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I am, perhaps, still a little bitter about grad school.

Got a Vision That No One Else Sees

Angelica was resolutely writing up her latest experimental results in her lab notebook over her lunch hour when her advisor, Professor Lydia Necessitas, came looking for her.

Lydia had gotten her PhD young, as one might expect from a scion of Mother Necessity's family, so she was only about ten years older than Angelica. Despite that, she already had deep crow's feet around her icy blue eyes and grey in her short black hair. When she sat down next to Angelica at the lab bench, she looked more tired and pale than usual.

Angelica looked up from pasting the printout of results into the notebook and said, "What's wrong?"
Read more... )

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Defying Gravity

Suzanne Feldstein was just putting her book and StarLeaf into her bag on top of her blue cotton blanket and green cardigan when her StarPhone buzzed in her pocket.

Hey you, texted Simon, bringing, as always, a smile to her face.

Hi yourself, she replied.
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Happy sixth anniversary to us! More things to be said tomorrow; for now, please enjoy this finale for Volume 3, with its special surprise just for you all.

Everything Dies

Angelica was changing into her new dress in Madame's bedroom—carefully, carefully, so as not to muss either hair or makeup, done professionally less than an hour earlier—when she heard the commotion out in front of the house. X knocked on the door a few moments later and said, "Our chariot is here."

"Come give me a hand?" Angelica said, after struggling with her dress halfheartedly and deciding she'd rather have a handsome helper. She deserved it for dealing with today.

X came into the room. Sie was wearing an exquisitely tailored black three-piece suit and a snow-white dress shirt with French cuffs and onyx rose cufflinks. The tie was deep blue silk with a pattern of pale grey gingko leaves, and was restrained by an onyx rose tie clip that matched the links. Angelica gave a low whistle.

"You're too kind," X said with a small smile. "What can I do?"
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My writing pipes were apparently full of snow.

We appear to have fallen off the Top Webfiction site! Please remember to click to vote for Wonder City Stories when you get to the bottom of the episode! Let's boost Wonder City back up into the ratings!

The Love You Thought I'd Be

"So I've been thinking," Kit said as he stirred the bean soup he was making.

Angelica braced herself, and sipped casually at her ginger ale. She had been bracing herself for this discussion for days now; longer, even, since he told her who he was. Every time he started a conversation in a portentious way, she braced herself, and every time, he slid off into some other topic. So she braced herself for that too.

"I'm thinking maybe it's getting to be time for me to move along," Kit said.

Her stomach fell to her toes and she got a little dizzy: the roller coaster had finally hit the big drop. The can crinkled slightly under her grip, and she made herself breathe and set the can down on the side table. After a moment of steadying herself, she got up and walked over to stand next to him.

Both of them stared into the soup pot.

She said, "I guess I knew that."

He laughed, "I'm a playa, not a staya!"

Those words felt like a deliberate splash of something acrid and nasty in her face. She had sworn she wouldn't ever hit back again when a lover hit her, but Angelica had to clench her fists to stop herself from slapping the grin off his face.

She took a deep breath to still the sob that was trying to choke her, and said, waveringly, "That was unworthy of you. And me."

He sobered immediately, set the spoon down, and peered into her face. "Oh… hell. You're right. I'm sorry."

She looked up at him. He was still a blank to her new power, restful and strange. "Old habits die hard?"

"Heh," he said, sheepishly. "Yeah."

"I'm guessing you're not the sort to stay in touch either," she said, looking back into the pot.

"I dunno," he said, picking the spoon back up and scraping the bottom of the pot where things had started to adhere. "Email and texting makes it easy even for someone as lazy as me."

"If you don't lose your phone," Angelica said, letting the conversation take the sting away.

"If I don't lose my phone," Kit said. "Or end up in jail again. Or get killed again."

She swallowed hard. "Do you… get killed often?"

"Have you ever read any of my stories?" Kit said, snorting. "And like in this time, with this government in charge, I'm any less likely to get killed? I could tell you a story about how many bullets I pulled outta my hide last time around…" He glanced aside at her, and added, hastily, "But I won't."

"Does it hurt?" she said.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "But I don't remember it much later. Probably why I end up dead so often."

"Do you look the same or different when you come back?" She couldn't help asking; it was a distraction from the horrible immediacy of his departure, plus she was possibly understandably curious about the workings of the gods.

He thought for a moment, chewing his lower lip (the lower lip Angelica liked to bite). "It depends on… where I am, my intentions in coming back, that kind of thing. If I'm in this world, I tend to be kinda like that guy on that TV show you said you liked as a kid—I come back, but I look different and act different. I have come back the same way before, especially when I need to deal with the same situation. Like, there was this stuff going on with the Army a while back, and I kept coming back as the same guy because it really freaked their shit out when I showed up for meetings and fights." He smiled reminiscently.

Angelica laughed and something felt like it broke in the back of her throat. The tears just poured out of her and she couldn't stop them, so she covered her face with her hands and tried to stop the sad moaning noises.

He pulled her against him and she buried her face in his t-shirt. He smelled of sweat and car oil and beer, and for just a second, she got a complicated whiff of gunpowder and horse and wet dog. And then, of course, her nose was useless because of the tears and congestion that came with them, and she cried harder while he stroked her back and made soothing noises in her ear.

At some point, she shook him by the back of his shirt and muttered, "Goddammit, you asshole, I didn't mean to fall in love with you."

He snorted. "I wasn't enough of an asshole, clearly."

"Asshole," she said again, and let go of him. "I probably look like a damn raccoon now," she said, peering at her reflection in the glass of the microwave.

"Well, at least I kept the soup from burning?" he said.

She went to the bathroom and spent some time repairing the damage. When she emerged, she knew she looked okay, but still felt hollow-eyed and snotty.

Kit served up the soup and a green salad and some glasses of white wine from Argentina. They ate in silence for a while, until Angelica managed to work up her courage to say, "When?"

He said, "I hate dragging this kind of thing out. I was… thinking tomorrow, actually."

Angelica swallowed with care, then gave him an arch look and said, "You were going to leave without saying goodbye to Abuelita?"

His eyes got big, and then he shook his head. "Friday?"

Angelica gave a little nod. "All right." Two more days with him. Two more nights. Maybe she could call out of work… then she started laughing.

"What?" he said.

"I just realized that I can call out of work and not worry about making rent," she said. Somehow, she hadn't wrapped her head around the fact that she didn't need to work for Queer Energy for money any more. She could tell them to direct her pay into something else… hiring another admin, maybe, who she could train to take over the heavy lifting.

"Does that help a little with how pissed you are at her?" he said.

"A little, I guess," she said. "I don't think I'll ever really forgive her, though." Another thought struck her. "Oh, god, how am I going to find another lover I can actually look at again?"

Kit pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I know a coupla Mystikai who might be interested…"

"That wasn't a cue for you to start matchmaking for your soon-to-be-ex," Angelica said sourly.

"You know," he said, finishing his glass of wine, "this is one of the few times I really regret having to leave."

"Do you 'have' to leave?" Angelica said. "Is it part of your built-in wanderlust or something?"

He shrugged. "It's my job to help my people. I did my thing here, and the rest, other people are picking up. There are other places I should be, where no one else is doing enough, or can do enough."

Angelica quirked a smile. "So you admit to having a job."

He laughed and raised his hands. "Got me," he admitted. "A job I've had a really long time now, no retirement in sight. You kids make me feel old sometimes."

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Happy New Year! I hope your holidays—or not-holidays—were lovely and that your 2015 is better than your 2014!

