Welcome to Volume 2
Rachel looked to their right at the large shopping district as Fiona, Maria, and Scarlet walked beside her; Hopper and Rowdy escorted them as they made their way toward the helicopter to their next destination, Overwatch. She led the group, keeping them to the far left of the road; the pain she hid faded as she entered moonlight again, suppressing a sigh of relief.
She noticed that the crowd had thinned dramatically and booted soldiers were now on every corner as they searched for anyone in need. How will everything turn out? If it’s really true that one out of every one-hundred and fifty people are changed, then that’s a massive shift in demographics. Everyone likely has one person they know that changed.
Maria was breathing heavily next to her, which drew her attention. Frowning, she glanced left at her; sweat beat down her brow as her chest rose and fell with sharp gasps. “Maria, how are you doing?”
Out of breath, Maria huffed with a smirk, trying to mask her struggles. “No es bueno, liebre blanca.”
Rachel chuckled. “Maria, even I know that means not great.”
“Yeah, we should stop,” Fiona said, hovering in front of her with concern. “I mean, you’re literally on death’s door.”
“Nah,” Maria scoffed. “Not death’s door … just kind of close. Maldita sea—I’m just low on energy.”
Scarlet slowed with the rest of the group, folding her arms. “Just low on energy? Don’t play it off; your energy is your life. Did the food help any?”
“Yeah, a little, but—I just … it’s not a lot. It takes time to digest and—give me energy or some crap. I just can’t do anything really physical,” she mumbled, moving her hair out of her face before scratching her hairline.
Rachel smirked as she remembered Maria’s sarcastic words; moving to her side, she quickly scooped her up into a princess carry.
“Wha—hey, que mierda,” Maria protested, but Rachel was already on the move.
“Don’t be a baby about it,” Rachel chuckled. “Don’t you remember offering to carry me?”
“I was joking…”
Her face reddened as they continued, Fiona and Scarlet snickering behind them.
“She’s not heavy, right?” Scarlet said, smiling as she glanced at them.
Fiona hummed mischievously. “Well, she is a horse, but Rachel’s super strong. I’m sure she can handle the weight.”
Rowdy was trying to conceal his laughter, but Hopper was laughing openly. “I was wondering about that. A Unicorn is a horse, so does that mean she weighs a ton because she isn’t exactly skinny.”
Maria’s face turned the color of wine as she turned her head; her long white hair was dull and without its previous luster, but hid her face well as it bounced two feet off the ground. “Vete a la mierda! Nunca me había sentido tan jodidamente avergonzada…”
Rachel giggled at her tone, speaking Korean. “I didn’t know you had this cute side; it must be because you have to be honest.”
“What did you say?” Maria growled with embarrassment, fingers gripping her arms.
Fiona mirrored Rachel’s laugh, swooping in closer. “Ar mheá tú tú féin fiú ó athraigh tú? B’fhéidir go mbeadh ort dul ar aiste bia!”
“Are you just speaking gibberish now?” Maria parted her hair, showing burning cheeks to look at Fiona’s beaming face.
“Hehe, not fun when someone speaks in another language? I speak Gaeilge; the Irish tongue.”
Scarlet hummed as the helicopter came into view. “It sounds magical…” It had two blades and looked like one of the transport types.
The sound of cutting wind escalating, and their hair shot back from the force of the spinning blades; Maria’s hair whipped Rachel in the face, causing her to smirk, but she retained her burning cheeks.
“Thank you,” Fiona floated above them; her green aura made it clear she had Wind Shield up; the wind didn’t phase her in the least.
Making it to the vehicle, Maria mumbled, “You want English, then am I done being a freaking princess?”
“The beauty of a queen and the mouth of a sailor,” Rachel chuckled, setting her down.
“Queen my butt,” Maria muttered, staring at the man that exited the helicopter.
Rachel looked to her right at Fiona; she didn’t seem bothered by the increase wind currents beating down on them as her hair stayed perfectly still, safe in her Wind Shield.
Her focus returned to the man walking toward them; the loud sounds would have muffled his voice, but she was able to filter out most of the sound with some active thought. “Lieutenant Hopper, Rowdy.”
Hopper yelled back, “Let’s get these girls strapped in and move out.” He nodded to them.
