Rachel flexed her fingers as she finished writing down the last of Scarlet’s information. “This is insane,” she mumbled, glancing over the sheets before her.
“You’re telling me,” Fiona sighed. She’d taken up residence on a pillow Scarlet had moved onto the table, lying out across it. “I’m a dust menace … I used to hate dusting my condo.”
Maria chuckled. “Dust menace? It all disappears after a bit. No dusting needed; I’ve got some cool stuff, though. I’m immortal, imagine that!”
“At least all of yours makes sense,” Scarlet groaned, hair covering part of the Uno cards as she rested her head against the table, eyes closed. “I’m a glorified nuclear war … wait, Rachel, you didn’t write down anything to do with my Achievements, did you?”
She pursed her lips to the side as her head tilted down to look at the sheets. “Just what you told us; the name, levels, and proficiencies.”
Pulling back her hair, Scarlet’s lips became a line. “Please erase it … I don’t want even a chance of people learning about those.”
Rachel spun the pen around her fingers for a moment before sliding a blank page next to the sheet. “Hmm—okay. I’ll transfer over the other bits of information on a new page, and Fiona can burn the page.”
“We ain’t giving this to anyone, right?” Maria asked, pushing back her chair to balance it on two legs, grip on the table, keeping her balanced.
She shook her head. “No, I just wanted to compile everything we knew, and I retain information better if I write it down. Once we’re done here, Fiona can burn the rest.”
“I’m the group incinerator, eh?” Fiona giggled, lifting her hand to cast a small Inferno; her reddish glow paled in comparison to the blazing globe above her, orange radiance cutting past the pitch-black room, and making all of their eyes adjust. “The fire is kind of pretty, but it looks different than normal fire.”
Scarlet hummed thoughtfully as she stared at the orb. “It is different. It doesn’t really move like fire; do you have to concentrate on keeping its circular form or the bright core inside?”
Fiona shook her head, ears pressed against the pillow as her hair shifted with the movement. “Nope, it’s like breathing; it just comes naturally.” Closing her fist, she let her arm drop to her side, the fire fading from the center out. “Just as easy to put out, too.”
Maria huffed, legs dropping back to the floor and returning the room to darkness. “Didn’t everyone hear me? I’m immortal! Like, I could jump out of a plane, hit the ground, and jump back up like, no prob, sucka!”
Scarlet smiled tiredly as she pulled her hair to the side to look at Maria. “Just make sure you don’t land in the shade or,” she smacked her hands together, ”splat!”
“Goodbye, Ms. Purity,” Fiona giggled.
“Yeah, well … how hard is it to land in sunlight, huh?”
Rachel’s lips mirrored Scarlet’s. “Personally, I’d rather not find out. I’ve grown to like you as you are, Maria. We don’t need a pancake on the team.”
Scarlet and Fiona chuckled, and Maria’s smile grew. “Oh? Team, are we?”
“I’d say so,” Rachel said, folding her legs as she glanced between them. “I know I told Scarlet and Maria that I don’t know much about friendship … that feels like forever ago,” she mumbled, “but I can’t think of anyone more I’d want to hang out with.”
“There we go!” Maria grinned. “Right? I’m pretty cool, huh. Besides, doubt you’d all make it without me; I mean, y’all get more cuts and bruises in one night than I get in a month.”
“Check out this checa,” Fiona giggled, resting her hands behind her head. “Can’t go a few minutes without telling us she’s a brawler, but wait … what bruises or cuts did you get again?”
“Well,” Scarlet folded her arms across the table. “You could say she’s the one that was hurt the most since she basically trades our wounds for her own life; that’s probably the most selfless thing I’ve ever seen, and you did it for so many other people, too.”
Maria’s cheeks flushed as she looked away. “Yeah, well—I’ll … dang it … I can’t say, I’ll send them a bill—bullcrap…” She grumbled, causing them to laugh.
“I heard what you did,” Rachel said with a warm smile.
