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A Whateley Academy Tale

The More, the Merrier

( Merry #5c )

By Renae & Doctor Bender

Monday, October 30th (Late Morning)

"MESMERISM, n. Hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked Incredulity to dinner.” -   Ambrose Bierce

 



If you really think you got what it takes to be me, then walk a mile in the skin of my head case mental being, So you want a piece of this life that belongs to me, Well make a cut on the line and take a deeper look inside of the freak.”Under My Skin - Mudvayne

 

Otto was still mentally kicking himself an hour later for letting Merry slip under his guard like that. It was distinctly eerie in how she seemed to echo his thoughts on her situation. While Merry did not seem to have any of the more common esper skills like telepathy or empathy; she seemed to have an odd way of seeing into people or situations that was often uncanny.

Admittedly he was worried that the girl was too enraptured of Sara to see the danger that she represented. Yet, while Merry seemed blasé about Sara being a daemon, her observation that she and Sara were both alienated by society was dead on. How a child so young could learn to read people so well was a trifle disconcerting, as was her unexpected ability to recite references concerning the Great Old Ones. Though the sudden nosebleed during the event bothered him greatly.

He chuckled and glanced at his watch, it was nearly time for his appointment with the Doctor from NEXT. ‘Merry, Merry, quite contrary, will we finally get a clue into what it is you do? Or will you be making us traipse through your garden looking under every bushel and in every pew?’ he shook his head, bad poetry was not going to unlock all the mysteries that were stacking up, yet; ‘Why is it that –something- keeps pointing me to look at her relation to the Catholic Church?’ It had all the weight of one of his best ‘hunches’, yet none of the cards were on the table where he could make a decent hand.

He mulled over the church connection on his ride up to his ‘public office’, the one meetings like this necessitated. The ink has not even been set on the ‘arrangement’ between ARC and NEXT over Merry, and we have scores of NEXT personnel lollygagging about.  In truth, while they were seemingly idle, he doubted that NEXT’s people were there to simply ‘look’ good. Unobtrusive, maybe, intelligent, certainly, up to something; definitely.  What exactly he wasn’t sure of yet. However, Security was having a field day watching them, watch them back.

 With a momentary stop to freshen up, he took a few moments to compose himself before slipping into the back access way to his office. This office was a close match of the one in Red Sector, though the bed and other comfort features were missing. ‘After all, we don’t want to give the impression that I need relaxation.’ In truth this office was rather sterile of a human presence, and in the security sense it was absolutely ‘clean.’ Personally he hated using it as it hinted at him being impersonal and devoid of life.

He tapped the intercom button on the phone and signalled he was ready for the appointment. With a glance to the idle computer, he wondered how long it would be before NEXT’s Logo would replace the generic white cases through out the complex. ‘Not a bad thing, yet IT and Security will be ranting heavily over possible breaches.’

He closed his eyes and blanked out the minor concerns that lay ahead, he wanted to be completely alert to the nuances of the conversation ahead. As with luck something said or hinted at might provide a key to unlocking the enigma that was Merry. ‘Too many people meddling, how many and who?’ he asked himself.

In some ways he was relieved that his momentary solitude was interrupted by the ‘floating’ secretary that handled this block of offices. Marge was wearing autumn colours today, he noted. With winters onset ahead she tended to dress to combat the bleak winter ahead, infusing the offices with a warm glow. Apart from being very proficient at screening the mundane aspects of the offices, she was also a crack shot and medic. That knowledge was very comforting if you were unsure how the ‘ball was going to bounce.’  

After a few moments Marge led a thin black gentleman into the room, “Doctor Otto, this is Doctor Henderson. If you need anything I will be at my desk,” she added as she left the two men alone and closed the door. For a moment the Otto studied the other man, Dr. Henderson was wearing a grey trench coat over his arm, a formal black suit and black dress shoes would have given Otto the sense of an ex-government man. If the tie had not been a sharp contrast to the severity of the suit: from the folds of the jacket, Bugs Bunny waved a carrot with his trademark phrase. ‘What’s Up Doc?’ boldly emblazed upon it.

In the momentary silence the other man watched Otto’s eyes track to the tie, “Ah, you must excuse my one foible.”

“You have only one?“ asked Otto dryly as he walked around the desk to offer his hand.

With a fairly perfunctory handshake the other doctor added, “Aside from a good curry, the odd novel and well, a few dozen other things, no.” He smiled showing a hint of gold, he then indicated one of the chairs before the desk with the hand holding a folder, “May I?”

“Please, sit.” Otto returned to his own chair, wondering just what this Doctors position in NEXT was.

The other man casually slid the thick folder he carried into the office across the desk to Otto. “I think the question of the day is how do we discuss a person that should remain nameless?”

Otto turned the fold to where he could open it neatly, inside was a picture of Chad, one that was obviously pre-dating his manifestation. “Ah, I think I see the quandary, as some names could resonate in the ether.”

The other man nodded, “If I might suggest Pat, it’s sufficiently androgenous, and I normally associate it with Saturday Night Live.”

“Julia Sweeney was the comedian there, if I recall correctly?” Otto waited as the other man nodded, “Good, so how do you know Pat?” he stressed the name slightly.

The other man paused for a moment then sat back in the chair making himself comfortable, “The process is a bit labyrinthine.” 

“Process?”

“The recruitment of young minds or steering them into helpful and productive directions.” He pointed to the open folder, where Chad’s face looked up from a picture. “As you may know Pat was a bit of hacker, a fairly decent one.”

“From what I gathered he was adept at it.”

“To call him merely adept is about like saying Ray Charles is just another jazz player.” He chuckled softly, “Well, we first became aware of Pat though a contest of sorts.”

“Oh?”

“NEXT indirectly sponsors Tech Tomorrow, sort of a ‘golly-gee-wiz here’s the new toys’ on the market show. It doesn’t show over cable or any local network, but over simulcast on the web.”

“I take it Pat was a frequent watcher?”

“More or less, though Tech Tomorrow’s website is more entertaining than informative of which people to watch over. We lace several pages with buzz-words and then seed the various hacker newsgroups and bulletin with places to visit. Some are rather benign, others are multi-layered traps or tests that weed out those who have no real talent or skill.”

“I take it Pat passed these tests,” Otto stated dryly.

“Oh the few that he bothered with.” The other man waved his hands expansively, “Pat, never seemed to be interested in anything easy. The more difficult or what should have impossible seemed to draw him like a magnet. Though we are only eighty percent sure he did some of the things we think he did. Pat can be very elusive, even more so ‘now’. He had a distinct penchant for ignoring opportunities for better hardware or cash prises, always one to favour presenting himself as a non-entity.” 

“A non-entity?” Otto asked.

“Yes, Pat did his utmost to conceal his identity, frequently making and discarding new emails, not to mention rerouting his connection address to indicate some odd places.”    

“Such as?”

“Well one of his favourite tricks was to redirect his IP address to look like it was coming from out of our own servers.” He laughed, “It caused our technical people no end of consternation. They,” he smiled,” are not used to being outclassed by a fourteen year old.”

“So you have been watching Pat for a few years then.” Otto stated motioning to the file.

“Oh here and there, admittedly it took some time to actually find him. If he had not adjusted his school records every semester we might have missed him completely.  Though I can’t say I would blame him for it.”

“Why is that?”

“His father was, at the time prior to his death, becoming more and more violent and abusive.”

“And you know this from?”

The other man shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “We bugged his house.”

“If you knew what was happening why didn’t you call Child Protective Services?”

The other man sighed, “We were monitoring the situation, we could not just walk in and point fingers you know.” He mimicked picking up a phone, “Hello CPS, Pat is being abused by his father. CPS would then ask how we knew this. ‘We bugged his house because he is an incredible hacker.’ If they didn’t hang up on us, there would have been too much public fall out from the event.”

“So you let him suffer?” Otto’s voice was flat.

“Not by choice, we did make sure he could get medical attention if he needed it. Not to mention seeding his teacher’s inbox and the school nurses inbox with notes from ‘people’ who noticed.”

“Did that help?”

“Yes and no. Pat’s father would ‘level out’ after a call from the school for a few weeks, but the drinking undid everything we did.”  

 “What do you know about his father?”

“Well aside from what is in the file, I think the most important thing I would note: is that he took a great deal of religious zeal and anti-mutant doctrine and made an unholy mix of the two.”

“From what I had read from prior reports Pat should have fled from anything religious, and yet Pat seems to have oddly connected with Catholicism. Can you explain that?”

“I think Tammy might have a better understanding of events that lead to that. However, I would posit it as a good thing.”

“How so?”

“Considering that Pat could have easily turned from anything that offered consolation and peace and then turned all the anger he was carrying outward, rather than inward.”

“Neither is very healthy.”

“Yes, though he could blank the world economy or something much worse. I would, to my shame, prefer that he destroyed himself rather than the planet.”

Otto grunted, then nodded slowly. “Indeed, at that time it might have been the best course. Though now we have a child who needs to be put back to whole.”

“True, I had not expected him to fragment this badly.”

“I take it the signs were there, and you did nothing?” Otto asked with some heat.

Doctor Henderson moved his hands in a so-so gesture, “Not as such, we tried medicines. If you have not noticed his bodies chemistry is distinctly unique.”

Otto grunted his affirmation.

“We were and are still working on a viable medicine for him, when it became apparent we needed a quick fix. Not to mention we needed to hide him. Unfortunately we had some ugly internal problems.”  

“Internal problems?”

“We had been infiltrated by agents from NETWORK. They decided that Pat was theirs to take and well, we resisted that decision. It got quite messy.”

Otto sat up at the mention of NETWORK, “Did Pat witness any of this?”

“Unfortunately yes, one of the NETWORK agents assaulted him directly.”

“Was he injured at that time?”

“No though he was drugged into incoherency for a time.” The other man shook his head, “They thought he would be easy to man handle if he was unconscious. Pat’s unique physiology um, allowed him to electrocute his assailant.”

“Oh dear. Did he remember this?”

“Some what, mostly he was so out of it that we just let his system purge the drug.”

“Then what?”

“Then he started to complain about ‘hearing’ too much noise in his head.”

“He mentioned something about the camera’s and such around him making noise, I couldn’t hear it myself.”

“Yes, well at first we thought it was possibly a secondary reaction to the drug he was injected with.”

“That wasn’t it?”

“Well it didn’t help matters, but from going over recordings from his attack; we found that he had absorbed quite a bit of voltage and discharged it in his act of self defence.”

“Possibly triggering an adaptive mutation?”

“Well the first or second one, it’s hard to be sure. We managed to obtain his childhood CAT Scans, and compared them to the ones from Langley. They are radically different.” The other man looked both excited and disturbed. “We ‘think’ that had Pat not been nearly killed in testing his body would have eventually adjusted naturally.”

“Adjusted to what?”

“Pat apparently absorbs all forms of radiated energy, well electrical energy anyways,” he amended with a slight hint of uncertainty. “It also appears that he ‘hears’ it to some extent.”

Otto closed his eyes for a moment, “Can he make sense of the signals?”

“We don’t know, perhaps if it were only one signal, maybe. Considering that we are all being bombarded by signals ranging from electronic noise from everything digital, to radio and television signals, not to mention all those cell phones.”

“So any one signal is lost among all that noise?”

“Yes, at the time he didn’t have any way to tune it out. So we tried to give him a few tools.”

“Which tools?” he asked.

“We found he was fairly receptive to hypnotherapy, maybe too receptive at the time.”

“What was done to him?” Otto sat back with a frown, ‘Meddled and muddled, dear gods.’

“Well we gave him a way of tuning it out, much in the way you can hypnotise someone to not feel pain.”

Otto nodded, “And then?”

“Then, it was decided that Pat needed to forget a few days. Mostly so that he didn’t feel guilty for defending himself. That and well, he was having a bit of a breakdown, too much happened to him too fast.” The man held up his hand and counted off events, “First he underwent a re-genesis of sorts, second he discovered a threat to his life and family, third he collapsed in the midst of what we are thinking was a partial meltdown. Forth, his body was operated on and he nearly died, during a change of which he was returned to a hermaphroditic gender. Fifth he found out, while recovering from the trauma of surgery, that his family was killed and his home destroyed. Though later his sibling was found to be alive.”

Otto nodded, “In the space of less than three to four days, if I read things correctly.”