For What We Are About to Receive

Angelica sat next to Lady Justice in the wood-panelled attorney's office. The leather chairs were deep and comfortable. There were some other people on their side of the room that Angelica didn't recognize at all; she was sure they were thinking the same of the tall Hispanic chick in dark glasses. She'd armored up that morning: patent leather pumps that boosted her to six foot two, knee-length black pencil skirt, red silk blouse with neckline that allowed her mightiest bra to serve the girls up front and center, black damask cutaway mock-tailcoat, and full-on femme face with lipstick that matched the blouse and her nails. She'd blown her black hair out to full supermodel-in-the-wind volume and clasped on her grandmother's best garnet necklace with the dramatic drop that pointed straight to her cleavage.

Lady J was armored up too, she was amused to note, but in her own way. The iron-gray bob was impeccable, and she was wearing the Lady Justice costume that was closest to an Army uniform, in navy blue with the stars-n-stripes "ladies" tie and the Lady J balance insignia pinned to her lapel. Lady J was even wearing makeup, the kind of nearly transparent makeup that took about ten years off her age and made her blue eyes even more piercing than usual.

An elderly white man in an expensive grey suit sat behind the broad antique desk. There was a much younger South Asian man standing unobtrusively to his right — his paralegal or intern, Angelica guessed. They handed a small piece of paper to everyone in the room that was a legal statement about Lady J's power and the necessity of having her in the room for the reading (stipulated by Jane's will, apparently) and that anyone could feel free to leave if they did not consent to her power, and the lawyers would contact them later.

No one left.

The lawyer looked over his gold wire-rim glasses at the assemblage and made Angelica feel like she was sitting in a BBC mystery series. "Thank you all for coming. I am Ms. Liberty's attorney, Charles Worthgate. Have been, for several decades now. You have all been asked here because you are part of Ms. Liberty's last will and testament, which, I will note, she updated only a few weeks ago."

"How did she do that?" asked a blonde, middle-aged white woman who looked like she'd bitten into a few thousand lemons in her time.

"By temporary sanity order, duly processed and certified," Worthgate smoothly replied. He'd probably been expecting the question. "Before we begin, I need to ask a question—" he turned and looked directly at Angelica "—of Ms. Luna here."

Angelica cleared her throat and said, "Yes?" in a voice that she hoped was unconcerned.

"Did Ms. Liberty find you before she died?" he said.

Angelica grimaced at the memory and said, "Yes, yes she did."

"And was she in her right mind, do you think, when she found you?" he pursued.

Angelica traded a glance with Lady Justice, and said, "Yes, I think she was."

"That's fine then," he said, nodding.

His assistant turned away and brought back a sheaf of papers to set before Mr. Worthgate. From Angelica's angle, she could tell that there were two distinct stacks of papers. Oho, she thought. That's the version for if she hadn't found me and dumped this on me. Well, maybe I'll get a few dollars at least.

Worthgate flipped through the first couple of pages and nodded. "Right, all right then."

He began to read the will. Angelica mostly tuned it out, because she expected some… set of collectibles or something, really. The sour blonde woman was a cousin of Jane's from her father's side of the family. The woman's face when she heard her legacy—Angelica thought, Oh, honey, 500 grand is nothing to sneer at—led Angelica to believe that perhaps she'd expected to get everything.

She perked up when Lady J's turn came though: "To Dorothy Sanderson, who has always been my dearest and most long-suffering friend, I know you will not permit me to leave you personally a sum of money. Instead, I leave you the control of the Lady Justice Foundation, which position will pay you a minimum annual salary of $100,000 for the rest of your life, and will enable you to create modest grants for whatever purposes you deem best."

Lady Justice laughed and hiccoughed around a sob. "Damn you, Janey," she muttered.

Angelica had already noticed a trend for Jane's legacies to draw out some form of obscenity.

Worthgate glanced up over his wire-rims in her direction and said, "And to Angelica Luna, whose affection and generosity I have repaid with great trouble, I leave the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, to use or dispose of as she will."

Angelica blinked.

There was an eruption of outcries on the other side of the room.

Lady J took her hand and squeezed without looking at her.

Angelica blinked again.

The attorney occupied himself with assuring Jane's jilted next-of-kin that the will was entirely legal, yes, including the temporary sanity certificate. The next-of-kin was saying some things that she was probably regretting as soon as they came out of her mouth, since she wasn't used to the best way to avoid being influenced by Lady J's power: not saying anything at all.

Angelica blinked a third time and found the very nice-looking South Asian man at her side. "If you would care to step into my office, Ms. Luna, I can help give you more perspective on this, as I can see that you are surprised."

Office? Angelica thought. She stood up automatically, and Lady J came with her because she hadn't let go of Lady J's hand. Lady J squeezed her hand again and accompanied her into the hallway and thence into another wood-panelled office.

They settled into the comfortable silence of his office and the identical leather chairs, and he leaned against his desk and smiled. "I'm Anirvan Das, one of the partners. Mr. Worthgate asked me to look after you, if you don't mind."

"No, of course not," Angelica said, taking a moment to actually focus on his face, rather than the blur of Life! all around him. He still looked too young to be a partner, without a sign of either lines at the corners of his eyes or grey in his very black hair. Well, maybe he was a child prodigy.

Lady Justice remained silent, just holding Angelica's hand.

"I expect you're probably wondering what, exactly, being Ms. Liberty's residuary beneficiary means in terms of dollars," Das said, smiling. His suit was at least as expensive as Worthgate's, Angelica thought, eyeing the custom cut that fitted his shoulders rather beautifully. His cufflinks—gold with tiny diamonds set in them—winked at her from under the cuff of his jacket.

"The thought had occurred to me," Angelica said, adding, "Not very much, I expect, given the size of some of the other legacies."

He pursed his lips and reached behind him for a sticky pad and pen. He wrote something on the top sheet, pulled it off, and handed it over to her. "That's according to an estimate our firm made at the end of last week."

Angelica looked down at the yellow square of paper stuck to her fingertip. That couldn't be right. There were so many zeroes. How many zeroes? She counted. Really?

She realized that she'd stopped breathing a few moments before, and let out a rush of air and inhaled.

"You have to remember that Ms. Liberty didn't touch her money at all for nearly a decade," Das said kindly. "She gave carte blanche to her very capable investors long ago, and only drew a relatively small monthly allowance when she was, er, at liberty. Her investors and media management arranged multiple licensing deals over the years, and many of those pay a significant regular fee. And so on, and so forth."

Angelica counted over the zeroes for the third time, then looked up at him over her sunglasses. "Are you sure about this?"

Das gave her a dazzlingly pretty smile. "Oh, yes, Ms. Luna. I did have my assistants triple-check their numbers. I wanted to give you the most accurate information I could. I note that we have seen a significant uptick in licensing income since Ms. Liberty's death, so this number could change by the end of the month, but only in terms of growth."

She slumped back in her seat and looked at Lady Justice with wide eyes. "I guess I'm… rich?"

Lady Justice patted her hand and smiled. "Rather ridiculously rich, I'm afraid."

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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?"

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TRIGGER WARNING for violence, bashing, and hints of sexual violence.

The More Things Stay the Same
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The end of the summer has been busy and weird, but I'm glad I managed to finish this one up for you.

...And Dance By the Light of the Moon

Angelica stared at her ceiling in the twilight of her nightlights, breathing hard and feeling the sweat cool on her skin under the influence of the ceiling fan and fierce air conditioning in the bedroom. Every muscle in her body was suddenly relaxed, after days of being wound tighter than a violinist on stage at Carnegie Hall. She could feel muscles in her thighs twitching with relief, her pulse thudding in her throat and feet and groin, and her mind sailing free of the baggage that had been weighing it down.

Damn, Kit was good in bed.

As her temporary reprieve ended, she felt like she was sinking into the bed under the weight of the words that she had been putting off saying.