They followed the three men into the helicopter, entering from the open back; Rachel’s teeth locked as her pain returned and the sound increased. This is going to be annoying. Do I need to increase my hearing level or proficiency to filter sound easier? No answer … what’s my hearing skills, abilities, and proficiencies?
The knowledge opened to her mind as she looked left at Scarlet, Maria sitting to her right as the men helped strap them in. Not really looking at Scarlet, Rachel’s mind accelerated, ears twitching for a moment.
My base hearing is level eight; I’ve put so many points into it. I don’t remember Relica or Scarlet having anything near that level. Not only that, but my proficiency … grade, Rookie, rank three. That’s extremely high compared to Relica, but I guess I have been using it this entire time.
It’s a part of a cluster set too … what is a cluster set? An ability has multiple branch skills that can each chain into linked skills. So, it’s like a mini-tree? Filter that lets me shift between sounds. Volume, so I can alter the levels of a conversation and my immediate surroundings. Range that increases the distance I can monitor. They each have their own levels and proficiencies too … it’s so complicated.
Filter level is three, Novice, rank five; Range is level five, Novice, rank nine; Volume is level four, Novice, rank max … then I need to level Volume to five to start increasing my grade and rank. It also has a passive proficiency skill attached to it since I reached Novice max rank … Ear To The Ground. I can distinguish minute sounds in my environment, like muscle movement; it only works within three hundred feet and fades the further it gets.
That’s right, I wasn’t able to recognize those sounds until recently. I want to level Volume to five, do I…
She winced as the sound of the blades increased, jaw locking.
“Something wrong?” Scarlet asked.
Rachel shook her head. “No, perfectly fine.”
“Mentiroso,” Maria whispered, lifting her arms for Hopper to help her strap in.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Rachel shrugged, smiling reassuringly at Scarlet.
Great, my Volume has increased, but obviously Filter isn’t keeping up with the increase in Volume … crap. It doesn’t tell me how many points I have to use either. Can I even level a skill past the level eight base of the cluster set? No answer; I only get information about specific skills and types, but not a lot about the specifics of types. I want to level Filter to five … four. Dang-it … I’m out.
She sighed a little as the volume decreased a bit; it was louder than it was previously, but manageable now. She scratched her left eyebrow as she felt an itch coming on. It’s not max rank yet; it’s not urgent to upgrade it to five. Do I need to increase my base level to get to the next skill in the chain? Possibly; I probably needed level five in Hearing before I could get these three skills, and I’ll probably need ten to get the next skills.
Proficiency seems to relate to skills and how well you can utilize an ability at its current level. I’ll need to explore this with the others when I get a chance.
Her attention returned to the scene; mind winding down to normal speed. Fiona hovered in front of them, causing Hopper to hum as he finished with Rachel’s harness. “What are we going to do with you?”
Fiona’s hands were held behind her back as she winked at him. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit with Scarlet, and if we do get hit or go down, then I’ll just float us to the ground. No problem,” she said with a grin.
“Our own guardian Fairy, eh?” He chuckled. “Alright, that works.” Moving to the front, he said, “Chief, we’re taking off. Let Forward Base know we’re on route.”
Rachel’s features turned passive as she looked out of the window; Rowdy shut the door before getting into a seat across from them.
Hopper sat beside Rowdy, grinning at them as he took off his helmet to put on large headphones. “It’s been a crazy night, ey, boys?”
She heard the Chief in the front as the other guy took the opposite seat and they lifted into the sky; Fiona sat on Scarlet’s shoulder, green glow fading, but her wings remained, pressing against Scarlet’s stomach. “Man … my whole body feels like it’s vibrating.” Fiona giggled.
“Can they hear us?” Maria muttered; she studied the two men, but it seemed like they were busy communicating with other teams, headsets on.
“No,” Rachel sighed. “They’re listening to the current situation of the city and making sure there aren’t any complications in our path. They can’t hear us past the noise of the helicopter or the headphones.”
“Great, so will you tell us what’s going on? Your ears have been twitching for a while now; I know you’ve been listening in on everything.”
Rachel frowned as she rubbed her left ear. “I don’t even realize they twitch sometimes. That could be a possible tell; I’ll need to work on controlling that.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “Don’t bother; you’re a natural liar. If I didn’t have my lie detection, then I’d think you were unreadable.”
