B2 — 2. The Rabbit Hole

Rachel, Fiona, Maria, and Scarlet followed Hughes and Bailey to the elevator; getting in, she watched Bailey swipe her card and press the basement first level.  Listening to the conversations happening around the base, Rachel began to understand a trend in the topics which twisted her stomach.

“Hughes,” everyone’s eyes locked on Rachel before sliding to the woman; Hughes took the attention well, but she heard the slight pops in her muscles and bones that told a story about how nervous she was.

“Yes?”  She turned, brown eyes shifting from Rachel’s eyes to her ears.

“What do you know about us?”

Hughes brow furrowed as she shifted her weight, weapons vest showing with the movement.  She cleared her throat, voice a little hoarse. “We’ve been told that you four are Mythickin and that you were involved with the South Beach Crisis.”

Rachel kept a neutral composure.  “Involved with the South Beach Crisis?  Do you know how we were involved, and what is your opinion of us?”

She tried to keep her tone stable, but Rachel detected an edge hidden within.  “That’s irrelevant.”

“Huh; what kind of lie is that?”  Maria’s nose twisted, but her chest was puffing harder than normal.  “What’s that even supposed to mean? Irrelevant … what are you a computer?”

Fiona seemed a little confused as well, but Scarlet’s fingers gripped her stomach as she avoided eye contact.  She can sense negative emotions; so she knows the atmosphere around my question.

“I don’t think it is,” Rachel stated, her stare making Hughes swallowed and divert eye contact.  “I assume we’re going to the item lock-up to find clothing before going to the showers, but before that, I’d like to talk with you.  That isn’t a problem, right?”

Bailey quickly moved beside Hughes, fake smile in place.  “We’d enjoy that, but we really…”

“Lie,” Maria stated dryly.

“… What?”  Bailey frowned, features hardening as she turned to Maria.  “Why would you accuse me of lying?”

Maria met her glare.  “Mas vale una verdad que duela, que una mentira que ilusione.”

“Really?”  Fiona’s cheer had dampened.  “They wouldn’t like to talk to us?  That’s rude.”

“I didn’t say…”

Rachel cut in as the doors opened, “Bailey, Maria can detect lies.  I suppose they wouldn’t tell you sensitive information about our abilities since you’re not officially a part of the Special Task Force assigned to Mythickin yet.”

Both Bailey and Hughes swallowed, muscles tensing; Rachel could smell the tension from the chemicals their body produced.  It looks like my sense of smell proficiency is rising.  

Hughes took a long breath.  “Howdid you know?”

Ears twitching, she continued to connect the dots from conversations around the area.  “There are a lot of candidates being screened; right now, they need agents in the area, but the team is being assembled all across the States.”

They seemed at a loss for words as they glanced at one another, concern evident.

Scarlet tried to break the tension, whispering,  “Rachel, you don’t need to single them out; the building has a lot of negative emotions in it.”

Rachel took a deep breath as she turned toward Scarlet’s pleading blue eyes.  She really doesn’t like drawing attention to herself, and she can sense my own emotions, but we need to address this quickly before it spins out of control.  Fiona’s already getting a lot of attention.

“I don’t want to single them out, but I think there are some things that need to be discussed.”  She turned to Bailey and Hughes, “You wouldn’t mind, right?” Their vision followed her hand as she held it out to keep the elevator doors open.

“We … haven’t been told to rush,” Hughes muttered.

Rachel smiled innocently, ears spreading apart.  “Wonderful.”

Her wide field of vision had already identified a small lounging area to the left of the elevator.  “Why don’t we sit on these couches and chairs. I just have a few things I’d like to address; I don’t know about the two of you, but we’ve had a rather unbelievable night.”

They nodded and took the lead, walking to the two armchairs in front of a table; they tried to move naturally, but she could easily hear the rigid motion of their muscles.

Maria walked past Rachel, glaring at the women with Scarlet and Fiona following.  Scarlet gave her a concerned glance before sitting beside Maria on the right side of the couch; Fiona floated above them, arms crossed as she watched Rachel with bunched lips.