This was hard to give up. She had this impression that saying the words would break the curse, return the skin of the selkie (or whatever the hell he was), and make him vanish in a puff of smoke.

And what could she say, really? What are you? was too much like enraging and alienating things she herself had been asked over the years. Who are you? seemed a bit better, but not by much.

"You're quiet," Kit murmured from where he'd toppled over next to her.

"Yeah," Angelica said.

"You could just ask," Kit said.

She turned her head to stare at him. He was smiling lopsidedly at her, one eye almost hidden in the pillow. She almost thought that hidden eye glittered for a moment.

Finally, she said, "So, the little dogs…"

He laughed through his nose. "Not dogs at all."

She gave him a dubious look. They'd certainly looked and acted like dogs. Mean dogs. As they… ate people? Spirited them away? Turned them into little brown dogs? "Then what were they?"

"Hairs," he said. In response to her incredulous look, he said, "No, really, it's a trick a friend of mine taught me years ago."

Angelica digested that for a moment, then turned on her side and ran a fingertip along his beautiful jawline. "You're not human, are you?"

His lopsided smile didn't fail or freeze, and he didn't nod or shake his head. He just kept looking at her steadily with the one unconcealed eye.

"You don't look anything like humans on this new vision I've got," Angelica said by way of explanation. She'd not mentioned the new power to anyone yet, but this seemed like as good a time as any. "Everyone else looks… really busy. Active. That sort of thing. You… don't. So you don't look human."

He stroked her hip idly, running his palm back and forth over where her hipbone angled the flesh.

She sighed. "Jane said I shouldn't tell anyone, but against my better judgment, I actually trust you not to tell anyone else."

"Heh," he said, and while his expression didn't change, there was something strange deep in the one eye she could see. "It's a strange experience to be trusted."

They lay there quietly for a few moments, Angelica, at least, listening to the hum of the ceiling fan motor. Kit's hand continued to wander aimlessly over her hip and side.

"So, will you tell me?" Angelica said.

"Are you sure you don't know already?" Kit said.

"If I did, I wouldn't ask," Angelica said, struggling to not roll her eyes.

"Well," he said thoughtfully, turning on his back to regard the ceiling, "I'm kinda older than I look…"

When he drifted into silence, she proffered, "You have a lot of names and Kit isn't one of them?"

"Well, Kit is one of them," he said, the corner of his mouth she could see quirking again, "now."

"I get the feeling you're used to being evasive about this," Angelica said.

"Many people know me when they meet me," he said. "Or, well, they used to. Not so much any more."

"You're a lot older than you look then," she said.

"Kinda," he said. After another silence, and she opened her mouth to say something else, he said hurriedly, "No, no, I'm going to tell you, I'm just trying to find the right words."

"Okay," she said.

After another moment of consideration, he said, "Does the name Coyote mean anything to you?"

Angelica frowned, trying to think of someone whose name was Coyote. Then her gaze fell on her bookshelf across the room and she remembered some stories, all in a rush, and said, "You don't mean, like, the spirit, or deity, or whatever, named Coyote?"

In the dim light, for just a moment, his profile changed and lengthened, and when he turned to glance at her, there was a yellow glint in the corner of his eye. Then it vanished, and he was just Kit again. But that didn't stop the adrenaline that her lizard brain had just dumped into her bloodstream from making her pulse pound in her ears.

"Okay," she said, making a solid effort to sound calm and collected. I've been sleeping with a GOD??? "Cool. Thank you for telling me." She watched his face, his very human face, with its little laugh lines etched at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth, for a long moment before saying, in a smaller voice, "Can we talk about it in the morning?"

"Sure," he said, rolling toward her and putting his arms around her.

It took her a while to fall asleep, but by the time she did, she'd convinced herself that it had been a trick of the light and her bedmate was just the human man she'd thought him until a few days ago. She knew it was temporary sanity, but she wanted to spend one more night with her face in his neck, smelling his sweat and feeling safe and warm.

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Sorry for the late-in-the-week posting, but this one was a hard episode to write for various reasons. (Jane's death was hard to write, but it was one of the first episodes I wrote when I started this volume, continuously editing and revising as I got closer to it.) Hope you enjoy the longest ep we've had in a few weeks.

This Neighborhood Has Gone to the Dogs

Tinkermel and Tizemt brought a levitating gurney up from the lab and a blanket, and helped Lady Justice and Madame Destiny arrange Jane's body on it.

Angelica looked up at one point during this process, after the brief and lovely taking-down of Pastor Al. Apparently living things are just really fucking around with themselves constantly, because she kept getting dizzy on her new vision/sense/whatever the hell it was Jane had thrust upon her. The gravel was restful by comparison—still teeming with tiny life, but not as… busy as human bodies.

"I brought a stasis field too," Tizemt said. "Since we don't know how long it will be before we can get her, um, somewhere appropriate."

"She's going nowhere," Lady Justice said with a grim vehemence that startled Angelica into looking up again.

Angelica and Tinkermel traded glances (she was grateful she could see his face through the haze of !!LIFE!!). Tizemt nodded. "Why don't we go into the house?" she said.

A sudden panic seized her. She was heartbroken and devastated, and felt like she should help comfort Jane's oldest friend. But every time she looked at people, the rage at what Jane had done to her welled up. Jane had been really fucking vehement about her not telling anyone until she knew what she was doing. If she went into that house, it would all come out, will she or nil she.

Her brain flailed around for something else to do, and Angelica suddenly realized there were riots in her neighborhood, and her grandmother was right in the middle of it all.

"Watson?" she said, when Watson had stuffed her cell phone into her pocket. "Can you take me to my neighborhood?"

Watson and X stared at her for a moment, blankly, then glanced after the little trail of people going into the house.

X said, "We can turn Aloysius over to the cops."

Watson said, "If we can find any that are actual cops, as opposed to paramilitary troops."

X grimaced. "That's what I like about you, Watson: your unstoppable optimism."

Angelica summoned a smile, still looking at them despite the dizzying constant shift of their bodies, and said, "Guys? I just want to see my grandmother."

Watson and X swung into the Divine Sarah, and Angelica joined them. She spent a lot of time staring at the garnet-carpeted floor or walls. The Divine Sarah might have a personality all her own, and be older than either Angelica or X, but she wasn't ALIVE in the way Angelica's new power recognized.

It was a long, brutal drive across town as the sun set and darkness slid in over the city. Some areas were clearly without power, as people sat out on stoops with flashlights and candles and maybe weapons in complete darkness. Something was burning off to the east, possibly down by the river. Masses of people surged across streets from time to time, causing Watson to jam on the brakes (and Angelica always regretted looking up at those moments—LIFE!!!111!!!). Men in black ran pell-mell away from baseball-bat-wielding middle-aged white women. (Okay, she didn't regret looking up for that one.) A group of super-types in full colorful spandex ("Supervillains. They're called The Bloggers," Watson said. "You're shittin' me," Angelica said. "I wish I were," Watson replied.) strolled slowly down the street after a panicking trio of men in black, and Watson chose another street to take.

The drive that was normally 30 minutes took three teeth-grinding, stop-starting, nerve-frazzling hours.

(Somewhere in there, they did, in fact, manage to find actual real Wonder City police and offloaded the swollen-faced Aloysius to them. Watson suggested that they fingerprint and book him while he was unconscious, as he was Faerie-touched, which made them just get on the horn with an urgent request for the Equestrian. As Watson drove the Divine Sarah away, she was smiling grimly.)

The power was out in Angelica's neighborhood, but little knots of people were standing around on street corners with 55-gallon drums that held fires, like it was the dead of winter instead of midsummer. Her stomach clenched when she saw that the groups around these fires were not her friends and neighbors, but little masses of armed white men with appalling emblems tattooed on various parts of them (like their shaved heads). One group pushed off from their "guardpost" and swaggered toward the Divine Sarah, assault rifles lazily resting on their arms.

