B2 — 12. Me, A Saint?

Update:  Since my mistake last week of releasing chapter 13 instead of 11, I did a double release of chapters 11 and 12 this week to get us back on track.  I put Chapter 13 in the proper place, too.  I hope you enjoy the double release this week!

Maria sat on the bench, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun with Bree; after a few minutes of crying, she’d calmed down.  A few agents or office workers had hesitantly stopped to see if she needed help, but she’d waved them away.

Bree was now more composed; however, her eyes were still puffy and cheeks red.  She watched several different types of birds as she seemed to be thinking deeply on something.

After a while, she asked in Spanish, “Maria—do you really think there’s something out there that has everything planned out?  The Oscillation was planned—all the deaths—everything?”

Maria sighed before releasing a soft rumble in her throat and playing with a lock of her hair; after a moment’s thought, she responded in Spanish, “I don’t know—to be honest.  I believe there’s a plan, and who knows why everyone dies … I don’t know if I’ll even die anymore. Are people’s deaths planned?”

She leaned back to look up at the scattered clouds moving across the blue sky.  “I’d say that’s pretty complicated. I mean, I believe people have their free will, but I also believe God knows everything.  That doesn’t mean God will interfere, though, but you do have miracles; I don’t believe once we die we just go up into heaven and sing forever … that’d be stupid.  Besides, I have a terrible singing voice.”

A soft giggle came from Bree as she shifted to look up at the sky with her.  “You’re actually taking my question seriously?”

“Why not?”  Maria asked, resting her right elbow atop the back of the bench.  “It was an honest question. I have my questions too, no doubt. If I follow my logic, then God lets people do bad things, so punishment is justified, but you also have forgiveness, and I don’t know how that works exactly.  I mean, there are things I can’t see myself forgiving, but I guess that’s why He’s God, and I know I want forgiveness for my mistakes.”

“Don’t we all,” Bree whispered.

“Yeah,” Maria chuckled, “that little voice in us that we can’t shake; it’s not so easy to get rid of that guilty feeling.  That also means I believe I was born into my circumstance based on the decisions of my family tree and the countless choices people around them made throughout history, and that God knew all of that would happen.

“Dang it, it gets so flippin’ complicated,” she mumbled, pulling back the strand she was playing with behind her ear.  “I like to think of God as a dad or something; I can’t see this life being an end goal either, there’s a purpose, even if I don’t fully understand it.  God’s letting us figure ourselves out, and when we get back up into heaven, then we get to do the next thing. I don’t know what mansion or some other things he’s building for us … I think that’s kind of like a metaphor for the life we’re going to have after.

“It’s like he’s preparing a home for us to live, and what home is without family?  I build my life around family; that’s the most important thing to me, and that’s what really draws me in with the bible, you know?  Living together forever as a family … sounds great, but,” she chuckled, “families aren’t perfect. We just do the best we can, forgive the mistakes, and welcome them back in with open arms.  Sometimes they need a good whack over the head to get it through their thick skulls, though.”

Bree hummed softly.  “I’m kind of envious of your belief … I want to, but—it’s hard.  I don’t think you sound brainwashed or anything, either.”

“Brainwashed?”  Maria lifted an eyebrow to smirk her way.  “You kidding me? We’re all brainwashed by everyone on something.  The system, people’s agendas, we’re all caught in a web and confused as crap.  Government? I don’t trust them more than the vatos down the street. I ain’t for that Socialist crap or any of that goodwill stuff; ain’t nobody perfect enough to live like that.  We all got greed in us, and it’s ignorant to think otherwise.”

She sniffed bitterly.  “Any system without greed in it is unrealistic or built on slavery and control with an iron fist—do what I say or die bull.  Can’t believe fools trust a system like that.”

Bree’s lips pushed to the side.  “I guess, but don’t you wish something like that could happen?  Everyone puts down their guns and just lives peacefully?”

“Thought you said you didn’t have belief in God, because it would take a God to get that stuff done.”  Maria chuckled. “You ever met a person? It’s hard enough for a married couple, two people, to get along throughout a lifetime, and they bicker and argue and fight like cats and dogs, and now you’re saying you want everyone in the world can get along?  No … there’ll always be someone willing to burn the world.

“Kids are selfish; teens are selfish; adults are selfish … heck no can we have peace.  That’s why I believe God will have a place for everyone when we die. We’re showing our stuff down here, and when we develop who we want to be and what environment we want to be in, then that’s where we’ll be.