Sitting to Maria’s left, she crossed her legs.  “First, I’d like for us to get to know each other; we just met, and right now, all you see us as are monsters.”

Before they could respond, Rachel continued, “Which is natural with the conversations I’ve heard; you’ve only been discussing the adverse effects Mythickin and Legendkin have caused around the country.

“The Seattle Vampire is a big talking point around the base, but there’s also a lot of talk of the Legend of Theseus and his total disregard for U.S. authority.  If I understand correctly, several other such incidents could be Legendkin or Mythickin related. I don’t blame you for being cautious of us, especially given what information has been spread.”

Maria leaned back with a groan.  “What’s up with all these punks causing trouble?”

“Yeah,” Fiona hummed melodically.  “It’s not all bad though. Right, Rachel?  I mean, we didn’t hurt anyone that didn’t have children as hostages.”

Bailey shifted uncomfortably as Rachel responded.  “There are a few conversations about Japan, and even Korea has some positive information about Mythickin and Legendkin.  Smaller communities seem to be taking the change a lot better than the larger ones.

“There is some positive gossip in the States; the Legend of Beowulf in Texas and a Mythickin Leviathan in Brookings Oregon that stopped a fire in the Redwood Forest.  Most of the conversations start positive before it turns into how long before they turn on people.”

Scarlet sighed as she stared at the two women in front of them.  “I get that, Rachel, but they don’t hate us.”

Maria huffed as she glanced at her.  “Why would you lie? Isn’t it obvious; I mean, these chicas are probably on the fence, but there are people here that hate us.  I know that just from your statement.” Bailey and Hughes’ muscles visibly tightened at Maria’s response.

“Well,” Hughes swallowed, rubbing her neck for a moment as sweat appeared at her brow.  “I guess lying doesn’t help when you’re around.” Her vision moved to Rachel. “I assume your big ears let you listen in on a lot of conversations around the base … yes, I’m a little scared of you.  Just this short interaction shows how dangerous you can be, and I’ve heard some things that you did in South Beach that are terrifying.”

“Like what?”  Fiona asked, floating down between them to sit cross-legged on the glass table.

Rachel took in a deep breath.  “Actually, Fiona, a lot about you.”

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“What?  No way.”  She glanced back at her.  “What scary thing did I do?”

“There’s a video of you throwing some kind of massive fireball; I didn’t hear that part of your fight since I was focused on Conner, but it sounds like a pretty scary scene.  Although, the normal citizens I’ve heard talking about it down the road say it’s awesome.”

“Oh—fiddlesticks … someone was recording that.  From where? I didn’t see anyone.”

“Wait, what’s this about?”  Maria grinned leaning forward.  “I don’t remember you telling us about some crazy fight at the Burger King.  Was it like the fireball you were going to vaporize Harris with?”

“Who?”  Bailey mumbled, voice cracking.

“Harris?”  Maria glanced at her for a moment dismissively.  “He was just a child-killer that loved to gas people for fun, but … yeah, so, what’s up with this fireball?”

Scarlet breathed through her teeth, wincing at Maria’s statement.  “He was a nasty guy…” She directed at Bailey. “The Military thanked us for helping them.”

She’s really concerned about their opinions of us; they would get tense hearing that Fiona was going to vaporize a person they had no clue about.

“I see,” Hughes whispered.  She wiped her brow, looking back at Fiona.

“Well, I mean, it was a bit … complicated,” Fiona said, playing with her shirt.  “I mean—there were hostages, they were bragging about killing kids and how they died and stuff … and other things that made me really angry.  No—it was a lot bigger than the fireball you saw, Maria. I basically melted everything in the area.”

She looked back at Rachel, joints locked.  “Eh—did they catch what happened … you know…”

Rachel shook her head.  “They only saw the fireball and kids floating in the air.  All they caught of you was a glow; people can’t actually see you in the video, but from the comments, people know it’s you.  It was filmed from probably the fifth floor of the hotel; two agents in the building are picking apart the scene.