“Yes, when you couple that with the fact that he partially remembered killing someone with his powers.” The other man paused, “He was suppressing that memory, almost to the point of actual amnesia.”

“Lovely.” Otto commented dryly, “And they hypnotised him to what, forget the killing?”

“That and to help him assimilate his change to a female gender role.”

“Please don’t tell me you barrowed some cheesy romance novel clichés and shoved them into his head as positive traits?”

Doctor Henderson had a pained look on his face, “Not entirely, we took some memories and behaviours from one of our female telepaths and wrote them into his subconscious. With a marginal amount of success.”

“I’ll bet. I have noticed psychic intrusion does not work very well on Pat.”

“If events had not gone so awry.” The other man shrugged.

“So how much of Pat is this implanted personality?”

“Maybe ten percent, maybe as little as three percent, it’s hard to say what took and what didn’t”

“So what else did you do with this hypnotherapy?”

“A few key words to return him to a semi-hypnotic state, and a few emergency commands in case he snapped.” The other doctor paused, “Not to mention the command to halt the hypnotic synthesis of his altered psyche and the ability for him to not be suggestible anymore…”

“Any idea on what would happen if I went ahead and terminated the suggestions now?”

The other man sighed and looked at the folder, “We think he’s broken most of the commands himself, at least from what our agent on site at the time thinks so.”

“So it may be a matter of house keeping to clean out the rest of the commands?” he asked.

“Very likely, it’s quite the tragedy that we could not provide him with the stable environment he needed.” The other man motioned to the folder, “Involving the Federal Agencies at the time, seemed like a good idea.”

Otto flipped through a few pages of text two where a number of corpses were displayed in medical precision.

“As you can see Pat stumbled into a mess that we were not equipped to deal with.”

Otto’s knuckles turned white as he pressed his hands down on the desk. “Pat just walked into this? No wonder the kid has problems.”

“Yes and no, he stumbled onto the location and later sorted out the database that had the images before you in it. Not to mention stopping a ‘functional’ PALM AI cold, and then disassembling it.”

“Disassembled as in destroyed?”

“No, he turned it into plain text code, essentially the instructions that make one work.” The man seemed to take pride in that pronouncement.

“That is a major accomplishment, still these images are pretty disturbing for their own content.”

“It gets worse, but we should not discuss that information. We’ll provide a copy of the files obtained, including the disassembly, though extreme care should be taken with ‘that’.”

“When should we expect that?”

“In the next few days. We have to be careful not to wake the beast, as it were. Having too many copies of it is asking for trouble as it is.”

 “As in the copies tend to grow legs?” Otto asked dryly.

“Well, as much as we could frequently wish for one hundred percent corporate unity, folks do occasionally stray. Or are deep agents waiting for the one big score.” He sighed, “We tend to hire people with strong desires to succeed. It doesn’t always pay off, though the team builders do come up with remarkably balanced cells.”

“Cells, like in underground resistance cells?” 

“To some extent, one groups does this, another does that. It does keep some projects firmly under control and out of the purview of other agencies.”

“Isn’t that confusing for management as well?”

“Yes it is, though it allows for some unique solutions to problems on occasion.”

‘I’ll bet’ Otto thought to himself, “So is all of NEXT like that?”

“Heavens no.” The other man laughed, “we do have a ‘respectable’ computer industry that we maintain and present to the world. Not to mention the usual corporate offices and what not.”

“So Pat would have been in a ‘cell’ group?”

“Yes,” he held up a hand and counted off names on his fingers, “Pat, Bill, Tammy and lastly John.” He frowned, “The dynamics of that cell were carefully chosen, and I am not sure how to replace John. John was to be the familial image for Pat, an anchoring influence. Though in some ways it was mutual on John’s part.”

“So you base your cells or teams on a personality mesh model?”

“Yes, we have a ninety-eight percent success rate in establishing teams. It’s the odd eight ball that gives us problems.”

“What will happen to Pat’s team?”

“Well they will be spread out for a time, to draw attention away from Pat. From what I understand Willard still sees them as a viable group.”

“Willard, your CEO?”

“That is one way to describe him. I usually go for the term ‘Boss’” The other man smiled, “Willard, once you get to know him is either infuriating or very easy to get along with.”

“I have not met him, though from what little I do know of the man is that he moves like a force of nature when he has his mind set on a goal.” Otto rolled his eyes, “I don’t suppose you could tell me why he and Tammy were in Rome?”

“I think you should ask the lady herself, when she gets here. Preferably some place a bit more secure, the answers may be interesting.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, is there any other major surprise in here?” he pointed to the folder.

“Not that I am aware of, but you never can have too much information.”

“Well some of the time anyways.” Otto stood and walked around the desk. “Well thank you for the file and your observations about Pat, Doctor Henderson.”

The other man stood and offered his hand, “Hopefully it will help Doctor Otto, Pat’s had a rough time of it.”

“Indeed.” Otto paused to open the outer door, “I trust you will be in touch?”

“Informally, I have a conference in Milan this week.”

“Must be nice.”

“Not really, its all academic, dead papers presented by monotone speakers.” He paused at the door, “Though there is a fashion show next door.” he announced with a smile.

“Ah well, perhaps next year.”


Monday, October 30th (Early Afternoon)

House of Cards

"Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died." - Stephen Wright

I live in a house of cards made of people I know. It shelters me every day. My house is a part of the world where live and let love, is all we have to say and if you want you can go there: All you have to do is believe…” – House of Cards- Human Nature

“Three, two, one, Chad? Or are you Merry?” asked Otto as the girl blinked as if coming out of a deep sleep.

I took a deep breath and looked about the room, “I suppose I am Merry, still.”

“You are not sure?”

I shrugged and sat up slightly in the overstuffed chair, “As sure as anything, I suppose.” I glanced at the mirrored window and at the pressure cuff on my arm, “Well I can’t say what ever it is you did helped in any fashion, other than making the noise louder.” 

“Unfortunately the only way to ensure that the hypnotherapy was negated was to remove it all.” he offered by way of explanation.

“You would have to remove the one thing that was half ways working though.” I complained at him. “Do you have any idea what it is like to see and hear every stray electric blip?”

“Vaguely, I had to deal with something simular when my own powers woke up.” He took a breath, “I think, think mind you, that part of the problem you have with the noise as you call it, is due to the pseudo-esper skill you possess.”

“Pseudo-esper?”

“Well you do defy classification in some ways,” he offered with a smile. “But it is not uncommon for an esper gift to push a person into an altered state of mind.”

I felt my face wrinkle oddly, “In other words drive a person crazy?”

“Quite, though in your case you may have had some help in that regard.”

“Wonderful. Next you will be telling me the noise is all in my head?”

“No, but the answer to shutting it out may be.”  He pointed to the camera in the corner, “How loud would you say that is, on a scale of one to ten?”

“Well,” I paused and tried to compare it to the annoying whine from the door’s lock. “I’d rate it about a four, though I would give the door’s lock a six.”  

“The door?”

I pointed to the offending beast, “It fairly screams, about like the dentists drill or a bad chalkboard screech. It about climbs though my back, now that you’ve shut off that bit.”

“Sorry, well I do have someone working on a training tool for you.” He pointed roughly in the direction of the mirrored window, “Essentially if your gift works like say telepathy or empathy you should be build a wall or shield between you and the source of the noise.”

“I tried that with my bubble, all it did was give me a headache.”

“Yes, though I think the environment you were in, while trying to work on this bubble was, if you will pardon the expression: Like trying to block out a cricket’s chirp while attending a rock concert.”

“Peachy,” I motioned to the door and the camera, “can you make one of them go away?” I was betting the answer would be no.

“What about the lights?” he motioned to the mesh covered florescent light fixture.      

“They are not so bad, I guess.”

“Yet they still bother you?”

I sighed, “Yeah, but I don’t like sitting in the dark though it isn’t really dark for me.”

“Hmmm, if the lights are off how much of the room is visible to you?”

“All of it, though it’s not exactly super bright. Aside from the area near the door or the camera and the silly motion sensor.”

“I see.”

~:’Yeah right,’:~ offered Chad.

He startled for a moment, “I see your other self is alive and well, there are times when you have a loud mind.” He pointed a finger towards his own head and then mine, “I’m not trying to read you Merry, so you can relax.”

It took a minute to realise I was tense, then a few more to ease up some, “Sorry, I don’t have a lot of trust for folks who do the mind bendy stuff.”

“With good cause it would seem.” he let his hands drop into his lap. “Sara and I are on the high end of that gift; ability wise. Your gift as it is, seems to screen your mind fairly well.”

“Not well enough,” I added bitterly.

“Yes, well there are some exercises for that, though a strong talent can force themselves past them.” He chuckled, “I wouldn’t let it bother you too much, not for a bit anyways. No one here wants to tempt Sara’s and my wrath.”

“I suppose.” I reluctantly granted him. I shook my head still trying to clear the mental fuzz somewhat, “So now what? You going to stick more crap in my head?”

“Hardly, there were entirely too many people dabbling in your head it was, it seems. Did you know they implanted someone else’s memories in your head to help you become more feminine?” He motioned to my legs, so I looked down to see that I had crossed them at the ankles.

“Sorta, they said it was to help me blend in better.” I motioned to my attire, “Though it’s not very helpful down here.”

“Surprisingly you don’t seem to throw too many off cues that you were not female. Though that largely depends on which of you is in charge.”

“Well my beingChad is not really possible anymore, he didn’t have curves or other plumbing problems.” I pointed at my chest, “These sort of scream girl.”

“But did Chadwant to become you, Merry?”

“Not exactly, I think he was hoping to be himself even if he wasn’t was not going to be called Chad any more.”

“Though he is still in your head as Chad.”

“Yeah, things didn’t work.”

“Tell me in your own words what was supposed to happen.”

“Well to start off there wasn’t three of us in the mix. Well four now.” I shrugged, “Chad or Chaddy depending on where you want to look at things, never was into violence.”

“Though part of you does seem to be able, even willing to kill.”

“Only if it’s practical or in self defence.” For a moment her face dropped into a frown, “I learned that the hard way.”

“Is killing practical?”

“It can be, if some one is trying to kill you or is a real threat to your existence.”

“So you learned to shoot in church camp?”

I nodded, “They made sure we could shoot, among other things.”

“From the interview it seemed like Chaddy was disturbed by events at the camp.”

“Well you might be a bit upset if you saw a kid beaten and killed in the name of genetic purity.” I watched the doctor blink at that bit of news.

“I would ask if you we joking, but your body language and other things say you are not.”

“Chaddy doesn’t want to remember it, and I can’t say I blame him. It’s about the same way Chad doesn’t want to remember killing the thug that tried to take him out of NEXT.”

“So suppressing mental pain and blocking those sort of things was normal for Chad?”

“Well what could he do? I mean the ‘adults’ covered up the first killing and well…” I closed my eyes for a moment pushing the memory back down a bit, “Watching someone’s eyes melt and pop out of their head isn’t something Chad could deal with.”

“So he broke?”

I tilted my head to one side and just ‘looked’ at him for a moment before replying, “It didn’t help. I mean if he had not been so, so.” I waved my hands at him trying to work the words out, “They hurt us, not physically every day, but with words and actions. How can a kid fight that?”  I felt a tightness in my throat, “How do you not go slightly crazy in or under all of that?”

I blinked several times as my eyes watered up then felt a handkerchief being pressed against one of my hands, “I am sorry Merry, I have to ask these questions so I know how to help you all.” I heard something in his voice maybe it was regret or anger, “Do you know where they might find the body of this child that was killed, at the camp?”

I wiped at my eyes and sighed, “Yeah, they suddenly had to put up a shed in the middle of the night. Or at least the cement work for it.”   

“Well it will take us a few days to get a map and pictures of the area. Not to mention finding a way to get the information to the police. Considering it is nearly winter.” He sat back in his chair, “Still it may help you to see some form of justice done.”

“Time will tell, though for their sakes I hope so.”

“And for you own sake?”

“I am not sure I have a sake, I may not even be real. I may be just a made up person so they can cope.”

I heard him laugh, “Don’t worry, I think you may be very real, just not whole.”

“Yes but which one of us is going to exist, when all of this is over?”

“Generally, when a psyche comes back together, the unified mind is a conglomeration of the strongest traits in each personality.”

“So I won’t completely be gone?