“Hell or outer darkness?  That crap’s just filled with crooked politicians screaming about how they know how to fix everything, the fools.  An endless space of politicians, that’s hell.”

Bree began giggling, and it soon turned into laughter.  “Politicians—an endless space of politicians screaming … yeah, that would be…”

Maria hummed, looking down at the pond as Bree settled down.  “Yeah, still—I believe they have their right to speak, you know?  If you want to listen to Bill down the street and his talk about dinosaur aliens, then be my guest, I don’t give a flip.  However, the moment you pick up a knife and tell me I need to believe that, then I’m rushin’ ya. I don’t care what you believe, but when you start telling me how to live or start hurting someone in front of me, then I’ll stand up.”

“Hmm, but doesn’t that get a bit complicated, though?”

“That’s right,” Maria moaned.  “We just gotta do the best we can, and that’s why I don’t ever think we’ll get any peace here on earth.  We ain’t about that unless every person can see a complete stranger as their brother, which is a pipedream.  That’s why you have all those kingdoms it talks about in the bible. Everyone will be with who they want to be, and that’s how we’ll have peace.”

“Segregation?”  Bree’s brow creased as she looked over at her.

“In a way, I guess,” Maria shrugged.  “Voluntary segregation. I mean, we do that now.  A punk isn’t going to be in the cheerleader crowd.  Why would I want to go to the track team race when I don’t give two cents?  If it was my brother, then sure, but that’s the thing, we’ll all be in our own little spheres in a world where none of us will want to hurt each other.  I don’t exactly know how that’ll work, but it’s what I believe. I mean, I don’t know how a nuclear reactor works, but I know it works.”

“Interesting belief,” Bree whispered.

“What do you want to do in the future?”  Maria asked, closing her eyes and leaning back to soak in the rays.

“To be honest—I want children … you’ve opened up an entire path in my life—I never thought I could experience it.  I could have adopted or taken other routes, but … it’s just not the same; I know I sound terrible…”

“Heck no; I get it,” Maria said with a soft smile.  “I got a lot of boys and girls that look up to me like a mom or big sis.  I love them all, you know? I do, but I also know it’s different than the love I have for my brother, and I’m sure it would be different with a kid of my own … it’s biological.  How can that be bad? It doesn’t mean I don’t love the other kids; it’s just different.”

“I guess … it’s complicated.”  Bree sighed.

“Near everything is,” Maria chuckled.

The two of them shifted between topics for the next few hours, watching the birds and people running along the track.  The number of individuals slowly increased, and she even saw a dog Beastkin at one point in office attire; he had floppy ears and a short tail that caught both Bree and her attention.  His jacket was off, and he had running shoes, but he still wore his white button-up with a few buttons undone and suited pants.

He was talking with two coworkers in gym clothes that seemed to be at complete ease with him, but Maria caught a few other joggers giving them glares.

Bree pulled out her phone with a frown as it vibrated.  “Oh, it looks like the Military is about here. They were delayed a bit by the traffic.  They want you over in the parking area on the right side of the facility. How do you feel?”  She asked, looking up over at her with concern.

“Eh,” Maria stretched out her arms, feeling the burn, but no pop.  “Good, I guess; about thirty-eight percent … it takes a long time to recharge.”  She looked down at her glowing hair; it almost seemed to have a golden hue to the white radiance.  “But at least…”

“At least?”  Bree questioned

“It’s just—there’s a warmth that I feel that wasn’t there last night, and it’s been growing.”

“Oh?”  Bree smirked, lifting an eyebrow.  “Sun feels pretty good?”

“Mmh,” Maria pressed the back of her fingers against her chest.  “It’s not really good—I mean, at first it was, but this … it’s calming—serene.  I just—I don’t feel angry or annoyed; it’s like I’m floating.”

“Huh, that does sound nice,” Bree muttered, stretching as she rose to her feet.

Is that why I feel so comfortable talking about my beliefs and chatting with Bree?  I don’t know … I just feel at ease. I don’t usually talk to just anyone like this.

Shelving her thoughts, Maria followed Bree to the parking area, chatting along the way.

“Hey, you said your man can cook, right?  Some kind of magical crap?”