Watson slowed to a drift as one of them walked in front of the van, and shook her head at the gestured command to roll her window down. Angelica felt unspeakably relieved that Watson's "soft butch" persona did not include so much macha as to try to talk her way past a bunch of armed racist fuckheads.

Angelica noticed that one of the guys with a gun in front of the van had something going on inside him that looked like what happened to Jane, only much smaller and less terrifyingly active. She allowed herself a tiny vindictive grimace and tried not to think about it too much right now.

The guns erected into full assault mode, and one of the men shouted, "Roll the fuckin' window down."

Watson, already humming like a struck guitar string, ran her gaze along the line. Her hands tensed on the wheel, her right thigh tightened slightly. Angelica started to slide down to the floor.

Just then two men were taken down by huge golden streaks from the darkness. The blurs of motion slowed enough for Angelica to see the glinting yellow eyes of Simon's wolf form, and to guess that the other was Ivy. The men yelled, the men around them yelled, guns slewed around wildly…

… And then a tsunami of yelping, growling golden-brown bodies poured into the scene. Half the men went down with bloodcurdling shrieks, and the other half turned and ran. The tide of lean, brown, hungry canines followed them. The men who went under weren't there when the canine-line retreated.

A few beats later, absurdly, a tiny brown dog ran through the headlights after the horde, yipping excitedly.

The three of them sat there, staring, for a long moment, before X said, "What the fuck?"

The two wolves flashed into their human forms, and Angelica clapped a hand over her mouth in a moment of terrifying vertigo. The act of transformation changed everything about their bodies in a few seconds.

After getting control of her stomach back, Angelica had to stifle her slightly hysterical laughter at Simon wearing nothing but tiny black briefs, and Ivy wearing a pair of black shorts and a bikini top. Simon walked to the driver's door, and Watson cranked down the window.

"They're all over," he said, and it wasn't clear whether he was talking about the supremacists or the dog tidal wave. "It's been a long night."

"Yeah," the three in the van said in unison.

"You keep going, we'll run an escort," Simon said.

Angelica looked away in time to avoid seeing the pair's switch, and just watched the shadows in the alleyways out the side window, trying not to dig her nails into her legs or arms in anxiety. What the hell had happened to bring a fucking militia into her home? What had happened to her grandmother, her grandmother's house? Was her mother all right? What about Kit? Her other friends? The bodega? Her apartment?

They made painfully slow progress, especially since the militia had dumped debris and other barricade-like things in the streets, when they didn't park cars across them. Watson, X, and Angelica occasionally had to stop and duck because men with guns were being taken down by wolves (and at least one more iteration of the mass of little yellow-brown dogs), and there were some shots fired. (Angelica hoped the guy who owned the van — Watson's landlord? — would be okay with a few new decorations.)

Just when she thought she was going to explode, she realized Watson had taken them around a twisting way through a part of the neighborhood she hadn't seen in a few years, and the alley they had crawled along had dumped them out right in front of her grandmother's house.

Sitting on the front steps, near the street, was the lean, lanky, familiar form of Kit Castaneda. He was cleaning his nails, from the motions of his almost-silhouette in the city glow.

They pulled up in front and Angelica leaped out of the van. Kit flashed a grin and threw his arms around her.

A second later, she was sobbing into his shoulder and saying in a low voice, "Jane. She… it was awful, IS awful. Oh my god, Kit? ¿Está bien?"

He murmured, "Está bien, she's fine, honest, I've been here the whole time."

Angelica hugged him hard, and pulled away to look up at the front door. She didn't remember pulling away from him or running up the steps, but the next thing she knew, she and her grandmother were hugging and crying and hugging some more.

After Angelica calmed down—much later, it felt like—she was suddenly terrified by the idea of looking at her grandmother, actually seeing her with the new eyes Jane had foisted upon her. Was she some sort of horrible Valkyrie now who could see Death coming for someone? She kept her eyes screwed shut for a few moments, then decided she had to find out.

In the dim light of Abuelita's glassed candles—she saw various saints represented on the candle labels—she looked at her grandmother.

Abuelita was tiny, under five feet, brown-skinned with wavy iron-gray hair cut in a bob. She was wearing one of her good dresses for Sunday Mass, a short-sleeved floral print, and none of her jewelry, not even earrings. Angelica guessed that she was preparing for someone to break in and kill her — wearing her Sunday best and having hidden her jewelry under that floorboard she'd shown Angelica a few years earlier.

Most importantly, while there was a haze of life over and around her, there was no horrible knot of mutation present.

"Your young man, he is very kind," Abuelita said, mopping her eyes with one of the tissues she always seemed to have in her dress pocket. "He brought over a couple grocery bags of food from your place, and something he'd cooked before the power went out. We had a nice dinner. He's a good cook, a very good cook. For a man."

Angelica laughed, partly from the relief and partly from the image of Kit and her grandmother, calmly having dinner while the world went to hell. She went to the door to invite everyone in.

Just then, the horde of little brown dogs ran, yelping and howling, up the street. Watson and X bounded up the steps as the wave came toward them. Kit, however, calmly watched them approaching.

Angelica raised the light level without thinking so she could see what was happening. She almost shouted to Kit, but then the dogs started merging together as they got closer to him and confused her. They went from a mass of little brown dogs to a pack of lean, sandy, pointy-faced dogs that looked like skinny, grinning wolves.

The pack leapt for Kit so fast no one had time to react.

As they arched toward Kit, in the split second before impact, they shrank. Several leapt for his arms, a dozen or more for his lean torso, two for his feet or knees, and one directly at his crotch. They all vanished as they touched him, looking like they were pulled inside him. The echoes of the yelping faded away.

Then Angelica realized something about Kit: he didn't register on her new vision. There was no cloud of changing life there, no haze, no glow.

She felt like she'd been punched in the gut.

Kit turned toward them with a lopsided smile. He seemed different somehow. Bigger. Leaner. Hungrier. Happier. Sadder.

Her grandmother crossed herself and said, "Madre de Dios," just as Angelica said it herself.

Kit's smile got more lopsided and uncertain, and he gave them a rueful little wave. "Heh," he said.

The silence was very awkward.

Then Simon cleared his throat and said, "Well, I guess we know who let the dogs out."

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Life, Jane Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Jane Liberty landed a few feet from Angelica in the Canis front yard, and wavered on her feet. Angelica stepped forward hurriedly to take the fragile-seeming arm of the old woman, to steady her.

"You're a good girl," Jane said huskily, looking up at her with dark eyes that were a little too bright. "I'm sorry, but it's got to go on."

"What do you mean...?" Angelica said.

Then she had to stop herself from staggering backward. Suddenly, she was perceiving things. Strange things. Everywhere. Every. Where. Things she couldn't really understand. Worse, there were things happening inside Jane Liberty, terrible, awful things.

"It's a gift," Jane was saying, "a gift to the world. To let it go out, to let it die with me, that would be... I know it would be... wrong."

"What have you done?" Angelica said, her eyes wide, half about whatever she was seeing and half about whatever was going on inside Jane's body. She couldn't see Jane's face or figure, there was too much happening there, like a cloud obscuring everything.

"I'm sorry, it's a hard gift," Jane said, patting her hand absently. "Don't tell anyone about it, not till you figure it out."

"Oh, god," Angelica said, finally letting go of Jane's arm to press both hands over her eyes. She could still sense the things, new things, everywhere. "Oh, god, what have you done?"

