wonder_city: (Default)
Today is the first day this week I've had some time to put this posting together. I hope you're enjoying a long weekend however you choose to enjoy it.




People Couldn't Believe What I'd Become

Angelica leaned her aching head back against the couch, stared at the ceiling through the tinted computer glasses that helped reduce the visual noise of her new power, and listened to her friends amble around, getting drinks and snacks from the kitchen. As they chatted with each other, she thought about how she was going to do this.

She became aware of an expectant silence and looked around. Kit was perched on a kitchen stool, a bottle of soda held in both hands between his knees. Kendis was settled in the chair she found easiest to get out of, her crutches propped in the corner, and her glass of soda water on the end table next to her. Simon was folded into the deepest armchair, his jeans-clad legs tucked up tailor style. They all watched her with a vaguely inquiring air.

"You may all be wondering why I asked you here today," Angelica said, not intending a joke, but covering her face as soon as the line was out of her mouth. "I mean… oh, hell. All right, I have something I need to tell you. And I need you to swear on whatever you hold dearest that this doesn't leave this room."

Simon and Kendis nodded, giving her looks that said, almost identically, "What do you take me for?" and Kit made all the motions that go with the "cross my heart and hope to die" promise.

"Okay," Angelica said, and she narrowly avoided biting one of her freshly manicured nails. "Okay. This is… really stupid, actually. But huge. And… well, shit, I guess I have Jane Liberty's power."

There was a silence. Then Simon said, in a small voice, "Which power?"

"The main one! The big kahuna!" Angelica exclaimed. "The one that made all the others possible. Shit, I don't even have words to describe it. Like, I can see everything alive. Every. Fucking. Thing. I guess, eventually, I'll be able to figure out what bits I'm seeing are powers, and what bits are normal. I… already know what cancer looks like." She shuddered. "I might be able to figure out how to change them. Powers. Genes. That sort of thing."

"You mean," Kendis said, picking her words carefully, "that Jane wasn't always superstrong, invulnerable, shit like that? That this one power made it all possible?"

"Yeah," Angelica said. "Yeah, that's what I mean."

"And she gave it to you," Kendis said.

"Like she made your power more powerful, yeah," Angelica said.

"Shiiiiiiiit," Kendis breathed.

"Yeah," Angelica said, letting a little of her misery out in an exhausted sigh.

"You can see and manipulate genes?" Simon said thoughtfully.

Angelica nodded, and when his face brightened, she said, "I've already thought about it, dude. Eventually, maybe, I can give you a Y chromosome in every cell. Someday I might be able to give myself a second X chromosome. Maybe we can just swap. I don't know. I kind of think I probably can't. Even Jane's superpower can't work miracles."

Kendis said, "And anyway, even if you two swap chromosomes, you've still got the outside junk to deal with."

Simon's shoulders sagged. "I know, I know."

"You could remove the power from yourself," Kit said. "Just delete it."

"If I knew how to spot it, I suppose I could," Angelica said, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Maybe. I wonder if I would remove my own ability to edit it before I could delete the power entirely. I could end up stuck with the vision, for instance, and no way to get rid of it. I can't believe it's only a single gene thing. From the reading I've done, no paranormal ability is a single gene mutation."

"You know better than I do," Kit said with a smile and a shrug. "Just an idea."

"No, it's a good one," Angelica said.

They sat in silence for a while.

"Anyway," Kendis said, "you'd never forgive yourself for getting rid of the power."

"What?" Angelica said.

"It's like my power," Kendis said, tapping the side of her own head. "I can't give it up. I couldn't at this point. I couldn't ask Jane to knock it back down. Because I do too fucking much good with it. I make people happier just by existing in their space. Who could give that up?"

"As long as no one really figures out it's you," Simon said. "Think of the Plum Blossom case."

"That the chick they chopped up and grew clones of?" Kendis said. She shivered. "Shit, thanks, Simon. I hadn't thought of that."

"You met her," Angelica said absently. "That was Madeline."

Kendis stared at her and said, "Wut."

Simon said, "Yeah."

Kendis looked freaked out and kind of ill; Angelica felt bad for having sprung that on her. One does not meet people who were at the center of a gigantic military atrocity every day.

Kendis finally shook her head as if to clear it. "Anyway. My point was: how can you… I mean, 'one', really… refuse a power that has so much potential?"

"I guess one would have to find a way to pass it on to someone who wanted it," Angelica said with a grimace. "Jane said it had to go on. I guess she felt pretty strongly about it."

"Why you, though?" Simon said.

Angelica shook her head and shrugged. "She said that maybe because I was a biologist, I could figure out how to do things, like cure cancer, that she never could. Really fixated on cancer. I guess 'cause she was dying of it right then."