“They do see three figures; the cat-girl and a liquid guy are the only one’s recognizable while the third might be a female by the long hair and bathing suit.  Our report is being transcribed right now and given to a few of the agents that are actually on the force.”

Fiona groaned, folding her ears down.  “No … this sucks. My chat is probably going crazy in the comments…”

“That’s a new video cycling the web?”  Bailey asked, taking out her phone.

Her lips bunched to the side as she opened an app.  “It’s trending, number three.”

Floating up, Fiona held up her left arm.  “Can I see?”

Bailey glanced at Hughes, and Rachel leaned forward expectantly.

“Bailey, Hughes, how long have you been in the agency?”

Hughes shifted uncomfortably.  “Why do you want to know?”

“I would guess less than three years as field agents, but you both should have a few good cases under your belts to be considered for a position in the Task Force.”

Bailey nodded slowly as she played the video; Fiona groaning as Maria and her watched it.  Maria grinned with excitement.

“Dang, chica!  Now that’s gangster.”

“What if my parents see it?”  Fiona mumbled. “I bet my chat’s linking it to everyone…”

Rachel smiled at the agents.  “Right, so, if we can come to an understanding, then I believe we can help you become permanent members.  I know I’d feel more comfortable with someone that knows a bit about us personally than someone that just sees us as names and events on paper.”

“How could you make that happen?”  Hughes asked, turning away from the video as it ended; Maria sat back and Fiona dropped back down to the table, wings folding.

Rachel smiled.  “We’ll give you information not found in the report; we can give you some events that will fill in a few blank spaces.  You will tell David that you took the time to sit down and have a conversation with us, that you gained our trust, and you were able to learn some things that might be of interest.”

Hughes sat back, folding her arms suspiciously.  “Whywould you want to help our careers?  That information might be a trap to ruin our careers too.  I don’t know what goes on inside a Mythickin’s brain.”

Maria’s face darkened, but Rachel turned toward Scarlet as she nudged Maria, forcing a curious smile.  “No, it’s completely reasonable, Maria. This is their livelihood; it’s only right that we be as transparent as possible.”

“I’m always transparent,” Maria huffed; sitting back, she put her hands behind her head, flipping her hair back behind the couch.

Rachel hummed as she turned back to Hughes, leaning against the left armrest.  Maria could become the spokesperson; however, she doesn’t know most of the things I kept hidden from the report.  She can be an intermediary, but first, we need to establish rapport.

“I have an idea,” everyone’s gaze shifted to her.  “Why don’t we have Maria act as our intermediary.”

“Huh?”  Maria’s brow creased.

“She can detect lies, but she also cannot lie.  Trust can be built through her transparency.”

Bailey pulled a loose strand of hair behind her ear, pocketing her phone.  “I understand … but how can we trust that she cannot lie?”

Fiona’s smile grew.  “Oh, I know! Ask her any questions you want; see if you can catch her on anything.”

“Hey, now,” Maria growled.  “Let’s not get carried away.”

It’s a good suggestion, but how to start it off?  What about leading them to my concerns and goals … what about this?

Rachel whispered, “Just go along with it, Maria.  We need to build rapport and gain their trust.”

She frowned, lips bunching to the side as her silver eyes darted to Rachel.  “Fácil para ti decir,” she muttered. “You’re not the one being cross-examined like a criminal.”

Hughes folded her fingers together, leaning forward; she licked her lips, eyes questioning as she looked between them.  “What are you guys talking about?”

Maria scratched her forehead with a tired sigh.  “She wants us to build rapport with you … I get the context, but I don’t know what the word really means.”  She paused, “I’m not stupid either! I just don’t know what it means, and I told her it’s easy for her to say since she’s not under a microscope.”

“Hmm,” Bailey crossed her legs, features turning serious.  “Alright—have you ever killed anyone?”

Fiona winced, looking back at Maria.  “Oof, the hard question, right off the bat.”

“Eh,” Maria lifted an eyebrow.  “¿Qué diablos crees que soy, un psicópata? Mierda…”

“In English, please,” Bailey pressed.  “Speaking in Spanish doesn’t help your image.”