Jane gripped one of her arms tightly, hard enough to bruise. "Listen to me, before anyone comes," she said. "What you're seeing inside me, that's cancer, super-accelerated by the powers I've been using. You're a scientist, maybe someday you'll be able to cure it because you'll understand it. I never could, I couldn't save... I couldn't save anyone." Her voice broke. She cleared her throat. "Don't tell anyone about the power until you know what you'll do with it. I trust you, you're a good, good girl with a good brain. You won't hurt people with it if you can help it."

Angelica lowered her hands and stared at Jane. "You've... this is your power?"

Jane nodded once, tensely. Squinting through the fog of… whatever... Angelica could just see the shine of perspiration on the old woman's skin. She'd heard of people being gray with pain, but hadn't really believed it till now. Jane Liberty's face was pale pasty gray. "Don't... don't disappoint me, Angelica."

Angelica felt hot tears dripping off her own chin. "I won't, I promise." Her head was pounding. What the hell? What the hell?

She caught Jane as the woman's legs buckled and gently lowered her to the ground. She had a moment's ridiculous fear for her nylons, then gave them up for lost.

The Divine Sarah skidded to a stop in the driveway and the doors burst open.

"Jane!" Lady Justice shouted, running toward them. She fell to her knees and took Jane from Angelica. One of her hands rested on Jane's abdomen, and she recoiled from something she felt there. "Jane! Janey, turn it off! Stop using Maddy's powers!"

Jane Liberty opened her eyes and she smiled beatifically up at Lady J. "Oh, Dottie, what for?" she said. "It won't hurt for much longer."

"Janey," Lady J said softly. "Oh, Janey, don't leave me alone."

"Dottie, honey, I did that a long time ago," Jane said, reaching up to touch Lady J's cheek.

Angelica swept a glance around as the others caught up. Madame Destiny was holding herself tightly, the heel of one hand pressed against her mouth and tears running freely. X and Watson were standing behind her, eyes wide and faces horrified.

"Look at it this way, Dottie," Jane said, her breath coming in quick, pained gasps, "I'm going out with a hell of a bang."

"That you are, Janey," Lady J said, looking older than Angelica had thought she could, her face crumpled with grief.

There was a long pause, punctuated only by a sob escaping from Madame and Jane's harsh breathing. The two old friends on the ground just looked at each other.

"Oh, Dottie," Jane said, looking past Lady J at last at the blazing orange and red sunset, "that sky is so beautiful. How long has it been since I really looked at something like that?"

And then Jane Liberty died, watching the skies.

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And we zing back to Jane Liberty and Angelica!

Remember, you can still click here to get your 5th anniversary thank-you gift! As I mentioned, you have a choice of two versions of the short story collection, depending on if you want an all-new NSFW episode or not.

Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing

Jane Liberty sat up suddenly, eyes gone wide.

Angelica grabbed her hand. "Jane? What's wrong? Jane?"

Jane looked at Angelica, her face pale. "Angelica, help me. I need to remember something: who was it whose power I took in the War? She was… dammit… she was a speedster?"

"Blitzkrieg?" Angelica said, racking her brain. Help me, Fangirl Powers! You're my only hope! she thought irrelevantly.

"No, I remember that one, I turned that power on already," Jane said, banging on the table with her free hand. "No, no, it was… dammit… she actually did time stuff…"

That rang a bell. "Blinken?" Angelica said. Blinken had been a tiny footnote in an obscure Jane Liberty biography, but it was one of the books Angelica had read over and over.

"That's her!" Jane said, squeezing Angelica's hand gratefully. "I have to go now. Renata will tell you why." She leaned forward and said intensely, "But you wait for me right here, all right? I'll be back. I promise that I'll be back."

Angelica, startled, nodded. "Sure. Absolutely. I'll be right here."

Jane nodded and peeled off the ill-fitting sweatsuit she had on, revealing the sleek black bodysuit underneath. "Borrowed from the Ultimate's stores," she said in response to Angelica's baffled look. "The sweatsuit wouldn't stand up to the friction, and these shrink or stretch to fit." Then, with a ghost of her trademark jaunty salute, Jane Liberty took off.

Angelica stared after her, watching her accelerate and blink along a high arc away into the sky. What the hell was that about?

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This episode is a little short. 10 comments by Friday gets you another short episode, if you want!

Flying Ace in the Hole

After Jane woke from her nap, she and Angelica had moved up to the deck, while Tinkermel and Tizemt monitored things in the lab. Angelica had a communicator and her phone in case someone needed Jane sent out, and had stopped in the kitchen for some iced tea and snack food.

The sky was cloudless clearwater blue and the trees were still in the early afternoon heat. Cicadas buzzed lazily. She and Jane ate the chips and salsa and drank tea in silence for a while.

"You look tired," Angelica said finally.

"I'm exhausted," Jane said, nodding. "But it's almost over."

"What is?" Angelica said.

"All this," Jane said, and munched on a chip. After she swallowed, she said, "Holding it together. Pretending to be me."

Angelica frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I'm a pretty good actress, right?" Jane said, chuckling without humor. "I got really good at pretending I remember things. Or substituting in words when I don't remember them. God, one of the reasons I needed to stay with you—thank you again for that—was because Dottie kept on reminiscing about things, and I… it hurt to keep realizing how much of it I'd lost. I remember being young pretty well, but the connections and times are… aren't connected." She leaned her forehead on the back of her hand. "That doesn't make sense, I suppose. But this is why I got them to lock me up in the first place."

"You got them to lock you up?" Angelica said. "I always thought the military had just decided you were too big a threat."

"Do you actually think they could've held me if I'd wanted to get out?" Jane said without looking up. "Do you think ten feet of reinforced concrete could really hold me?"

Angelica didn't want to admit that she'd wondered about that—even mentioning it aloud to Kit at one point—but she shook her head.

"All Kendis and Madeline's powers have been able to do," Jane said, "is put me back in the place I was in when I asked to be locked up. It takes a lot of energy to pay attention all the time. To keep from letting out the frustration and anger, to know all the time that there might just be a hole in my head that would let everything leak out or explode." She leaned back in her chair and looked up into the sky.

"I'm sorry," Angelica said. "I didn't realize it was so hard."

"When this is all over," Jane said with a sigh, "I can finally rest."

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Ping! We hit 10 comments this morning, and so here is your bonus episode for the week! Thank you so much! We'll do it again next week.

Cry Havoc

Angelica's phone buzzed, and she picked up without looking at the number. "Yes?" she said.

"Angelica, it's Simon," crackled the reply. Reception was breaking up. She wondered idly if it was because of their interference broadcast or because of something else. "Shit is breaking loose in the city, like, all over. We just saw a report of a riot near your neighborhood."

Anxiety clutched at her belly and adrenaline spiked into her veins. Abuelita! Also Kit and her friends -- hell, even her mother and sisters. They were not in a neighborhood that commanded a lot of protective attention from the authorities at the best of times. She forced her voice casual, though, because she knew there was nothing she could do. Oooh, she could glow at the riot. "You're staying at the Cosmics HQ then?"

Her eyes strayed to the dozing Jane Liberty in the recliner. Well, okay, there was something she could do, if things got bad.

Simon snorted. "No, Ivy and I are heading for your apartment. Your grandmother is a few blocks from there, right? Give me her address, we'll make sure she's okay."

Angelica leaned against a nearby lab bench with relief. Her voice shook as she gave him the address. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you so much."

Simon laughed a little, and said, "What, you think we were gonna hunker down all with our tails between our legs? We're Canises. We get into the middle of shit, even when we're trying to avoid it." She heard Ivy's voice in the background, and Simon added, "We'll go by and make sure Kit's all right too. If you want." His tone was so offhand—clearly jealous—she almost laughed.

"Yeah, please," Angelica said. "Call if you need support. We have a big gun we can send out if you get too deep into the shit."

"Will do, boss," Simon said, and hung up.

Angelica touched the cross at her throat and thought, Keep everyone safe. Please.