"Is that what happened?" Kendis said. "I figured her heart just gave out. She was pretty old. Eighty-six the obit said?"

"No," Angelica said, rubbing the bridge of her nose again and the area between her eyebrows, hoping to relieve the headache. "Definitely cancer." She remembered the scene again, for the umpteenth time, and finally said aloud, "Lady J was asking her to 'stop using Maddy's power.'" She turned a baffled look on Simon, their resident para historian.

Simon scowled and put his chin on his fists, elbows on knees. "I think one reason the Army decided on Operation Plum Blossom was because they tried… kind of… giving some of their recruits infusions of Madeline's blood or something. Anyway, the research showed that if you weren't born with her power, use of the power would make things grow that shouldn't."

"Like cancer," Angelica said.

"Like cancer," Simon said.

"Why was she using Madeline's power?" Kendis said.

"For the same reason she was using yours, I think," Angelica said.

"She told me it was slowly helping fix the holes in her head," Kit said, interrupting Kendis' outraged outburst. "Or something like that."

Kendis settled back into cynical silence with a snort.

"Anyway," Angelica said. "Jane told me not to tell anyone until I knew what I was doing. But I can't do that."

"She was probably thinking of Plum Blossom too," Kendis muttered.

"Probably," Simon said. "Don't worry, no one will hear about it from me."

"Or me," Kendis said.

"No one smart believes me anyway," Kit said with a grin.

"Also, if there's anything I can do to help you figure it out," Simon said, "I used to help people figure their powers out all the time when I was in high school."

"Thanks," Angelica said, sunk in a brown study. Then she shook her head and pulled herself up out of it. "No, really, thank you."

"We could make you a costume," Kendis said. "With all the stars and shit."

"You should have a code name ready," Simon said. "Just in case you need to anonymize yourself quickly."

Angelica didn't want to admit she'd already been thinking about that. She didn't want to be in spandex, would never be in spandex like Jane had been. But… "I already know that," she finally said.


"Oh?" Kendis said. Kit and Simon both perked up with interest.

"Of course I do," Angelica said, with a little more confidence and her first smile of the whole conversation. "I can't be anything other than… Libertad, right?"




wonder_city: (Default)
Thank you all so much for your assistance with Madame's fundraiser. I think I only have one Tarot reading left to get out. (I won't be posting this set.) We raised $150 for my friends, and that's pretty freakin' awesome. And now, after last week's little night-before-the-battle pause, we continue our tale. Please remember to click the banner at the bottom to upvote Wonder City Stories at topwebfiction!


How Futuristically Dystopic

"All you gotta do is sit still, girl," Tinkermel said, adjusting the padded brass headband hugging Kendis' scalp.

"I am gonna have some kinda hat head after this, aren't I?" Kendis said, irritably re-propping her crutches against the wall next to her comfy leather recliner.

"At least you keep it short?" Tizemt said, checking the gauges.

Angelica gave Kendis a sympathetic smile. "Wish I could help."

Kendis rolled her eyes. "I wouldn't be in this position except for someone deciding to make my power go off the damn charts."

Angelica glanced over her shoulder at the recliner where Jane Liberty was, apparently, napping.

"Well, it's not like anyone is gonna figure your shit out," Tinkermel said, connecting the first wire to the thing he insisted on calling the "tiara." "You got one of those subtle powers. Who's gonna test you? How are they gonna test you?"

"We're getting serious output levels though," Tizemt said with a low whistle. "Shit, I think this just might work."

"I told you it would work," Tinkermel said. "You just aren't mad enough, girl."

"I'm just not fabulous enough," Tizemt said, rolling her eyes. This was a conversation Angelica had heard them have several times now.

"Are you ready?" Tinkermel asked Kendis, looking up from his modified StarSeed's screen.

Kendis sighed and gripped the arms of the chair more tightly. "This isn't going to hurt, is it?" she asked in a small voice that surprised Angelica.

"Oh, no, honey," Tinkermel said sympathetically, patting her arm. "This is just broadcasting bigger what you already broadcast. You don't even need to concentrate, because your power is so passive, but it would probably boost levels if you, I dunno, meditated on clear mountain streams or something."

Kendis laughed a little and nodded. "Okay. All set."

Angelica went and held her hand, though, while Tinkermel threw the big theatrical switch.

Tizemt went to the wall touchscreen with all the subscreens that Angelica thought of as the Enterprise dashboard. She started flipping through screens. "We have 80% interference in the nearest parts of of the city, and about 60% interference in Staybird, along the river. 95% of the repeaters are in place and functioning."

"Thanks to the Sparklebutch Posse," Angelica murmured, and Kendis squeezed her hand.