 “I don’t think so, considering that you seem to be oddly dominant, compared to Chad or Chaddy. Mai, well that is anyone’s guess, yet you seem to rule out over that one as well. Though at moments you and Mai are quite similar”

“I think it’s because Chad doesn’t want to deal with being this female. Can’t say I quite blame him, having both sets of equipment is disconcerting to me even. As to Mai and I being similar, I suppose we are both made up people.”

“So Chad is letting you take the ball and run with it?”

“More or less, we do have some odd discussions now and again.”

“What about Chaddy?”

“Chaddy, is not as stuffy as Chad is, though he is not as entirely whole as Chad. It’s like there is a huge break between where Chad starts and Chaddy stops.”

“A gap?”

I chewed on my lip for a moment as I compared the two in my head, “Maybe gap isn’t the best word for it, there’s this big hazy bit where the two should overlap.”

“Though they do not?”

I shrugged helplessly at him, “Not exactly, I don’t know how to describe it.”

Otto smiled, “Well all have our strengths and weaknesses Merry, I for one don’t know how to fix a car.”

I grinned, “Well that makes two of us, though I guess my needing a license is a few years off.”

“Time does change things.”

I felt a frown form, “Seems like all of my time is anyone’s but mine.”

“For the time being, who knows what the future will bring.” I watched him smile, though it had a thoughtful air to it. He took a breath and stood up, so I offered him the handkerchief back. He took it gingerly then chuckled, “I will see about shutting off the camera, at least during the night. Not to mention seeing if we can shield the locking mechanism somewhat better.”

“And music?”

“I am working on that, someone suggested an iPod, though the tech team tells me it has a microprocessor in it. It may be a day or so before they decide on a safe answer in that regard.”

I blew a raspberry at him, “Jeeze take away all my fun.”

“Well there is fun, and there is ‘fun’.” He rolled his eyes, “Did you know the IT department is still sorting out your last little prank?”

“You don’t want to know what I can do for a –large- prank. Maybe you need a better IT department?” I asked with a grin.

“Or maybe I should hold out on the music until you tell them how to sort it out?”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“You are a schemer aren’t you?”

“Hey any angle I can wrangle…”

“I shudder to think what you will be like in ten years.”

“Oh, you can bet I won’t be dull or boring.”

“Quite,” he replied as he walked to the door and waited for it to open. “Still, if they can’t solve your puzzle, I may be willing to bargain.” He shook his head with some apparent amusement and walked through the door.

“You know where to find me.” I called after him as the door started to close.

~/’Not like we can go anywhere.’/~ added Chaddy sullenly.

Otto glanced back to the closed door, ‘Ten years indeed, the next few are going to be just as lively.’ He spent the idle moments walking to the CommandCenter, contemplating the shape of the future with a ‘whole’ Merry running loose. With a hopeful prayer he opened the door and went in.

Kam turned to the opening of the door, “Oh hey Doc, kid’s still giving you a time?”

“Think of it as chess, or a game of Go, one move then another until the game is played out.”

“The prize in this game being a whole mind?” asked Chris.

“Yes, though I swear the game is more like Dis-Chess, the rules seem to shift and flow with each new bit of information we learn.”

Kerry laughed, “I think you are in for a long game of it Doctor.”  She pointed to the window, “So is Merry really the dominant personality?”

“It would appear so, this ‘integration’ they started seems to have taken on a life of it’s own.” He rolled his eyes, “I could spend hours second guessing events that lead to their efforts, but it would be unproductive.”

He motioned to the resting girl, “I am having some files brought up for her to go over from Black Level. Theyare not to be examined or opened by anyone but her. Any notes or observations she makes are to be locked up and any recordings of that time period are to be secured for Black Level.”

“As easily said as done Doctor.” Kerry noted with a wave to her console, “Admittedly I am now very curious.”

“Well you know she has a modified AI in her head, I am giving her a look through the notes of the man who wrote it. With luck she may glean something that will help her fight them in the future.” He chuckled, “At the very least it may keep her occupied to where she is not causing rude surprises for us.” 

“Idle hands being the Devil’s tools Doc?” Kam asked with a grin.

“While I never proscribe anything detrimental, that child being, too bored, makes me nervous.” He paused, “Though work as therapy has been documented in many journals.”

Chris nodded, “Or play?”

“Yes, play.” He smiled at Chris’ observation, “I’ll make the case files from NEXT available to you all, once I have gone through them again. Chad it seems thrived on challenges. I do not doubt Merry shares that trait.”

“I was worried that she had too much of nothing to fill her time with. Children are not meant to live in sterile conditions,” Chris indicated the chamber where Merry rested.

“No they are not.”

-----------------------

I was in mid-debate with Chad over who we really were, when the door to my room opened and Kam walked in trailing several floating boxes behind him. I watched him neatly stack them in a row under the mirrored window. “What gives?”

“Dr. Otto thought you might be interested in these, evidently they are related to the extra passenger you carry in your head.” he offered by way of explanation.

I thought back to one of our earlier discussions, “Oh Doctor Palm’s notes, cool.” I could feel interest from everyone but Chaddy, I had the distinct impression that he was not impressed.

 “If you need pen and paper, you just have to shout, though we have to collect and store your notes every evening.”

I cocked my head at him, “Why? It’s not like I am going to be able to lug them around or out of here.”

“That odd bit of making sure you can’t hurt anyone. Not to mention other folks want to see what you come up with.”

I motioned to my arm, “Can we get rid of the monitor now?”

“Sure,” he made a small movement and the cuff detached from my arm and coiled up around the monitor. 

With a sigh of relief I pulled the robe on fully and walked over to the boxes, they were marked: ARC BLACK REPOSITORY – Section 10: Dr. Palm, Able. (Deceased). Each having a number and short list of contents on the front.

I looked over to Kam, “So do I have a box of stuff in that repository too?”

He shrugged, “I have no idea.”

I paused and looked down to my bare hand, the one that should have had a ring on it, “Say Kam, do you have any idea where my stuff is? You know, like clothes, rings etcetera?”

“No, why?” he asked then shrugged at the mirrored window, “Chris says far as Kerry knows they didn’t send anything than you and some records from Langley.”

“Wonderful, I hope Father Pete isn’t too freaked that his ring is missing.” I felt distinctly odd as I rubbed the spot where the ring should be, why hadn’t I noticed it was gone before?

“Father Pete?”

“Father Peter Darcy, he runs the Soup Kitchen at St. Michaels and is the Priest there.”

“Ah, well I am sure even if the folks at Langley don’t have it, NEXT likely does.” Kam hesitated by the door, “So what’s Father Pete like?”

“He’s cool, not like some priests.”

“Sounds like he is an ok guy, well enjoy the light reading,” he winked as he stepped out the door.

I took a look at the assortment of boxes, ~:’Hey at least it is colour,’:~ offered Chad. 

I had to giggle at that and pulled the lid off the first box; it was pretty much filled with odd shaped journals and assorted scraps of paper. 

~/’Looks like our closet, suppose there might be commix in there?’/~ asked Chaddy.

I doubted it but I did look through a few boxes on the off chance. There were a few books on Artificial Intelligence, of which I set to one side. I figured that most of the more interesting stuff was in his journals. I could have done without the faint odour of mildew, though considering I was likely one of the very few to even see his stuff. I willingly put up with it.  

---------------

In his office, Otto paused in his own studies to glance the monitor to see the girl ensconced in her studies. He blinked as she turned pages at a brisk rate, ‘So are you reading a page at a glance or skimming for something in particular?’

He had made an effort to try and contact Father Darcy.  From what he could make out from the very polite yet firm Sister that was answering his phone; he wasn’t exactly a normal parish priest. ‘Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would say,’ Otto noted to himself. Then he jotted down a brief note to have someone look ‘into’ the good Father and find out what was there to be seen.

-------------     

October 30th,(Night)

"It's the niceties that make the difference, fate gives us the hand, and we play the cards." -Arthur Schopenhauer

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me, my shallow heart's the only thing that's beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me, 'Til then I walk alone.”-
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" - Greenday

 

I found myself wandering an empty botanical maze, just wandering with no real destination. First one turn, then another, each seeming to be the same. For the longest time I could feel the weight of silence, in many ways it was nice. The others were lost in their own dreams and Mai was, I dunno, dreaming of digital sheep?

The grass was soft on my feet, I wasn’t too surprised to find I was roaming around in my dream in the hospital robe and gown. I would have been happier if I had been ‘clothed’ in my own stuff. Oddly I should have been disturbed by the fact I was aware I was walking around in the dream dressed like I was in the ‘day’. I mean, they call it lucid dreaming, when you are aware that you are dreaming, while asleep. Personally I felt it was a rip off, or more to the fact; I was feeling ripped off.

I could count the good things from the past few days on one hand. Doctor Otto said that Merry wouldn’t go away, so did that mean I was going to go, to be less than what I am or was?

Eventually I found my way to a gazebo, it mirrored the one from Langley from after we sort of came undone. I walked to the still pools of the Japanese garden hoping to see me, Chad, staring up out of the dark water. Yet the girl or half guy that I was, was staring back up at me. The full moon beat down on me enfolding me in a halo of light, I knelt down and poked at the image in the pool hoping to change it back to what I was. To who I was.

 When the water ceased its ripples I looked back into it to see another image as well as my own. I turned on one knee to look up at Sara, she was wearing a robe like mine, yet a hint of a black teddy peeked out. For a moment I was frozen just enjoying the wash of moonlight on her face.

She grinned impishly and said, “Come here often?”

I looked at her then around, “Not really, this was where Merry became more real and I faded some what.”

She poked me in the chest, “You seem fairly solid to me.”

“I felt that…”

“I told you I am real in dreams too or did you forget?” There was a hint of light laughter in her voice, and she took a few steps letting the robe drop from her shoulders then she gripped the edges as if it were a mink stole, “The height of medical fashion, but it doesn’t suit either of us.”  With a careless shrug she let it fall, completely revealing her figure caressed by the black teddy.

As she took the few steps back to me I suddenly felt cooler, I glanced down to see I was suddenly dressed in a white lace teddy, white rose patterns in the satin scarcely covering my nipples. I glanced up from the teddy to see her smiling suggestively.

“Much better don’t you think?” She slipped her arms around me and pointed down to our images in the pool.

I nodded slowly as she nibbled lightly on my neck, “Do you see me or all of us in the reflection?” I asked her.

“I see you Chad, I see the whole you.” She took a moment to trace the side of my face with her fingers, “I see where Merry gets her resilience, where Chaddy gets his courage, and where Mai gets her drive and her honesty.”

I turned to kiss her fingers, “Will I still be the person you are holding now, when I am well?”

She pulled me down gently to the grass, “I can’t promise you will be exactlythe same, though I will promise that if it’s in my power you won’t be lost either.”

I lay back on the grass and she rested her head on my breasts. A bright glow seemed to alight in her eyes, “You are mine Chad, as much as the others are; and I to do not give any of you up to the darkness.”

I felt the tension that had been in my chest ease, “You don’t know what it means to me to hear that.”

She snuggled up a bit closer to where our lips could touch and she kissed me, “But I do, through the mark I gave you.” She giggled, “None of my loves are truly without my touch or are ever truly alone.”   

I felt her slip up on top of me, “So Chad, I have you, body and soul.”

“And my mind?”

“Oh we’ll get to that sooner or later,” I felt her hand slip down to the thin band of elastic on my panties. “But for now, just be mine.”

---------------

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006 ARC

Fifty-two Pick up

One of the great joys of life is creativity. Information goes in, gets shuffled about, and comes out in new and interesting ways."- Peter McWilliams

We all make mistakes, some live their life so great. Others are dealt a bad hand and live their life irate. Is it to late? Have we all sealed our fate?” - Force Fed - Unseen

 

Tuesday passed in a fair blur of reading, meals, and nosebleeds. Doctor Palm it turns out was a mage of some sorts. Unfortunately, every time I ran into some sort of magical annotation I got the meaning of it either in Latin or French. Both languages of which, I do not recall even learning. Doctor Otto suggested that I skip any section that remotely hinted at magic, reluctantly I agreed, though the magical primer that was in one of the boxes kept drawing my eye.  

From what little I was able to wheedle out of Doctor Otto, is that just about anyone can learn some magic. Apparently it takes real talent or a power to be able to use it on a very effective level. Inwardly I shrugged at his pronouncement. I guess I have seen too many episodes of Yugi-0h where a small bit of power at the end won the day.  

