaches us. He must be pretty pissed at me though. I take a half-step back and get closer to my mom. Mr. Reilly briefly frowns at me before returning his focus on Special Agent Gilbert and his team. Crap, he is pissed at me.
Mr. Reilly extends his hand to Gilbert. “Hi, DARPA Deputy Director Nicholas Reilly. Are you Special Agent Gilbert?” He asks as he shakes hands with Gilbert.
“Yes, sir. Pleased to meet you, but I am a little surprised about all of this.” Gilbert says, glancing around as the hazmat team approaches us.
“Yes and so am I.” Mr. Reilly says before he turns to me with a stern parental type expression.
“I’m sorry Mr. Reilly; I didn’t plan on this happening.” I say, looking around to take in all the activity. The realization of all the trouble I have caused makes me cringe a little. The scope of our little trip to the mall has really increased, a lot.
Mr. Reilly surprises me by smiling at me. “Oh, I know. Nikki tells me the same thing, but it doesn’t help. I think that you are going to be just like her, a trouble magnet.”
Dr. Edmundson joins Mr. Reilly. “Sir, we need to get started on the de-con.” He says, looking around at all the police officers and EMTs with concern.
De-con? What do they need to decontaminate? Dr. Edmundson looks at me. I am still cradling my shoulder. “Umm, Bree, I understand that you were shot. Where did you get shot at and did you get your blood on anything?” He asks.
Oh, crap. “Umm, I was shot over there.” I say, pointing with my left arm toward the Escalade before turn to look back to the ambulance. “But, Jess cleaned me off in there and she bagged my top.”
Dr. Edmundson looks behind him and at the team of folks wearing hazmat suits. “Okay, guys, start with the ambulance, then over there. Make sure you get all the blood up.”
He leaves with the team and another black SUV pulls into the parking lot. This one has the logo for the Department of Paranormal Affairs (DPA) emblazoned on the doors.
Mr. Reilly and the FBI folks watch as two guys wearing suits get out of the SUV and look around. Mr. Reilly sighs. “Well, I guess that we should get this over with. Bree, Special Agent Gilbert here and the DPA will probably want to take both you and your mom’s statements, but I want to make sure that we leave out any of the more classified aspects of this incident.”
“Umm, yes sir.” I say, nodding my head as I look around at the FBI agents to see how they are taking the news. They don’t look as surprised as I expect them to look.
The DPA agents meet us at the rear of the FBI’s SUV where my mom and I give them our official statements regarding what happened. The DPA guy frowns a little about the fact that I don’t have an MID or MMID yet, but Mr. Reilly explains to him that I am still being tested by the Department of Defense and that I am also in the process of having my application to that Whateley place fast-tracked by the Department of Defense. I notice that he doesn’t mention the President, at all.
We are just finishing up when my attention is drawn to a white police style sedan that just rolled through the police cordon. This one has the MCO’s official seal on the doors, but what drew my attention to it was the fact that I detected some encrypted radio communications between it and some additional vehicles. Also, based on their replies, those vehicles appear to be stationary and located half a mile away. I point out the vehicle and mention to Mr. Reilly the additional signals I detected.
He purses his lips and does not look happy as he follows the progress of the MCO vehicle as it makes a beeline for us.
Two men get out of the car and casually stroll over to us, looking friendly with smiles plastered on their faces. When they are 20 meters away, I detect their cell phones and I notice that they have active blue tooth connections open with multiple devices. That’s not normal. A blue tooth headset is one thing, but neither of them is wearing a headset. I focus my attention closer and I notice that they each have a pen in their front breast pockets that is transmitting audio data via blue-tooth and their glasses are emitting the same bandwidth of infra-red that video cameras use for their auto-focusing lenses.
“Umm, sir.” I pull on Mr. Reilly’s sleeve to get him to lean down so I can whisper in his ear. He bends down as he cautiously keeps his eyes on the MCO agents. “They have glasses with video and the pens in the pockets are bugs that are talking to their cell phones via blue-tooth.” I say, whispering in his ear as I keep my eyes on them.
Mr. Reilly straightens back up. “Hmmm, can you jam the video?” Mr. Reilly asks after a second of thought.
I shake my head no. I might be able to do something with the pens by jamming their blue-tooth signal, but I don’t detect a signal coming from their glasses.
“Okay. Why don’t you stay out of sight as much as possible? Maybe try to stay behind me.” Mr. Reilly says.
“Hey, Agent Finlayson! What’s the DPA and the FBI doing here?” The leading MCO agent asks with a smile as he looks at the lead DPA agent.
Agent Finlayson gives Mr. Reilly a quick glance. “Oh, nothing much. Just following standard procedures for dealing with a possible hate crime or terrorist group attack involving a mutant. What brings you here Agent Lainer?”
Agent Finlayson’s glance at Mr. Reilly draws the MCO dude’s attention to Mr. Reilly for a brief second. “Oh, you know, the same. I heard about the attack and the fact that the mutant in question might not have an MID, so I thought I’d swing by and lend a hand.” Agent Lainer says with a fake smile as his voice stress meter hits the low yellow range.
“Oh, that’s a shame because we are just wrapping things up here. Sorry that you wasted the trip.” Agent Finlayson says without any sincerity in his voice. The MCO and DPA guys must not like each other very much.
The MCO dude ignores the fake sincerity and pretends that it was sincere. “Oh, that’s okay. That just makes my job easier. Where’s the suspected mutant so that I can either verify her MID or take her into protective custody for you all?” Agent Lainer asks, still smiling as his stress meter hits the upper yellows.
Crap. Now, I’m not feeling good at all. He can probably see me behind Mr. Reilly. He has got to know that I am here, but this polite game of his is so annoying. I look over to my mom and she doesn’t look very happy right now either. I debate trying to use an illusion to change my appearance, but the police have probably already mentioned what I look like. So, doing that would just give my illusion power away to the enemy and my mom wouldn’t be happy with me either.
My mom shakes her head no. Can she read minds now too? How did she know what I was thinking? “I know.” I silently mouth back to her.
Mr. Reilly chooses that moment to break into the conversation. “Agent Lainer?” He asks as he steps forward to shake hands with Agent Lainer. Agent Lainer automatically responds by returning the gesture. “Hi, I’m Nicholas Reilly with the Department of Defense. I believe that I can help answer the missing MID problem.”
Agent Lainer appears a little surprised by Mr. Reilly and I notice that Mr. Reilly didn’t really identify himself. “Oh, you can? That would be helpful. I never like having to take a mutant into protective custody.” His stress meter hits the red there. I think that he’s lying. Agent Lainer and his partner are both trying to sneak glances my way, but I manage to keep other people in front of me or closer to them to prevent their glasses’ auto-focus emitter beam from getting a direct line of sight picture of me.
Mr. Reilly smiles at his assertion as he opens his briefcase and digs out a manila envelope with “TOP SECRET” stamped in red on the front and back of it. The MCO guys forget about trying to get a good shot of me as they focus all of their attention on that envelope.
“Now, understand that I’m only showing you this to help you perform your duties. If any word of the contents of this envelope get out, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent under United State’s espionage laws.” Mr. Reilly says.
Now, I really want to know what is in that envelope myself.
He pulls out a small plastic smartcard with an orange border. I can see that the card has my picture with my code-name on the front with some barcode and official looking hologram. Mr. Reilly hands the MCO agent my card and the agent studies the front of it.
“It was issued today?” He asks, skeptically.
Mr. Reilly nods and smiles at his reaction.
“An MMID?” Agent Lainer asks as he turns the card over to look at the back of it. He scowls with anger as he reads the back of the card.
What is he seeing that is making him so mad?
“Classified? How in the hell can everything be fucking classified?!” He asks, not even bothering to try and disguise his anger.
“It’s an MMID Agent Lainer. If you wish, you are welcome to use your scanner to verify its authenticity.” Mr. Reilly says.
Agent Lainer mask of politeness slips back over his features as he hands Mr. Reilly back my MMID card. “I’m sorry. I guess that I have what I need here. Sorry to delay your investigation Special Agent Gilbert.” He says as he turns to walk back to his car. Before he leaves, he makes one more attempt to get a good look at me. The glare he sends my way does not make me feel warm and fuzzy about the MCO.
It isn’t until he and his partner drive away that everyone starts to relax.
Mr. Reilly turns to Agent Gilbert and Agent Finlayson and shakes each of their hands. “Thanks for coming. I’ll make sure to thank your bosses and express my appreciation.”
“Not a problem, sir. I dislike the MCO and don’t trust them one bit. Anything I can do to make their lives miserable is a good thing for me.” Special Agent Gilbert says with a pleased smile.
Mr. Reilly then turns and gives my mom and me the bad news.
“Okay, now we need to get you back to the facility for more tests. I’m afraid that it’s going to be an all-nighter tonight.”
My mom is looking a little tired and I’m feeling a little mentally exhausted myself. I was really looking forward to just getting back to our room and taking a shower. “I’m sorry sir.” I say as I start to follow Barb and Amanda back to their car.
“Bree? Where are you going?” Mr. Reilly asks.
I turn back, feeling confused. “Umm, with Barb?”
“Oh no. I’m not letting you out of my sight. You and your mom are riding with me in the Black Hawk.” Mr. Reilly says.
I can’t believe that I’m going to get to ride in a helicopter! “Really?” I ask, trying not to smile.
A smile escapes from Mr. Reilly. “Yes, really.”
Sa-weet! John is going to be so freaking jealous when he finds out. A freaking Black Hawk!
I glance over to Barb and Amanda. Amanda looks a little anxious. “Can Amanda come with us?” I ask.
Barb answers for Mr. Reilly. “I’m sorry Bree, she can’t. It’s a school night, it’s very late and she still has homework to do.”
Amanda does not look happy. “Moomm! Like I’m going to be able to go to school tomorrow anyway. I can’t do my homework now and even if I could, there is like no way that I’m going to be able to concentrate without worrying about Bree all day.”
“I’m sorry, but there is only going to be room for Mrs. Peters and Bree.” Mr. Reilly points out the limited seating in the helicopter.
“Oh, that’s okay. How about if I ride with Barb instead? Barb needs to come in too, right?” My mom asks, shocking the crap out of me.
Amanda starts to jump up and down and excitedly clap. Barb looks a little surprised. Me, I’m very surprised. Why would she want to give up on a chance to ride in a helicopter? And, not just any helicopter either. A freaking Black Hawk! Mr. Reilly looks torn.
“Plus, that way, Barb can stop back at her house and grab Amanda’s school work so that she can work on it while waiting for Bree to finish her tests.” My mom says.
Mr. Reilly nods reluctantly while Amanda is not happy with the homework idea, but my mom seems real anxious to find reasons for her not to ride in the helicopter and now that I am thinking about it, her voice stress meter has been in the low yellow range ever since the helicopter was brought up. “Mom, are you afraid of helicopters?” I ask.
She nods her head yes, looking guilty as she gives Mr. Reilly a pleading look. Mr. Reilly sighs. “Okay. I don’t know how I am going to explain this. Come on before I change my mind.”
Amanda claps and gives me a hug, and then she jumps back with alarm as she remembers my injured shoulder. “Sorry! Oh my gawd Bree! I’m so sorry!” Amanda says.
“It’s okay. I’m totally repaired and back up to 100% Combat Efficiency.”
Amanda looks at me and giggles. “Bree, you do and say the strangest things sometimes. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that you’re an alien or even weirder, a boy.”
I almost flip out when Amanda says that she thought that I could be a boy. The alien idea is pretty funny though. “Amanda, Oh gawd. Take me to your leader!” I say, using a robotic sounding alien accent. What do aliens really sound like anyway?
Amanda giggles as gestures to my body. “I know! I mean just look at you, but the way you kicked those guy’s asses and how calm you reacted afterwards. Can you teach me how to fight?” She asks with a hopeful expression.
I’m not sure when I would have the time to do that, but it’s kind of hard to say no to her. “Umm, sure? It’s just jujitsu and I’m not going to be around long enough but, maybe you could find a jujitsu dojo somewhere near your house?”
“Oh yeah, hadn’t thought about that.” Amanda says, looking a little sad.
I look over at Mr. Reilly, but he’s not really paying attention to us. I follow his gaze and I see three different TV News vans setting up their broadcast antennas. I flip over to their frequencies and I am a little shocked by the excited chatter between their reporters and the producers back at the station. They seem to be very excited by the military helicopters and the reports of H1 attacking some mutant who cleaned their clocks. The producers are all very adamant about getting good footage of the mystery mutant.
“Oh, crap!” I say, before I can censor myself. I glance over at my mom and she doesn’t look very happy about my outburst. “The TV cameras. They want to get my picture.”
Mr. Reilly looks over at me and sighs. “Yes, and if Mrs. Townsend doesn’t mind, I think that having Amanda ride with Whisper may actually help confuse them some.”
Barb looks a little concerned about that idea while Amanda just looks even more excited, if that is even possible. “I dunno, are you okay with that, Amanda?” Barb asks.
“H...Heck yes!” Amanda says excitedly.
Mr. Reilly looks over to the FBI agents with a thoughtful expression. “Hmm, we will need something to hide the girls’ faces.”
Special Agent Gilbert smiles. “They could borrow a couple of our jackets to hide themselves with.” He says.
I pull on Mr. Reilly’s sleeve, motioning him to lean over. “Umm, I could try my magic to disguise us.” I say, whispering into his ear.
“Tempting, Whisper.” Mr. Reilly says, straightening back up. “But, I think a more mundane approach might be safer.”
I can’t help feel a little disappointed with Mr. Reilly’s adult responsibility. I wanted to show off, just a little. Special Agent Gilbert brings over two FBI jackets and has Amanda and me cover our heads to help block the cameras. As my mom and Barb head for Barb’s car, Mr. Reilly leads me and Amanda to the helicopter. We are flanked by the two FBI agents who were “volunteered” to lend us their jackets and two of the Air Force Combat Rescue guys.
“Oh. My. Gawd! Br..Whisper! This is so cool! It’s just like the movies!” Amanda says with an excited whisper as she corrects herself into using my code name.
I am pretty darn excited myself. “Yeah, it is!” I say, sounding almost as school girl giddy as Amanda. Now that the life and death part is over, the idea of getting to ride in a freaking Black Hawk is almost overwhelming.
I have a small window displaying what the TV crews are broadcasting and so far, not a one has been able get a shot of our faces, but it’s not for lack of trying. The camera crews have us zoomed in hoping for a glimpse of us. I debate trying to jam their transmission, but I doubt that it would do anything since they are just recording the video.
As soon as we are in the copter and out of sight from the cameras, I hand my FBI jacket back to one of the FBI dudes. I wouldn’t want them to get cold.
Amanda follows my lead. “Thanks!” She yells.
The FBI guys leave and after closing the side doors, one of the Air Force guys helps buckle me and Amanda into our seats. Amanda can’t stop looking around and giggling about every little thing.
“Oh my gawd, this is so exciting!” Amanda squeals into my ear as she grabs my arm..
When the Black Hawk starts to take off, she screams and latches onto my arm in a death grip. So, of course, I have to play all calm and cool instead of laughing like a crazy guy, umm, girl from the adrenalin rush. Did I mention that I am flying in a freaking Black Hawk?
Amanda doesn’t let go of her death-grip on my arm until we level off. Once that happens, neither one of us can get enough of straining our seat belts to look out the windows. I discover that I can listen in on the pilot’s chatter and even view their flight systems. Initially, I try and watch everything, but it’s like trying to drink from a firehose. I take a step back and decide to let the data flow over me until I can start to filter out data streams that aren’t important to me.
Things that I find kind of important are engine status and the flight radar because losing an engine when you have the aerodynamics of a bumble-bee is bad and radar because it’s cool to watch. Maybe I can create a simulator inside my head and learn how to fly a helicopter. Now, that would be cool. I am very careful to only look at the data because messing with things and making the helicopter crash would be bad. Especially with me in it.
We land on the helipad on top of the hospital and as soon as the doors open, Mr. Reilly hustles me and Amanda down to the test facility. One of the staff doctors and a nurse meets us in the test facility area and leads me and Dr. Edmundson to the X-ray room. Amanda is allowed to come with me, but for obvious reasons, she has to wait outside the radiation room.
After the X-ray, Dr. Edmundson puts me in an exam room and surprisingly, he lets Amanda stay to keep me company, or something. I’m not really sure why he lets her stay with all the secret stuff, especially when he opens up his laptop and tries to pull up my diagnostic data. “Hmm, I wonder why I can’t see your data?” He mutters, mostly to himself as he looks at his laptop screen with frustration.
“Umm, maybe because my access is turned off right now?” I ask trying to be helpful.
Dr. Edmundson blinks at me with surprise. “Uggh, I think that I need some coffee because I can’t believe that I didn’t consider that, thanks.” He says, then turns back and enters the administrative screens. I watch as he pulls up my account and removes the time restrictions.
>System Diagnostic Access Request from 220.127.116.11:2030
Umm, yes, please.
Dr. Edmundson’s screen fills with my current information. Heart-rate, blood pressure, pulse rate, EKG graph, blood oxygen levels, everything except for my bladder which is bad because I kind of need to go right now and I’m bleeping starving too. There isn’t really a status indicator for my hunger levels, but a do spot a blood glucose monitor.
“Umm, Doctor Edmundson?” I ask.
Dr. Edmundson is a little distracted by all the stuff on my monitor. “Yes, Bree?”
“I’m feeling kinda hungry right now, is a blood glucose of 68 mg/dL good or bad?” I ask
Amanda decides to look over at the screen too. Her eyes practically pop out of her head as she sees all the data on the screen. “Is that really your stuff?” She asks.
“Yep, and in real time. Pretty cool, huh?” I ask, feeling a little proud of my coolness.
“Yeah, but kinda spooky too.” Amanda says as she studies it for a few more seconds before sitting back down to look the old girlie magazine she found somewhere.
Dr. Edmundson looks over at Amanda. “Young lady?” He asks.
“It’s Amanda, umm, sir.” She says looking up from her magazine.
“Sorry, Amanda. Would you mind running up front and seeing if you can find Bree a Vegetarian meal of some kind, maybe an MRE?” Dr. Edmundson asks.
Amanda smiles at him. “Sure!” She says as she stands up to leave. “Are you going to be okay, Bree?”
I give her the thumbs up. “Not as much fun as the ride here, but I’ll be fine.” I say with a grin.
“Oh, Amanda, could you also see if you can find a sports drink or two also?” Dr. Edmundson asks.
Amanda gives Dr. Edmundson one of her winning smiles. “Sure thing, Doc. Do you need anything?” She asks.
He looks surprised that she would be so thoughtful. “Actually, I could use a cup of coffee. If you don’t mind?” Dr. Edmundson asks with a pleased smile.
“Sure! That will probably be easier to find than food. I’ll grab that for you first!” Amanda says as she bounces out of the room and in search of coffee.
As soon as she is out of the room, Dr. Edmundson looks back to his laptop. “Okay, let’s rewind the monitor to around the time of your fight. See what we can see, hmm?” He says, mostly to himself as he starts typing on his keyboard.
“Actually, do you mind if I run to the bathroom?” I ask as I start to fidget in my seat.
“Oh, no. Go right ahead.” Dr. Edmundson says without even looking up from his laptop.
I don’t need to be told twice. As he starts pulling down information from me, I jump up and race for the nearest restroom. This is the worst that I have had to go since my change and it shows how desperate I am when I run into the men’s room without thinking. Hey, it was the closest. I stop for a second at the sight of the urinals mocking me with their ease of use before I just shrug my shoulders and run into the stall. I make it in time and wow, what a relief! I can’t believe that I held it for so long or how fast it hit me that I had to go.
I am just finishing up when I hear the door open and someone walk in. My sensors identify him as Mr. Reilly.
I decide that hiding in the stall until he leaves would just be silly, so I step out and try to be casual about my mistake as I head for the sinks to wash my hands.
Mr. Reilly stops on his way to a urinal with a confused expression. “Bree? What are you doing in here?”
I stop and I feel myself blushing. “Oh, umm, I had to go real bad and didn’t realize that I was in the men’s room until after I saw the urinals and, well...” I say, helplessly trailing off with a shrug.
“Oh, well. Okay. Hurry up and wash your hands then, please.” Mr. Reilly says as if a girl in the men’s room is a common occurrence.
“Okay, sorry sir.” I say as I wash my hands as fast as possible.
“Oh, hey, what room is Dr. Edmundson in?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“We’re in room 128.” I say as I quickly pull up my map to help figure out what room I was in. I notice that the woman’s restroom is on the other-side of room 128. If I had just taken a left instead of a right, I wouldn’t have run into the men’s room. It was closer too.
“Thanks.” Mr. Reilly says as I quickly dry my hands and toss the paper towel in the trash on my way out.
“Phew” I say under my breath as I walk back to the room.
Dr. Edmundson has a fresh cup of coffee in his hand. I don’t know how I missed seeing Amanda in the halls, but I guess she zigged when I zagged. I pull up the map again and find that there is a break room just around the corner from here, so I guess that explains it.
“I was just going over your whipsers for the fight and I have to say that I am amazed!” Dr. Edmundson says.
“My what?” I ask wondering what my ‘whipsers’ thing is and if Dr. Edmundson is just confusing my code-name with something else. He must be more tired than he looks.
“Oh, sorry, WIPSRS or Warfighter Individual Physiological Status and Repair System.”
“Aahh, okay.” I say while pondering the extreme acronym addiction that the military seems to have. Why didn’t they just call it something simple, like, Health Monitor or Emergency Medical System?
Mr. Reilly chooses that moment to enter the room. “What have you discovered, Dr. Edmundson?” He asks.
“Well, Bree’s, umm, medical system responded perfectly and if we couldn’t review the medical monitor, we would never know that she got shot. Her X-ray was perfect. Not a trace of a gunshot wound to be found.”
“Oh, good.” Mr. Reilly sounds relieved as he turns to me. “When I heard that you had been shot, I got more than a little concerned.”
I feel touched that he was worried about me. His reminder causes me to flash review that part of the fight. “Umm, thank you sir, but I didn’t really feel it.” I say with a slight stammer as my emotions catch up to the fact that someone shot me, with a big ass gun and with ammo designed to kill.
Mr. Reilly notices my reaction. He touches my shoulder, the one I wasn’t shot in. “Are you okay?” He softly asks studying my face with concern.
I hesitantly nod as my reply since I don’t really trust myself to speak right now.
“Well, she is suffering from low blood sugar and a little food wouldn’t be remiss.” Dr. Edmundson says.
Mr. Reilly gently squeezes my shoulder before letting go and turning to face Dr. Edmundson. “Should I make a few calls, see if someone can round her up some food?”
Amanda picks that moment to walk back into the room with two plastic bags and three bottles of a lime green sport drink. “Oh, hey. I found some Veggie MRE things. The guy who had them seemed real happy to get rid of them too.” Amanda says, looking slightly perplexed.
I look at one of the packets as she hands it to me. They have “Vegetarian” in big letters on the outside with Menu No. 13 Cheese Tortellini. That doesn’t sound too bad to me. I rip open the bag and find more bags. The plastic kind of itches, so I try not to hold the bags for too long.
Oh, cool, these are the kind that heat the food up by just adding some water to a special bag. The heater bag makes me smile. The instructions are pretty simple and there is even a picture. It says to lean your heating meal against a rock or something. It actually has “rock or something” printed inside of the rock picture. What could “something” be? I bet I could make a game out of finding things to substitute for “something”.
I dig into the carrot pound cake first. It doesn’t taste all that bad and I’m so hungry that it’s gone before I realize it. I decide to heat up the tortellini by using the side of the examining room’s sink as “something”. While it is warming up my food, I chow down the candy. Well, most of it. I share some with Amanda. I’m not that greedy and she did fetch the food for me. Next, I gobble down the peanut butter and crackers, but the dehydrated spiced apples taste pretty bad so I toss them after eating less than half. However, I’m pleased to say that the tortellini tastes pretty good. I think that I could get used to eating these MRE things.