Tinkermel picked up his cell phone and hit a fast-dial button. When the other end picked up, he said, "We're live. Break a leg."


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Revolution By Committee

"All right, folks," Lady Justice said, self-consciously smoothing her strangely stylish iron gray hair (Ira couldn't remember the last time it was that neatly done) and mock-cracking her knobbly knuckles. "I certainly have some news, and I get the impression some of you do too."

Madame Destiny, looking better and younger than Ira had seen her in a long time (even before he lost his sight), dimpled in Ira's direction, then sobered and said, "Well, I think most of you know the big news here." She gestured over at X, who, while still immaculately pressed and dressed, looked haggard around the edges. X's cheekbones and jawline were just a little more pronounced than Ira thought they had been, and there was the hint of dark circles under the terribly perceptive eyes. "X has taken on the burden of the Oracle."

Pearl reached for X's hand and squeezed it gently. X turned a wan smile on her and returned the caress.

"How is it going?" Madeline asked. "I remember when we first found you, Madame, back in '62 or '63. Things were rather out of hand."

"Madame has been extremely helpful," X said smoothly.

"One of my issues," Madame said with a smile, "was that the previous 'vessel' had died and I'd had absolutely no introduction or guidance. The Oracle came into me out of the blue, and I'm very lucky to have kept my sanity."

Madeline nodded. "It was touch and go."

"It was," Madame admitted. "But that was a long time ago, and besides, the wench is fine now." She smiled. "The other bit of information is that we have some Mystikai support. Financial support from two of the local Reptilian-Americans, safe houses offered by the Family -- you may not know, but their homes are heavily shielded from emotional emanations by magic -- and an offer of physical participation in any actual combat from the youngest of the Reptilian-Americans."

"Well, that's something," Madeline said, eyebrows high. "I can't recall a dragon getting involved in our doings since the War."

"They're a standoffish bunch," Jane Liberty said from the depths of one of Madame's overstuffed chairs. "And the safe houses are good. Any limitations on who can take them up on it?"

"Not that Zoltan mentioned," Madame said, "but I expect that he'll be the gatekeeper." She gestured to Ira. "Go on, Ira, you're bursting."

"Oh, well," he said, feeling a little abashed. He knew he'd been grinning like a loon through the whole proceedings. "Everyone's probably guessed it. Jane, Madeline, and Lady J took me off and got my silly old eyes fixed the other day."

There were exclamations of delight all around, a clap on the shoulder and a handshake from the burly black man Ira guessed was Tinkermel, applause from the handicapped thirtyish black woman he figured was Kendis, a hug from Pearl, a radiant grin from X, and even a lightly-perfumed kiss on the cheek from the tall, beautiful Hispanic woman who had to be Angelica.

When everyone had settled back down, Andrea patted his hand and smiled at him. It had been a long time since he'd seen her smile at him. Really, had she ever? Since he couldn't remember their married life at all, it was pretty much a new experience to him. She was an angular old lady now, but that smile led him to believe she must have been quite a looker once.

"Well!" Lady J exclaimed. "That was the sort of thing we need in these meetings more often."

"Definitely lifts the energy," Angelica said. "What have you got, Lady J?"

"I've had a messenger from Hel," Lady J said. In response to the very odd looks that came over the faces of Kendis, Angelica, and Tinkermel, she laughed and said, "Doctor Hel Blau, the Sentient Airship."

This only slightly cleared Kendis and Angelica's faces. Tinkermel's face broke into a broad smile, and he said to the two women, "I'll explain later why that's just so awesome." Ira wasn't sure how a man that big could squeak like that.

"In any case," Lady J continued, "she was able to do a high pass over Wonder City and environs with her cameras going -- she doesn't normally come near the place these days, but did it as a favor to us -- and her messenger brought me not only the photos but Hel's analysis of them." Lady J held up a rolled poster and said, "She's overlaid a map of the city on this set of photos, and marked where they've hidden the major receiving and transmitting station. She also detected that they've got backup transmitters -- she spotted the generators and antennae -- in the tent revival camp."

"Which is horrible, but not much of a surprise," Angelica said. "The Shining Brethren are behind the God Squads roaming my neighborhood and other areas of the city."

X nodded. "One of my friends refers to the God Squads also as Mod Squads. She says she's pretty sure there's at least one telepath in each group, and they're altering the minds of troublemakers."

Ira wondered what friend that was who had that kind of insight.

Angelica briefly closed her eyes and laid two manicured fingers on the gold cross at her throat. "More reason to avoid them," she said.

"Yes, indeed," Lady J said. "The key here is that we'll need to somehow take out the main transmitter, I think. But I'm not sure what to do beyond that. I mean, they could just replace it."