I was nose deep in the flow charts a logic diagram that, if I read the notes correctly, would determine if a server was worth infiltrating. I was a tad bit tired evidently, as it took Kam a few attempts to get my attention. With a slight bit of disorientation I was suddenly blinking at a very large hand as it moved rapidly in front of my face. 

“Earth to Merry, Earth to Merry, come in Merry.” I heard him laughing as my eyes tracked up from his hand to his face. “So nice of you to rejoin us princess.”

I gave him a raspberry and noted the circles under his eyes, “Have a good date last night?”

“I wish,” he sighed and dropped into the other chair, “We were on alert most of the night.”

“Alert?”

“Well some yet to be discovered group attacked Whateley. Heard of it?”

“Yeah, it’s the real world version of Mutant High or something like it.”

He nodded, “Normally, full out armed attacks on its grounds are unheard of.”

“What made last night different and why were you on alert?”

“Beats me, but folks decided that it might be a diversionary action so…” he points a finger at me. “Aside from your cute self we do have some real head cases no one wants to see loose ever again.”

“Is that why they kept waking me up every few hours by testing the locks?” 

“Yeah,” he suppressed a yawn. “So, it’s my fun bit of duty to make sure you don’t go haring off during the next bit.”

“The next bit?”

“Yep, you get an all expense fun filled trip through the scanners. Or rather, you get to watch in the corner as they bring in all the extra hardware.” He indicated that I should rise then pointed to the corner near the toilet.

“Oh wonderful, why can’t I just go where the scanners are?”

“Well security is still grumpy and from what I hear the IT folks want to hang you by your thumbs.” He stood and then the chairs, boxes and what not neatly danced their way to the side and out of the way.

I stalked to the corner he indicated, “Jeeze you would have thought they were smarter than that. I bet NEXT’s people could have sorted it out in under two hours.”

“Or a certain young lady could do it in say, under two seconds?”

“Could be, but then so far, no one wants to pay my fee.”

“Your fee being?”

I pointed up, “Out.”

He chuckled as he shook his head, “Not in the cards yet princess.” 

“Figures.” I watched him hold a finger to his lips, evidently we were not supposed to be discussing things around other folks.

I must say they managed to squeeze in an impressive amount of equipment into my room. Though the power cords trailed out the door. The various electrical vibrations and flickers from the hardware were getting on my nerves as they set things up. In some ways I must have looked annoyed or something as when Otto walked in amongst the techs he frowned.

~’What’s wrong Merry?’~

*Too much noise!* I complained at him.

~’Ah, sorry, but it is necessary. All this equipment should give us a good look at your implant.’~

*Finally, sheesh, maybe you’ll see I’ve been telling you the truth all this time.* I pointed an accusing finger at him.

He grimaced and gave me a tired expression, ~’We shall see won’t we?’~

*Long night for you too?*

~’Longer than most, yes.’~

With that he left me to suffer in the lack of silence, occasionally I would see Kam nod; though for the most part we were stuck watching the folks set things up. Eventually they brought in another set of long cables and attached them as well, I gave Kam a dubious look as I could feel a microprocessor start up somewhere in all the hardware.

I took a breath and started to close my eyes, I wanted out, back into the net.

~’MERRY! NO!’~

I dropped to my knees from the force of Doctor Otto’s injunction. As it was I was feeling a bit like someone had hit me with a book. A very large book. “Damn Doc! Ow even.” I rubbed the sides of my head trying to stop the sudden throbbing pain. I wanted to give him the finger but my head hurt too badly.

~’Sorry Merry, I didn’t mean to tap you that hard, we need you to stay in –our- world for the test. Not to mention if you want us to believe what we will see…’~ he trailed of with a half ways apologetic shrug.

~:’Tap he calls it, gods that hurt.’:~

~/’Bad man.’/~

*So far Doc, three out of the four voices in my head are not currently in your fan club. *

~’I have no doubt of that.’~

As I stood back up, I heard the one of the techs announce that they were ready. I turned to look to the small group of techs, “Wonderful. So now what?”

“If you will step to where the red dot is glowing on the floor Miss?” I took a look the tech that addressed me, he was for the most part unremarkable, unless you counted his hair was in a Mohawk and seemed to be bright white.  I took that in, then looked for the dot, for me it was maroon and obviously laser generated. 

With a dramatic sigh I stepped up to the where the dot was then I looked at Doctor Otto, “I suppose I have to be naked for this?”

“Hardly, though if you want to…” For a moment I thought he was being serious then I noticed the odd crinkle of amusement at the corners of his eyes.

“I’ll pass, you have enough film of my butt as it is.” I looked to the tech with the Mohawk, “so now what?”

“Please stand absolutely still Miss, we have to make a few calibration passes. Then we’ll see what’s hidden behind door number three.” He had a slightly goofy grin as he said the last bit.

~#’Subject must not get out much.#’~

I had to blink a few times at that comment from Mai, evidently it or she had picked up a sense of humour someplace.

From the pained expression on Doctor Otto’s face he evidently got the gist of Mai’s contribution too.

When I heard things start to scream, I gave the techs and Doctor what I presume was a fearsome look; as the techs actually backed up half a step.

~’Easy Merry, calm down, you do want this to work, right?’~

*It’s not you whose head feels it is vibrating off at the neck!* I snapped back at him.

“Just relax this will only take a few moments,” said Doctor Otto with an expression that said his day was way to long already.     

By the time what ever it was doing reached the top of my head and started back down I was wishing for some serious painkillers. By the third time the process had repeated itself I was wishing for a gun to blow my brains out: I didn’t recall my head ever hurting this badly except for the night when I found the Palms AI’s.

~:’And even then we could take something for it.’:~

“Ok Miss, this one is for the money, if you will hold absolutely still?”

I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth. The ugly wine built to a subsonic scream that set my teeth to rattling. As the wave passed up to my backside I heard one of the techs actually yelp in panic then everything cut out abruptly. In the almost silence of my pounding skull I whimpered, “I didn’t do anything.”

“No, no you didn’t,” half growled Otto.

I cracked an eye open to see him with his fists clenched tightly to his sides and a deceptively placid expression on his face, “I think we need to take a break for a time my child. We will need some different equipment and another scan. You do have my apologies, someone has some explaining to do.” With that he fairly stalked out of the room.

I numbly walked past the techs to my bunk and laid down upon it, “Kam, Kerry, anyone if you can find anything to stop the pain in my head I will write you into my will.” I heard Kam talking softly with the techs but I didn’t bother to even try to listen in, I simply hurt too much.

For a time I wallowed in my agony and just tried to deal with it, every single rustle of cloth or jangle of metal pounded like a tympanic solo in counter point to the “Ride of the Valkyries.” To my misfortune it wasn’t in tune or tempo to it either.

After a time that felt entirely like a year, I heard a rustle of cloth then felt a nudge, “Here princess, best we can do is a dose of Tylenol, they still have yet to sort out your bodies kinks in the lab,” stated Kam as I felt a paper packet drop into my hand, “If you sit up you can have some water to wash them down.”

I sat up slowly almost wishing I had not, “Tylenol’s better than nothing I suppose.” I opened the packet and noted the caplets were rated as extra strength, joy. I took the paper cup he proffered and after a moments hesitation I washed them down, then handed the paper cup and packet back to Kam.

“Doc’s upset, very upset,” he stated as I laid back down on the bunk and closed my eyes.

“I kind of gathered that, care to clue me in as to why? I told him the pump was not what it was supposed to be,” I was fairly grumpy that he had given me the briefest of apologies.

“It’s more than that, but we have to wait for the other scan to be sure.” There was an odd note to Kam’s voice and I felt a bit confused by it.

“Kam, what are you not telling me? Did they find a tumour?”

He coughed and sputtered for a moment in what sounded like a laugh, “No-o not a tumour, I have to go for a bit. Doc wants all of the team for a briefing and he’s still grumpy.”

“Be sure to give him my love,” I said after making a raspberry.

“I’ll do that.” I waited for the door to open and close, then with a exasperated half screech I let some of my power go and suddenly all the electronic noise in my cell was dead. I hurt too badly to care what the outcome of that bit was eventually going to be. After a time, somewhere in the haze of pain I drifted off to sleep.

-------------

“Walt, it’s Doctor Otto, I hope you are sitting down.”

The was a corse chuckle on the other end of the phone that hinted of Texas and too many cigarettes, “Why do I have the distinct impression that my day is going to become much more interesting?”

Otto felt a smile forming, “Now why would you say that?”

“Well,” the voice drawled, “The only time you address me by my first name is either I owe you money or that fecal material has landed someplace and it’s about to sprout legs.”

“You have me there. Who is on duty or rather even if they are not on duty, the best bomb man on your staff currently? Actually go one further, the best bomb person you know.”

There was a longish pause, “As in making or defusing?”

“Defusing, though if you have an expert that can advise the person defusing it?” Otto let the question hang in the air for a moment.”

“Sergeant Quenedo, though she was in on the party last night so she’s not exactly ‘fresh’.”

“I take it she’s running on coffee and cola’s today?”

“To some extent we all are, how soon do you need her and where’s the bomb?”

“It’s in the Red Complex.”

“WHAT!” Otto winced at the other man’s surprised shout rang in his ear, “How? I mean we’re so careful.”

“It’s complicated. I do believe your latest toy may be needed down in the Mental and Containment Ward.”

“Ok, I am about to break the non-smoking rule here Doctor, how did the bomb get there?”

“It’s implanted in a young girls buttocks, by way of the good folks at Langley.” Otto added a hint of his annoyance into his voice at the last bit.

“Key-rist on a crutch,” the other mans Texan drawl suddenly leapt fully into gear, “ya’ll mean to tell me them good fer nuthin’ spooks slid to the dark side again?”   

“And then some it seems. I trust you can figure a way to help out?”

“Doc, you know me an the spooks are not on speakin’ terms since Nam?”

“Just think of the fun you will have foiling their little rudeness.”

“Well you got my best people for as long as you need the Doc, but you knew that already.”

“Quite. If you can prompt your department to all haste and with luck your new toy can tell us how big of a bang we might expect.”

“Doc how fast do you want them there?”

“About ten minutes ago. Though we may have to sedate the girl first, she has a hard time with electronics.”

“Let me guess, this has to do with the little hellion you have in cell ten?”

“She isn’t that bad.”

The other man chuckled “I have a man who might argue differently. Though I doubt he will forget to wear all of his equipment ever again.”

“Well if he can’t keep his cool today, have him check parking permits or something.”

“Understood, where shall we meet you?”

“The Command Center.”

“Oh, and Kerry is going to be receptive of us?”

“Today she might welcome the President with open arms, if it helped.”

“Ah’d like to see that; she about blew a gasket during elections in Oh-Four.”

“True, I will see you shortly.”

“Rodger that Doc.”

-------------

Otto felt himself sigh as Kerry reported to him with a hand motion that echoed the flipping of a switch; that Merry had tripped the breakers around her cell again. In some ways he was mostly relieved that was all she had done. Though to be sure, if the amount of pain she was broadcasting at the time was any indication, he could not fault her for it. ‘I can see where she got her code name, someone at NEXT has a sense of humour.’ He took a deep breath then looked at the gathering of folks in the conference room.

“Ladies, gentlemen we have a problem.”     He started then motioned to the tech team that was involved with the initial scanning of Merry, “If you would bring up the image please?”

When it was displayed on the screen behind him, he lowered the lights slightly so the image was slightly clearer. “Kerry do you have the data specifications and an image of the implant that is supposed to be in the subject?”

“Yes Doctor, and I can tell you right now, that’s nothing close to what it should look like.” She tapped a button and the screen split to display both images, ignoring the screen she flipped through a folder, “It does bear a slight resemblance to it, in that there are two refill ports for medications but the extra bulk of it.” She stopped at a motion from his hand.

“Mr. Caruthers, would you share with us what made you stop the scan of the subject.”

A thin man in a blue lab coat stood and placed both of his hands behind him as if he were preparing to lecture a class. “As you all know the remote scanning unit was set up to record the various compositions and contents of what should have been a normal Insulin pump.” He paused to bring a different view of the pump onto the screen and with a laser pointer started to highlight various areas. “These areas are relatively normal. This area,” he made a circling motion, “is a bomb.”

Once the ruckus of exclamations died down he continued, “While I am not entirely sure what the exact composition of it is, the presence of a detonator is fairly obvious.” He outlined a small cylinder with a pair of wires trailing up to a darker block.    