“Huh—eh, what?” Maria asked, folding her arms defensively. “It wasn’t me; I ain’t done crap!”
Rachel’s smile turned into a smirk. “Oh? You didn’t change Bree’s life in some way? You didn’t single-handedly make us look better while we were asleep?”
Maria’s already flushed cheeks darkened further; she turned away, coughing a few times before clearing her throat. “Eh—I didn’t … I only did what I could; nothing more, nothing less.”
“No way!” Fiona gasped, hands flying to her mouth as she looked up at the embarrassed Unicorn above her.
“What?” They all asked in unison.
Fiona’s smile was bright and innocent. “Who knew Maria could actually look cute?”
Maria clicked her tongue, nose twisting. “Oh—go to hell,” she grumbled.
They all began laughing, and soon after, Maria’s lips twitched shyly.
“Friggin’ Pixie,” Maria whispered.
“Pixies are better than Fairies!” Fiona moaned, pressing her head back against her makeshift bed as she yawned, stretching out. “At least they’re cooler … real Fairy stories are scary.”
Scarlet cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “I don’t want to be the downer, but what are we going to do now?”
Rachel’s expression returned to its neutral state as everyone’s eyes moved to her, and her mind accelerated to address the issue.
We have time to think and prepare. We now know more about The System and our abilities, and I know at least Scarlet has some extremely deadly trump cards to use, even if we get into a horrible situation. In time, hopefully, she’ll feel comfortable telling me what they do, but we’re a lot more equipped than I initially thought. The Crystal incident is a problem for tomorrow; today, we need to rest.
Maria helped repair a lot of our image, acting so selflessly, and with the information being spread that she heals others by using her life force. Just by our association, people don’t think Maria would be with us if we posed a threat; why heal and help so much only to turn around on a dime and kill people?
There are the cautious types that still feel that we pose a threat, but they’re not nearing the point of insurrection against orders. Overall, we’re in a much better position than we were before. Bree and Serah are up and helping out, and David is just getting word that we’re awake … he’s planning on coming down to see us.
She went over the last interaction she had with David.
I played that poorly; I don’t need to be cold to him and force him to go through several channels to get simple information about Tom and my current relationship. I can release enough information about our schedule to probably satisfy him. He isn’t against us, but if he thinks I’m evasive and hard to work with, then it would cause us to develop an antagonistic relationship in the future. I need to recover what little rapport we had with him.
Her ears twitched as she caught a conversation between a man she’d already identified as a Supervisory Special Agent, Darik, and a subordinate. Darik was all but already selected to oversee other Special Agents in the new department the President was in the process of setting up, and it seemed like he’d already met Maria’s acquaintance.
“I heard that Unicorn did something to Special Agent Bailey?” Special Agent Donald asked Darik; Donald appeared to be a relatively new Special Agent from what she’d gathered in her previous listening escapades.
“Don’t mention that—woman,” Darik growled.
“Ehrm—which one, sir? Bailey or the Unicorn?”
“Uhm … can I ask why? I heard that she healed loads of people, and even basically resurrected some women in ice. Is she really that bad?”
Darik popped his tongue with irritation. “Bad as in healing others? No, but she’s got a mouth on her, and near no respect. She’s done good, but her attitude…”
Rachel’s lips twitched, causing the others to look at her with questioning eyes.
“What’s up?” Fiona asked, sitting up. Her wings appeared as she rose into the air; light orange dust sparkled around her as she floated in at their eye level, the specks dispersing a foot around her before fading.
“Just hearing about Maria’s confrontation with Darik.”
“The hell’s that?” Maria asked brow furrowed, causing Rachel to giggle.
She can’t lie; she honestly doesn’t know who this guy is that she pissed off so badly.
“It’s not important; anyways, David is on his way over to us. He’s taking care of some information about several convicts that were recently captured from the Miami Federal Detention Center, but will be here soon enough.”
“About what?” Scarlet asked. “He’s that guy we saw when we first got here, right?”
