Part Six of a Series
The First Adventure
All characters are mine and mine alone. If they look like anybody you know or think you know, it ' s sheer coincidence. This story does contain some violence, foul language, and sexual content. If you don ' t like any of these, please try your call again.
Synopsis: Brice has been home only a week before she finds herself in Virus's company. Will she join him after he tells her everything she wanted to know? Will she get to keep her promise to Greer?
My deepest thanks to all those reading this, especially those who have waited as long for this ending as I have.
Dedicated to all my email buddies. You know who you are and why this is dedicated to you.
Questions? Comments? Rude remarks? email@example.com
“I'm three minutes away. Don't hang up,” Noel ordered.
Brice couldn't stop smiling despite the pain in her ankle. It felt so good to hear Noel's voice, “I wasn't planning on it. However, you should know there is a nice gentleman here with me. He's letting me use his phone until you get here.”
“Copy that. I'll make up an excuse or slip him something.”
The man in question was looking confused, “We're in the middle of the trail. How is she going to get here?”
Brice created a lie, “She's a helicopter pilot and very protective of me.”
He looked up into the trees, “I don't think she'll be able to land.”
Within a few more minutes, the sound of a helicopter was above them. The kind hiker, whose name was James, could only stare in shock as Noel set the auto hover feature and came zipping down a line between the trees.
“Thank you so much for helping her,” Noel said, walking towards him. Before he could say anything, she stuck a needle in his neck. She pushed the syringe until it was empty and turned to look at Brice, who was still on the ground. She ignored the man as he fell to the ground, unconscious.
“I don't know whether to hit you or kiss you,” Noel said, unable to figure out her emotions. What she really wanted to do was cry, but she wasn't going to. Little did she know tears were already trying to sneak out of the corners of her eyes.
“Help me up,” Brice said, lifting a hand. Noel reached down to pull her up and the two friends found themselves in each other's arms.
“Damn, I missed you,” Noel whispered. Brice hugged her tighter, “I know. Me too.”
“You missed you?” The white-haired superhero asked, pulling away with a laugh. Brice gave a thin smile, “Yes, actually. I hope I never look in the mirror and see nothing but my face again.”
Noel gave a brief nod in understanding and turned her attention to the hiker starting to stir on the ground, “We had best go before he wakes up. He won't remember anything in the past thirty minutes.”
A zip line ride later both women were sitting in the helicopter. Brice couldn't take her eyes off of Noel.
“Quit staring at me already. I know you're in love with me but I'm taken,” Noel said, easing the helicopter on a course home.
“Alice,” Brice briefly stated. She thought back to what Kate had said about the South African woman who was Noel's fiancée. Could Alice really have been one of the world's most deadly assassins?
“Alice is doing fine. So is everyone else for that matter,” Noel said. She then added with a sly grin, “Well, Greer just broke up with Michael, but both seem to be doing well.”
“Really?” Brice asked, trying not to show too much interest in the newfound information.
“Yes, really,” Noel said, rolling her eyes, “And I swear you two are going to figure out what the Hell is going on between you guys. We're not having any of that crap. Now that you're home, Alice and I are getting married. I don't want any complications with planning the table settings.”
The brown-haired woman grinned, “So you two are finally tying the knot?”
The other woman shrugged, “We figured time is a precious thing to waste.”
There was something in Noel's voice that caught Brice's attention. She focused on her friend again. She was so happy to see Noel that she hadn't noticed the small ways her friend had changed.
“You're skinnier,” Brice declared, “And you look tired. Pale and exhausted even.”
Noel tried to brush it off, “I had a long night working out at the gym. Gotta look good on my wedding day.”
“Fuck that! What's wrong?” Brice demanded.
Noel flashed a surprised look at Brice, “Language, Brice.”
Brice sighed and rubbed her hand over her face, “I've had a rough day. The only friend I had since I went away turned out to be an assassin who just tried to kill me and somehow failed. I was drugged to sleep and I didn't expect to ever wake up.”
Noel reached over to grasp Brice's arm, “But you did and that's all that matters. We'll go get you checked out at a hospital to make sure there are no lingering side-effects and I promise to tell you what's up with me when things settle down.”
“Deal,” Brice promised. As soon as the words left her mouth, the communications system lit up on the dash and a voice came in over the speakers, “Calling Papa Juliet Seven…”
Noel flipped a switch beside her and interrupted, “I hear you already. No need to draw this out. Who is this?”
“This is Fort McKinley. You have a subject of interest aboard and we are requesting you bring her in to us immediately.”
“Request denied. We're going to see Mamma Mia tonight.”
Noel was reaching for the switch to cut off communication when another voice came on, “Noel, this is General Brien Carrey. You will bring Brice Johnson to our base at once and that's an order. We have an aerial escort in bound for you. ETA two minutes.”
“I don't take orders from you,” Noel snapped, “So you can suck my…”
A beeping sound broke off Noel's sentence and a large radar pulled up on the screen. A squadron of jet fighters were heading straight toward them.
“I don't think that's the General's welcoming committee,” Brice said. While she hadn't flown a bus in almost a year, she still remembered how to read a radar, “It's Virus.”
“Yeah. We definitely need to find a cure for that son of a bitch,” Noel growled, pressing buttons and typing commands into the computer.
“That would make you the granddaughter of a bitch,” Brice quipped, making sure her seatbelt was tight.
Noel said, pressing the radio button, “General, we accept your order and we're coming in. We have bogeys on our tail.”
“Backup is on the way. Get flying, girl.”
“You heard the man. Get flying, girl,” Brice ordered.
“Do you want to fly?” Noel snapped.
“Tough luck. Now hold on. This is going to get tricky.”
“Where are they?” Greer asked for the hundredth time. Alice patiently answered for the hundredth time, as she worked on the computer, “I'm still working on it.”
“They should have been back already,” Marge commented. Like Greer, she was impatient for Brice's return. Both women had come racing to Alice's and Noel's house when they received Noel's text message.
“Okay. I have the helicopter's GPS pulled up. It looks like they're at,” Alice paused, zooming in on the location, “Fort McKinley.”
“Let's go,” Marge said, “I don't know why they're there but I have strings I can pull if need be.”
“So do I,” Alice agreed. Greer followed the two women. She didn't have any strings she could pull but she would be damned if anyone was going to keep her from Brice. It turned out she would be damned.
“How long is this going to take?” Noel snapped, “You can't keep her here forever.”
General Carrey eyed the violent-tempered superhero, “Noel, you and I both know that people need to be debriefed after long-term undercover ops. Not to mention that she also stated she was poisoned. We're just going to run some tests. The orders came from your boss.”
Noel snatched the file out of his hand and read it over. The man leaned back in his chair, making the bars and stars glimmer at her, “Actually it was your boss's boss but you get the idea. We'll keep Brice as long as it's necessary.”
“I'm sitting right here,” Brice snapped from across the table. A medic had been glued to her side since they had arrived at the fort, barely escaping Virus's henchmen. She glared at the person who had yet to stop filling vials of blood from her arm, “Would you get this damn needle out of my arm before I shove it down your throat? You have a gallon of it already.”
The medic started to speak but General Carrey said, “I think that's enough for now. Get that blood to the labs right away.”
“This is fucking ridiculous,” Noel said, tossing the file back at him, “Her DNA hasn't changed since she left. I don't trust your doctors or you for that matter.”
“Well, that's a shame because she can't leave until we've cleared her,” General Carrey stated. He sat back, letting the light wink off of his five stars, with a smug smile, “You are free to leave.”
“You can go if you want,” Brice offered while her eyes begged Noel not to leave her. Noel fiercely shook her head, “I'm not going anywhere without Brice.”
“You are accountable for your actions and I will throw you into the brig without a second thought,” Carrey firmly stated. Noel saluted with her middle finger.
“They won't let her out. They won't let her see anybody either,” Noel said. She was on one side of a thick panel of glass while Alice, Marge and Greer were in a room on the other side. Choosing to stay with Brice meant they wouldn't let her have physical contact with anyone not stationed on the base.
“You don't look well,” Alice said, more concerned with Noel's color and stance than anything to do with Brice, “You should sit down.”
“I'm fine,” Noel grumbled, “Any luck on your side?”
Marge shook her head, extremely frustrated. She wanted nothing more than to pound her way to her daughter, “All my contacts are coming up empty. Whoever is pulling the strings has a lot of power.”
As the three older women talked, Greer stood silently in the background with her arms crossed. She didn't like where this was going.
A hiss behind Noel signified the door had opened. General Carrey walked into the room and Noel didn't attempt to hide her sneer.
The general opened his arms in greeting, “Majesta, it's a pleasure to have you visit our base. I know you are concerned for the safety of your daughter, but I promise she's in the best hands.”
“I want to see her,” Marge ordered, “Now!”
General Carrey shook his head, “I'm afraid I can't do that. She's undergoing medical tests right now and seeing a therapist for any trauma she experienced on the outside.”
“Brice hates therapists,” Greer softly commented.
Marge had had enough. She placed her hand on the glass, “If you do not let me see my daughter right now, I will smash through this glass and find her myself.”
General Carrey shook his head while smacking his tongue against his teeth, “Now, now. We can't let you do that. We'll turn on the Ununseptium lights and you won't get far at all.”
Marge's hand closed into a fist as the woman reddened with anger. Greer decided it was time to play the only card she had: the public. She pulled out her phone and clicked on the Twitter application. She quickly typed a new message and then looked up at the general, “I would let Marge see Brice or you will regret the consequences.”
General Carrey snorted, “And what are you going to do to me, little girl? Boys might melt over you in tights but that's not real power.”
“Actually,” Greer stated with a smile, “It is. You see I have over half a million followers on Twitter and I just typed a message. It says ‘The officers at Fort McKinley won't let Majesta see her daughter! It's outrageous and cruel!' You see, I also tagged Majesta so all of her two million followers will see it. Even if you could take it down, once on the internet it will live forever.”
General Carrey started to pale as the women started smiling. Greer continued, “Soon the press will have a hold of it and reporters will be knocking on your door. Not to mention all of Majesta's superhero friends, who will feel an injustice is being done to one of their own. So what shall we do, General? Shall I press send or will you let Marge see her daughter?”
There was a moment of silence before Carrey cleared his throat, “Marge can see Brice, but only because she's family.”
Marge rounded on Greer as the blonde closed her phone and gave her a soft squeeze which felt like a firm hug, “Thank you, Greer. I'll tell Brice what you did and tell her hello for you.”
Marge was soon escorted away and Alice turned her attention back to Noel, “Now go find somewhere to lie down.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Noel agreed but only because she really was feeling tired. This only made Alice worry more. The white-haired woman laid a hand on the glass before turning to leave the room. She would find wherever Brice was and lie down for a nap.
“This is as far as you go, ma'am,” The soldier stated. He had led Marge to another room with a glass barrier and just as she was about to protest, Brice entered the room on the other side of the glass.
“Ma,” Brice cried out, rushing to the glass. She placed her hands on it and Marge rushed to the glass as well.
“Oh, let me look at you,” Marge said, feeling tears well in her eyes. Brice couldn't stop looking at her mother either. The shorter woman had more grays and wrinkles than the last time she had seen her.
“If you break the glass, Majesta, we'll turn on the ununseptium lights,” The soldier warned.
“Fuck off,” Marge snapped at him. He didn't leave the room as his instincts told him to, but he did take a step back.
“You are grounded for the rest of your life,” The mother said, wiping tears from her eyes, “I mean it. I'm not going to let you leave my side for a year. Do you know how much your father and I missed you?”
“I know, Ma. I'm sorry I left without saying goodbye. At the time it seemed like the best solution.”
“It's the past. We can deal with it later,” Marge promised, “How are you? What happened? Where were you?”
Brice told her mother the short version of everything that had happened while she was gone. Upon hearing an assassin had tried to poison her only daughter, Marge went red with rage, “I'll find her and bring her to justice! No one poisons my little girl and gets away with it!”
The brunette smiled, scraping her fingers across the glass, “I'm sure you'll get her, Ma. How are you? How's Dad?”
“We've all missed you terribly. Dad will be here soon. He was in flight when I called him outside of the base. They'll let him in if they know what's good for them. He won the neighborhood Christmas award again.”
Brice beamed, “That's good.”
“Your brother is doing well too. He's working full time as a superhero while living on the beach.”
“That's good too.”
“Do you know what's wrong with Noel? She's lying down out in the hall now behind me,” Brice asked. Marge gave a sad smile, “That's not for me to tell. She'll tell you soon, I'm sure.”
The mother and daughter chatted until her father came. Then the trio talked for as long as the soldier would let them, “Visiting hours are over.”
Marge looked ready to smash him through the wall, but Mark placed a restraining hand on her shoulder, “We'll be back tomorrow. Love you, Brice.”
“Love you too, Dad. I love you too, Ma.”
“We'll be here first thing tomorrow,” Marge promised, “And you'll be home not long after that.”
“Okay,” Brice said. She wanted her parents to leave before exiting the room herself. Noel was still lying on the cot someone had placed there for her. The bus driver went over to her friend and gently shook her, “Wake up, sleeping beauty.”
Noel grumbled something that sounded like ‘five more minutes'. Normally Brice would have insisted that Noel get up but her friend didn't look well. So she asked a guard to bring her a chair and sat beside her friend until she woke up.
It had taken five days of wheeling and dealing before Brice had been allowed to communicate outside of the base. Her parents came to see her every day and Noel was by her side when the white-haired woman wasn't sleeping, but she wanted to talk to Greer.
“A phone call?” Brice asked, incredulously, “Seriously? Is that all I get? Like I'm a freaking prisoner? Not even a video chat?”
“Take it or leave it.”
Brice grumbled a few unpleasant things before saying, “I'll take it.”
“What's the number?” The communications officer asked.
Brice could only blink at the woman, “I don't know.”
The officer let out a long sigh, “Fine. What's the name?”
“Greer Watson. Superhero name is Cobalt Thrust.”
After a few minutes of typing, the officer pointed to the phone on the wall, “It's ringing.”
Nodding her thanks, Brice picked up the phone. She was briefly amused to see it was a corded phone.
In her bedroom in New Jersey Greer answered, wondering who it was, “Hello?”
“Hey, it's me. Brice.”
Greer gripped the phone tighter in her hand, “Hey! I mean…hi.”
Brice repeated softly, “Hi.”
There was silence on the line for a long moment, causing Greer to ask, “Are you still there?”
“Yeah, I'm still here. So how have you been?” Brice asked.
Greer half-laughed, “Fine, I guess. Between work and school I don't have much free time. Organic Chemistry is going to kill me.”
“Really?” Brice asked.
“Yeah. I even have a test in there tomorrow. My professor is not sympathetic to superhero causes,” Greer added, “Or missing class because of returning, lost friends.”
“Then you had best go to class.”
“Did you get my Christmas message?” Brice asked. Sending the message to Greer was what had tipped off her would-be assassin and Brice hoped that it hadn't been for nothing.
“Yes. I did. Thank you,” Greer said, “I knew that was a risky thing to do, but it kept me going. Knowing that you were okay. So where were you?”
“Was it nice there?”
“Well, I didn't see much of it. I spent most of my time at work or drinking in my apartment. I honestly don't think I'll drink ever again.”
“I can imagine,” The younger woman said. She looked at the picture of Brice and her on bedside table, “Was it hard? Being away?”
“It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do,” Brice softly replied, “I missed you.”
“I really missed you too, Brice,” Greer said, holding onto the phone as if she was holding onto Brice herself.
“Did Noel give you my letter?”
“If you call a small stack of sticky notes a letter, then yes, Noel gave them to me,” Greer tried to tease.
Brice misread the tone, “I'm sorry about that. I know it wasn't a proper way to write, but I couldn't find any paper. I would have…”
“Brice, Brice,” Greer quickly interrupted, “I was just teasing. It's fine. The sticky notes were fine.”
“Oh,” The brunette said, softly smacking her forehead with her palm, “Sorry. I used to be able to tell when you were joking. I guess it's been a while.”
Greer softly muttered an agreement.
Brice cleared her throat, “So I know I promised you a long talk.”
“Yes?” Greer asked, cursing her heart for beating faster.
“And I want to talk to you about it, but this call is being monitored. By a woman who will not stop staring at me, to be honest,” Brice said, casting a glance to the communications officer. The woman blinked at the mention of her, but showed no other kind of movement.
“Well, tell her to go find her own conversation,” Greer said, upset that they wouldn't get to talk and happy to have a few more days to prepare for it at the same time.
“I'll do that,” Brice laughed, not sparing the officer another glance, “How's school?”
“School,” Greer replied shortly, the typical answer of most college students, “I'm actually thinking about quitting. I can't decide on any major and might as well spend my time working.”
“Well, if that's what you want to do then do it.”
“Seriously?” The younger woman exclaimed, “No ordering me to stay in school and not risk my life being a superhero? I've been prepping myself for huge arguments over this.”
Brice chuckled, “I'm not your mother, Greer. My time away has left me with the sincere belief that you shouldn't waste time. If you want to drop out of college, do it. Pursue what makes you happy.”