Doctor Otto nodded his thanks and indicated the room in general, “What is said in here stays in here, the last thing we want is for our patient to become alarmed.” He pulled out a handkerchief and patted his hands dry with it, “Frankly, I will admit I had my doubts to her previous statements that the pump was ‘odd’.” He shrugged internally.

“However, this is criminal in more than one way. Rest assured that as we speak, both our CEO and NEXT’s are turning up the heat on a certain agency. In the mean time we have yet to determine what she is being subjected to chemically, not to mention finding a way to safely get the bomb out of her.”

“Are we going to bring in something else or are we moving her to a different unit?” asked Chris with a hint of concern in his voice.

“Security assures me that the remote bomb detection unit should give us a clearer view of the bomb and it’s composition.”

Kam raised a hand, “No offence Doctor, but won’t she realise something is up when we roll in a robot to, put it baldly, look at her butt?”

“I am afraid there is no real help for it. I expect I will have to tell her the truth, and if need be render her unconscious.”

“Oh she is going to love that,” offered Kerry with a hint of exasperation. “Doctor, as much as I dislike the Alpha Wave generators that we use on some of our more violent patients, to sedate them for transport. I think that telling her that it may help for her to be asleep for the next bit of testing will help her to feel better. I mean, we have seen what the testing thus far has done to her.” She paused, “As much as I like the kid, can we afford for her to really go off the deep end at the moment?”

Otto looked down to the back of the chair he was gripping with some intensity, “I think that would be a good idea Kerry. I must admit I am a bit agitated at the fact that they would callously do this to a child.”

He winked at Kam, “Even I have my own issues with anger at times.” He glanced about the table, “I have a few more phone calls to make, so if you can come up with a solution that doesn’t kill our patient and us in the process please find them.” He spared the image on the screen with a look of utter contempt, “As I am going to find a few answers of my own.”

--------- 

Ensconced back in his office Otto closed and locked his door, something he rarely did when he needed to be alone. As the director of the Red and Black Complexes of ARC few people dared to disturb him when the door was shut, but in his agitated state he did not wish to be seen.

“How dare they!” he growled to the walls. Then with a sigh kicked off his shoes and walked to the side of the day bed and picked up the small pillow he used when sitting seiza didn’t feel appropriate. With a sigh he removed his coat and draped it over the spare chair in front of his desk.

As tired as he was from the previous evening he needed some time to meditate before trying to contact Doctor Tanaka. While he normally didn’t require meditation to focus his mind or abilities, there were days when his own demons raged and needed to be put to slumber. As he sat on the pillow he took the first of several deep breaths and allowed is inner turmoil to dissipate. One did not call upon ones friends telepathically in an agitated mindset, unless the situation was utterly dire.

He reflected on the situation and let it drop back out of his perspective for the moment. Yes the CIA had put a bomb in a young girl, yes they had endangered his staff by not telling him that the bomb existed. The most galling thing is they endangered everyone by risking the possible escape of some of the other truly dangerous patients. Admittedly he was most angered by the callous disregard they had for life in general, ‘She isn’t a criminal, she is a frightened young girl who isn’t healthy.’    

‘Calm may not be possible for some time’, he noted to himself after a few more deep breaths. Still, admitting the anger was there allowed him to set it aside and see the problem clearly. The most important thing was to ensure no one came to harm, retribution in whatever form the gods allowed would come in time.

With another breath he opened his mind and reached out to the ether, seeking one mind among billions. ~’Eric?’~  He dropped that question on the mental shields of the other man and waited for him to recognise the ‘call’.

~’Who? Ah Otto, what can I do for you?’~ Tanaka had the impression of the other man grinning at the mental intrusion.

~’Remember our morning tea the other day?’~

~’Does Mrs. Potter still your mind in a nettle or has something else unsettled you?’~

~’Something much worse than our lady friend’s puzzles. It seems the young girl we were discussing has a bomb implanted in her backside.’~

There was a pause then the other man replied with a distinct hint of worry and curiosity, ~’Otto, I know you are one not given to practical jokes. So I can assume you need my services in the medical side of the equation?’~

~’That and we have yet to discover the other surprises they have saddled us with.’~ Otto paused, ~’While I often do not lend credence to the wilder of claims of our patients, I expect this young lady has been telling more than a measure of the truth.’~

~’And this truth being?’~

~’That in some ways she shares something in common with you and the others.’~

~’You have my full attention.’~

~’If she is correct, she has been the unwilling victim of illegal drug tests, drugs that boost powers.’~  

Doctor Tanaka’s mental voice dropped to a glacially cold level, ~’Something tells me that my friends will be interested in this case as well.’~

~’In good time Eric, the girls life and many others are yet at risk.’~

~’I’ll have Lisa bring me as soon as she is able. *sigh* Though I expect the others will want a detailed  explanation later, if not an proper accounting when the time is ripe.’~

~’My friend, I think there is line forming already,’~ Otto commented dryly.

~’Of that I have no doubt my friend, expect us soon.’~

~’I will be awaiting your arrival.’~

~’Rest easy my friend we shall see the girl to safety.’~

~’Until then?’~

~’Until then.’~

That task accomplished he arose from the pillow on the floor and walked to his chair, once seated he pulled up the up the list of laboratory phone extensions and picked out the one where Vlad was doing Merry’s blood work. 

“Vlad’s blood bank, you nick’em, we stick’m. Head Vampire Vlad speaking,” for a moment Otto shook his head in bemusement as a smile escaped onto his face.

“Vlad, this is Doctor Otto.”

“Oh, sorry Doctor, I um...”

“I know you get bored down there from time to time, but I have a bit of situation.”

The other man’s demeanour shifted from hesitant worry to fully alert, “What is the problem Doctor?”

“How far have you gotten on Merry’s blood work?”

“Well the DNA sequencing is taking much longer than I had expected, evidently someone has been playing in god’s garden.”

“Nothing about this child is normal it seems.” Otto felt his lips curl in distaste, “I think you will have to shift priories for a time, we need to be able to be able to operate on the girl at the soonest.”

“Something came up?”

“You could say that, I need you to find a medication or rather medications that will permit surgery on her, with out killing her. Or other fun things.”

“Will blood and plasma be required?”

“I can’t say as yet.”

“That could be a real problem, she isn’t exactly compatible with anyone on staff or in our database at the moment, here or Whateley for that matter.”

“I thought plasma or Type O, was universal?”

“Oh it is, for most folks Doctor, this kid isn’t most people.”

Otto shook his head ruefully, “No, no she isn’t, so far that fact has become disturbingly clear.”

“I’ll say. It will take some time, but not more than a few hours, Kerry alerted me that something was up.”

“Good to see the departments talking together.”

“Yup, I’m on it. Results a soon as inhumanly possible.”

“Don’t you mean humanly?”

“Doc, it’s me…” the other man chuckled.

“Alright Vlad, I’ll be expecting word.”

“Right.”

Abruptly Otto found himself holding a dead phone, he chuckled, ‘Vlad you really need to work on your phone etiquette, but not today.’

Otto eyed the teacups that sat waiting for use, there would be time for Tea later as Doctor Tanaka would want a full accounting of events. With that observation he got up from the chair and reclaimed his shoes. He eyed the pillow on the floor and he made a note to contact Sara when events where a bit more stable. “She is not going to be happy.” ‘But then neither am I.’

-----------

There was a small debate in progress in the Command Center when Otto walked in, from the pained expression on Kerry’s face it could only be politics. A few moments he knew it was.

“I don’t care if you voted for that ninny, you can’t tell me the gas prices are not a direct result…” she trailed off when she saw Doctor Otto standing silently with  wan expression on his face.

“It’s good to see you both relaxing,” He motioned to Walter, who was dressed in the light blue security uniform and belt with holstered stunner.

Walter chuckled with a hint of his usual Texas drawl, “Well it is only patriotic to vote for a fellow Texan.” He shrugged and the silver captains bars on his collar winked in the light.

Kerry pointed a finger at him, “You would vote for a dog if it came from Texas.”

He touched his heart then made a brushing motion to shake off invisible dirt, “Guilty as charged.”  He scratched at his blond buzz cut for a moment, “So are we ever going to get a full briefing on why half of my powered armour units went on the lam the other day?” He directed that at Otto with a tilt of his head.

Otto chuckled, “If it is any consolation, maintenance still has a unit unaccounted for.”

“Well at least Two-Oh-Nine here, is still accounted for.” He jerked a thumb at a multi-armed robot that swivelled its head to ‘look’ at the captain. It did a slow pirouette on its treads.

A brightly Cajun voice chimed in, “Not like it’s going anywhere with out an a direct operator, and no one moves my baby but me.”

Otto looked over to where a short but ‘vibrant’ lady was half hidden in a nest of cables and other small boxes. Long dark hair flowed akimbo out from under an odd helmet that trailed wires down to the odd collection of boxes. She waved a hand and the robot moved an arm as well.

“Sargent Quenedo I presume?” Otto asked with a raised eyebrow.

“In the flesh,” she replied with a half bow that sent the robot into a semblance of the same motion.

“Does the robot share every movement that you make?” asked Otto.

“Not all of them, the tactile feedback isn’t nearly up to that, but give them a few more years…”

“I hope your pet is fairly well protected against electric charges.” Stated Kam with a chuckle, “If you get it too close to the girl, you may have an expensive collection of spare parts.”

“You could set off a nuke and the EMP would not even phase it, if it survived the blast,” For a moment the voice seemed to come from both the robot and the lady.

“Lets not test that theory any time soon.” Commented Otto, “Do you have the Generator head set for me Kerry?”

“Yes Doctor, good luck convincing her to wear it though, she’s been acting cranky.” Kerry shook her head with a sigh, “Lunch was a disaster, if I didn’t know how badly she was hurting, via Chris I’d be tempted to spank her.”

“Speaking of which, where is he?”

“He had to visit the other wards, not to mention seeking some pain killers himself.” She looked at Otto with an irked expression, “she’s making her presence felt.” 

“I have some theories on that, but they have to wait until we can get her other problems sorted out.” He shook his head tiredly, ‘My heart goes out to the first true telepath; how she ever figured out control and how teach that control to others amazes me to this day.’

Otto took the proffered box from Kerry and opened it to see the winking tell-tales of a charged unit. “Once she is settled and asleep give her a few minutes to ensure she is deeply into it before rolling in the ‘bot.”

“Now don’t be tellin’ me you are gonna be sett’n in the same room when Queny here does her bit?” inquired Walter with a tone that indicated he wasn’t going to consider that option.

Otto sighed, “I see your point, Walter. Trust me I have no desire to be scattered into bits.”

“Jes’ checking to make sure you knew the rules Doc. ‘Our’ boss would have my hide if I let you do something foolish. Unpredictable and unstable minds are your forte’, keep you safe is ours.”

Otto nodded, “I’ll be out and back here once I am sure she is firmly asleep.”

“Good, I’d hate to sic Queny on you she’s feisty and might hurt your ego.”

“You would send her to do your job?”

“Of course, I,” he jerked a thumb to where the lady in question was sitting making kung fu moves that the robot mimicked. “Know how to delegate.”

Otto merely shook his head in amusement and walked out to the connecting corridor. Once the doors closed he allowed the chuckle he was suppressing to escape and he made his way down the hall.


Hearing the door open, I peered up from the bunk with a grimace as I noted Doctor Otto enter and that he was carrying a case of some sort. Absently I quoted at him “Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.”

“Whatever it is, I fear Greeks even when they bring gifts.” He translated back at me, “So you know Latin?”

“No it’s from the movie ‘The Rock’. Latin it seems, gives me a nosebleed too.” I motioned to one of the boxes, “I tried to do some reading to take my mind off the pain, but it didn’t help.

“Ah, I had wondered.”

“Wondered what?”

“Just how much of your education is real or fictional.”

“As real as it needs to be, as real as it needs to be,” I said tiredly.

He walked over to where the stuffed chairs were and sat in it, “I don’t mean to cause you stress Merry or pain for that matter.”

I turned my head to look at him, “You could just let me go.”

“It unfortunately is not that simple. In some ways you may have made one of the classic blunders…”

I held up a hand interrupting him, “If you start quoting ‘The Princess Bride’ at me, I may hurl.”