Hey, it even came with some toilet paper, matches, gum and a moist towelette. That stuff could come in handy. That thought makes me realize that I forgot my purse. I hope that my mom noticed it.
I did not just think that it would be a good thing to save the toilet paper and I did not just regret forgetting my purse, did I?
Thankfully, my mom, my purse and Barb show up just as I finish up the first MRE.
“Oh, hi Mom, how was...?” I say, trailing off as I notice her expression.
She hands me my purse without a word. She looks upset. Barb motions for Amanda to join her and Amanda seems to sense the storm in the air. She quickly joins her mom after smiling and waving apologetically at me. Amanda softly closes the door behind her and as soon as it closes my mom opens up.
“Okay, Mr. Reilly, I want to know just what in the hell is in my daughter! The secret crap is over. I was willing to let it go due to all the national security this and national security that, but whatever it was that made my daughter fight and act like some kind of Terminator thing has got to go! I demand that you tell me just what in the hell is going on!” My mom says with a growling tone in her voice that would make a momma grizzly bear proud.
“Mom, I’m...” I say before she turns her glare on me.
“Brianna Nichole. No, you are not okay. You were an emotionless, killing machine and I demand to know why!” She says as turns back to glare at Mr. Reilly and Dr. Edmundson.
Dr. Edmundson looks up to my mom with surprise. “Emotionless? Jennifer, can you describe what you witnessed?”
My mom’s jaw clenches with frustration. She wants answers and she wants them now, but after a few seconds she sighs. “Are you telling me that you don’t know?”
Dr. Edmundson glances to Mr. Reilly before looking back at my mom. “I have some hypotheses, but I lack enough information right now to make more than a guess. What did you witness?”
“After the fight, I noticed that Bree felt completely emotionless to me. It was like she was a robot or something. It wasn’t until Bree spoke to Mr. Reilly that her feelings came back and then, she sort of crashed.” My mom says, trembling with emotion as she holds back her tears.
That reminds me about that “Combat Stim” message I received just before I started fighting and then afterwards. “Umm, I saw something about a ‘Combat Stim’, does that help?” I ask.
Everyone turns and looks at me. Dr. Edmundson’s eyes briefly widen with surprise as he makes some connections. “I think that Bree may have the STIM system inside of her.” He says as he looks back at his laptop and begins to type on his keyboard.
Mr. Reilly studies my mom in silence for a few seconds before he nods his head. “Dr. Edmundson, would you please explain the STIM system to us?” He says without taking his eyes off my mom’s face.
“Yes sir. Ahh, here it is. The STIM System, or Soldier Tactical Internal Medical System, as it was originally planned, was intended to provide a boost to soldiers in high stress combat situations.” Dr. Edmundson says starting out in a lecture tone.
My mom decides to interrupt him. “A boost?!?! You call that, that emotionless thing, a boost!?” She says incredulously as she angrily crosses her arms over her chest. I guess that she does that to keep herself from strangling him. She’s madder, no, more pissed than I have ever seen her.
“Sorry, not a ‘boost’ in the traditional sense. In addition to the combat event, our soldiers face the threat of PTSD caused by the emotional trauma of simply surviving a high intensity combat situation. They can face years of therapy and have difficulty fitting back into society when the traumatic event or series of events are long over. Sometimes suffering from crippling flashbacks years or even decades later.”
My mom’s posture changes from super pissed to patiently pissed. “Okay, and...?” She asks.
Given the green light, Dr. Edmundson launches into full lecture mode and he goes over how bad PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is for our soldiers in combat and after combat. He then covers how the body’s own systems can help to fight PTSD and save a soldier’s life during combat, but that the effects of the body’s own fight or flight reactions can sometimes actually make things worse when the body pumps out tons of adrenaline and cortisol. The STIMS thing was originally developed around the model of a simple surgically implanted insulin pump that would be loaded with a special synthetic drug cocktail that could be triggered by the soldier during combat and easily refilled by a qualified medical technician.
That idea was too costly to implement on a large scale, had too many negative side effects and was too prone to abuse, so it was scraped. However, DARPA came up with the idea of using the body’s own systems to produce the same result with less risk to the soldier. The scientists working on the project came up with a way for nanites to assemble a small storage device that would sit next to the adrenal glands and store the hormone cocktail that the doctors identified as the best option to achieve the results they were aiming for.
When he is finally done, my mom isn’t as pissed, but I can tell she is still upset. “Okay, so why didn’t you know that she had this thing inside of her?”
Dr. Edmundson looks slightly ashamed. “Well, like I mentioned during our initial investigation shortly after Bree came to us, we have not been able to get Bree’s nanites to report or even respond to our commands. So, we have not been able to conduct an accurate inventory of what she has inside of her until she has a symptom that we can use to identify something.”
They all look at me again. I wish I knew what all was inside of me too.
Okay, me, what is inside of me?
>Active Systems Inventory:
>METS - Medical Emergency Trauma Suit
>JTRS - Joint Tactical Radio System
>WIPSRS - Warfighter Individual Physiological Status and Repair System
>IX-LRAS3 - Individual eXperimental - Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System
>C4ISR - Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance
>IFSFCS - Individual Future Soldier Fire-Control System
>VIK - Vehicle Integration Kit
>STIMS - Soldier Tactical Internal Stimulant System
>ISMRES - Individual Soldier Muscle Reflex Enhancement System
Sorry. I didn’t expect that to actually work and even more surprising is that the item descriptions even displayed. Although, I have to admit that even the descriptions don’t really help all that much. “Umm, I just asked, umm, myself that question and I got a listing. Would that help you all?” I ask.
Now everyone is looking at me again. Dr. Edmundson is the first to break the uncomfortable silence. “Yes, yes that would. Can you tell me what you have?” He asks.
“It’s got a lot of acronyms. I could just make it into a text file and put it in the same folder that I put the video of my tennis ball test. Would that work?” I ask as I place the output in that folder.
“Ahh, yes, that would be good.” Dr. Edmundson says with a grin.
Dr. Edmundson pulls the file up and displays it to everyone. My mom still does not look happy, but she’s not in full-out momma bear mode either. “Okay, based on what you all have told me and what we have seen, I can kind of guess at what some of this stuff does, but what are the WIPSRS and ISMRES things?” She asks.
Dr. Edmundson glances from his screen and back to my mom’s face. “Well, WIPSRS is what I am using here to monitor Bree’s health and it is also responsible for the rapid healing we observed with Bree today. Without it, she may have died and if not, she would most certainly be in critical condition on an operating table right now.”
My mom gasps and Dr. Edmundson pauses his explanation. My mom sits down in the open chair next to me, grabs my hand and hugs me close to her body.
Dr. Edmundson’s expression softens with concern as he continues. “And, the ISMRES is the system responsible for Bree’s enhanced strength and increased reflex response rate. Which is also what helps to explain her scores in the physical tests yesterday as well as...” He trails off before he reminds us all why we are here right now instead of snuggled up, I mean sleeping, in our beds.
Mr. Reilly clears his throat to gain our attention. “This is very helpful data, but we have a spook being flown in to perform an AAR with Whisper and it appears that we have a few more tests to perform for both Whisper and Psyche.”
My mom’s eyes snap up to Mr. Reilly. “AAR?” She asks.
“Sorry, After Action Review. We just need a combat expert to review and analyze her fight for us.” Mr. Reilly pauses before my mom can ask her next question. “And...the additional tests we need to perform on both of you are regarding an anomalous reading we received for Whisper’s Empathy test and your apparent ability to project your empathic powers.” He says as he studies my mom for her reaction.
Me, I’m starting to panic. What does he mean by an anomalous reading with my empathy test? Do they know that I can talk to computers? Nikki and Sara both warned me about letting them know about that power. Crap! What do I do? That STIMS thing would be real nice right about now.
>Initiating Combat Stimulant...
Ahhh, all the panic and fear disappears.
“Bree! What’s wrong?” My mom says as she shakes my body.
Why is my mom shaking me? Oh yeah, she’s worried about me. Maybe I should have told the STIMS thing to not do that, but if I had, I’d be real worried right about now. “Oh, nothing, Mom. Why?” I ask.
“Her STIM system activated for some reason.” Dr. Edmundson says after a quick glance at his laptop.
Oh, that’s a security risk.
His screen turns blank as all my data disappears. Okay, now what do I do? My mom seems to be getting more agitated, but I don’t understand why. Maybe I should smile and reassure her to help calm her down.
“Mom, I’m fine.” I say as I smile at her reassuringly.
“Bree! Stop it!” My mom screams and holds me tight to prevent me from escaping.
“Whisper?” Mr. Reilly asks.
I gently push my mom’s arms apart and stand to face Mr. Reilly. “Yes sir?” I ask.
“What is wrong?”
“Then, why have you activated your STIMS and disabled the monitor?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“The monitor was a security risk.” I say as I conveniently ignore his first question. I should be worried right now, but I’m not and that is great.
“And the STIMS?”
“I, I need it.” I say with a little hesitation. I probably don’t need it, but it sure is nice.
“Why did you need it?”
“Because, I’m not safe.” I say.
“You’re safe here. The fight is over.” Mr. Reilly says.
“I’m not safe. I need to leave.” I say.
“No!” My mom grabs my arm forcing me to look at her. “It’s the tests. Is that what you’re worried about?” My mom asks.
She is on to me. “I need to leave.” I say as I walk towards the door, dragging my mom behind me.
“Bree, you need to shut down the STIMS. It could kill you if you leave it running for too long.” Dr. Edmundson says.
I hesitate for a second. If true, then I should shut it down, else death = bad.
“Bree, you’re safe here. I promise. Whatever it is that you’re worried about, doesn’t leave this room.” Mr. Reilly says.
I know that I can trust Mr. Reilly. He is Nikki’s Dad. I can definitely trust my mom and I think that I can trust Dr. Edmundson. The odds of him being an enemy agent must be pretty low.
>Shutdown Combat Stimulant...
Whoa! My knees feel a little wobbly for a second, but my mom doesn’t allow me a chance to fall. She practically tackles me.
“Bree! Whatever possessed you to do that?” My mom asks with tears in her eyes as she studies my face.
“Umm, well...” I say.
“What?” My mom asks.
Ashamed, I look away. “I can kinda sorta tell computers what to do and both Nikki and Sara warned me not to let anyone know until I could get to Whateley and maybe not even then.” I say.
Mr. Reilly doesn’t say anything for the longest time. Well, actually only 15.232 seconds, but it seems longer. “Nikki and Sara, huh?” He asks.
“Yes sir, Nikki said that something really really bad happened to a friend of theirs and it had something to with ARC and the CIA. I tried to ask Sara about it, but she went all demon on me just thinking about it.” I say.
“Okay, I think that it is time for me and my daughter to have a little chat.” Mr. Reilly says as he reaches for his cell phone.
Not once did he ask me about Sara. Is that good or bad?
Nikki sat in front of her laptop and stared sightlessly at her screen as Aunghadhail played GEO. Aunghadhail was bound and determined to get to the root of Bree’s transformation into a Sidhe Elf. The genetic pattern for Bree had somehow come from GEO and Aung was pissed. Aunghadhail had even taken the unusual step of forging a truce with Lord Vincint just so that she could speak more openly with him regarding Bree’s character.
Nikki’s cell phone began to buzz on her desk. Who would be trying to call me at this late an hour on finals week?
She picked up her phone with the intent to ignore the call, until she noticed who it was from. “Daddy? Is something wrong? Is Bree okay?” Nikki asked, alarmed because for him to call it had to be something bad and Bree was the only person with her Dad that could be in trouble.
“Oh, Whisper is okay right now, but she did just get done defending her mom against five H1! attackers and getting shot.” Her dad said with a casual air that did nothing to dispel her concern.
“What!?!?” Nikki yelled into her phone, waking her roommate in the process.
Toni sprang out of her bed and landed in a fighting stance, ready for action. “What is it?! Are we being attacked again?” She asked looking back and forth between the window and the door as if expecting either of them to burst open under the assault of ninjas, zombies or worse.
“Sorry, Toni. My dad.” She whispered as she pointed to her phone. “I’ll cast a privacy ward.”
Toni grumbled a bit as she returned to her bed and Nikki cast her ward.
“Sorry Dad, I woke Toni up and she was ready for battle. Tell me Bree is okay! Oh man, I knew we should’ve made her come to Whateley and get tested here!” Nikki said without pause as Aung’s level of concern also increased.
“Nikki, it’s not...” Her dad said trying to calm her down.
“I’m coming! I’ll be right there!” Nikki said as she raced over to her closet to find some clothes to wear.
“What? Daddy, I’m trying to get dressed.” Nikki said impatiently.
“That’s not what I wanted to ask you about.” Her dad said.
“Oh, what is it then? If it can wait, I can be there in just a few minutes.” Nikki said as she sat on her bed and struggled to pull on her jeans while craning her neck to talk on the phone with her dad.
“Nikki! I do not want you to come here. I want to know why you advised Whisper to not reveal her cyberpathic powers.” Her dad said, dropping the bombshell.
Nikki stopped trying to button up her jeans. “What?” She asked in an attempt to buy her some more time to think. If her dad knew about Bree’s cyberpathic powers, then that meant that the testers also knew and why was her dad calling Bree, Whisper instead of using her name?
“You heard me, and apparently Sara is involved in this little cover up and I want to know why.” Her dad said with a note of command in his voice.
Nikki anxiously bit her lip as she considered what to tell him. Sara was the one who had the most information, but Nikki still knew enough of the details to not feel the need to call on her blood sister this moment.
<We probably need to tell him everything. Since he is calling us directly and at this late of the hour, her secret may not be known. He may be able to intercede on her behalf.> Aunghadhail advised.
“You’re probably right.” Nikki muttered.
“What was that?” Her dad asked.
“Sorry Dad. Aung just had some advice for me.” Nikki said distractedly as she reviewed what she knew of Paige’s history. “Okay, here is what I know and why Sara, Aung and I are very concerned about keeping Bree’s computer powers a secret for as long as possible.”
I debate listening in on Mr. Reilly’s conversation with Nikki, but hearing his side and watching his expression shift is enough for me to know that he is taking her story very seriously.
“She hacked your laptop in how many seconds?” Mr. Reilly asks as he looks at me with shock. “Okay, so this example that you have.” He is mostly silent, but he occasionally nods and says “uh huh” a few times during the next five minutes as he listens to Nikki’s story.
“Okay, so lemme get this straight. She helped the CIA capture a Palm AI? Then she was attacked in the CIA’s testing facility and the CIA had a...” Mr. Reilly stops and glances at my mom and me before he finished that sentence. “Any proof? Of course, so Nimbus inserted an operative into the ARC’s Black Section and that is why you had to fight Maelstrom?”
He rubs his temples with concern and frustration. “Why didn’t you tell me this before? Okay. Yes, I can see how that would upset you. No, I’m sorry, you’re right. While I don’t think that Whisper is in as much danger, I believe that your advice was correct, but I wish that you would have told me. I’ll see what I can do to limit the testing here and yes, I will be speaking with Mrs. Carson first thing in the morning. Whisper will be flying with me to Whateley tomorrow evening. I love you too Nikki. Get some sleep, it’s finals week up there, right? Yes, I know. Sure, I will.” He says as he hangs up his phone and thoughtfully studies it for a few seconds.
During the entire conversation, my mom hugged me tighter and tighter with each passing minute. Even Dr. Edmundson looked concerned as he patiently sat through the one sided conversation.
Mr. Reilly finally broke the tension with a sigh. “Okay Bree, Nikki wanted me to do this.” He says as he gives me a quick hug before stepping back. “Now, Whisper, tell me what you can do and if there are any other secrets that we should know about?”
He is back to using my code name for official stuff. I nervously glance at my mom. She nods her head and gives me an encouraging smile. I guess that she’s not mad at me now. I feel a little ashamed for panicking and trying to use the STIMS thing. If I had just kept my cool, I might have been able to make it through whatever tests they have planned for me without anyone even noticing a thing. I crack and tell him both of the ‘big’ secrets.
I tell him about how touching a computer lets me take it over. I tell him about how I reprogrammed the TV remote, fixed my parent’s PC and hacked into Nikki’s super encrypted laptop. I also tell him about my new discoveries with being able to ‘see’ everything inside of a computer from about five meters away.
I also tell him about the magic stuff with spells, how I might be able to hack wards and what Sir Wallace and Auntie Aung said about that little revelation.
When I am finally done confessing all my sins, and it feels good to get them off my chest, Dr. Edmundson is the first one to break the silence. “Hmmm, so, you can sense the inner workings of my laptop from over there?” He asks.
I nod my head. “Yes, I can see what is on your screen and follow what you are doing, but I can’t make it do anything unless I touch it.”
“Interesting, very interesting. I think that may explain why you are able to control the nanites as well as you do and why you became infected with them in the first place.” Dr. Edmundson says with a gleam in his eyes. He looks pretty excited. “This is amazing, truly amazing!”
Mr. Reilly steps in. “Yes, Doctor Edmundson, it is, but from what Nikki told me, we need to keep her full capabilities under wraps, agreed?” He asks.
Dr. Edmundson’s excitement fades a little as the reality sets in. He sighs. “Yes, Director Reilly, I believe that you are correct.” He looks at me. “As exciting as it is for me, you have had too much happen to you in such a short time for me to even consider taking the chance that your power will be exposed and handled the wrong way by short-sighted bureaucrats.”
Mr. Reilly nods his head with agreement. “Exactly, based on the test results and incident report from the lab, we knew that you had to have some sort of affinity for computers, but not the extent. Hell, I’m tempted to try and figure out a way to take advantage of your powers myself. So, I know that if the powers that be found out, they wouldn’t want to let you out of their sight.”
My mom looks very concerned and anxious. “What can we do, Mr. Reilly?” She asks.
Mr. Reilly runs his hand through his hair as he considers her question. “Honestly? I’m not sure. I don’t know what tests they might try subjecting her to, but I will do some research.” He turns to me. “What was going to be your plan if we tested you?”
“Umm, I was just going to pretend that I couldn’t do anything with more than a simple calculator or remote control.” I say with a hesitant tone of voice because I didn’t really have a specific plan either. “But I was worried that if my mom was there, she would know that I wasn’t really trying.”
My mom gives my hand an extra squeeze. “Oh honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize, but now that I do; there is no way that they are going to get their hands on my baby.” She says in full momma bear mode again.
Someone knocks politely on the door. Mr. Reilly looks up as we all become tense. “Come in.” Mr. Reilly says.
Barb pokes her head in the room. “Sorry to interrupt, but a Mr. Smith is in Conference room 103 with General Evans.” She quickly flashes a smile at my mom and me before looking back to Mr. Reilly expectantly.
“Okay, we were just finishing up here. Let them know that we are on our way, please.” Mr. Reilly says.
Barb smiles and nods her head. “Yes, Mr. Reilly.” She says as she backs out and closes the door.
“Okay, the AAR shouldn’t have any surprises. Just answer this, Mr. Smith’s questions regarding the fight and we should be good.” Mr. Reilly says giving the Mr. Smith the same emphasis that Barb did to indicate that wasn’t his real name, but we were all supposed to play along.
I spot Amanda slaving away on her homework when we pass through the lobby area. She looks a little tired now that she is working on the boring stuff. I smile and wave at her. “Wish I could help you.” I mouth while making faces behind Mr. Reilly’s back to show her how much I am looking forward to what I had to do.
Amanda starts to giggle at my predicament before she slaps her hand over her mouth to stifle herself. I wave at her one last time before we leave the lobby area.
As soon as we enter the conference room, my automatic CAC-ID card scan shows me who is in the room.
General Evans and Captain Howards stand up to greet us, while Barb remains seated as she opens a notepad and readies her pen. I guess that she is here to take notes. I am surprised to see that General Evans is wearing a camouflage uniform instead of his dressy blue uniform. I guess that at 2300 hours, his formal uniform is a bit more work. Captain Howards is also wearing a set of cami’s, but his are styled a bit differently with diagonal front pockets and no rank, service or name patch anywhere on his uniform. His uniform definitely looks more used and combat ready than General Evans’ pristine uniform.
“Director Reilly, Doctor Edmundson, this is Mr. Smith.” General Evans says with a gesture to Captain Howards. He even manages to say his alias without making it sound like an alias.
Mr. Reilly and Dr. Edmundson shake Cpt. Howards’, I mean, Mr. Smith’s hand. Mr. Smith is paying more attention to my mom and I though. He looks alert, yet relaxed at the same time. I realize that he is actually standing in a modified ready stance and I feel myself adopting a similar stance without even thinking about it.
Mr. Reilly turns to introduce my mom and me. “And, Mr. Smith, this is....”
Mr. Smith looks right at me, grins and nods his head in cool acknowledgement. I think that he noticed my response. “Whisper.” He then turns to my mom while keeping me in his field of vision like I am a threat or something. “Psyche. Pleased to meet you both.” He says with a slight southern accent as he first shakes my mom’s hand, followed by my hand.
His hands feel rough and calloused compared to mine, but he doesn’t try to play a power game by squeezing as hard as he can. Gentle, yet firm. The only other thing that I am able to glean off him is that he has a cell phone on him, but it is powered down instead of just on standby mode, so I cannot read it.
I debate letting Mr. Reilly know who Mr. Smith really is by sending him a text using my mom’s phone, but decide that it can wait until later. It’s probably not really that important anyway. Plus, with the introductions complete, my mom and I are motioned to sit opposite of Mr. Smith. I guess that makes sense. That way, we can see each other better.
General Evans takes a deliberate sip of his coffee as the room comes to order. “Okay, I know that it’s pretty damn late, but since we had a rather public incident, the SecDef wanted an After Action Review done immediately. Mr. Smith is here to help us with that. Any questions?” He asks without really expecting any.
After very brief pause, General Evans reaches over to a remote that is sitting on the table and pushes the play button. “Here is what the public knows about the event.” He says.
We watch a five minute recording from this evening’s news. The coverage is mostly positive and paints me as a young girl attacked by heavily armed bad guys who may or may not be members of Humanity First. They don’t really have much, but about half way through the broadcast the news anchors provide an update that gives out my code-name and the fact that I have an MMID.
“Damn MCO!” Mr. Reilly says with a frustrated whisper. He looks more than just pissed, he looks furious and I can’t say that I am all that pleased with it either.
That ends the on-site reporters broadcast and the studio anchors begin to speculate about the reasons why a FBI Counter Terrorism Team, the military and a hazmat team were seen on the site. They call on a couple of ‘experts’ to bounce their ideas off of.
One of the ‘experts’ offered his opinion as why the FBI was there. “John, it’s simple really. The U.S. Government has come under intense scrutiny over the past six months over the tactics that H1! are known to employ against mutants. I dare say that the U.S. Government might be taking the first steps towards declaring H1! as a terrorist group so that the Justice Department can bring down the full force of law against them.”
That causes an argument by the second ‘expert’ on the show. “Dan, with all due respect,” As soon as I hear that, I know that what he has to say will be anything but respectful. I can’t help but smile. “Humanity First! is not a terrorist group and never has been. They are merely dedicated to ensuring the safety of Humanity with these dangerous mutants that are living among us.”
That almost starts a fight between the two ‘experts’, but they end up getting cut off due to ‘technical difficulties’. The broadcast ends by reporting that neither local law enforcement, the FBI, nor the military were willing to comment due to an ‘ongoing investigation’.
General Evans turns off the TV. “Well, the good news is that the coverage was surprisingly sympathetic towards Whisper and her mom, the bad news is that the press know her code-name and the fact that she has an Military Mutant ID versus the standard Mutant ID. That is going to raise some questions. Any ideas?” He asks.
Mr. Reilly is the first to speak. “That’s the easiest one. She’s a minor and the dependent child of an active duty military member. As such, she is entitled to an MMID.”
“Except she’s not really a military dependent.” General Evans says.
“No, but it will serve as a reasonable cover story for now. Worst case, we ‘volunteer’ Psyche into joining the Inactive Reserve as...” Mr. Reilly turns to my mom. “You have a college degree, right?” He asks.