“When will you get out of there?” Greer asked, wanting to pursue what made her happy.
“Hell if I know,” The brunette grumbled, frustrated, “They just want to drain my blood. Hopefully in a few days.”
“I can't wait to see you.”
“I can't wait to see you either.”
Brice rested a hand against the wall she stood beside and stared at her feet, “So… how's Michael?”
“He's good,” Greer said, “He's living at the beach and training hard to be a good superhero.”
Greer hesitated, “He's also got a new girlfriend.”
“He broke up with you?” Brice demanded to know. “I'll beat his sorrow butt. He can't fly off if I have hold of one of his ears.”
The blonde half-laughed, “No, it was a mutual breakup.”
“Oh,” Brice softly breathed.
Greer bit her lip before saying, “He said I was in love with someone else.”
“Oh,” The bus driver repeated, gripping the phone tighter in a sweaty palm, “Who is the lucky guy?”
The blonde had to smile a little to hear Brice sounding as nervous as she felt, “Michael was referring to a woman.”
“Oh really? Who is she?” Brice asked, hoping she knew the right answer.
“Oh, for the love of Mike,” The communications officer groaned, “It's like listening to a soap opera. She's referring to you, idiot.”
“Who was that?” Greer demanded, turning her head as if she could see who it was. Brice cast the woman a glare, “I guess you could hear her. That's the communications officer monitoring the call.”
“Oh,” Greer said, “Maybe we should finish this conversation without a third wheel attached.”
“And in person,” Brice agreed.
“And soon,” The communications officer added.
“Noel, I can't stay here any longer,” Brice whispered desperately, “I'm going crazy. All they do is run medical tests on me and shove pills down my throat so I won't become anemic for all the blood they're taking. It's been a week.”
The two women were in a small supply closet, holding one of Noel's devices that kept them from being overheard.
“I know,” Noel said. She was getting tired of being in the fort as well, “But when we leave here, Virus and his goons will be sure to follow.”
“I want all this to end. I want to go home,” The brunette stated firmly.
“Okay. Well, first we need to make up a plan. I've been thinking on this for a while…”
When she stole the guard's card key, Brice didn't think she would get away with it. When she hijacked the jet, she didn't think she would get away with it. When she flew through the side of the hangar, she definitely didn't think she would get away with it. However, she had. Twenty minutes later she was at her house in Tennessee. They would have to pry her from her home before she went back to that fort.
The house scans recognized her and let her into the house. She imagined the systems were cheering for her arrival. It was like walking into a time machine because nothing in her house had changed since she left. It felt like she had been gone on a long, horrible vacation.
Brice walked around the house touching everything, remembering everything. She took the longest time in her bedroom. The former bus driver was puzzled because the bed was messed up when she was sure she had made it up before she left. However, she put the thought away and went into the living room to get the phone. Her first plan was to call her mother to tell her she was out of the fort.
She was walking through the hall to enter the living room when there was a firm knock on the door. Brice froze and felt her heart start beating rapidly as the knock came again. Before she had time to start fully panicking, a voice spoke from the other side, “Brice, I would like to talk to you.”
The man's sly voice was one Brice could never forget. Virus was on the other side of her front door. She spun around to run, with the thought of locking herself in the basement while calling for help. She hadn't expected Duster to be standing right behind her, holding a gun.
“You're not immune to bullets,” Duster smirked. She gestured the gun towards the door, “Open it.”
Brice ground her teeth in frustration but turned to open the door. There Virus stood in a handsome three-piece suit. He smiled, “Aren't you going to invite me in?”
Brice said nothing at first until she felt the gun jabbed into her back. She said, her voice soaked in anger, “Please. Come in.”
“What a lovely home,” Virus said, taking his time to look around, “You have good taste, Brice.”
“Thank you ever so much. How about I hook you up with a friend of mine who is an interior decorator, have a cup of tea, and meet for lunch another time?” Brice offered.
Virus chuckled, “I hear Noel in your manner of speech. I think my daughter has had quite the effect on you.”
Brice stilled, not knowing if Virus had made a threat against his daughter, “We're friends. That's all.”
The older man sat down on the couch, unbuttoning his suit coat as he did, “Oh, I know. Good friends as my spies tell me. I'm glad to know my daughter has someone like you around. Though I'm not sure if I approve of my daughter's fiancée.”
The former bus driver grunted as Duster pushed her down into her overstuffed leather chair. She shot the second-in-command a look of disgust before turning her attention to Virus, “Alice loves Noel and Noel loves her.”
“Yes, but a former, ruthless assassin who has killed almost as many people as I have?” Virus pondered aloud, “I had expected different things for my child. Oh, well. I wasn't around much for her.”
“Did you just come here to talk about being a deadbeat dad or did you have something else you wanted to discuss?” Brice snapped, getting tired of the runaround. If Virus was here to take her or kill her, she wanted to get to the point.
Virus laughed, “I see the months of being someone else have left you without patience, Brice. But to answer your question, I did come here for another reason. I would like you to join me. You're coming with us whether you cooperate or not, but things would be so much better if you did cooperate.”
“I'm never going to work for you so go ahead and do what you have to do,” Brice said. She waited for the gun blow to the back of the head or a needle prick. Neither came.
Virus gestured with his hands, “Hear me out. We can come to an arrangement, I'm sure. I have something you want.”
“And what is that?”
Brice stared at the man with a mixture of horror and distaste, “You would kill Noel just to get me on your side? What kind of father are you?”
Virus shook his head, “No. I wouldn't kill her. Nature is doing that on its own. I'm offering you the chance to save her. Surely you've noticed she doesn't look well.”
The hazel eyed woman remained quiet. She had noticed and it really worried her. Noel said it was just a bug, but there was a weariness in her eyes that said it was something she had been fighting a while. No matter how many times Brice had asked what was wrong, Noel had refused to answer.
The supervillain answered her question, “Noel has PMN.”
If Brice hadn't been sitting, she would have fallen. Her friend had Pescale's Malignant Neoplasm? The super cancer that killed everyone it affected? Her best friend was going to die? She could barely focus on what Virus was telling her.
“You see, Brice, I'm one of those with a rare, high mutation level. I started out with one power when I was young and then I gained another, then another. I just kept developing powers. Everyone in my family has been the same way. The only problem with this gift is that we all develop Percale's Malignant Neoplasm. I'm the only one in my family to live past the age of fifty. My daughter is like myself, gaining more powers as she gets older. We both have contracted PMN. It would seem she has less time than I do, but we will both die within the year if we don't receive help.”
All this seemed oddly familiar to Brice, as if she had dreamed it in a nightmare before. It still shook her to her core. Brice drew a shaky breath, “Where do I come in?”
“You, Brice Johnson, are our savior. You can save my daughter's life. It's in your blood. I won't go into the scientific details, but your blood holds the cure to PMN. If you agree to come willingly, I'll supply Noel with the cure Lamb creates,” Virus paused, a hardness covering his face, “If you do not cooperate, if you so much as cause any trouble, I will not give Noel the cure. I will live and she will die. What is your decision?”
“I'll go with you,” Brice answered without hesitation, “I'll do whatever you ask me to. I'm not sure I believe what you're saying, because there is nothing special about me. However, I can't take that risk. You give Noel the cure to PMN and I'll be your obedient blood bank.”
“Wonderful,” Virus said, beaming as he rose to his feet. He rebuttoned his coat, “Now we must be on our way. Let's go, Brice.”
“Wait,” Brice said, not getting up from her seat, “Can I take some things with me? I mean you can check them for bugs or whatever. Some photos. Please?”
Virus looked at Duster, who was fervently shaking her head, “Go with her, Duster. Check anything she grabs. You have three minutes, Brice.”
Brice got up and went to her room. She no longer worried about Duster and her gun. If what Virus wanted from her was her blood, she didn't think Duster would really shoot her. Other forms of harm were still an option, but she wouldn't bleed.
As if reading her mind Duster growled, “I know thousands of ways to make you beg for death without spilling a drop of your blood. Don't try anything.”
With only a few minutes to spare, Brice collected what she thought they would let her take with them. She grabbed the photo of herself, Greer and John from their first Christmas together and took a few hologram photo albums out of the closet. She stood in the middle of her bedroom, getting one last look before Duster pulled her from the room. The items she had grabbed were taken from her and given to one of Virus's other henchmen. She was escorted from the house into a large helicopter. Virus was talking to her, but she ignored him to stare out the window.
Being gone almost a year had caused her to forget how beautiful her mountain top home was. She soaked in the scenery as they flew overhead, staring at her mountain until it was out of view. Only then did she turn her attention to the villains beside her.
“So, what now?”
Marge and Greer were beyond furious with Noel. The duo stood outside Fort McKinley arguing with the white-haired superhero while Alice looked on.
“How could you just let her leave?” Greer raged, “Do you know what just happened? Virus just took her!”
“Do you think I don't know that?” Noel argued back, “I was there when the message came in too. But Virus isn't going to hurt her. He wants her too damn much. We'll get her back. He can't hide for long.”
“He's eluded us for the past three years we've been searching for him, and let's not forget all the agents who've tried to capture him for the past two decades. Why should our luck change now when we haven't come closer to catching him since he went rogue?”
“Because,” Noel hesitated, suddenly feeling weak, “Because Brice is on the other side. She'll find a way to let us know where she's at.”
Alice took a step closer to her fiancée and Marge frowned. She moved forward to place a hand on Noel's forehead, “You're cool and clammy.”
“That's my power, don't wear it out,” Noel muttered, “I need to sit down.”
Alice was behind her when her knees buckled, holding her up, “You're going to a hospital. Now.”
Noel only made the women around her worry when she didn't argue. Within the hour she was checked into a private room at a superhero hospital and her doctor was examining fresh scans of her body.
“It's not good,” Dr. Franklin reported. Noel blindly reached for Alice's hand and found it. Their laced fingers gave her the strength to say, “Tell us.”
“It's spreading faster than we anticipated and we anticipated fast. There are a few treatments we can try to give you some more time, but it's not a cure.”
“How much time?” Noel asked. She felt Alice's hand squeeze her harder.
“It's impossible to say. Perhaps a few weeks or a month.”
“Okay. I'll do the treatments. Anything for more time,” Noel said, looking at the doctor without really seeing him.
“How is the pain?” Franklin asked.
“Fine. The stuff you have me on is working fine. Can we be alone?”
The doctor nodded and left the couple in the room.
After a heavy pause Alice asked, “Do you want to go home?”
“Here's as good a place as any,” Noel said, looking out the window, “I'll let you know if I change my mind.”
Silence fell between them again and nothing was said for a long time. What do you say in a moment like this?
Alice had never felt more heartbroken and defeated in her entire life. Every contact and resource she had came up empty in the search for Virus. She finally had to conclude one of his powers was the ability to hide himself from the rest of the world. Alice felt tears start to well in her eyes and she fought furiously not to let them fall. She had to be strong for Noel.
“You know, this isn't going to get any better. If you want to leave, I'd understand. I wouldn't…”
“Shut up,” Alice barked, “I'm not going anywhere so just shut up.”
Noel tugged Alice's hand until the other woman understood what she wanted and slid into the bed beside Noel. The dark-haired woman led her head against Noel's chest and listened to her heart beat. She tried not to think of how many beats it had left in it.
“This is your new home. You will not leave the compound and if you do, our deal is void,” Virus warned as they walked through the building. Brice didn't know where they were. They placed a hood over her heard in the helicopter. There were times it felt like they were flying higher into space and other times it felt like they were diving in the water. She didn't know if they were on ground, under it, in the sea, in the sky or circling the planet.
“You will spend most of your time with Lamb or in your room. As I am not unkind, you will have access to a movie and TV service as well as a virtual library.”
“All illegally downloaded,” One of his henchmen said with a laugh. Virus gave a thin smile before focusing on Brice, “Once again, Ms. Johnson, if you cause any trouble whatsoever, our contract is void. This is your prison,” He said, gesturing around him, “But it's a comfortable one. Don't do anything to see how uncomfortable we can make things.”
Brice nodded, resisting the urge to spit on his highly polished shoes. Virus looked at Duster, “You are in charge of her, Duster. You will be with her at all times unless she is in her rooms.”
The supervillainess was taken back. She was Virus's second in command. Watching Brice day and night would mean she would never get to go on missions again and her mind revolted at that thought. She wasn't a babysitter, “Boss! No. There are others…”
“None who I trust as much,” Virus stated calmly, “She is your charge and don't make me regret this decision. Take her to Lamb.”
From the look of rage on Duster's face, Brice knew to keep her mouth shut. She would have preferred a different warden since there was little love between her and the dustbag.
“This way, baron. Hurry up,” Duster snapped. Brice followed her down a corridor. They took a few turns before finding themselves at a set of white double doors. The sandy-blonde roughly shoved Brice through the doors when she hesitated. She barely kept her balance.
“Welcome,” Someone greeted them. Brice looked up to see Lamb, the short, plump and bald scientist who worked for Virus.
“Welcome, vessel of perfect deoxyribonucleic acid. Come. Sit,” Lamb gestured to a chair. Brice held her ground for a moment. Before her lay a large needle in Lamb's hand and behind her stood a very upset woman with a gun. It took courage to move forward and sit in the chair.
“I understand they have taken a lot of blood while you were at the fort so I will just take a small vial today. The fresh blood will allow me to work on a cure,” Lamb said, checking her arm for a vein.
She decided to have some of her questions answered, “Why do you need my blood? Why is it so special?”
“Because your blood has no mutations,” Lamb answered as he marked off where he would stick the needle.
“So? A lot of people have no mutations. It's what makes me a baron.”
Lamb laughed at her ignorance, “No, no. Everybody has mutations in their DNA. Humans, barons, superheroes, everybody. When a person's DNA is mutated over 6%, they develop an ability that sets them apart from the human race, what we call powers. Most sidekicks have 6% to 10% of mutated DNA. Superheroes can range from 11% to 20%, though anything over 18% is very rare. Anything over 20% is no longer considered human.”
Lamb started preparing her arm with iodine and betadine. He didn't ask if she was allergic as everyone else did. “Your DNA, Brice, has zero mutations. Even the most normal person would have a mutation level of 0.85%. Over the years, scientists have figured out what the perfect DNA strand would look like by comparing and contrasting at least a hundred million different people's strands. No one has even considered the possibility of someone having perfect DNA, but you do. That is why you have never had a cold, flu or virus. That is why your body remained unchanged by the toxic waste you took a bath in. The medicine those doctors gave you was for naught because you were never at risk for mutation. You can never succumb to poisoning of any type.”
“That's why you didn't die when I shot you,” Duster growled from the side of the lab, “I had that dart coated with a rare, painful poison from the Amazon and you lived.”
Suddenly a lot of unexplained pieces of Brice's life made sense. It explained why she was forced to give blood samples more often than any other bus driver when she worked for the high school. It explained why Kate's poison hadn't killed her. Brice was stunned to realize that was only a week ago, it felt like years.
“So can you really create a cure with my blood?” Brice asked as Lamb inserted the needle into her arm.
“With time,” Lamb promised. Brice wondered just how much time Noel had.
Jamie, Marge and Mark were at a pub in Ireland. Marge and Mark insisted Jamie eat before the mother took vigil over her daughter at the hospital with Alice.
“Do you ever regret having your kids?” Jamie said, looking dully at her sandwich. Marge put down her own sandwich and Mark's brow furrowed. Marge wiped her mouth, “What do you mean?”
“Do you regret having kids?” Jamie repeated, looking up at the couple, “Do you regret having Brice, knowing now all the misery she went through for being powerless?”
Sensing tears were coming, Mark gave his wife a look. Marge nodded and the blonde-haired man slid out of his chair. He gave Jamie a comforting squeeze on the shoulder before walking up to the bar.
The white-haired woman placed a shaky hand over her eyes, “I keep wondering if I would still have Noel, knowing now what would happen. Nick never wanted kids and he didn't tell me why until after I was pregnant with her. I knew this would happen, but I thought…I thought there would be a cure by now. She's going through so much pain because I decided to have her. I sentenced my baby to this and I keep wondering if I shouldn't have made a different decision.”
A sob escaped from her, “I'm a horrible person.”
Marge quickly slid her chair to her friend's side and wrapped her arm around her, “No. No, you're not a horrible person. I don't think Noel regrets a moment of her life. I keep wondering too. If I hadn't had Brice, she wouldn't have gone through all the trouble she's going through now. Virus wouldn't have her and she would have never experienced a moment's grief over being barren. But, I'm also selfish and I enjoy every moment I have with her. I'm going to get her back and Noel will make it through this.”
Jamie angrily jerked away, “Don't tell me lies to make me feel better. Everybody who gets this disease dies from it. Your mother died, everyone in Virus's family died.” More tears streamed down her face, “And so will...my…”
Marge lightly squeezed her friend, which to Jamie felt like a firm grip, “Now you listen here, Julya Gavronskii, if you don't believe in me then believe in Virus's will to live. Virus will sooner or later get PMN too and he will not let himself die like that. He will find a cure and when he does, we'll use it on Noel. I'm sure Brice is already searching for a cure wherever they are. Maybe she even has something to do with the cure since Virus was so adamant about getting her. When I find him I promise to crush him within an inch of his life until he tells us what he has for a cure. Just have faith a little longer.”
