Inaba 2: Sucks to be you
A Whateley Academy Tale
Inaba 2: Sucks to be you.
Rose Redd, with editorial assistance by Elrod W.
Suggestions by Fiddlerfox
and assistance from the Cabal Crew.
May 28th, 2007
Rice Lake Reservoir
Near Duluth, MN
Liabella Navarro had always been a difficult child, causing her parents many hours of worry and grief. By the time she was eight, she had gotten the nickname of “The Terror of Taos” for her many rebellious escapades. Her first brush with juvenile hall was for stealing a car when she was only seven and as she grew up it got worse. Her parents tried their best, but it was hard on them. Salvadore was often on the road, as his job as a trucker took him away for long periods. Isobel worked as an agent for the local MCO office, and often had to work long hours. With no supervision, Liabella grew more and more wild.
Lia started to develop earlier than the other girls in her classes, noticeably having started to develop at twelve years old. She would skip school and hang out with the undesirables, drinking and smoking and staying out until all hours. When her mother was offered the position of senior officer for the MCO office in Duluth, Minnesota, Lia’s parents jumped at the opportunity, hoping that the move would get her away from the bad influences. For a time, it seemed to be working, but in all actuality, it was all a facade. She quickly gained a reputation in her new city as well, but she was careful to keep it from her parents. To them, they saw the reformed, studious new Lia.
That’s how she ended up at the reservoir, watching the Memorial Day fireworks. She was fifteen, and had continued to develop into an attractive young woman. Standing at five foot eight, she showed the promise of growing into a tall, exotic Latina woman. Her bikini top barely covering her shapely breasts- a size or two too smaller than the C-cup she clearly needed. Likewise, the thong bottom covered nothing, leaving her backside exposed and showing off the well-rounded backside that in a few years would surely rival J.Lo or those whatsit sisters out in Hollywood.
She walked over to Kenny Olsen… or was it Karl? She could never remember which was which, or which one she had slept with last. Standing in front of the boy, she smiled and batted her deep cocoa eyes at him.
“I’d like another beer” she said as she smiled at him, tossing her head slightly so that her long raven hair cascaded over her shoulder.
“Why not try something better? I got some new stuff, really rare and quite the good trip” he said as he casually groped her left ass cheek.
“I’m game, why not?” came her reply. She took a hit on the offered pipe and her eyes dilated.
“That’s some good shit” she said, taking another drag. She handed the pipe back and turned away, oblivious to the trickle of blood running from her nose, or the fact her eyes were starting to lighten into an unnatural turquoise color.
September 22nd 2007
Glensheen Manor, Duluth MN
Rose sat up in the tree and reflected on life. It had been three weeks since the assault. She was scheduled for a follow-up appointment that afternoon, and she feared what they would find. With a sigh, she slowly backed down the tree and went into the mansion. After a shower and changing into fresh clothes, she headed down to the kitchen.
Nobody else was around. Looking on the Fridge, she noticed a note.
Emergency came up, Isobel will be here at 11:30 to take you to your appointment. Sorry that Miguel or I couldn’t take you. -C
Rose sighed and fixed a light breakfast and went out onto the back patio. A small rabbit poked its head out from the bushes and wandered over, cautiously. Rose smiled and patted the ground beside her. Warily, the rabbit came up and sat next to her. Petting its head, Rose felt calmer with her small visitor showing trust in her.
After a while, her visitor left, and Rose got up and dusted herself off. Now came the time waiting for her other visitor. Isobel Navarro arrived at 11:25. She looked much different in her casual clothes. The look of authority was gone, and in her jeans and black MCO hoodie, she had that casual ‘mom’ look. That is, if the mom were someone that ran triathlons on a regular basis.
“Hello, little Conejita. I know you were wishing that Carrie would take you to see the doctor today, but she is dealing with something very important, si?” Isobel said in a comforting tone as she patted Rose on the back.
Isobel drove in silence to the hospital, Rose fidgeting all the way there. Meeting up with Dr. Foster, He escorted Rose to the exam room, and they sat down. Isobel stood behind Rose, her hand on the girls shoulder.
“If we can have some privacy to run some examinations, we can get you the help you need and get you stabilized, so you can live your life to the fullest.”, the doctor commented. Rose nodded to Mrs. Navarro as they walked out.
It seemed like hours as different tests were run, everything from CAT-scans, MRIs, and blood draws. After everything, it was finally done. The doctor told Rose to schedule an appointment to discuss the findings. After doing so, Mrs. Navarro walked the young girl to the car.
“So Conejita, would you like to come over for dinner tonight? My husband Salvadore is on the road, making a long haul trip, but my daughter Liabella and I would like the company” She offered.
“I would be honored” Rose replied with a smile. She wanted to meet her daughter, having no friends her own age. She realized that she needed to learn how to socialize with people her own age.
Isobel welcomed her in, and led her upstairs. They stood in front of a door, decorated in police tape and messages about privacy and removal of body parts for violating said privacy.
“Go away!” shouted a very angry voice from the other side of the door. There were definite tones of hostility and sadness in that voice, and Rose’s heart felt for her.
“Lia, I brought someone to meet you. Please open the door!” Isobel futilely pleaded into the wooden obstacle.
The door swung open and Rose gasped when she saw the girl that had been speaking. Lia was taller than she was, perhaps by a good 4 inches or so. The thing that caught Rose’s eye were the black pulsing veins that showed distinctly from under the girl’s gray semi-translucent skin. She had beautiful black hair, running down past her waist, and wore a sweatsuit, trying to hide her modest figure and smallish breasts. Rose looked at her and estimated she was a small B cup, or maybe a large A. Lia looked Rose over with those brilliant turquoise eyes, and then did something she hadn’t expected. She punched Rose square in the face.
Reeling from the blow, Rose rolled down the stairs, ending up laying on her back, breathing heavily. Rose stood up and dashed back up the stairs. “What the hell was that about?” she demanded of the girl that hit her.
Isobel stepped between the girls and looked to her daughter. “Liabella Estrella Navarro! You apologize this instant!”
But Lia wasn’t listening to her mother. How dare she bring this interloper into the house. How dare she rub her face in this girl’s mutation, she was attractive, and shapely. The bunny features only adding to her sexiness. She was everything that Lia no longer was, and she hated the new girl for it. She would make this one suffer for making her feel inferior. Another punch was thrown, knocking Rose back down the stairs.
Sitting at the bottom of the stairs, Rose tried to get up, her head was ringing, things were blurry, and her glasses were missing. She fumbled around, crawling on her hands and knees to find her glasses.
At the top of the stairs, Lia laughed and pointed at the helpless girl. Reaching for her daughter’s arm, Isobel stumbled and fell. Lia ignored her mother and raced down to the other girl, intending to strike her.
“I don’t need you here, If Mami hired you as some sort of babysitter, you had better give her back the money” the angry teen yelled.
Sensing the approach of her attacker, Rose twisted and dodged another blow, her hand landing on her glasses as she did. Grabbing them, she quickly put them on as she ran out of the house.
In hot pursuit, Lia struggled to keep up with the rabbit girl. However, she knew the neighborhood, and knew several shortcuts. Taking a more direct route, she caught up to her opponent at a small park that was not far from the house.
“I have you now, you bunny slut. Mami doesn’t need you to watch me. And I don’t need you around, reminding me of what I’ve lost. I know I’m a monster, How dare you come into my house with your curvy, sexy body and big breasts to remind me of all I’ve lost? HOW DARE YOU?” the troubled girl screamed.
Rose looked at her attacker and knew that the girl was clearly not in her right mind. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Your mother took me to the doctor as a favor for my guardians, that’s all. I have no idea what’s upsetting you, but I didn’t do anything!”
Her attacker was clearly having some sort of episode, as Rose could see in her eyes a murderous intent.
The black veins that coursed along the girls arms and face throbbed and pulsed faster, dark black flowing through them in faster surges. She held up her hands, her palms visible. What Rose saw made her gasp out loud. The girl appeared to have stigmata-like wounds on her palms.
Backing away to run, Rose fell. She turned and saw that the girl had extended something from one of the gaping holes on her palms, something that had wrapped around Rose’s leg and tripped her. Not knowing what was going on, Rose did the only thing she could think of. She turned and punched the slimy wet appendage until it let go.
Lia held her hands up and Rose saw the openings more clearly. They were mouths! Mouths filled with small razor sharp teeth. She backed up as it became clear what had happened. It wasn’t a tentacle that had wrapped around her leg, it was a tongue. With that revelation, Rose shuddered and scrambled up onto the nearby jungle gym, and watched her attacker warily.
“What do you want?” Rose called out, “Why are you trying to kill me?”
Lia backed up, shocked by this question. “I don’t want to kill you, but I don’t want you here. She’s my Mami, and I don’t care if she hired you, I don’t need a babysitter!”
“What?” Rose asked, totally confused. “What do you mean babysitter?”
“DON’T PLAY DUMB WITH ME!” Lia screamed.
Rose crept closer. “I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. My guardian asked your mom to take me to the doctor for an appointment.” She said, matter-of-factually.
“Guardian? Right, tell me another one. Someone your age?” the other girl stated with a sneer on her face.
Confused, Rose looked back at Lia. “How old do you think I am?”
“Eighteen, maybe twenty.” Lia spat out.
“I’m Fourteen! I just look older than I actually am.” Rose sighed. Sitting down on the top of the jungle gym, Rose looked to Lia, who was circling the jungle gym.
“I don’t believe you!” Lia bellowed. “Stop lying to me! Mami hired you to watch me, you playboy reject!”
“Believe whatever you want.” Rose said dismissively, “You started this, not me.”
“You have it all, and everything has been taken away from me. I’m a freak!” Lia screamed at Rose, even as the mouths on her palms opened wide. The tongues extended at Rose, quickly spanning the distance between the two girls. Rose leaped out of the way, just as the disgusting appendages reached towards her. Lia didn’t seem to be able to reach her from where she was, perhaps she was at the end of her reach? If so, it seemed that their maximum length was about three feet.
“You think I have it all?” Rose screamed as she landed behind her opponent. “I had nothing! You have a family that loves you! All I had was a neglectful mother that abandoned me to the foster care system”
Lia reeled as a kick from behind knocked her flat. Struggling to push herself up, She felt the weight of her rival on her back, pushing her into the ground.
“I had nothing!” Rose screamed in her fury, “I was beaten and punched and abused by all the other kids! Humiliated and shamed for being weak.”