"We need a coordinated attack," Pearl said. "Not just superheroic action, but information warfare. We need to explain to people what's happening."

The group collectively frowned into silence.

Hesitantly, Tinkermel said, "Well, I think I've got something that might help."

Every head turned to him.

He fished in one of the inner pockets of his biker jacket (it was lined in purple silk, Ira noticed, bemused) and extracted a small plastic ball, about the size of the tip of his thumb. It was strung on a piece of black rat-tail. Inside the ball was a constant swirl of pink glitter. "This," he began.

"Is fabulous," Kendis said, staring at the swirl. "How have you got it doing that?"

"If you hush, girl, I will tell you," Tinkermel said with a disapproving glower.

Angelica nudged Kendis with her elbow. "Give him his big reveal."

"Thank you," he said, then turned his attention back to the ball dangling from his fingers. "This is my Omni-directional Personal Venus Nega Charm. It gives off similar emanations to what's transmitted through those rings, but in a way that interferes with the waveforms. So it significantly reduces the effects of the transmitters on anyone wearing it." He smiled at Kendis. "And the generator vibrates very slightly at the center of the globe, moving the glitter, so you always know if it's working or not."

"That's amazing," Madeline breathed. "You've tested it?"

"You bet," he said, beaming proudly. "I developed a detection device for the emanations, and when I'm wearing the Venus Nega Charm, the quantity of emanations that reach me are reduced by almost 75%."

"Oh!" Angelica exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "Oh, I know someone who could really use that."

"So do I," Ira said, thinking of Simon's sad whine.

"That's terrific work!" Lady J said, rising and coming over to shake Tinkermel's hand, which seemed to daze him. "Just terrific."

"Say," Andrea piped up suddenly, "do you think you could do something like that on a larger scale? Because that might just could help the sort of thing Pearl was talking about, freeing some minds so they'll be receptive to a little knowledge about what's going on."

Tinkermel's massive brow settled into a frown. "I'd need the materials, and a bigger space to build."

"Well, we have offers of financial help," Lady J said. "Think about what you'd need, while the rest of us think about how to get that for you."

"I'll do that," Tinkermel said. "Meanwhile, I've brought Nega Charms for everyone." He pulled out a handful of them, all in different glitter colors, and handed them around with a grin. "You all tell me right away if you have any strange effects from wearing them. I didn't notice any, but I don't have the powers some of you do."

X picked up a silver Nega Charm, examined it for a moment, then handed it to Madame Destiny with a smile and a little shake of the head. Madame nodded and took it for herself.

Ira took a rainbow glitter one and slung it around his neck. He did feel better.

"Well, this has definitely been productive and no mistake," Lady J said. "Anyone have anything else?"

Jane stirred in her chair. "I was wondering if anyone had room to put me up for a little while," she said.

Lady J gave her a sympathetic grimace, while everyone else looked startled.

"Dottie and I are great friends," Jane said, "and I'd like us to stay that way. Her place is really only big enough for one, and I'm not the easiest person to live with. So, anyone willing to give an old girl a break?"

"No room," Kendis said briefly, and Ira was startled by the undercurrent of hostility in her voice. He glanced aside at Jane, who smiled, just a little, very oddly.

"We don't have a viable guest room right now," Pearl said. "My partner is coping with all this--" she waved over her head "--by renovating everything."

Ira could practically feel Andrea gathering herself to make an offer -- she'd told him that she and Jane disliked each other from something that happened long ago, but she liked Lady J a great deal -- when Angelica said, "I have room!" with the biggest, most starstruck smile Ira had seen in a long time.

Kendis looked aside at Angelica as if she'd grown a second head.

Jane smiled gratefully at Angelica across the room, and that settled that, then and there.











wonder_city: (Default)
I'm afraid that rather a lot of titles I've been coming up with lately are punny...



Love in the Time of Choler

When Angelica opened the door, the last thing she expected out of Kendis' mouth was, "What the fuck has she done to me?"

"What?" Angelica said, frowning.

Kendis shouldered past her into the apartment, her crutches thumping loudly on the hardwood floor. Kit emerged from the bedroom, pulling a t-shirt on. "Hey, Kendis," he said cheerily.

Angelica shut the door and listened to the locks throwing themselves a moment before turning to the room. "What the fuck are you talking about?" she inquired sweetly.

Kendis scowlingly lowered herself into a chair. "I'm talking about fucking Jane Liberty," she snarled.

Angelica sat in the chair opposite her, knees carefully pressed together under her silk dressing gown. "What has she done? Sorry. What has she fucking done?"