Fiona’s eyes widened. “Like the big boss?”
Rachel hummed thoughtfully as she gathered all the papers across the table, stacking them with their ability documents. “Kind of; he’s going to be over a large part of the incidents involving The Oscillation within the U.S. in a few days. The President is pulling in people from several branches of government for it, but it’ll function basically like the FBI. Anything dealing with U.S. citizens and The Oscillation, they’ll be over. Nothing foreign. That’ll probably still be handled by other branches of government.
“David is going to be the new Assistant Director of that branch; Tom and him are somewhat at odds, and we’re trapped in the center. He wants to know what’s going on, which he has a right to, to a certain extent, but he still doesn’t hold the authority to demand it quite yet. Tom wants what we talked about before kept a secret, even from David, but that doesn’t mean we have to be rude to David. He’ll be over all Mythickin in a few days, so we need to play nice.”
“Dang,” Fiona whispered nervously, dust turning light emerald green. “What does he want?”
“Your dust,” Rachel pointed out, causing Fiona’s focus to divert.
“Oh … hobgoblin…” she growled, dust turning light red before changing to yellow. “So annoying.”
Rachel smiled reassuringly. “No problem; it will take us time to get used to our new abilities. In regards to David, there’s no need to worry. I don’t think he’ll be confrontational; that’s not his style from what I’ve been able to observe. If he’s coming here, then it’s to confirm a few questions he has, and he’s pretty sharp. He can read between the lines.”
“But we can’t say anything about the crystal-thing or the ritual crap, right?” Maria asked.
“No, we can’t talk to anyone about what was in those files; no one but us, and Tom are to talk about it. Others might have a small piece of the puzzle, but very few people have the same scope as we have. On that note…”
Rachel held up the second pile of files and pages that she’d gathered; it held all the information about them and the incident. The first was a single folder with their Federal Pardons, NDAs, and Military Contract signatures inside.
“If you could incinerate these, Fiona, then everything should work out.”
“We won’t need them?” Fiona asked with concern, activating Wind Prison on them before lifting the swirling papers into the air, white aura turning green.
“Nope, I’ve memorized the information inside, and it will be better if we can give David the folder and let him make his own assumptions. Everything in this first file are things we can share with him. It doesn’t tell David about what is in these other files but references back to them, and it shows we’ve been granted Top-Secret clearance.
“The Federal Pardons also shows that Tom has the President’s support, and will likely quiet some concerns he has about our own trial for the crimes we committed. Showing him that he doesn’t have to worry about anything involving us and that we are now the Pentagon and President’s problem.”
“Wow—okay,” Fiona mumbled, tossing a small globe of fire into the prison; it flashed as it exploded inside, flames swirling around the interior before dying, leaving ashes inside.
“If you could close the Wind Prison a bit and release it in the trash can, please.”
Fiona complied, and Rachel placed an empty folder over the top as she released it.
“Smart,” Maria whispered, staring down at the folder. “Stopping the ash from coming out?”
Scarlet breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “It’s gone.” She whispered.
Rachel brushed her hair back as she rose, stretching her arms up as high as they’d go, she groaned. “I haven’t thanked you for healing me, Maria. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Maria grinned at her. “So, we just going to toss the folder at him and tell him to read it?”
“Didn’t you hear what she said?” Fiona asked, sighing as she crossed her arms. “We don’t want to get on his bad side.”
“I didn’t mean to actually throw it at him,” Maria rolled her eyes at Fiona. “You know what I mean.”
“To be honest, it’s hard to tell with you sometimes,” Scarlet chuckled.
Rachel pulled back her chair to face the door. “I understand what you’re saying, Maria. We can just sit down and wait for him to come; it shouldn’t be long. In the meantime, I had a thought.”
Scarlet relaxed in her chair, brushing back her hair. “Did you hear something that caught your interest?”