Lia coughed as a blow to the back of her head pushed her face into the dirt. The blows continued, and in desperation, she snaked her tongues around the stronger girl’s arms and pulled her off balance. With the momentary freedom she gained, she slipped out from under the other girl and crawled a few feet away.
Rose was seeing red, and there was nobody to hold her back. “I never had a chance! When the foster parents discovered I have a learning disability, they’d just dump me back into the government’s care.”
She closed the distance on her target and hauled the girl up one-handed and looked her in the eyes.
“You think I have it all? I nearly died! Does that sound like I had it all? I was diagnosed with fucking cancer! I spent the past few years having chemotherapy and operations, and was confined to a hospital. If I hadn’t been a mutant and if I didn’t get a spirit to help me, I would be dead right now. I was minutes away from death, seconds. So don’t you fucking tell me that I have it all. YOU are the one that does, I’m a fucking wreck!”
“Enough!” Inaba screamed in Rose’s head. Rose lurched backwards, stunned by the suddenness and ferocity of the small spirit that dwelt in her hallow. Stumbling, she fell and landed on her ass. Sitting there, she looked at the girl she had beaten up. If Inaba hadn’t interrupted her, she could have beaten the girl to death.
“Mija!” someone exclaimed from somewhere behind Rose. Turning around, she saw Isobel Navarro standing about twenty feet away, her service weapon drawn and pointed at her own daughter.
Lia looked at her mother, and then the gun. She lowered her head in shame, and walked over to her mother, and stood by her side.
“It looks like we have a lot to discuss when we get home, Mija.” Isobel stated firmly. The girl nodded sadly. “Conejita, I apologize for my daughter’s behavior, and I hope you won’t think ill of her.”
With that said, the pair walked slowly back in the direction of their house, leaving a very confused Rose behind.
Rose walked to Superiors Headquarters, being tired and not wanting to walk the further distance back to the mansion. She entered the garage, and headed up the stairs to the headquarters. Keying in the new security code, she went in and flopped down on the couch to rest. With her sensitive hearing, she could hear that Miguel was napping in his room. The sounds of his light snores made her laugh softly. Rose pulled out her phone and checked it, and was relieved to see that it hadn’t taken any damage during her tussle with the bitch girl. Unlocking the phone, she keyed in a message to Carrie.
At HQ. Tired. Had a bad day. Going 2 take nap – Rose
A moment later the phone quietly vibrated, there was a reply from her guardian.
Sleep well. Be there in 2 hrs. Will talk then. - C
With an exhausted yawn, Rose curled up on the big comfy couch and promptly nodded off. After a while Rose woke up to find Carrie was sitting across from her on one of the other couches.
Carrie frowned and looked at her young ward and sighed. “I talked to Isobel while you were sleeping. I heard what happened and I’m sorry you had to go through that. She had a long talk with her daughter after they got home, and she’s very sorry Lia did that. I’m sorry that I couldn’t take you to the hospital for the testing. A lead in a case came in and we had to follow up on it right away, or dozens, maybe hundreds of people could have been hurt. In a way, it ties back to the problems you had with Isobel’s daughter today.”
Looking at Carrie, Rose tilted her head. “I don’t understand. She just seemed to be a bitch. Is there something wrong with her?”
Carrie sighed and nodded. “This past spring, there was an outbreak of mysterious deaths and sudden illnesses in the local mutant population. Lia Navarro was one of those cases. From what her mother has told me of their time in New Mexico, Lia has always been something of a … troublemaker. She had a reputation for stealing things, beating up other kids, drinking, smoking. When ‘Bel got her promotion and the family moved up here, Lia’s behavior got worse. ‘Bel can’t be sure, but she’s reasonably sure she’s been sleeping around, running with known felons, and causing all sorts of issues. “
Rose nodded. Based on the incident earlier, she believed it. She remained quiet as Carrie continued to speak.
“Around Memorial Day, Lia got violently ill and had to be hospitalized. At first the doctors thought she was undergoing a burnout, as she was manifesting, but instead of the normal symptoms, her body temperature actually fell dramatically. She began to hemorrhage blood, and her pulse became wildly erratic. She actually vomited out her entire digestive system, and the openings on her palms formed. Miraculously, she survived, and grew a new digestive tract, this one connected to the mouths on her palms, instead of her original one.”
Rose swallowed hard. She had had it rough during her own manifestation, but hearing these details, she could sympathize with the other girl, despite her raving bitch behavior that afternoon. She sighed and looked back to Carrie as she once again resumed speaking. “Lia has had it very hard since her mutation. I know she attacked you, but ‘Bel told me that she wants to come over and apologize to you. Would it be okay if she came over after your appointment?”
Rose nodded quietly and thought about everything that had been said. She shook her head and meditated on everything.
The next day,
St. Luke’s Hospital
Rose sat on the exam table, kicking her feet back and forth out of boredom. The waiting was the hardest part, and as a redhead it seemed as though she had a genetic predisposition to impatience. Inaba had been helping her with that, but the little fluffy spirit could only do so much. So when Dr. Stevens came in, Rose’s ears perked up and she sat up straight in anticipation of her test results.
“Ah, Miss Lindevall, good to see you again. I have the results on the tests we ran when you were first admitted, and the follow-up tests performed yesterday. I have quite a bit of news, and some of it might be a little disturbing,” the doctor said.
Rose’s ears shot straight up. “Is there something wrong? H… has the cancer returned?”
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to scare you. Let me assure you, you are cancer-free. The issues we’ve discovered are not related to that. After your… assault, I understand you were put on birth control, at your request. Based on our findings, you have adapted to the standard pills, and we need to find a stronger contraceptive agent, especially since the tests have also revealed that you are quite fertile,” the doctor stated.
Swallowing a lump in her throat, Rose’s hands wandered to her stomach without her realizing. Apparently Carrie took notice of this, because she spoke up. “When you say that, you don’t mean that she’s pregnant, I take it?”
The doctor looked at his young patient and realized the concern. “Oh heavens, no. The preventative pill given to her when she was brought in prevented that possibility. Given that she’s a regenerator, it’s likely that she’ll require an implant that administers a stronger dosage of hormones than is available in oral form.”
Rose swallowed hard again before speaking. “If that’s what is necessary, I guess... but why am I like this? It’s not normal. I get turned on at the drop of the proverbial hat, and I get so fixated and focused on sex, sometimes it’s all I can think of. What’s wrong with me Doc?”
Looking at Rose, Dr. Stevens nodded. “I was about to discuss that. In the course of our testing, we discovered something was off about your neuro-chemistry. Do you know what oxytocin is?”
Looking at the doctor, Rose shook her head.
Carrie looked at the doctor and nodded, understanding. She spoke up. “Oxytocin is a neural compound which is often linked to sexual arousal, social and parental bonding, and also orgasmic and euphoric behaviors.”
Dr. Stevens looked over at her. “You remember your basic biology lessons, I see. In the case of Miss Lindevall, she’s producing an excessive amount of oxytocin, that results in the feelings and biological responses you have reported. It may be possible to alleviate the results, to some extent. I have to warn you, however, this won’t be a cure. It might take some of the edge off, but you may have to deal with the issues for the rest of your life.”
Carrie moved behind her young ward, and placed her hands reassuringly on her shoulders.
With the appointment over, Rose and Carrie left the exam room. As they walked to the parking lot, Rose clung to Carrie’s arm. The hero looked at the scared teen, stopped and gave her a hug. “Everything will be alright. Miguel and I will be here for you. Tell you what… How about we go get some ice cream, how’s that sound?”
Rose smiled and looked up at her guardian. “Sounds good to me.”
After stopping at the local ice cream parlor and partaking in the largest sundae Rose had ever seen, the two women arrived back at the manor. Now came the time that Rose dreaded. She looked at Carrie, pleading with her eyes to not make the call, but her mentor shook her head and dialed a number on her cellphone.
“Hey ‘Bel. Yeah, we just got home. Come on over whenever. We’ll be here. See you soon! Bye!” Rose listened in uneasily to the conversation.
“I suppose I have to do this.” she said, resigned to the fact the other girl was coming.
Carrie didn’t say anything; she just put a gentle hand on the young girl’s shoulder. It seemed to Rose that an eternity passed, but in reality it was only about ten minutes. She watched Carrie open the door and let her attacker in, followed closely by Mrs. Navarro.
Rose turned to her guardian and whispered something in her ear, to which Carrie asked “Are you sure?”
Watching curiously, Lia noted that Rose nodded back to her mentor. When both adults started towards the door, Lia rushed towards them. “Where are you going? You aren’t going to leave me alone with her, are you?”
“Liabella, sweetie. If you don’t start something, she won’t kick your ass. I love you little one. Don’t be a brat. We’ll be back in a couple hours” With that said, Isobel and Caribou walked out the door, leaving the girl at the mercy of her victim from yesterday.
Lia sighed and turned to face the other girl, looking at her carefully. “Look, I’m sorry for what happened yesterday. Mami explained to me about taking you to the hospital, I sorta overreacted.”
Looking at her dubiously, Rose simply stated her feelings in one short response. “Ya think?”
“Look, I’m sorry.” Lia said while looking down at the floor. “I think Mami and Caribou are plotting something. They seemed kind of like they were conspiring about something. I promise not to attack you.”
Looking the other girl over, Rose sized her up. Her posture seemed to support the fact that she was telling the truth, but looking at her just made Rose feel sad. The long white dress she had on wasn’t flattering, and with her hair hanging limply over her face, she just looked pitiful.
“Hey Sadako, want to go down to the billiard room? We can put some movies on, or crank up some music and just talk,” the bunny girl suggested.
Sighing, Lia nodded. “Okay, but please don’t call me that again. That movie scared the shit out of me.”
With a giggle, Rose replied. “I make no promises.”
Rose opened the door and the two of them walked into the spacious room. Rose picked up a cue, but the other girl just wandered over and flopped down on the couch. Racking up the billiard balls, Rose sighed as she hit the cue ball and all the balls careened around the table, the striped balls all finding their ways into pockets. With a sigh, she pointed at the most unlikely pocket, and then effortlessly banked the eight ball off other balls and several rails before it spun into the pocket she had indicated.
Looking over, Rose noted that the other girl had her hands balled into fists still. After seeing the mouths on the girls palms, she speculated that Lia didn’t have a lot of control over the gruesome deformity. Still, she thought that she had best be a good host.