"I've been going to work," Kendis said, mopping her sweaty brow with a bandana handkerchief. It was the first really hot day of spring, and it looked like she'd been in a hurry. "As you do. But the thing is, everyone at the home is a fucking genius the whole time I'm there. I was suspecting that something was going on. Everyone was sharper than usual, even the staff. But then…" She lost her coherence in a growl of rage and made helpless little grabby gestures with her hands.

Kit pressed a glass of icewater into one of them and Kendis gave him a grateful look. She drained half the glass at a go, and then continued. "Then Betty, who's been demented and almost completely nonverbal for a fucking decade, out of nowhere starts lecturing one of our elderly Libertarian jackasses on history. Complicated political history about the fucking Harding administration. I didn't even know she was a political history professor before the Alzheimer's." She finished the glass and mopped her face some more.

"So you think…" Angelica began, but Kendis cut her off.

"I know that woman had to've done something to me," she said. "When I saw her last, she patted me on the hand and said that she couldn't thank me enough, but she'd try. I think this is what she fucking meant."

"She amped you up," Kit said, refilling the glass with the pitcher he was holding.

"Like fuckin' crazy," Kendis said, taking another long drink.

Angelica and Kit traded a slightly baffled look. Finally, Angelica said, "So what's the down side here?"

Kendis stared at her. "What's the… she fucking messed with me, that's the down side. Without asking."

"Oh," Angelica said, light dawning. "Oh! Yeah. When you put it like that… yeah, that's fucked up."

Kendis thumped one of her crutches on the floor irritably. "It's seriously fucked up. But… I can't ask her to turn it off! That's the really fucked part!"

"Wait, why not?" Kit said, topping up her glass again.

Kendis sighed and rolled her eyes. "Because… you didn't see their faces, dude. The people at the home. They were so happy, most of them, when they realized they could recognize their kids or grandkids or just their fuckin' nurse. They could talk, mostly. They're not all there -- there's a bunch of shit that's frustrating, like not having words, or having huge holes in their memories, or not being able to do something. But I heard one lady telling a nurse that it was what she'd prayed to happen when she was first diagnosed, it was this enormous gift from God. And…" She scrubbed at her face irritably with her free hand. "If I can give these people a few scraps of joy in what's left of their lives, I can't give that up. I would be the shittiest excuse for a human being ever if I did."

Kit looked at Angelica with his eyebrows raised, then said, "They'll figure out it's you, eventually. Someone will notice that they don't do as well on your days off. And then what will you do?"

Kendis shrugged. "I'll… I dunno. I've gotta think about it."

Angelica was about to say something when she heard scratching at the door. She leapt up, flustered, and hurried to the door, saying, "Sorry, sorry," over her shoulder. She barely glanced at the identification panel before throwing open the door.

The great golden wolf was skinny and drooping as he slunk in the door. He didn't even look up at the people in the room, but let Angelica lay a hand on his neck and hurry him toward the bathroom. "We'll be a few minutes," she said to Kendis and Kit's surprised faces, and shut herself and Simon into the bathroom.

"It's been a long time," she said, pulling towels from the closet as he shifted shape.

"I know," he mumbled, climbing into the shower and turning on the water.

"She still locking the door on you?"

"Yeah, but Watson lets me out every day," he said, and she could smell her chocolate shampoo already. "I just... didn't have the energy to leave."

"Oh, baby," she said, and got the sweatpants and t-shirt she always kept for him out of the closet as well, and plugged in the clippers and put down newspaper, and all the preparations she kept ready for his intermittent visits. She set out the T and syringe for him on the sink, next to her own various medicine bottles.

He finally mustered, "How have you been?"

She thought about the meetings in Madame Destiny's living room, about the fact that she knew what was wrong with him and why it was happening, about the fact that she had no idea whatsoever how to fix it... and said, "Doing all right. Work's been busy. No men in black on the streets around here lately."

"TV says they're mostly at the big tent revival thing," he said, emerging from the shower and rubbing himself all over with her fluffiest towel.

"Huh," she said, plugging in the clippers and setting to work on bringing his hair and beard under control. "I guess they're all shiny brothers or whatever it's called."

"Yeah," he said, standing still and naked and dripping on the newspapers while she made short work of his excess hair. "Job still busy?"

"Yeah," she said. "I'm applying to new jobs to replace the shitwork I got fired from, but that's pretty soulsucking."

He stepped back into the shower to wash the bits of hair off. "I'm sorry. I could talk to Mom about that lab job?"

"No, still not desperate enough to jump into her field." She bent and folded up the hair cuttings in the newspaper. "Still, if she's got a need for a bookkeeper or something like that..."

"Okay," he said, drying off again and reaching for the sink. "I'll let Tizemt know. She's pretty much running the lab now."

She politely turned her back, busying herself with making sure she managed to get all the hair into the trash while he stabbed himself in the ass.