My mom slowly nods her head, surprised by the direction that Mr. Reilly is taking this.
General Evans nods his head. “Hmm, okay, that could work. The hazmat team?”
I am surprised that my mom isn’t stopping this entire conversation over the idea that she could be drafted into the Army or the Air Force or something.
“They were called in because someone thought that they saw a canister with a hazmat symbol in the attacker’s SUV and the Air Force just happened to have a team doing a training exercise that could respond. It turned out to be a false alarm and everything else is classified or part of the on-going criminal investigation.” Mr. Reilly said with a smile.
“That will probably hold for now. I will let my people know how to respond if they are asked.” General Evans glances over to Mr. Smith. “Now, what we need to understand is exactly what happened during the incident.”
With that, Mr. Smith takes over and the grilling begins. He’s as bad as Sensei Rogers was after my little run in with Billy in the 8th grade. The first time I tell him about the fight isn’t so bad, but by the third time, I am feeling a bit frustrated by his repeated questions. It is like he thinks I can’t remember exactly what happened. Heck, I can do more than just remember, I can rewind, replay, slow motion, fast forward and zoom in for every time stamped millisecond of the fight, in 3D even.
Mr. Smith treats my mom a bit better. Her descriptions are fuzzy and more emotional than mine. She’s not sure on some things and only remembers a detail when something triggers the memory. Even then, the detail is not always the same. That seems to give him what he expects because my precise descriptions of every part of the fight seem to frustrate Mr. Smith a bit. “How is it that you have managed to tell me the exact same thing the last three times? I’m having trouble believing you because people forget things.”
That kind of pisses me off. “Look, Captain, I have it all recorded...” I say, trailing off at the end from two realizations. One, I just used his secret rank and two, that I do have the entire fight recorded. I could just show him.
“What did you just call me?” Mr. Smith asks, looking alarmed.
Mr. Reilly chuckles. “Tell me, Mr. Smith, do you by chance, happen to have your CAC-ID card in your possession?”
Mr. Smith glances from me to Mr. Reilly with confusion. “Of course, why?”
“Whisper?” Mr. Reilly asks, glancing at me with a go-ahead expression.
“Mr. Smith, Captain, O-6, U.S. Navy, Kurtis Howards, B Negative, no allergies.” I say while skipping his SSN because I don’t think anyone needs to know that. Since Dr. Edmundson re-opened my access, I then decide to check the Land Warrior network for him. His 201 file has a lot of stuff for him, but most of it has been blacked out with a big red “CLASSIFIED”. Even his awards section has “CLASSIFIED” stamped all over it. He is a Navy SEAL though and attached to something called a CVN-69.
“Do you need to know more?” I ask as politely as possible and I even manage to not laugh at Mr. Smith’s expression.
“How?” Mr. Smith asks glancing between me and Mr. Reilly. General Evans looks a little uncomfortable while Barb’s eyes betray her amusement.
“Your CAC-ID contains an RFID chip. Whisper is able to read that chip.” Mr. Reilly says with a stern expression directed towards me before he turns back to Mr. Smith. “However; the other point that I believe our young lady was trying to make before her temper got the better of her, is that she also has the ability to replay the fight from her perspective. Which just goes to show that we’re all a little tired, because I can’t believe that we didn’t think of it sooner.”
Mr. Reilly looks back at me. “Whisper, if you will?” He asks.
Feeling slightly chastised, I make a video copy of the fight that starts from the time we exited the mall and ends when I shut down my STIMS thing. It takes about 30 seconds to transfer the video file over the network. I know that I could have just touched Dr. Edmundson’s laptop and transferred it almost instantly, but I am not that tired and 30 seconds isn’t that long of a wait. “Okay Doctor Edmundson, I put the video in the normal spot.” I say when it is finally done transferring.
Dr. Edmundson pulls up the video on his laptop and after confirming that it will play, he plugs his laptop into the room’s projector. Mr. Smith and General Evans both still look a little surprised by what is going on, but they both remain patiently silent until the replay starts.
After 15.24 seconds, Mr. Smith glances over at me before looking at Dr. Edmundson. “How you managed to capture such a high quality video of this is the first question that I have, but where is the tactical overlay and all that other stuff coming from?”
Dr. Edmundson pauses the video before he turns to look at Mr. Reilly. “Sir?”
Mr. Reilly considers Mr. Smith’s question for a few seconds. “I could just say that it’s all classified, but I don’t think that will help us and I’m sure that you are aware of just how high up the totem pole this goes, right?”
Mr. Smith nods his head in agreement. “Seeing how I was yanked off the Ike in the middle of the Atlantic and flown here in the back seat of a Rhino at Mach 1, I can see that someone upstairs is a little anxious.”
Ike? Rhino? Instead of just asking, I use my link to pull up that CVN-69 thing he has in his 201 File.
>USS Dwight D. Eisenhower "Ike"
>McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II ( Retired )
>Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Holy crap! I am amazed by Mr. Smith’s nonchalance over his ride here. He said it like getting a ride in an F/A-18F wasn’t anything special. I know that I wanted a F-16 ride, but a F/A-18 wouldn’t be bad either.
“I’m sure that you have read both Whisper and Psyche’s test file.” Mr. Reilly gestures to the file folder in front of Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith nods his head.
I know, I know. That’s not his name, but even though we all know his real name now, I still think of him as ‘Mr. Smith’. I think that it’s kind of super-spy cool. “Hello Agent S. Are you ready for your super top secret license to kill mission briefing?”
Mr. Reilly snaps me out of my daydream when he starts with the summarized version of what happened to me. Thankfully, he leaves out the embarrassing sex change bit, but includes everything else.
Mr. Smith opens his folder and right on top, I can see a printout from the super scanner thing. It lists me and my mom’s scores.
EXP: 4 (w/ Rgn: 2)
Unlike my mom’s scores, I notice the question mark next to my ESP rating, and since Dr. Remus gave me a big fat one, I notice the four next to my Wizard rating. The GAD and PK thing confuses me. I’m not sure what those mean. I guess that RGN means Regeneration, but a two seems low since I healed from the gun shot so quickly.
Mr. Reilly points to the printout. “It appears that the machine isn’t sure what or even if Whisper has an ESP rating, but based on previous observations, I think we know that she has something. Her Gadgeteer rating may have something to do with that though. Additionally, her Wizard rating is a four, yet the manual test performed by Doctor Remus only indicated that she is a one, at best. So, I am not sure how reliable the rest of the scores are from the new system. We know that her regen is higher than a two, but that can be explained by the nanites.”
It takes a lot of self-control to not smile as Mr. Reilly disassembles the test machine’s scores. The more unreliable he can make the machine sound, the better for me.
General Evans frowns at Mr. Reilly’s observations. “It appears that we will need to perform some additional manual tests tomorrow.” He says.
Mr. Reilly has to be an excellent poker player. “Yes, that would be prudent, but I would like for us to wrap them up a quickly as possible tomorrow. Based on the attack on Whisper, plus the additional PR, I feel that it would be wise to get her to Whateley Academy where we can work with their staff to conduct any additional tests.”
“What are you saying, Mr. Reilly?” General Evans asks with a touch of hostility.
“Nothing against your facility or staff here, General, but for her safety, I would like to have her placed under the protection and relative seclusion of Whateley. That way, the MCO and the press will not have any chance to access her.”
“Whateley will share their test results with us?” General Evans asks with some disbelief.
Mr. Reilly smiles. “I will make that point part of the negotiations for the additional funding that DARPA will be providing as part of her tuition package.”
General Evans’ expression turns more speculative before he grins. “That could be useful for our test facility.”
Ha! Sold! Damn, I mean, darn, Mr. Reilly is good.
That gets us back to the video.
Mr. Smith clears his throat. “Thank you for the additional insight into Whisper’s powers. It will help. Shall we continue?” He asks.
The first time we watch the fight, my mom jumps with every hit and we have to take a short break at the end to help her stop crying.
“Oh my god, Bree. That was horrible. Those poor guys.” She says.
I am a bit surprised that she would say that. Those ‘poor’ dudes tried to kill us, but at the same time; I can kind of see her point. How many movies do you watch the good guy kick the bad guy’s ass from the good guy’s own eyes? Were you can see and hear every sickening crunch and impact. A real fight, not one choreographed where no one really hits each other.
I glance around the room and the only person who doesn’t look a little sick by what they just watched is Mr. Smith. “Can you replay that again, please?” He asks.
We watch the video again. “Okay, rewind to where she gets shot.” He watches the part where I stepped on the dude’s leg and followed that up with an elbow in his face.
I must admit that the blood and teeth flying out of his mouth along with the crack of his jaw breaking is a little upsetting and even I cringe a little.
“Again, but can you slow it down?” Mr. Smith asks.
Dr. Edmundson rewinds it again and starts that part over in slow motion. It’s pretty darn cool to see, but at the same time the camera angle isn’t what I would want to see in a movie.
“Where did you learn that move from?” Mr. Smith asks, surprising me with his question.
At least now he’s not asking for me to repeat stuff over and over again. “Umm, Sensei Rogers, my Jujitsu teacher back home.” I say.
“Rogers? Jason?” Mr. Smith asks.
I nod my head, surprised that he could guess his first name.
“He’s about six foot, light brown hair, blue eyes and a small circular scar over his left eye?” He asks.
“Yes, how?” I ask, surprised that he would know that. Sensei Rogers was in the Navy, but the Navy is kind of large. How could Mr. Smith know him so well?
“Well, that explains that.” Mr. Smith says.
Both Mr. Reilly and General Evans look to him for elaboration.
“That move was also taught to me by her Sensei. I didn’t understand how a 15 year old girl could know how to fight like she fought until I saw the video. Her Sensei was also on one of my teams and he was a close combat instructor until he retired two years ago. I knew that he wanted to retire some place that didn’t have any salt water beaches, but I never figured he would retire in New Mexico.” Mr. Smith says with a grin.
“You mean to tell me that this young girl is a trained killer?” General Evans asks with some alarm.
I am little startled by that. What is it with military types? First, I was a ‘trained assassin’ because I played a thief in GEO and now I am a ‘trained killer’ because I am studying jujitsu? Maybe it makes a difference when your jujitsu instructor just happens to be an ex-military commando or something? It’s almost funny, but the part that really makes me feel weird, even though it shouldn’t, is when I am referred to as a ‘young girl’.
Yo, I am 15. Seriously, General Dude, I am not that young!
Mr. Smith chuckles. “Hardly, sir. Almost all of the martial arts disciplines teach killing blows or strikes that could kill, but that is not the same as training someone to be a killer, and I am positive that Rogers would never teach kids to be killers.”
General Evans looks at Mr. Smith with a touch of disbelief, but he doesn’t press the issue. “Is there anything else that we should go over regarding Whisper’s performance?” He asks.
Mr. Smith pauses for a second as he mulls over the question. “I think that I have everything I need to submit a report, but the summary will be that Whisper performed well considering her age and the circumstances. She didn’t really have many choices. True, she could have evaded, but considering the weaponry of her assailants, I can’t agree that that would have been the best course of action. However; Whisper had the opportunity to arm herself with a knife when she disabled her first target. She could have thrown the knife to distract or injure Target_5 prior to engaging him. Without her unique advantages, she would have become a fatality and failed her mission.”
I was feeling pretty happy with myself until he got to the last part. While I don’t know how to throw a knife like an action star, I can easily imagine that having a sharp pointy object flying at a person would tend to throw off their aim just a bit. The Mortal Combat ‘fatality!’ part wasn’t a concern for me at the time, but now, I can see that I got very lucky.
“Excellent, Mr. Smith. Thank you for your input on this issue.” General Evans says with a smile before he turns to my mom and I. “I think we are done with the two of you for now.” He glances to Mr. Reilly and Mr. Smith. “Do you two have anything else for either Whisper or Psyche?”
They both shake their heads no.
I stand and as I head towards the door, I notice that only my mom and I are leaving. Mr. Reilly smiles at me when I glance back. “We just have a few things to go over for tomorrow’s plan. Would you two mind waiting in the lobby for a few minutes?”
My mom looks over at Barb before turning back to Mr. Reilly with a smile. “Sure, Mr. Reilly. We can keep Amanda company while we wait for our ride.”
With that, I leave the room, but I decide that I should hit the restroom to freshen up a bit before I see Amanda. My mom joins me, which is a little unsettling at first. I mean, I’m just not used to sharing the bathroom with my mom. My dad, yes, but not my mom.
“Still feeling a little weird about this?” My mom asks as we enter the women’s restroom.
I know that I shouldn’t be surprised that she would pick up on that, but I still am. “Yeah, a little. Just when I think I am getting used to being a girl, something as simple as using the bathroom reminds me just how different things are now.” I accidentally giggle as I think about my previous bathroom adventure. “I mean, just a couple of hours ago, I ended up going into the men’s room by mistake, and then Mr. Reilly walked in and caught me. Talk about feeling awkward!” I say.
“Oh my god, you didn’t?” My mom asks, gasping with surprise.
“Well, yeah. Mom, I had to go, but it is all of these little things that are sort of freaking me out. I mean, I never really gave it much thought, but something basic like girls have to pee sitting down, boys don’t. That was just how things were. Now? Everything I do feels so normal, but at the same time so wrong. Everyone treats me differently, just because I’m a girl. I feel like I am an alien who is visiting Earth. I know the language and I look like an Earthling, but nothing that the real Earthlings do make sense to me. Does that make any, umm, sense?” I ask as I feel my eyes start to tear up, again.
My mom hugs me. “Oh Brianna, I am so sorry. Yes, yes it does make sense to me and just in case I haven’t mentioned it, I am very proud of you and your dad and I love you very much. If you need something to help anchor you, that’s something that hasn’t changed and never will.” My mom says as she squeezes me even harder and gives me a tender kiss on my forehead.
I sniffle a little as I wipe the excess moisture from my eyes. “Thanks, Mom. That helps.” I say with a tentative smile. I give her a quick hug in return and then I steal the premium handicapped stall before she knows what happens.
“You stinker!” My mom says with a laugh as she enters the smaller normal sized stall next to mine. She surprises me when she proceeds to talk about the AAR while we both, umm, you know.
That’s one more thing that isn’t normal about being a girl. Guys do not, under any circumstances, talk to each other while actively going to the bathroom. She stops after a moment. “I’m freaking you out again, aren’t I?” She asks.
I’m not really freaking out. I’m just noticing the differences, again. The hyper-awareness is actually starting to get annoying. I nervously giggle. “Yeah, a little, but go ahead. It’s not that big of a deal and I need to get used to it anyway. I never really understood that unwritten guy rule anyway. It’s kind of like how no one talks on elevators.” I say as I finish with my business. That thought makes me laugh about it.
We both chat more and I feel myself starting to relax again. Going to the bathroom should not be this dramatic. I’m practically skipping down the hallway on the way to the lobby. I can’t wait to see how Amanda is doing with her homework.
Instead of catching her busy with homework, I find her curled up in her chair, sleeping with her history text book in her lap. I quietly walk over and sit down next to her. I don’t know how she can sleep like that, but she looks so darn pretty. I can’t help it, I find myself fondly smiling at her. If I was still a boy, I know that I’d be totally gaga over her. Instead of that, I feel a warmth that seems centered in my heart. I just want to give her a big hug. Is that the girl version of ‘going gaga’? Does this feeling mean that I like her as a friend or something more? I don’t know because I’ve never felt like this before. John is my best bud, but I never felt this way about him. At least, not that I’ve noticed. The closest that I can relate this feeling to is when I had a crush on Michelle Collins in the 6th grade, but I’m not sure. I feel my mom’s hand gently squeeze my shoulder.
Amanda wakes, looks up and smiles sleepily at me. “Hey, how did it go?” She asks, softly.
Her question distracts me from what I was thinking and my mom removes her hand after I quickly glance back at her. She looks concerned for me. Instead of worrying about it, I turn back and face Amanda. “Oh, it went okay. The expert said I did an okay job, but I should have taken the first guy’s knife.” I say matching her soft tone of voice for some reason. It’s like I’m trying not to wake her up more than I already have. It doesn’t really help.
Amanda sits up with alarm, causing her text book to slide off her lap. I catch it and hand it back to her. “Thanks.” She smiles appreciatively at me before turning to glare down the hallway. “Now, I can’t believe that jerk would say something like that to you because, girlfriend, you kicked ass!” She says with a fierce expression as she crosses her arms angrily.
I think that if Mr. Smith walked around the corner right now, Amanda would chew him out for being a meanie or something. Well, that is what I imagine her saying anyway. I can’t help it; the thought of it makes me giggle.
Amanda turns back to me with a puzzled expression. “What?” She asks.
“Oh, you should’ve seen your face! I swear, if ‘Mr. Smith’ walked in here I could totally see you attacking him!” I say, barely managing to hold back my laughter at her confused expression.
That causes her to start giggling and before I know it, we are both laughing at and with each other. Still, the feeling I had nags me. I sneak a glance back at my mom.
“Later.” She mouths silently to me with a patient smile.
I acknowledge her with my eyes and turn back to Amanda. “So, how much of your homework did you manage to finish?” I ask.
Amanda sighs and pouts a little. “Well, I got my Math and English done, but, umm, History, not so good. I have 20 reading questions to answer for this chapter and I only managed to get five done.”
“Oh? I’m okay with History. What are the questions?” I ask.
Amanda opens her book to the page that has a folded piece of paper in it and she hands me the paper. I quickly scan the questions. It’s U.S. History and on the Civil War. “Can I see your book?” I ask.
Mystified, Amanda hands her book to me and I rapidly page through the chapter that covers the U.S. Civil War. After 20 seconds, I hand her back her book and start matching the questions with the book’s material. “Okay, I have the answers. How do you wanna do this? I can just tell you the pages to look at for each question or repeat to you the relevant text so you can write down your answer.” I say.
“Bree?” My mom asks with that tone of voice that tells me she is about to warn me that I’m helping Amanda cheat or something.
“Yes, Mom?” I ask trying to sound innocent.
She laughs at my obvious attempt. “You know.” My mom says.
“Pleassssee, Mrs. Peters, can’t she help me? Just this one time. I promise that I will read the chapter tomorrow.” Amanda says directly to my mom while I also turn and give my mom my best pleading expression.
My mom crumbles under the combined onslaught. “Okay, but make sure that you do read it.” She says sternly.
Amanda’s eyes light up. “Yeah! Thanks Mrs. Peters!” She says with an excited little clap as she grins triumphantly at me.
Given the green light, for each question, I repeat the question, followed by the relevant passage from her text book. Where possible, I also add in some related trivia from all of the Civil War history related TV shows that I’ve watched, plus all the extra military history homework that Sensei Rogers liked to assign.
Sometimes, Amanda is so engrossed with what I tell her, that she has to have me repeat the original question again. Then, after she thinks about it for a few seconds, she writes down her answer using her own words. We are halfway through the second to last question when Mr. Smith ghosts silently into the lobby.
I pause, causing Amanda and my mom to turn and follow my gaze. Mr. Smith mouths “Sorry.” and motions for me to continue. I return to the question while keeping an awareness of where Mr. Smith is in the room. Five minutes later, we are all done and Mr. Smith never moved a muscle as he patiently watched and waited for me to finish. Neither my mom nor Amanda appear to notice it when he silently takes a seat across from us. His body language is completely relaxed and casual, but his eyes never stop scanning the room.
Amanda happily stuffs her History book and her note book into her back pack. “Wow, you know what?” She asks as she sits back up and looks at my mom and me. “That was so cool and I think that it might actually be better than reading it. It was so much more interesting to hear Bree tell me about what happened than it was to read it.”
I glance back at my mom and she looks a little skeptical, but she doesn’t have that ‘I know that your fibbing’ expression. Maybe Amanda really means what she is saying.
My mom ends up smiling at Amanda. “You know what? I think that you’re right. It actually was pretty interesting. I never knew that Bree knew so much about the Civil War.” She says while looking at me with a measured expression.
“Well, I do watch a lot of the History Channel and well, you know...” I say while pointing to my head.
Mr. Smith looks like he wants to say something, but he stops himself when I glance up to pay attention to him. Instead, he smiles and shakes his head giving me the impression that he might tell me some other time. Now, I am really curious about what he wanted to say. I have no idea how that will ever happen, but stranger things have happened and are happening to me. He gives me what looks suspiciously like a respectful nod before he exits the room.
I watch him casually stroll down the hall and enter the elevator. The doors begin to slide shut and he surprises me by giving me a sort of salute sort of wave good-bye. At least, that is how I interpret his gesture.
“What was that about?” My mom asks.
I turn back to her. “I don’t know. I thought that he didn’t really like me all that much.”
My mom shakes her head. “No, he didn’t at first, but you really impressed him and I don’t think that he is the type who is easily impressed.”
Amanda yawns while looking back and forth between us with a curious expression. “What? Did I just miss something?”
I can’t help it, I giggle at her. “Nothing, I was just wondering about Mr. Smith, the top secret spook dude that just left.”
“Oh, okaayy...” Amanda says dubiously.
Mrs. Townsend, Mr. Reilly and General Evans choose that moment to enter the room. Mrs. Townsend and Mr. Reilly walk over to us, while General Evans heads down the other hall. I guess that he is heading to his office or something.
I feel a little nervous about what Mr. Reilly is going to say. He must notice my expression because he smiles at me. “Okay, we are done for the night and here is the plan for tomorrow. The good news is that you can sleep in.”
Amanda gets excited about that. “Not you Amanda, you have school tomorrow, remember?” Mrs. Townsend says, deflating Amanda’s excitement.
“But, Mooomm....” Amanda says.
Mrs. Townsend does not look at all sympathetic. “No buts young lady, you knew what you were getting into when you agreed to come here instead of going home.”
Amanda pouts a little, but the effect is ruined when she glances at me with a not so sneaky grin. Mrs. Townsend smiles at her daughter’s attempt.
“Now, as I was saying, Bree and Jennifer, you two can sleep in. We won’t have anything for you all to do until ten hundred hours, I mean 10 AM. We will run some additional tests, do some paperwork and then, pending Mrs. Carson’s approval and your family’s approval,” Mr. Reilly tilts his head in acknowledgement to my mom. “ we will fly Bree to Whateley Academy before we continue on to New Mexico to drop off Jennifer and Dr. Edmundson. Any questions?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“Mrs. Carson?” I ask.
“Sorry, she is the Headmistress of Whateley Academy.” Mr. Reilly says.
My mom clutches me to her protectively. “It all seems so sudden.” She says.
Mr. Reilly acknowledges my mom with a grimace. “Yes, I had hoped that we wouldn’t need to move so fast, but this evening’s events have proved otherwise. I am very concerned for Bree’s safety and I feel that Whateley would be the best place for her right now.” His eyes flash with repressed anger. “Based on the stunt the MCO pulled by leaking your name to the press and the fact that I have had to deal with them before, I just don’t trust them and their methods for dealing with mutants that they deem ‘valuable’.”
Mr. Reilly surprises me with his hatred for the MCO. I don’t even need my voice stress gauge to tell me that he does not like them, at all. He reassuringly smiles at us. “Sorry. Well, why don’t you all head home? I need to make a few more calls and I will meet you two,” He looks at my mom and me. “, here tomorrow morning at 10am. Okay?”
My mom stifles a yawn and that makes me yawn. “Sounds good to me, Mr. Reilly. Barb? Can we get a ride to our hotel?” My mom asks.
Mrs. Townsend smiles. “Of course! Come along you all. Let’s get out of here before they change their minds!” She says, pretending that Mr. Reilly might do that.
Amanda and I get the back seat again and she surprises me by reaching into her book bag, taking out a piece of paper and a Seventeen magazine. With the car moving, she carefully writes down her phone number and email address, then she tucks it into the magazine and hands them both to me. “Here, since you’re going to be flying tomorrow, you might need something to read and that’s my number and stuff.” She says, looking a little sad.