“Would you like something to drink? We have some pop and lemonade in the mini-fridge under the bar.”, she stated.
Lia sighed and looked over. “I’d ask for something stronger, but I don’t think you would oblige me. Doesn’t matter anyhow, I can’t taste anything with these stupid things.” She indicated her palm tongues by unclenching her fists and allowing the serpentine organs to snake out from her palms.
The bunny girl nodded back at her. “But what about…”
Cutting her off, Lia grumbled. “I know what you’re going to ask, but my throat isn’t connected to my stomach anymore.”
Nodding, Rose asked Lia a question that if it weren’t for the jagged teeth jutting from the open maw on her hands would surely have caused her to facepalm at her own stupidity. “Okay, but you can still taste with your original tongue, right? Couldn’t you possibly taste things in your mouth, before discretely covering it and spitting into the hand’s mouth?”
Resolving to try that during her next meal, Lia changed the subject. “So, at the park… was all that true? What you said, I mean?”
Having put the pool stick back up on the wall rack, Rose nodded and walked over, sitting on the couch adjacent to the other girl. “Yeah it’s all true. I don’t know all the details, only what I overheard the doctors, nurses, and caretakers discussing. When I was two, social workers took me away from my mother, because I was in what they called an ‘unsafe environment’. She never attempted to get me back… apparently my father wasn’t even in the picture. Hell, I don’t even know which one’s last name I have. I was stuck in government care. I had a few foster homes take me in and I spent time bouncing around. One family was close to adopting me, but that was around when my learning disability was discovered.”
“What exactly is your disability?” Lia asked, clearly interested in the girl’s history.
“I have a form of dyscalculia. In my case it means that I have a problem with written numbers and mathematics. You can ask me to multiply two numbers verbally, and I can do it. But if you gave me the same math problem, written out, I won’t recognize the numbers. But I have developed some exemplar mental tricks that help somewhat. I could go up to the kitchen and rip open an unopened box of cereal and pour the contents out and have each piece of cereal counted in under a second. Also my ability to estimate size, distance, and volume at a glance are remarkably accurate. You are sitting four feet, seven inches away from me at the moment.”
Her eyes widening, Lia commented on that feat. “Wow, that’s impressive!”
Rose waived it off. “It might seem like it, but I wish I could do things like look at a regular clock and know what time it is.”
“I suppose.” Lia said noncommittally “Anyhow, you were telling me about when you were growing up.”
“Yeah, I bounced around some, never managed to stick anywhere. Then when I was ten, I got sick one day. I was coughing blood. They took me to the hospital and ran tests. That’s when they found the tumors." Rose shuddered involuntarily at the unpleasant memories. "The one in my head was inoperable, so I was put on chemotherapy. My hair started to fall out, I was weak and tired all the time. Over the next few years I just sort of lingered. The chemo and the cancer kept me from growing. This spring came and I overheard that they were giving up on treatment, that they were going into what they called 'pallative care' – which meant that they'd try to keep me comfortable while I died. That’s when I decided to make a break for it. I came up north, looking to die out on my own terms. But then I met Inaba, the Moon rabbit spirit. She helped me survive by kicking in my dormant regenerative abilities. Trying to keep me from fully manifesting was hard on her, and as you can see… there were some… issues. Still, I love her and am so grateful.”
“And I love you too, silly.” The spirit commented in Rose’s head.
Lia nodded. “I’m sorry about how I reacted yesterday. You really don’t look like you’re younger than me, so I was shocked.”
“Tell me about it. I passed out with the body of an emaciated eleven year old, and woke up all curvy and squishy. I’m still trying to get used to these things.” Rose commented as she cupped her chest.
Lia looked at her enviously. “I miss mine”
Rose raised an eyebrow. “Now that’s an invitation to asking for your story, surely…”
Sighing, Lia brushed the hair from in front of her face. “I guess I did walk into that.”
“Yup”, the smiling bunny girl replied.
Rose watched intently as Lia put her face in her palms.
After a minute or so, Lia looked up. “We moved up here from New Mexico not long ago. Part of it was Mami’s promotion. But another part was trying to get a fresh start. You see, Papi’s mother, my abuela, is rather set in the old ways. Papi was on the road for weeks at a time, and Mami was attached to the FBI office in Taos, where she worked long hours at all different times of the day. That meant I was often left with Abuela Navarro. She grew up in a strict Christian household, and tried to… encourage me to be a good Christian girl. I did what I think any young girl would have done. I rebelled. At first it was little things, lifting a candy bar here, picking a pocket there. But I enjoyed it. The rush of danger and the thrill of getting away with it. Except I didn’t always. Abuela was a firm believer in ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’, and when I got a beating, I just became more defiant.”
Lia sighed and shook her head before continuing. Pretty quickly I earned the reputation as ‘The Terror of Taos’. I was a real bully. I happened to have my growth spurt early, so I ended up taller than the other kids my age, so of course intimidating and beating up the smaller kids came naturally to me. Mami didn’t know how to deal with me. Papi would lecture me, but having grown up with Abuela, I don’t think he wanted to resort to her methods. So I ran wild. I joined a gang. And around my twelfth birthday, I started to… develop. The boys noticed me, and I began to notice them. When Papi caught me in bed with one of the older boys from the gang, he sent me to stay with his brother Ricardo for a couple weeks. I loved Uncle Ricardo. He took time to talk to me, and he treated me like an adult, not like a child. He was so kind. And he would make the most beautiful jewelry. I'd sit at watch him craft these intricate pieces, and it just fascinated me. I was considering leaving the gang and turning my life around. But Abuela ruined everything.”
Getting up, Rose moved beside the other girl and wrapped her arm around her shoulder in a gesture of support. She could tell that Lia was fighting some inner demon and needed someone to be there for her. She hadn’t noticed it before, but now that she was paying attention, she could really tell that the girl had felt cold.
Everything went to shit at Christmas last year. Uncle Ricardo revealed his two secrets. Not only was he gay, but he was also a mutant. I learned much later that his ability to make the beautiful treasures he created came from being a low-level gadgeteer. Mami and Papi accepted him for the wonderful person that he was, but Abuela? No, she couldn’t possibly understand. I don't think she even tried to understand. She thought that being gay and being a mutant were sins against God. A few days later, she reported him to the head of the local church. The...." She broke, shuddering a bit at what was obviously a very bad memory. "They found his body on New Year’s Day.”
Lia paused for a moment, then shook her head when she saw the concern on the other girl’s face. “I’m okay. Honest.”
Nodding, Rose remained quiet, while Lia resumed her story. “After that, everything in me kind of died. I went back to the gang. We vandalized Abuela’s church. I got cold toward everyone. I let the boys in the gang pass me around like some slut. And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the booze and the drugs. The thrill of pulling a gun on someone and the look of fear in their eyes. It was a high, and I was a junkie. I didn’t know at the time that Mami was investigating the deaths on the side. I just thought that she was trying to drown herself in her work. She discovered that the murder had been connected to Abuela’s church, to a Humanity First member in the MCO that attended service there. Following leads, she found a trail of mysterious disappearances, all linked to that office. Nearly the entire staff was complicit in the execution and cover-up of various crimes. Mami resigned from the FBI and applied to the MCO and was assigned to assist the new office chief. After six months, she was offered the position of head of the Duluth office, and we relocated. I wasted a chance at a fresh start. I slipped back into my old habits. That’s why I look like this now, it’s my penance.”
Looking questioningly at the chalk-white girl, she waited for her to continue. After taking a deep breath and sighing Lia did just that.
“It was Memorial Day, and I was at a party. There was a pipe being passed around, and I took a hit. I didn’t think anything of it. I had some more beers, let some of the guys feel me up, and then I...think … I might have slept with one or two. I don’t really know. All I know is that in the morning, I woke up alone in the park, in bad shape. I remember throwing up blood and passing out. I was in a coma for the better part of a month and, when I did wake up… Well, you see the results. I was told that I nearly died. That most of my organs had disintegrated and I had grown new ones they couldn’t identify. My body temperature dropped to about 64 degrees, which is apparently normal for me now. They didn’t even know how to feed me at first. Not until I accidentally started to eat everything my hands came into contact with. It took them time to figure out that the drug I had taken forced me to manifest and also caused some kind of damage to my mutant body image. Once they discovered that, other cases involving the drug were discovered. … most of whom were exemplars that had died because the drug mangled their bodies. I’m not positive, but I think your mentor was involved in taking down the devisor that invented the drug.”
Rose swiveled her ears subconsciously. “I think we can ask Carrie personally. She and your mother are back.”
A few minutes later the two women walked into the room. “You two getting along okay?” asked Caribou, as she looked warily and pointedly at Rose.
“As you can see, we're both still alive.” Rose responded with a grin. “We were just comparing our tales of woe and sorrow. We were talking about the drug that Lia took. She said you were involved in that?”
Carrie sighed and sat down on the couch, opposite the girls. Rose took notice that Mrs. Navarro stayed back near the bar.
Hesitating for a second, Carrie nodded and then started speaking. “Officially, as a registered law enforcement official, I’m not supposed to discuss an ongoing case involving a mutant subject in front of an MCO agent. However, it’s a good thing that ‘Bel is down the hall in the lavatory.” Carrie smiled and looked over at her friend, who nodded and grinned.
“Si, with the water running, I can’t hear a thing.” Mrs. Navarro said while clearly not in another room.
With that said, Carrie launched into her explanation. “The first victim was found shortly after New Years, although identification of the body took considerably longer. All soft tissue in the deceased’s body had ossified. They died as their entire body literally changed into bone. Over the next few months more bodies were discovered, all horribly changed in different... horrifying... ways. Another victim explosively decompressed, one had their blood boil. Over a dozen cases, each with another particularly grizzly method of death. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was initially at a loss. When it was discovered that all the victims had been manifested exemplars, Miguel and I were brought in to consult. Quite by accident, the State patrol intercepted a small package of the drug. They sent it to the BCA for identification, and it was discovered to match the drug compound in the bloodstreams of several of the victims. The courier car was identified as belonging to a local devisor. With the evidence, we immediately set up a raid.”
Carrie looked over to Rose. “That’s why I couldn’t take you to the doctor. I’m terribly sorry, and because all this was happening so quickly, the only person I could call to take you was Isobel.”