 He laughed deeply and I winced at the sound even though a smile somehow formed on my face. “No, I was about to say you showed too much of your hand at the wrong poker table.” He smirked at me, “Though you have not started a land war in Asia, yet.”

I made a gagging sound and whimpered slightly, “You had to go there. Now I have the entire book winding through my head.”

“Do you remember everything you have read?”

“I didn’t used to.” I motioned to the boxes, “I’ll get through them sooner or later, just not today.”

“That’s fine, we think we have a way for you not to feel the next session of scanning.” He tapped the box, “Do you know what Alpha Waves are?”

Briefly I considered throwing my pillow at him, “No I slept though that part of science class.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he opened the box and pulled out an odd crown or circlet. “This is designed to help troubled minds sleep. It works by inducing an state very similar to true REM sleep.”

“Or in other words, so I don’t do something rash?”

“Well, the thought had crossed my mind, the other alternative is for me to put the ‘whammy’ on you like before.”

“Which whammy? The last one was it’s own twist.”

“The one that knocked you out. You do remember that one?”

I groaned, “Yes I do, you really don’t like me do you?”

“I don’t hate you Merry, it’s just that you have been, problematical, in some ways.”

“Hey I didn’t ask to come here, much less did I ask for any of your rules or regulations.”

“But here you are.”

“Given the choice, I think I’d rather be in the sewers again. At least there I was –free-.”

“Not much of a life style if you ask me.”

“And this is better in what way?”

“I do suppose from your perspective you might be correct. However, it is your perspective, that has a great many people concerned.”

I gave the mirrored window the bird, “Frankly Doc, I don’t care what they think. I just want to live my life free of you all.”

“Perhaps in time.”

I snorted my disbelief, “Yeah right, do you really think I have any faith that you’ll just let me go?”

He let out a long sigh, “Maybe in time you will trust me, though for the time being will you at least accept my apology?”

“For which incident?”

He shook his head, “You don’t surrender an inch do you?”

“Anything I surrender I never seem to regain Doc.”

“Well in this instance I am referring to your backside and the pump. Normally, we cannot credit some of the things our patients with any measure of validity. For example we do occasionally treat people who think they are some form of deity.”

I laughed and then regretted it as it renewed the spike of pain in my head. “I have never claimed to be a goddess.”

“True, though you cannot say you are exactly rational.”

“Is anyone?”

“By some standards, yes.”

“An’ I don’t fit your neat little book of rationality.”

“I am afraid not. But, for what it is worth, I do apologise for not giving you some measure of credit concerning your concerns with the pump.”

“Well, I’ll feel so much better about granting you my forgiveness when the pump is out.”

“As to that,” he arose from the chair. “If you put this on, we can get a better look at it, without causing you more pain.” He took the few steps that separated us and placed the headset on the side of the bed.

I shrugged then sat up slowly, “If you do anything screwy to me and I find out…” I hinted at dire things.

“You have to trust some one some time Merry.”

I picked it up and studied it, “I suppose, though you have a long ways to go in that department.” I slowly eased it on to my head expecting it to bite me.

“You should lay down before I activate it.”

“No bad surprises Doc or I guarantee my last prank will look tame by comparison.” I pointed a finger at him, “You have no idea what I can do to your tidy little world.”

He rolled his eyes at me, “Oh I can guess, ready for a nap?”

I sighed, “I suppose.”

He reached down to press at something out of my view and the world turned itself inside out and I was gone.


Otto waited a few moments then sent a light tendril of thought into her unguarded mind, thankfully it seemed like she was on her way to dreamland. ‘Hopefully its only pleasant dreams she finds in her dreams.’ Once he was sure she was deep in the REM state he turned to the mirror and motioned at it, “Ok ladies, gentlemen, do your bit.”

He waited for the door to open then walked out into the corridor, he gave the robot a pat on the head as he passed it and continued to the Command Center. He was distinctly feeling the long hours from the prior nights activities. ‘Though I doubt the folks at Whateley would forget the assault any time soon either.’ Who and why, of the entire attack weighed heavily. ‘Why were they after Sara?’ he asked himself then moved his thoughts to the next few minutes. ‘Prioritise man, get on with it.’ That injunction firmly in his mind he opened the doors and entered.

Walter was giving him a wicked smile, “So care to lay odds on her being annoyed with you once you tell her she was being scanned for a bomb?”

“Not in this life time.” He shook his head and looked over to the trail of cables that lead out of the room, “With luck she will sleep right through it all. Kam?”

“Yes Doctor, if you would gently turn her over so that the robot can get a clear view?”

“Exposed or?”

“I think unexposed would be best, she is grumpy enough don’t you think?”

Kam smiled and turned to watch the sleeping girl in one monitor. He took a breath and with apparent careless ease, motioned with one hand. On screen the girl lazily rose into the air and spun slowly as if she were in freefall, her hair and the gown acting with gravity denied this. The just as softly she descended to return to the bunk as if she was a precious doll.

A few moments later the robot rolled into view near the bunk.  It’s head pivoting back and forth, from behind him Otto heard Sargent Quedeno’s comment. “Cute kid. Scanning in ten seconds.”

Otto felt a hand rest on his shoulder and he looked over to see Walter nod to the screen, “That little bit is what’s causing us such a fun time?”

“Yes, it is often amazing that someone so relatively harmless looking can cause so much chaos.”

“Doc, you don’t have any kids of your own or you would not be making that statement. June, my youngest or heck even my eldest daughter drive me nuts.”  

“Which is likely the reason I have never married.”

“Ah you nevah can tell, some woman will glide into your life and then you’ll sing a new tune.”

“Much as I could quote ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and say otherwise, but then that would be tempting fate.”

Kerry smiled and her light laughter drifted across the room. “Beware Fate as she games with crooked dice.”

“Ok. Scanning…” There was a longish pause then, “Goodness gracious me,” arose from the helmeted Sargent.

“Found it did you?” asked Walter.

“Yeah, fascinating device.”  Her hands moved slowly in the air manipulating things only she could see. “Getting it out is gonna be a bitch too.” 

Walter walked over to where a separate monitor displayed what Quedeno was seeing. He let out a slow whistle, “Gods be damned spooks,” he reached over and tapped a few keys on a keypad. “Can you get me a spectrum on the explosive?”

“Coming up now,” came the muffled voice as it was evident she was focusing on her work. “I think it’s a hybrid mix.”

Walter grunted as he looked at the composition of the molecules, “Combustive combined with an accelerant, you would be a crispy critter if you bollix this one Quenny.”

“Never happen, though it’s going to be fun to disarm that while it is in place.”

“If you two would care to enlighten me?” asked Otto with a hint of impatience.

Walter looked over with a frown, “Otto, hush and let us do our job.”

For a moment Otto felt a hint of anger rise up within himself, but then he nodded realising he was interfering with the very people whose help he needed. “Sorry, Walter I am just, disturbed by things.”

  The other man nodded and returned to reading through the data, “I don’t often get away with suggesting this Doc, but I think you should take a break. Even with Quenny’s toy here; it’ll be sometime before we have a good grasp on the surprises inside of it.”

For a moment Otto considered ignoring the suggestion then he turned to walk to the door, “I will be in my office or upstairs fetching the Surgeon when he arrives.”

“The good news Otto, is that this is not a rush job, where we would have to guess. By the time Quenny here is done; we’ll know what to do to get the bomb out of the kid safely.”

“Thank you Walter, from all of us.”

“Right Boss, now git.”

“I’m going, I am going.”


Once the doors closed behind him, he fairly muttered aloud “Reluctantly I am going.”  He spent the few minutes walking to his office in deep internal debate, ‘Am I too close to this patient?’  He had to admit that he did feel something for the girls plight, not to mention that his other ‘ward’ was affected too, by his decisions.

In some ways it would be much easier to view and treat Merry if she wasn’t a young child, ‘but these things are never easy.’ He passed the various staff of the ‘section’ and made greetings unconsciously as he passed them.

There was a light pressure on his mind ~’Otto?’~ enquired the familiar presence of his friend Doctor Eric Tanaka.

~’Yes Eric?’~

~’Lisa and I are upstairs, needless to say security needs your grace for Lisa to descend,’~ Sent Tanaka with a hint of asperity.

~’I will be there as fast as humanly possible,’~ he added, ~’Things are complicated it seems.’~

~’If what you implied earlier is any indication, I would not doubt otherwise.’~

~’I’ll grab a pass from my office for Lisa and start the tea, I think it will do us good.’~

~’I take it you need the tea, as much a time to reflect?’~   

~’I may be reflecting too much,’~ he admitted.   

~‘Rest assured Otto a solution will be found.’~

~’I know but the events of the past few days have been wearing.’~

~’Otto,’~ the other man chided ~’What are friends for, but to ask for help when you need it?’~

~’I seem to be learning humility and patience this week.’~

He felt the other man laughing in his mind, “Otto, even I have yet to master that.’~

~’Quite. I will be up soonest.’~

He felt the other mans acquiesce and bemusement by way of acknowledgement. He returned his mental shield to its normal impervious state and set to the tasks he had mentioned.


Lisa Waring or ‘Flashback’, one of the not quite defunct ‘Mystic Six’, was sprawled across one of the spare chairs of his office. She was glaring at him and her face was slightly flushed with anger. While one of the more earthy members of the group, she was deeply tanned and wearing what Otto had come to know as her ‘Jaunting Gear’, and was she was not happy. Her figure was definitely female, and she looked as if she had stopped though the props department of the movie ‘Blade Runner’ and had left with Harrison Ford’s costume. Her faded leather duster was thrown open as her hands moved in large yet graceful arcs that punctuated her displeasure.

Stopping only once to chase a strand of her long brown hair from her face, she made it entirely clear that she was not leaving his office until she had all the facts. The dark brown arches of her eyebrows only counter pointed the dance of her hands as her brown eyes fairly glowed with her own powers. “The Feds can go fuck themselves Otto, you know as well as I do there are lines you just do not cross.”

“Especially when they dare to tread on old ghosts?” Tanaka directed at her with a hint of sympathy.

She sighed, “Damn it Eric do you really want to see a second generation of children walk our path?”

“It may be a bit late in some ways Lisa.” Tanaka looked down into his cup of Tea, “First there is Tennyo, then there is Fey, who closely echoes our own Cirque.”

“Match Lancer to ‘your’ Stony, the many facets of Shroud and her ‘siblings’ to Amie.” Otto sipped from his own cup, “The second or third generation is already here.”

“And how many are we going to lose like Sherry?” she asked and kicked at his desk with one foot, setting a mild tremor to his cup.

“If we can get them properly trained, past their own ‘rough’ spots or the dark nights of their own souls. Perhaps none.” Otto lifted his cup to rest it in his lap.

“Not to mention rescuing them from their own foibles,” commented Tanaka as he flipped through Merry’s medical file.

“To NEXT’s credit, I cannot fault them for seeking out Federal types with the evidence of the Dr. Palms latest pets or their project.” Otto shivered slightly, “I for one am not prepared for a world of AI driven zombies.”

“Perhaps,” she paused. “Still, trusting the Feds has never been one of my strong suits.”

“And how many wire taps are on your phone lines?” Otto chided.

“Nary a one, the Feds stopping doing that once I started selling them on E-Bay.” She chuckled darkly, “Just because I don’t like war, they think I am a militant right wing activist.”  

“Don’t you mean left wing?” asked Tanaka as he idly turned another page.

“Right, left who cares? Meaningless labels bandied by warmongers will be the vogue for many a year. As time has shown.”

Tanka rolled his eyes at Otto from behind the medical file, “Give it a rest Lisa, Otto’s on our side.”

“I’m just venting, sheesh, you would rather I blow things up?” she asked.

“No, no that is quite all right,” Otto held up a hand hastily and playfully said. “Vent away, vent away.”

She slumped slightly, “It’s just, just.”

“The Feds?” offered Tanaka helpfully.

“Yeah. Not to mention other things.”

“Why can you not just let Englund fade from your mind? You are likely going to out live him anyways.”

“Sherry would be here if that sanctimonious bastard had not blindly lead us along.”

“We all went in willingly.”

“Yes but it have should been that bastard who paid and not her.”

Tanaka shook his head and resumed looking through the file, “How much of this file is accurate?”

“The parts from NEXT and ARC.”

“Lovely.”

Otto watched with some amusement as the other man dropped one third of the folder to the floor.  “I’ll have the maid get that later.”