“Oh, thanks.” I say, hesitantly because I’m not really sure what to think. I pull the sheet of paper with her info and try to hand her back the magazine. I’m not really interested in reading about hair and makeup tips or anything girlie, but I can’t really tell her that. “I can’t take your magazine; it looks like you haven’t had a chance to read it yet.” I say, lying like a cheap rug.
Amanda giggles at me. “Oh! No, I’ve read that one a few times already. This month, there’s a really good article on makeup that you might like and another one about how to pick the right bikini for your body.” She suddenly gasps at what I am sure is my shocked expression and grabs my arm apologetically. “Not that I think you would have trouble with any bikini! You’re so pretty that I’m sure you could make even a rag bikini look awesome.”
Her apology doesn’t really help, but she is just so darn friendly and I know that she is just trying to help. Any other girl would probably be delighted to be given this magazine, but I just don’t see why girls like reading these things. Of course, I can’t tell her that without making her feel bad or telling her my secret.
“Oh, are you sure?” I ask while hoping she will change her mind.
She doesn’t. “Oh, I’m sure! You’ll love it! I mean, you haven’t read it already, have you?” She asks, suddenly looking slightly nervous.
Awesome! I have a way out now. “Umm, no. Thanks.” I say, chickening out. It just wouldn’t be right to lie to her, plus I catch my mom’s smile of approval for how I handled this latest emergency. So sad.
Both Amanda and Mrs. Townsend get out of the car when we pull up to our hotel. My mom and I get a hug from Mrs. Townsend. Amanda surprises me with a hug and she looks a little sad when we break apart. “Oh, I wish that you weren’t leaving tomorrow and that you were staying all week. I would have loved to have you over for my slumber party this weekend.” She says with an adorable pout.
Honestly, I have no idea what to think about the idea. Me, at a girl’s slumber party surrounded by giggling girls wearing skimpy pajamas, doing makeovers, having pillow fights and watching chick flicks all night? I feel confusingly excited, scared and sad that I won’t be able to go. “Oh, thanks. I wish that I could stay too.” I say.
My mixture of emotions must be exactly right, because Amanda buys my story. “Hey! You better call me as soon as you get to that school. I wanna hear all about it!” Amanda says as she gives me another quick hug.
My mom holds me close as Mrs. Townsend and Amanda wave to us as they drive off. We wave back and I can’t help it, my eyes start to get a little damp as I watch their car disappear around a corner. My first girl friend or BFF as they say and maybe Amanda means more to me than that. I just don’t know.
My mom tugs on my arm. “Come on Bree. Let’s get inside. We could both use a shower and we can use the time to talk a bit before we go to bed, okay?” My mom says with a smile as I look up at her while clutching Amanda’s magazine possessively in my hand.
It feels good to get out of my dirty clothes and take a hot shower. My mom decides to use the captive time to talk to me about my feelings for Amanda.
“Mom! I’m trying to take a shower and thinking about Amanda while I am naked isn’t helping.” I say feeling very embarrassed when I realize that I do feel attracted to Amanda when I catch myself imaging how she would look naked. In that respect, nothing has changed. I’m still a boy, who can get a woody, err, excited from just thinking about a naked girl, but I’m not and I can’t. I just don’t have the right equipment anymore. I do feel something though. My nipples pop out and my insides feel warm. Now, I really feel embarrassed because there is nothing worse than getting caught by your mom. I try to wrap my arms around my chest to cover up my breasts, but that ends up causing me to gasp with surprise from how sensitive those things are when my arm brushes against them.
“I’m sorry Bree. I didn’t mean to, I’ll just go and watch some TV while I wait for you to get done. We can talk about it later.” My mom says.
I shudder with both relief and confusion as she leaves the bathroom, closing the door behind her to give me some privacy. I just don’t know what my body is trying to tell me. It feels so sensitive right now and every touch is almost a new sensation. It is so different that it makes me wonder what it would feel like to, you know.
Nope! No can do. Not with my mom in the other room and able to feel what I’m feeling. It takes me a few minutes of just standing under the hot water and practicing my meditation thing before I can continue washing my body.
I feel much more relaxed when I finally finish with my shower. Maybe meditating once a day would be a good thing. My mom apologizes to me as we trade spots in the bathroom. I shrug it off as no big deal and dig out my pajamas. Snuggling under the covers, I prop myself up against the pillows and watch some TV while my mom takes her shower. Surprisingly, it only takes her ten minutes before she’s done, dressed and in her bed.
“So, can we talk about it now?” My mom quietly asks.
I just knew she couldn’t wait. “Umm, I guess so?” I say.
“I just don’t know. I like her a lot, and that scares me because I’ve never felt this way about a girl before.”
“I’m not a boy anymore and I don’t think that Amanda is a lesbian, so I don’t really know what to think. I mean, a week ago, me liking a girl would be normal and expected, but now?” I ask.
I don’t know how she does it, but without me realizing that she moved, she is somehow sitting next to me and hugging me tightly as I begin to cry from the sheer frustration of it all. “Shhh, it’s okay baby.” She says as she starts to rock slightly back and forth in an effort to calm me.
It works, mostly. “What if she finds out and hates me?” I ask.
“Amanda is a good person. She might not feel the same way about you, but I doubt that she would hate you. She considers you her friend and she really does like you. Just not in the way that you like her.”
“Okay, what if she finds out that I was a boy?” I ask.
My mom thinks about it for a few seconds. “Hmm, I don’t know, but from what I’ve seen, I think she wouldn’t be the least bit fazed and based on the magazine she gave you, she might even take it as a challenge to get you even more girl trained.” She says with mischievous grin.
“Moomm!” I say with alarm as I imagine what would really happen at Amanda’s slumber party if she knew about me. It would be a fate worse than death. She would have me surrounded and outnumbered by her friends as they pored through all the girl magazines to find new ways to style my hair or cover my face with makeup in an effort to make me look even more pretty. Then, there is the nail paint, fashion tips and cute boy talk. H1, kill me now, please.
My mom just laughs at my reaction. “I’ll talk to Barb tomorrow, sound her out about Amanda and you.”
“Don’t tell her about me, please!” I say.
My mom looks at me with a serious expression. “Hmmm, I’m not planning on it, but depending on what she says, it might need to be mentioned to her so that she can prepare Amanda. I mean, if you and Amanda continue to stay friends, it’s going to come out eventually, right?” She asks.
Defeated by her logic, I sigh with defeat. “You’re right. It probably will and I guess it might be better if it wasn’t a total surprise to her. I’m just worried that she will end up hating me and I would feel bad because I really had fun being with her.”
My mom shrugs her shoulders. “Well, if that’s the case, then I guess that she just isn’t as good of a person as I think she is, but I don’t think that you need to worry about it.” My mom says as she gives me another hug.
I return her embrace and in the comfort of her arms, I feel myself relax and suddenly feel very sleepy. I yawn and she lets me go with an affectionate kiss on my check as she tucks me into my bed. She turns off the light and I watch her stumble a bit in the suddenly dark room as she makes her way back to her bed.
I guess that I am pretty tired, because I’m out before I even realize it. Sadly, 1.5 hours later, I wake up, ready to go. Crap! It’s only 0300 hours. Now what do I do for six hours or seven hours?
I look around the room and spot the Seventeen magazine sitting innocently on top of my suitcase. No way. I am not that desperate, but I could just scan it, couldn’t I? That’s not really reading it, is it? I silently pad over, grab the magazine, take it into the bathroom for the light and rapidly scan the pages while I try to ignore the magazine’s content. Well, I try, but do still notice the many colorful pictures of girls wearing many different outfits and styles.
Done, I set the offending magazine down, silently return to my bed, prop myself up with my pillows and enter my VR world. Feeling the need to blow off some steam, I suit up in my Selene ass kicking outfit, complete with weapons and hit the firing range. This time, I change up my sensible footwear by changing my boots into some sexy four inch stiletto heels. That proves to be a little too extreme, so I drop them down to match my real boots with a simple two inch heel. I can’t help admire myself in the mirror for a few minutes. The skin tight black leather plus the heels really make my legs and ass look hot.
I can’t believe that I just thought that, but at the same time, I can’t help feel a little proud.
I call up the range and start blasting things to help take my mind off of all my confusing boy/girl thoughts. It takes over 30 rounds of hot-lead-blowing-crap-up therapy before I really forget about all my issues and enjoy myself. 30 rounds later and I decide to pull up my real-life simulator mode and re-create the mall parking lot. I want to try Mr. Smith’s suggestion and see if it helps.
Once I get everything setup, I feel pretty proud by how real everything looks, but it’s also kind of spooky. I start the simulation and discover that taking the knife does help improve my score, but after five tries, I still manage to get shot twice. I decide that I need to learn how to throw a knife.
30 minutes later and 217 throws at various targets and ranges, I think I might have the hang of it. If the target is less than 10 meters away, I can be fairly sure of hitting them with the pointy side 92.7% of the time. More than 10 meters and that rate rapidly plummets to zero percent until the target is 30 meters. Five meters is 98.8%.
My next five runs through the sim result in me winning with a perfect score. The dude who likes to shoot me doesn’t do so well with his buddy’s knife sticking out of his shoulder.
For my forth run, I decide to try taking the first dude’s .45 instead of his knife. That approach helps a lot, but their body armor ends up giving them the edge. Out of seven runs, I manage to win six of them. I sort of messed up on my first run, but their body armor and the dude who shoots me most of the time really make this game hard.
Okay, no more miss nice girl! Or something...
It’s really simple. Body armor just means I have to aim for their heads. The enemy dudes are also following the same script, so it’s actually getting a little boring. I tell the sim to give them a bit more intelligence.
With that in mind, I start another sim run. Time slows and once again, I take the first dude’s .45 and instead of aiming center mass for the other targets, I go for head shots to take them out as fast as possible.
The second dude sprays blood and brains all over the car. I quickly stalk forward while trying to maintain a steady firing stance.
The third dude, the guy with the shot gun; his head snaps back as a small hole appears right between his eyes. I watch in slow motion as his brains, skull and bits of hair mixed together blast out of the back of his head. Small hole right between his eyes, big pink mess out of the back.
Where did the third shot come from? The dude who normally shoots me is just coming out from behind the SUV. I didn’t get hit. So who shot who? That question makes me think for a nano second and that pause causes me to notice a few things.
1) I’m not using that STIM thing. 2) Watching someone’s brains get blown out of the back of their heads is really gross and not at all like on TV. 3) I know it is just a simulation, but I just killed two people. I didn’t just knock them down and maybe hurt them real bad. I just blew their brains out.
Everything freezes and that makes it worse because the dude I just killed is lying face down with a big pink mass mixed with bits of bone and hair where the back of his head used to be. I can’t help it; I look over at the first dude I shot. It’s just as bad. I look over at my simulated Mom and discover that she is frozen in mid-fall and she is missing the side of her head. There are even bits and pieces frozen in mid-air with her. The guy who was holding her decided to shoot her this time. I gave them too much intelligence.
I don’t feel so good. I snap out of my VR world and run into the bathroom, tears streaming down my face as I hold my hand over my mouth in an attempt to not toss my cookies all over the floor. I make it to the toilet, mostly. I make a huge mess as I spray puke into the toilet.
“Bree!” My mom yells from the other room. She makes it into the bathroom in record time and is able to witness me void the contents of my stomach for a second time as the vivid image of my mom frozen in time runs through my head. I’m sobbing and puking at the same time.
“Bree! What’s wrong?” My mom asks as she automatically grabs a towel to help with the over-spray.
“I, I shot them and then, they...BAAARFFF! *cough* *cough* *cry*”
“What? You shot them? Oh honey, did you just have a nightmare?” My mom asks as I start to get things under control.
“No, I...” I say as I look up at her concerned and loving face. That reminds me of what I saw happen to my mom and once again, I have to turn my head as I mostly dry heave into the toilet with lovely strings of drool streaming from my mouth.
When I lift my head for the third time, my mom uses a wet wash cloth to wipe my face for me.
“Bree, it was just a nightmare. Whatever it was, it wasn’t real.” My mom says, trying to console me.
“No, it wasn’t a nightmare.” I whisper as the bile taste in my mouth makes me feel like barfing again. Just in case, I turn back to the toilet, but I manage to keep from barfing again.
My mom sits on the edge of the tub and puts her hand on my shoulder to try and reassure me. “What?” She asks.
With tears pouring out of my eyes, I turn to her. “It wasn’t a nightmare. I woke up after an hour and a half and then, I decided to play around in my VR thing.” I say with an ashamed whisper.
“Okay...” My mom says while giving me a look that tells me to continue.
“Well, then I decided to try and re-create the fight to see if I could do a better job.” I say as I stop and turn away, afraid to continue. I start to cry again.
“Bree, what happened?” My mom gently asks, placing both of her hands on my shoulders
I turn back. “I took the gun from the first guy, and then I killed the next two. Since they had armor jackets, I aimed for their heads. It was so easy and I didn’t miss. I blew their brains out and because I did that, the guy who was holding you...” I say before I turn back and violently dry heave into the toilet again.
“Oh, Bree.” My mom says as she wraps me up in a hug. “It wasn’t...”
I stop her. “Yes, I know, but it was. I saw in slow motion the small hole the bullet made, followed by their brains mixed with bits of bone and hair as that mess sprayed out of the back of their heads. I saw you falling to the ground with the side of your...” I say just before I have to stop and dry heave again. This time some orange colored bits come up and I have no idea where they came from because I can’t remember the last time I ate carrots.
“Bree?” My mom gently asks. “Why don’t you hop in the shower while I clean up in here? The hot water will help you feel better.”
I look down and realize that I’ve also made a slight mess on my silk pajamas. “Oh, no! Mom, I ruined them!” I say as I break down and cry some more.
“No you didn’t. They’ll be fine. Here, take them off and I will soak them while you get the shower started.” She says gently, her voice soft and calming as she gives me direction and something else to think about.
The heat from the hot, steamy water sinks into my muscles as it beats down on my back. As the water cascades down my body, I feel the tension drain away with the water. I simply stand under the water and enjoy the feeling while my mom fills the sink with water for my PJ top. She mostly talks to herself while at the same time, providing me with assurances that my top is fine. Meaningless chatter that has a calming effect on me because it’s not about the bad stuff. That small reminder causes me to shiver for a second. I decide to distract myself with the starting to feel normal sensation of washing my new body. I am not really that dirty, but the feeling of the soapy washcloth against my skin is calming.
“There! All done. Now, it just needs to dry.” My mom says as she sits on the toilet seat cover. “So, honey, have you given any more thought about Whateley and what it might be like to leave home?”
“Umm, no, not really. I have just been too busy, but I am a little nervous. I was hoping to be able to spend some time at home before I went, but I guess that it might be better if I went to a school where people like me are considered normal.” I say while smiling at the irony of the situation. I have to go to a school for the abnormal to feel normal.
“Well, if you didn’t already know, I’m freaking out over the idea. Your dad and I almost lost you and now you’re going to be leaving us and going to an out of state school.” My mom says with her voice on the edge of breaking down there near the end.
I poke my head out of the curtain. “Mom, it’s only going to be for a few months, right? I’ll be home for summer vacation.” I say, trying to reassure her.
She gratefully smiles at me as she dabs her eyes with a tissue. “I know, but, well, you know...”
I know exactly what she was looking forward to. “Yep, sorry Mom, but I guess that you and Lindsay’s plot to drag me into some beauty salon will just have to wait.” I say with a smirk.
She gasps with mock surprise. “Curses, foiled again!” She says before laughing.
I drop back under the water and rinse a final time before regretfully shutting off the water. As I pull the curtain back, my mom hands me a towel, open and already in position to wrap around my chest, girl style. Since I got my hair wet, she pulls me over to the mirror and works on drying my hair for me. My mom yawns a couple of times before my hair is done.
“Mom, thanks, but you should get back to bed.” I say as she looks at me skeptically. “I’m fine now, really.”
“Well, let’s get you into your spare PJ’s and we can talk about it.” My mom says as she leads me out of the bathroom and rummages through my suitcase for me. She hands me a fresh pair of panties and as soon as I have those in place, my PJ bottoms and top.
I am so glad she got me a spare set of normal PJ’s instead of one of those sheer and sexy nightgown things like Nikki had. I could never wear something so, umm, sexy. What if someone saw me?
My mom tucks me into my bed and makes me promise to not run another sim thing tonight, or morning. I guess that 4 AM is technically the morning, even though it is still dark out. With the intention of just taking a minute, she lies down on top of the bed and next to me, hugs me close and quickly falls asleep. It feels nice to have my mom hugging me, but I don’t think she intended to fall asleep while doing so. I gingerly extract myself from her, grab the blanket from her bed and tuck her into my bed before I rejoin her. I decide to sit up against the headboard and keep an eye on my mom while I enter my VR living room to read a book or two. Maybe I will watch some TV. Cartoons should be on in a few hours and I kind of want to see the morning news.
I finish reading my book and since it’s only 6am, I activate my internal TV and find the local news station. They have a piece about my adventure, but nothing new since it’s early and everyone who might have something to say is still asleep. Bored with that, I find some cartoons to watch and veg. I use Amanda’s girl magazine to rest my feet on the coffee table. There is no way that I am going to read it, but at least it is good for something.
0830 hours, the cartoons are over, my mom is still peacefully asleep and I’m bored. However; I am not bored enough to try my sim again. I stare off in space for another five long minutes before I finally give in and try reading Amanda’s magazine.
It’s taunting me with its bright and cheerful cover, but I find the article titles designed to interest girls to buying and reading the magazine more amusing than interesting. Unfortunately, that amusement draws me in, so maybe the editors are smarter than I give them credit because I am just dying to learn what jeans would work best for my body.
I’m just getting into, I mean laughing about an article about why boys like the smoky eye effect and how to properly duplicate it when my mom rescues me by stretching and waking up with a fond smile as she spots me. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep on your bed.” She says.
“It’s okay, Mom, you were tired.” I grin at her. “Plus, you snored, so I couldn’t sleep anyway.” I say.
My mom laughs. “I did not! So mean, ya stinker. What time is it?” She asks as she hops out of my bed.
“Umm, 9:04 AM.” I say, translating my military time into civilian time for her.
“Okay, well, let’s get ready. I guess we can just wear some casual clothes and maybe bring our sweats, just in case. I kind of doubt that they will have us lifting weights or running on the treadmill again today.” My mom says.
I am pleased when we find Air Man, err, Air Woman Jessica waiting for us in the lobby. She quickly straightens up and smiles at us as we approach. “Hey, Mrs. Peters and Bree. Good to see you two again. I was a little surprised when my chief had me come over to pick you two up so late.” She says.
My mom laughs. “Yeah, we had a bit of an adventure at the mall last night, so we got to sleep in.”
Jessica’s face clouds with alarm. “Oh, are you two okay? I heard that there was some sort of attack at the PHM. What happened? Did anyone get hurt?” She asks with a quick glance of concern for me before her eyes return to my mom’s face.
My mom looks like she is about to answer, but stops herself. “How about if we talk about it in the car?” She asks.
“Oh, sure. You all aren’t due until ten hundred hours. Did you want to stop someplace for a quick breakfast?” Jessica asks as she leads us out to the government issued non-descript sedan..
My mom fills her in on most of what happened, but she leaves out me getting shot and the top secret after action thing with Mr. Smith. Jessica is floored by what she is told. She just can’t believe that someone would want to attack either of us. To make things easier, we decide to just grab some food from the hospital’s cafeteria. That doesn’t give us time to answer all of Jessica’s questions, so she gives my mom her phone number and makes her promise to call her when everything is settled down. Jessica surprises me with a quick hug under the guise of helping me out of the back seat when she drops us off in front of the base’s hospital. No one saw her do it, but she still looks around guiltily as she reflexively straightens her uniform.
We all wave good-bye to each other as she slowly drives away. After a quick bite, we make it back to the entry area just in time to catch Mrs. Townsend entering the building. That delays us an extra minute because she insists on greeting us both with hugs, asking us how we slept and informing me that, while dog tired, Amanda can’t wait until I can come visit her again. I get an extra hug for Amanda too.
They split us up again for the extra tests. They test my mom for projecting empathetic powers while they test me for cyber powers. The testers get pretty excited when I mess cause a simple calculator to glitch, but grow a little disappointed when I pretend to fail with an old laptop. I am glad that Mr. Reilly is there with me because he doesn’t say a word or even give any indication to the test givers that I might be sandbagging when they make a note in my file.
“Potential cyberpathic abilities that may allow subject to control or influence the operation of simple electronic devices.”
I’m pretty happy with that result and Mr. Reilly quietly tells me that I did a good job as we walk down the hall on our way to the administrative section. They have my mom for 30 more minutes and I end up wasting my time by reading an old Car & Driver magazine that they have in the lobby. When she finally arrives, my mom looks a little exhausted. I guess that they tested her a little harder than they tested me, but projecting empaths are a little more rare and powerful than just a receiving empath.
<1012 Hours, CIA Headquarters, McLean, VA>
CIA, Special Projects Director Falks was analyzing the latest intel from his field agents when he heard a knock on his office door. Angered by the interruption that broke his train of thought regarding the report of the MCO’s secret mutant detention facility in the Nevada desert; he looked up from his report and glared at the door. “Enter! Damnit.” He said.
His deputy director poked his head into the door as it opened. “Sir? Sorry to interrupt you, but the tap we have on the DOD’s new test system at Langley Air Base just reported an anomalous reading that could be a possible cyber-pathic power set.”
His anger over the interruption instantly forgotten. “Who is the subject?” He asked, impatiently.
“Not sure sir, DARPA found her and is sponsoring her testing. The codename on the file is ‘Whisper’. Female. Age 15. Sidhe.”
“How old is this data?”
“The test report is dated from yesterday at 1700 hours, sir.”
“Okay, so the subject is probably still in the testing lab area. Notify Dr. Z that we have a possible ‘Circuit Breaker’ subject for him to examine. I want you to put together an extraction team for this ‘Whisper’ test subject. I want her on the good doctor’s exam table before the day is over.”
“Are you sure that is advisable sir? We are talking about taking a target from DARPA and the DOD.”
“DARPA, I’m not worried about. That bunch of egg heads wouldn’t know the first thing about National Security and how dangerous their little toy might be. The DOD should know better and I’m sure that if the worst happens, they will play ball. Just make sure that our extraction team knows that there can be no casualties with this extraction. They can abort if they deem it necessary.”
“Can’t we just do it officially then?”
“Summers, I know that I pay you to play the devil’s advocate for me, but in this case, trust me. I know what needs to be done.”
“If you’re sure, sir.”
“I am abso-pos-o-lutely sure. Just thinking about another ‘Circuit Breaker’ on the loose gives me shivers. Hell, we probably won’t find anything and in that case, this Whisper girl will wake up on a park bench with nothing but a dream or two. If we do find something, well, then we will just have to cross that bridge if we get to it.”
“Yes, sir. I will get Mirage’s team on it.”
“Good. Mirage has her shit together and her team knows what they are doing.”
“Yes, sir. Since the target is in a DOD Facility, other departments in the CIA will probably end up involved in the initial investigation, should we set up a patsy?”
“Hmmm, good idea. How about we submit a report saying that an MCO van was spotted in the area about the time the extraction occurs?”
“Yeah, the bastards have been a royal pain in the ass the last few years and they could use a little sunshine shone into their organization.”
“Yes sir. I will get the ball rolling.” Summers said as he quickly left his boss’ office and closed the door behind him.
Director Falks tried to use his security clearance to access the DOD’s network and pull up anything on this Whisper girl, but it was like she didn’t exist and that wasn’t normal for the DOD.
Suddenly nervous about his orders, Director Falks leaned back in his chair and momentarily stared at the ceiling as he gathered his thoughts. Reaching a decision, he quickly leaned forward, looked up a number from his old fashioned rolodex and dialed a number. His phone’s security circuits kicked in and a green light telling him that he had a secure, scrambled and un-tapped connection turned on as the other party located at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters’ building answered their phone.