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Bree’s smile turned forced.  “Eh, make it sound flattering, why don’t you?  Umm, yeah, I met him at a restaurant; I had a date … one of those online meet dates—I was a bit desperate.”  She sighed. “I guess I was looking depressed and pissed—as I was getting up to leave, he asked if I was free the following night.”  She said with a slight blush.

“Dang, bold, ain’t he?”

She chuckled.  “I guess you could say that; he’s not quite as bold as you, but he’s not shy about speaking his mind or chatting.”

“Speak Spanish?”

“Sadly, no, but he tries a bit … it’s pretty bad.”

“Sounds like you got yourself a catch then, eh?  How long you been going at it?”

“Umm,” Bree’s face reddened.  “Going at it?”

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“Yeah, dating and stuff.”

“Ah, that’s what you meant,” she chuckled, rubbing her left arm.  “Sometimes, I can get a little mixed up with how you phrase things…”

“You thought … I’m not that nosy, girl; that’s your business.”  She said with a smirk.

“Well,” Bree paused, spotting a few military trucks in the parking lot ahead of them.  “We’ve been dating for about six months; he wanted to cook me something at his place this weekend—it’s the first time he’s invited me over—and then all this happened.”  She muttered bitterly.

“You still got a few days; this should be calm enough to have a good meal with him, right?  Plan on that and make it happen; life’s short, you know?”

Bree smiled, her eyes falling to the pavement.  “You’re really something, Maria … I’m glad I was able to meet you.  You haven’t known Rachel or the others that long, right?”

Maria shrugged.  “Nope, met them yesterday, but they’re chill.  Rachel’s shockingly clever, despite her soft, innocent bunny appearance; she’s got a good heart, though—she cares.  Scarlet’s a bit messed up in the head, but who the frick wouldn’t be?”

Bree’s cheeks pressed to the side as her brow creased.  “What do you mean, messed up in the head?”

“Well—I don’t know much about her; I’m pretty sure Rachel knows a heck of a lot more—Scarlet knew Rachel before I met her.  I don’t know how far back they go, but from what I’ve heard, Scarlet should be a basket case … the things that girl’s gone through in the last like—thirty hours.  Anyway, that’s her crap to tell people, but dang—I feel for that girl.

“I owe Rachel and Scarlet a ton … probably my life with the stuff they pulled off.  Those girls didn’t ask for a single thing in return too. Dang, I owe them … I owe them a ton.  My brother’s safe because of them, and that’s all I really care about.”

“So—that’s why you went into South Beach; you weren’t trying to be heroes?”

“Eh,” Maria scratched the back of her head as they walked around the surrounding fences to walk toward the parking lot.  “I mean, not really. We saved Felix pretty fast; Scarlet’s strong and has some crazy abilities; things just kind of kept escalating.  There were people around that we could save and it just kept going. I wasn’t about to let kids get popped off when I could do something about it, but no—I don’t think what we did was heroic.  We did some dirty things to get things done.”

“Do you regret any of it?”

“Honestly, not really,” Maria sighed.  “I’ll own it. It wasn’t pretty, but I made those decisions, and I’d still stand by them.”

“How—can you be so confident?”  Bree whispered, slowing a bit so they could continue the conversation before reaching the tents.

“You only have one life,” Maria said with a frown.  “Gotta take ahold of it, make your choices, and live as best you can.  I don’t regret taking action; I regret it when I don’t take action. Anyway, Fiona—I don’t know much about that girl.  She’s a bit spacy at times, but she seems to be pretty kind; intense at times, but her heart is in the right place. Anything else?”

Bree shook her head.  “I—thanks for answering my questions; you’ve really helped me … in more ways than one.”

Maria pulled back her hair as a slight breeze pulled it back.  “Hey, don’t mention it; I didn’t have much going on anyway. Well, let’s see what kind of problems we have here.”  She muttered as a tired-looking man walked toward them with two people beside him.

She noticed the man had four stars on both his shoulders and his green suit was peppered with medals and colors.  To his right, this man was serious, and his eyes scanned the environment, obviously looking for threats, and to the general’s left was a woman.  The woman wore army camo with a specific design woven on the front, and she gave off the same serious vibe as the man as she appraised her.

The general in the center was the first to speak.  “Maria Camila Espinar, it’s a pleasure to meet you.  My name is General Tom Dallas.” He pointed his thumb at the man beside him and then the woman.  “This is FBI Security Specialist Nash Johnson, and this is Sergeant Major of the Army Joanah Caldwell.  Sergeant Major Caldwell is currently my advisor and will be taking over my duties while I am asleep. With that, I will retire.  I pray you’ll see success, Maria.”