“You were lying; what about?” Scarlet asked, brow furrowing as she glanced at her.
Stretching out her arms to try easing her tense muscles, Rachel groaned a bit at the stinging pain. “So, I heard about what happened with your family, Scarlet.”
Scarlet tensed. “What—do you mean?”
“Yeah,” Fiona’s brow creased as her lips pursed. “What about her family…” Her eyes widened. “What about Nora and mom, and dad? Didn’t you say this happened everywhere?”
Rachel nodded, lips creasing a bit. “Yeah, it happened everywhere, and Scarlet—your mother, she escaped custody.”
Scarlet’s eyes seemed to defocus as her muscles flexed, going rigid; she stared down at the floor before taking a deep breath. “She—escaped?”
“Eh?” Maria shifted in her seat to get a better look at Scarlet, and Fiona floated in front of her. “Your mom was locked up?”
Rachel caught Scarlet’s fingers twitch at their words. Of course she wouldn’t want to talk about it. “You don’t have to worry about it; it’s a personal matter for Scarlet. I just thought you should know.”
Swallowing, Scarlet glanced at her, expression concerned. Her voice was almost a squeak, “How?”
She shook her head. “They don’t know, and I don’t know what she sounds like, so I can’t find her. I’ve been scanning for your name, but all I hear is the Military and normal citizens talking about you. She was in a sealed-off room and at some point vanished. They noticed she was gone about ten minutes after your fight with Relica.”
Silence stretched between them as Scarlet played with her lower lip, pressing her fangs against the skin. “I guess … there’s nothing we can do about it then.” She forced a smile. “What about Nora, Fiona? Is that your sister?”
Starting, Fiona nodded. “Yeah, my little sister, she lives in Ireland with my parents. If this happened worldwide—I’m a little scared for her.”
“I’m jealous; I always wanted a sibling, but I’m sure she’s okay.”
Rachel hummed, following Scarlet’s move to change the subject. “I was told that every one out of one-hundred and fifty people were changed during The Oscillation, and I haven’t heard of anyone changing since, other than children born from those already changed. That was from what analytical information the government was able to compile. So, I mean, a one in one-hundred and fifty chance that she’s fine is pretty good.”
“I don’t know,” Maria muttered. “I mean, factor in her parents and that’s a one in fifty chance, then add cousins or friends … everyone probably knows someone that’s changed.”
“It’s not terrible though,” Scarlet added with a hopeful tone. “Well—except for maybe me … but that’s a super rare case. I’m sure she’s fine!” She smiled encouragingly, but Fiona still seemed concerned.
“I don’t know … I mean, you’d think it would be uncommon, but I mean, even Erika was changed. What about you, Rachel?”
Frowning, Rachel shifted in the chair to release a little tension against her tail as it twitched. “Eh, my brother changed, and my cousin, from what I was told.”
“What did they change into?” Fiona pressed, moving a little closer, hands pressed against her chest.
“Well—my brother just gained some kind of energy construct ability; my dad didn’t go into detail. My cousin turned into a Beastkin Bear.”
Fiona bit down on her thumb, a soft growl escaping her throat that sounded oddly musical. “I just—my sister’s pretty self-conscious about her looks. If she turned into like … a duck … she hates ducks. She’d be oily and … yeah, she’d hate that.”
“I think you’re overthinking it,” Scarlet chuckled. “I’m sure she’s just as worried about you. What would she think about her big sister turning into a tiny Fairy?”
“Wait,” Fiona’s eyes widened as she rose a little higher. “I think—it’s freaking hard to keep myself level with this thing.” She muttered.
Scarlet’s blood left her body, eyes turning red; it floated up from her sleeves and shirt front, causing Hopper and Rowdy to stiffen. It hovered in the air before crystalizing. “Here, you can sit on that, and I’ll make a makeshift harness for you.”
Fiona nodded, sitting without a second thought; her wings vanished as the blood moved to lock her in place. “Thanks … I just care about Nora. She wasn’t just my sister; she was my closest friend back home. We grew up really close, and then I moved to the States … I was supposed to be back home when all of this happened. Freaking YouTube policies screwing up everything.”
Hopper and Rowdy shifted uncomfortably as they watched the blood for a moment before they listened to reports again.