Shaking her head, Rose looked at her guardian. “It’s okay. I knew you were off doing something important. You told me about your dad and how he inspired you to be a hero. You did something that was important and I’m proud you did.”
Leaning over, the hero hugged her young charge. “It was still very much up in the air. Even with a squad of heavily armed state and federal officers as back-up, it was very dangerous. The devisor is a local criminal named Silverback… think devisor that is also an eight foot tall gorilla.”
Everyone looked over at Lia as she let out a gasp. “That’s who made it?”
Carrie laughed. “Yeah, and in addition to being a devisor, he was hella-strong.”
Rose’s ears perked up. “Was?” She asked.
Carrie nodded and sighed. “There were a lot of volatile chemicals at the warehouse he was using. We think a stray spark from a bullet ricochet might have caused them to ignite. Fortunately none of the officers or first responders were injured, but the warehouse was a total loss. Silverback likely died in the explosion.”
"Likely?" Rose and Isobel asked simultaneously, both wide-eyed at Carrie's choice of words.
"There wasn't a lot left to... identify."
September 22nd 2007
Great Lakes Shipping Warehouse #3
The area had been carefully isolated. The nearby docks were emptied, undercover agents gave the appearance that there were still routine shipments being loaded and unloaded. Everyone knew it was dangerous. Silverback was a high-level devisor, but also he was an exemplar who due to his size and GSD looked exactly like an 8 foot tall lowland gorilla. Surveillance had not detected any other mutants, but there were plenty of henchmen and it was possible that some might have powers.
Transistor wandered through the cluster of officers, looking at the assorted power armors that had been gathered for the mission. The DEA had four state of the art General Dynamics Land Systems M-11’s, rigged for heavy combat. Given that their adversary was a high level exemplar that could out-lift Caribou by nearly a ton and a half, the fact that they had these 11 foot tall suits was a god-send. Duluth Police had mustered two aging, first generation 8 foot tall combat frames, first tested in Enduring freedom, the famous M-2 combat suits made by United Defense. Walking over, he inspected the missiles that the 110’s were loading. The anti-armor missiles could penetrate the defensive armor of a tank at a range of about 3 miles, and while that seemed like overkill, he was glad they had them.
The head of the operation, Special Agent Monroe, called everyone to the command point. Monroe was a tall woman, easily six foot four, she was solidly muscled. Her hair was silver and she exuded an air of authority and experience.
“Okay everyone, our situation today is serious. We have a known dangerous mutant on site. Subject is known as Silverback, an exemplar with severe GSD that makes him look like a gorilla. His exact rating is unknown, but is speculated to be high six or even seven. He is a known devisor six, specializing in pharmaceuticals, and is the primary suspect in the manufacturing of a narcotic that has been linked to the deaths of several mutants. The subject is extremely dangerous, and his file indicates that he does not respond well to jokes. No references to Gorilla Grodd, bananas, or Planet of the Apes. Additionally, our surveillance indicates we might have as many as a couple dozen armed individuals present, in addition to the primary subject. Team A will go in with Caribou, while Transistor and Team B monitor the perimeter. Divide up according to your assignments. Any problems arise, get out of there. I don’t want to lose anyone. You have your assignments. Good luck.”
Carrie approached the warehouse cautiously. The M-2 jockey was slightly behind her. Quietly, she tore the smaller entry door off its hinges, and put it off to the side. The lights were on low, and the shadows aided the infiltration of the site. There was a long corridor, leading to a large set of doors. Caribou signaled to the armor pilot to guard the entrance. Taking the DEA agents and police officers with, they came up to the shuttered door.
“The blueprints indicated that beyond here is the main storage facility. I don’t like this. It’s too easy. There are no guards on the doors.” Caribou said in frustration.
A booming, deep voice that would make James Earl Jones envious reverberated through the place. “Why post guards, when I want you to come?”
Without warning, the large doors slid open with a loud rumble. Bullets flew through the open portal, hitting Caribou and causing her to wince. She could stand up to small arms fire, and was grateful that automatic rifles and assault weapons weren’t being aimed at her, at least not at the moment.
Shielding the officers, she silently waved to either side of the archway. There were crates and boxes and assorted stacks of items under tarps that conveniently made for shelter. Dodging to the left, the hero drew the fire and allowed the officers to get to the cover on the right side of the entry.
Tapping her earpiece, Caribou sighed. Something was jamming communication with the outside. She did manage to reach the officer in the M-2 frame. “Officer Crosby, status.”
Over the com, the officer’s voice came across as somewhat winded. “I’m taking fire from several gunmen that dropped through the ceiling. My force field generator is holding, but they are using smoke grenades, and this old bucket doesn’t have working infra-red.”
“Copy that Crosby, I’m cut off from communications outside the warehouse, see if you can reach the outside, or if you can get out and relay the situation.” Caribou called out over the com.
From seemingly all around them the low voice echoed. “It’s futile to resist. I have you all trapped. Give yourselves up, and I’ll spare the baselines. They are of no interest to me.” the simian foe bellowed.
“Silverback, your drug is a failure! It kills exemplars, it destroys their BIT. It has caused nearly a dozen deaths. Give up and we can work a plea deal for you!” Caribou called out. She knew that there was no hope of a surrender, but she had to try. The hired goons still had them pinned down, though surely they would run out of ammo sooner or later.
“Exciting, isn’t it? Science has been perplexed by what a BIT is, and lo and behold, I have made something that can destroy them. Granted, that was not my original intent, but now I can sell it to the highest bidder. I’m sure there are those who would pay for the opportunity to study BITS pre AND post destruction.” The simian villain excitedly yelled.
His statement confirmed her foe would not surrender, so Caribou signaled to the officers and agents across from her to make a diversion. When they made their break for the next section of stacked crates, Caribou quickly scampered up the stack of cargo containers she was behind, and disappeared up into the ceiling beams.
Caribou to Team A. I have a plan. It’s... probably an incredibly dangerous and quite probably stupid plan, but it’s a plan”
As she made her way through the metal catwalks and cross beams of the warehouse eaves, she communicated the details of her plan to the officers and troops, instructing them to evacuate the warehouse.
Silverback was in the rear of the warehouse. According to the blueprints, this section backed up to the retaining wall, allowing for easy on-loading and off-loading onto ships. If he were planning on loading the supply for a quick getaway, that made sense. The perimeter team would keep any boats from mooring. Her job now was to get Silverback out of the warehouse. Unfortunately, Caribou only knew one way to accomplish that. Pausing, she pulled a handful of stone arrowheads from the pouch on her hip, and fed some manna into them.
“Tools of my people, may the spirits of my ancestors guide your aim, May you fly true and protect us from the enemy. Fly swift as the falcon and deliver us from those that seek to harm the innocent.” After whispering the incantation, she took a deep breath and jumped through the gaps between the catwalks.
Silverback stood perhaps twenty yards away, annoyed that the hero had made it this far. “I should have expected you to take that route. Alas, it doesn’t matter, for I shall kill you here and now. It was really quite stupid of you to challenge me up close. I know that I am much stronger than you, and you have no chance of winning”.
“Perhaps I couldn’t take you in close combat, but thinking that I can’t take you down, that’s just bananas.” the hero quipped as she snapped her fingers, propelling one of the enchanted arrowheads at the simian mutant.
Roaring in pain, Silverback eased away clutching his right eye, blood dripping from where the arrowhead had penetrated.
“Don’t mention bananas! I hate bananas!” he roared in fury while picking up a large crate and flinging it towards the annoying target.
“Oh, I’m sorry… does that drive you apeshit?” Caribou launched another arrowhead, grazing the right ear of the gargantuan. Seeing her opponent reaching for a barrel, she laughed. “A barrel? Really? I haven't played Donkey Kong in ages!”
The massive mutant roared and let loose with the barrel, narrowly missing the heroine, as she leaped aside at the last minute. More arrowheads flew and embedded themselves in the hide of the enraged simian. He was rapidly losing his composure, which was exactly what Caribou had hoped would happen.
“Hey Grodd! Over here! You missed, you big ape!” Carrie could clearly see that he was snorting hard, his massive brow was furrowed. He was losing control. Provoking a rager with Deidrick’s was never a good idea, but there was a better chance to defeat a pissed off exemplar that wasn't thinking clearly than one that is capable of rational thought. “I’m tired of all this monkey business, come at me, Kong!”
Silverback let out a roar and pounded his chest. Leaping towards the hero, he landed on a crate smashing it and crushing its contents. Caribou ducked out through the large door, narrowly avoiding getting pinned under it when the raging villain smashed it down. She fled down the storage area, not bothering to stay out of the sights of the guards.
“He’s dricking out! Run for it!” she yelled, and it was effective. The hired thugs dropped their guns and fled down the aisles ahead of her. She reached the front door, and hit the large button that controlled the opener. As the large steel door slowly rose, the heroine quickly slid underneath. Launching her last arrowhead, she managed to ricochet it off a parked forklift, hitting the button to close the door.
“He’s coming, and he’s out of control! Fall back into range, and bring up the M-2 armors!” Caribou yelled.
Indeed, about twenty seconds after her warning, the mad devisor burst through the massive metal door. He pounded his chest again, letting out a roar.
Transistor looked over the scene from the mobile control van, seeing his long-time partner’s plan. Getting on the com-link, he started giving orders. “Crosby, Mason... flank on either side, go flamethrowers to start. Hold tasers in reserve. He’s a rager, and with all the adrenaline coursing through his system, those may not work. Okay, 11's open up with the anti-tank missiles. Body armor won’t do any good right now. All unarmored personnel to fall back to safety.”
The air roared as the armor-piercing missiles came flying in. Several exploded nearby the angry powerhouse. He backed up, looking at the warehouse. Though lost in his rage and dricked out, some small corner of sanity kept saying “shelter”, but whenever he turned towards the building, the horrible jets of fire blocked his path. His animal brain knew “fire bad!”, and he turned again towards where the loud noises and explosions were coming from. Roaring, Silverback looked up and saw the incoming rounds, with his already impressive strength and regeneration further amped up by his rage, he shrugged off the pain, and threw anything he could get his hands on back towards his attackers.
Transistor watched the incoming objects tumble through the air. He tried to shout a warning to the armor pilot, but it was futile. The debris hit dead center, thrown with enough velocity that it caved in the chest of the mobile armor. “Pull back!” he screamed, and the other armors hastily did so.