“Hello? Analyst Miller, how may I help you?” The man on the other end of the line asked.
“One Night in Bangkok” Director Falk said. Director Falk couldn’t suppress a pleased grin when he heard Miller gulp with fear and surprise at his uttering of the code phrase. He felt exceptionally grateful with his luck at finding Analyst Miller and discovering his weakness for young women, women who were really men, while conducting routine surveillance of their own hotel rooms while on a intel mission in Thailand a few years ago. Miller had been on loan from the NSA to help the CIA with the signal interception of a known terrorist leader that was hiding out in that country.
Now, Miller was in the perfect position to help him root out some intel on this Whisper girl. He felt sure that the NSA would be able to access any data that existed, no matter how secret or hard to find it might be.
“How can I help you, sir?” Miller asked after Director Falk purposely let the silence drag on to force Miller into a weaker position.
Director Falk grinned with self-satisfied victory. “I need you to find out anything you can on a DOD mutant. Code name is Whisper. I will call you back in thirty.” He said before he hung up without waiting for a reply.
Director Falk looked at his watch and just to make Miller sweat, he decided to call the freak back in 45 minutes or maybe even an hour.
James Miller glared at his phone’s receiver. Fucking Falk and his blackmail pissed him off, but there was nothing that he could do about it. If the agency found out about his tastes in bed, no matter how private they should be, he would be politely asked to seek employment elsewhere. The truly sucky part is that the NSA would be perfectly justified in doing so since it is risky to have agents working for you who can be blackmailed to provide counterintelligence to an enemy agent. Miller was almost able to absolve his guilt by rationalizing the fact that Falk was technically on the same team, just not in the NSA.
He was really just doing a favor for a colleague at another friendly agency. With that in mind, he logged into his work station, but paused before he started his hunt for this “Whisper” target. If Director Falk was calling him to dig up data, then that meant it was out of his reach and that meant it was very classified. Maybe even dangerously classified and accessing it might get him in trouble. If he was caught looking at it. Not that that would happen. Especially with the search coming from within the NSA and impossible to trace, but just in case, he bounced his search request through a few overseas offices and satellites just to make a trace harder.
His initial searches came up empty and we was about to give up, until his search matched a news report from Newport News, VA that mentioned the target. He quickly scanned through the report and the mention of the FBI and Air Force helicopters on the scene raised his internal alarms. Especially since none of this data was found on either the FBI’s or DOD’s networks. Someone had this buried very deeply down the rabbit hole. Now that he was on the hunt and he smelled a drop of blood, his professional pride almost forced him to find out why this Whisper girl was so secret.
It took him another 20 minutes of digging to find it. He had to bypass a shit load of security that he shouldn’t have been able to bypass, but his hacking tool chest was the best. The presidential security seal almost made him stop, but he knew that Falk was going to be calling him in less than five minutes and he wanted to have something to give him. Maybe he would stop bugging him if he got him the data. Fuck, for presidential secure data, the asshole better delete the video and shred his contact info.
With that in mind, he activated his best password cracking tool and felt confident that he would get past the security. He only had to type in a password once. Any password would do. It didn’t have to be the correct password. The NSA’s tool would use that to sneak into the system, analyze the system’s single bad password response and use that to return the correct password. He wasn’t sure how the program did its magic, but it had never let him down before.
Once he hit the enter key for the password, his program attacked the other system’s defenses. Normally, it took a few seconds and then, the correct password would show up on his screen for him to enter. This time, his system just sat there. First for 5 seconds, then 10 seconds and then, he started to wonder what was wrong. He tabbed out to his main desktop and was shocked to discover that his route was being traced by the other system. He was even more shocked by the fact that his system never even alerted him about the trace.
“Holy fuck...” Miller whispered as he watched with amazement while his trail was rapidly traced back to him.
“Shit!” He said as he came to his senses and scrambled to unplug his network cable to cut the connection before it could trace all the back to him. For good measure, he turned off his workstation’s power supply before he sank back into his chair with relief.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck...” Miller chanted to himself in an effort to gather his senses. The mantra seemed to help as he calmly stood up under the guise of stretching his legs to see if there was anyone on his floor looking for him. For once, he was glad that his cube neighbor had his headphones on with the volume loud enough for Miller to hear the tinny music from their speakers. The dude’s hearing had to be really bad for him to need his music to be that loud, but it also meant that he didn’t hear any of his swearing just now.
Miller sat back down and decided to restart his workstation. He left the cable unplugged, but set it back in place to make it look like it somehow worked its way loose. Then, he called the tech support line to complain about his workstation not being able to connect to the network. That should help cover his tracks some. After all, how could it have been him when his network was down?
That fucker Falk should have called him back 10 minutes ago and that pissed him off, but at the same time, he was glad because it gave him more time to take care of his own ass. Actually, he couldn’t wait for that bastard to call him back now. He would tell him that he couldn’t find anything, except for the public news broadcast. Whoever this Whisper girl was, she was one hot potato. Nuclear hot and anyone who touched her would be playing with fire. Let the fucker step on his own dick and maybe his little blackmail problem will go away on its own.
Lunch was good. Mr. Reilly took my mom, Dr. Edmundson and me to a really good seafood restaurant. I was never a fan of seafood and growing up in New Mexico probably didn’t help with that opinion since fresh, seafood, New Mexico and desert don’t go together.
We took a long lunch and didn’t get back to the test facility until well after 1300 hours. I guess that Mr. Reilly did that on purpose, just to keep them from doing any more tests on me. Now, Mom and Mr. Reilly are talking about Whateley, JROTC scholarship and the military service commitment part. Apparently, normal JROTC students don’t have a service commitment, but normal JROTC students don’t attend private schools either. I don’t see a problem with the commitment clause. Besides, it only kicks in if I decide to not go to college.
I take a bathroom break and instead of returning to Mr. Reilly’s temporary office, I decide to hang out in the lobby area. That way, I can talk to Mrs. Townsend when she is not busy or read some more of the magazines out there. I would do the VR thing, but I don’t really feel that bored, just yet.
The nice thing about this secret facility is that there isn’t a lot of traffic and the magazines aren’t all torn apart. Due to the low traffic part, I notice it when a woman that I have not seen before enters the lobby from the direction of the medical wing. She is wearing a lab coat, carrying a clipboard, and looking for someone. I lower my magazine when she changes course and heads towards me.
“Hello? Are you Whisper?” She asks.
I am a little surprised to see that her voice stress reading is in the yellow. I guess that she is a little nervous that I might not be Whisper or something.
“Yes, that’s me. What’s up?” I ask as I close my magazine to be polite to her. She has short brown hair, brown eyes, an attractive face and what looks like a nice body underneath her frumpy lab coat.
“Hi, I’m Josie. They sent to grab you for one quick little test.” She says with a smile. Her stress gauge is still in the yellow, but it has dropped a little.
“Oh, I didn’t know that I needed some more tests and I’m kind of waiting on my mom right now.” I say. I feel a little nervous about this. It sounds like she is expecting me to just go with her without my mom.
“Oh, I’m sorry. They never mentioned that to me, but the test should only take a few minutes. Why don’t you follow me and we can get it over with?” She asks, her stress gauge still in the yellow. She looks pretty calm otherwise, so I don’t know why she’s sounding so stressed.
“Okay, but I really need to wait for my mom. I’m not allowed to go anywhere without her.” I say, expecting that to stop her.
“That’s okay. As soon as I drop you off, I can run back and get your mom. Heck, by the time I grabbed her, you would probably even be done.” Josie says, trying to sound helpful as her stress gauge hits the upper yellow range. She must have a mean boss or something to be so worried about me going with her right now. I guess it will be okay. I don’t know how much longer my mom will be in there, but they should be able to let her know where I am at before too long.
I smile at her as I put the magazine down and stand up. “Okay, that sounds like a good idea. I’m sorry, but what was your name again?” I ask. I know what it is, but something just doesn’t feel right.
“Oh, sorry.” She nervously laughs. “Josie, Josie Bayer.” Her name hits the red zone. What in the heck is her problem?
I follow her lead as she turns around and walks back from the direction that she came. I’m a little curious as to why she is so nervous. “So, umm, Josie. What tests do I need to do now?” I ask.
“Oh, nothing much. I think that they might just want to do some additional blood work.” She replies as she looks back to answer my question. Her stress gauge hits the low red zone this time.
It looks like we are heading back to the lab wing, but my mini-map says we are almost at where the elevators should be. I don’t see any elevators. I just see the hallway for the medical wing and the associated exam rooms as we walk past them.
What in the heck is going on here? Is my map broken?
I decide to turn off the HUD filters for her. That way, I can see everything that my targeting system has found on her body. They are pretty tough about the ‘no cell phone’ rules here, so I am not surprised when I don’t see one on her body somewhere, but she does have a small electronic wrist watch on her left wrist. Something pings my sensors as I detect a rapid burst radio transmission from her. My targeting system highlights a device behind her right ear, but I can’t see anything. What is going on here?
While I am viewing the detailed scan results for her and pondering my mini-map malfunction, I have been lagging behind her. She politely stops until I catch up with her.
“Sorry, I think that my map is messing up, or something.” I say as I receive confirmation of that when my mini-map shows us right at the elevator doors.
Now Josie looks confused. “Your what?” She asks.
That causes me to stop. Something is definitely not right and I am puzzled by her ear radio thing that I can’t see. She walks forward again, but stops a few feet and motions for me to follow. Confused, I automatically follow her and stop when I realize that I can sense the elevator’s control panel, but I’m standing in the middle of a hallway. How can that be?
I start to turn around to ask Josie a question when I feel a sharp pain in my left arm. I look down and Josie has what looks like a ball point pen held against my arm.
>Anesthetic agent detected!
>Unknown molecular compound detected!
That is all I see before everything fades to black.
>Unknown molecular compound...neutralized.
That notification is the first thing that I notice as my awareness returns. Of course, I keep my eyes closed. I am not that stupid. I’ve seen plenty of spy movies where the spy pretends to be unconscious and the bad guy monologues all his evil plans. I decide to ignore the fact that most of the time, the bad guy knows that they are awake.
I begin to catalogue everything that I can with my eyes closed. I am in a moving vehicle of some kind and I can feel the seat belt locked over my lap and right shoulder. Safety first. How thoughtful.
Okay, how long was I out for?
Oh, well, that’s not as long as I was expecting. I thought for sure that I was a goner there. So far, no one has realized that I am really awake and I am betting that they are expecting me to be out for longer than four and a half minutes. Hopefully, that means that they won’t look too closely at me for at least another few minutes.
I decide to drop into my VR living room, but I switch it out for a command center with multiple big displays against the wall and a cool captain’s chair with buttons in the arm rest. Okay, so maybe it is more of a star ship’s bridge than a command center, but I didn’t want to be that geeky.
Instead of a uniform, I opt for my Selene kick-ass outfit complete with my weapons. I feel a brief flash of revulsion for them when I recall my “fun” VR simulation from last night. I don’t really want to think about those things, but I feel reassured by their virtual presence. The weapons with my costume also help put me in the proper frame of mind. I’m a pirate starship captain. Arrr Matey!
I sit down on my command chair and push a button in the arm rest. It does not matter which button I push, but I just like pushing the button. That activates my radar map thing. A nifty holographic display of my current surroundings rapidly coalesces in the middle of the bridge. It slowly rotates around and I find that I can manipulate it just by thinking about what I want it to do.
That is just so cool! How am I doing that? With that thought, I ‘see’ the many different radio frequencies that are present in the modern world and I ‘see’ the sound waves as they combine, rebound and deflect off of everyone and everything in the van. That effect lasts for just a fraction of a second before my super vision returns to normal and I stop seeing the ‘cause’ of the effect.
I discover that there are four people in the van with me. A male driver and a female passenger are in the front seats while two additional male shaped objects are in the backseat with my body. They have me propped up between them. Josie, the female passenger is still wearing her badge, but I am pretty sure that it is fake.
Hmmm, those ID’s might not be fake. CIA? Holy shit! It’s weird that they don’t have their jobs listed, but maybe the CIA is a bit more secretive than DARPA or the DOD?
Philip is the driver, while John and Doug are the two in the back with me. Oh, Doug is allergic to codeine? I wish I had a few of those to pop down his throat right now. Philip has a cell phone in his pants pocket and all of them have the same radio that I spotted on Josie. Using my passive sensors, I continue to gather and refine the data. The holographic display becomes more and more detailed and I am not happy when I discover that John and Doug have shoulder holsters containing a pistol of some kind. Doug has an additional hold-out weapon strapped to his ankle.
Doug’s ghostly head turns towards Josie. “Hey Michelle, I’m a little nervous about making a snatch from the Air Force. Aren’t we all working on the same team?”
Michelle? I thought that her name was Josie. Oh yeah, fake ID. I focus my attention on her, but I don’t see any additional identification on her. There is a small purse on the floor in front of her. I focus my attention on her purse and discover that she has both a MMID and a CAC-ID card in there. She also has a cell phone, but it is turned off. Damn it.
For some reason, I am unable to read her MMID card. Maybe my standard government ID package didn’t include those. It sure would be nice to know what her powers are, but based on what I saw or thought I saw before she knocked me out; I am going to guess that she can make people see things.
“Don’t over analyze things Laskow. It’s not our job to think and thinking too much can get you shit canned, or worse.” Michelle says. She just used Doug’s last name to reply to his question. More evidence that their CIA IDs are real and Josie’s DOD ID is fake.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re probably right. How long is the brat supposed to be out for anyway?” Doug asks as he turns his head to look at me.
“The doc said the dose was good for at least six hours for a normal human, but since she has some low level regen power, he mixed in something called MCES-45 to suppress her powers. He expects her to be out for at least four hours.” Michelle says.
“Oh, that’s good. There is nothing worse than trying to deal with a hysterical teenage girl and it is even worse when they have super powers!” Doug says with relief.
“If you’re so worried about an unconscious teenage girl, maybe you should get off your ass and put the cuffs on her?” Michelle says snidely, challenging Doug’s ability to handle me.
Doug laughs. “Ha, ha, very funny. Not! I think that John and I can handle her and if not, then you can just make it look like we are doctors trying to help her, or something.”
Great, they expect me to be out for four hours and more evidence that she can somehow make people see things. I don’t think that her powers are magic based. I am not sure, but I kind of expect that if she was magical, I would have noticed that. She wasn’t able to override my map, so maybe she can only affect the standard senses. Sight for sure and probably hearing. Now that I think about it, touch too, because I never felt the difference when she lured me into the elevator. What about smell? Hard to say. I don’t know if my sense of smell is that keen.
I need to get back on target. I have just been kidnapped by the CIA and I am playing with my systems. I need to figure out how to escape. How long has it been since I was knocked out?
Okay, so not that much time. We just did a loop around an on-ramp and we are accelerating, so I figure that we are on a highway. We can’t be that far away from the research lab, but I wish that I could see where I was on a map. I activate my C3 thing.
>No Networks in Range
However; I am able to get my current GPS location, speed and direction. Well, at least, I can lay down a breadcrumb trail. That way, I can find my way back if I have too. Now would be the best time to escape, but I don’t see how I can over-power the two dudes back here and get out of a van traveling at 65 MPH. The van begins to slow down. If they stop, maybe I will have a chance to escape.
I wonder if I can use the driver’s own cell phone to call for help. I can read all the numbers and text messages he has sent and received, but I cannot tell it to dial a number. Hmmm, I could really use a cell phone right about now.
Nicholas Reilly felt that the day had been fairly mentally exhausting and the previous day’s adventures were not helping. After a few conference calls with the Secretary of Defense, the President’s National Security Advisor and Mrs. Carson at Whateley, they had Brianna confirmed for a full JROTC scholarship with her classes starting on March 5th. Brianna had a full ride including a special uniform allowance and stipend to help with other school related expenses. He and Jennifer Peters were just finishing up with her daughter’s new identification paperwork.
“Bree! Oh my god!” Jennifer said with alarm as she jumped to her feet and started for the door.
“What happened?” Nicholas asked as he stood, ready for action.
“I don’t know!” Jennifer screamed as she struggled to open the door in her panic stricken state. The door opened and she stepped into the hallway, looking frantically back and forth of any sign of her daughter.
Nicholas followed Jennifer into the hallway. “Which way should we start?”
“I’m not sure...” Jennifer said as she closed her eyes and concentrated. “Umm, maybe back towards the lobby area?”
“Okay, let’s go.” Nicholas took the lead and strode alertly down the short hall that led to the lobby. “What did you feel?” He asked.
“I just felt like she was overcome with intense fear for a second. Not, I saw a spider fear, but more like the fear of a stranger.” Jennifer said as she walked anxiously behind Nicholas.
Nicholas stormed into the lobby area and quickly scanned it, hoping that it was just a false alarm, but feeling deep down that it was worse. Pursing his lips in frustration, he turned to the nervous looking receptionist. “Did you see where Whisper went?”
The receptionist looked over to an empty chair and she appeared startled to not see Whisper sitting there. Nicholas followed her gaze and noticed a magazine lying face down on the chair, as if to save the page. “She was just there, reading that magazine. I never noticed her leaving. Maybe she is in the bathroom?”
“Mrs. Peters, can you check the bathroom? Ma’am, can you call General Evans? If Whisper isn’t in there, we might have a problem.”
The alarm went out and everyone began searching the facility for Whisper. The alert level climbed to emergency levels when they discovered the guards manning the video security system unconscious, the security cameras turned off and the day’s data missing.
With that bit of data, the stress levels rose considerably. Nicholas forced himself to remain calm for Mrs. Peters. She was already worried and pacing nervously back and forth near the chair that her daughter was last spotted sitting in.
With that thought, he decided that he needed to give the President another call. He was really burning up a lot of favors with him, but this situation called for a very high level of involvement. With the proper sized lever, he hoped that they could resolve the latest Whisper emergency without making too much of a mess out of things. With a sigh, he pulled out his phone and entered the President’s personal number.
It rang two times before The President answered it. “Nick, please tell me that the MCO or H1! aren’t attacking Langley.” He said with a note of amusement mixed with serious concern in his voice.
“Sorry, Mr. President, sir. I wish it was that easy.” Nicholas said as a brief smile flashed across his face as he decided how to handle the situation. The President was a very busy man and Nick felt nothing but gratitude that he wasn’t screening his calls now. Everyone in the lobby area suddenly stopped what they were doing and Nick decided that the conference room might be the best place to assemble the troops.
“It appears that someone just ‘borrowed’ Whisper from us.” Nick said, trying to be diplomatic as he walked into the conference room with General Evans and Mrs. Peters close behind.
“Go on, what happened?” The President asked.
Nick looked over at General Evans in case he had any corrections or updates to provide during his briefing. “Sir, at approximately 1523 hours, Mrs. Peters detected via her empathetic powers that her daughter was in distress. A thorough search of the facility failed to turn up Whisper and no one saw her leave. We did discover that the team monitoring the security cameras had been rendered unconscious and all of the day’s security camera footage destroyed. We are attempting to recover the footage, but we are not optimistic about that. The destruction was limited, but it also was very thorough. Whoever did it, knew exactly what they were doing.”
The President sighed. “Nick, you certainly have your hands full there and by the way, your handling of last night’s incident was excellent. Unfortunately, I am currently meeting with the Director of Homeland Security, the Director of the CIA, the Director of the FBI along with the Secretary of Defense, but I think that I can temporarily excuse the VP and the Director of the FBI from that meeting to work with you.”
“Thanks sir, that would be great and sorry.” Nicholas sighed heavily. “I guess that I should have listened to my daughter and taken Whisper directly to Whateley.”
The President chuckled. “Don’t worry Nick. I will make sure that the VP and Fred knows just how serious this is to me.”
After the President hung up his phone, General Evans nodded to Nick and immediately ordered an Air Force Combat Search and Rescue team to stand ready for operations. The team could be in the air and on its way to any location within a 200 mile radius of the base in less than two minutes.
Mrs. Peters looked absolutely distraught as Mrs. Townsend comforted her, but she put on a brave smile for Nick. The fact that so many people were hunting for her daughter had to help. They all anxiously waited for the Vice President’s call. It took him only four minutes to call the main line in the conference room. The tension in the room rose dramatically at the sound of the Vice President’s voice.
<15:43 CIA Headquarters >
Director Falk leaned back in his chair with a satisfied smile on his face. Everything was going according to plan. The extraction team had called in with the mission successful codeword and they were en route to their rendezvous point. He checked his watch. The team should be arriving there any minute now, but it would probably take Dr. Zappata, or Frank as he preferred to be called, an hour or two to get the subject tested and to be sure of the results. He almost hoped that Frank wouldn’t find any cyberpathic powers on the target, but if he didn’t, then this was a lot of risk for nothing. In spite of his bluster, he did feel a small twinge of worry for authorizing a covert operation on a CONUS Military Installation.
But, the country absolutely, positively could not afford to have another Circuit Breaker on the loose. That mutant’s powers had just been too dangerous and no one else seemed to understand the danger like he did. He felt nothing but relief when he heard that the dangerous freak had been killed. The short time that he had to work with her on the Palm AI case had hit every danger button he had. He just knew that she was more dangerous to the country than that Palm AI and was very glad that he had authorized the suicide bomb implantation before she had been taken into custody by ARC.
He was surprised when his lieutenant, Summers, burst into his office, completely unannounced. “Boss, something is going down. The Director just called from the White House and he is asking about our target, by her codename.”
“Hmmm. Maybe DARPA does know how dangerous their little toy can be.” Director Falk leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands as he considered the news. He already knew what to do with the news, but he waited until Summers began to look nervous before he snapped back upright.
“As it stands right now, no one in the Agency can tie our operation back to us, right?” Falk asked.
“So, we could just drop the target, call in an anonymous tip with her location and we would be in the clear?”
“Probably?” Summers asked a bit hesitantly, unsure of where his boss was going with this line of questioning.
“That’s an appealing option, but we still need to know if the target is a danger to National Security. Okay, continue with the operation as planned, but notify me if something changes. I will keep my eyes and ears open too; maybe make a few inquiries.”
Somewhere in Norfolk, VA >
We got off the stop-and-go highway 13 minutes ago and have been traveling down side streets. We have been traveling pretty much straight south the entire time and we haven’t made very many turns. We have had a ton of stoplights and stop signs though. As kidnappers go, these guys have not been very talkative and while I know I shouldn’t be, but I am actually starting to feel a little bored.
“Is this it?” Philip asks as the van slows to 15 miles per hour.
“Yep, turn right here.” Michelle says.
We make a slow turn and come to a stop. Philip rolls down his window and nods to someone outside of the van before the van begins to slowly roll forward again. It sounds like we just entered a gravel parking lot. We must be at our destination and this is my chance to escape.
>Initiating Combat Stimulant...
>Combat Stimulant Production Canceled...
I do not want that. Not after what happened last time and the way I freaked out my mom while using that stuff. I will just have to do this on my own and without any medically induced no-fear serum thing. I can do this. I think.
Doug is on my left, against the window, while John is on my right, blocking my access to the side sliding door. The world goes into full color mode as I open my eyes. Since I am only switching from passive to an active mode, I know exactly where to target my first strike. I catch Doug completely by surprise as my left elbow slams into the side of his head.
I don’t use all my strength. I don’t want to kill the dude, just slow him down for the few seconds I will need to make it out the side door. John begins to reflexively react to my motion by trying to grab me. I don’t give him time to try and block me as I reverse direction by rolling back to the right and slam my right elbow into the side of John’s head. My plan is to use my momentum to rotate around him and open the door while they are both a little stunned from my shock and awe campaign, but I forget one tiny little detail.
I forget to unbuckle my seat beat. I am jerked to a halt and that forces me to scramble to release myself. Doug and John are troopers. Gotta hand it to them because they still try to grab me even while they struggle to regain their senses. I did rattle their cages pretty good.
I get the belt unbuckled just in time for Philip to try and help his buddies by slamming on the brakes. That tosses me forward and into the center console, between the two front seats. Fortunately, we were only going 10 to 15 miles per hour, so I didn’t get thrown into the front windshield.