“Crap, fine,” Maria huffed.  “I asked Fiona what the heck she thinks I am, a psychopath?  No, I’ve never killed anybody … not that I’m aware of … I mean, yeah, I’ve broken some jaws and probably some ribs in fights, but I haven’t killed anyone.”

Bailey’s eyes narrowed as she scrutinized Maria.  “Have you ever had sex?”

Maria tensed.  “What kind of question is that?”

“Just answer the question.”

Her face flushed as she looked down at the floor.  “I’m Christian, no, I haven’t, dang—I—may be gangsters, but we’re not hoes.  Freaking have I had sex before,” she grumbled.  Her cheeks darkened as she caught everyone’s expression.  “Jódanse, hijos de puta…”

Scarlet giggled, mood lightening; she pulled her black hair over her shoulder.  “I can’t help but be a little shocked. I can’t believe how red your cheeks look with your white skin too.”

“Speak for yourself,” Maria sunk further into the couch, nose twisted.  “Have any of you had sex?” When Fiona and Scarlet blushed, looking down, she rolled her eyes.  “Huh, didn’t think so.”

Bailey smiled a little; leaning back, her posture loosened.  “You four act pretty close for just meeting each other.” Her attention shifted to Rachel.  “Alright, could you four introduce yourselves then?”

After they each took their turn, Hughes stretched her arms out, releasing a slight yawn.  “Okay, Rachel, you seem to lead a lot of these conversations, and it’s clear that the others respect you.  Have you killed anyone?”

Rachel added a slightly troubled mask to her features.  “Yes, but only this last night. I killed many members of that gang that took over South Beach and held people hostage.  These people were about as bad as it could get, and the Navy SEALs that Scarlet rescued made it clear that that was what needed to be done.  We prioritized the hostages, making sure they were safe and dismantled their operation.”

“Okay,” Hughes shifted her weight and adjusted her weapon’s vest to a more comfortable position.  “You were all normal citizens before The Oscillation, right?”

They each went through a bit about their backgrounds, making Bailey’s brow crease.  “So, you each were just … normal girls that just … changed?”

Maria nodded.  “What, you thought we were monsters that just popped up out of nowhere?  Terrell had his boys kidnap my brother, so I went to get him back.”

“That’s a good point,” Hughes muttered, index finger pressed against her temple.  “I can understand why you’d want to go confront the gang and possibly get your brother back, but…”  Her vision slid between Rachel, Fiona, and Scarlet.

Fiona held up her hands.  “Oh, no, not me. I was a prisoner; they had me inside of a fish tank before Scarlet saved me.  They … they were pretty terrible people…”

Scarlet nodded.  “Yeah, evil people.  I felt—I don’t expect many people could understand how it feels—turning into a Vampire—all the urges, emotions, and this … it’s a lot.  I felt really alone, and then I met Rachel.”

She swallowed, smiling at her.  “She was the first person that treated me like—well, not like a monster.  I heard she was going to help Maria … she introduced us, and I felt bad and knew I could help, even if just a little.”

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They’ll expect me to give a response as well, which won’t look good if I say I mainly wanted to liberate South Beach to have something to hold over my brother’s head.  It would be best to give a name to Maria’s brother, to add value to the rescue.

Rachel nodded.  “There were many reasons why I decided to help Maria; one of those reasons was to help her get Felix back.  With my ears, I also heard a lot of people crying for help; it was kind of numbing, knowing I couldn’t do much to help everyone.  I won’t deny that we all have changed since becoming Mythickin, but that doesn’t erase our memories as humans either.”

She turned to Scarlet.  “Scarlet, for one, has one of the biggest hearts I’ve seen; she’s always concerned about other people and is really too hard on herself.”

Scarlet’s hand lifted to her lips.  “Thanks … that means a lot.” She sniffed, bloody tears leaking from her eyes to be absorbed back into her skin.

“It’s true,” Rachel smiled as she turned to Fiona.  “I haven’t known this little Fairy for long, but Fiona could have chosen to leave, like the others we rescued; however, she chose to stay and help rescue all the people that had been prisoners, like her, forced to witness horrific scenes.”