Maria was a little taken aback as both Nash and Joanah saluted Tom; he returned the gesture and walked back toward the FBI facility.

“Well, okay then—eh,” Maria eyed both Nash and Joanah.  “I heard somethin’ about Rachel meeting with a four-star general.  Is that the guy?”

Nash responded promptly.  “Information regarding the general’s activities is strictly need to know; if you are involved in anything dealing with the general, then you will be informed.”

Maria clicked her tongue as she watched Bree’s head lower with a nod, acknowledging his position.

I guess this guy’s a big deal in this FBI facility.  He’s not rude, but just stating the facts; not bad. I’m sure Rachel will have something to tell us when she wakes up.

“Alright,” Maria muttered.  “So, what’s up?”

Joanah responded promptly.  “We received word that you might be able to assist the U.S. Army in detecting and resolving potential threats.  If you could follow me to the medical tent.”

“Dang, you guys don’t beat around the bush,” Maria grinned.  “Alright, lead the way.”

They followed Joanah as she led the way back to a large tent that was quickly being set up; two other tents were already up, and Maria could hear soft muttering from the right tent.

Moving past the first, they entered the left structure; there were three people inside.  A woman and man were sitting behind a collapsible desk, and by their clothing, it was clear they were military; they were setting up some computer equipment.  The last man was sitting in a chair by some tables housing medical supplies; it was that first agent that they’d met on the roof, David.

Joanah was quick to speak.  “Thomas, Peterson, is the equipment ready?”

The man and woman rose to their feet.  “Yes, Sergeant Major.” The man stated.  “Peterson just needs to turn on the mic when we’re ready.”

Turning to Maria, Joanah said, “We’ll be recording what you say and transcribing it on the spot, sending the information to the White House.  Beyond this point, the military will be handling your escort, Ms. Espinar. Your FBI escort will return to the headquarters with Security Specialist Johnson and his assistant.”

David sighed, “Is that what the White House decided?”

Joanah’s hard eyes shifted to David as he rose.  “No, that’s what Assistant Director Kelley requested.  The Military will be keeping this in house, and General Dallas agreed.”

“Very well,” David replied, promptly walking out with Johnson.  Bree gave her an encouraging smile before joining them.

“Man, you guys have a ton of red tape,” Maria chuckled.  “Are all those kids in that big tent I saw?”

Joanah glanced her way, “Peterson, attach the mic.”

Maria’s brow creased.  “Flip, so you want to record everything I say … crap, is this goin’ to be held against me or something later?”

“No,” Joanah said as the woman moved around the table.  “This is all top secret. We’ll be having you sign some papers that mark anything discussed here as confidential.  The White House is taking anything dealing with Relica as a serious threat. Anything dealing with mind control is to be seen as extremely dangerous.”

“Well, yeah, I can understand that,” Maria mumbled.  “What Rachel said about that chica is pretty terrifying.”

Peterson attached a Bluetooth mic to her shirt front as Joanah continued to speak.

“I heard that you needed sunlight to keep recharging your ability.  Is that so?” When Maria nodded, she said, “Right, we can set up a chair and table outside.  We’ll be sending in every person suspected of being mentally compromised. Please direct everyone that has an issue to be resolved in the left group and everyone clear to the right group.”

“That’s it?”  Maria asked, scratching her temple.

“Yes, then we can further discuss what can be done after you’ve examined them.”

She nodded and went back outside with Thomas; he set up another table and chair for her to sit on.  They were quick at bringing people in as they started giving orders to children and the adults accompanying them; there were quite a few kids that didn’t seem to have parents or guardians with them.

Maria was a little surprised to find not a single one of them affected by a mind-altering skill; she did, however, receive a lot of compliments about her looks from the children.  The thing that bothered her was some of the defects and diseases she recognized with a few of the kids, choosing to add them and two adults to the left group.

When the last of the group had been separated, Joanah asked for the soldiers escorting them to take the right group back into the tent.  Maria felt a little bad as the two adults in the left group began crying, realizing that they’d been singled out for something, which caused the kids to understand something was wrong.

Maria got up and walked over to the group.  “Hey, hey, cut it out; it’s not that bad; none of you have any brainwashing or anything.”