Tears streamed down her face for another moment before she wiped them away, “You're right. Nick's will to live and control the world is far too great to let PMN get in his way. He will find a cure if he doesn't already have one. That's why he keeps Lamb by his side, I'm sure.”
“That's the ticket. Now let's finish our sandwiches and we'll drop you at the hospital while Mark and I go scooting for any clues on Virus's location.”
“How's Mark been handling everything?” Jamie asked, grabbing a napkin to dry her face.
Marge cast a long look at her husband, who was chatting with the bartender. As if sensing her stare, Mark turned around to give her his trademark smile. She smiled warmly back, “He's been holding together just to hold me together. He got to talk to Brice while she was at Fort McKinley but I don't know what he would do to Virus if he got his hands on him.”
“Everything he deserves done to him,” Jamie solemnly stated.
Brice's days passed by slowly in Virus's compound. She could only explore a little at a time with Duster following her every move when she stepped out of her room. Her room was nothing special, much like the average hotel suite with a bed, a desk, a few chairs, a TV on top of a dresser, and a bathroom off to the side of the door. The former bus driver spent most of the first week in her room pretending to watch TV as she dwelt heavily in thought. She knew she was probably being monitored and most of the time she ate her meals in her room.
After the first week, Brice felt restless. She no longer dreaded going to Lamb, who took small vials of her blood and gave her pills to take to keep from becoming anemic.
“I was adopted, you know,” Lamb stated as he inserted the needle into Brice's arm.
“Fascinating,” Brice drawled, never caring for Lamb's attempts at conversation. She assumed he just felt lonely, being by himself in his lab all the time. Still this was one of the few conversations he started that she could actually follow without need of a chemistry textbook. Lamb often tried to explain what he was doing to make a cure, but she couldn't follow.
“Yes, very,” Lamb said, releasing the clamp on the tube so that blood started flowing down into the bag, “My parents were incredibly intelligent scientists. I wouldn't call them villains, but they weren't heroes by any stretch of the imagination. They helped whoever paid the most money. Being so intelligent, they realized it was ridiculous to have a child of their own so they adopted instead. They considered heavily between me and a little girl from China before deciding to buy American. They pumped me full of chemicals to turn me into the smartest person on the planet.”
“I'm…sorry?” Brice hesitantly offered. Lamb waved off her apology, “Don't apologize. They did the best for me. Though I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a Chinese woman. That's why I tried to invent a quantum mechanical event generator. The one your Noel destroyed.”
Suddenly Brice had the vision of a stunningly beautiful Chinese woman version of Lamb taking her blood. She would have liked to have written it off as an overactive imagination, but Brice couldn't. It felt like a memory; a memory that had never happened.
“I think you would have made a beautiful woman,” Brice told the short, bald man.
“Thank you, Brice. Remember to squeeze every five seconds.”
“God,” Duster groaned behind them, “I'm going to go shove a knife in my ears.”
“Please do,” Brice snapped, tired of the woman, “I didn't stick you on watchdog duty so could you stop your grumbling? You're the biggest pain in the ass I've ever met.”
The villainess evaporated before Brice's eyes and reformed in front of her, a knife held against her neck. Duster growled, “Do you want to repeat that?”
Brice pushed the woman's arm away in disgust, “Like you would dare even nick me. Virus would scatter your dust to the four corners of the world if you did.”
Duster's cheeks darkened and she lunged at Brice, only to be stopped short by the needle pressing into her arm. Lamb warned, “I suggest you step away from the perfect DNA and go cool down before we take a chance on the wheel of horrible chemical side-effects.”
Duster turned her glare onto the scientist, who met her with a calm look. The scientist won in the end and Duster stormed off. Lamb sighed as he recapped the needle he had threatened her with, “Villains. Always touchy with their pride. It's quite ridiculous. Oh, I see you've about filled the vial. Let me get another to fill for testing before we wrap up here.”
Even though she knew Jamie was there, Alice stiffened when the older woman placed a hand on her back.
“Love, you've been here for hours,” Jamie said, rubbing a slow circle on Alice's back until she felt the woman start to relax, “Go get something to eat in the cafeteria or go home to shower. I'll sit here until you get back.”
Alice shook her head, “I'm fine.”
Jamie sat down her purse and cupped Alice's face, turning the woman to look at her, “Alice, you'll do Noel no good if you just sit here all day. I mean she's going to notice you haven't changed clothes after a while.”
The silver-haired woman rubbed a thumb gently under Alice's eye, “You've got to rest so you can be strong for her. Go home, eat something, take a shower and she'll still be here when you get back. She might even be up from her nap.”
The dark-skinned woman sighed and reached up to clasp Jamie's hand with her own, “Okay. I'll be back soon.”
When Alice stood, she found herself wrapped in a hug by Jamie which she returned before leaving. Once alone in the room, Jamie went over to kiss Noel's cheek, “You could always sleep through anything.”
The mother went to the window and pulled up the blinds, “It's a nice, warm day outside, which means you would be out at a soccer game, sitting out by a pool, or inside with Alice.”
A wisp of a smile crossed her face, “I think you really picked a keeper. It's so hard to find someone who will stay with you through better or worse. I certainly realized that with your father.”
The hint of a smile she had on her face faded at the mention of her ex-husband. With a sigh, she went to sit in the chair Alice had vacated. She took her daughter's hand in hers and smiled as she recalled old memories, “Remember how I used to tell you a story every night just to get you to calm down and sleep? You wanted lots of action and fighting in every tale. If five bad guys didn't end up with injuries by the end of each story, you wouldn't go to sleep.”
“Mommy! Mommy!” A seven year-old, white-haired girl shouted as she jumped up and down on her bed.
“Nikita,” Jamie ordered, “Stop that at once.”
Niki pouted as she jumped once more on the bed and landed with her legs crossed, “Is Daddy coming home tonight?”
“Not tonight, my little snow-gal. He has to work late,” Jamie said, moving to her daughter's bedside, and started easing Niki under the covers.
“Story,” The little girl demanded, struggling as her mother tucked her in tight.
“Okay,” Jamie said, moving to sit beside Niki on the bed. She placed Niki in the crock of her arm, “What story tonight?”
“The story of me,” Niki said, grinning at her mother. Jamie couldn't help but smile back as she noticed Niki's missing front tooth, which she had lost a few days ago.
“Okay,” Jamie agreed, happy she didn't have to create an elaborate battle story, “One story of you coming up. It all starts with your grandfather, Nikolai. He grew up poor on a farm in Russia. One day he discovered he had powers to control snow and ice. Powers that he…”
“Passed on to us,” Niki gleefully finished.
“Yes, dear. Now your grandfather went on to become a superhero, SnowBurst. He then had me…”
Niki interrupted again, “The great SnowPlow!”
“Exactly, darling. I went to high school to become a superhero. In school I had a crush on one of the most popular, handsome guys in school. His name was…”
“Daddy!” The girl proclaimed.
“No,” Jamie said, smiling as she watched Niki's shoulder slump as she got the answer wrong, “His name was Mark. There was a small problem with Mark. He was completely in love with my friend Marge.”
“I thought so at the time, and then right before senior prom, this handsome boy walked up to me. He said his name was Nicholas, he thought I was beautiful but more importantly, extremely talented. He then asked me to the prom. I was so stunned and flattered that I said yes.”
“Very romantic,” Niki droned.
Jamie laughed, “We were never the overly romantic type. We continued to date after high school, got married and we had you, my darling. You are the best thing in my life.”
Niki yawned, “Nice story, Mommy, but you need to work on some parts. Add more bad guys and explosives.”
“I'll work on it,” Jamie promised as she eased Niki down so her head was lying on the pillow. She placed a kiss on her daughter's forehead and whispered, “Good night.”
“Truth was,” Jamie said, “Nick never wanted kids. I honestly think we would have broken up if I hadn't gotten pregnant after the first time we had sex. You were an accident, an accident that I never regretted. We got married because we felt it was the right thing to do. It wasn't bad for those first years before your father started getting further into the Corporation and developing more powers.”
The older woman recalled, “Nick would always come home after work, sit his case by the door and loosen his necktie. The first thing he would say to me would be the driest joke he had thought up of all day while trying to keep a solemn face. When you got old enough to crawl, you would meet him by the door. He'd pick you up in his arms and, as if you were in on it, you would both wear solemn expressions while he told his joke. I would laugh so hard I would cry.”
“Then he stopped telling jokes when he would come home. Soon he stopped coming home as often and then he didn't come back at all. The next thing I know is an agent is at the door asking if I've heard from Nick and explaining to me that Nick had turned rogue, stealing important projects from work. He started calling himself Virus.”
Jamie sighed, “You were only eight when he left. You were only ten when you found out he was now a supervillain. Then one day I called you Niki and you said not to call you that anymore. You wanted nothing to do with your father, not even his name. You picked the name Noel to honor your grandfather while cutting off ties with Nick. You still have his stubborn jaw though.”
“Nice story, Mom, but it needs more explosives,” Noel muttered sleepily. Jamie smiled, moving closer to Noel's side, “I'll work on that. Alice will be back soon. She'll hate to see she missed seeing you awake.”
Noel yawned, “How about I go back to sleep and you wake me up when she gets back?”
“I mean it. Wake me up when she gets back,” Noel ordered, her eyes already drooping.
“Baron! With me! Now!” Duster ordered as she walked into Brice's room.
Just to spite the woman, Brice took her time putting her shoes on before following Duster out the door. “What's going on?”
“Always the charmer,” Brice muttered. She followed Duster down several corridors before they entered what seemed to be a large warehouse. There was a large central aisle and several smaller aisles running down between tall racks filled with items. In the central aisle there were several boxes and pallets piled haphazardly. They walked towards it.
“You're going to help me inventory and mark this stuff,” Duster said. She pulled a clipboard off the top of one of the boxes and handed it to Brice. Brice saw blank, inventory papers and a pin under the clip.
“Since when does a supervillainess do inventory?” Brice had to ask.
“Since she has to!” Duster yelled. Brice took a step back, “Geez, relax, woman. I was just asking. No insults were implied.”
The blonde took a deep breath and exhaled, “Everyone has to pull their weight around here. Okay?”
“Okay,” Brice said, holding her hands up in surrender, “I just thought you had workers who did this for you. I mean what's the point of being bad if you have to do manual labor?”
Duster snorted, “I can see your point. How about we go discover it over the five-star dinner we'll be having tonight under the Tuscan sky? Oh wait, because we're in hiding, dumbass. This is the life of a villain, constantly hiding from the rest of the world. We don't have workers because they would be prisoners and liabilities. Everything that needs to be done around here is done by machines or us. I don't have any other skills besides fighting and mission work so that's how I get stuck doing inventory. You're stuck with me so you don't go wandering off.”
“Fair point,” Brice acknowledged.
“So let's just get this done with,” Duster said. She moved to a box and pulled out a utility knife to open it, “Box of raisins. What in the hell did those fucking morons steal? We'll count these later. Mark box of raisins, destination kitchen.”
Brice did as she was told. For the next few hours Duster opened boxes or counted items on pallets while Brice marked down everything she said.
“And we have fifty garden hoses,” Duster said, wiping her brow on her arm, “Fucking morons stole a K-Mart truck.”
“I figured as much from those boxes that said K-Mart on them,” The brunette said, writing down the last slip.
“Now to start putting them away. There's a map tapped on the back of the clipboard.”
Brice flipped over the board and looked at the layout of the warehouse. Every aisle was for different things according to the map.
“Box of motor oil. It will go on maintenance aisle, row 4. Mark row 4,” Duster said, picking up the box. The next thing Brice knew, Duster was gone in a breeze of dust. A minute later, Duster reformed in front of her.
“I suppose that's easier than walking?”
“At times,” Duster said, picking up another box, “Box of coffee cups goes down the slide to the kitchen.”
Duster evaporated. Brice didn't know where the slide was, but she heard something rustling a few aisles over. Soon Duster was back in front of her.
“Don't you ever get tired of doing that? Or aren't you afraid of leaving a piece of you somewhere? What if you lost your breasts over aisle 5?”
The villain snorted, “I'll get tired after a while and there are chances of losing pieces of myself, but only for awhile. Everything eventually comes back together.”
“Still,” Brice said, “What do you plan to do with those pallets? You can't pick them up.”
“I only have to touch them to move them.”
“But why not use a forklift?”
Duster blinked, “Forklift?”
Brice wanted to laugh, but held it in, “Yeah. Like the one over there.”
Duster turned to look at the machine parked only a few yards from them. She gave it a long stare before saying, “Too much trouble.”
The woman took another box away and Brice grumbled, marching over to the forklift, “Too much trouble? You're too much trouble. Pain in my ass.”
She had the forklift on and moving towards the pallets by the time Duster got back. The villain's eyes widened, “What are you doing?”
“Inventory. Now move,” Brice ordered. Duster moved aside only to hop onto the back.
“That's not approved for this type of vehicle,” Brice warned, “OSHA would have a fit.”
“I don't know who the hell Osha is, but she isn't here. Now what the fuck are you doing?”
“Showing you how useful a forklift is.” Brice moved the joystick to tilt the fork lower to the ground and drove forward to slide the fork into the slates of the pallet. There she tilted the fork back up to pick the pallet up and started driving to the aisle where it belonged. Once on aisle 3, Brice asked where Duster wanted it and the woman pointed to a middle shelf. Brice nodded and moved the forklift into position with ease, “I love Sidewinder forklifts. They just go wherever you want them to.”
Brice lifted the pallet to the right level and slid it into place on the shelf. She turned to grin at Duster, “See. Now we don't have to worry about your arm being left somewhere.”
“It's faster my way,” Duster argued. Brice rolled her eyes and drove them back to the center aisle. Working together, the rest of the pallets were soon stocked and they were only left with a few boxes. As Duster took those away, Brice flipped through previous inventory pages.
She jested when Duster came back, “Your handwriting is awful.”
In less than a second Duster went from calm to furious, “How about I scribble my name into your eyes? Then you'd appreciate my handwriting more!”
Instead of getting upset, Brice just calmly observed Duster. “You don't have any friends, do you?”
Stunned, Duster actually took a step back. Then she stepped forward again, looking just as angry, “I have friends.”
“I don't think you do. It's a little sad,” Brice said. She put down the clipboard and started to walk out of the warehouse to her room. Duster appeared in front of her, furious. “Did you just call me sad? As if I'm some sad, pathetic girl for not having friends?”
“I didn't say you were sad or pathetic. I said it was a little sad you don't have any friends. Everyone needs a friend,” Brice said, walking around her.
Duster called out as she walked away, “There's no point in friends. Look at your so called best friend; she's dying in a hospital bed. You'll be a great friend to her as you'll be trapped here when she kicks the bucket.”
“She won't die,” Brice growled, whirling around, “If she dies, my deal with Virus is off.”
“Oh, it's so cute,” Duster laughed, “You think you have control of your life?”
Brice walked away, furious with herself that she had tried to have a normal conversation with Duster.
“I yield,” Michael said, raising his hands in surrender as a punching bag flew over his head. Greer was breathing heavily from their game of tag. Michael would fly around the room and Greer would send punching bags after him.
“Five minute break and we'll go again,” Greer said.
Michael shook his head, “We've been at this for two hours, Greer. Take a break. Go home.”
“Do you not care that Virus has your sister!” Greer suddenly shouted. Michael had to duck as a punching bag came flying towards him, “Of course I care! She's my sister! She would help me with my homework, read to me and make up flying games for me to play. We'd make funny faces at each other across the table on holidays and tease Ma relentlessly every time she accidentally broke something. I may have been an ass once I hit puberty, but it doesn't mean I didn't love my sister. There's just nothing I can do right now! Don't you think I've tried?”
Greer knew he had and regretted what she had said. “I'm sorry. It's just…every time I think I'll catch a break, something happens. I got to talk to her for fifteen minutes on the phone. If I had known that would be all, I would have kept her on longer.”
“At least you got to talk to her,” Michael said, but not bitterly. He took a chance to say, “So are you in love with her?”
The blonde sat down and mentally pulled a punching bag up to lean against. “No.”
“I haven't seen her in over a year. I can't say I'm in love with her, but I will say I want to find out.”
There was a moment of silence between the friends before Greer asked, “How are your parents doing?”
Michael sighed, “Dad's quit teaching, and he loved to teach. I think he's going to try going undercover to see if he can find Virus's compound. Nothing Ma's tried seems to work.”
“Yeah. My mom and John have tried scrying but it doesn't do any good. Hell, even I've tried. Virus has found a way to block his future from the psychics. We're blind.”
“How are we going to beat him if we can't even find him?” Michael fumed, kicking a bag near him.
“I don't know,” Greer whispered. She stared up at the ceiling and thought, “Stay safe, Brice.”