Philip has his pistol out now and he tries to bring it to bear on me. He is right handed and I am on his right, so he is operating under a bit of a handicap. Also, I am not sure what he plans on doing with it inside the van, but he does try. Instead of letting him try to foolishly get a shot off, I grab his hand and twist. I hear and feel his wrist crack as I lean toward him and take his weapon as it falls from his broken hand.
>Searching IFSFCS Weapons DB for match...
>Caliber: .40 S&W
>Fire Modes: Semi-automatic
>Maximum Effective Range: 50m
>Weapon 1 Searching for IFSFCS Smart Link...
>Weapon 1 IFSFCS Smart Link Not Found
>Weapon 1 Warning...Weapon 1 not zeroed.
Beyond a startled gasp, Michelle has yet to react, but Doug and John manage to bump into each other as they both try to reach forward to restrain me. I abandon my open-the-side-door plan and follow the path of least resistance with a forward dive past Philip and out the driver’s side window.
I seem to have all the time in the world to try and figure out how I am going to land this dive of mine. My system even helps by plotting me a cool trajectory overlay that shows me exactly where, unless I do something about it, I am going to land face first in the dirt. My right hand is holding Philip’s pistol, so I decide to try a gymnastics inspired tuck and roll by using my left hand to sort of guide my fall as I tuck my right shoulder.
It works, but only because of my speeded up reactions and extra strength. I am pretty sure that I would have broken my wrist if I had tried this little stunt prior to my change. I barely slow down as I smoothly roll onto my feet and discover that I am heading right for a cliff.
I hit the brakes and windmill my arms to try and keep myself from falling. I teeter over the edge for a second before I recover and take a step back. I have a pretty good look of the rocky surf 100 plus feet below me. Why in the heck were they driving so close to the edge of a cliff and when did we go up high enough to find a cliff? I turn around and Philip is cradling his hand as he steps out of the Van, while John and Doug are scrambling out of the opposite side door. I don’t see Michelle anywhere.
I need to move. I am not sure which way to go, but I guess that I should run out the gate that we just rolled through. I look to my right and all I see is a long dirt road that leads to nowhere. I look to my left and in the van’s direction of travel and all I see is a small guard rail that might stop a car from rolling off the cliff.
Where in the heck did the gate go?
I guess that I will just have to take out Philip and go from there, but when I look back to Philip; he’s not there anymore and there is only the van standing there. I don’t have anyone to aim my gun at and I only raise it halfway into a firing position before I stop.
Shit! It’s Michelle. I should have known, she is making me see things again.
I switch back to my passive sensors and pay attention to what my HUD is telling me. There he is! His cell phone and the radio in his ear give him away. I can’t see him with my eyes, but the combination of the ghostly passive vision plus my HUD gives me an almost as good as seeing it version of what is really happening.
Philip is two meters away from me and slightly off to my left side. He is watching where I currently have his old gun pointing and trying to stay out of its line of fire. Doug is calmly walking around the front of the van while John is coming around the back of the van to cut me off. Michelle is still sitting in the front passenger seat and concentrating her attention on me. I can see their mouths moving and sound waves coming out, but I can’t hear them.
She must be doing something to change how my conscious mind is interpreting my five senses, but my systems bypass that and read the data on their own. I can’t waste my time trying to bypass the sound thing to hear what they are saying. It probably wouldn’t matter.
Philip takes a step closer to me. I don’t want to kill him, but I do need to change his mind. Unlike my simulation, I can’t tell exactly where my gun aimed at. Instead of a precise targeting point, I have a targeting circle that is about six inches in diameter. I quickly line up the circle the center of his upper thigh and squeeze the trigger.
I hit his thigh, far to the outside and mostly just a nick, but it is enough to cause him to stumble. On the plus side, my targeting circle is cut in half and it appears that my aim is getting better. He lurches forward to try and grab me. I side-step away from his awkward grab and push him off to the left. John jumps backwards to gain some cover behind the rear of the van while Doug ducks down in front of the van.
Based on their reactions, I think that they now know that I am able to see them. Well, either that or they just react to the shot being fired by me. Unlike the H1! dudes, these guys probably know what they are doing and unless I do something, they will work together to take me down pretty fast.
I decide that two can play at the illusion game. I cast my mirror image spell and I split myself into three separate images giving them four of me to shoot. I need to kill Michelle, but these are supposed to be the good guys. Maybe if I fire a shot in her direction, not to hit or kill her, but to hopefully distract her. Philip helpfully left the driver’s side door open and that gives me a direct line on Michelle. I place my targeting circle a few inches to the side of her head. I want to hit the window instead of her because I do not want to blow anyone's brains out ever again. The passenger side window shatters from the impact of my bullet and the targeting circle becomes a targeting point.
>Weapon 1 zeroed!
My mirror images duplicate my shot, but they each do it slightly differently. Mirror Image One jumps backwards and fires. Mirror Image Two jumps forward and fires. Mirror Image Three jumps to the left and fires. Sadly, that puts Mirror Image Three directly in the line of fire for Doug and he shoots it, causing it to fade away. On the plus side, reality snaps back into existence as Michelle screams and jumps out of her door.
Time to run!
With reality restored, I easily spot the gate to my right, north of my current location. I turn and run for the open gate. Mirror Image Two duplicates my action, but since Image Two was closer to the van, it hugs the side of the van. Image One somehow decides to run the opposite direction and completely away from the van. That exposes Image One to both Doug and John’s line of fire, but John is a bit distracted by me and Image Two running toward him with our guns aimed right at him. He has his gun raised to fire, but he can’t tell which one to fire at. Me or Image Two and that hesitation gives me the time I need to fire at him. I pray that the ‘Weapon 1 zeroed’ notification, plus the fact that my targeting circle is now a pin point will allow me to hit exactly what I am aiming at.
Boo Ra! I hit John’s shoulder, exactly where I was aiming and that causes him to drop his gun, clutch his shoulder and fall backwards. He also yells a few bad words, but I won’t repeat them.
I hear Doug’s gun fire, but I don’t have the time to see what he might be aiming at. He doesn’t hit me and that is what is important. Me and Image Two run as fast as possible in the direction of the open gate. There is a uniformed security guard crouched down next to a small shack with his gun drawn and pointed safely into the air. He does not look happy and the sight of me and my image running in his direction makes him less happy.
He aims his weapon at me and I direct Image Two to cross my path. We run into each other, merge and I change my direction of travel slightly away from unhappy security guard while my image runs directly at the unhappy security guard. That makes him even less happy.
“Halt or I’ll shoot!” He screams, aiming his gun at Image Two.
While I keep running, Image Two skids to a halt and throws its hands up in surrender.
Good job Image Two!
The security guards gaze flickers in my direction, but he stays on Image Two. I guess that he is happy that he stopped one of my twin Images and doesn’t want to risk it. The old, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” thing.
“Drop it!” The security guard yells.
Image Two fades away as Doug shoots at it and Security Guard dude crumples to the ground as one of Doug’s shots hits him dead in the chest.
I feel something punch me in my back followed by a burning, cramping sensation in my side.
>Enemy hit detected!
>Right Latissimus dorsi 7% damaged...
>Right Kidney 70% damaged...
>Small Intestine 15% damaged...
>Combat effectiveness reduced to 91%.
>Estimated time to full combat effectiveness: 4.31 minutes
Getting shot doesn’t hurt as much as I expect it to hurt. I didn’t feel a thing the last time I got shot, but I was also using the Combat Stims.
I look back and see Michelle with a gun in her hand, crouched down and in a shooting stance. Crap, I forgot about her and I think that I should have activated my blur spell too. I could shoot back at her, but I do not want to get into a shootout with these guys. I need to get away from them. I cast another Mirror Image spell and wish that it was night outside so that I could try hiding in shadows or something.
Doug fires at one of my mirror images, but misses it. There is a single story white building across the street that if I could reach it, I could use it to block their line of sight on me. I decide to run northeast and to the far right corner of the building, while my other three images split up and head in completely different directions. Image One runs due north, towards the left side of the building. Image Two follows the street and runs west, while Image Three does the opposite and runs east on the street.
I make it to the corner of the building without getting shot again and now I discover another problem. People and lots of them are exiting the building and heading for their cars. I am surprised that they all look so casual. Didn’t they hear the gunfire from across the street? A few of the guys look at me curiously, but without alarm. I risk a glance behind me and I see Doug running back to the van screaming something. I can’t make it out what he is yelling, but he looks pissed.
With all these people here, I decide that now is a good time to try and go invisible. It’s only 1603 hours and while the sun is starting to go down, it is still very bright outside. Much too bright for sneaking and all it would take is for the CIA dudes to flash a badge and ask one of these folks which I went and they would be right after me. I am a little concerned though. I have never cast that spell before and it is a few levels above Whisper’s level, I mean my level, but I need it now. I concentrate on the invisible spell’s icon and the pattern it makes. I feel the magic inside of me and in the air around me as I reach for the magic and try to pull it in. The spell takes a lot more power than I expect.
“Hey, young lady. Are you okay?” A concerned looking older woman asks as she diverts her path to head in my direction.
I almost lose control, but I manage to pull it off. Well, I think I do because I feel the magic activate and the woman stops with a confused expression as she looks around like she lost something. Yeah, me. She lost me.
“Hey, John, did you see a girl over there?” She yells to a man not far from her.
“I dunno Mary. I thought I heard some shooting, but hard to tell from inside.” He says with a quick glance in my direction.
He’s looking right through me. Sweet! This invisibility spell rocks! I quickly walk my way through the small parking lot and hit the street that runs mostly north towards a bigger street.
I see the van turn onto the same street and slowly make its way past me. Doug is at the wheel with Michelle once again in the passenger seat. They are both looking every which way in an effort to spot me, but Michelle has Phil’s phone and is talking into it.
“Yes, Control. We are in pursuit now.”
Michelle pauses for a second and I wonder if the van will roll out of my range before I hear her reply.
That is totally not what I want to hear right now. “Abort mission”, “Return to base” or something else would be real nice right about now because then I could just run back and ask the nice lady for some help.
I don’t see John, but I do detect his CAC ID card. I guess that he is in the back seat. His shoulder has got to be killing him. I know that they are trying to kill me now, but I hope they take him to a hospital soon. Phil is also in there, but all I see is the back of his head. He is looking out the opposite side window for me.
Have I mentioned how cool this invisibility spell is?
Director Falk felt happy, mostly. As he expected, the Director’s inquiries within the Agency about Whisper were returning zero results. His department’s internal security procedures were rock solid. Sometimes the paranoia and compartmentalization culture of the CIA worked in your favor. He felt a minor bit of guilt for deceiving his boss, but better safe than sorry. National Security and the safety of his agents were more important than one young teenage girl.
“Sir, we have a problem.” Summers said as he once again, barged into his office unannounced. He had his hands free headset on his head and he looked a bit stressed.
“What?” Director Falk calmly said.
“The target escaped. Plus, we have two wounded. Whyte and Hoffman. Whyte took a round in his shoulder while Hoffman has a broken wrist and a minor leg wound. We also have some collateral damage with a private security guard taking a hit. Looks critical, but Michelle thinks she got a solid hit on the target just before they lost sight of her.” Summers said.
“Hmmm, can they pursue?” Director Falk asked after a moment of deliberation. He wanted to swear, but losing his cool in front of Summers would not be setting the right example.
“They might be able to, but Whyte definitely needs some medical attention. Should we scrub the op?” Summers asked.
Director Falk’s eyes narrowed with irritation.
“I mean, The Director is sniffing around. We could walk away from this and no one would know.” Summers hastily explained.
“No. Tell them to find her and terminate her. My sources tell me that the President is involved in this and we can’t risk the exposure. Both of our careers would be dead, maybe literally, if this op gets traced back to us.” Director Falk said.
I watch as the Doug makes a left turn onto Brambleton Ave. That tells me that I need to go in the opposite direction and head east; right over a short bridge. I guess that the bridge is why Doug turned left instead of right. If I wasn’t invisible, I would have been super easy to spot. I just begin to cross the bridge when I feel the spell beginning to fray. If this was GEO, my spell icon would be blinking red right now.
Oh crap! That is all I need. I’ve only had the spell running for 4 minutes. It should last longer. I risk a glance behind me and the van is still in range of me. They are driving very slowly as they try to spot me in the small park on the north side of the road. If my spell fades right now I will be totally exposed.
I still have Philip’s weapon in my hand and I am pretty sure that since I lack a place to hide it on me; I will stick out like a sore thumb. Nothing like seeing someone with a bloody shirt running around with a gun in their hand to draw attention to yourself and there is no way that am willing to even try sticking it down my pants like the idiots on TV do. I’m not an expert or anything, but there is nothing dumber than trying to look all gangster with a loaded gun stuck in your pants. Fortunately, there is a handy bit of water right below me. I lean over the side and casually drop the gun into the water below. I hear a nice little splash when it hits the water and sinks out of view. The water looks pretty deep here, so I doubt anyone will find it soon.
I look around to see if anyone noticed the gun appearing from nowhere and landing in the water. It doesn’t appear like anyone noticed, but I do spot a guy out for a jog and that gives me an idea for a disguise. As my invisibility spell begins to totally unravel, I try to call up my self-illusion spell icon, but that makes me lose control of the invisibility spell even faster. The spell drops and now I am totally exposed. My side still hurts from the wound and my shirt feels sticky, but I ignore the pain. It should be healed by now. What is my status?
>Right Latissimus dorsi 1% damaged...
>Right Kidney 20% damaged...
>Small Intestine 4% damaged...
>Entry Site Trauma...Repaired.
>Combat effectiveness 98%.
>Repairs in progress...
>Estimated time to full combat effectiveness: 1.15 minutes
The van’s tires squeal as the brakes lock up. Either they just tried to not hit a squirrel or they spotted me. I’m going to go with the former. I run and by run, I mean run. Really, really fast. Way faster than I ever managed to run in school. I hit the end of the bridge as the van completes a noisy and highly illegal U-turn. More than a few other drivers honk their horns in anger.
My side really starts to hurt too. I could really use that STIM thing right about now, but I refuse to be a wuss about it. Besides, I’m almost 100% healed. I distract myself from the pain by worrying more about how to dodge my CIA friends and escape. There is a NOAA building and a four story brick apartment building. I debate running into the NOAA building. They work for the government, maybe they will have a network connection or even easier, a phone I can use to call Mr. Reilly.
No, I don’t want to be trapped inside the building and now that they want to kill me, that is all I need. I need to keep running, but not where the van can follow. I spot a narrow pedestrian alley blocked by a black iron gate with a keypad lock. I reach the gate and burn myself when I attempt to rattle it to see if it is locked.
Crap! It’s a wrought iron fence.
The keypad is all shiny and not iron. I touch it and its simple electronic heart opens itself for me. The lock clicks open and I use my foot to pull open the gate. I expect to hear the van’s tires squeal as they brake to a stop, but instead, the van accelerates and heads right for me. Are they trying to ram me or something?
I slip through and pull the gate shut, burn my hand some more on the iron and run. I make it five meters down the alley when the van slams into the gate behind me. Yep, they are definitely trying to kill me now, but if I can slip them now they won’t have a way to follow me. Their van probably isn’t going to be going anywhere now.
The end of the alley is coming up. It looks like it opens into a pool area for the apartments. I look over my shoulder and the van hasn’t stopped. The front grill and window are completely shattered, but Doug is keeping the accelerator pinned as the van grates itself against the side of the building. Michelle looks totally petrified and is screaming at Doug. I want to watch. It’s not every day that you get to watch something that could be a scene in an action movie. It would be great, if I wasn’t the person they were trying to run over.
I run past a swimming pool and jump over a six foot privacy fence. The van is gaining on me, but my jump allows me to clear the side and I am delighted by the sight of a pair of steel vehicle stopping posts blocking the gate from the street. The van crashes through the gate and comes to an abrupt and noisy halt when it hits the posts. I don’t think Phil and John in the back are going to be doing so well, but Doug and Michelle are not too happy either. Doug ends up getting partially thrown out of the front of the van. Michelle does better. She has her seatbelt on. No airbags to help either of them. They were probably the only thing that saved Doug when he rammed into the fence.
I feel the urge to stay and help them, but that urge disappears when I spot Phil attempting to aim a gun at me from the back seat. His aim is all over the place, but I decide to not take any chances. There are also curious residents attempting to find out what just happened to their building.
“Oh my god! Someone! Call the police!” I yell to distract everyone from me.
>Law Enforcement vehicle detected...
>ETA 45 seconds.
Yep, it is definitely time to run, but someone running away from the scene of an accident draws attention. I do not want to do that, but I also want to get out of the area as fast as possible. I could try my invisibility spell again, but that didn’t last long enough. I need a disguise.
As I jog away from the crash, I concentrate on a self-illusion. I need to look like someone who should be running versus a wanted criminal. Instead of a girl with a bloodstained shirt and jeans, I imagine myself as a 20 something woman, maybe 5’ 11” with blond hair and a ponytail who is wearing a stylish sports bra top thing with the mandatory black skin tight running suit with white and pink sneakers. With that image firmly in place, I call up my spell and pour my magic into the icon. I feel the magical pressure ripple across my body and it only takes a quick glance down to confirm that I now look exactly how I imagined myself looking. I look hot and initially, that sight pleases me, but why didn’t I try to look like a dude? Oh well, I just hope that everyone is too distracted by the accident to notice my appearance change.
I make it two blocks away without anyone yelling at me and I don’t catch anyone looking at me funny. With my leisurely jogging pace, I make it halfway down the next block before the first police car comes into view. I do notice a few second and third glances by the guys, but no one is pointing at me and screaming, “There she goes!”, so I think that I am okay. As an added bonus, my side doesn’t hurt anymore and I am at 100% combat effectiveness.
While I am jogging in place at the corner, two ambulances, three fire trucks and five squad cars scream past me with sirens and lights blazing. I need to get off this street. I head south for one block then east again and half a mile later, I find a mall. Now, there would be a perfect place to find a phone and call Mr. Reilly to have him come pick me up.
I know that my last trip to the mall didn’t end so well, but what could go wrong? Okay, okay, dumb question, I know. I only have the CIA trying to kill me and now, I might have the cops after me too, but I’m sure that Mr. Reilly can clear this up pretty fast. I just need to keep my head down and not attract attention. Easy, right?
Director Falk’s good mood was long gone and all he wanted to do right now was to pull out the bottle of scotch hidden in his desk drawer. The bottle was there for celebrations, but now he wanted it more for its “medicinal” purpose. He wasn’t sure if the scotch would be enough and he briefly considered pulling out his service revolver from its drawer. The CIA’s Internal Affairs was on the hunt, his own grapevine told him that the President was pissed, the FBI was on the case and even more alarming; his “contact” with the NSA was not answering his phone. Whatever she really was, this Whisper girl was looking like she could be his own career ending Waterloo.
The third call from the team that notified him that the target had escaped and that the team was now dealing with the local law enforcement put the cherry on top of his shit storm sundae. The only bright spot in the entire mess was the fact that Mirage was uninjured and able to keep the LEO’s from asking too many questions.
With all of the shit now flowing downhill, Mirage was his umbrella and the only person who might keep all of their careers intact. She knew enough to keep the team’s identities from getting out. The only special instruction he had to give was to instruct her to make it look like the escaped target was more violent and physically dangerous than she really was. Hell, she did shoot and injure two of his men. Maybe the target really was a psycho like that Circuit Breaker freak and she just had bad aim.
It worked. The now panic stricken local law enforcement had a started a massive manhunt for Whisper, but the city lacked a SWAT team that could handle a mutant rampage. He fully expected the FBI and the MCO to sweep in any minute now and take over for the overwhelmed police department. The target’s location was unknown, but a quick look at the map told him all he needed to know. She was a teenage girl and there was a large shopping mall less than a mile from where she escaped.
The girl was a loose end that might be able to identify his agents and that would lead Internal Affairs straight to his office. He toyed with the idea of calling the MCO, but they would be like a bull in the china shop and even more unpredictable. The MCO was probably already involved in the manhunt and calling his contact within the MCO would only increase his risk of detection. One, Internal Affairs would be all over the outgoing and incoming calls log; two, a call to the MCO right now would stand out like a sore thumb and three, there was no way he would even consider using his personal cell phone. No, he needed to have Whisper just disappear or even better, be killed while ‘resisting arrest’, but the only assets he had on hand that stood any chance causing that outcome were Mirage and Laskow.
Deputy Director Reilly and everyone else in the conference room could not believe what they were hearing. The good news was that Whisper had escaped from her kidnappers. The bad news was that she was also being accused of murdering two unidentified federal agents and an off-duty police officer during her escape. The FBI agents that arrived at the site of a crashed van found the van abandoned with the police officers on the scene reporting that they had just missed the Department of Paranormal Affairs (DPA) officers. Apparently, another team of agents had already arrived and departed with the “victims” of the “horrible mutant attack”.
That was how the local police officers had framed it and that is now how the local news stations were starting to report the event. Of course, the DPA knew nothing about it and had no agents missing or even in the same city. The fact that the so called DPA agents were still unidentified and unaccounted for confused and pissed him off to no end. Especially when the local police chief accepted an offer for assistance from the MCO even though he knew that the FBI was on the case. That bit of news got the President out of his meeting and he was not happy about that. He wanted the balls of whoever authorized this operation on the DOD and Whisper.
Nick felt fairly confident that it was either the CIA or the NSA who had “borrowed” Whisper, but so far the Directors of both of those agencies had failed to turn up any leads. The only consolation that Mr. Reilly felt right now was that he wasn’t the Director of the NSA. The White House’s security team reported an attempted breach of Whisper’s secured files and that breach was traced back to somewhere within the NSA.
He was very worried about Whisper, but there wasn’t anything that he could do until she took the risk and contacted him. They knew where she was last spotted and where she had escaped from. A FBI team already had the escape site completely englobed with agents. The off-duty police officer who was employed as the site’s security guard was in critical condition and in the process of being loaded onto a helicopter to be taken to the nearest trauma center. That accounted for the “murdered” police officer.
The discovery of an abandoned field surgical suite at the site sent chills down his spine. Someone had planned on performing medical examinations and possibly experiments on Whisper.
The map of the area showed that there were some good places for Whisper to hide in or be hidden in. There was a hospital and a few medical facilities within close proximity. There were also lots of coffee shops, restaurants, shops and other public places that she could hide out in. Both he and Mrs. Peters felt certain that the MacArthur Mall was the leading candidate and a couple of teams of FBI agents had already been dispatched to that location to try and find her.
It appeared that the MCO also agreed with that assessment since they had two drop ships loaded with their top of the line elite Mutant Assault Armor Troopers currently en-route for the same place. The MCO claimed that they weren’t going to deploy them unless the situation deemed the use of force to protect innocent civilians from a mutant rampage if necessary. The ships would just loiter in the area, just in case. Additionally, the MCO officer in charge claimed that they were just acting on behalf of the local authorities and as such, their assistance legally fell under their charter as framed by the treaty governing their existence.
Nick’s phone sat on the table, plugged into his charger and ready in case Whisper tried to call him. Mrs. Peter’s phone sat right next to his phone. Additionally, Dr. Edmundson made sure that Whisper’s mil-net access was wide open in case she somehow found a mil-net access point and tried to contact them that way.
Nick’s fury increased even more as they watched the two MCO drop ships take up station above the area at 60,000 feet to appease the commercial traffic controllers and the U.S. military. While he knew that it would cause both a political and physical disaster, he considered asking the President if they could order the Air Force to down the MCO drop ships.
If only Whisper would call.
I am scanning the emergency bands and the police are now officially freaking out. Apparently, Michelle was able to convince the cops that I am a violent and dangerous mutant. Oh yeah, and that she is with the DPA and not the CIA. I am beginning to regret my decision not to shoot her.
As soon as I enter the mall, I feel a sense of safety wash over me. I am no longer out in the open and on the street where anyone could just grab me. Also, there are lots of nooks and crannies in here that I can hide in until the troops can arrive. Well, if I can find a phone and get a hold of Mr. Reilly.