The heavy armor exploded, showering the vicinity with dangerous shrapnel. “He’s too strong! Do we have anything that can bring him down?” Caribou questioned as she looked at the debris.
Agent Monroe nodded and her voice got quiet. “Officially, we aren’t supposed to have these, but there...might… there...might… be a load of HESH missiles here somewhere.” As she said it, she subtly nodded her head towards a Humvee parked about 20 yards from the mobile command center.
Caribou tilted her head, questioningly. HESH?”
Transistor spoke next. “High explosive Squash Head. Essentially, they are warheads designed to inflict massive damage on structures. They also do Exemplars like nothing else, or so the Army says, and are useful against infantry. If King Kong out there tries to catch these, he’s likely to lose his hands.”
Caribou nodded. “Load the 11’s with them. We’ll buy you some time. Tell everyone else to go with flash-bangs, flares, and tracers. We’ll keep him off-balance to get you your shot.”
The officers moved as one unit, spreading out around Silverback, pushing him back towards the warehouse. He staggered as the flares and tracers and various flash-bangs overwhelmed his senses. Reeling, he backed into the warehouse wall. There was a deafening roar as his left shoulder exploded, the missile round blowing a hole through it. Screams and cries echoed all across the harbor as missile after missile found its target. Suddenly there was a blinding flash and a wave of force blew everyone back. The warehouse full of volatile chemicals and devisor products went up like a roman candle.
September 23rd 2007
Glensheen Manor, Duluth MN
“We searched the wreckage of the warehouse, and the blast radius. All we found was his severed arm.” Carrie said as she looked at the three people that had been listening intently to her.
“Lia nodded somberly. “So, he really is dead.”
Carrie came over and patted the girl gently on the shoulder. “It appears that way, and all his notes and the samples of the drug went up with the warehouse.”
Lia sighed and lowered her head, she mumbled. “Perhaps that’s for the best.”
If she meant for it to not be heard, she hadn’t counted on the hearing of a high-level exemplar, or a girl with rabbit ears. Rose turned and nodded to Carrie.
The heroine turned to the pale girl and spoke. “So, while your mother and I were out Lia, we got to thinking. Halloween is next month. Usually the Manor does a big event for charity. We’d be thrilled to have your help planning and decorating.”
Lia sighed. “I’m not sure I’d be good for anything. If I don’t keep my hands all balled up like this, they tend to try to bite or chew anything they touch. It’s like they have a mind of their own.”
Carrie looked over, and saw Rose’s ear perk up. She had begun to recognize this little tell. The girl had some idea running around in that head of hers.
“I recognize that thoughtful look, Rose” Carrie stated. “Whatcha thinking?”
“It occurred to me that Lia’s mouths don’t try to bite her fingers, and I noticed when she put her hands on her thighs a while ago that they didn’t do anything either. She said it’s like they have a mind of their own, perhaps that’s not too far off?”
Carrie looked at the pale girl and pondered for a second. “You might be right. “Bel, Lia did the doctor say anything like that? It might be important.”
Isobel looked at her friend and replied. “I don’t think so. He largely seemed uninterested in her mutation. Mostly it was like he was more interested in the effects of the drugs.”
“What was the doctor’s name?” Carrie asked with a frown.
“It was Dr. Hervenhopher, I believe” Lia said, looking at the hero.
Carrie nodded, got out her phone, and headed for the hallway. “I need to make a call in private, I’ll be right back!”
Returning after a few minutes, Carrie spoke up. “I talked to Dr. Stevens over at the University. Hervenhopher isn’t regarded well, but he has tenure, so it’s been nearly impossible to get rid of him. He has ties to H1, and if your mother didn’t have the bureau whipped into shape, I think he wouldn’t be above making people disappear. Dr. Stevens would be willing to see Lia after Rose’s appointment, if that’s okay with you ‘Bel.”
Lia looked at her mother and nodded, causing Isobel to speak. “Si, I think that would be good. We can get some better answers about what is going on. For now though it’s getting late. We should head home.”
Goodbyes were said, and Rose waved as Lia and Isobel drove off.
Rose looked up to her mentor, as they turned to go back inside. “Perhaps she’s not as bad as I thought. She just needs a friend.”
Rose missed the smile forming on her guardian's face. These two girls were just the thing that each other needed.
The following day
Glensheen Manor, Duluth MN.
Rose woke up irritable and cranky. She had a bit of a stomach ache, and some light cramps. She knew this was due, but she was hoping it would hold off. Irritable, Rose retreated to the bathroom, and took a shower. Dragging herself through her morning routine, she tossed on some sweatpants and a hoodie over a nondescript black tee shirt. Hauling herself down the stairs, she saw that Carrie was being chipper and whistling while making pancakes. Grumbling, she flipped off her guardian while her back was turned and went over to the table and put her head down.
“Rough morning?” Carrie asked innocently. When Rose looked up, she saw the bags under the girls eyes, her disheveled hair – still slightly damp, and immediately knew the score.
“Aw, honey. Just started?”
The muffled growl was sufficient proof, so Carrie brought over a large stack of the pancakes and patted the girl gently on the head.
Carrie watched as the slumped over figure slowly fed forkfuls of pancake into the shadow of her hood. “Bel and Lia will be here in an hour. There’s some exemplar-strength pain reliever in the medicine cabinet in my room, if you need it. Directions are on the bottle.”
The lethargic blob that looked like Rose slowly crept up the stairs, seeking relief. As she watched her young charge, Carrie sighed and sympathized with the poor girl.
A few minutes later Rose returned to the kitchen and sat back down. Carrie had finished her breakfast, and the dishes had all been cleaned and put away. Flipping through her phone, Carrie read through her e-mails and bulletins.
Looking up from a bulletin about some radical religious group, she saw that Rose was still moping.
“The meds should kick in before too long, and you’ll feel better. In the mean-time, maybe you should go lay down on one of the sofas in the other room.”
Nodding feebly, Rose shuffled off to do just that. Lia and Isobel had arrived, which meant that Rose had fallen asleep since she didn't remember them coming in.
Lia looked over at the grumbling, angry bunny girl. “What’s up with the princess?”
In response Rose mumbled something that might have been “kill you”.
Carrie entered from the next room, chiding the other girl. “Be nice. It’s her first period, and it seems to have decided to smack her extra hard.”
With each adult gently wrapping an arm around the poor girl, they helped her up, and walked her slowly to the door.
After they arrived at the university hospital, Carrie left her ward with Lia and ‘Bel while she pulled Dr. Stevens aside.
“I looked into this Dr. Hervenhopher. He has definite connections to Humanity First, and there have been some anomalous financial transactions, large sums of money deposited into his accounts. I haven’t discovered why, but I turned the matter over to a friend who is a forensic accountant with the FBI. If he doesn’t do anything blatantly criminal, I can’t really do anything… but it seems for certain that he didn’t have Lia’s interests at heart.”
The doctor nodded and the two walked back to the others. “Miss Lindevall, if you are ready, we can start the procedures.”
Mumbling, Rose got up and followed the doctor into the office. A female nurse came in, and Dr. Stevens left. Laying on the exam table, Rose squirmed a little with discomfort. She had been allowed to keep her panties on, but the rest of her clothes were neatly folded on a nearby chair. Surgical drapes were placed over her back. Dr Stevens returned, scrubbed his hands, and put on rubber gloves.
“Given your rapid healing and the relatively minor nature of the procedures, you should be able to leave almost immediately after we are finished. Now I’ve discussed the implantation with Miss Running Elk, and she has given me the go-ahead, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask now.” the doctor droned on.
Rose had been told of the operations, and what to expect. The devises that were to be implanted were small, no larger than a disposable cigarette lighter. The first one was to be implanted on the back of the right upper arm, near the shoulder and would pump a medication designed to counteract her elevated oxytocin levels. The other devise would be placed in the same location on her left arm, and would administer her birth control.
Rose stayed conscious through both implantations, having been given a local anesthesia. All in all, the whole procedure only took about fifteen minutes. After the doctor and nurse left the room, Rose put her clothes back on. The day had been rough on her, and she was too tired to think on the implications of what this meant.
Rose had long since healed from the implantation, with not even a visible scar. She was half asleep in her chair in the waiting room, leaning up against Carrie’s shoulder. Thus it was that she didn’t see the tears on the other girl’s face, or the worry in Isobel’s eyes. When they returned to the mansion, Carrie gently carried Rose in and put her on a soft sofa in the main living room. Lia followed and sat with her mother on an identical sofa, directly opposite.
Rose stirred, opening her bleary eyes. The irony was not lost on her that she felt far worse than at any point of her cancer. Sitting down on the sofa with Rose, Carrie smiled when the bunny girl rolled over and put her head in her lap. Gently petting her head and stroking the poor girl’s hair, Carrie chuckled softly when Rose closed her eyes and started to purr softly.
As Carrie continued to pet the tired girl, she looked over to Lia and Isobel. “So, what did Dr. Stevens have to say?”
Lia looked at her mother, and then nodded and spoke. “He was so much more helpful than the other doctor, but I’m still trying to process everything. He… he said that I was p...probably going to change into a boy. That’s why my boobs and ass got smaller, and I lost my curves. I...I don’t have periods anymore because my ovaries and uterus don’t work fully anymore.”
Lia couldn't continue her report, instead breaking into sobs and burying her face in her mother’s shoulder. After a moment, she sniffled loudly and then turned to speak again. “The drug seems to have jump-started it, and then froze the change in the beginning stages, so thankfully there is no dick in my future.”
“Liabella Estrella Navarro! Language!”
“Erm, sorry Mami…” Lia stammered, a slight gray blush spreading across the girl’s pale chalk white skin.
Carrie nodded and spoke up. “I knew a couple girls that were born boys back when I attended Whateley. For the most part they ended up accepting their changes. I’m actually God-mother to one’s daughter.”
There was a silence that hung in the air like a palpable feeling. Eventually though Lia spoke again. “The little fluff-head there was right though about something. When she said my mouths have a mind of their own, she was actually right. The doctor said that there are some sort of primitive neural nerve cluster things in my forearms, all along the throats.”
Not even lifting her head or opening her eyes, Rose smirked. “Told you so!”
Lia scowled. “I knew you weren’t sleeping, you butt-munch.”
Isobel cuffed her daughter on the back of the head. “Sorry Mami” the contrite girl said.
Carrie laughed and then a thoughtful look spread across her face. “Rose, can you go get my medicine pouch? It’s on my dresser.”