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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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Materiel Girl

"And that is the last Nega Projector off the line," Tinkermel said, picking up the tiny box in his enormous hands. He spun it gently, checking the connectors.

The stacks of matte black boxes were lined up along the long lab bench in Professor Canis' Laboratory 5. Angelica, Simon, Ivy, and Tizemt, Professor Canis' lab manager, were standing around, drinking sodas, when this momentous announcement came.

Tizemt, an extremely tall, lanky woman with high cheekbones, medium-brown skin, and short natural hair, carefully set her soda can in a sink. She stepped around the bench to take the box from Tinkermel, apply a tiny bar code sticker, and scan it with a handheld scanner.

Simon leaned over to Angelica while this ritual was going on. "Where's your boyfriend?" he said out of the corner of his mouth.

Angelica smirked at him. "Kit is not, in his own words, mechanically inclined. At least not for delicate stuff. Also, he has a job this afternoon, and that's rare enough I didn't want to discourage him. Also, not my boyfriend."

"Is he still crashing with you?" Simon said, eyebrows rising.

"Yes, he is," Angelica said. "He cooks, and even does some cleaning. And he keeps Jane company when she stays there. Which does not equate to boyfriend."

"Is the security system doing all right?" Simon said. "Do you, er, need me to come by and check it?"

Angelica eyed him for a moment, then said, "You know perfectly well that you're always welcome, and if Jane isn't around, Kit is happy to step out for the evening." She kissed his cheek. "I miss you, you know."

Simon blushed a little and headbutted her shoulder. Angelica caught Ivy's gaze over his head and both of them shook their heads and rolled their eyes.

Tinkermel planted a kiss on Tizemt's cheek. "We couldn't have done this without you, sweetie," he said.

"Well, your design was brilliant," Tizemt said with a shrug and a smile, "and simple, for what it does. Scaling up and automating production was commensurately simple."

"All right, kids!" Tinkermel said, snapping on purple nitrile gloves. "Time for quality assurance!"

They all donned purple gloves and joined Tinkermel and Tizemt at the bench.

"Step one!" Tinkermel said, plucking a box from the pile. "Pick a box. Step two! Push the battery into the connector." He picked up a tiny battery from another box and pushed it into the box. "Step three! Check the monitor." He pointed to the modified StarSeeds on the benchtop. When he waved one over his chosen box, it displayed a sparkly purple icon that said, FABULOUS. "This one is good, so it goes into the good pile." He unplugged it and set it in one of the cardboard boxes on the bench behind him. "If it's not good, put it in the to-be-checked pile, there."

"We have fifteen hundred of these tinkertoys to get through," Tizemt said to a collective groan. "So let's get plugging."

Tinkermel started up his own StarSeed to boom some Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Pointer Sisters, and similar artists helping them along with remarkably speedy and singable disco/80s pop.

"All right!" Tizemt said several hours later, when they'd worked their way through the entire bench of boxes. "We've got a less than five percent failure rate, which I say is pretty bloody good. Now we distribute."

Angelica raised her hand. Tinkermel looked at her with a raised eyebrow and nodded imperiously. "I was just wondering," she said, "how we're going to accomplish that distribution. Because fifteen hundred little boxes, spread in a precise configuration all over this city? Is gonna take weeks with just the five of us."

Ivy, Simon, and Tizemt all nodded agreement.

"Aha!" Tinkermel said with a grin. "I have a secret plan, you see." He opened up his pink sparkly Star laptop, clicked something, and, when a low tone sounded, he snapped, "Sparklebutch Posse, Form UP!"

The other four exchanged amazed and baffled looks.

Voices started to come in over Tinkermel's speakers. "Acknowledged," said one. "Affirmative," said another. "Right on!" said a third. And then there were too many voices to parse individually.

"Eat some pizza," Tinkermel said over the noise, beaming at them. "Drink some beer. Cause the Posse is gonna take it from here."

Tizemt shooed Angelica, Ivy, and Simon upstairs. "You've been in the lab for hours and hours, and there are no windows. Go see the great outdoors while you eat."

Angelica got into the elevator gratefully. Simon leaned his forehead against her shoulder. She scritched him behind the ear absently.

"He'll thump if you do that," Ivy said.

"I know," Angelica said.

"My back is killing me," Simon whined.

"That's because you haven't been exercising," Ivy said. "All your human muscles have gone wibbly."

"No, I think it was the lab bench," Simon said.

"If that were so, Angelica's back should be killing her because she's a bunch taller than us," Ivy said.

Angelica said, "I'm pretty good at ignoring pain. After all, I wear high heels regularly. But you said that I and I noticed that my back hurts like a bitch."

"Well, okay then," Ivy said. Just then, the elevator stopped and opened onto the back hallway of Professor Canis' house.

They picked up a hot pizza from the temporal kitchen safe and a six-pack of beer and carried it all out onto the deck, where they settled down. It was a silent summer evening, just a hint of a breeze starting in the slanting golden rays after what had patently been a hot, still day. Simon took a long swig of beer and looked around.

"I hate to say it," he sighed, "but I miss Jasmine's kids."

"They're sweet kids," Ivy said. "What you don't miss is Jasmine, I imagine."

"I… actually kind of miss her too," he said, plucking irritably at his shorts.

"Well, they're doing just fine," Ivy said. "I checked on them when I was driving down from Boston. They're safely ensconced in western Mass," she said to inform Angelica, "Jasmine took them all there when she realized what was going on here."

Angelica vaguely remembered that their sister Jasmine had had a litter of wolf pups. Superintelligent talking wolf pups. She just nodded and drank her beer.

"I miss Mom," Ivy said, grimacing. "I wonder where she is."

"She's probably with the rest of the Gold Stars," Angelica said. "In that… place Renata apparently sensed them. Or something. I don't really understand it."

The siblings exchanged a glance. "Yeah, she's probably fine," Simon said. "She probably just talked too much and the aliens shoved her in there to shut her up."

Then the sound of a motorcycle engine distracted them.

"Coming this way," Simon said, standing to peer down the long driveway.

The motorcycle turned the curve at this point and roared up to the house in a cloud of summer dust. The rider parked it neatly to one side of the drive facing them, then swung off in a creak of black leather, pulling off the helmet and stowing it on the back of the bike. Six feet plus of solid muscle with an iron-gray flattop and a weather-lined face gave them a brief nod and a laconic, "Mel?"

Simon pointed at the door and said, "Through the kitchen, then turn right and the first door on the right is the elevator. Take it to level E."

There was another nod and a, "Sir," followed by a very slight smile, nod, and, "Ladies," before the rider turned to follow Simon's directions. The back of the jacket was emblazoned with the Dykes on Bikes logo—Oh, thought Angelica, trading impressed looks with Ivy, I may not be as straight as I keep telling myself—and a reflective rainbow pegasus.

And then they just kept coming, dribbling in one at a time at first, and then arriving in groups. Motorcycles stacked elbow-to-elbow in the driveway, pickup trucks lining the drive and then, with Simon and Ivy directing them, parking on the front yard. Angelica was dazzled by the metallic glitter helmets, the rhinestoned jackets, the pink and purple lights along the running boards, the glitzy motorcycle saddlebags. Every one of the riders or drivers were definitely on the masculine end of the spectrum, but oh, what a shiny spectrum it was. Most of them greeted Angelica and Ivy with some level of cheer, and all were respectful and polite to Simon.

At one point, Simon sat down, after directing a butchly horde indoors, and said, "You know, I'd seen some of these people around town at one point or other, but I had no idea that there was… this!" He gestured at the enormous variety of vehicles in his mother's yard.

"Have you been counting?" Ivy said. "Because I've been counting."