“Brice, come sit with us!”
Brice paused in getting her tray of food from the vending machine to look and see who called her. It was a woman with stripped gold and black hair waving at her. The woman, whose name she recalled to be Kitty, was sitting with several other people. Brice had noticed that Kitty was very popular in the compound. The woman was always hanging off of some woman or man, making out with them in dark corners. She was a self-declared ‘morale booster'.
“Come on,” Kitty called again.
The bus driver heavily exhaled and took her tray over to the table. Kitty whispered to the man on her right hand side and he gave Brice his spot. Brice sat down, knowing no good would come of it.
“Brice, we haven't had a chance to talk the entire time you've been here. I wanted to catch up with you.”
Brice lifted an eyebrow. “Catch up? I'm sorry but we've never met.”
Kitty started laughing, as did everyone else at the table. Brice felt her temper start to flare; she didn't like being the center of a joke when she had no clue as to what the joke was.
“Move,” A stern voice interrupted the laughing. One man across from Brice looked up to see Duster standing behind him. Seeing the look on her face caused him to quickly vacate his seat and the sand-colored eyed woman sat heavily in the seat. She stared at Kitty and Brice.
“Oh, poo. Duster's here. The chance of fun has decreased thirty percent,” Kitty pouted. She stage whispered to Brice, “She never lets me give public displays of affection.”
“What you call PDA, others call sexual harassment,” Duster stated.
“Brice enjoyed it when I showed her affection,” Kitty said, running her hand down Brice's arm. Brice moved away, “What are you talking about? Who are you?”
“Allow me to show you,” Kitty smiled. Where a woman had been sitting one moment, a large black and gold stripped cat sat the next. The cat jumped into Brice's lap and stood on her back paws, placing her front paws on Brice's breasts. As the cat started to knead her breasts, Brice remembered.
“Empress!” She exclaimed, “You were my pet.”
In the next second, the cat transformed back into a woman and Kitty was still kneading her breasts, “I could still be your pet.”
“Kitty, down,” Duster ordered. Kitty appeared to give the order some thought and Brice hoped she would follow it. She was getting close to shoving the shape-shifter off of her lap.
“I said get down,” Duster said more firmly, “No one wants to see that homosexual crap.”
“Duster's homophobic,” Kitty laughed, leaning forward to kiss Brice. The bus driver jerked back at the same time as Duster leaned across the table to yank Kitty away.
“I gave you an order and I expect you to follow it!” Duster shouted. Kitty laughed as she leapt gracefully away from the woman, “You're just upset that you were getting turned on.”
Duster turned red and grabbed the nearest thing to throw at the woman, which was a tray. Kitty laughed as she jumped out of the way. Brice took the chance to sneak out of the room. Instead of heading to her room, she went to Lamb's lab. When the scientist looked up from his microscope to look at her, she pointed to the right. He nodded and went back to looking at whatever was on his slide.
Brice always tried to treat Lamb with courtesy and respect, which few people had ever done, it seemed. So in return he tried to make her captivity easier. In a small room off of his lab, he had placed a large machine for her. Some might mistake it for a video game, but it was actually a training simulator. Brice spent hours every day refreshing her flying and driving skills. The simulator could simulate any type of vehicle or scenario such as damaged engines or an enemy attack.
She had just started a flight when she heard a loud bang. She quickly jumped out of the machine and raced to the lab to see if Lamb was hurt. Noel's life was in his hands and she could not let anything happen to him. However, it wasn't Lamb who had caused the bang. It was Duster, who slammed the door open, looking furious. When she spotted Brice, she growled, “I didn't give you permission to walk off like that.”
“I'm not your slave,” Brice retorted, “Or your dog.”
“You are what I say you are,” Duster snarled, “Now come with me.”
“Actually why don't we step into my office? You obviously have something you want to discuss,” Brice said, gesturing back into the small room. She didn't want to stray too far from Lamb, who could help save her if Duster got too angry. Duster looked ready to refuse when Lamb added, “She's due to give blood soon. She can't go far.”
“Fine.” Duster walked into the small room after Brice and slammed the door. “You need to be reminded of your position here. You are nothing but a walking blood bank!”
“Are you really homophobic?” Brice asked, knowing it was best to keep Duster off guard from the past four weeks of dealing with her. Duster's furious face turned into a snarl, “I'm not afraid of anything. I just think it's disgusting for two women to have sex.”
Brice was surprised. She just thought Kitty was joking because she was certain Duster liked women as well as men. She could almost recall Duster saying she liked hot people, be they women or men, “I thought you were bisexual.”
“What?” Duster raged, “I would never lower myself to such things. It's disgusting!”
Brice raised a brow, “Then why have I caught you looking at a few ladies' asses? Some of the women around here are pretty attractive.”
“I was not!”
“Are you still in the closet?”
“It's okay to come out,” Brice said, trying to calm the woman, “Your boss won't care. Noel's gay. I'm gay.”
“And you're disgusting. Look at you! You're sleeping with a child.”
“What?” Brice shrieked, “I am not.”
“Greer was a teenager when you met her,” Duster replied.
“I'm not sleeping with Greer!”
“Well, you want to be. Does it kill you that you haven't gotten into that girl's pants yet? Don't you want to make her a woman? I'm sure she's still a virgin. I bet you dream of fucking her. ”
“Stop talking about Greer like that or I swear I'll pound you into dust, let you reform, and beat you again!”
Duster smirked, “You're in love with her and she's so much younger than you. Disgusting.”
“It's not disgusting, so shut up! You're just fucked up in the head. You like women and you can't deal with it. I bet all your life you wanted to kiss a girl and couldn't because you were too afraid.”
“I'm not afraid of anything!”
“Duster's afraid of women,” Brice said in a mocking voice. Duster's furious face changed into something else, causing Brice to quiet and slowly back away. She quickly ran out of moving space as her back hit the wall. She didn't like the predator look in Duster's sand-colored eyes.
“Oh, fuck,” She whispered as Duster started to evaporate into tiny molecules of dust. Three heartbeats later, the supervillainess had reformed directly in front of her. With a smirk on her face, Duster casually placed her hands on the wall on either side of Brice. She was pinned.
“I'm not afraid of anything,” Duster said softly.
“Oh, shit. Duster's going to kiss me,” Brice thought. She tried to think of a way out of this situation, “Duster, you don't want to do this. You don't want your first kiss with a woman to be with me, right? I mean, it's not that you're unattractive. I'm sure in different circumstances, such as Greer didn't exist, you weren't evil and had a different personality, this kiss would go very well. You never forget your first lady kiss. You don't want that to be me, do you?”
Duster stopped, her lips inches from Brice's. Luckily they were saved from any awkwardness which could possibly end in fighting by the sound of triumphant shouts in the next room.
“Yes! Yes! Who's the man? I am! Yes! Give it up for the Lamb! Woohoo!”
Both women rushed into the lab, where Lamb surprised them by kissing Duster on the lips. He moved to kiss Brice but she quickly sidestepped him, “What's happened?”
“I'm a freaking genius. That's what's happened. I've found the cure! It's still in a raw form, but it's worked on the test samples! We can start administering it soon!”
“How soon?” Brice demanded. Every day could be a day too late for Noel.
“Two days, max!”
Brice started laughing, relief and joy filling her. Without thinking she copied Lamb by grabbing Duster and kissing her on the lips. Duster was barely recovering from the shock of Lamb's kiss when Brice kissed her. She didn't know whether to kill them both or blush.
Seeing the look on Duster's face Brice quickly stated, “It doesn't count. I promise. It's in the rulebook.”
The former bus driver quickly ran out the room, jumping for joy ever so often, to avoid Duster's wrath. The villainess called after her, “What rulebook?”
Duster turned to glare at Lamb, who quickly busied himself with his beakers. He said, “Don't look at me. I just work here.”
Alice held onto Noel's hand, ignoring the way her heart ached at how pale and frail the white-haired woman looked, “It will be alright, Noel.”
Deciding her lover's hand was cold, she placed a kiss on it, sending warmth through her lips. Once the hand was warm, Alice pulled back and studied her fiancée. Noel had been sleeping for several hours. That was what the superhero did most of the time these past few days.
“Do you remember when we first met?” Alice asked, sliding her chair even closer to the hospital bed, “I was your backup when we finally took down EverFrost's gang at the South Pole. God, I thought you were such a cocky hothead and a waste of my time. I did think you were very beautiful though, and wondered what it would be like to get you in bed after the mission. It was so easy to lure you back to your bed after the mission was done. I had done it hundreds of times before. Sex was just sex with me and I figured you could be mildly amusing at best.”
Alice laughed, “God, that first time was so bad. I would have never guessed I was only the second person you had had sex with. We didn't even end up having sex that time, did we? We were halfway undressed, I grasped you between your legs, you were so surprised by the heat that you sprang up and smashed my nose with your head. Blood was everywhere and you were so embarrassed. You turned almost as red as the blood coming out of my nose.”
“You didn't run away though,” The South African mused, “You helped me stop the bleeding even after I told you to go away. You didn't even laugh at me after you put cotton packs up my nose. Once the bleeding stopped and you finally realized you were still topless, you apologized purposely and moved to leave. I wouldn't let you though. There was just something about you that matched me. You had a fire inside of you, the opposite of your snow powers. I, who have the power of fire, had felt nothing but cold inside for years. You brought warmth to me and I have no clue how. I retired from being an assassin just to let you court me. It took another four months after our first attempt to try having sex again, but it went so much better the second time around,” Alice grinned. She then paused before whispering, “We have company.”
“Did you really have to drug them?” Brice hissed as she and Duster crept down the hall.
Duster gave the former bus driver a look, “If you have a problem with my methods, I'll terminate this mission right now.”
“And I'll make sure there's not enough of my blood to fill a shot glass,” Brice whispered furiously. The two women stopped to glare at each other before continuing down the hall. Once at the door to Noel's room, Brice gently opened it to peer inside. The sight of Noel looking so weak and sick caused Brice to forget caution and rushed to her friend's bedside. Duster quickly followed to keep an eye on her and found a knife to her neck.
“You move a fingertip and I'll bleed you dry,” Alice whispered into Duster's ear, “That weakness you feel is the bit of the blade I had replaced with ununseptium. You can't dust yourself away from this.”
Brice turned to face Alice and was surprised by the look on Alice's face. It was the look of a cold killer, an assassin. The former assassin growled, “Step away from her.”
“Alice, it's me. We're here to help her.”
“Step away,” Alice ordered, “Or I'll slice her throat and then yours.”
Believing her, Brice stepped away. She tried to explain, “We have part of a cure, Alice. That's what we've been doing. Virus has PMN too and he's been using my blood to find a cure. That's why he's been after me, just to get my blood. I agreed to go with him if he shared the cure with Noel. That's why we've come. We have the cure. I came to make sure she gets the first injection and I'll make sure she'll get the rest of the treatment.”
Only training stopped Alice from going weak in the knees with relief. She had a small amount of trust in Brice and it wasn't like she had any other choice.
“You have to let her go, Alice. As much of a pain in the ass as she is, we have an agreement. I stay under her watch with Virus as my keeper and Noel gets the cure. Let her go, please.”
Alice waited a moment before letting Duster go. The woman quickly evaporated and reformed on the other side of the hospital room. Duster rubbed her neck as she glared at the dark skinned woman, “Bitch.”
Brice ignored her and held out her hand, “The syringe, Duster.”
Duster thought about not handing it over just to spite the woman who had tried to slash her throat. But she had heard the rumors about Alice Inferno. She didn't want to see if they were true. Duster handed over the case with the syringe and Brice injected it into the IV just as Lamb had showed her how.
“It will take a few hours to start working. Lamb says a dose must be administered every week. He's uncertain of how long this should continue, since Noel and Virus are special cases, but he gives an estimation of twenty weeks.”
“Once Noel is feeling better she will not allow you just to come and go with the medicine,” Alice warned. Brice nodded, “I know. The cure has to be used within a day or it just corrodes. Lamb hasn't been able to figure that part out yet. We'll make arrangements to have the dosages delivered.”
The brown haired woman turned to look at her friend and moved to grasp the hand lying upon the bed, “I made a promise to save her and I'll keep my side as long as they keep theirs. Noel will live.”
“We should be going,” Duster said, feeling more agitated by the minute. Besides hating hospitals, they risked getting captured the longer they stayed. Having been in a prison once, she wasn't looking forward to returning.
Duster turned to open the window while Brice leaned down to give Noel a kiss on the forehead. She imagined her friend was awake and shooting icicles at her while shouting she wasn't invalid, so stop treating her like one. It was a good image that made her smile. As she moved to join Duster at the window, a voice stopped them all.
“Brice?” Greer asked, standing in the doorway. She carried a bag of Thai food for Alice, sure the woman wouldn't have left Noel's side all day. The blonde never expected to see Brice in Noel's room, especially not with Duster. Focusing all her attention on the supervillain, Greer dropped the bag of food and took a battle stance, “Move, Brice!”
“No!” Brice shouted, moving to stand between Greer and Duster, who had drawn her gun, “Stop!”
Alice moved quickly to Greer's side and placed a hand on the younger woman's arm. When Greer met her look, she softly shook her head. Alice wasn't going to let anyone get in the way of Noel's cure.
“What is going on?” Greer demanded to know, looking at Brice.
Duster fought every instinct she had not to fire on Greer, who always brought out a certain animosity in her. She growled, “We should leave. Now!”
“Okay,” Brice said, glancing over her shoulder. She turned back to Greer, “I have to go, Greer.”
Greer was still ready to send every ounce of mental power she had to shove Duster out the window. She asked, “Why do you always seem to be standing between me and her?”
A laugh escaped Brice's mouth, “Just lucky, I guess.”
Duster sided closer to Brice and wrapped an arm around the brunette. She placed a kiss on Brice's neck and smirked as Greer flushed in anger, “She obviously has a thing for blondes. Let's go, darling.”
Before Brice could process Duster's touch, the villain pulled her roughly backwards. Her heart stopped when she realized Duster was trying to pull them out of the window and she tried to grab anything she could. However, Duster was stronger and faster and soon both were tumbling towards the ground.
The scream was caught in the bus driver's throat and quickly died as they stopped falling just as quickly as they had started. Duster had signaled for the hovercraft to move under the window. Falling on the seats of the hovercraft was rough and painful, but the sandy blonde-haired woman was soon at the controls and flying away.
“What the fuck just happened?” Brice demanded to know as she fought to climb into the passenger seat from the floorboard, “Why did you do that?”
“It doesn't count. It's in the rulebook.”
“What?” Brice asked, unsure whether to laugh or to punch her.
“Oh, relax, tightass. I did you a favor,” Duster said, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
“A favor? That's your definition of a favor?”
“Yes. If you ever see that girl again, you cradle robber, the first thing she's going to do is kiss you dead on the lips,” Duster said, grinning at a slack-jawed Brice, “No promises that you will ever see her again.”
Alice counted every second until Noel woke up and after 12372 seconds, she did.
“Water,” Noel requested softly. Alice happily obliged.
“How do you feel?” Alice asked, a little breathless.
“Same old, same old, I guess.”
Alice didn't tell Noel what had happened. She didn't want to get her hopes up. They talked softly for twenty minutes, the longest Noel had been able to stay awake for days. The South African took that as a good sign. Over the next few days Noel was able to stay awake for longer increments and was even able to eat something. Doctor Franklin warned it was probably a last burst of energy, but Alice dared to hope otherwise.
Seven days after Noel's first injection, there was a tap at the window. Alice opened it to see a small toy helicopter hovering outside with a case dangling under it. She took the case and opened it to find a syringe. She closed the window and injected the serum into the IV. The next day when Noel had the energy to flirt with her, Alice cried and told Noel they were going home. She didn't want to explain to Dr. Franklin about Noel's miraculous recovery. If he discovered the truth, he would demand to see the cure and she wouldn't allow that.
“I'm taking her home for her last few days,” Alice lied to him. He nodded solemnly and told her to call when things took a turn for the worse. Noel didn't say anything about leaving the hospital until they were back at their home alone.
“Do you have something to tell me, dear?” Noel asked, adjusting the covers over her lap. Alice smiled, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Noel was afraid of the answer. “Brice?”
Alice nodded, “Yes. They found the cure, Noel. You're on your second week of treatment. It's working.”
“I thought I was feeling different, better. I was afraid to hope though,” Noel said. She let out a long sigh of relief, “I have to wait until I'm stronger before I go after her.”
Her fiancée wouldn't allow it to happen any other way. Brice said it would take around twenty treatments to cure Noel and she wasn't going to risk anything before Noel received twenty injections. Brice could wait.
“I don't have time to do everything you ask,” Lamb whined, “I can't find a stabilizer for Lrice while working on the machines you want.”
“Lrice?” Virus questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“It's the name I'm calling the cure for PMN,” The scientist blushed, “It's a work in progress.”
Lamb looked confused, “Boss?”
“If you don't have time to work on everything then we'll get someone to help you. Who is qualified to work on the cure with you?”