The bunny girl pouted at the prospect of having to get up. Sighing, she made a production out of slooowly sitting up, yawning and stretching. Returning a couple minutes later, Rose handed a pouch to her guardian and made a dramatic show of curling up on the now-vacant couch.
Carrie took the pouch from the wise-ass bunny and walked over to Lia. “Please hold out your arm and close your eyes. I want to try something.”
From behind them, a snarky little voice spoke up. “That’s what she said.”
Lia didn’t need to open her eyes to be able to determine the sound she heard was a pillow being lofted at a smart-ass rabbit-girl.
Carrie rubbed some herbs and berries on Lia’s arm, and then chanted in a language the girl didn’t understand. She stopped and Lia suddenly jumped as she felt a sudden weight in her palm.
“It’s alright, you can open your eyes now.” Lia looked and then gasped as she realized the weight was an apple. She was holding an apple in her hand, and her voracious mouth wasn’t trying to consume it.
Carrie smiled in approval. “Okay, that worked. It’s a temporary thing though.”
“What… what did you do?” the startled girl asked.
With a wide grin, Carrie responded. “I cast a spell of sleep on your arm. As I said, it’s only temporary. But if you’ll indulge me, try to take a bite out of the apple.”
Lia eagerly nodded, and she attempted to control her appendage’s mouth. The apple tore apart in her hand, as her razor-sharp needled teeth ripped at the piece of fruit. When she finished, her long, sinuous tongue snaked its way out and proceeded to lick the juices from her palm.
The girl shed tears of happiness, “It worked! It worked!” she cried in sheer joy.
After the spell was hastily repeated on the other arm, Lia hugged the older woman tightly, grateful for the opportunity to be closer to normal, even if only for a little while.
“Now, I’ll have to come up with a more permanent way of binding the spell, but that should hold for about twenty-four hours," the mage said with a smile.
It was then that the cellphone that Carry had with her decided to ring. She quietly excused herself and went into the hallway. Less than a minute passed and Carrie ran back in.
“There’s an emergency, and I need to leave. Will you be alright if I leave you with Isobel?” Carrie asked, directing the question at the sleepy girl on the couch.
Rose raised her hand and waved, as if dismissing her guardian. “Go, I’ll be okay here. In fact… if it’s okay, I’d like Lia to sleep over… assuming that’s okay with Mrs. Navarro.”
Both adults looked at each other and nodded. Isobel was the first one to answer. “Si, it is okay with me. Lia’s father is back from hauling produce across the country, so some time alone would be nice. She can stay.”
Lia rolled her eyes and groaned. “Ew Mami, too much information.”
Caribou had dashed off, and Isobel was gathering her things to leave. She turned to her daughter and spoke softly to her. “I love you, my precious little one. Behave and don’t be a bad guest. No beating up the Conejita, okay?”
Lia laughed and nodded. “I guess I’ll have to be good.” She kissed her mother on the cheek and watched as she walked out the door.
Rose slumped on the couch, miserable from the seemingly unstoppable pain. She looked at the other girl. With the adults gone, this could go one of two ways. Her cranky uterus was making her wish for the good way.
They sat and looked at each other warily for several minutes before Rose sighed. “I’m not going to hurt you. I get it- it was all a misunderstanding. I’d like to be your friend, if you let me.”
Looking over at her, Lia nodded. “Sounds doable. Do you have a heating pad? That’ll help you considerably.”
“I don’t know...” Rose replied.
Lia left the room, and came back a few minutes later with a warm, wet towel. This will be better than nothing. She handed it to Rose, trying not to stare obviously as the bunny girl pulled her shirt up, exposing her stomach.
“Mmmm… that DOES feel better, thanks” the young avatar said in a more relaxed tone.
She lay there content, when suddenly her stomach made an embarrassing gurgling sound.
Looking at her, Lia laughed. “Hungry much?”
Rose blushed and tried to wave off the laughter. “Shut up. I… I wasn’t feeling good, and I didn’t eat much for breakfast.”
Lia wandered out of the room and meandered to the kitchen, the reluctant Rose following close behind. Lia dug through the pantry and the fridge for ingredients which she fixed some soup and sandwiches for them.
Rose sat at the counter, slowly sipping the broth of the canned chicken noodle soup. Then she bit into the tuna sandwich and hungrily devoured it. Feeling better, she launched into finishing off the soup.
“Feeling better?”, Lia asked.
“Much” Rose said quickly.
Frowning, Lia had to ask the question that loomed, unsaid. “Why do I get the feeling you don’t like me very much? I’ve apologized for the misunderstanding.”
Rose sighed and looked up at the girl, She didn’t mean this to happen, she was clearly not at her best. “I’m sorry. It’s not you. Really. I’ve been beaten up before, I’ve had chemotherapy, I’ve been at some of the lowest points imaginable, but for some reason this period is hitting me harder than anything I’ve ever felt. I’ve already gone through 6 pads today, and I just feel terrible.”
Lia looked at the girl, stunned. “Six today? Normally I’d have gone through that many for an entire period!”
Rose looked up at her, groaned, and slumped down even further into the couch cushions.
Lia looked at her sympathetically. “How about we just sit and talk for a bit, nothing stressful?”
Rose nodded. “That works for me,” she replied in a pained voice.
Taking the Initiative, Lia asked the first question. “So, what all are your powers, anyhow?”
“Well, I’m an exemplar three, but just barely, according to how much upper body strength I have. Comparatively, I’m much higher in lower body strength. I have regeneration three, which doesn’t make the cramps or bloating feel better. And finally, I’m an avatar. They think level 4 or maybe higher, since my spirit I’m bonded to can speak and is intelligent.” Rose paused, letting that all sink in.
“What’s it like being an avatar? Isn’t it creepy having someone talk in your head? No offense to your spirit, I mean.” Lia asked, adding the last part on quickly.
Rose tilted her head and looked off into the void for a second.
“She’s sleeping,” she replied “but in a way I’ve gotten used to it. It’s like having an invisible friend. But it talks back to you. She’s there to teach me, to guide me. I can ask her advice, and she rarely acts judgmental. I think I’m lucky to have gotten her as a spirit partner. I know there are some avatars that don’t get along with their spirits, but to me, she’s my best friend.”
Lia paused to think on that for a moment. “I suppose that is nice. But isn’t it annoying to always have someone talking in your head?”
Rose looked down, rather sadly. “She hasn’t been all that talkative lately. Mostly she spends her time sleeping. She nearly exhausted all her life energy to save me, so she’s so incredibly frail now. I have to support her and help her get better.”
“That sounds sweet. You really do care for each other. I’m a little jealous. Okay, a lot jealous. You get a friend and sexy stuff, I get freakshow horror night.” Lia lamented.
Rose tilted her head and asked a question that Lia was really not expecting. “Do you trust me?”
Lia looked at the bunny girl uncertainly. “Maybe?”
Rose laughed and got up. “I’ll be right back.”
Lia sat there dreading what was next, uncertainty gnawed at her. Was the other girl planning some sort of revenge?
Her question was soon answered when the other girl returned with a bunch of bags, one of which appeared to be a garment bag, and several of the others were from Macy’s and other stores that Lia seldom entered at the mall.
“What’s that?” she asked nervously looking at the collection of bags. Rose walked over without saying anything and handed her the garment bag.
“Go try that on, then come back out here, okay?” Rose said with a smile.
Lia sighed and went down the hall to the nearest bathroom. She carefully hung the bag up as she unzipped it. Inside was a black dress. But not just any black dress. It was a goth dress with a leather corset around the middle, long sleeves with lace at the wrists and bunched shoulders. There was lace around the bodice, and as she tried it on, she noticed that it had a built-in push-up. The floor length skirting, with more lace at the trim looked amazing. She reached up and swept the hair from her face without thinking, and then frowned as the black veins on her face and neck pulsed with the black viscous sludge that now passed for her blood.
She stormed out and glared at the bunny girl. “Very funny. Put me in a goth dress and make me look even more like a monster!”
Rose walked over and gave the girl a hug, which Lia struggled against. “The other day, I told Carrie and your mom my idea. That’s why they left us alone. I’m not trying to make fun of you, I’m trying to help. Now if you can please trust me, I want you to sit down and let me help.”
Rose let go of the confused girl and fetched a chair from the desk in the corner which she placed in the middle of the floor and beckoned Lia to sit. The older girl did, although hesitantly.
“I’m going to need you to close your eyes” Rose stated.
Lia did so, and was almost immediately startled to feel something soft brush her cheek. Realizing it was a make-up brush, she settled down and let the bunny girl continue. After a few minutes, the brushing stopped, and more work began- lip gloss, liners, the works. Lia sensed that Rose had stepped back and she cautiously opened her eyes. Rose was standing there with a mirror, which was then presented to Lia. While not her former style, the white concealer covered her veins and made her look like a typical pale goth girl. Her black lips were accentuated and looked pouty, yet she had that slight air of unapproachability. Black mascara and a slight bit of blush made her turquoise eyes vividly stand out. She looked attractive in a totally different way than she ever thought she would.
Lia stammered “I… I don’t know what to say. It’s not me, but it’s not horrible.” Rose smiled and grabbed a brush and got to work on Lia’s black hair, combing out the tangles and restoring it to a long elegance that it had lost when she had no longer been able to brush it herself. Lia shuddered slightly as she remembered her last attempt, her hand biting off the handle of the hairbrush, swallowing it.
“I know it’s not the you that you used to be, but this is the best camouflage we could think of.” Rose said plainly.
“Y… you and Mami and Caribou came up with this together?” Lia said, totally stunned.
“Well, the actual look was my idea, but they picked up everything. There are some black Mary Janes in one of the bags, not like you need the extra height," Rose grumbled.
Lia put on the shoes and did a twirl, looking across the room at a mirror. While the look wasn’t a style she would have previously chosen for herself, it did certainly provide camouflage. She looked like any other pale goth that would be seen hanging out in front of Hot Topic.
Walking over, Lia embraced the bunny girl and pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you, Thank you so much. I feel like you and Caribou have... have given me... my life back.”
Smiling, Lia looked the startled girl in the eyes, and blushed. She leaned in and kissed her unexpectedly, at first gently, but with growing intensity. As the other girl kissed back, Lia realized what she was doing. Her eyes wide, she broke the kiss, covered her mouth with her hand, and ran to the bathroom, locking herself in.