“Yeah,” Fiona’s chest convulsed as her eyes lit with tears.  “They were—they were terrible … all those kids and the wives, crying for their husbands.”

She could almost smell the tingles that shot down the agents skins at the emotions being displayed, hear the constriction of their muscles at key words.

Rachel shifted in her chair to smirk at Maria.  “This chica probably does a lot of illegal things, and has a foul mouth that will probably offend at least several people every time she opens it, but she cares about her family and neighbors more than anyone I’ve met.  Every one of her gang members shows her a ton of respect, and she’d go to hell and back to save her family.”

Maria tried to play it off, but her cheeks were turning beet-red again.  “Mierda … that’s what family does. Tienes que defender tu honor y a tu familia.”

Chuckling, Rachel turned to the two agents.  “I hope you can open your hearts and realize that we’re just normal girls that were caught up in an extraordinary situation.  Did we take some drastic actions? Yes, but it was with the hope of everything turning back to normal … that’s all we want.

“We want to live our lives, and if possible, we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, but sometimes, situations call for drastic action that has no right path.  If we ran from that circumstance, then I think we’d all regret it, and a lot more people would be dead now. I can understand why there would be fear, but can we move past that civilly?  Do we seem dangerous or unreasonable to you?”

“No,” Hughes muttered, trying to loosen her arms as she shifted in her chair.  “You don’t seem unreasonable, but honestly, that’s not for us to decide.”

Rachel nodded.  “I completely understand that on a governmental level; however, personally, it is important what individuals think.  All of the fear circling this building is like a rubber band, and it can only take so much tension before it breaks. We need to de-escalate the tension, not increase it.  Don’t you agree?”

They both sighed, rubbing their temples.  “You make it sound very reasonable,” Hughes mumbled; the hidden edge in her voice was gone.  “At the same time, I don’t know if it’s truly us realizing it’s reasonable or being compelled.  There’s a reason why female agents are not allowed near the Incubus; he naturally releases some form of hormonal type of magic that makes females more susceptible to his charms … even if he tells us it’s not on purpose.”

At least we’re getting somewhere.  They’re finally starting to see us as rational beings instead of just monsters.  They know we can hold a conversation and that we’re honest.

“As far as I am aware,” Rachel scratched her left ear, making it twitch, “none of us have any manipulative powers that affect your body or mind.  Am I being truthful?” She asked, turning toward Maria.

“You are,” Maria nodded before her head tilted toward the agents.

Scarlet took a deep breath as she smiled at Hughes and Bailey.  “What would it take to convince you that we’re not threats?”

Bailey mirrored her sigh, rubbing her shoulder.  “Honestly … I don’t know. It’s nice knowing more about you …. I guess only time can fix it.”

Rachel hummed.  “Alright, I think we’ve done all we can do to earn your trust.  Now, let me discuss our current position, fears, and then I will deliver on my promise and tell you something not found in the report that you can bring to David; it will increase your standing, and if Maria finds a lie, then she’ll voice it.”

Maria nodded.

Shifting her legs, Rachel took on a relaxed posture to lighten the atmosphere, a smile brightening her features.  “First, let David know that you sat down and had an extended conversation with us. The report already mentions that Maria is forced to speak the truth and can detect lies; let him know that you found this out in our conversation.  That is not a lie.

“You should give him a full report on what we discussed; to be frank, I would rather not work with someone that held some bias that couldn’t even sit down to have a conversation like we are now.”

Fiona, Maria, and Scarlet nodded their agreement.

“For real,” Maria huffed.  “If people can’t even talk about something, then how the hell are we supposed to get along?”

“Naturally, the government would be obsessed with Mythickin and Legendkin, but your bosses must be delusional if they think that anyone would accept being treated as a prisoner.”  

She glanced down at Fiona as she stiffened.  “Imagine for a second, you were kidnapped and held captive for twenty-four hours, witnessed horrific brutalities, and suddenly someone wants to lock you away again.  This needs to be a two-way street, Scarlet?” She asked, shifting to look at her.