“Well, no one is as qualified as me…” Lamb stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the look on Virus's face, “But I'll get you a list of people by this afternoon.”
“In two hours,” Virus corrected. Every day he grew stronger with the cure and soon he would be at full power once more. He was tired of waiting.
When Virus had offered her command of the mission to retrieve a scientist, Duster had jumped at the chance. Anything was preferable to the dull task of watching Brice. The group of five flew to a small laboratory outside of Seattle in the cover of darkness. They were after Dr. Erin Bradley, one of the most regarded molecular pathologists in the world.
Reader did a scan of the building and gave his comrades the go ahead while he stayed with the plane. Together with the other three, Duster infiltrated the building. They were armed with tranquilizer guns. Virus would offer Dr. Bradley a worthy salary to work for him, but the pathologist was coming either way. Duster personally hoped for some excitement.
The group paused every now and then to unlock doors and disable cameras. They didn't know they had already been spotted by the scientist they were after. Once they reached the laboratory where their scanners told them Dr. Bradley was, Duster went into the room first. She would offer the doctor a chance to come with them quietly, but she hoped the doctor wouldn't agree. She was looking forward to the rush of a battle.
The lab was filled with many machines she had noticed in Lamb's lab, though she had no clue what half of them did. The doctor was leaning over a beaker filled with green fluid, a syringe in hand. The doctor called out a warning, “Don't move! One wrong move and this will be ruined.”
Living through many of Lamb's ruined experiments had left Duster with a healthy respect for crazy scientists and their experiments. She waited until the pathologist gently squeezed in another drop of liquid from the syringe and cried, “Perfect.”
The doctor picked up the glass and took a long drink, “The perfect amount of silver tequila to make a margarita. How can I help you?”
Duster felt herself flush with anger. She had been put on hold for a drink? She examined the doctor. Erin seemed taller than her file said she was and her features were sharper, more striking than the hologram led Duster to believe. While Erin Bradley wasn't unattractive with her auburn hair and green eyes, this woman was far more beautiful. That only meant one thing to Duster.
The woman grinned, “She's out for the moment.”
“Then you must be Ms. Hyde.”
“You're as smart as you are beautiful,” The woman smirked as she looked Duster over. The blonde felt a warm wake in the woman's stare, but focused on the job at hand, “Virus has a job offer for you.”
Hyde shook her head, “Neither I nor Erin are up to taking job offers. But if you leave a note with our secretary, we'll get back to you.”
“That's not an option. You can come with me easily or we'll do this the hard way,” Duster warned. She allowed herself to start breaking apart in case the woman made a run for it.
“I love the hard way,” Hyde said as she lifted another syringe off the table and squirted the liquid where Duster stood a second before. The cloud of dust she left behind formed into a spot behind Hyde as Duster's underlings burst into the lab. In the end it took all four of them and left Duster half-blinded with some chemical before they got the doctor restrained. It was in the plane ride back that they met Dr. Bradley.
Busy washing her eye out with a water bottle, Duster didn't see the change. One minute Hyde sat smirking before them and the next sat a smaller, shyer doctor, “What's going on here?”
“You don't recall?” Kitty asked, holding a bandage to her face, where Hyde had smashed a beaker against her head. The shape shifter was not happy about the possible scar to her face.
“I don't recall Hyde's actions or memories anymore than she recalls mine,” Erin stated.
“I don't give a fuck about your multi-personalities,” Duster growled, “I'm taking my pound of flesh from you if I'm not able to use this eye again.”
“Let me see,” The doctor ordered. Duster would have snapped that she only took orders from one man, but her eye really hurt. She allowed the doctor to peer at it and Erin said, “You'll be fine. Just keep flushing it with water for the next ten minutes.”
“Fine, she says,” Duster grumbled. Feeling properly drowned after ten minutes of letting water rush into her eye, which was a struggle to keep open against the water, the doctor asked her questions.
“Why did you want my services?”
“You'll know when we get there.”
“You'll know when we get there.”
“Are we there yet?”
“You'll know when we get there!” Duster roared, “Are all women this annoying?”
The doctor blinked at her, “You're rude.”
“And you're a…” Duster's sentence was cut off by Reader announcing their arrival. The dusty-blonde brooded while they landed. A medic met them in the hangar and looked over her eye. The medic said she would be fine and vision was already returning to her eye. She brought the pathologist to Lamb's lab, where Virus, Lamb and Brice were waiting.
“Hello, Dr. Bradley. Welcome to your new home,” Virus greeted. Lamb grumbled a greeting, but one could tell he didn't like another scientist in his lab.
“Why am I here?”
“You're here to work on one of the world's greatest discoveries: a cure to PMN.”
Though the pathologist was a little scared by the situation, she laughed, “Then you're a fool. We've barely advanced in the search for a cure since we discovered PMN in 1935.”
Lamb smirked, “Well, I've already discovered the cure. You're just here to do some cleanup.”
“Bullshit,” Erin stated. Duster was a little surprised by the doctor and had to wonder if Hyde wasn't making another appearance.
“It's true, Dr. Bradley,” Virus said. He gestured to Brice, “There lies the key.”
Brice gave a two-finger salute, wishing she wasn't there. She was not happy another woman had been taken, but it would allow for a better cure to give Noel. Erin gave Brice a dubious look. Lamb laughed, “Let me pull up her DNA. Then you'll be convinced.”
With a few clicks on the computer, Lamb had a DNA strand pulled up on a computer screen. Erin merely rolled her eyes, “That's just a textbook picture of what perfect DNA would like.”
“This is Brice's DNA. You're more than welcome to run your own tests later if you need convincing or you can look over my notes and experiments.”
Erin gave everybody a long stare, certain they were jesting. When her eyes landed on Brice, the bus driver heaved a heavy sigh and held out her arm, “Step up to the bar.”
“You're serious? She really has perfect DNA?” The pathologist asked. Lamb nodded and handed her a folder. After flipping through it a few moments, Erin moaned, “Perfect. She's perfect.”
There was something oddly familiar about having a scientist moan over her blood to Brice and when she noted the glazed look in Erin's eye, Brice started backing up. “I think kissing is about to be involved and I would really prefer kissing not to be involved.”
Duster stepped between Brice and Erin. “Keep your vaginas in your pants, ladies.”
Erin could barely control herself. “I want to get you on a slide and examine you all night.”
Brice's jaw dropped a little. She struggled for words, “I'm sorry but that's a third date kind of thing.”
The supervillainess was not happy with the scientific flirting going on. “Why don't we leave the geeks to do geek stuff? They have work to do.”
“Precisely my thoughts,” Virus said, “Dr. Bradley, we'll discuss your salary later. I think you will be happy with the terms. Lamb will show you around.”
“It's been two and a half months since Brice left and I've had eight treatments. I feel great,” Noel declared. “Let's go get our girl.”
Noel stopped short. She never heard Alice use such a deadly firm tone, one that left no room for negotiating.
“No,” Alice repeated. “Brice said it would take almost 20 treatments for you to be cured and they only deliver one at a time to make sure she and us are kept in our places. I'm not risking your life by rescuing her too early and she wouldn't thank you for it either. She's doing all this for you, Noel. If you save her now and the cancer spreads again, everything she has done has been for moot.”
Noel ground her teeth together, “Fine.”
She then stormed off to another part of the house. She wasn't angry at Alice for what she said. She was angry because it was true and she hated being the reason Brice was being held by Virus. She hated being the one who needed saving.
“What's wrong with her?” Duster asked.
“Perhaps her iron levels are too low,” Erin suggested, pulling up a chart on her tablet.
Lamb bristled at the thought, “Preposterous. The supplements we've been giving her work perfectly.”
“Well, if it isn't all the blood we're taking from her, what is it?” Erin demanded on the shorter man.
“Guys, I'm right here and I told you, I'm just a little tired,” Brice said, lying in her bed. “As in stop worrying and get the hell out so I can take a nap.”
“I still think it has something to do with hemoglobin C or E variants,” Dr. Bradley persisted as the trio left the room. Lamb rolled his eyes, “Next you'll be saying she has elevated F levels and she's developing sickle cell disease. We'll check her levels, woman, but it has nothing to do with her blood.”
When she was finally alone in her room, Brice let out a heavy sigh of relief. She had spent quiet enough time as their guest and she was ready to leave. Over the past two weeks she had been stealing vials of the new serum one at a time. Lamb never noticed and if Erin had, she hadn't said anything. She had nineteen hidden in her mattress. Also hidden in the mattress was her ticket out of Virus's hold. It was almost 6:00 PM and she would make her move at 5:00 AM, when most of the compound was asleep. Until then, she closed her eyes and rested.
Duster took her nightly patrols seriously. One could never be too careful with security, and Virus was one of the most wanted men on the planet. At three in the morning the only people who were supposed to be up were the guards monitoring the cameras. Sometimes Lamb worked late into the night but she knew for a fact he had gone to bed early. Which made it extremely suspicious to her as to why the laboratory lights were on.
Her gun in hand, she slowly entered the lab. At first she thought it was Dr. Bradley, but a second glance confirmed otherwise; this woman was taller, slightly more beautiful, and looked a lot more dangerous.
“Hyde,” She called. Hyde turned around to look her over, a bottle of Jack Daniels in her hand. The red-haired woman smiled, “This is great. Company. You know I found this on the counter when I changed? I think it was Erin leaving me a present for being such a good girl. I've only banged two people the entire time I've been here.”
Duster knew that very well. One of the people Hyde had slept with was a male freelancer they occasionally hired and the other was Kitty. Kitty could only mutter one word about the encounter, which was strange for the chatty woman. The word was “wild”.
“Do you want to share a drink with me?” Hyde asked, lifting up two beakers, “They're new glasses, never been used. Learned my lesson about that once.”
“I don't think so,” Duster said, turning to leave. She knew better than to drink with a woman who had almost blinded her. In the next few heartbeats, Hyde had moved in front of her and she had drawn a large bowie knife, pressing the tip into Hyde's stomach.
Hyde glanced down at it and then backed up, “That's no way to treat a lady.”
“Good thing you're not one then.”
The red head looked hurt, “I'm all woman. Here, I'll show you.”
Having already set down the bottle and beakers, Hyde's hands were free to start unbuttoning the blue blouse Erin had put on earlier. As a glimpse of a black bra came into view, Duster suddenly became very nervous. She pulled back her blade, “That won't be necessary.”
“Oh I think it is,” She said, continuing until her shirt was entirely unbuttoned, “You doubt my womanhood.”
“I never said that,” Duster protested. Her next words died on her lips as Hyde slowly slipped the shirt off her shoulders. She allowed herself to stare at the black bra clasping the large, pale breasts before looking back up at Hyde, “I have to finish patrolling.”
Hyde grinned, “What you have to do is help me finish that bottle.”
She took a step closer, ignoring Duster lifting her blade in warning, until she was inches from her. Hyde slid her fingers into the waist of Duster's jeans and gave them a tug, pulling Duster closer to her until their mouths were almost touching.
“You want me. I can see it every time you look at me. And I want you. The way you are so serious and tightly wound up gets me going. I see the way you always have to be in control and I find that delectable.”
Hyde leaned forward to nip Duster's lower lip, “Here's what is going to happen. We're going to have a nice drink with Jack here and then we're going back to my room where I'm going to fuck you and you're going to fuck me. You know how to play this game. People like Erin don't. She believes in love and romance, but we know.”
She let go of her hold of Duster's jeans and moved to get the bottle of whiskey. Hyde took a long drink before handing it over to Duster. Duster hesitated for a moment before also taking a long drink. The whiskey was still sliding down the back of her tongue when Hyde's mouth was on hers.
The blonde did know how to play the game, though she had never played it with a woman. All her one night stands had been with men, but she wasn't about to mention that to Hyde. Duster wasn't about to mention to Hyde this was her first same-sex kiss, Brice being excluded from some unknown rulebook. Duster knew she was out of her league when it came to Hyde's levels of experience and seduction, but she wasn't about to let that stop her.
Brice's plan was already going well. A quick look in the lab showed a spilt bottle of the Jack Daniels she had left on the counter, a shirt and a belt buckle. The brunette had taken advantage of Duster's lust for Hyde and the knowledge of Erin's and Hyde's changing schedules. Brice had known Hyde was well overdue for a visit, so she had left the whiskey in hopes she would seduce Duster and it had worked. Her escape plan looked a lot simpler now.
She took comfort in her only weapon, a tube of sticky ununseptium. Any person without a superpower could pinch off a piece of ununseptium and stick it to their powered foe, causing them to become weak and unable to fight back. It had not been easy to sneak it into Virus's compound.
“You want me to put that where?” Brice asked, flabbergasted.
“It's the only place you can put it without them knowing,” Noel insisted. Back at the fort, the two had decided the only way to defeat Virus was to figure out what he was doing. That meant setting Brice up to be taken prisoner. Brice's escape from the fort only to be taken at her house had been their plan from the beginning.
“You just keep your mouth shut, your head down, and your eyes and ears open for information. You'll be able to tell when the time is right to leave,” Noel said.
Brice was still stuck on the part about the tube of ununseptium, “And how do you expect me to get that thing in and out of my…you know?”
Noel grinned as she held up a small, plastic-wrapped, square package, “Trojan works every time. You know I once smuggled a bomb in me using a Trojan condom.”
“Just shut up and hand it over. I'll do the rest by myself,” Brice insisted.
In Lamb's lab she took a glass straw from one of the drawers and moved on. She hoped the ones watching the monitors were asleep as she suspected they were since Duster was not around to keep them awake. She also hoped Duster was having a good first time though she didn't dwell on that thought long.
“Hey, what are you doing up?” One of few guards awake and patrolling demanded to know as she walked towards the warehouse where she and Duster took inventory. She responded by lifting the glass straw and blowing it at him. Just like a spitball, the piece of moldable ununseptium she had placed at the end went flying right at the guard, hitting him in the cheek. A second later the blob glowed blue and he fell to the floor.
Brice moved quickly. Once inside the warehouse, she ran down the rows until she found the aisle she was looking for. There she moved down until she stopped before a large box. Technically the mini-fighter jet should have gone into the heavily guarded hangar but most considered it a useless toy. It was in fact a toy for a many super-powered youth. However, Brice knew it could fly over 5000 miles right out of the box.
She quickly opened the box and threw aside all the foam, bubble wrap, and cardboard pieces. Soon a mini-jet was sitting in the aisle, waiting for her to escape. She climbed into the cockpit and closed the hood down. It was a little cramped for her legs and she had to place the bottle of vials filled with the cure for PMN at her feet, where she prayed they wouldn't get crushed.
Brice spent a few minutes programming the majority of the jet's powers to the front shields. This would lessen her flying time by a thousand miles or so, but she needed all the power she could get to the shields if she was going to bust through the side of the hangar. Pushing forward on the joystick and using the aisle as a runway, Brice took off in the mini-jet. Quickly off the ground, she pushed increased speed as much as she could because she would need it to get through the hangar. She braced herself as the wall came closer and closer and at the last minute she closed her eyes.
The sound the mini-jet made punching through the steel wall was horrible. For a moment, Brice was sure she hadn't made it or would crash any second. She quickly diverted the power back to the engines to make sure she didn't crash. She had one spare moment to look around and down at the sky below her, savoring freedom. Then she realized Virus was probably already sending real jets after her and with that sobering thought, she quickly flew off.
Duster bolted upright at the siren. A quick glance at her wrist communicator, which was the only thing she wore, told her it was 6:27 AM. That meant she had been asleep for less than an hour after she had finally collapsed in exhaustion. Hyde had certainly known how to show a lady a good time and Duster had done her best to keep up.
She scrambled for her jeans and quickly pulled them up. As she was pulling her shirt over her head, she turned to look at Hyde. Instead she found a naked Erin trying to untangle the sheet to cover herself. Suddenly Duster felt embarrassed. “I…um…you see…”
Erin waved her off, “It's okay. I'm used to waking up next to people I didn't go to bed with. Go.”
Duster left at a run, partly to figure out what was wrong but mostly to avoid talking with Erin.
“Report!” Duster ordered as she pulled up a video chat on her wrist comm.
Reader's face appeared, “Brice has escaped!”
“Son of a bitch! To the jets! Pull up the satellites!”
Her screen split into two to show Reader on the left and Virus on the right. Virus stated, “That won't be necessary.”
Over Iowa, her mini-jet ran out of jet fuel. Brice was honestly surprised she had made it that far, but it didn't comfort her much. She was about to make an emergency landing and she looked for a suitable place. Below were fields of corn, wheat and soy that were occasionally broken into squares by roads or fences. Brice finally picked a field to land in and mentally crossed her fingers as she started her descent.
Things did not go as planned. What she had hoped to be a smooth landing turned into a minor crash. The mini-jet ran completely out of fuel, causing Brice to lose power to the controls. She would no longer be able to softly glide in and make a light touchdown. She braced herself as the ground started coming closer at a rapid pace and hoped they were landing in soft wheat.