“I’m sure you can ask whoever’s in charge to get some information about your sister,” Rachel said, shifting her shoulders; she froze as she heard a rip. The three girls glanced down at Rachel’s left bra strap that had torn in half.
Rachel sighed. “I should be grateful it lasted this long.” It made her chest a little uncomfortable, but it was manageable and was still reasonably modest.
“You said you were thrown through three buildings?” Scarlet muttered.
“Humph,” Maria lifted an eyebrow as she examined her appearance. “No joke, you look a lot better than you should.”
“Yeah, it’s my hair, I think. It’s actually pretty strong and protected my back as I was smashing through the buildings.”
Maria glared down at her hair, pulled over her shoulder. “Why can’t Unicorn hair be like that? Mine easily cuts, but just grows back … using my energy while at it. Everything about a Unicorn sucks…”
“Hey, that’s not true,” Scarlet cut in. “If it weren’t for you, then I’d still be corrupted, and a lot of people would still be hurt.”
“Yeah,” Fiona chimed in. “Don’t sell yourself short!”
Maria looked away, cheeks turning pink. “I’d just like to hit things.”
Rachel shifted to look out the window again as they began to descend. They’d been flying Northeast for a bit, but not that long; they were still in Miami. “I think we’re just about there.”
“Oh?” Maria huffed, glaring at the window. “What do you hear?”
Listening, Rachel scanned the facilities around them. “There’s one facility that’s talking about us a lot more than anywhere else. It sounds like a law enforcement facility…”
Scarlet’s red eyes turned hollow with red halos as she looked through the helicopter. “No way…”
“What?” Fiona asked, folding her arms against Scarlet’s blood harness.
“We’re heading toward an FBI building; it looks super new, wait … isn’t this that building that was dedicated to that agent that was shot? I think I saw something about that on YouTube.”
Rachel, Maria, and Fiona shook their heads. “I don’t keep up on that stuff,” Maria dismissed.
It makes sense, Overwatch being an FBI headquarters; I didn’t even know they had a facility here, but I guess it’s logical. There were orders to take us here, but I’d expect the Military to be running the show; then why are the only military sounding commands being given through radios … oh.
She took a deep breath. “The President authorized a split in departments; the FBI will be granted funding into a new task force that will handle much of the Mythickin and Legendkin issues. We’re going to go through some psyche evaluations to determine our mental state and if we’re suitable for civilian life.”
“What, taking out Terrell’s gang wasn’t enough?” Maria sniffed. “By the way, your body keeps bugging me, Rachel.”
“Eh—huh?” Fiona’s eyebrows lifted.
Rachel sighed as she rubbed her thighs. “My body is in pain; I’ve stressed it out, and she can sense that.”
“Not just pain,” Maria’s nose twisted. “You’re muscles are screaming, como un mono en llamas.”
“I’m sorry it’s bothering you,” Rachel scratched her temple. “However, we need to talk about The System; Relica told Scarlet a lot of valuable information that we should sit down and talk about … more than that, we need to discuss our own changed mental state since we’ll be talking about it very soon.”
Scarlet shifted nervously. “Is there something that’s bothering you about the interview; did you hear something?”
“Not necessarily,” Rachel said, frowning at her chest’s discomfort. “Scarlet, can you tie the two cut parts of my bra into a knot?”
“Oh, yeah,” she shifted to fiddle with the straps as Rachel continued.
“We still don’t have the best image, and I can see there being some bias; we at least have to prepare for it, especially with Scarlet. From what I’ve gathered, they’ve been following all of our actions and mapping everything we’ve done since The Oscillation. Be careful with what you tell them, but act as natural as possible.”
“Easy for you to say,” Maria muttered.
Rachel smirked. “Honestly, Maria, I think you have the least to worry about, but I want to be prepared.”
Fiona giggled. “She’s right; the worst thing about you is your foul mouth and speaking in Spanish.”
“Your new nature is actually a massive problem,” Rachel frowned.
“Huh?” Maria’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean I’m a massive problem?”
Scarlet hummed, finishing the knot. “How does that feel?”
“It’s better, thanks.”
“Yeah,” she turned to Maria. “I don’t think Rachel’s calling you a problem, but that you can’t lie, and that could get all of us in trouble, depending on the circumstances.”