The part of the mall that I entered is pretty empty. I guess that I either got lucky and picked the less used entrance, or the mall isn’t that popular and my idea of blending into the crowds isn’t going to work.
Oh crap! Where are the cameras? Did they spot me entering the mall?
>Scanning IR Frequencies for Enemy Surveillance devices...
>Surveillance devices detected.
>Mapping evasion patterns....
As I continue down the hallway and toward the main thoroughfare, my HUD is overlaid with the camera positions with their current possible viewing arc highlighted in red. Yep, the camera at the entrance caught me entering the mall, but now that I know where they are and how to avoid them; I can plot a course to stay out of sight.
I pass a colorful children’s toy store and as I approach a set of escalators that go up, I run into a lot more people. That’s a relief. There is no way that the CIA people can get me out of this place without causing a scene. The majority of the shoppers here are professionally dressed women and teen girls around my age with a smattering of professionally dressed men and grubby boys. I can’t believe that I used to dress like that; grungy jeans and a simple t-shirt.
Wait a cotton picking minute!
What in the heck am I thinking? I really miss being able to dress all grubby and not have anyone say anything about it. And, why do I suddenly think that is “grubby”? That’s not grubby; that’s easy and comfortable. I think it is time to purge Amanda’s magazine from my memory. It must have started subliminally reprogramming my keen denim and t-shirt fashion sense, but maybe later; I don’t want to accidentally delete something important and there was that one article that I didn’t get to finish.
The one thing that they all have in common though, is the quality of their clothing. Even the cool grungy boys are wearing name brand expensive stuff. I guess this mall attracts the high income crowd. I feel a little under-dressed right now, but no one seems to be looking at me like I’m out of place. Maybe this mall has people in exercise clothes walking around it all the time like they do in the mall back home?
I spot a fresh faced security guard with a radio clipped to his shirt checking me out. Well, not me, but the tall blond runner babe in skin tight clothing. He looks appreciative and that tells me that I really need to change my disguise, fast.
I divert course toward the guard while avoiding a camera sweep. “Umm, sorry sir, but is there a restroom nearby?” I ask with a tentative smile to help distract him even more. It works. I easily pick out his radio’s frequency and I am delighted to discover that it is not encrypted. I figure that if the police or the CIA storm the place, the security guards will among the first to know. Of course, the CIA probably wouldn’t storm the place. They would just sneak a bunch of assassins and snipers in to shoot me. Regardless, I decide to add their frequency to my already very noisy police monitor.
He blushes and stammers. “Y-yes ma’am. Just down that way.” He regains his composure as he points down the main thoroughfare with all the shops on either side and above. “And the first left.”
“Thanks!” I say with a genuinely grateful smile as I turn to follow his directions. I am going to guess that he’s not a CIA assassin. I don’t look behind me, but until I lose myself in the crowd; I can feel his eyes on my illusionary spandex clad butt. My illusion is holding up very nicely and unlike my invisibility spell, I am not having any problems holding onto it. I think I could easily keep this going for an hour or more, but I also think that the blond runner babe will draw just a bit more attention than I need right now.
I catch myself looking up and into the rafters above me. I don’t spot any black clad snipers hiding out up there, but I guess they would be pretty bad assassins if I did. I am probably worrying about nothing. I find it a little hard to believe that they would have known that I would escape and that I would come to this mall, but they did manage to sneak into a top secret uber secure military base and get me out without anyone knowing.
I pass a cash machine on the way to the women’s restroom. No, I don’t accidentally go into the men’s this time, but I do debate trying my power against the cash machine. Having some cash might come in handy, but I don’t want to steal it. That is all I need right now; busted for robbing a cash machine in the mall.
As I enter my first public girl’s restroom, I spot a few other girls chatting away at the mirror and a couple of the stalls are open. I kind of expect the girls to scream and yell that I don’t belong here, but they don’t. They don’t even give me a second look. I find an empty stall and lock the door behind me. The restroom makes me a little nervous. If they come for me in here, then I will be trapped. Geez, I am really getting paranoid here.
I decide to use this opportunity to actually use the stall for its intended purpose while I consider my next move. The person in the stall next to me finishes up and I hear the girls leaving the restroom. No one currently in the restroom knows what I look like. I drop my illusion and check myself out. I mean, I check my wounds out, not, you know.
My wound is completely gone. Nothing there but smooth skin and flakes of dried blood. The blood on my shirt and jeans will definitely stand out here. Dr. Edmundson was pretty cautious about my blood. I need a way to clean myself up and remove or destroy all the blood on my clothing. Maybe my nanites can do something about that?
I focus my attention inward and concentrate on what I need to happen. Okay nanites, clean up the blood stuck to my skin and clothes, please?
I try to spot the nanites, but I can’t see them at all. However, I do feel a slight tingling sensation as they ooze out of my skin. They start working on the blood in my shirt and I notice the fabric getting more than just clean. The fabric is starting to fall apart where there is blood on it.
Wait! Stop! Don’t eat the fabric, umm, please.
The nanites alter their action and my shirt doesn’t disintegrate any further, but it is definitely trashed where the blood was staining it. My jeans fare a little better. They end up clean and just a little frayed where the nanites did too good a job cleaning. My panties are completely ruined though.
There is no way that I can wear half eaten panties. Not that there was a lot of fabric to begin with, but now there isn’t even enough fabric left on the waistband to hold them on. I can’t just throw them in the trash or down the toilet. I guess it is time to go commando. It is going to sound weird to ask this, but...
Destroy my panties please?
I watch in amazement as my panties turn to dust and disappear right before my eyes. Now, I might need to hit up that cash machine so that I can buy another pair of underwear. I did pass a Victoria store on the way to the restroom. What am I thinking? What happened to me the last time I went into one of those stores? Hmm, maybe I should have asked the nanites to fix my panties instead?
>Alert: <Unidentified> encrypted military frequency traffic detected!
Unidentified? Who is it? Wait, that’s kind of dumb to ask, right?
I don’t receive a reply to that question and that relieves and concerns me at the same time. Okay, what are the police and mall folks saying? I pay attention to their traffic and decide that it is now time to get really worried. They are talking about the two MCO drop ships that hovering over the city. The police sound pretty excited about it, but they do grumble a little about how the MCO is invading their turf.
The police also mention the FBI and how they are investigating the shooting of the security guard who just happens to be an off duty police officer. Nothing like an “officer down” radio call to get the other police officers feeling testy and they do sound a little mad about that one. I didn’t shoot the dude, it was Doug, but due to the ‘testimony’ of the so-called DPA agents, they all think that I did it. That has to be Michelle’s fault. I really think that I should have shot her, just a little.
Crap! I need to call Mr. Reilly before it is too late. I stand up, flush the toilet and pull up my jeans. Ouch, without my panties, the jeans feel a little rough against my skin. I really should have tried asking the nanites to fix my panties. Going commando is not good, but at least I don’t need to worry about the dreaded VPLs now. Okay, that does it! First chance I get, I am deleting Amanda’s magazine from my memory.
Instead of worrying about that, I concentrate on a new disguise. I need to look like one of the regular shoppers here, rich and maybe even slightly spoiled. I immediately think of Chloe Angstrom. She is a senior and the most popular girl in my school. Her dad is loaded and she always has to have the latest fashions. She is nice though, not stuck up or clueless like that girl in the movie.
I concentrate on what she looked like the last time I saw her and pour my magic into the spell’s pattern. I feel the magic ripple over my body then settle down to nothing. I look down at myself and see that I now look exactly like her. I am wearing a dark blue silk-like top with a ¾ sleeve black bolo jacket that doesn’t really hide anything or provide warmth. I also appear to be wearing a pretty, I mean sparkly, diamond chain around my neck that plunges down to draw attention to my, I mean, her nicely sized boobs. I refuse to think of them as my boobs because well...I don’t know. It’s just not right, but I must admit that they do look rather nice. Much fuller and bigger than mine. Oh man, what am I thinking?
My skin is now perfectly tanned and I am wearing a tight black skirt that ends just above my knees. The skirt also has a six inch slit down the left side that exposes just enough thigh to concern me. The dress is further complemented with some opaque white nylons and three inch expensive looking black heels. No idea what brand they are, but they just look expensive to me. Oh yeah, and a nifty matching diamond ankle bracelet. I kind of forgot that she was wearing that until I looked down at my feet.
Confident that my illusion looks passably good, I step out of my stall and walk over to the mirror. Her, I mean, my hair appears to be medium length straight blonde with darker blonde streaks running through it or is it the other way around? Is my hair dark blonde with light blonde highlights? I don’t know, but it does look nice. I even got her makeup down and her blue eyes just “pop”. Well, they do look rather stunning to me. I think the blue top helps bring out my eye color more, or something. Or maybe it is the diamond earrings combined with her subtly dark smoky eye shadow?
As I reach down to wash my hands, I notice the dark red nail polish, silver pinky ring with a matching diamond tennis bracelet. Wow, she really goes all out. I can’t believe that I never really noticed that until now. I mean, I kind of admired her and every guy wanted to date her, but until now, I never noticed all the details that she used to make herself look so hot. I am almost tempted to pull my skirt down, or up to see what kind of panties she is wearing. If my imagination is working the same way it was last week, I bet I am now wearing a thong or something similar. I am not sure if this is such a good idea for a disguise. I am sure to attract a lot of attention.
The door opens and a pair of girls walks in. They are dressed pretty nice, but I am definitely outdoing them. They look a little upset with me as they walk past me, but then I hear them giggle at each other as they enter their stalls.
“She looks like a total bitch!” One of the girls whispers, thinking that I can’t hear her.
“I know, but did you see those Jimmy Choo’s she has on? So jealous!”
I can’t help smiling as I walk out of the restroom, but then, I notice that my heels aren’t making any noise and I don’t have a purse. Crap. That’s not going to work. I pause at the door and concentrate on altering my disguise. The magic takes a bit more effort this time, but I only altered things a little bit, so if anyone is watching; I doubt that they will notice.
I take a step out and my heels make a solid tapping sound on the floor. I don’t know much about women’s shoes, but I do know that cheap shoes make more noise and the sound is exactly how I remember Chloe’s real shoes making as she sauntered past me in the hallway at school. Also, I am now holding a small black fabric purse in my right hand. I think they call them clutch purses or something. Again, no idea of the brand, but it looks like Chloe’s purse.
I briefly glance at the cash machine again, but I decide against trying anything. They have cameras on them and the CIA has probably hacked into them like they do all the time on TV shows and movies. I would look mighty suspicious hiding my face from the camera while using the cash machine. Not that they would recognize me now, but what if they had some super secret face scanning thing that could detect my illusion? Okay, now I am definitely getting a touch too paranoid.
Kind of like commercials on TV, I have only been halfway paying attention to what the police are saying on their frequencies, but the gist of it is that there are MCO agents and Feds crawling over every nook and cranny within a five mile radius of my escape site. I really need to find a phone and call Mr. Reilly.
I know that pay phones are usually near the restrooms, but when I look around the restroom area, I don’t spot any. I don’t have money to use one, but I figure I can hack one of those pretty easy without attracting attention. Okay, cell phone store, where is one? I spot a map up ahead and begin to walk towards it.
Since I am really wearing tennis shoes, I quickly realize that my gait is a little off for someone who is supposed to be wearing heels. As I walk past the store windows, I glance at my reflection and I use that to work on my gait. I find that if I walk on my toes, my gait quickly appears more normal and it looks like I really am wearing heels.
According to the map, this mall has a store for each of the major carriers and they are all right next to each other. That would be nice, if they weren’t back where I entered the mall. I start walking that way. My illusionary heels make satisfying clicking sounds on the floor and I can’t help it; I keep stealing glances at myself in the shop windows and that makes me smile. Especially, when I catch a dude get hit by his girlfriend for looking at me. That provides a spring to my step and helps me get even more into character.
Yes, I am Chloe Angstrom. My dad, or daddy, as she would say, is the richest man in Santa Fe. My mommy was once the first runner up in the Miss New Mexico pageant and I am going to go to Princeton when I graduate from high school; thank you very much.
I enter the T-Mobile store just as a horde of mall security guys race past me. I wanted to go to the Verizon store, but T-Mobile was closer. I am immediately pounced on by one of the sales dudes.
“Hi, I’m Brandon. How may I help you today?” The smiling sales dude asks as he beats out his buddy to reach me first.
I glance around and spot a black and pink phone. Sadly, Brandon catches my gaze.
“Oh, that is the Sidekick 3 limited edition Diane von Furstenberg edition, just in case you’re interested.”
Inside, I am barfing, but I remember seeing Chloe’s phone. It was pink and bedazzled, very girlie. I am betting that she would like the Sidekick and even know who the phone is named after. “Oh. My. God! The Furstenberg edition! That’s so cool. I love her stuff.” I say, but I have no idea who she is.
>Diane von Furstenberg, formerly Diane, Princess of Fürstenberg
>DOB: December 31, 1946.
>Bio: A Belgian-American fashion designer best known for her iconic wrap dress.
That’s kind of helpful, I guess. I don’t even want to know why I had that bit of data stuck inside my head. “Can I hold it?” I ask him, gushing over the phone.
He smiles at me with the patented “sucker” smile. “Sure, umm, Miss?” He asks, fishing for my name.
“Oh, sorry, Chloe” I say as I pick up the phone. It is tethered to the display with a retractable steel cable, but as soon as I touch it, the phone opens itself up for me and I know everything about it. From its 3G network protocol to its unique IMEI number and access code for the cell network. I think that I can clone it to make a call without actually having the phone. I debate pouring on more girl flirt charm, but I don’t want to sound like an airhead. I know that the real Chloe isn’t one, so I see no reason why I should act like one either. I just need to act a little more girlie than I normally would, somehow.
“Umm, this is nice, but it might be too big for my purse. Do you have anything smaller?” I ask while gesturing towards my little clutch purse.
Brandon smiles at me. “Yes, Chloe. We carry a very wide selection of phones here. I am positive that we can find one that you will like!” He reaches past me and lightly brushes up against me under the pretense of ‘pointing out’ a smaller flip phone that has a reddish purple color case and thus, girlie.
“Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to bump into you like that.” Brandon says apologetically.
I don’t believe him for a second, but I pretend to be flustered and let him get away with it while I wish that my heels were real so that I could grind them into his foot.
“Oh, that’s nice and it looks like it might be small enough. Can I hold it?” I ask as I turn towards the phone and give myself some extra breathing room at the same time. If Brandon gets any closer, I’m going to need to ‘accidentally’ knee him in the nuts.
He seems to get the hint as he steps back to give me more space.
“I like it.” I say as I copy its info. I really hope that my cloning idea will work.
I hold and clone a few more phones under the pretense of honestly appraising my interest in buying one. I even compliment one of them for having a slide out keyboard like the Sidekick while not being as bulky as the Sidekick. After I put the last phone down, I stop, cross my arms and adopt a thoughtful pose, as if to consider my options, but what I really do is try the last phone’s cloned information to see if I can make a call.
>Opening CMDA connection using IMIE 9283019238674...
I accidently smile, but at least I don’t jump up and down with excitement like I want too.
“So, did you like one better than another?” Brandon asks, hopeful that my smile means that I want to buy one of the phones he showed me.
I turn to face him and I adopt a slight pout. Nothing too over the top, but just enough to look and sound truly apologetic. “I’m sorry Brandon. I really liked that Sidekick, but it was just too big and I liked this one.” I say, pointing to the one I just tested my cloning theory with. “But, my contract isn’t due for a few more months and I just can’t handle the fees. Well, I mean, I can, but my Daddy would kill me if I got a new phone before then.”
Now, if I was still a guy, I am sure that if Brandon had even bothered to ‘help’ me, he would be a little pissed and try to push me into making a purchase. Also, blaming ‘Daddy’ for my lack of purchasing power would warrant me a cold shoulder and a ‘Dude, you are such a wuss!’ mental telepathy expression. So, I am a little nervous that he is going to make a big deal out of it. Here it comes.
Brandon smiles at me. “Oh, I’m sorry, Chloe, but waiting is probably better anyway. We have a few phones coming out that I am sure you will love even more.”
“Really? You’re not mad at me?” I ask, totally surprised by how effective my accidental feminine wiles are working right now. Maybe it is my glamour too?
He laughs. “Oh, no. Not at all Chloe! I’m just happy that I was able to help and maybe you will be back later to buy one, hopefully from me.” He says.
“Oh, yeah. That would be nice.” I accidently giggle, then blush from embarrassment at having giggled.
Brandon pats his pockets for something and I wonder what he is looking for. He stops and surprises me by blushing a little when he notices me watching him with confused expression. He recovers his composure and smiles at me. He has a nice smile.
“Sorry, I thought I had some cards on me. Lemme get a new one from the counter. I’ll be right back.” He says apologetically and heads for the sales counter.
Wait! Hold the phone! What did I just think?
Did I just think that he had a nice smile? What is up with that? I have the police, MCO, CIA, FBI and probably a few other three letter agencies trying to kill me right now. Not only do I not want to think about it, but I don’t have time for this kind of confusion right now! Brandon distracts me from my thoughts by handing me his card. I glance at it and notice that he scribbled in his personal number.
“If you have any more questions about our phones, feel free to call me, anytime.” He says smiling at me and loud enough for his manager to hear him not trying to pick me up.
I can’t help it. Even after I just berate myself for thinking about what I think that I thought about him, I find myself returning his smile. His line was so smooth. “Umm, thanks Brandon. You have been so nice to me.” I say as I hold his card in my hand. I know that I should put it in my purse, but I am pretty sure that my illusionary purse wouldn’t really hold the card and someone might notice it falling out of or through it.
I wave at him and once again, I catch myself giving him a little smile and I pay even more attention to my walk as I exit the store. What is wrong with me? I need to get out of here and call Mr. Reilly!
What if his phone is bugged? The CIA will be able to trace me and then all the cops, MCO, FBI and who know who else will be able to shoot me. I really don’t want to get shot again. It friggen hurts! I need to talk to someone whose phone isn’t bugged. My mom’s phone is out for the same reason as Mr. Reilly and anyone else in the test facility. Mrs. Townsend and Amanda are out too. Crap! Do I know anyone else in the area?
>Lord Vincint 804-999-1111 matches’ local area code and prefix.
>Searching Caller ID network database...
>Match found for customer James Stiles
Oh, wow. I didn’t know that he lived here and I also didn’t realize that I could use the cell network that way to find his real name. I quickly make the decision to call Lord Vincint instead of Mr. Reilly. I need to find someplace that I can sit down to make a call and rest my feet at the same time. All this fake high heel walking is killing my feet.
I spot a bench nearby and make a beeline for it. I can’t remember my feet ever feeling so happy for me to sit down. I catch myself rubbing my calf muscle like I have seen girls do sometimes and now I totally understand why.
I need to call Lord Vincint, but I am pretty sure that a girl sitting on a bench and appearing to be doing nothing would look a little strange. I need something to make it look like I am busy doing something. I need a prop. I know that Chloe carries her cell phone in her purse, but I don’t know if I have an illusionary phone in my purse or not. I take a quick peek inside my purse and wonder of all wonders, there is an illusionary copy of Chloe’s pink, gem encrusted cell phone in my purse.
Okay, next order of business. Can I take it out of the purse and hold it to make it look like I am using a real phone? I need it to look like I am texting someone, not talking, because I don’t want anyone to overhear what I will have to say to convince Lord Vincint to help me, if he even can. I reach into my purse and somehow extract the illusion of a phone from the illusion of a purse. I feel pretty happy about that, but I manage keep myself from shouting out with joy as I flip open the fake phone and pretend to text while I dial Lord Vincint’s phone number in my head.
I feel extra nervous about cold calling him like this. What if he doesn’t want to help me? What if he can’t help me? What if he’s not anywhere close to the mall and I get captured before he can get here? What if he just pretends that he will help, but calls the police on me instead? Crap, why didn’t I think about that before I dialed his number?
“Hello?” A man’s voice asks.
“Hi, I’m really really sorry to bug you, but is this Lord Vincint?” I ask inside my head so that no one can hear me address my uncle as ‘Lord Vincint’, because that would be real weird.
The line stays silent for a second and I start to worry. “Who is this?” He asks.
“Umm, I know it sounds super paranoid and everything, but I can’t tell you and when you figure it out, please don’t say it, okay?” I ask, feeling and sounding a little more desperate than I intended, but I am operating under the assumption that the CIA is using that mythical Echelon system to scan everyone’s phone calls and find me using my name.
“This had better not be a prank and why shouldn’t I just hang up?” He asks.
“It’s not a prank! You have to believe me, but last week, you told Brenda, I mean Kalisa, to call you if we needed more help with my, umm, GEO problem.” I finish with a rush to get it out before he hangs up on me. Now I hope that ‘GEO’ isn’t on their key word list.
“Okay...but if you are who I think that you might be claiming to be, why do you sound like a girl?” He asks.
He sounds a bit less testy and maybe even slightly friendly, but why did he have to bring that little detail up? I mean, I know that he knew that I was really a guy who was playing a female character, but he never treated me any different in GEO for doing that. There are lots of guys who do that in other games, but now that I think about it; I don’t think that there are as many in GEO. Hmmm, I wonder why.
I sigh.“I was, but that’s kind of a long story. Right now, I kinda need your help, but I’m not sure if you can or even if you will.”
“Okay, go on.” He says.
“Umm, I kind of got kidnapped by that three letter agency that starts with the letter ‘C’. Well, I think that is who they were, but because of that, I don’t think that I can call the people that could help me right now. I’m not sure if I can trust them to not be bugged or something.”
He doesn’t hang up, but he doesn’t say anything either.
“So, umm, you wouldn’t happen to be anywhere near the MacArthur Mall right now, would you?” I ask.
“Yyesss? I am just down the street at the city courthouse and the trial I was working on just got postponed. I heard that they are looking for, umm, someone with your name, but I didn’t think anything of it. I doubt that I could just drive up and pick you up without someone noticing. There are a LOT of officers out there looking for you right now.” He says.
It sounds like he’s going to say no, but it doesn’t sound like he is going to tell the police where I am at. At least, not this second.
>Enemy radio signatures detected!
>Signatures match CIA agents Michelle Parks and Douglas Laskow.
Crap! I make a show of rubbing my left calf as I slowly glance around to try and spot them without making it look like I am looking for them. I don’t see them, but as I turn my head, my HUD displays red target brackets around a harmless looking middle aged man and middle aged woman walking together. The woman appears a little tired and distracted while the man looks very alert as he guides her around by holding her hand like a real couple would. There can only be one reason for them to be here. They have got to be here to kill me.
“Hello? Are you there?” Lord Vincint asks.
I watch as Doug’s gaze passes right over me, but he doesn’t appear to recognize me at all and with Michelle’s fixed stare, she isn’t even trying to find me. It appears that my disguise has fooled them just like everyone else, but if they are here, then I don’t have much time. I need to get out of here.
“Please! Can you help me? I could try walking, but they would be looking for that, I think. I didn’t really do the things they are saying that I did. They shot the cop when they shot me! Honest!” I say, practically begging him with my voice as I furiously pretend to text away on my fake phone to cover for the expression that I am sure is on my face.
“You’ve been shot?” He asks with what sounds like real concern to me.
“Yes, but I seem to be a quick healer.” I say.
“Okay, I can there in a few minutes.” He says after a few seconds of silence.
I sigh with relief. “Really?” I ask trying to not get my hopes too high.
“Yes. Where will you be waiting?” He asks.
“Umm, I dunno? Where is a good place to wait for you?”
“Hmm, how about the first floor in the parking ramp, near the doors? There are some benches and people sometimes sit there while they wait for rides.” He says.
I pull up the mall map and plot my course. I am pretty close to the parking garage, so it shouldn’t be a problem. “Okay, that looks good.” I pause and feel a little embarrassed by the need to ask him. “Umm, what is your real name?”