Joanah frowned as she turned to her.  “Excuse me? Why did you choose them, then?”

“Look,” Maria said, studying each of their conditions.  “I couldn’t find a single person that was still affected by Relica’s charm or any brainwashing.  I can, however, tell you that these people need help.”

She pointed at a woman in her early twenties.  “She’s got Lupus, and he’s got Breast Cancer.”

“We … what?”  The man muttered.

“So,” Joanah hummed softly.  “You’re saying all these people have some kind of health issue that you can cure?”

“Well, just about everyone has some kind of issue,” Maria muttered, “but these ones are the most pressing and things I think I can help with.”

The woman’s chest started to convulse as tears appeared in her eyes.  “You can … you can cure—Lupus?”

Maria scratched her left arm with a deep frown.  “I think I’m pushing it—but yeah.”

Joanah looked at the crying woman and a few of the confused kids before nodding.  “You’re saying there are no mental threats?”

“Well—if you count this girl over here with the tumor in her head, then no.”

“Good to know; while you’re curing these people, I’ll go get the women in ice prepped for you.”

She walked off, and Maria knelt to smile at the girl she’d pointed to; she looked a little uncertain why she was being singled out.  “Hey, lil’ niña, it’ll be okay.”

Maria quickly healed the group, feeling her energy drop from fifty to twenty percent; she sighed as she sent the last kid off to the tent.

Man, who knew everyone had so many issues?  I can’t believe how many things I can purify and cure, but I guess most diseases are impurities that can be cleansed, and I’m all about that purity.  Dang, that sounds strange.

She glanced over at Joanah as she motioned for her to follow.  Joanah led her into a tent that seemed to be pumping cold air into it through a massive air conditioning unit.

There were two women inside wearing lab coats.  They quickly moved to join them as they entered the tent.  “We had to repurpose this to make it work, but we’ve been able to keep it from melting further.  You’re that Unicorn, right?”

“What’s your diagnosis?”

“Give me a sec,” Maria muttered, walking past them.  She frowned, brow creasing. “Yeah, they’re a mess…”  She ran her hand through her hair. “I—hmm … I think I need to soak in the sun a bit more before curing this.  I’m only about twenty percent at the moment, and I’m pretty sure I’ll need at least forty to handle this.”

“You can do it, though?”  One of the women asked with wide eyes.  “You can heal the damage caused by cryonics?”

“Eh—we’ll have to see.  I can cure the damage to their bodies, dispel the ice, and return their bodies to the proper temperature, but that’s it … the girl has myelofibrosis … I don’t know if I can cure that one.  Give me a second.”

Can I cure it … yes, but it’ll require about as much energy as it took to purify Scarlet’s Blood Corruption.  Dang. Yeah, I’ll probably need to soak the rest of the day to get enough energy for that.

“It’ll take me several hours, but I think I can get enough energy to do it.”

“Y-you can—can cure myelofibrosis … with a snap of your fingers?”  Both women seemed speechless.

“Well—it’s not that easy, but yeah.  It requires a ton of energy … I could fix a minor congenital disability easier than this.”

“That’s insane…”  One of the women muttered.

Joanah nodded.  “Alright, then go sunbathe and let us know when you’re ready, but General Dallas wanted me to make sure that you wouldn’t be putting yourself in harm’s way by this.  Can you regain your full strength tomorrow if you do this?”

“My full strength—eh,” Maria bunched her lips to the side.  “Maybe like—ninety percent if I don’t do anything tomorrow. If it’s the same as today.”

“I suppose that will have to do,” she said with a light sigh.  “Alright, I’ll leave you to it.”

Maria spent the rest of the day lying on a cot they set out for her to rest on in the sun.  She didn’t get hot in the least; the sun was enjoyable. After she recovered enough energy, she saw the sun descending in the sky, and went to heal the woman.

The scientists recorded her as her horn appeared and a blinding light shot out to dispel the crystal, heal their bodies, and cure the disease in one quick motion.  The women were confused but seemed to be in perfect health after she was done.

When one of the scientists explained what she’d done, one of the women looked at her in shock before breaking down into tears.  They left as one said, “Thank you, you’re a saint.”

Maria frowned as she watched her go.  Me a saint?  I don’t think that constitutes as sainthood.  I just wanted to help…

She felt a little tired, but that mostly vanished when she soaked up the rest of the sun’s rays before it gave up the sky to the night.

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