Rachel tested the knot with her index finger, finding it satisfactory. “Right, Maria, if you can’t lie, then don’t respond, and if things go too far, then tell them that you would like a different psychologist. Preferably, name Richard, and throw Julia in too. Maybe Scarlet could get a hit of her blood.” She winked in Scarlet’s direction, causing a broad smile to break across her face.
“There’s Mythickin and Legendkin in the building, as well.”
“What?” Scarlet’s cheer diminished as she looked through the chopper.
“From what I can tell,” Rachel rubbed her left shoulder. “They aren’t dangerous like Conner, Relica, and the Seattle Vampire.”
“I see them,” Scarlet’s brow furrowed. “Two men and a woman; they have the two men in the same room, but the woman is by herself. They look odd … we’re about to land, by the way.”
“Got ya,” Maria went silent as Hopper motioned to them.
Fiona pursed her lips, wings appearing as her aura turning green; Scarlet’s blood liquified, sliding back into her body. “I guess we should be on our guard.”
Hopper yelled, “We’re touching down.”
All of them nodded, and Maria continued, “So, if things get bad, say we want Richard; the devil we know rather than the devil we don’t.”
They all got out; her pain vanishing as moonlight touched her skin. Several armed men and women with standard black suits greeted them. A black-haired man with glasses separated from the group; he walked straight to Hopper. “Lieutenant Hopper!” He yelled past the beating blades. “Thank you for escorting them to the facility. We’ll take it from here.”
Shaking hands, Hopper nodded at them. “Hope everything turns out well, ladies!” He slammed the door shut as they waved, and the chopper returned to the air.
Rachel shifted her head, cracking her neck as she appraised all the agents at once. Three men and four women; they all seem capable, but nowhere near the SEALs, Green Berets, or Task Force Green. Hopper was cheery but sharp; the moment Scarlet’s blood came out, he instantly assessed the situation and stood down, but was ready for action. These agents are more wary than Hopper, but their muscle movement isn’t nearly as trained.
“Hello,” he greeted, moving to shake her hand. “My name is Special Agent David Ross. If you could follow us into the building, please.” He glanced between them before stepping to the side.
They walked across the roof toward a door with a card pad. One of the agents swiped her card and opened the door for them to enter. They walked down concrete stairs until they were forced to stop at another door. Another agent used his card, and they continued.
They stepped onto the waxed white tile floor of a two leveled area; glass sheets with railing surrounded the edges, and the one-way glass showed the outside. The space was reasonably bare with a few couches and armchairs atop a gray blend wool rug.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here; we simply wish to make sure every citizen is safe.”
Rachel heard the names of the Legendkin and Mythickin below, piquing her interest. “Will we be meeting Maëlle the Succubus, Kyle the Incubus, and Anthony the Legend of Diarmuid at some point?”
David frowned as she repeated the names she’d heard; Fiona, Maria, and Scarlet glancing at her before David.
“Seriously, a Succubus and Incubus; so that’s why they have horns and tails?” Scarlet looked down at the ground, swallowing as her pale cheeks turned rosy. “He certainly looks the part…” She whispered.
Oh? Is he a looker? You know … I wonder how her eyes work with clothes? She can see people’s inner body structure, so…
Maria pushed her cheek to the side with a low hum. “They’re Mythickin too? I thought Succubus would be more like those demon types I saw.”
“Cool! Are we going to meet them?” Fiona pulled her hair back behind her ears as a lock fell out of place with her sharp stop. “Although, before we meet anyone, shouldn’t we take showers and get new clothes … because I feel super dirty after diving all over the ocean. Not that there’s anything in my size…” She murmured.
Puffing out a breath, David glanced between them before settling on Rachel. “Well … aren’t you informed. I heard your hearing was really good. Yes, a shower and clothes can be provided.” He examined Fiona for a moment. “I’m sure we can find some kind of Barbie clothes from lock-up or storage. You’d be shocked how many drug dealers use Barbies to move merchandise.”
Maria put her hands behind the back of her head. “I’ve seen it.”
He turned to one of the women. “Agents Hughes and Bailey, could you escort them to the showers, and afterward find them some clothes.”
Two female agents nodded; Hughes had brown hair and was as tall as Scarlet, while Bailey had blonde and a little shorter than Maria.
“If you could follow us,” Hughes asked, motioning toward the elevators.
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