"I gave up at 74," Angelica said, mopping her brow with a handkerchief from her purse. "I have to say I've never been privileged to see such a parade of fine, fine people as I have tonight."

"The lab must be bursting," Simon said, picking up his pizza slices and eating half of it at a bite.

Ivy snorted into her beer. "All the butch is rubbing off on you, Simon."

Angelica smiled at him fondly and wondered if he wouldn't mind taking her off to his childhood bedroom for a romp.

At that moment, the door opened and a stream of dykes, bears, and othergendered/otheridentified butches began to stream out, talking, laughing, high-fiving, punching, hugging, wrestling, kissing, voices filling the night so loudly that Angelica feared briefly, ludicrously, that the aliens would overhear them. Pinks, purples, greens, yellows, satins, silks, jewels, leather, lights, and bells flashed and turned and crowded, and then the motorcycles and trucks and cars started coming to life, headlights flicking on and engines purring into the cacophony.

Then the din faded, leaving only a trickle of hearty hunks still chatting, exchanges news or phone numbers, pausing to compare paper maps to maps on phones. At last, Tizemt and Tinkermel emerged from the house, carrying their own pizza box and a six-pack of beer each.

Tinkermel went to hug one of the motorcycle dykes before joining the crew on the deck. Tizemt threw herself into a padded chair and looked around wild-eyed. "What a bloody great crowd!" she exclaimed.

Angelica smiled and said, a little dreamily, "Yeahhh," which got balled-up napkins thrown at her by the siblings.

The last motorcycles rolled down the driveway and Tinkermel came up to take his seat, like a king taking his throne. "I told you," he said to their wondering expressions, "I got this."

wonder_city: (Default)
Alone Time

Angelica stretched her long legs across Kit's lap and finished her beer. "I hadn't realized how stressful it's been to have Jane in the house."

Kit grinned and stroked one of her legs. "She's awesome, but it is kinda like having your abuelita living here."

"No," Angelica said, setting the empty bottle down and plucking another one from the next six-pack. "It is not at all like having my abuelita living here. It's worse. She's a living fucking legend staying in my bedroom."

"Well, not for another couple of days," Kit said, extending his hand in mute request for another bottle. "I'm glad she's swapping back and forth to Lady Justice's, for your sanity at least."

"Oh my god, yes," she said, giving him a bottle and the bottle opener. "I love her, having her stay here has only made me more of a fangirl, but… but…"

"You want to be able to scream," Kit said, grinning smugly.

"Exactly, Jesus fuck," Angelica said.

"Jesus has nothing to do with our fucks," Kit said mock-primly.

"Okay, but some god does," Angelica said, letting her head fall back on the arm of the couch.

Kit rolled his eyes at her and drank. Angelica watched his throat move with each swallow, the lines of the muscles and veins under the brown skin, and her gaze trailed up along his sharp jawline to the perfect ear and the glossy black hair sweeping back from the temple, the high broad forehead with the thin white scar just showing before disappearing into the hairline. When she looked at his hand on the bottle, with long, lean, strong fingers, she felt herself starting to get warm.

"Tell me a story," she said, as she had on other nights, hungry for the sound of his voice, trying to hold off jumping his bones because it only made everything sweeter in the end.

Kit took another swig of his beer and grinned knowingly. "Well, there was this time in Vegas..."

Angelica swallowed a reflexive giggle.

"No, really," said Kit. "Ever been? Hell of a place, emphasis on the hell. I was just hanging out, you know? There was this showgirl..."

"Now I know you're shitting me," said Angelica, rolling her eyes.

"I'm hurt," said Kit, looking pleased. "Anyway, I was dating this nice girl, hanging out, staying away from the gambling... well, mostly..."

"Did you cheat? I know you cheated."

"I did not. It takes the fun out of it."

"You think cheating is fun."

"I only cheat when it's important," said Kit dismissively. "So there I was, and who turns up one night but Bob! I know him from way back -- friend isn't exactly the word, but it'll do -- and we go and get drunk and he makes a couple of bad decisions and I make a couple of bad decisions and we end up in jail."

"I get the feeling," Angelica complained, "that I'm missing out on the good bits of the story here."

"Well, I don't really remember what happened, but from hearsay it involved a police cruiser, spraypaint, and a tray of cold cuts."

"Cold cuts?"

"Shh, I'm getting to the good part. So there I am, rotting in a Nevada jail -- again -- and my sweet girl is going to be wondering what had happened to me! Bob they let out, he's got bail, but I don't. (He's a cheap bastard.) So I'm left sitting on my bum with this skinny half-trained kid who looks barely old enough to grow a beard rattling his keys on the bars."

"I've been there," said Angelica, a little more grimly than she intended.

"Nevada?" asked Kit.

"No, jail. Go on."

"So I look him up and down, and he's got a tattoo on his wrist -- clover, looks like -- and he's got a rabbit's foot on his keychain, and every time he walks past I get a whiff of bayberry and wintergreen. Oh, yeah, he got a job in Vegas to support his habit, if you know what I mean. So I sit down, not too far from the bars, not too near, and I start counting on my fingers and watching the clock, and every now and then I swear, real loud, FUCKING HELL, or DAMMIT ALL TO HELL, or whatever comes to mind."

"I'm intrigued," said Angelica.

"Well, it took a bit more to catch him. I went up to the bars, finally, and demanded to know if the clock was accurate 'to the second, man, to the second!' and when he told me that it was, I swore even louder. Then I said, 'Well, its not like it matters, when I'm stuck here, and someone else is raking in all my jackpots.'"

"Really," said Angelica over her bottle.

"And that caught him. He wanted to know. At first he tried to be standoffish, but as soon as I told him that I'd broken the code (they all think there's a system or a code) at 'one of the bigger' casinos and knew when one of their slot machines was going to pay out that evening, he was right up against the bars. Drooling. 'It's all rigged,' I moaned. 'And just once it was going to be in my favor! My own personal money tree!'"

Angelica raised an eyebrow.

"He wanted to know where and when. I shook my head. 'Nuh huh,' I said. 'Nothing doing. Like hell I'm going to let you go and get my jackpots when you haven't done a thing for me.'"

"Like let you out of jail," said Angelica.

"Which he did," said Kit smugly. "And gave me all the money in his wallet except for the twenty dollars I said he'd need to change into tokens to feed the one-armed bandit. And gave me a ride to the bus station."

"Bus station?"

"Yeah, I figured I would need to get out of town before the casino kicked him out and he figured out I'd directed him to the wrong one."

"What do you mean, the wrong one?" asked Angelica. "There wasn't a right one!"

"Oh, sure there was. That's where Bob was, the tricky little bastard."


"Oh, the whole figuring out the system was all Bob's thing, not mine. I told you," Kit said, with a yawn that turned into a grin. "Cheating's boring."

wonder_city: (Default)
Dancing, So As Not To Be Dead

Angelica made her way homeward carefully and casually, hoping that the God Squads weren't out in the neighborhood. She carried her heavy grocery bag in the crook of one arm and her purse slung across her chest messenger-bag style, just in case she needed to run. She'd taken to wearing sneakers when outside the house, especially since the warmth of spring had settled in and her heels were now strappy and easy to compact into her purse.

She had been embarrassed that morning when she realized her sneakers were covered in tiny Jane Liberty logos—the stars particularly prominent—but Jane hadn't seemed to notice.

As she rounded a corner, Angelica could hear Kit's voice saying, "So this Raven guy hacked into the company database..."

"That's not what a database looks like, man," said a young male voice that cracked over his adolescent protest.

Angelica peered up at the stairs at the side of the house next to her and saw Kit and two vaguely familiar hangers-on crouched against the worn brick wall.