“Sorry,” he replied without a hint of contrition. 

Lisa pointed at Tanaka and nearly fell out of her chair laughing, “And you think ‘I’ have issues with the Feds.”

“Oh not so much as considering they lied about her pump, anything they handed over to us is suspect.” He deftly parried, “Though in this case I will defer to those known to be trust worthy.”

There was a knock on Otto’s office door and Otto made a slight hushing movement with his hand. “Come in.”

“Oh hey Doctor, didn’t meant to interrupt anything important.” Offered Walter while taking in the rooms occupants, “I figured you would want the news as quickly as we had it.”

Otto motioned to a spare chair by way of invitation, “Walter, you may know Doctor Tanaka already, and to his right is Ms. Warring. Anything you say about Merry is safe enough among them.”

“Mam, Doctor.” He pulled the chair closer to the desk ns sat wearily, “Well do you want the bad news or the really bad news?”

Otto watch his guests frown, “Let’s have it all.”

“Well we can get the bomb out of the girl, but not without it going off.”  Walter sighed, “Quenny’s fairly certain we can save the girl’s life, but there is no way to deactivate the bomb completely.”

“Shit!” said Lisa emphatically, then she proceeded to describe the CIA’s linage in great detail and none of it was complementary.

Walter fairly grinned, “Mam, if I wasn’t married already, Ah’d be looking to take you out to dinner.” He looked over to Otto, “Doc, the folks that built this went out of their way to make sure that if it went, so would the girl.”

“Lovely, so we can save the girls life?”

“Yeah, but it is not going to be easy, and whatever evidence you might get out of the pump and the device is going to be scarce, once it goes off.”

“Well I can get samples of whatever is in the pump and if it is what the child suggests that it is; recover the entire batch,” noted Tanaka aloud, as he looked at a few images from the file.

“That’s something, I’ll trade the loss of information for saving the child’s life any day,” Otto looked over to Walter with a thin smile.

“If it makes you feel any better, Quenny’s pissed. She doesn’t think there is a bomb she cannot defuse and she refuses to admit it in this case.”

“So you are sitting on her, I take it?”

“Oh yeah, she’s going down for eight hours of enforced rest once she wraps up the bot.”

“Enforced how?” asked Lisa.

“We’re going to dog pile her and put a A-wave generator on her head.”

Otto laughed, “Sure Walter and once you get out of the full body cast your wife is going to put you back into it.”

“Ah Doc, I can dream can’t I?”

Otto rolled his eyes, “I’ll have a word with her if she doesn’t see reason.”

“Oh she volunteer for it, once I ask her sweetly.”

“Bribing her with alcohol are you?”

“No, something better; a trip to the Mardi Gras.  I figure the budget can afford it if we are billing the Feds.”

“Oh rest assured they are gonna be stuck for something,” Otto commented dryly to the fierce nods of other two that were present.    

In the gap of conversation that followed that pronouncement Tanaka glanced up from his reading, “Hopefully there are some medicines that work on this girl?”    

“Our best man is working on it, though he says there is something is off in her DNA as well.”

Lisa snorted, “Aside from being a mutant?”

“Well if Vlad says something is off, it’s likely not in that department.”

Tanaka smiled and nodded, “Lisa, Vlad’s um unique in many respects. I may go jog his elbow for a moment or two.”  He stood up, “I’ll need a few things from the clinic, not to mention some insulated gloves.”

“Take what you need, Lisa if you will pardon us? I need to go over a few things with Walter.”

“Sure, I suppose I can raid the kitchen here as well as anywhere.” She announced with a chuckle, “Besides if Vlad is unique, I want to meet him.”

Otto chuckled, “Oh you’ll like him I think.”


While the tension in Merry’s ‘room’ wasn’t exactly thick enough to cut with a knife, Kam looked as if he wanted a chainsaw. Otto took a few steps over to the large man and whispered, “If it bothers you, you can go for a walk.”

“Ah Doc,” he fidgeted, “I can handle blood, it’s just.”

“She’s your friend?”

“Yeah, so much for professional distance huh?”

“I would be more worried about you Kam if you didn’t feel anything.” Otto smiled and motioned to mirrored window where the rest of the team was watching from, “If it’s any consolation they are stressed about it too.”

“Not really,” the large man countered.

Doctor Tanaka looked back to the pair as he knelt near the sleeping girl, “Gentlemen you don’t have to whisper on my account.”

“Sorry, I didn’t see her stir, did the local take then?”

“Yes Doctor Otto, though you might have noted that part of her is not exactly asleep.”

Otto frowned then sent a tendril of though towards Merry, ~’Who’s awake?’~

~#’I would say guess, but that would be illogical.’#~

~’Ah, Mai and how are you?’~

~#’Concerned, would be the emotional state I find myself in.’#~

~’About?’~

~#’The explosive device.’#~

Otto paused, ~’I don’t believe that it was mentioned in this room, care to explain how you are aware of it?’~

~#’The second scanning unit was most informative.’#~

~’Well we do have a way of getting it out of you.’~

~#’Probability of detonation?’#~

~’Exists, yes.’~

~#’Defecation.’#~

~’That isn’t exactly the word for it, but yes it is a problem.’~

~#’Query, self deception possible how?#~ Otto could feel a large amount of uncertainly radiating from the active mind.

~’You don’t know how to lie?’~ Otto moved slowly to sit in one of the over stuffed chairs. ‘Dear gods, why do I suddenly feel like I am the serpent in the Garden of Eden?’

~#’Self deceit is illogical and non-productive, problem: Self is made up of other selves, some data flows both directions.’#~

Otto watched as Doctor Tanaka took an empty hypodermic from the tray and turned back to the exposed backside of the girl. ~’I am not sure how exactly to instruct you Mai, Merry and the others would be greatly distressed by the knowledge you posses.’~

~#’Possibility approaches one hundred percent,’#~ it replied with what Otto was certain, was exasperation.

~’Quite. I think you should do your utmost to be asleep while the others are awake. Or at the very least –silent-, perhaps if you focused entirely on the material that Merry has gleaned from Doctor Palm’s notes. Occupy yourself completely with it and perhaps Merry and the rest will be distracted sufficiently from the information.’~

~#’The others need to be told what and how, at some time.’#~

~’After the bomb is out and you all are safe, I will make sure they know or you could let the information flow to the general consciousness’.’~

~#’Situation with CIA intolerable, alternate solution must be determined and executed.’#~

~’I could not agree more.’~ For a moment Otto kept the link to the AI open, then when it seemed obvious that nothing more was forthcoming, he let it fade.

“Wonderful, it seems Mai was completely awake during the second scan, and knows of the surprise from our good friends at the CIA.”

Lisa stuck her head in through the open door, “Oh gods, how do you plan on keeping the girl calm if it knows?”

Otto shook his head, “That was the question it asked of me, I think we’ll let her rest until someone she really trusts is here.”  

Lisa pointed a finger at Merry, “You mean she actually trusts someone after all she has been through?”

“Yes, though I think it may go a bit deeper than just trust.”

“Does Sara, know of the um?” Kam asked while his hands made a scattering motion in the air.

“No.”

“Ah, um, Doc. Much as I like you, I don’t think I want to be close to where ever it is when you tell her.”

“I am not exactly looking forwards to the task either Kam,” said Otto with a long look at the floor.

“If the girl was British we’d have to run around calling her Mi’lady or Mi’lord,” commented Doctor Tanka, as he held a gauze patch that was soaked with Merry’s blood, “Blue blooded, I had thought Vlad had marked the samples with a dye.” He chuckled as Lisa stuck her head in to get a better look, and noted her abrupt departure.

“She doesn’t like blood, I take it?” asked Otto.

“No, she doesn’t. Though that doesn’t stop her from pounding people bloody when she is angry.”

Kam snickered slightly, “And they say I have anger issues.”

“There is a bit of difference Kam, usually when she pounds someone it is not over a verbal slight.”

“Ah, sure Doc.” Kam rolled his eyes, “I didn’t harm him you know.”

“I am not sure he would agree with your definition of harm.”

“Ah gentlemen?”

“Yes Doctor?”

“Much as my curiosity is drawn by your discussion I have an observation to make.” Tanaka commented with a hint of amusement and anger in his voice.

The two paused then looked at him, “Do go on,” said Otto.

Doctor Tanaka held up a pair of syringes, one that held a clear fluid and the other that held a deep murky brown fluid. His face was a study in professional stoicism, but the tone in his voice fairly roared his outrage in softly spoken words. “I think, I can say with absolute certainty that Insulin is not brown in colour.”   

“I see,” said Otto as he noted the other mans tone. “Can you retrieve the rest of it?”

Doctor Tanaka nodded and carefully placed the two syringes on a separate tray, “I would like an chemical analysis of the two, with all haste.”

“Kam, take those to Lab Seven and stay there until security provides a detail. I will have someone come up from the lower levels to take charge of that aspect of the investigation.”

Walter stuck his head in at the door, looking a bit flushed with anger, “One step ahead of you Doc, I’ve got a team handy, and I’ll escort Kam myself.”

Otto nodded then took a breath, “Make it so. I have another few phone calls to make.” With that he unclenched his fists, “I will be in my office, the rest of the team will ensure you have what you need Doctor.”

Tanaka nodded, “When this is over, an accounting will be made.” He turned to look at the sleeping child, “How many were there before her?” he asked aloud then set to the task of recovering the rest of the drug from the pump.

Otto stopped by the doorway and looked to the sleeping child, “Hopefully she will be the last, but my gut says otherwise.”

Tanaka stiffened then nodded, “Then we will see to it that the people responsible are found and stopped.”

~’Permanently.’~ chimed in Lisa her fury fuelling her mental voice with an air that left little room to confuse anyone with what she meant by the way of permanent.


Otto watched with some concern as Sara directed everyone out of the Command Center, “If we need anything I will contact Doctor Otto.” The tone of her voice indicated a quiet level of anger that promised certain mayhem if her instructions were not carried out. Kerry paused briefly to glance at him, and he nodded slightly to indicate he was in complete agreement.

“No camera’s no recordings, nothing,” said Sara as she faced him. “It’s bad enough I have to lie to her…”

“Some times the least said is the best.”

He noted that her claws kept flexing in and out, “I’ll let you in then shut things down, for her cell.” He was beginning to hate calling her room a cell. ‘Emotional distance indeed Kam.’ “I can’t shut every system down, the sleepers for example ‘have’ to be monitored.”

He watched her shoulders slump, “Why are we such a threat Otto? First last night, then this.

“People fear what they do not understand Sara, it’s been that way since time started.” 

“If she dies…” she broke off leaving the unspoken threat to hang in the air.

“If she dies, there will be a great many people out there looking for blood. Even if you are at the head of the pack, you may find yourself in a race to beat the others.”


For a moment Sara glared at the camera up in the corner as it tracked and panned to focus on her. A few moments later the light that indicated it was 'live' faded out. With a bemused look she noted the odd arrangement of boxes and the pair of over stuffed chairs that had been added to the room since her last visit. She turned to look at the bunk where Merry lay in her enforced sleep, for a time she just stood and watched the other girl sleep with a possessive smile.

Then moving to the bed Sara sat carefully on its edge, trying not to disturb her. With a tender careful hand she brushed the hair out of her face and caressed her cheek softly. With a soft smile she pressed the buttons that would deactivate the sleep generator, then she removed the metal headband and cooed, "Merry? Merry, it's time to wake up."

I opened one eye and smiled slowly, "Am I in the dream this time or are you really here?"

"I'm here, Merry." Sara smiled, giving her a quick kiss on the lips, "Welcome back."

"You could wake me up that way, every day," I said with a smile, I stretched slightly then winced. "I dreamed of snakes again, so I am 'very' glad you are here now."  

"Snakes aren't so bad, at least they're honest. A bit stiff?"  

I nodded, "Some, my butt hurts like someone jabbed me." I slid a hand down under the gown and then winced again as I felt a thick patch of gauze, along with some tape and a sharp pain from my touching it, "Ok I don't remember that being there this morning."

"Let me have a look... it's not like I haven't seen it all before," Sara smirked playfully.

I giggled as my face flushed with some heat, then I rolled carefully to face the wall. "True, sooooo are your playing Doctor now or Nurse?"