It was only half an hour later that she emerged with Simon, having scrubbed, shaved, and clothed him in the meantime. Kit was telling Kendis a story, but he stopped when the door opened and both of them looked up.

Kendis broke into a grin. "Simon, man, it's been a dog's age!"

Simon smiled wanly and scratched at his beard. "Yeah, things've been kinda fucked up. You're lookin' good, Kendis."

"More'n I can say for you, man," she said, bluntly enough to make Angelica wince. "You look like hell. Not workin' out?"

"No," Simon said.

Kit had somehow managed to slouch to his feet without Angelica noticing, but now he stood up straight and was watching Simon closely.

Angelica half-smiled, half-grimaced, and said, "Kit, this is Simon, one of my old friends. Simon, this is Kit. He's been… staying here." She did not want to try to explain that.

Simon looked up and stepped forward automatically, the well-trained little gentleman, but when his gaze struck Kit's, he straightened right up, shoulders back, looking up into Kit's face while they shook hands. The handshake went on for a little too long, and both of them stood taller, legs locked and braced, staring intently into each other's eyes.

Angelica glanced at Kendis, who put a hand over her mouth to hide a smile.

"Nice to meet you," Simon said, baring his teeth.

"Likewise," Kit said, showing his suddenly long and pointed-seeming choppers.

"You from around here?" Simon asked, and Angelica could almost see the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

"Nope," Kit said, and added, with a faintly pitying air, "Guess you are, though."

"Yep," Simon said, bracing his hands on his hips, which made his still-admirable pecs stand out in the tight t-shirt. "That means I've known Angelica for a long time."

"Bet so," Kit said, with a stiff dip of his chin that suggested he conceded that small point. "I've travelled a lot. Seen a lot. She's one of the finest folks I've met in a long time."

Angelica noticed that Kendis' shoulders were shaking. While she agreed with Kendis that this was comedy gold, she had to admit that she didn't mind having this kind of macho posturing happening between two extremely hot men over her.

"I agree with you there," Simon said, offering a stiff little nod of his own.

The two men continued to stare at each other until Kendis finally snorted laughter out loud. Then they both turned looks of such outraged dignity on her that Angelica started to laugh too. And then the boys turned sheepish, Simon rubbing the back of his head and Kit barking a laugh.

When Angelica recovered finally, she said, "We've got the makings for a big dinner, you two want to stay?"

"Oh, hell, yes," Kendis said, chuckling and reaching over to punch Simon in the arm. "I haven't laughed this much in forever."











wonder_city: (Default)
Fortunately, I had this one mostly written when the stomach bug took me down last week. :} I still owe a Madame Destiny reading -- many apologies for the lateness -- and that's my next priority.



Nothing Says Lovin' Like Somethin' From the Oven

"So I thought you needed to hang out with Jane," Angelica said, handing Kendis a bottle of root beer from the refrigerator. "Cause she'd just go back to usual without you."

"I thought so too," Kendis said, twisting the cap off and staring at it with a perplexed expression. "The thing is, she said she'd copied my power, so I didn't need to hang around an old lady any more."

"Just... copied your power," Angelica said, sitting down opposite Kendis at the kitchen table, beer in hand. "I always read that she borrowed or took powers."

"You know more than I do, sweetheart," Kendis said, taking a drink, then making sure her crutches were securely leaned in the corner. "If Lady J hadn't been there with her 'only tell the truth' field, I would've thought Jane was just trying to get rid of me. That's a damned tiny house."

Kit breezed past them, depositing a kiss on top of Angelica's head as he went to the fridge for ingredients for whatever amazing thing he was making that night. Angelica smiled up at him and wondered again how she'd ended up in this situation, where he had just never left after spending that one night with her. Amazing night. Nights. Every night. And he cooked. Okay, well, that all may have had something to do with why she wasn't throwing him out on his admirable, albeit skinny, ass. "You know, you don't have to cook for us," she said.

"I like being around food," he said, rooting around in the fridge, giving her a pleasant jeans-clad view of said ass. "And I like cooking. It's not a problem." He added, "You're the Jane Liberty fangirl." Yes, he'd poked fun at her for the Jane Liberty robe. And the posters. And the comic book collection. "There's never been anything about her copying a power without taking it?"

"No," Angelica said, wracking her brain for anything of the sort in any of the biographies or analyses she'd pored over as a teenager, secretly dressing up in her sister's old Jane Liberty costume party getup in the privacy of her room. "Never."

Kendis shrugged and glanced over at Kit's array of cooking items. Her thin, dark eyebrows rose sharply. "Hey, no offense, dude, but I'm sober."