The mini-jet cut a deep scar across the field as it ripped up dirt and wheat. The mini-jet actually bounced once, flipped onto its side to skid further down to the field and then landed back onto its bottom. The mini-jet was designed to survive hard landings but that didn't mean the pilot would walk away harm-free.
Brice now knew what it felt like to be laundry in the dryer. She let out a long groan, just to make sure she was alive. It felt like every part of her was battered and it was no wonder, considering the g-forces she just went through. She had simulated crashes several times while training to be a bus driver, but none of them had felt like this.
“They just don't tell you these things in school,” Brice complained as she tried rolling her neck around. She had to rest another moment before she found the strength to lift her arms. After fighting three long minutes, she was able to get out of the harness and reach up to open the hood of the mini-jet. All the dirt she had kicked up had covered the hood and when she opened it, light spilled into the cockpit.
Several grunts and swears later, she was out of the jet and resting against it. Looking behind her, she could see the long trail of torn up crops and earth.
“Now I just wait and hope the good guys find me first,” She thought. As a former government employee, she knew the protocols for unauthorized landings in the USA. She also knew the ones for unidentified crashed objects. Some superhero would be heading towards her. She just hoped they would get there before Virus found her.
In a few minutes, she heard the unmistakable sound of an engine. Looking up into the sky, she saw something flying fast towards her. Though her ribs protested, she ducked down to hide beside the mini-jet. It was a ridiculous notion, but it could give her a few seconds of protection. Anything could happen in a few seconds.
Feeling like her heart was about to pound out of her chest, she listened. Soon the loud noise of the engine felt like it was right on top of her, but whatever vehicle it was, it parked on the other side of the mini-jet.
“I know you're back there. My thermal sensors show you clear as day. Come out with your hands up,” The voice ordered.
Brice's heart really did almost come out of her chest. She knew that voice. Her mind shouted one name, “Greer!”
At the same time, the voice said, “I am Cobalt Thrust and I demand you identify yourself!”
Brice didn't bother identifying herself. She just stood up to look at the woman she had wanted to see for what felt like forever. Greer was pointing a tranquilizer gun at her which she almost dropped from surprise.
She only nodded as her eyes feasted on Greer. The blonde refused to give into her desire to run over and embrace Brice. Instead she demanded, “Prove it. Prove you're you.”
“I've really missed you.”
Greer's resolve wavered but she steeled it, “That's not proving who you are. Now prove to me you're Brice before I shoot you.”
“Buses, John, Amelia, Michael, Ma, Noel, Christmas, Green Thumbs, toxic waste, red M&M's, sticky notes, phone call, you, me. What else do you want me to say?” Brice asked.
In the next moment, Greer's mask was off and she was in front of Brice. Greer reached up to clasp Brice's face in her hands and started moving closer.
In the back of Brice's mind, she could hear Duster laughing about how the first thing Greer was going to do was kiss her. She ignored that thought because in her next heartbeat, they were kissing each other.
Their eyes closed as their lips pressed together. The first kiss was soft, but the kisses slowly firmed and deepened. Brice had had dreams of kissing Greer and Greer had had visions of kissing Brice. However, neither dreams nor visions could compare to reality. The moment was long-waited and they each wanted it to last a long time. However, the other side of reality showed itself.
Greer let her hands travel down from Brice's face, past her shoulders and down her sides. She meant to pull her closer, but when she brushed Brice's ribs, the other woman jerked away.
“Pain,” Brice hissed, “Kind of painful.”
“I'm sorry,” Greer blurted, “What happened? Where does it hurt?”
“Crashed. Everywhere,” The bus driver answered. “We probably should go before Virus or his gang show up.”
Greer nodded and put her mask back on, “Where do you want to go?”
“I'd love to say home, but they'll probably look there.”
“We should go somewhere to get you checked out. Come on.”
Brice gave Greer's motorcycle a long look before following, “This is going to hurt.”
“I'll try to fly gently,” Greer promised, producing another helmet, and put it on Brice. Once her own helmet was on, she gently tapped it against Brice's and straddled her bike. Brice smiled, certain that was meant to be a form of a kiss.
“You wanted to see me, Boss?” Duster asked as she entered the conference room. She was certain he had changed his mind about the incident with Brice and she was going to be killed. Duster was prepared for it. She had screwed up, gotten too friendly with a captive and accepted she would be punished. That didn't mean she was going to let him kill her. She was just prepared to run if need be.
Virus sat at the head of the long table, looking like he belonged in a high-rise corporate office in his three-piece suit. Duster was sure the man had over a hundred suits. Whenever he wanted another one, he had one of their shape shifters morph into his exact body dimensions, but not appearance, have a suit made and picked up.
“Oh relax,” Virus said, noticing her rigid stance. “Noel helped her with that escape plan and Lamb lacks all common sense to properly lock up the serum vials. Whether Brice is here, there, or dead doesn't matter now. That's not why I called you. Duster, what do you think we are doing here?”
The blonde hesitated; she had never been good at pop quizzes.
“What I mean to say is why do you think I do all the things I do?” He said, gesturing at a blank wall. With the wave of his hand, a map of the world appeared on one side with dozen of files beside it.
He answered for her, “I want to rule the world.”
“Sounds good to me, Boss,” Duster didn't really care what he did as long as she got paid and maybe had the time to play around with Hyde some more. She had yet to process if sleeping with Hyde made her gay. She didn't think so. Duster had enjoyed playing with Hyde, but she had also enjoyed sleeping with several men. She returned her focus to her boss.
Virus stood and walked in front of the map. “I feel better now. Stronger than I have in years. I acquired the ability to reform cells a long time ago but I was slowly losing to the cancer. Now, I'm at my true form. All thanks to one stupid little bus driver. I've been watching her for years. Ever since the government put a tag on her. Almost every mission we've done from the high-school episode has been to get her and to help further my plans.”
“Is that why you ordered me to go into the gym and shoot Greer Watson?” Duster asked, piecing together things that hadn't made sense before. It hadn't been an order she wanted to follow. She acknowledged that she was a bitch, ill-tempered and cheated at board games but killing a random teenager with no reason was a little hard for her to do. She didn't lose any sleep at night because of it though. Greer had turned out to be a pain in the ass.
He smiled, “Exactly why. I knew Brice would be near Ms. Watson and I knew she would try to save her. That was the first test. Now that a cure has been secured, I can start with the next stage.”
Virus smiled again, but there was something in this smile that slid a sliver of fear into her heart. She had always had a healthy dose of respect for Virus for his intelligence and powers. She always took him for a man that said ‘Fuck the rules' like she did. Now she was starting to see something else in her boss.
“I'll show you,” Virus said, “Bring him in.”
Two of her underlings came into the room from one of its side entrances, dragging a body between them. Duster could see the blue-glowing cuffs on the man's wrists so she knew he was merely immobilized and not dead.
“Lower the cuffs so he can talk,” Virus ordered. One of the guards did as he requested and soon the captive was lifting his head up to snarl, “Let me go right now or you'll get it ten fucking ways to Sunday.”
“Duster, you remember your father.”
Duster remembered her father very well. He was the man who was always disappointed in her and proud of her older brother. He was the one who threatened to disown her every time she failed to live up to his expectations or abide by his rules. Dust Demon hated everyone who wasn't in his family. He especially disliked homosexuals and swore to both Duster and her brother, Hellion, that if he suspected they were gay, he'd beat them to death. It was one of the few times he threatened his favored son.
Duster left home at the age of 17. She and her brother never attended the International High School for Gifted Students because her father tended to work with the darker side of things. She would never be accepted into her family because, while she had the ability to break down into dust and move extremely long distances in the particle form, she wasn't as gifted as her brother. Hellion could shape shift while in a dust form, he could fight and move parts of his body while the rest stayed in one place.
After she had been working a few odd jobs as a criminal for a few years, Virus found and asked Duster to join him. She did, slowly working up to become his second-in-command. A psychiatrist would say she viewed Virus as a father figure, able to earn his approval when her own father withheld his. Now both men were before her.
It took Demon a few moments to recognize his daughter, having been almost fifteen years since he last saw her. He didn't ask or even order her to help him. He spat in her direction and turned his attention back to Virus.
Virus, however, looked at Duster, “Now you shall see stage two. You shall see a power that I've been holding back for years.”
He moved forward to place his hand on top of Demon's head. He tried to jerk away but the cuffs kept his energy levels low. Virus closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. As he did, the others saw his palm start to glow gold where he held Demon's head. The glow traveled up his arm, across his shoulder, up his neck, where the light seemed to end. Virus then opened his eyes to show his eyes brightly glowing gold. He seemed to stare straight through Duster until the last of the energy seemed to drain out of Demon. Once Virus left him go the man collapsed on the floor.
“Is he…” Duster couldn't finish the sentence. Her boss started to laugh, “Dead? Yes. This power is amazing, Duster. Watch.”
She watched, horrified, as Virus broke down into dust and reappeared on the other side of the room. He then transformed into a tornado of dust to move back to his original spot.
“Soon I'll have every power in the world,” Virus grinned. Noticing the look on Duster's face he said, “Don't worry, Duster. I don't need your powers. I have your father's. Consider this a gift even. I knew how much you despised him.”
“Thank you, boss,” Duster said automatically. In a daze, she excused herself and walked out of the room.
Greer flew them to one of Noel's many safe houses. Alice and Noel met them there. The first thing Noel did was punch Brice in the arm, beaming. “You did it! I knew our plan would work.”
Brice, already past her level of pain tolerance, cursed. “Son of a bitch, Noel! That hurt.”
“You do seem to be injured,” Alice said, looking her over.
“What does she mean by ‘our plan worked'?” Greer asked at the same time.
Suddenly Greer didn't look quite as happy as she was a moment before.
“You didn't tell her?” Brice and Noel asked each other.
“How could I tell her?” Brice demanded, “I've been held prisoner.”
“I've been on my death bed,” The white-haired superhero retorted, “Not much time to chat.”
Alice stepped between the two, “Ladies, we can argue about this later. Brice needs medical attention at the moment. Taking her to a hospital will be like sending out a beacon for government officials and Virus. What are we going to do?”
“I know a place. A doctor who can look her over and keep things hush-hush,” Noel volunteered.
“Then let's go,” Greer stated finitely. After giving Brice some pain pills, they climbed into Noel's helicopter.
With her pain numbing, Brice was able to pay better attention to Greer. The blonde's face was a mask, but Brice could sense Greer was pissed.
“Are you angry at me?” Brice asked softly.
“So let me get this straight,” Greer snapped, turning in her seat to look at Brice, “You willingly allowed Virus to take you prisoner and you didn't even leave some little clue for the rest of us?”
Brice started to reply but Greer cut her off, “Oh, I know. You told Noel. You thought it would be better and safer if we didn't know. Do you know the hell I've been through? Every minute I wondered when I would see you again and prayed Virus wouldn't leave your body strung up a flag-pole somewhere.”
“And it's not even just me. You didn't tell your mother, your father or Michael. Your mother has aged more in this past year than all the other years I've known her combined. Mark doesn't smile half as much as he did.”
Brice felt the sting of her words, just as Greer had meant her too. She thought about replying but decided not to. Greer wasn't finished. She sighed and rubbed her eyes, “I know you did it to save Noel and to figure out what was Virus's plan. I know you would do it again. But that doesn't change everything I've felt since you've been gone. So the long answer to your question is yes. I'm mad at you.”
Brice managed a bare nod of acknowledgement and turned her head to look out the window. She felt like her relationship with Greer was like the old computer game, Oregon Trail. Go one mile forward and then the axle breaks, Brice is taken by bandits, Noel falls sick and lose three months.
“We're here,” Noel said, tactfully ignoring the conversation that went on behind them.
“This is Amelia's house,” Brice gasped as she recognized the house they were in front of. “Noel, when you said you knew a doctor to fix me up, you never said it was my ex!”
Risking a glance at Greer, Brice could see the blonde was also not pleased.
“She's got those eyes which can tell us how damaged you are and she works in the ER, she'll have lots of nice goods to fix you up,” Noel replied, “Let's go.”
Gertrude met them at the door. Though she was out of her starch work suit, she still looked professional with her hair tied back tightly in a bun and her t-shirt tucked into her ironed jeans.
“Trudy, lovely as ever. We're expected,” Noel grinned.
Gertrude gave her and then Brice a long glare before letting them into the house. Brice's ex, the Colombian doctor, stood waiting on them in the sitting room.
She said, “Come on, Brice. I got the kitchen set up.”
“I'm going with her,” Greer spoke up, taking a step closer to Brice. Gertrude leveled a glare at Brice, “I'm going in there too.”
“I'm sitting right here,” Noel said, flopping down on the couch. Alice followed.
“That's really sweet, but the less the merrier. I need room to work. Come on then, Brice.” Amelia didn't wait for a reply. She merely turned and walked towards her kitchen. Brice gave Greer an apologetic smile and followed.
“Hop up on the table and let me take a look at you,” Amelia ordered. Brice gingerly did so.
Amelia placed her hands lightly on Brice's sides and gently started pressing, “Tell me if it hurts.”
She slowly moved up the ribs until Brice flinched away. “That hurts.”
The doctor stepped back so she could see Brice's entire chest and her eyes, normally a beautiful brown, turned gray as they scanned over Brice. The former bus driver fought the urge to cover herself, knowing it wouldn't do any good. It was still disconcerting to have her ex-girlfriend staring so long at her breasts.
“Seems you cracked a rib on the right and bruised several others. I see minor bruises on other bones and muscles. You'll be fine after a long rest. Mostly take it easy, take ibuprofen for the pain, and ice them. I'll give you a few extra strength pills for a few days, but regular NSAIDS after this.”
“What? No tape?”
Amelia shook her head, “We don't do that nowadays. Now every hour or so you need to cough or take an extremely deep breath.”
Brice grimaced, “I don't want to.”
“Come on. Inhale deeply with me,” Amelia said. She slowly started to inhale and motioned for Brice to do the same. Reluctantly, Brice did so. Her large inhale resulted in a cough which resulted in a long groan of pain, “Oh, fuck. I hate you.”
“Do you? Still hate me?” Amelia asked, turning to get some pills from her bag.
“Years don't change the fact you cheated on me,” Brice remarked, blinking tears from her eyes. She could barely tolerate shallow breathes and did not like the idea of having to do that every hour.
“That doesn't answer if you hate me or not,” Amelia said, handing Brice the bottle of pills with her left hand. Brice took it, noticing the diamond on her hand.
“Things are going well for you,” Brice said, trying hard not to be bitter and failing, “Does she know you fuck other women?”
“She does and once we got engaged, I stopped,” Amelia replied, “She even got my father's blessing to marry me.”
“Good for her,” Brice snapped, though she was actually impressed Trudy was able to accomplish such an act.
Tired of Brice's attitude, Amelia snapped, “It's not like you're suffering. Your little girlfriend is in there, waiting anxiously for you to return. I may have used other women to get a few orgasms, but you had something deeper going on with her the entire time we were together.”
“There was nothing going on between Greer and I back then,” Brice said, her voice rising.
“But there is now,” Amelia countered, “So that means there was something there back then.”
“Damn it, woman. Why are you so infuriating?” Brice demanded to know.
Amelia snorted, “Cause we're bitter ex-girlfriends.”
Brice had to crack a smile, “Always a factor.”
She let out a small sigh, a heavy one would hurt too much, and said, “So what's the wedding going to be like?”
Accepting the unspoken offer of peace, Amelia smiled and started taking about the wedding.
Back in the sitting room, Gertrude was bouncing her knee impatiently, staring in the general direction of the kitchen.
“It's going to be alright,” Noel said, flipping through the intelligence folder Gertrude had given her. “Is this what I'm boiled down to? A folder of my missions to be destroyed when I croak?”
“That's what we're all boiled down too,” Gertrude answered. “Nobody else knows about your miraculous recovery. I should go see what's keeping them.”
“Relax, Trudy. Brice has no interest in Amelia anymore.”
Gertrude snapped, “No, you don't understand. Amelia introduced Brice to her family. To her father. Brice was the first person she introduced to her father. Do you not understand what that means? I've undergone torture simulations for corporation testing that were easier than meeting that man. I've had conversations with Russians at gunpoint that were easier than meeting that man. Do you understand what that means?”
Greer had a faint understanding and her frown deepened. Noel only understood the crazed look in Gertrude's eyes and slid an inch closer to Alice, “You might want to consider eloping, Trudy.”
Gertrude gave a hollow laugh, “That would be even worse.”
Noel suddenly leaned forward, “Is this a shotgun wedding, Trudy? Did you get her pregnant?”
“I will cut you down where you sit if you do not stop that train of thought right now,” Gertrude warned, but there was a hint of a smile in her eyes.
The white-haired superhero shrugged and leaned back against Alice. After what seemed like forever for Gertrude and Greer, Brice and Amelia walked back into the sitting room.
“She'll live,” Amelia said, solemnly, “But she'll never ice skate for the US Olympic team again.”
“Thank you, Doctor. I know you did everything you could,” Noel said just as solemnly, “We'll take her home now.”
“I'll be fine,” Brice clarified to Greer, who looked ready to snap, “Let's go.”