He laughs. “Jim, Jim Stiles.”
“Ahh, okay, umm, Uncle Jim. I’m Chloe, umm, Chloe Stiles, your niece for this quest.”
He laughs at my GEO’ism.
“Sure, Chloe. I will be there in about five to ten minutes, depending on traffic.” He says as I hear the chiming of keys being inserted into a car’s ignition.
“Yes!” I accidentally say out loud as I jump up and laugh with relief, then as I notice a few people smiling at me, I blush and sit back down, abashed at being noticed. I make a show of closing up my fake phone and putting it back in my purse. “Great! Thanks umm, Uncle Jim! See you when you get here!” I say, then, I hang up the phone.
As I stand back up and turn to my right to head towards the parking garage, my HUD flashes an alert as it puts some red target brackets around two men wearing black suits that are walking alertly right down the middle of the hall. They have those little radios in their ears and they are encrypted too, but their frequencies don’t match the CIA’s or the FBI’s. They match that unidentified frequency I spotted early, which means that they are most likely from the MCO. They are visually scanning everyone in the crowd and my pause attracts their attention. They divert course for me.
Crap, crap, crap!
“Excuse us miss?” MCO dude one politely asks.
“Umm, yes?” I ask, looking at both of them nervously as one of the dudes reach into his suit coat for something. I hope it’s not a gun or some stun ray thing. That thought, plus their size, black suits and close proximity scares the hell out of me, but it also helps me at the same time. They inadvertently help me when I am able to listen in on their radios.
[Be advised, the Feds are in the area and making a nuisance of themselves. The U.S. Government is already attempting to cover this up so don’t be surprised if they try to hassle you. Just remind them of the MCO’s charter.]
They both pause for that announcement, and then smile at me in an attempt to put me at ease. It fails. “Sorry miss.” MCO dude two says without really sounding sorry at all. “But, there is a dangerous mutant on the loose in this area and your cooperation would be appreciated.”
MCO dude one pulls a picture of me out of his jacket pocket and shows it to me. “Have you seen this person?”
I breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! I thought for sure that they were going to pull out a gun or something. Okay, what would the real Chloe say? I don’t think that she would be an airhead about it. She would probably be a little pissed at them for scaring her like that and with that in mind. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
“Thanks a lot.” I say sarcastically. “You just scared me with that Men in Black act. Who are you?” I cross my arms and do my best to glare impatiently at them for interrupting my valuable shopping time.
They briefly glance at each other with that ‘look’. I’m not sure if it is the look that says “She knows something.” or if it is the look that says, “We are the MCO, why isn’t she afraid of us?” I use that time to study my picture while I pretend to not even notice it. They really didn’t get a good picture of me, but I can’t blame them. I was actively working against them last night. Hehe.
“Sorry miss. I am Agent Martinez and this is Agent Dohls, we are from the MCO.” He doesn’t really sound that sorry. “We just need to ask you a few questions, okay?” He asks without really asking. It is more like an order and that irritates me even more.
I have never had to deal with the MCO before, but I hate bullies and these two are pushing all my buttons. I roll my eyes at them like Lindsay did to me, far too many times. I think I do a pretty good job too. “Why don’t you go ask someone else?” I ask impatiently.
That makes him a little mad at me. “Look young lady, this mutant is a suspect in the shooting death of a police officer and two DPA agents. She is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. Have you seen her or not? That’s all we need to know.”
I put on my best ‘oh well, whatever’ face and give my picture a quick glance. “Don’t you have a better picture of her?” I ask just to be mean.
“Sorry miss; this is the best that we have.” Agent Martinez shrugs his shoulders. “She is extremely dangerous.” He says
I can’t believe it. I am ‘extremely dangerous’? Really?
“Nope. Haven’t seen her.” I say dismissively as I open my purse and pretend to try to pull out my cell phone so that I can check the time. I answered their question. They are done with me now, right?
“Miss!” Agent Dohls barks at me with frustration.
I do a little happy dance inside my head while on the outside I move half of a step back with shock that he would address the Chloe Angstrom in such a rude manner. “What?” I ask with a touch of impatience.
“Are you sure that you haven’t seen her? It’s very important that we find her before she kills more innocent people.” Agent Dohls says, laying it on thick there.
“I already said, no. Can I go now? My Uncle, he’s a lawyer by the way, is coming to give me a ride and I really don’t want to keep him waiting.” I say as I tap my foot impatiently and glance down at my cell phone.
Agent Dohls looks like he wants to hit me or something. Did I push him too far? Agent Martinez notices his partners impending blow up and decides hold his hand against his ear to make it look like he’s listening in on his radio. “Wait.” He nods his head like he just heard something. “Dohls, sounds like the mall security is reporting a possible match in the food court.”
Agent Dohls looks back at me with an expression that is not at all professional. “Thanks for your help miss. Have a nice day.” He says, with thinly disguised contempt for my Chloe’ness as Agent Martinez slides my picture back into his jacket. They both rush past me, eager to escape from Chloe’s wrath.
“God damn f’ing spoiled rich bitch. I f’ing hate coming to this mall!” I hear Agent Dohls mutter to Agent Martinez.
Phew! I definitely pushed my luck there. I probably shouldn’t have goaded them so much, but they pissed me off. My moment of triumph is suppressed by the alert looking pair of M-16 toting police officers with a huge German Shepherd K-9 dog 20 meters ahead of me and in the direction that I need to go to get to the parking garage to meet Lord Vincint. I mean, Uncle Jim.
Unfortunately for me, it looks like they noticed me speaking with the MCO MIBs, because they just smile at me as we stroll approach each other. I decide to not pull a Chloe and draw more attention to myself by gushing over the dog, even though it is absolutely gorgeous and I really want to pet it. I can’t believe that I just thought that. I think that my method acting is going just a little too well right now.
Oh crap! I took care of the blood, but what if that dog is a bomb sniffing dog. I did fire a gun. Will he be able to smell the gunpowder on my hands? I washed my hands, but do I have any gunpowder on my hands or where I got shot?
>Analyzing chemical content...
>Powder residue detected on right hand.
>Amount approximately 11.23 parts per million.
Is that enough for the dog to smell it?
Can my nanites clean the gunpowder like they did for my blood?
Okay, do that, please, and don’t destroy anything else!
The dog perks up as I get closer, but I feel a slight tickling sensation on my hand, then after less than a second, it goes away.
The officers notice the dog’s reaction, but then the dog loses interest in me and looks away. That initial reaction is enough to get me a second look by the police officers.
“Excuse me, Ma’am?” The officer holding the dog’s leash asks.
I stop, turn back around and even though my nanites cleaned the gunpowder residue off my hands; I am still a little worried that their dog will be able to smell something funny. With that in mind, I place both of my hands behind my back and smile at them. “Yes?” I ask as innocently as possible as I glance down toward the dog.
I didn’t realize it until I looked down, but having my hands behind my back pushes my shoulders out a bit more and exposes more of my, I mean of Chloe’s cleavage. How embarrassing. He did address me as a “Ma’am”. That is still a little weird to hear, but it is better than “Miss”, more respectful sounding.
“Sorry to bother you ma’am, but I’m Officer Feit from the Norfolk PD and this is my partner, Officer Morken. Do you mind if we ask you what those MCO agents asked you about?” Officer Feit asks as they both approach me and his dog gives me a few sniffs. Officer Feit is dividing his attention between me and to what his dog is doing. Crap. His dog is probably going to smell something on me that will give me away.
I can’t worry about that right now though. I just need to continue bluffing my way out of this mall. What is it about malls and me now? I never had a problem with malls. Instead of freaking out like I want to, I giggle and shyly look back toward the direction the MCO jerks walked away before I turn back to answer Officer Feit. “Oh, they just had some picture of that mutant girl that you all are hunting for that they wanted me to look at. I thought she was pretty, but she really needed to do something about her hairstyle. It was very out of date.”
They both look at each other with a calculating and irritated expression. “A picture huh? Can you describe what she looked like?”
Hmm, it looks like the MCO isn’t sharing with the local police. Shame on them!
“Huh? Oh! Sure, sorry. Don’t you all have pictures of her too?” I ask with the sole purpose of twisting the dagger a little deeper.
The dog stops sniffing me and happily sits down right in front of me. He just looks up at me with a doggy smile and wags his tail a little as I describe myself to them. It feels so weird to be ratting myself out like that.
“That’s strange...” Officer Feit says as he looks down at his dog.
Oh crap! The dog has ratted, ummm, doggied me out. “What?” I ask trying not to freak out.
“Ringo. He’s normally not so friendly with strangers. I guess he just likes you.” Officer Feit says with a bemused grin.
I don’t have to fake a thing with how relieved I am. “Oh my god! You scared me there. I thought you were going to say that the dangerous mutant; what is her name anyway? Was right behind me or something!”
They both chuckle at my expense and air headedness. “Whisper. The suspect’s name is Whisper.” Officer Feit says.
“Whisper? Really? Hmm, that’s a strange name. I wonder what it means? Is she just really quiet or can she not talk? Oh, do you think that Ringo will let me pet him?” I say while cringing a little inside. I think that I just sounded a little bit like an airhead right then and that is not what I want to sound like right now. I am Chloe Angstrom and she is not an airhead. Geez, being Chloe is really hard work.
They don’t bother answering my Whisper questions, but they do laugh at me. “Oh, sure. I think Ringo would like that. Won’t ya boy?” Officer Feit says to both me and then Ringo.
Ringo looks up at his master and thumps his tail on the floor a little harder. I take that as the signal that it is okay for me to pet him. Ringo surprises me and Officer Feit by rolling over so that I can scratch his belly. I think that I am officially attracting too much attention now.
My cloned phone begins to ring inside my head. It’s Lord Vincint, I mean Uncle Jim. Hmm, I stop petting Ringo and look at my illusionary purse. I need to answer the phone and that would give me the perfect excuse to stop petting Ringo and leave.
“Sorry Ringo, I gotta go. My Uncle Jim is calling. I think he’s waiting for me.” I say as I stand up, reach into the purse, pull out the phone and pretend to answer it.
“Hello, Uncle Jim?”
“Hey, umm, Chloe. I’m just pulling into the lot now. Where are you?” Lord Vincint asks.
“Oh! Already? I’m sorry Uncle Jim. I was on my way, but I ended up talking to some nice policemen and petting Ringo.” I say, giving Officer Feit and Officer Morken an apologetic smile.
“Wait? Did you just say, ‘Ringo’? The K-9 dog?” Lord Vincint asks with disbelief.
I curiously glance down at the sad looking Ringo. “Umm, yes?”
“And Officer Feit?”
“Yes, why?” I ask feeling a little bit of worry starting to creep in. Why does he know Officer Feit and Ringo? Officer Feit and Officer Morken are now looking at me with renewed interest.
“I just had them both in court for a drug bust. I was the prosecuting lawyer for the city on that case.” Lord Vincint says.
This just got a lot more complicated. “Uncle Jim! I didn’t know that you knew Officer Feit and Ringo! That is so cool!” I say feeling amazed at how small the world really is and how easily all my plans can come crashing down right now.
Officer Morken and Feit both look at each other and mouth, “Uncle Jim?” before they have a light bulb moment. “Stiles? You’re Jim Stiles’ niece?” Officer Morken asks, incredulously.
I hold up my hands and giggle. “Guilty as charged. Sorry, I didn’t know that you all knew each other.” I say.
“Here, we will escort you. We wouldn’t want that Whisper suspect to hurt the niece of Mr. Stiles.” Officer Morken says.
‘Uncle Jim’ starts laughing inside my head. “It really is you...I still can’t believe it.”
“No, really, you don’t two don’t have to. The parking lot is just a little bit that way. I’m sure that I will be fine.” I say in an attempt to convince them to not escort me because that is all I need right now.
I fail. They attach themselves to my side and guide me towards the parking ramp with Ringo happily leading the way.
“Okay Uncle Jim, be right there!” I say as I fake hanging up my illusionary cell phone and put it back into my illusionary purse. I resist the urge to start singing, “is this a real life...”
They escort me all the way and boy do I attract a lot of attention. Subtle about my exit, I am not, but no one bothers me and even better, no CIA snipers try to kill me either. I get an extra bonus from the escort when Officer Feit points out ‘Uncle Jim’ for me, which is good because I had no idea what kind of car he drove or even what he looked like.
Oh wow. ‘Uncle Jim’ is driving a nice light blue BMW 550i with what looks like a leather interior. Sweet! I wonder if I can talk him into letting me drive it? Okay, probably not going to happen. I don’t even have my license or my permit. I was going to get my permit next week, but I guess that's not going to happen now.
‘Uncle Jim’ surprises me when he gets out of his car, walks around and gallantly opens the passenger side door for me. I take that as my cue to I rush over to him, give him a hug and be Chloe a little bit more.
“Uncle Jim! I am so so so glad that you could come pick me! It was horrible in there! I couldn’t find anything to buy and then, my daddy couldn’t come get me because he had just got back to his office when I tried to call him.”
If I was really a girl, I’d rate Uncle Jim as handsome. I mean, I really am a girl, but well, oh, I give up. He has a full head of dark hair with some touches of grey mixed in there. Just enough to make him look distinguished, but not enough to make him look old. He looks like he is in his mid-thirties and he keeps himself in shape. He looks exactly like I expected him to look like. He looks like his GEO character and he looks pretty good in his suit. Yes, I said it. CIA sniper, kill me now please.
“Oh, it’s okay dear. I’m just glad I could lend my favorite niece a hand and I am glad that Office Feit and Officer Morken were able to help you get out of there safely.” Uncle Jim says with a grateful smile for the two officers.
“Oh, it’s okay sir. I kind of doubt that the suspect is in there anyway, but we gotta check it out, just in case.” Officer Feit says with a grin.
“Well, thanks, but we need to get moving if we are going to get home anytime soon with all the traffic.” Uncle Jim says as he motions for me to get into the front seat.
Happy to finally be leaving, I smile and wave at the Officers. “Bye Ringo! Bye Officer Feit and Officer Morken! Thanks for everything!” I say as I slide myself into the seat, butt first, and then turn to get both my legs in. Just like I would if I was really wearing a dress. Well, I think that is how it works. I’ve never had to do that, but I’ve seen Mom and Lindsay do that move often enough. I just never really paid that much attention to it, but now I kind of need to for my disguise.
Uncle Jim closes the door and I strap myself in as he says a quick goodbye to the two officers before he joins me in the car. He sighs as he buckles himself in.
Ut oh, that was one of those, “Frustrated and I don’t know what I am going to do with you.” sighs or now that I know he’s a lawyer, it could be one of those, “I could get into so much trouble for this.” sighs. Maybe it’s both.
I know that it’s probably the wrong time to think this, but the car is really nice inside. I’ve never been inside of a BMW and this one has all the bells and whistles. It even has butt warmers. I hit the button to turn my seat on and before we even get out of the parking garage my butt is feeling nice and toasty. I could really get used to a car like this and I feel myself start to relax for the first time since this crazy adventure began.
Uncle Jim doesn’t say a thing until we make it to the highway. “So, Chloe? That’s not your real name, is it?”
“No, it’s Brianna or Brianna Nichole Peters to be more exact.” I softly say. I’m not sure what I am feeling right now. It’s complicated. I’m relaxed and I feel safe, but at the same time, I’m worried about everything. I’m worried about ‘Uncle Jim’ for rescuing me. I’m worried about my mom and what she must be thinking right now. I’m worried about the security guard that Doug shot. I hope that he’s okay. I’m worried that the MCO or the CIA will somehow find me.
“Okaayy, but I thought you were really a boy and you don’t look anything like I expected you to look like.” Uncle Jim says with a quick sideways glance in my direction before he returns his eyes to the road.
I can’t help it, I giggle at that. “I’m not exactly what I look like right now either and I was a boy until the accident, but you look exactly like I expected you to look like.” I say, feeling a little frustrated.
“Okay, so what happened?” He asks with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s kind of a long story and I’m not sure if it is a good idea to get you more involved. It’s kind of Top Secret stuff. It’s kind of one of those, I could tell ya, but then I’d have to kill you type things.” I say.
“Well, we have the time.” He points to the bumper to bumper traffic. “And, I’m already pretty deeply involved. I could get into a lot of trouble and maybe even end up in jail for helping you.”
I look at him and try to figure out what I should tell him.
“And, I have put a lot of criminals in jail. I really wouldn’t wanna go there as a ‘guest’.” He says with a grin.
“You could just turn me in.” I say quietly.
He pretends to give that idea some thought. “Yes, yes I could, but then, I wouldn’t find out what really happened.”
I have to laugh at that. “Fine, I’ll tell you, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”
He nods his acceptance as I settle into the warm and comfy leather seat. “Well, it all started with a field trip to one of DARPA’s Nanotech research labs in Los Alamos...”
I manage to tell the entire story in slightly more than 30 minutes and I manage to only cry once during the whole story. Okay, it was 31.83 minutes. Happy? I blame the crying bit for the delay and I didn’t really cry. It was more like a sniffle or two.
We still are in traffic, but it looks like things are starting to open up. “Are we there yet?” I ask with my Chloe impression, but I guess it could be my impression too because I really am wondering if we are ‘there’ yet.
“Almost.” He says with a smirk.
“Umm, I probably should have asked this sooner, but where are we going?” I ask.
“To my house. Speaking of that, I should probably call my wife and let her know that we will have a guest tonight. You are staying the night, right?” He asks.
“Umm, I hadn’t really made any plans. I was just looking to get away from the mall and I wish I could call Mr. Reilly, but with the CIA and everything; his phone is probably tapped.” I say.
“Well, you still can. His phone might not be tapped and even if it is, how are they going to trace you anyway? From what you just told me, it sounds like your phone isn’t really a phone and it would be pretty hard to track. Unlike the drug dealers we get the cell companies to help us trace all the time via their active cell phones. You would think that they would know to turn them off from time to time.” He says with a chuckle.
“Oh.” That’s all I can say, because when I stop to think about it, how can they? My ‘phone’ is not even registered to me and I’m in a moving car and at the most, all they will get is a blip of my current location. I just need to make the call short, and then delete that number from my system. With that thought, I dial his number and activate Uncle Jim’s Bluetooth so that he can listen in on the call too. He’s a bit surprised with he hears the phone ring over his car’s system without him doing anything.
Mr. Reilly’s phone rings only once before he answers it. “Deputy Director Nicholas Reilly speaking.”
“Hi Mr. Reilly, it’s me. I don’t have a lot of time, but I am safe.”
“Oh my god! Is she okay?!” I hear my mom yell over the phone.
“Go ahead.” Mr. Reilly says.
“It was the CIA, I think. Their CAC ID cards are as follows:” I recite all the information from Michelle’s, Doug’s, Philip’s and John’s card. “Would their pictures help? I can text them to you.”
“Yes, that would be good.” Mr. Reilly says.
“If you can find a secure phone, I am going to Uncle Vincint’s house for dinner tonight.” I say just before I hang up. Next, I find a good picture of each of them and send them to Mr. Reilly’s number. As soon as I receive confirmation that they were all received, I delete the cloned Sidekick’s information from my mind. That leaves me with three more cloned phones from the store that I can try, if I need to.
I look over at Uncle Jim. “Am I being too paranoid?”
“I know that you told me, but I just watched you effortlessly hack my car’s Bluetooth. I’m not sure if you are not being paranoid enough.” He says with a nervous laugh.
“Ya know, that’s not very reassuring. You’re supposed to be that crazy Uncle who knows everything kind of Uncle.” I say.
He copies my tone. “Ya know, I’m not really your Uncle.”
That statement of fact really brings home the fact that I am not home and he’s not really my Uncle. I start to feel the darn tears well up in my eyes and out they come, again. Darn it! Why does being a girl make it so bloody easy to start crying?
“Oh, hey. Bree, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make cry. I don’t mind pretending to be your Uncle.” Jim says.
That makes me cry a little harder, if that is even possible. Not only that, but my lack of emotional control makes me start to lose control over my illusionary disguise. I don’t notice it until my purse disappears, followed by my tennis shoes appearing on my feet.
That’s all I need right now. With my luck, I will lose control just as some cop or nosy driver passes us.
“I’m losing control of my illusion and I need to recast it before someone sees me!” I say looking around to see if anyone else on the road has noticed me.
“Umm, Bree. It’s dark out. I don’t think that you need to worry about it.” He says, pointing out the obvious.
Well, obvious to him. It still looks almost like daylight to me. I blink my eyes as I shift my vision into normal human range and boy what a difference that makes. It really is dark outside. “Oh, okay. I guess that I can just maintain my hair and no one will notice.” I say as I regain total control by letting everything except for Chloe’s blond hair fade away.
“What happened to your shirt?” Uncle Jim asks.
Yes, I decide to just keep thinking of him as my uncle. It’s just easier that way. “Umm, I told you. I got shot and then my nanites ate the parts that had blood on it.”
“Oh yeah, just didn’t really seem real until I saw it. Oh crap!” He says.
I look around trying to spot the cop or MCO car that must be trying to pull us over. I don’t see anything, but it is dark outside. I switch back to my normal elf vision and I still don’t spot anything. “What?” I ask.
“I forgot to call Julie and we are almost home now.” He says as he starts digging for his phone.
“Car, Call Julie.” I say while using his Bluetooth connection to dial the person listed as ‘Julie Stiles’ on his phone’s contacts list.
He just sighs and shakes his head. The phone stops ringing and a woman’s voice comes over his car’s speakers. “Hi, Honey. Are you almost home?” She asks.
“Umm.” He says with a quick glance at me.
“Is something wrong? Are you running late?” She asks.
“No, not exactly. I’m almost home and I meant to call you sooner, but we will be having a guest tonight for dinner and maybe to spend the night.” Uncle Jim says apologetically.
His mention of dinner reminds me that I haven’t eaten since lunch and I have burned a ton of energy. I am officially very hungry and my stomach growls, very audibly, much to my embarrassment.
“Oh, that’s okay. Who is he?” Julie asks.
“She, it’s kind of a long story and she is in the car with me.” He says in an effort to stay out of trouble.
“She, is?” Julie says, her voice meter in the solid yellows.
I look over at Uncle Jim and try to give him a warning. “Yes, she’s a vegetarian though; will that cause a problem with dinner?” Uncle Jim asks, seemingly oblivious to his impending doom.
“No, not at all dear.” She says, her voice all bright and sunny, but the meter is in the red zone now. “I can’t wait to hear this story...”
Uncle Jim sighs. “I know, Julie, and I’m sorry to spring this on you like this, but it isn’t what you might think.”
She doesn’t say anything for what seems like five minutes, but it’s really just 3.492 seconds. “Okay, just get home and be safe, will ya?” Julie says. Her voice meter is back in the upper green to lower yellow zone now.
Phew! Crisis averted. I think.
“I will, thanks and I’m just turning onto Lexington, so, we are about 10 minutes away.”
“Okay, love ya.” Julie says.
“Love you too dear, see ya soon.” Uncle Jim says. Julie, umm, Aunt Julie hangs up the phone on her end and the line goes dead. I don’t have to do anything as his car’s system automatically hangs up his phone for him.
“That was close. Good job with the aggro control there.” I say.
He laughs. “Yeah, maybe I should have let you sneak in and soften her up a bit before I launched my attack?”
I can’t help it. I start giggling.
He sneaks a few glances over at me as I bring my laughter under control. “You know what?”
“No, what?” I ask, feeling self-conscious over what looks suspiciously like an affectionate expression on his face.
“It’s nice to see you laugh like that and you know that your ‘Aunt Julie’ is a pediatrician, right?” He asks with a mischievous looking grin.
“Umm, not until just now, why?” I ask while wondering where he is going with this line of questioning.
“Well, I know that she was a little upset there on the phone, but I predict that she is going to take one look at you and totally fall in love with her new ‘niece’. Maybe even try to talk you into going with her to the mall to find some replacement clothes for you tonight after dinner.” He says as his previously mischievous grin turns into something more ominous.
That wipes the happy smile off my face. “What?”