Angelica fought the urge to duck. She'd known Kendis for enough years that she didn't think about it any more, and she'd forgotten to mention it to Kit.

"Ah, sorry!" Kit said, putting the cooking wine away in the cupboard with an apologetic grin. "I didn't even ask."

"No prob," she said, waving his apology off. "Thanks for understanding."

"Lotta my peeps are in recovery," he said. "I get it."

Angelica gave up making a mental tally of all the things in Kit's "positives" column. As far as she could tell, his only negative was "lack of job." Which wasn't exactly unique these days.

Kendis went on, "So I guess y'all don't need to scrape up cash for me any more, Ange, for rent and stuff. I can just get back to work."

"Thanks so much for being willing to take time off for this, though," Angelica said, reaching across the table and squeezing her friend's hand.

"Hey, there aren't many chances for me to save the world," Kendis said with a smirk, "between being a Quaker and not really having a world-saving style of power. Oh, and this," she waved at her legs.

"Oh, no, the braces are totally doable," Angelica said, swigging her beer. "Someone like Mel or that kid Brainchild could turn your leg braces into complete death machines." She paused and considered. "Though Mel would make them fabulous death machines."

"Riiight, just what I need," Kendis said, rubbing her face. "Anyway, they'll be glad I'm back at the nursing home. They're always shorthanded these days."

"How did you guys lose so much staff anyway?" Angelica said.

"Pastor Al's Shining Brethren Tent Revival," Kendis said in a tone she probably otherwise reserved for referring to dog shit on the sidewalk. "Like with your mom and sisters. They've got a big thing going now of only spending time with 'holy' people. Meaning other converts. So they can't work with us heathens. That ain't my kind of Christian, I gotta say."

"Nor mine," Angelica said. "My grandma's as holy as they come, and she believes in eating and keeping a roof over your head, even if it means working with non-Catholics."

"My granny wasn't big on me going the various ways I went," Kendis said, "but she didn't throw me out." She leaned her bottle against her chin thoughtfully. "Though if I'd converted to Judaism, she might've."

Angelica cocked an eyebrow at Kendis. "You? Converting to Judaism? Why have I never heard this story?"

Kendis snorted. "It was a long time ago and far away, and besides, the wench is dead." She lifted her bottle and took a drink. "Poor kid."

Angelica joined the toast silently. She knew too many dead people to press the question.

"I noticed that the men in black seem to carry around the Shining Brethren bibles," Kit said, throwing something into the wok with a sizzle.

"How'd you figure that?" Kendis asked.

Kit shrugged, and delicious smells started to fill the kitchen. "I was curious one day and snagged one while the guy wasn't looking."

Kendis and Angelica stared at him, but he affected not to notice.

"Half of it doesn't even have pages," he continued, "just a plastic block that looks like pages. And it reads like really bad Biblical fanfiction."

"You read fanfiction?" Angelica said, astonished.

"Biblical fanfiction?" Kendis said, appalled.

Kit shrugged again and grinned. "A guy's gotta have hobbies."











wonder_city: (Default)
There has been much stress around this house this month. I'm glad it didn't (so far) derail me on writing.



Locked Room of One's Own Mystery

"Corporal," Lady Justice snapped in a deep, commanding voice that Angelica had not heard from her before, "do you know what rank I hold in the Gold Star Brigade Reserves?'

The babyfaced young man, muscularly at ease in his Army fatigues, looked surprised, but tried not to. "No, ma'am," he drawled.

Lady Justice produced a card from her pocket and displayed it at his eye level. The blue eyes widened abruptly, and he popped to attention, cracking off a salute and lifting his eyes to gaze into the distance. "Ma'am," he said.

Angelica glanced at her friend Kendis, who raised her eyebrows, then gave Madeline an interrogative look. Madeline, with a small smile, leaned over, under the cover of Lady Justice dressing down the corporal, and whispered, "She's a major."

"Ah," Kendis said, and shifted on her crutches.

"... and according to Paranormal Order 5117J, the Gold Star Brigade can, in fact, take possession at any time, and as you can see from that authorization there, I am currently in charge of the Brigade," Lady J concluded, then stopped looming over the sweating corporal. "So if you will clear myself and my duly deputized assistants, Corporal, we can get on with this."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, gratefully stepping to his desk and doing something at the computer. His printer whirred to life and shot out a half dozen printed sheets of some sort of glossy plastic. He picked them up, popped out cards for each of them and handed them over to Lady J. He also handed her a last whole sheet and gestured to the elevator door.

"Thank you, Corporal," Lady J said, giving him a smart salute, which he returned, and led her three satellites onto the elevator.

The door shut and the elevator began to descend.

"So that's what you meant," Kendis said, passing a hand over her forehead and back over her shaved pate, "when you said that you had legal rights, but wasn't sure they'd be enough?"