"Think of me as a physical therapist. Later on, I'll give you massage." Sara lifted up the gown, a slight frown creasing her face as examined Merry's top most ass cheek. A thickly padded square gauze bandage with a few faint drops of darkened blue was revealed as she parted the gown.  Carefully she peeled back the tape, revealing the already healing pinkish line that had a few stitches in place to close it.

Sara noted the neatness of the line and the virtually healed incision, 'Doctor Tanaka does neat work, so tomorrow should go smoothly in 'that' department.' 'No one puts a bomb in one of my own, and when I find them.' She schooled her face and voice so that none of the worry would slip through, not to mention the anger.

"Well, I've got some good news for you. They drained the reservoir." I glanced over my shoulder to see her smile.

I felt the knot in my guts loosen and a sigh of pure relief escaped from me, "Does this mean they believe me now?"

Sara smiled, "You bet. They believe both of us. Langley is having an interesting time, Otto even informed NEXT."

I rolled carefully back on to my back, "Final-damned-ly." I chased a strand of hair from my eyes with a puff of breath. "You don't know how infuriating it is to be told 'You are making it all up' when you are not."

Sara moved a bit more on to the bed and then slipped her shoes off, with a lazy smile she snuggled up closer to me. She placed her head on my shoulder and winked, "Well, ok, that is one thing I haven't had a problem with yet. I blame the scientific mind." She rolled her eyes, then looked over to glance the camera, "I don't know why people need so much proof. I knew you were being honest the moment I heard you."

I felt a smile form and carefully made a bit more room on the bed so that I could ease one arm around her, "Being able to count on someone, to be able to trust someone, is, is." I made a slightly exasperated sound, "Important, it's like air, I don't do well without it."

I heard Sara's voice take on a slightly more serious tone, "Things have started to change, Merry. I can feel the world moving beneath my feet... I have a feeling we won't be alone for long."

"As in folks barging in on us? Or that we are going to have others like us, relying on us, attached to us?" I felt a small giggle escape, "More aliens on the ant farm... Doctor Otto seems to think he's one of the normal ones."

"Both, maybe. I'm sorry, Merry."

 I hugged her with the arm that was around her, "I sort of expected to have a regular party in here tonight." I motioned to my butt with my free hand then let it rest on her arm nearest me, "if the dream is right, you won't lose me." I smiled with a feeling of contentment; "I think you may be stuck with me for a long time."

"No, no... I'll never lose you, ever. Not even if... but it scared me, you see. Halloween..." Sara trailed off a hint of worry replacing the peace that was there.

"Kam said something happened at Whateley, though the 'Doc' didn't bother to let me know what was up, the place was on 'lert." I sounded grumpy even to me.

~:'I hate not knowing stuff,':~ added Chad as I tilted my face to study hers.

"There... there was an attack. I've been meaning to tell you this ever since I met you, but there are people after me." She took a breath as if forcing herself to continue, "People I don't know, and some of them... some of them tried to kill me on stage..." She fairly rushed he last bit out as if not quite wanting to believe it herself.

I blinked once then pulled Sara closer with both arms trying to make the worry fade from her face, "Not good, obviously you are here, so they failed." As I processed what she told me I felt my nose wrinkle, "It seems you need me as much as I need you, though we both have targets on us." I felt a defiant pressure of outrage rise up from Chaddy and the others, "Nobody messes with us, one of the rules from NEXT, they hurt us, we burry them." I smiled wickedly and amended, "Or bankrupt them, which ever hurts them the most."

She poked me with one finger gently drawing my attention back to her and to her face, "But what if they get smarter next time, I... it's the strangest thing, I was running through the forest, trying to distract them from the others and all I could think about was surviving so that I could come back to you."

For a moment I could almost feel her worry and her faint despair, a small measure of her inner torment, as her mark grew slightly warm on my neck.

With a bleak expression she continued, "I... I tore them apart..."

I nodded with a tight smile as I thought back to the time Bill and I where not quite having this same discussion, "Eventually, as Bill would say, 'No one gets out alive.' But." I slipped the arm that was closest to her backside, down to where I could give her a slight squeeze, "And it's a cute butt," I paused to give her a grin, "the trick is to live well until they do." I pulled my hand and arm back to where I was comfortably holding her again, "I hadda kill too, but it wasn't to get back to someone I loved. So in some way you were in a stronger position than they were. Like the Matadoras'."  

"Matadoras?"  

I nodded, "From a book by Steven Perry, professional body guards. If you love the person you are protecting, -no-one- can get them from you or harm them. Even if you end up dying for them, they might yet live." I thought back to John and felt a small wave of sadness, "Like John."

I felt her hug me fiercely, "Either of us would have done the same thing."  

I hugged her back just as tightly, "Not losing you. And you didn't lose me, so if I can ever get out of this chicken stand, some how..." I freed a hand to tap her head, "Whole or not, we will win." I sighed, "Though the getting out part seems to take forever."

"They're getting ready to take the pump out now. At least that shouldn't take long." There was a hint of something in her voice, though it seemed like she was still dwelling on the prior days events.

"That's good, you should see some of the stuff they let me read. All of Doctor Able Palm's notes and I am pretty sure his spell books too. Though those give me a headache that has nothing to do with the screaming door lock."

"Magic? I thought Palm was a Gadgeteer?" she asked.

I shrugged slightly, "Well I am fairly sure he was -something-.  Um, I don't know a lot of some stuff. But I thought spelling people into objects like gems and stuff was only something in role playing game books?"

"Sure, but cyberspace is a whole different area... I mean, when you think about it, all it is the perception of space created by ones and zeroes. If magic can effect that... do you have those books here?"

~:'Some one needs to watch the Matrix a few dozen times,':~ suggested Chad.

At which I had to giggle, "Perception of Cyberspace is all in the mind," I stressed then added, "ones and zeros are data." I carefully sat up with a wince as the pressure on the bandage increased, I freed my arms so I could point, "Third box from the left, dark red jacket, the pages are sort of loose."

Sara reaching out, and several tentacles snaked out from her palm, carefully snagging the book from all angles and holding it tight, then reeled it back into her hand.

~'/Handy trick!/'~ I felt Chaddy smile.

I nodded towards the book, "Yup that is the one. It gave me a b-a-d nosebleed."

"Tut-tut," Sara tisked as she opened the book, wrapping one bare leg around mine and then caressed my instep up and sliding her foot up and down my calf, "that's supposed to me my job."

As a tingle ran up my spine I fairly purred at her, "Well, there's this Internet thing and well, the 'rents were clueless and no passwords is safe." I tried for an innocent face, then blandly said. "The things people do with goats for money."

"Trust me," Sara giggled as she flicked through the notes, apparently concentrating on both at once, "you ain't seen nothin' until you see a girl lying on her back calling 'Here, fido... goooood dog...'"   

I heard and felt Chad fairly rolling around in laughter as he half gasped out in a Bugs Bunny voice, ~:'She doan know us veddy well do she...':~

I snickered for a moment trying not to bust out in complete giggles, "Do you want her email address?" I shook my head, "Chad, that is um us or well; you know, " I shrugged slightly. "Sent a love letter to her from the Principal from his office computer, as if it were from the Principal... " I half bounced then immediately regretted it as the pain reminded me not to do that, "Ow, anyways he didn't quite get fired for that one."

"Hmmm... this is fascinating..." Sara commented apparently more distracted by the content in the book than in my retaliatory strike on the Principal.   

I looked at the page the page Sara was looking at then quickly glanced away, crushing my eyes closed, "Gods this is so annoying, I see one symbol and I get its entire history, origin and use." I pinched my nose shut as I felt the tell-tell drops start to form.  I wiggled off the end of the bed and walked over to get some toilet paper, "Vot voo vention dass Vleeding vit." My voice was distinctly odd with the pressure of my fingers on my nose.

Sara looked up, closing the book, "Hang on. That shouldn't happen... have you ever been sensitive to psychic impressions? Any other time, I mean?"

I held the wad of tissue to my nose and shrugged, "Not that I know of, though when it happens my finger." I held up my left hand’s index finger, "Itches like mad and then I just 'know'."

With a tone that seemed to brook no disobedience she pointed to the area right in front of her, "Right, come here."

I walked over to where she indicated, "You have an idea?"

Sara pulled my head down to hers and moved the tissues out of the way. With a movement that seemed very odd to me, she locked her lips around my nose. For a moment I nearly freaked as something wiggled up into my nose, then deeper. She held me completely immobile for a long moment then she pulled back. I blinked a moment and noticed that the bleeding had stopped.

With a slightly triumphant smile she said, "There. Now let me look at this finger..."

I wriggled my nose a few moments trying to shake off the oddly euphoric daze that had settled in my mind during the past few moments. Then I placed my left hand into Sara's hands, "That was weird, if you were not so cute I'd be running for the hills."

With a wink she grinned at me, "Good thing I'm cute then..." She trailed off for a time as she examined my finger, she traced a specific orbit around the finger, "There was a ring on this finger. Who gave it to you?"

"Father Peter Darcy, he said it was a family Heirloom and he thought it'd help with my disguise." I smiled at the notion, "Said he had no one to pass it on to in his family."

"Well, this Father Peter Darcy was a Knight of the Roman Catholic Church or an Inquisitor. The ring's a foci," said Sara as she fixed her eyes on mine as if trying to look deeper.

I blinked under the scrutiny, "Yeah, he had a sword, did the whole King Arthur thing with me. I thought he was just being funny."

"Funny my foot! Merry, he inducted you!" Sara exclaimed with a tone of voice that was telling me that I was incredibly ignorant of things. "The reason you know what those symbols mean, is because the ring is a psychic antenna for the Librarians of the Inquisition." She took a breath and rolled her eyes at my puzzled expression, "Such promises and power aren't to be given or received lightly. Much like the mark on your neck, I might add."

I looked down at my hand that was in hers then I reached up to feel the place on my neck where Sara's Mark resided. Somewhere I am sure Chad was laughing at me, "Why do I have this feeling that Father Pete pulled a fast one on me for some reason?"

"Probably because he did," Sara grinned, shaking her head slightly at my expression.   

I sat on the floor resting against Sara's legs and I rested my head on her lap, "Why me? I'm just a screwed up not-quite girl?"

I felt her fingers weave in and out of my hair softly, "Not any more, Milord. Did you think the benefits of that Mark only go one way? That I wasn't giving as much as I received?"     

I thought for a moment trying to sort thing out, "Well I figured you would get something out of the deal. But," I held up the finger in question. "If the ring isn't there why does it itch and what happens once I get it back, if I get it back?"

"The ring is magical, Merry. It's alive, like you or me... or Mai. It bonded to you the moment you put it on, it itches because it's still connected to you though space sets it apart. I think you'll find with the ring on your finger, its powers will be a lot easier on your noodle." With that she tapped me on the top on my head then tousled my hair slightly.

"Well that would be nice," I slipped an arm back around to hug Sara's legs, "Umm, isn't the Inquisition sorta out dated, I don't think I am up for burning folks."

"Well, they don't do much of that any more... well, not in public. If it's any consolation, the ones they do burn will probably deserve it, though they do make mistakes. The only advice I can give you is to be careful and don't worry, I'll always be there for you."

I looked up to her face from her lap, "And I for you, though I have a hunch folks will flip when they find out about us."

"Don't worry, surprises are good for people. Keeps them on their toes."   

I reached down to snare one of Sara's toes, "Like this?" Then I traced a finger up Sara's calf slowly, "I hate this place, its too noisy and folks I bet would get too nosy if..."

"Not tonight. The cameras are off, no-ones watching. Merry... can you do me a favour?" There was a little catch in her voice.   

"Favour? Everything and anything I have is yours." I smiled, "As long as we don't burn down the house."

"Can you... can you take me? Take me like a real girl? I-I think I need it..."

I smiled slowly and let the thin hospital gown slip off, "If the flesh isn't willing, I'll think of something," for a moment I felt a flush that started at my toes rise up to half bake me in a rush of hot emotions. "Though I don't have a lot of practice in that department, though in our dreams..."

"I'm real in your dreams, Merry, I'm already deep under your skin. I want you in mine..." She parted her legs, spreading her dress and hinting at treasures hidden barely by the dark rose panties she was wearing. She leaned back on her elbows, thrusting her shoulders back, eyes trapping mine and enticing me closer.

I felt a wicked smile form as I crossed the short distance to the bed and leaned down to kiss her deeply, "One of us is wearing too many clothes, and while it's not my birthday; I think all the wrapping must come off."


On to Merry 5 D…