She turned to Amelia and Gertrude, “Congratulations on the engagement and I hope the wedding is wonderful.”
Amelia smiled as Gertrude wrapped a protective arm around her, “Thanks. Good luck with your endeavors.”
“It's not good to drink alone,” Erin softly stated. She had been very surprised to find Duster in her room after coming back from the lab. She studied the scene carefully, taking in the near empty bottle of vodka and the distressed look on Duster's face.
“Who cares?” Duster snarled.
Erin carefully took off her lab coat and hung it neatly in her closet. “Won't they question why you're in here?”
“Put your camera footage on a loop. They think you're doing what you do most nights, play on your computer.” Duster held her arms out and twirled around in the desk chair, “I'm invisible right now.”
“So why are you here?”
Duster shrugged, “Wanted company.”
The pathologist sat down on the bed. “Well, I guess I can be company. Is there something you wanted to talk about in particular?”
“No,” The villain snapped.
“Okay,” Erin said, taking a mental step back. She tried to recall how normal people interact. “How was your day?”
Duster snorted, “Fine. Just fine. Between Brice running off last night and Virus sucking the life out of people, I'm just dandy.”
Erin didn't understand the last part, but pretended she did, “That sucks.”
Duster took a gulp from the vodka bottle, “Of course it sucks! He may have been an asshole, but he didn't deserve to go out like that.”
“No, he didn't,” Erin agreed, not knowing what she was agreeing too.
“I mean I never got the chance to face him again, you know? I wanted to spit on his shoes and say look at where I am now, sucker. I'm doing better stuff than you. I'm better than you!”
“Yes, you are.”
Suddenly Duster dropped the bottle and pushed her palms into her eyes, trying so hard not to cry. Her voice came out ragged from holding in sobs, “I'm sorry. I know you don't understand. There was just no one else to tell.”
Erin mentally started to panic. She considered herself a little below average when it came to human interactions. She certainly didn't have the natural flare Hyde did. However, she knew Hyde was absolutely awful with emotional people, especially those who are crying.
She stood and moved in front of Duster, “What can I do? I can try and get Hyde if you want, but she would be horrible company in a situation like this. What can I…”
Erin broke off as Duster suddenly wrapped her arms around her waist. Resting her head against Erin's stomach, Duster said, “Just stay.”
So Erin stayed. She stood and let Duster quietly cry against her stomach. She softly stroked Duster's hair all the while.
“No one knows about this place,” Noel promised, “It was built in the fifties and the contractors are long dead of old age. It's not the newest, but it's one of the safest places I have. With the tunnel entrance on one side of the Rockies and this cabin on the other, nobody could have tracked us.”
“View is a little familiar, only magnetized,” Brice said, looking outside at the mountains.
Noel had insisted that Brice stay in hiding for a few days until they could sort out a plan. Though she was still angry with Brice, Greer volunteered to stay with her.
“I come by at least twice a year to refresh the can food and MREs. You won't be able to do any fancy cooking, but you won't starve either. Toiletries are in the bathroom.”
Brice moved to sit down on the couch in the living room. Greer went to explore the bathroom and then moved to the bedroom.
Noel quickly ushered Alice to the door, “Oh, by the way, there's only one bed. Got to go now. We'll call tomorrow. Bye.”
The couple was in their vehicle and flying away by the time Greer walked back into the living room. The blonde snorted, “What does she think we'll do if we share a bed? Act like some cheap romance novel? Wake up with our hands in inconspicuous places?”
Her words were not heard because Brice had fallen asleep on the couch.
Greer studied the other woman for a long time before going to get a blanket from the bedroom and covering her up.
Duster woke slowly. She felt groggy but no other hangover maladies. She slowly noticed a problem, which was she was completely snuggled next to Erin and she had to relieve her bladder. Luckily she remembered her superpowers and dusted off the bed and to the bathroom. Duster flushed and then mentally scolded herself. If Erin hadn't been awake before, she would be now. She thought about taking the coward's way out and dusting away. The villain strengthened herself, washed her hands, and walked out of the bathroom instead.
“Are you leaving?” Erin asked, sitting up in bed. “Because you don't have to.”
“I should probably go,” Duster hedged, looking at her wrist. She technically had nowhere to go, but didn't know if she should stay.
“You don't have to go,” Erin repeated, brushing some of her red hair away from her face.
“Why do you want me to stay?” The blonde challenged.
Erin looked down at the bed, “It's probably not an appropriate thing to say at a time like this.”
“You were distraught last night. It might seem like I'm taking advantage of the situation.”
Duster considered that before repeating her original question, “Why do you want me to stay?”
“Because I like you. Because I want you.”
Erin continued, babbling, “It's so strange to me because I've never wanted anybody Hyde has been attracted to. I don't know if that was from differences of opinions or I didn't want ‘sloppy seconds', as one might say. However, I've wanted you from the first time I saw you. Hyde likes you, I can tell. But I want you just as much as she wants you. And this probably sounds so weird to you.”
It did and it didn't to Duster. So two women who shared the same body wanted her? Who was she to argue? Erin had certainly caught her attention just as much as Hyde had, but for different reasons.
Instead of saying anything, Duster walked over and knelt on the bed as she kissed Erin in one smooth motion. The doctor replied eagerly, pulling Duster down on top of her. Soon Duster found herself naked again in the same bed but with a different woman. She had a few questions. Like how could Hyde be clean shaven and Erin have a small trimmed red triangle? She put those thoughts aside for later.
Thinking having sex with Erin would be the same as with Hyde, she found herself utterly surprised. The two women were nothing alike. Hyde liked to tease and be teased. She liked to keep Duster on the edge of coming for what seemed like forever until Duster pleaded to come, and Hyde liked having the same done for her.
Erin was completely different. The moment she felt Duster was teasing her too long, she flipped the villain over onto her back and used her fingers to bring Duster to a fast, hard orgasm. The doctor lowered her mouth to join her fingers as she brought Duster to another climax. The blonde returned the favor soon after.
“Who knew geeks were this great in bed?” Duster gasped, rolling over onto her back. She was still throbbing from her last climax after they had rubbed hard against each other frantically.
“It's a well hidden secret,” Erin commented.
Duster propped herself up on her arm, “Am I the first person to sleep with you and Hyde?”
“Yes. Your award is in the mail,” Erin said, rolling over to look at her. “Hyde never cared who I slept with nor I her. I honestly don't know how it will work out if we continue. Some things we can share, others we can't.”
“Oh, I think we can work something out,” Duster replied. She didn't know why she cared at all. Normally she left after having sex. No one had ever interested her enough to stay. However, the woman next to her wasn't no one, she was two someones.
“I want to get married,” Alice said.
Noel looked up from the computer screen, surprised, “We are getting married.”
“No, I mean I want to get married now.”
“Now? As in right now?” Noel gasped, “But I don't have a dress. You don't have a dress. And Mom. I can't get married without my Mom there. She'd kill me. And Brice. What about the rings? And the cake?”
Alice had to smile. For someone who claimed to care nothing about wedding details, Noel did have the wedding planned out in her mind. “Okay, it doesn't have to be right now, but I want to marry you as soon as possible. How soon can you be ready?”
Noel spent a few minutes calculating out details, “Tomorrow evening.”
“Then tomorrow, Noel, we're getting married,” Alice stated firmly. Noel grinned, “You're a little eager to be Mrs. Noel.”
Alice laughed, moving to stand over Noel in her chair. She leaned down to give her a kiss, “I thought we agreed you're going to be Mrs. Inferno.”
“Noel Inferno,” Noel said, rolling the name around her tongue, “It just doesn't have a good ring to it. Now Alice Noel sounds good.”
“I sound like Christmas.”
Noel grinned, pushing up on the arm rests to get another kiss. “You are my Christmas.”
Brice woke sometime in the middle of the night. She sat up and instantly regretted her quick action as pain blossomed in her side. It took a moment for her to get her bearings straight. She was no longer a prisoner of Virus and she was in the Rockies with Greer. Figuring Greer was asleep in the bedroom, Brice quietly went to get a glass of water from the kitchen. The view from the window above the sink took her breath away and she felt like crying. She rarely got to go outside while at the compound. She only got out to supervise the weekly deliveries of serum to Noel, and that only lasted an hour. Brice had missed being able to look out a window and see freedom.
Once she had drunk her fill of water, she returned to the living room. Brice gave the couch a long, hard stare and decided it was not a suitable bed. However, she didn't know how Greer would react if she went into the bedroom to sleep on the bed. She mentally debated for a few minutes before a side of her brain won. It was the side that was tired, in pain, and seeking the comfort of a bed, and she knew since it was Noel's safe-house, the bed had to be comfortable.
The bedroom door creaked when she opened it and she silently cursed at it. She stood at the door way, letting her eyes focus on how the room was set up. Greer appeared to be lying on the right side of the bed, so she went to the left. Slowly, she eased the covers down and tried to gently slide into bed. She had barely rested the covers against her when Greer asked, not turning over, “Are you okay?”
Brice froze, “Yeah. Just figured the bed would be better for my ribs.”
Greer turned over onto her other side to face Brice, “It probably is.”
“Are you okay?” Brice asked. She hated rolling onto her right side to face Greer, but Amelia had said it was good practice.
“Yeah,” Greer said shortly.
“You still mad at me?”
The blonde gave a short hum of laughter. “Still annoyed, but I'm not as angry anymore.”
“I'm glad,” Brice said, giving a smile even though Greer couldn't see it, “I've learned annoyed is a lot more workable than angry when it comes to relationships.”
“How many relationships have you had?”
Brice hesitated, mostly to think of the answer, “I've had six girlfriends. You?”
“No girlfriends, only Michael.”
“Oh,” Brice thought of the best way to ask her next question, “Do you find women attractive?”
She could almost hear Greer rolling her eyes. “Obviously.”
“I guess this is that long, overdue conversation?” Greer asked. She felt the bed move a little as Brice shrugged, “I suppose. I'm finding it's best for us if we do everything now. With our luck, we don't know when the next time will be.”
“Truer words have never been spoken,” Greer replied.
“Where do we begin?”
“At the beginning,” The blonde suggested.
Brice briefly laughed, “You got on my bus and I shook your hand. You then gasped and yanked away. You were quiet and broody after that until Virus tried to take over the high school.”
Greer mused, “That actually is where it started for me. When we touched for the first time, I saw a vision. Then I saw another and another. They just washed over me.”
“What did you see?”
The younger woman was quiet and said softly, “Us making love.”
“Oh,” Brice said, grateful the dark would hide her blush.
“Then I saw us walking on a beach, cooking dinner, kissing on a balcony, playing with children, and so many other things. Just clips. Like a life flashing before me that I hadn't lived yet,” Greer said. She was blushing harder than Brice was. She had never told anybody that before, not even her mother, who had told Greer that such visions were common in their family.
“That would be difficult to handle at any age, let alone being seventeen.”
“Yeah,” Greer said, “Do you want to be with me, Brice?”
The former bus driver replied, “Yes.”
Greer didn't often feel insecure but she did when it came to Brice, “Why?”
“Why do I want to be with you?” Brice repeated, stunned Greer would ask. “You mean besides the obvious reasons that you are funny, intelligent, and beautiful?”
“Yeah, besides that.”
Brice carefully thought of her answer, “Just the thought of you makes me happy. I love talking to you. It doesn't matter if the topic is serious, funny, we agree or we disagree, I love talking to you. I ached to tell you things while I was away and couldn't. I missed the way we would sit on the couch and talk all hours into the night.”
“I missed that too,” Greer softly added. Brice smiled.
“And the main reason I want to be with you is because I don't want to go a day without seeing you smile. You are twice as beautiful when you smile. When I was away, pretending to be Linda, I would forget a lot of things. I forgot the sound of John's voice and what some of my family looked like. But the one thing I couldn't forget was your smile. It ached to remember but it was one of the few things I looked forward to thinking about each day.”
Greer moved forward in the dark. Her lips missed their mark the first time, she kissed Brice's nose. They briefly laughed until Brice lifted her face and their lips met.
“Why…” Brice asked, between kisses, “do…you…want to…be…with me?”
“Oh, definitely for your house,” Greer answered, moving closer on the bed so more of their bodies were touching. Brice laughed. “Okay, but are there no other reasons? I mean are you just following a vision?”
The kisses stopped and Brice kept quiet, waiting for Greer to gather her words.
“To be honest, I wondered the same thing for a long time. I'm pretty sure the answer is no.”
“Pretty sure?” Brice asked, placing her hand on Greer's hip.
“Yes. I mean the first time we met I didn't think much of you. I probably wouldn't have given you a second glance if it weren't for my visions. I spent so much of these past years trying to deny what I saw whenever we would randomly touch. Then one day I touched you and I didn't experience any visions. I thought I was free, since you were dating Amelia and I was dating Michael. I thought our lives would no longer be intertwined. One would think that would have made me happy.”
“But it didn't?”
“No, it didn't,” Greer said, “After that was when I started looking at us. I mean truly looking at what we could be without the visions. I stopped thinking of you as a ‘forced destiny' and more as a friend. I found you were always there for me, funny, easy to talk to, and you just made me happy. I would turn down going out with Michael just to stay home with you. I looked forward to our hugs and then I started to wonder what it would be like to kiss you. But that made me feel bad because I was still dating Michael. Then we had that argument, you left, and it's been almost a year and a half since then.”
“Do you forgive me for what I said?” Brice asked. “I didn't mean anything I said before I left.”
“I'm sorry for slapping you,” Greer said, moving closer to kiss her.
“No, I deserved it. Everything I said with the intention to hurt you just so you would leave. But it killed me to say it and I didn't mean it,” Brice promised.
“So where does that leave us?”
“I guess we should start dating. What do youngsters do on dates these days?” The brunette mused. Greer laughed, “We take old people like you to get their senior discounts. I thought we agreed it's best to do everything now.”
“You want to go on a date now?” Brice asked. As excited as she was by their kisses, her bruised body and pain medication was getting to her. “Okay, how about we go on a sleep date now?”
“Sleep date?” Greer repeated, thoroughly amused. Brice nodded as she yawned, “Yes. Sleep dates are the prelims for sharing a bed full time. One can judge how well your bed sharing capabilities are.”
Greer placed another kiss on Brice's lips, “Oh, I can share a bed very nicely. How about you?”
“I'm the queen at sharing a bed. Ask my pets,” Brice muttered. She tried to stay awake longer, but couldn't. Greer moved her pillow with her as she snuggled closer. As she moved closer, Brice's arm, which had been resting on her hip, slipped down to rest against her back. Instinctively, Brice pulled Greer closer.
Greer and Michael had napped together a few times, but they hadn't done much cuddling. She decided cuddling with Brice was nice and she drifted to sleep listening to the sound of Brice's even breathes.
“Are the machines ready?” Virus demanded.
Lamb was visibly sweating as he replied, “Yes, boss.”
“Good,” Virus said, almost a purr. That did nothing to calm Lamb's nerves.
“Boss,” The scientist tentatively started, “Are you sure this is the device you wish to use? It's a little…”
“A little what?” Virus snapped.
Lamb gulped, “Nothing, sir.”
Lamb had never really cared what he invented before. Virus paid him to spend his time in the lab and he enjoyed that. He didn't mind creating anything, but the weapons Virus had him build were giving him nightmares. Not to mention the rumors of what happened in the conference room with Virus, Duster and a prisoner were also scaring him.
“When can I take over the broadcasting networks?”
That was the only machine Lamb had built lately that he wasn't afraid of. His satellite had been launched into space an hour ago and soon would take over the feeds for every broadcasting network. Virus would appear on every TV in the world when he made his announcement.
“For the program to fully take effect, it will be in about seven hours.”
Virus frowned at the thought of waiting so long but finally nodded in agreement. “Seven hours and not a minute later.”
The dark-haired man left Lamb alone and Lamb was still recovering from his fright when Erin showed up.
“You're late,” He said, not caring she was.
Erin coughed, hoping he wouldn't see her blush, “I was…preoccupied.”
“Is that what they call ‘fornicating' these days?”
When the pathologist looked surprised, Lamb laughed, “Just because I don't care about sex doesn't mean I don't know who is sleeping with whom around here.”
Lamb then started straightening items on the counter. He didn't like the news he was about to deliver. “Virus wanted me to tell you that you are no longer needed. Money will be wired to your account soon and someone will escort you wherever you want.”
Erin was shocked. She wasn't ready to leave yet and she stated so, “I'm not ready to leave yet. There's so much you and I can do together with Brice's blood. Think of what perfect DNA can hold for future genetics!”
She also wanted to know what the future held for her, Hyde and Duster, but figured Lamb didn't need to hear that part.
He sighed, “I know. That does sound like a wonderful idea. You haven't been as much of an annoyance as I thought you would be and you do decent work. It would have been nice to have an assistant. However, Virus is in no mood to talk about such things. In case you haven't noticed, things are rather tense around here. Everyone is getting ready for a war because we think that's what Virus is about to start.”