“This’ll be good,” Maria’s lips dropped into a slight frown as she sat back, waiting for her plans to unfold, and Fiona floated to the right side of the table to keep everyone in view.
“Maëlle, Kyle, and Anthony are up; why don’t we petition David in letting us meet them? Maybe we could hang out and learn something more about The System from their perspective. We’ll need to be subtle about it, but…”
“There’s those scheming ears at work,” Maria interrupted, chuckling as her head tilted back to stare at the ceiling. “I’m tired of all the plots and tension, though, ya hear, chicas? Why can’t we just go in and check them out; maybe we can find some booze and start a party.”
“Umm—we did find some alcohol in one of the drawers—I think,” Fiona mumbled.
Scarlet winced. “Eh, yeah, but—I mean, we’re not of age in the U.S., right? I mean, I’m eighteen, Fiona’s twenty, and Rachel’s nineteen.”
“Well, I’m not underage!” Maria chuckled, quickly moving over to the drawers to search them. “Besides, alcohol turns to sugar, Fiona,” she said with a smirk in her direction. “You could live off the stuff. Wouldn’t it be good to see how you react?”
Fiona swallowed nervously, clearing her dry throat. “Uh—erm—I mean, maybe, but—but I’ve never had alcohol before, and what if I can’t—and…”
“And what-ifs aren’t gonna give you crap!” Maria laughed. “C’mon, Fiona, I wanna see what a plastered Pixie looks like.”
“Okay, now I’m scared,” Scarlet shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “Fiona’s got—you heard her abilities. She’s a floating bombshell.”
“Bah, I’m sure we can handle it,” Maria mumbled.
“Hmm,” Rachel sat back, taking a deep breath. “I suppose it would be a good test. We don’t know how any of our bodies react. We don’t even know if Maria can drink alcohol. She’d probably just purify the poison inside her body, and her aura might purify the alcohol in the bottle by just being close to her aura.”
“Ah, found, em … eh, what was that, Rachel?” Maria asked lips in a deep frown. “You think—I can—crap … eso es una maldita maldición!” She quickly backed up and motioned to her. “Okay, don’t want to risk it; so, pull out the drinks, will ya?”
Rachel sighed. “Let’s wait to discuss this, Maria. David is just about here.”
“Oh, good!” Maria grinned, quickly moving to her seat. “He can settle this.”
“Eh, what?” Scarlet asked, and Rachel’s brow furrowed, head darting to her.
“What are you thinking, Maria?” Rachel asked uncertainly.
“Oh?” Maria shot a sly smirk in her direction. “Can that accelerated brain not keep up with me?”
“It’s more like I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to ask the soon to be Assistant Director of Oscillation Affairs if it’s cool for underage girls to drink alcohol, stolen from an agent that serves in this office, that he probably knows, and in a federal building while not knowing how it would affect us.”
“Okay … maybe I got a little worked up,” Maria mumbled, “but hey, they owe me!” Her grin returned after a second. “And you didn’t oppose any of that. You’re not against the plan of drinking?”
“Rachel?” Scarlet asked. “You aren’t seriously considering Maria’s proposal?”
“We can talk about it when he leaves,” Rachel said, turning to the door. “Ten seconds.”
All of them composed themselves, staring at the door, bright light by the hallway lights shining through the bottom door crack.
David entered the room, the hallway light flooding into the space. Their eyes quickly adjusted; it seemed like he had a new black suit and white dress shirt on. He looked a bit tired, but fairly well for someone that had been up for more than thirty-five hours. She smelled the scent of coffee on his breath from across the room.
He squinted into the dimly lit room. “Good morning, ladies. May I turn on the light?”
“Of course,” Rachel responded in a reasonably pleasant tone. “Since we can see in the dark, it doesn’t matter either way to us.”
Flipping on the lights, the four of them winced for a second as their eyes adjusted to the bright overhead lights.
David rubbed his left eye, blinking rapidly before looking between the four of them. “The four of you are looking beautiful this night. I assume Rachel let you know I’d be coming, and that’s why you’re waiting for me?”