Knocking on the bathroom door was futile, as all Rose could hear were the sounds of crying. She immediately pulled out her phone and hit the speed dial number for Lia’s mother.
“Si, what’s wrong little Conejita? Is Lia okay?” Isobel sounded clearly concerned.
“I… I might have done something wrong. I gave Lia the dress and shoes, and did her make-up. It all seemed okay, but then she kissed me. Suddenly. And when I kissed back, she pulled away and ran and locked herself in the bathroom. I hear crying and I can’t get the door to budge.” Rose fumbled, near tears herself.
“Hold on little Conejita, we’ll be right there.” Lia’s mother advised.
Rose sighed as she hung up. Things had been going so well. What happened? Sitting and waiting in the hallway, Rose could hear the girl crying. She felt helpless, but more than that she figured she had to be responsible somehow.
After a few minutes had passed, Rose went downstairs to wait for the girl's parents. She sat by the door, waiting. When she saw the large SUV pull up, Rose darted out to the driver’s side, expecting Isobel, but when the door opened, she was surprised when aman got out. He was not just any man, standing about six foot eight and towering over the young girl. His head was shaved clean and he had a goatee. Black sunglasses covered his eyes. His muscles bulged with even the slightest movement. Rose looked up at him, clearly intimidated as her ears drooped and her eyes got wide at the mountain of a man before her.
“Conejita,” a familiar voice said off to her side, “what has happened?”
Turning to face Isobel, the girl broke down into a ramble of incomprehensible words. Eventually, she calmed down enough to lead the two adults inside and pointed out the bathroom where their daughter had locked herself in
Isobel approached the door and sat down in front of it, talking gently through it. Feeling very much the intruder, Rose slunk away to leave the girls parents to talk to her.
To her total surprise, the mountainous man followed her.
“Please don’t be afraid, little one. I mean you no harm. I thank you for trying to be a friend to my little girl. I know it’s not easy; she has a lot of grief and pain to get through. She told you about my brother, si?” said the large man.
Rose nodded. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this man had to be Salvador Navarro, Lia’s father. She had heard of him from Isobel and Lia. Seeing him, it was hard to imagine he wasn’t a mutant.
“My brother’s death hit her rather hard, and then the move, and all the problems with my mother. She was an emotional wreck before her mutation, but it’s been much harder for her after. We thought she might end up in one of those asylums for mutants. But then the other day we could sense a change in her” the girl's father stated.
“Also, my mother has been especially cruel. When she heard that Lia had manifested, she renounced her granddaughter. I… I have told her we are no longer family, and I no longer talk to my mother, but we’ve kept this from Lia. It’s just another thing she need not worry about.”
Rose swiveled her ears when she heard a noise upstairs. Putting her finger to her lips, she motioned with her head towards the upstairs. Salvador nodded and looked. Isobel and Lia came out into the hallway, the young girl's head cast downward. Even so, Rose could see the mascara had left a series of long black streaked tear stains on her chalky skin. Without a word, they opened the door and prepared to leave. Both parents put their hands on her back to help support the emotionally fragile girl, but they also both took the time to look back at the shaken bunny girl, as if to tell her that they didn’t blame her for anything.
That same evening
The Dream-space of Rose Lindevall
Rose may have been laying on her bed physically, but in her dreamspace, she was looking up at the autumn leaves. The small white rabbit spirit was curled up on her stomach, resting. Stroking the spirit, she reflected on everything that happened.
“You need not worry. She will be okay. Her parents clearly care for her. Give her some space. I’m sure that you two just misunderstood each other. I can tell though that she is starting to care for you. Don’t pressure her. Let her come to you” Inaba said, as she stretched and yawned. The spirit curled back up and snuggled into the hollow of Rose’s arm, and soon they were both sleeping soundly.
September 25th, 2007
Glensheen Manor, Duluth MN
Rose stretched and jumped out of bed. Grabbing her robe, she headed to the bathroom, where she made an astonishing discovery. Overnight her period had apparently ended, which was just as well, she thought, since one day of intense bleeding and discomfort had been one day too many. After a brief shower, Rose pulled on a sports bra and some regular cotton panties, then she added some sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a UMD Bulldogs hoodie. Walking into the kitchen, she had not expected to see Carrie, but she smiled at her guardian before rummaging through the cabinets.
“I heard from ‘Bel that something happened yesterday. I’m so sorry that you were hurt, but she assured me that it was nothing you did. Give Lia some space, and I’m sure she’ll open up to you when she’s ready.”
Rose looked at her mentor. “I know that intellectually, and even though she kissed me, I kissed her back… and I feel guilty about it.”
Carrie rose, walked over to her ward, and scooped up the bunny girl in her arms and then gently put her back down again.
“And I thought bears were the ones that were known for those sort of hugs, not Caribou” Rose teased.
Carrie gave the smartypants a noogie before returning to her chair. Rose got a grapefruit and some apple juice from the refrigerator. After pouring a glass of the juice, and returned to the table
“So, what was the emergency yesterday?” Rose asked.
Carrie put down her coffee mug. “There was a case of arson at a club named the Scratching Post, over in Superior. Miguel and I were called in because this fits the modus operandi of a dangerous radical anti-mutant group known as the Good Shepherds.”
“I’ve never heard of them. Are they like Humanity First?”
Carrie shook her head. “Not really. The Shepherds are a radical fundamentalist group that takes the stand that mutants like you and I – that is to say, mutants with GSD that resembles the features of animals- are inhuman, and that sexual or romantic acts are considered bestiality and should be punished under ‘God’s laws’. Furthermore, since we aren’t considered as ‘humans’ in their eyes, it’s not a crime to murder mutants like us. The club caters to individuals that seek a... certain kind of exotic dancer to entertain them.”
Rose understood immediately. “You mean mutants with animal GSD.”
“Exactly.” Carrie stated, “That’s why they targeted the club. There have been bombings and arson at similar clubs across the United States. Three such clubs in New York were firebombed just last week.
Rose raised an eyebrow, perplexed. “If these clubs are so popular, and so many have been attacked… why hasn’t there been anything in the news about this?”
Carrie sighed. “I suppose it’s that it’s considered a dirty sort of fetish by some. I mean there might be some people for whom it is." She flinched, displaying her discomfort at discussing this particular subject with a minor girl. "I hear that girls with cow GSD can make a lot of money for milk-play, but personally, I’ve never been curious, or tempted. I think a few of my former classmates at Whateley have gone into different jobs in that field, but I haven’t kept in touch with them.”
"And this is the school you want to send me to?" Rose said, almost choking on a piece of grapefruit.
“It’s not like the school encourages that. In any case, the group is very dangerous for people like us. They also have a hatred of people that manifest anything they think is ‘demonic’ looking, as they consider them minions of the devil. That means that someone like Lia could conceivably draw their attention. This is why we train you to be careful, and to protect yourselves. The world is full of people with mistaken beliefs and hateful ideologies,” Carrie responded.
Rose sat quietly, finishing her breakfast. She washed her glass and put it away, before turning to Carrie. “Can we do some morning training?”
“Are you sure? You looked like death warmed over yesterday” Carrie inquired.
Rose smiled, practically shining in exuberance. “I feel fine. My period is already over. It seems I just get hit with it all at once instead of slowly over several days. Or at least that’s what happened this first time.”
Carrie looked at her with a cocked eyebrow. “I’m not sure if I should envy you or pity you.”
Carrie went upstairs and changed into her workout clothes, and their routine morning work-out began. Rose was a quick study, eager to learn all she could from the experienced woman. After a couple hours working on leg throws and jump kicks, the two decided to stop and go for a run.
Rose had no illusions about beating an exemplar 6 in a race, but fortunately Carrie maintained a brisk, yet achievable pace for the younger woman. They took a break at the Headquarters, where Carrie called Miguel to see what the team’s resident fix it was up to.
Carrie hung up and turned to her young ward. “Miguel is at the airport. The Dolphin needed some work.”
Rose looked over at her mentor, confused. “Dolphin?”
Carrie explained. “For search and rescue purposes, we have two vehicles. The Catalina and a HH-65A helicopter, which is referred to as a ‘Dolphin’. If he gets it up and running, perhaps we can take you up in it tomorrow.”
Rose squealed with glee. Ever since she had come to stay here, she had been introduced to so many fantastic things. Her mind briefly wandered to a certain thing, and she blushed briefly.
Carrie had sat down at the computer to read over various reports from teams all over the United States and Canada, as well as from several law enforcement agencies and even a couple that seemed to be from Whateley. Rose looked over her shoulder upon spotting the school’s letterhead, but Carrie was holding it so that it couldn’t be read easily.
“Whatcha reading?” she asked.
“Nothing of any real importance. Whateley routinely sends out notices to the registered hero groups about potential threats from non-allied individuals and groups. I’m sure they do so as well for the Syndicate and other more… nebulous groups as well, but I can’t confirm that” Carrie said as she looked at the papers.
Rose sat on the couch, idly thumbing through a pamphlet on boating safety that sat on the table. Her gaze wandered towards the back hallway that led to the guest room where she lost her virginity. She blushed and bit her lip, trying to not think about that night.
Captain Scumbag was being held for trial and there was more than enough DNA evidence to convict him. Still there was the probability that she would be called to testify. She shuddered and tried to put that out of her mind. She would have Carrie there and Miguel too. While Steven was much stronger than her, being an Exemplar 5, Carrie could easily take him down physically. Plus there would likely be some form of telepathic inhibitor and power dampers, right? She kept telling herself these things to keep her mind off them.
Carrie noticed that Rose was glancing back towards the hallway, and hugging her knees up close to her body. “You thinking about that night?”
Rose sighed. “More like I was thinking about the trial. I got so horny that I did something stupid. Then I kissed Lia back, and she ran off. Am I a total clusterfuck?”
Carrie sat down beside the emotional girl and gave her a hug. “I told you that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your sexuality, and I meant it.”
Rose looked up at her. “If what you say is true, how come everyone bends over backwards to avoid calling my condition what it is. It’s Deidrick’s, isn’t it? Isn’t it? I’m not dumb. After Dr. Stevens explained what was happening to me, I went online and looked it up. A prominent bio-physicist once said:‘Diedrick's Syndrome is a condition where the use of a mutant power causes the brain to overproduce certain kinds of neuro-transmitters. The exact effect of these neurotransmitters varies with the individual but classic effects are: megalomania, euphoria, paranoia, irrationality, delusions and extreme mood swings. Diedrick's is a very 'Bipolar' condition with extreme swings being followed by balancing periods of extreme lucidity, remorse, ultra-rationalism, fatigue and even narcolepsy.’ I think hypersexuality and Euphoria count…”
Carrie hugged her ward tighter. “I’m sorry. You should have been told. I discussed this with Dr. Stevens, and we thought that you weren’t in a good place mentally at the moment. You would have been told, but you’ve had it so hard lately.”