"How would you know? Have you ever seen one?" asked Kit, angling what looked like the flat screen of a StarLeaf tablet. From her position, she could mostly see a bright reflection, although there appeared to be some sort of animation under it. She wondered vaguely where he'd gotten it; she didn't have a tablet and hadn't ever seen the need for the expense.

A second boy punched the first in the shoulder. "Shut up! This is the good part!" The first subsided reluctantly.

Kit smiled and glanced down at the square object he held. "ANYway, he hacked in and had to get through all the mazes and fight all the defenses they'd set up." Angelica could just see pixellated swoops and arcs under the reflection of the sodium vapor streetlamps, bright swashes of color glowing. "He knew the code he was looking for was in there. But when he found it, it changed his icon..."

Kit glanced up and saw Angelica watching. The glowing screen between his hands resolved, focused, and became a picture of a black bird holding something bright in its beak, revolving slowly. "You'll have to wait to see the rest of it. My date is here." The picture blinked out, and Kit was left holding a pane of window glass.

Angelica reminded herself that he'd already admitted to being para. Just because she'd never seen him do anything with his powers before shouldn't freak her out now.

The two teenagers looked over their shoulders. One of them grinned and muttered something to Kit under his breath. Kit smiled easily and said, "Yeah, she is pretty gorgeous isn't she?" The boy flushed brick-red and fled past her, his companion laughing and running after him.

Kit set the glass down in the grass next to the stoop, stood, and stretched. Angelica sighed happily at the sight of his brown belly peeking out between t-shirt hem and waistband, and the long, denim-clad legs that led to his impressive derriere. He kissed her, his sparse four-day-old stubble scratching at her chin, his warm and slightly beery breath washing over her as he laughed at her silly grin. "You look like a woman who's enjoying herself."

"Just reflecting on my luck," she said, glancing away from his amused gaze. "Come on home and make dinner for me."

"And your guest?" he said, taking the groceries and falling into step next to her.

"Yes, and my guest," she said. "How is she anyway?"

"I left at lunch, and she was flipping through channels," he said. "She waved and told me to have a good day at work."

"And did you?" she inquired. She noticed that the knuckles of his right hand were skinned and scabbed, and that he had a cut over one eye.

He laughed. "Oh, sure. I helped out at the shop."

The chop shop, Angelica knew, was one of the more consistent employers of less discriminating individuals in the area. He usually avoided it because the guy who ran it had a grudge against him. "Manny wasn't there today?"

"I didn't think so, but he came in," he said with a vaguely sheepish glance at his knuckles.

She unlocked the front door of the building and let him in. "What did you do to him anyway?"

"Oh, this 'n' that," he said, holding the stairwell door for her as she made sure the front door was locked again. "Might've had something to do with a lady. I don't actually remember."

Angelica snorted and they fell into companionable silence as they climbed the narrow steps.

The security system opened for Angelica and the two of them stepped into the living room, where the television was turned up to an ear-shattering volume and the whole place smelled of Lysol.

Kit and Angelica exchanged a bewildered look before turning to look for the houseguest.

Jane's tousled grey head poked into view over the sofa, and then she stood up from the kitchen floor, her sleeves shoved up. "Hi, there," she said, almost but not quite trying to hide the scrubbrush in her hand behind her.

"Were you…" Angelica began, advancing a step or two.

"Yes, I was scrubbing the floor," Jane said, somehow sounding irascible and embarrassed at the same time. "I got bored."

Kit slouched into the kitchen past her with the groceries and managed not to slip on the wet linoleum.

Jane dropped the brush into the bucket at her feet with a plop. "Sorry," she grumbled.

"No, it's awfully kind of you to do it," Angelica said, hanging her purse up and smiling to hide how baffled she was. "I just never seem to have the time to… do much of anything around here. I vacuum. You know."

"No, no, I used to hate it when my mother would show up and clean my apartment while I was off, you know," Jane said, drying her hands on her sweatpants. "And here I am, doing it."

Angelica said, "It's really all right. My grandmother would thank you."

Kit grinned at her over Jane's head as he unpacked the bag. "Okay, that's enough work outta you today, ma'am," he said, chivvying Jane out of the kitchen. "I hafta cook here." He picked up the bucket and dumped it into the sink.

Angelica said, as she headed for the cabinet where she kept her booze, "Would you like a drink, Jane?" She was suddenly feeling the need of one herself.

"Oh, sure," Jane said, lowering herself onto the couch. "Got whiskey or tequila?"

"Both," Angelica said, after a quick glance over her supply. "Though the whiskey's better. The tequila's cheap stuff, and I don't have any mixers."

"Whiskey and soda is fine," Jane said, rubbing her wrinkled forehead with the heel of her hand. "So I guess you're kind of a fan, huh?"

Angelica spilled whiskey on the tabletop and restrained herself from drinking straight from the bottle in embarrassment. "Yes! Yes, I guess I am."

"I like the glass case of the kitsch you've got over there," Jane said, waving a hand toward Angelica's little collection. "I remember most of those things. That doll was such a goddamn hoot, and so was the decoder ring."

"I just pick things up when I see them, you know," Angelica said, adding soda, mopping up the spill, and bringing Jane her glass. "I've been a fan since I was really little."

"I remember that poster too," Jane said, gesturing toward the framed print on the wall with her glass. "That was during the time they made me change my eyes blue, you know."

Angelica's hand twitched at this, but she managed to keep her beverage in its glass. "Really? I didn't know you could do that."

"I always thought I should study medicine or science or something," Jane said, examining the contents of her glass. "It might've made my power more useful. But I never had time."

Kit was deep into food preparation in the kitchen and didn't notice the look Angelica sent his way. To cover the fact that none of the histories or biographies of Jane Liberty had really covered the exact mechanics of her power, Angelica said, "I'm studying biology. Well, was studying biology. Genetics. I'm trying to save up enough money so I can go back to graduate school."

"You can't get a loan?" Jane asked, looking up and seeming suddenly very interested.

"I got caught up in a lot of red tape," Angelica said, sitting down opposite Jane and considering all the paperwork she had already filled out and would have to fill out again. "And my parents, uh, opted not to help me out." She waved a hand in a way she hoped was elegant and expressive. "It was a mess."

"You want to be a doctor?" Jane asked.

"Not… not a medical doctor," Angelica said. "A PhD. A researcher. You know, trying to cure cancer and all that."

Jane stared at her with an intense, disquieting dark gaze for a long moment, then looked down into her glass again.

"Dinner!" Kit sang, just when the silence was getting strangely ominous. "Hope no one minds rice 'n' beans 'n' some fish."

"Hah, sounds like something my mother would've made," Jane said, levering herself upright.

"Where was your mother from?" Kit asked, serving out dinner onto plates.

"Mexico," Jane said, "but no one was ever supposed to know that." She set her glass down on the table, then settled into the chair Angelica had put a pillow on for her comfort.

Angelica blinked. "You did a good job of keeping that quiet. I never saw anything like that in the biographies."

"It was easy to pass herself off as Italian, if anyone asked," Jane said, picking up her fork. "She didn't have an accent, and it was New York in the 1940s, after all. And then she died young, poor thing, so once I got famous, no one could pester her."

"Why break the habit now?" Kit said, falling to his meal while watching the old woman.

"Because everyone who wanted it kept quiet is dead," Jane said, picking out a piece of spiced fish. "And I'm as good as." She put the morsel in her mouth and chewed carefully.

"Aw, come on now," Angelica said with a horrible sinking sensation in her stomach.

Jane smiled at her briefly, lips pressed shut against the food she was chewing. After a moment, she swallowed and said, "It's a brief enough resurrection, kiddo. Take advantage of the weirdness of paranormal miracles. Do you have any questions you've always wanted to ask me?"

wonder_city: (Default)
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."


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Wonder City Stories

June 2017

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