“Yeah, she let us know,” Maria stated bluntly. “So, why are you here?”
Rachel sighed before pulling the file off the table and holding it out.
Without a word, David walked forward, took the file, opened it, and glanced through the papers. “That’s one thing I really appreciate about you, Rachel,” David said as he flipped through its contents. “You have a sharp mind.”
“I agree,” Scarlet said brightly. “I do like how Rachel always seems to have an answer.”
“I see,” David whispered as he finished reading the last paper. “Strict NDA … what can you tell me?” He asked, eyes lifting to stare right at Rachel’s unusual glowing eyes.
Rachel kept her inviting smile. “I can tell you that we were given today to relax and rest. We will be out of your hair tomorrow night, at least for the foreseeable future.”
“That’s more than an acceptable answer,” David said, a small grin brightening his cheeks. “You’re much more inviting than yesterday. I assume it has something to do with your fatigue, and perhaps with your conversation with the general?”
“Not completely,” Rachel said with a regretful sigh. “I was a tad brisk, and I apologize.”
“Don’t give it a second thought,” David said, glancing back to see the other agent listening in on the conversation. “Is there anything you need during your stay?”
The Federal Pardons must have really taken a weight off his chest. We’re now just citizens that are temporarily staying here.
“If possible,” Rachel got to her feet, accepting the files David offered her back. “Might we greet the other Mythickin and Legendkin?”
“Hmm?” David’s smile dropped slightly, eyes narrowing slightly. “Does this have something to do with the file mentioned in the NDA or just a personal request?”
“I can’t tell you that it would or wouldn’t deal with the file, but you could consider it a personal request. We’d like to learn more about them, and we might be able to better understand our own change by talking with them.”
David was silent for several seconds as he stared at her, the others shifting anxiously, but Rachel kept her pleasant poker face.
After a time, David nodded, his smile returning. “I can understand that,” he sighed. “Sorry if I seem a bit tight; I’ve been dealing with a lot of issues, and it’s made me see the worst in situations. If the general and President trust you on this level, then I believe I can put my trust in you. Yes, I’ll allow it, but are you sure with the Incubus? Kyle releases pheromones that are rather powerful toward the opposite sex.”
Rachel giggled. “I’m sure we can handle it, and if worse comes to worst, we have Maria.”
David hummed thoughtfully as he glanced Maria’s way. “I see … that makes sense.” A genuine smile brightened his serious features. “If I send a few men and women to you, could you purify them of the pheromone effects? I’m afraid some of my agents are still experiencing side effects from their ability. They tell me that it’s something they cannot control; if you could confirm that for me, then it would make my job much easier.”
“Eh, yeah, sure,” Maria shrugged.
“Thanks,” David breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “I wanted to thank you personally for what you did today, as well. Thank you, Maria. You’ve done a great service to us, your fellow citizens, and your nation.”
Maria’s cheeks reddened a bit. “Yeah,” she cleared her throat, “don’t forget it.” She mumbled, turning her head away so her hair would hide her face.
“She’s pretty shy,” Fiona giggled.
“Maldición, ¡Pixie tiene una gran boca!” Maria whispered.
David chuckled before turning back to Rachel and extending his hand; she took it with a genuine smile, and he said, “It’s been a pleasure, Rachel. I’m sure we’ll meet again.” His grip was firm.
Pulling back, he left, saying, “Randy, trade places with Bree and Serah. I heard they really connected with them. Fill them in on what we decided.”
“Eh, yeah, right away, boss,” Randy said, glancing back into the room before his focus returned to David’s back. “Do you want me to organize the infected agents to see them?”
David paused to respond. “No, I’ll have Darik do it. You can trade places with Serah on overseeing the safe transportation of the Faekin and Aberationkin protection group downtown. They’re getting ready to depart with a National Guard escort.”
Rachel’s smile grew as she turned to the others. “Which do you want to meet first?”
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