Rose sighed and then looked up at her guardian. “That’s what she said!”
Rose giggled and Carrie joined in. The two got up and walked into the kitchenette, and thankfully there was ice cream in the freezer. Dishes were soon filled and the two sat on the couches, happily indulging.
Carrie smiled and spoke. “You seem to be in a better mood. You okay?”
Rose sighed. “I guess, It might be hormones. I mean… I went through an ordeal women take days, even a week, to go through. All in one day. I allowed that to mess up my relationship with a nice girl that I could be friends with. I just… I don’t know.”
Carrie looked at her sympathetically. “I can understand that. Speaking of, I should go and renew the spell for her. Then I should perhaps visit Mom or Gran and see if they have ideas that could help. Will you be okay alone? If not, I can drop you off at the airport, and you can help Miguel.”
Rose smiled. “I think I’ll be fine. You go help Lia.”
She watched as Carrie left. She could hear the automatic door on the parking garage whirr as it raised, and then shut.
Alone. Rose was alone. Curling up on the couch, she grabbed the remote control for the Flat screen. It was on one of the news channels, of course. Rose almost flipped away, but the text at the bottom of the screen caught her interest: President of Hedgeworth Enterprises to address GSD club arson issue.
Surely it can’t be the same Hedgeworths. She paused and without realizing it, she had drawn in her legs and was hugging her legs close to her body.
A woman stepped out and motioned to the gathered audience. “Welcome everyone, and now may I present Steven Hedgeworth Sr, president and CEO of Hedgeworth Enterprises.”
Rose looked at the screen. There was a podium set up with microphones, and reporters seated in the audience. A tall, distinguished man walked out to the podium, with graying hair at the temples and dark hair. His suit was expertly tailored and probably cost more money than all the medical treatments Rose had gone through during the entire course of her cancer. He looked at the camera with a well-rehearsed smile.
Adjusting the microphone, the man began to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today to address a threat that endangers our very safety and rights as American citizens. As many of you know, part of the Hedgeworth Enterprises family has come under attack as part of the ever-growing tide of anti-mutant sentiment that grips our nation."
Rose was watching, scared, but unable to turn away, or turn off the television. Fear radiated through her. This man, this powerful man was the father of the man that tried to manipulate her, that took advantage of her.
"Although Hedgeworth Enterprises has grown into a leading Fortune 500 company, we will never forget our humble origins. One of our very first acquisitions was a run-down club in New York City. This club was rebuilt with the vision of a place where mutants suffering from GSD could work and make a living, a place where patrons would be able to appreciate them for their unique differences, a place where all people could come together. This run-down club became the first 'Petting Zoo' club, and would continue to grow into an industry leader with locations Worldwide. Including the famous locations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, and of course the much-celebrated original New York club.
It pains me to say that all of these locations have been unjustly targeted and attacked by a radical group of bigoted zealots known as the Good Shepherds. Arsonists have destroyed the clubs in Seattle and Boston, with the New York and Los Angeles clubs having suffered severe damage. I am here before you today to tell you that we will not tolerate these attacks upon members of the Hedgeworth Enterprise family and upon members of the mutant community. As you may be aware, My wife and children are mutants, and I would do whatever I can to protect them. The thought that mutants aren’t people is intolerable, and our company has long supported mutant rights. I am putting the Good Shepherds on notice. We will utilize every means at our disposal to protect our customers, our employees, and their families. Attacks upon the Hedgeworth Enterprise family will not be tolerated.
We will deploy the full might of our Hedgeworth charities division to help all those affected directly by these attacks. Additionally, I personally am offering a one million dollar reward for information directly leading to the apprehension of those responsible for this atrocity. Besides to the attacks on our holdings, the reprehensible burning of nightclubs extended to several other locations. I will be offering the same million dollar reward for information leading to the apprehension of the individuals responsible for those attacks. I will personally fly to meet with the owners of these locations, offering them aid in rebuilding and even franchisee applications to join the ‘Petting Zoo’ and Hedgeworth Enterprises families.”
Rose was shaking violently with fear. The Father of the man that used her was coming here. He surely would try to meet with her. He probably would even throw offers of money at her to refuse to testify, or to even perjure herself. She clenched her fists tightly, so tightly that her clawed nails were digging into her palms.
On the television, the woman that had introduced him had stepped back to the microphone, and announced that Mr. Hedgeworth would be taking questions.
A female reporter shouted out a question. “You mentioned your children. Your son had been arrested for psychic coercion and rape. This morning he escaped custody and is considered a fugitive. Has he made any attempt to contact you?”
Mr Hedgeworth looked slightly annoyed by the question. “I have had no contact with him since just after his arrest. I told him that we do not support such heinous activities, and he is no longer welcome in our family. We denied him financial and legal assistance. If he is listening, I urge him to turn himself in.”
“You sound as though you believe the allegations. Why are you sure that they have merit? What would you say to the victim?”
“I believe that my ... son ... is capable of such acts. It is my failing as a father that he grew up with little compassion for his fellow mutants, or humanity in general. They say that power corrupts, but if we who have power don’t use it responsibly, we become dangerous. I believe that a wise man one said that ‘with great power must come great responsibility’. No truer words have been spoken. When I fly out to meet with the owners of the Wisconsin club that was burned down, I fully intend to seek out the young girl to offer my… assistance. If you are watching, I would like to meet you in person, Rose Lindevall.”
At that point Rose was no longer listening. Her brain was screaming ‘Run!’, and rational thought was long gone.
She stood up, her legs shaking. No longer hearing anything that was being said on the television, she tried to run, but fell down awkwardly.
Melville Cottage, Freshman floor.
The girl sat at her desk, her laptop having played the press conference. She was furious, driven in anger. How dare they? How dare he? To leave Steven out in the cold like that? Steven had always watched out for her. Always treated her like a princess, always been there for her. And when she manifested her powers, she had been thrilled. She could join him at Whateley, she could be near him once more. But then he went on that stupid work-study program, leaving her behind. When she heard that he had been arrested for rape, and that the family was doing nothing to support him, she grew furious. It was a trick, a trap. Some girl wanted to get her hands on part of the Hedgeworth fortune. And now she had a name.
“Rose Lindevall,” she repeated with utter contempt. “If I ever find you, I will make you suffer!! I will make you pay for the indignities you’ve made him go through. I will make you sorry you ever heard his name!!”
The girl shut off the laptop and reached into a drawer. Pulling out a long, thin sewing needle. She violently jabbed it into her thigh and moaned in euphoric pleasure, as she dug it around in her own flesh.
Duluth Superiors Headquarters
A short time later.
Rose was in full out panic mode, her breathing erratic and hurried, she stood up and fell several more times. The information had been too much, and she felt her rational thought slipping. She was operating on pure flight instinct. She smelled the air and realized what she smelled. They had cleaned the place up thoroughly after the incident, but to her heightened senses, she could still smell it. That musk, that smell that dragged her towards that room. The place it had all happened. The place she needed to be.
Crawling her way to the bedroom, she tore at her clothes, fumbling to get them off. She wasn’t thinking right, and in her mind there was only one way to ease the pain, one way to feel good.
At that moment.
Inaba woke with a start. The air was cold, and flurries were falling in the forest of Rose’s mind. This spot of tranquility was their refuge, their meeting place. The special place where the two could interact in a spiritual way that transcended everything else. Sure, if anyone else had seen it, the place would simply appear to be a small clearing in the woods with a campfire a few logs to sit on, a tent. But it was more than that. This spiritual place was a reflection of Rose. Pulled from her memories, it was where they had met, where they had bonded. But something was wrong. Inaba darted out from the tent, off the sleeping bag she had been laying on. There was snow falling, a cold, bitter wind was kicking up. Rose was in turmoil, She called out to her avatar, but there was no reply.
She only just made it clear from the tent when a branch crashed down upon it. Streaking out of the clearing, she sniffed the air. She could not detect her host clearly. The winds were picking up, worse and worse. Hail was falling and lightning crashed overhead. A few bolts struck trees and caused her to leap to one side or the other, avoiding them by the narrowest of margins. She tried to see through Rose’s eyes, but something was interfering with their connection. All she could see was darkness.
Turning back to her own plight, she plowed through the underbrush, the hail and snow coming down more quickly now. Finding herself at a stream where the two had often sat and talked or played, she marveled that it had become a raging river, sweeping away everything before it. Trees and boulders gave way before the torrential flood. The spirit raced up and down the bank, looking in vain for her partner. She knew the girl was in grave danger, but not how or why. She darted upstream, desperate to find the girl. Eventually, Inaba came to a spot where the creek branched off. She followed this fork for a while until she came to where it drained into a lake. That’s where she saw the girl.
Rose was naked, standing in the frigid waters. She stopped short of the bank, looking at Rose. This was not the healthy girl she had come to know, the girl she had helped recover. She was emaciated, and bone thin, you could see her hair fall out as she moved. Her long bony hands clung to rocks and twigs, scraping them over her skin, tearing gashes in it. Over the wind, Inaba could hear her talking, saying one thing over and over again.
“Unclean” Rose said as the tears running down her face blended with the blood from her fresh wounds.
Duluth Superiors Headquarters
A few hours later.
Miguel Santino parked his truck and headed up the stairs for the team’s headquarters. He had been working on the Hydraulics on the helicopter’s landing gears all day, and was worn out. Entering the space the Superiors used, he noticed things were amiss. Someone had left the television on. He noticed that the door leading to the bedroom area was open.
“Rose?” Miguel called out, concerned. “is that you?”
Cautiously, he pushed open the door to the spare room, and the sight that greeted him stunned him, making him step back. Rose was in deed in the room. He looked at the girl, her hands and thighs covered in blood, her pelvis area was torn apart. Blood pooled on the bed, soaking the sheets. Quickly, he pulled out his phone and called for an ambulance, he only hoped that it wasn’t too late.
And now those words people dread:
TO BE CONTINUED.