Lady Justice nodded and sighed. "Currently, I am the Gold Stars, because they're missing and only their reservists remain. As such, I walked into headquarters and got all the permissions put through for my activation. And now I'm activating another reservist. All legal and proper, but I wasn't sure it would all go all right, given everything that's going on."

"Who are you activating?" Angelica said.

"You'll see in a moment," Lady J said. She exchanged an unreadable look with Madeline.

The elevator stopped and the doors parted. The guards on duty had apparently been apprised of Lady Justice's status, because they all came to attention when she stepped into the room. One of them stepped forward and saluted. She returned the salute and handed him the printed sheet of plastic.

"How has she been, Sergeant?" Lady Justice said casually.

"About the usual, ma'am," he said, using a digital scanner on the sheet and returned it to her. "Calm enough during the day. You've come at a good time. Do you require a power damper, ma'am?"

"No, Sergeant, we'll be fine, thank you," Lady Justice said.

"Yes, ma'am." There was a dubious tone in his voice, but he pressed a button on his keyboard and nodded to one of his underlings. There was a loud clunk. The private went to the other side of the room and opened a door there that was at least a foot thick.

Lady Justice strode confidently across the room, almost without her usual limp, Angelica noticed. The rest of them trailed her through the door.

It was a small studio apartment with fake digital windows, pastel walls, and an array of aged and comfortable furniture. In the midst of it all, on a rocking chair, sat a tiny wizened woman with short white hair, wearing a blue sweatsuit. She looked up slowly.

"Janey," Lady Justice said. "It's Dottie."

"Oh, my god," Angelica said under her breath, suddenly recognizing in the lines of the old woman's face her childhood idol, Jane Liberty.

Jane Liberty's dark eyes focused on Lady Justice, and she got up from her chair carefully. "Oh, Dottie, you brought Janna?" She gestured at Kendis, who frowned and seemed to be concentrating.

"No, Jane," Lady J said. "She's not Janna. This is Kendis, and this is Angelica. And do you know who that is?"

Something was changing in Jane's face, Angelica noticed, as Lady J was talking. The blank geniality shifted to something more like concentration and attention. When Jane looked at Madeline, her face lit up with recognition. Then frustration.

"I can't remember her name," she said plaintively.

"Madeline," that woman said, stepping forward and extending her hands to Jane. "It's been a long time, Jane."

Jane automatically took the proffered hands, and a glow that Angelica hadn't noticed around Madeline suddenly spread to Jane.

Angelica glanced at Kendis. The other woman had her gaze locked on Jane Liberty and her jaw was set, but sweat gleamed on her dark brown skin. As subtly as possible, Angelica pulled a handkerchief from her purse and mopped Kendis' brow. Kendis gave her a quirk of a smile, but kept her eyes on Jane.

"Janey, we need your help, and we'd like to take you out of here," Lady Justice said. "Are you okay with that?"

Jane blinked several times and took a long, deep breath. Finally, she looked at Lady J and said, "You must be desperate if you're here for me, Dottie. If you're sure, then I'm ready."

"Excellent," Lady Justice said. "Back to the van then."

Jane tottered a little as Madeline backed away from her, and Angelica stepped forward to take her elbow. Jane looked up at her, then over at Kendis, with a crooked smile. "Dottie's got herself a new brigade, does she?"

Kendis gave Jane a wry grin, mopping her chin with Angelica's handkerchief, then pivoting on her crutches and leg braces. "If the Army takes handicapped lesbians, that's the first I've heard of it."

Jane waved her free hand dismissively. "She's just got a... a... thing, you know. People like her. Damn this brain of mine." She clutched at the side of her head.

Once they were past the soldiers and on the elevator, Kendis said to Jane, "I have to hang around you for a few more hours, but you should start feeling more focused soon. Losing words and stuff is the slowest to come back."

Jane looked at her sharply. "You can fix old people's brains?"

"Not permanently," Kendis said with a shrug. "But if I hang around, things improve. If I work at it, I can make a dramatic change for a while."

They went out past the saluting corporal and climbed into Lady Justice's battered old grey van. Madeline gave up the passenger seat to Jane and sat on the bed in the back with Angelica and Kendis.

"Where are we headed?" Jane said, squinting against the bright April sunshine.

"Right now, my house," Lady J said. "The kids settled me in a little mobile home at the edge of town."

Jane looked back toward the low-slung bunker as Lady J drove out the gates of Fort Wilson. "You'll bring me back when I've done whatever it is you need, right, Dottie?"

Lady J nodded slowly. "Yes, just like you made me promise, Jane. All those years ago."

Jane put her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes wearily. "Good."











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