Shifting a bit, Scarlet looked back with a concerned frown.  “I agree. I mean … this has been a really, really hard day. There’s just … so much emotion.”

“We need a break, for sure,” Fiona moaned, dropping to her back, wings lying flat against the glass.

“I … don’t know if we can make that happen,” Hughes muttered, legs shifting as she scooted into the armrest.

“I don’t expect you to,” Rachel shook her head with a sad chuckle.  “No, but you can help in many other ways. Again,” she sighed, fueling emotion into her voice, “imagine, for just a moment, yesterday, you were a college student … a college student that was just kicked out of your house because your pampered sister-in-law hates you.  You worried about how your parents were feeling about this change, and suddenly, you were transformed into … this … something completely different.”

Everyone present swallowed at her tone, bones and muscle telling Rachel that she was expressing the right emotion.  “Now the world fears you, you’re labeled a monster, and people hate you for something you can’t—there’s no way you can change; you’re compared to horrible people that have done awful things.

“You saved thousands of people—all thankful, but that doesn’t matter—all that’s focused on is a dozen murderers—child killers that you stopped to set those thousands free; can you imagine how frustrated you’d feel?”  Rachel asked, arms trembling and teeth locking; she fought past the screams her body cried to show the emotion.

“Was saving those kids wrong?  Was saving U.S. soldier’s wrong?  Was Maria being there to heal people that were viciously disfigured and bruised wrong?  Was Scarlet transporting dozens of people away from danger wrong? Was choosing to help people that were suffering wrong—when we could do something?  How was it wrong?

“These are the kinds of questions that can run through people’s minds when they’re attacked for saving people.  Can you at least see how dehumanizing the talk around this facility can make us feel?”

Both agents swallowed, staring down at their laps, legs pressed together, fingers intertwined.  “Yeah … I can see that.” Bailey whispered.

“Now,” Rachel’s frustration slowly melted as she looked up at the two agents.  “Can you imagine how it would feel to have two people sit down—willing to listen to you, sympathize, and share in those emotions.  Thank you. Our lives have been turned on our heads, our future plans shattered, but at least we can talk with someone. Really—thank you.”  A few tears sliding down her cheeks.

Hughes and Bailey shifted on the couch, glancing at each other.

Hughes took a deep breath, sitting back and lying her left arm across her stomach.  “You are a lot different than what we imagined. I mean, the only other Mythickin we’ve been able to interact with is Maëlle and she can be…”

“A bit much,” Bailey winced, scratching her neck.

Rachel nodded, wiping away the tears before taking a shuddering breath.  “I’d love to learn more about Maëlle, Kyle, and Anthony, but I feel like we have more important things to focus on—a lot of things.  I just wanted to solve this problem before it became a mountain; you both understand more about us now, and I’d personally like nothing more than to turn off my brain and relax—there’s just been so much.”

Maria, Fiona, and Scarlet chuckled tiredly.

“No joke,” Maria groaned, head pressing against the couch to stare at the ceiling.  “I’m exhausted…”

Rachel cracked her neck with a soft sigh.  “You can tell David all of this, and for the information I promised; first, I know that General Dallas is posing the idea of adding us to a form of Mythickin and Legendkin Task Force.  I know that I’m not interested in that,” she turned toward the other three that shook their heads with deep frowns.

The two women scratched the back of their heads, Bailey nodding.  “I haven’t heard anything about that, but alright, I can understand why you don’t want to be a part of that.”

“Right, we aren’t interested in being leashed to the military or government because that is the basis of that format.  Second, I know about David setting up a psychologist to address our mental states, and I hope he knows that we won’t be jerked around.  If we can detect a bias with them, then we will refuse to cooperate with that person because their decision could affect our entire lives.

“Third, we expect to be treated as U.S. citizens and not as monsters; the President made it clear that we are not monsters and that we will be treated as such.  If we are being charged with any crimes, then we want legal representation as U.S. citizens, and Fiona happens to have a lawyer that you might be hearing from shortly.”

Adding a charming smile, Rachel finished the conversation.  “I hope we can all get along and dispel all the superstition.”

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