“A war is a very serious thing,” Erin said, trying to put it lightly. A war would mean Duster's life would be endangered.
“It's even more serious than you know,” Lamb stated gravely.
“I'm coming in there! Cover up any or all naked body parts.”
Brice jerked awake at the sound of Noel's voice and opened her eyes just in time to see her walk into the bedroom holding two coffees. The superhero looked disappointed. “Where are the naked body parts?”
“Bite me. This isn't your private porno,” Brice grumbled, rubbing her eyes. She looked over at Greer, who was stretching out her long limbs.
“Well, get up and let's go. We're short on time.”
Suddenly wide awake, Greer jumped out of bed, “Is it Virus? What's their position and ETA? My gun's in the drawer. Do you have a spare to arm Brice with?”
Noel laughed, “No, no. I'm getting married today and there's no time to waste.”
“What?” The other women asked at the same time.
“I'm getting married today,” Noel said, almost a squeal. Brice started to laugh and only stopped when it caused her ribs to ache too much.
“Why do we have to get cleaned up?” Greer asked, “Isn't it your big day?”
“Because you are going to be my maid of honor, Greer,” Alice said, walking into the room. She had been politely waiting in the living room so Greer and Brice could get dressed but it seemed there was no need. That hadn't been what she or Noel had expected.
“And you're going to be my best woman,” Noel said, looking at Brice.
Brice grinned, not surprised by the announcement, and retorted, “Duh. Who else would you pick?”
Greer on the other hand was stunned. She knew Alice didn't have many friends and their relationship was more casual friends, so surely there was someone closer in Alice's life to fill the role of maid of honor. Alice seemed to read her mind. “I don't have many friends and you helped me so much when Noel was in the hospital, bringing me food and such.”
“But maid of honor? Doesn't that require a dress? I don't think my jeans will do,” Greer said, looking down at the rumbled blue jeans she had slept in.
“Dresses are required,” Noel agreed, “Now let's go. We have to get to the dressmakers.”
Alice comforted Greer, “You'll look beautiful. That's another reason I want you in the wedding pictures.”
“I am not wearing a dress,” Brice firmly stated.
“We'll see,” Noel grinned.
“Kitty, report,” Duster ordered into her wrist communicator. “Kitty! I said report!”
“Stop shouting, Duster,” Virus ordered. “We don't need her.”
He sat calmly at his conference table working on his speech while she made sure all their defenses were up. There were a few people who hadn't reported in and Duster was starting to get worried about Kitty. The other people missing she could write off as deserters, but Kitty was different. The shape-shifter would show up late all the time, but she would always answer her wrist communicator, even if she was in the middle of sex. Kitty especially liked to answer in the middle of having sex with video on just to try and catch Duster off guard.
“Boss, do you need me for anything else?” Duster asked. “I'll feel better if I patrol the perimeter myself. Once you send out that message, we're going to have the whole world after us.”
“Do as you wish. I'll be broadcasting in five hours,” Virus stated casually, never looking up. Duster quietly left the conference room and took pride in the fact that she didn't break into a run. She calmly started typing on her wrist-com and pulled up a program she had Lamb create a long time ago. The program's icon was of a cat and it was called ‘Kitty Finder' and its purpose was exactly like its title. She tapped on it and soon the program was searching for the chip she had embedded in Kitty's neck. Kitty was late so often to missions that Duster had wanted to be able to locate the shape shifter whenever she wanted. The program came back with a result quickly and Duster frowned when she saw it was within the compound. She growled, “That little shithead. I'll kill her for not reporting in.”
Duster followed the signal into the lower levels of the compound, where not many went. Most of the rooms were empty and the only used room was the one that housed the giant furnace that warmed the compound. Some of their workers with fire related elements liked to come down here to play and Duster knew Kitty liked to come down there to watch those people sweat. The signal was leading her right to the furnace room and Duster swore if she found Kitty having sex, she would go to have her spayed.
She entered the room all set to start cursing, but she stopped. There was no one in the furnace room and she knew why, since the heat had already made her sweat. She checked her program and it was insisting Kitty was in the room.
Duster jumped at the sound of a loud creaking noise. She then scolded herself, since it was only the furnace opening up its side doors to push out all the soot that had collected on the bottom. The woman watched as the machine pushed out the large black pile and just as she was about to leave, she noticed something shining in the pile. It was the chip she had implanted in Kitty's neck.
She didn't know why she didn't throw up. She could feel her stomach churning and every part wanted to vomit. Instead she turned and left the room. Duster knew that Virus had killed Kitty, most likely after he absorbed her power. Probably the other missing people were also in that pile of soot. She didn't want to think about it, but forced herself to. If Virus had absorbed Kitty's power then he had the ability to shape shift. That mean she couldn't trust anybody by their appearance.
Duster only wanted to do three things: the first was not to get killed, the second was to get Hyde/Erin away from Virus, and the third was to help take down Virus.
“I'm not wearing that,” Brice firmly stated to the dressmaker who held up a template of the best woman's dress she had just designed.
“But it will look beautiful on you,” Miranda insisted. “Miranda knows best. It complements the maid of honor's dress. You will look fabulous.”
“I'm not wearing that,” She repeated. Brice looked over to Noel, who was getting fitted for her dress, “I'm not wearing that, Noel.”
“It's my wedding and you'll wear what I say you'll wear!” The white-haired superhero snapped. Noel looked more surprised by her outburst than Brice did. She even apologized, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go bridezilla on you but it is stressful finding a white dress that goes well with white hair. When I'm in your wedding, you can make me wear whatever you want.”
“Oh. Are you getting married?” Miranda asked. The dressmaker was one of the finest actresses in the world when it came to pretending to care.
“Yes,” Noel said, shocking Brice. “Her girlfriend is the maid of honor.”
“Oh,” Miranda repeated, slightly more interested. “You must come to Miranda for the bride's dress when the time comes. Creating Cobalt Thrust's wedding dress would be divine!”
“Wedding?” Brice squeaked, “No one said anything about a wedding!”
Miranda ignored her and asked Noel, “When will the wedding be?”
Noel flipped to the next hologram dress and admired it on her form. She answered, “They're thinking a December wedding.”
“What?” Brice shouted. Her shout drew the attention of Alice and Greer, who were being fitted on the other side of the store. She sheepishly waved, turning red.
Miranda sighed; she didn't know how such a woman had gotten Cobalt Thrust as her girlfriend.
Brice turned her attention back to the dress Miranda was still holding up. She glared at Noel and hissed, “I agreed to wear a simple dress for you, my friend. But if you make me wear this to your wedding, I'm going to make you wear it to mine.”
That got Noel's attention and she turned to look at it. She could barely stop herself from flinching. “Miranda, let's just put Brice in a low-cut vest matching Greer's dress, white shirt, and some black trousers.”
“No!” Miranda cried, throwing down her tablet, “The symmetry will be off. Can't have black trousers on one side and three dresses on the other. Miranda refuses.”
“Miranda, do I need to bring up that time in Moscow?” Noel warned. Miranda pouted, then picked up the tablet. She quickly drew a new sketch, briefly showed it to the two women and said, “It is being made now.”
“Good,” Noel said. “Now we can focus on me finding the right dress.”
“That's my job. Thank goodness I'm here now,” Jamie said. Noel beamed and then whined, “Hi, Mom. Mom, none of these are working.”
“Well, let's go through them together. I've waited a long time for this day. I never thought it would come,” Jamie said. She tried valiantly not to cry. She didn't want to think about how the day had almost never came. The mother placed a kiss on Brice's cheek before going to stand next to her daughter.
Brice braced herself as she was suddenly in her mother's arms. Preemptively Brice said, “Ribs, Ma. Broken ribs. Careful!”
Marge made sure to keep her hug gentle but she didn't stop her tears, “Oh, it's so good to hug you. Your father is parking the car. He's coming in soon. Tell me everything that has happened. Noel updated me of course, but I want to know everything.”
“Well,” Brice hedged. She glanced at Greer, who was smirking at her. Marge followed her daughter's look and Greer flushed under her mentor's stare.
Marge turned back to her daughter and whispered, “You slept with Greer? Are you engaged at least?”
“What?” The former bus driver hissed, furiously, “No and no. Why does everybody think that?”
“Well honey, you both have this glow,” Her mother stated. “Blame the glow, not us.”
“We're…we're…” Brice tried to think of what they were. “We're something.”
“And that's something. Oh, here's your father.”
Mark wrapped his daughter in a hug and Brice held on. As they helped Noel pick out her dress, she caught them up on everything that had happened to her. The hours passed as Noel and Jamie made phone calls to people about the reception and Mark left to return shortly with lunch for everybody.
Brice was able to spend a few minutes alone with Greer through it all. Greer sat down beside her on a couch as everybody else went to look at the newly arrived, freshly created outfits.
“How goes things in your neck of the woods?” Greer asked. She placed a quick kiss on Brice's lips, which caused Brice to smile.
“Fine. Everybody keeps asking if we're engaged or have slept together,” Brice sighed. Greer looked thoughtful, “That's why Miranda gave me her card and said to contact her in October. Apparently last minute fittings like this are not Miranda's usual style.”
Brice reflected on the past. “If I recall right, you had a vision of someone giving you an engagement ring.”
Greer nodded slowly, “I did.”
“Was that person me?” Brice asked, raising an eyebrow. The blonde shrugged with a half smile, “Maybe.”
“I didn't do it now, did I?” Brice asked, suddenly panicked. “Because I don't have a ring or anything. I didn't propose without a ring. I wouldn't do that. Did I do that?”
Greer silenced her with a kiss and then said, “Brice, we just started dating twelve hours ago. Don't worry about my visions. They'll work themselves out. It's just me and you.”
Mark asked his wife, “Should we mind that both of our children have dated the same woman?”
“Didn't we watch a Lifetime movie about that?” Marge asked. Mark rolled his eyes, “I think you made me watch a Lifetime movie about that.”
“I think if they don't mind, we shouldn't mind,” Marge said.
“Guys,” Noel said, walking out of the changing room in her dress. “What do you think?”
Approval was met all around. Miranda smiled, “Miranda only makes the best.”
“Duster,” Erin called. “Hey Duster. Wait.”
Duster refused to stop walking and Erin had to run to catch up with her. She caught the villain by the arm, “Hey, slow down.”
“I can't talk right now,” Duster said, not meeting the doctor's eyes. Erin's brow furrowed in worry and confusion. “What's wrong?”
Duster wanted to tell Erin her fears, but she couldn't. She didn't know if it was really Erin and she whispered so, “How do I know you are you?”
Erin almost smiled until she realized Duster was joking. “You don't think I'm me? Who else would I be besides Hyde?”
“Prove you're you,” Duster insisted.
“Okay,” Erin said with a shrug. She leaned forward and whispered something in Duster's ear that made the supervillainess blush. Duster cleared her throat. “Okay. So you're Erin. Let's go to your room so I can explain and maybe you can help me think of what to do in what little time we have left.”
Brice tugged on her vest to straighten it and looked over at Noel, who was getting the finishing touches on her hair done by a machine Miranda had lent them. She said, “I have to say, Noel. You look beautiful.”
“Shut up!” Noel ordered, but she lightly blushed. The bride asked, worriedly, “Is everything okay? Is the judge here? How about the guests?”
“All five guests are out there now. Miranda just left because ‘Miranda doesn't attend weddings.'” Brice tried to repeat in the dressmaker's tone of voice. She had intended for Noel to laugh, but she didn't succeed.
“And the judge?”
Brice motioned for Noel to calm down. “He's here, woman. How did you get a Supreme Court judge to officiate anyway?”
Noel didn't answer. Instead she cried, “Fuck!”
“What?” Brice exclaimed. Noel turned to her best friend, almost about to cry. “What if Alice decides she doesn't want to marry me?”
Brice pinched the bridge of her nose to keep from hitting her best friend. She said, “Noel, she's right in the next room. You're getting married in five minutes.”
“Okay,” Noel said with a large exhale. She took exaggerated breathes and said, “Okay.”
Brice moved forward to take her friend's hands and said, “Calm down, Noel. You've faced a lot scarier situations than this.”
“I can't recall any at the moment.”
“It will be fine,” Brice reassured. “I'm sure Alice is right in the next room, eager to get married.”
In reality Alice was just as nervous in the next room. She adjusted her bouquet of flowers, where she had hidden a gun inside just in case. She asked Greer, “You don't think Noel will run off and leave me, do you?”
“What?” Greer said. “No way.”
“Good,” Alice said, starting to pace. “Because I would kill her. She left once, after she tried to propose and ran off before I could say anything. I thought she had changed her mind and had left me. I will not allow that to happen.”
“Of course,” Greer said. She wished she could ask Brice to change brides because Alice was rather scary. She wished her mother and brother were here, but Judy and John had both received a vague vision along with several other psychics around the world. Since so many had the same vision the psychics had called a conference to puzzle out the meaning. It was about a potential world disaster for certain.
They both looked towards the door when the organ music started. Alice straightened her back. “That's your cue. Go!”
Greer quickly moved to the door and went out into the foyer of the chapel. Brice was being pushed out of her room by Noel. The brunette smiled when she noticed Greer and held out her arm, “Shall we?”
“We shall,” Greer answered, linking their arms. They started their slow march down the aisle, past Mark, Marge, Jamie, Amelia and Trudy. Greer softly whispered, “Who invited them?”
“Noel did,” Brice answered, trying not to move her lips. Noel had set up spy cameras to record the ceremony. Once in front of the judge, two separated to their sides and turned to face the back. The organist changed music and everyone stood as Noel and Alice appeared hand in hand at the back. The two slowly marched to the front and the music faded as they stood side by side in front of Judge Jenkins. They each handed off their flowers and turned to grasp each others' hands.
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to witness the wedding of Alice and Noel. This is the part where I usually explain how marriage is like building a home, but I was told to keep this short and sweet. So Alice do you…”
A loud ringing sound interrupted Jenkins. Everyone turned to Brice, who held up her hands. “It's not mine.”
She fished into the inner pocket of her vest for the cell phone Noel had given her to hold. Once out in the open, the ringing seemed even louder.
“For the love of all that is holy, I turned this damn thing off,” Noel said, snatching the phone out of Brice's hand. She pressed down the power button, but the phone continued to ring. Then Alice's purse, which she had left on the front aisle before the wedding, started to go off. The tall school teacher glanced at it and her frown deepened as every other phone went off in the chapel. Trudy had hers pulled out, ready to answer.
“No!” Noel shouted, “This is my wedding and I want all those phones out of here! If the damn world is ending, it can wait two minutes. Greer, get rid of them!”
Greer looked confused for a moment and then nodded. She telepathically pulled all the phones out of people's hands, pockets, purses, and holsters and sent them racing towards the back of the chapel. She opened the door with her mind and placed all the phones outside, closing the door behind them. Noel gestured for the organ player to play louder to cover up the sounds of the ringtones.
“Let's finish getting married,” Noel said, taking Alice's hands again. Alice grinned and they turned to the judge. Jenkins smiled and continued. Soon he said, “By the power vested in me by the United States of America, I now pronounce you legally married.”
Alice and Noel smiled at each other before moving forward to kiss.
“I present to you the newly married couple, Alice and Noel.”
The small, seated crowd stood and broke out into applause. Noel laughed as Alice kissed her again while brushing away a tear falling down her cheek. They turned to face the crowd and lead the procession out of the chapel where two breathless uniformed men were waiting in front of the row of cell phones.
“Why are all your phones out here?” One demanded to know. “International safety depends on you answering your phone when the emergency line rings! When you didn't answer, they sent us.”
“I had a hard time getting it out of my purse. It flung itself all the way back here,” Noel said. Holding Alice's hand, she gently knelt in her dress to pick up her phone. The phone started ringing in her hand so she answered it, “Noel.”
Others started collecting and answering their phones while Marge questioned the two uniformed men, “A few superheroes don't answer their phone and they send out uniforms to see what's going on? That's not normal. So what is going on, guys?”
They looked flabbergasted, “Have none of you even looked at your phones, or the TV, or the radio? How can you not know what happened?”
“Well, we don't so why don't you fill us in,” Mark suggested, standing beside his wife.
“The supervillain Virus just hacked all the broadcasting and radio stations! He made an announcement to the whole world that if we don't meet his demands, he'll start killing millions of people!”
“Here,” Greer said, pulling up a recording of the broadcast on her phone. She typed in a command to put it on projector and Virus's message started playing on the wall in front of them.
Virus stood behind a podium in a perfect three-piece suit as he addressed the world, “Greetings everyone. Some of you may know me, others do not. You may all address me as Virus for now. Some of you consider me to be evil or a villain. Perhaps you would even consider me a terrorist. I do not deny these allegations, I embrace them. I'm not going to sweet talk you or make threats that I don't intend to carry out. What I'm about to say is a promise. If the following super-powered individuals are not delivered to me in the next twelve hours, to put it simply I will create a poisonous rain that will kill everything it touches. It's combined with ununseptium, so not even those with superpowers can withstand it. Everyone will die.”
“Now I'm sure government officials will soon try to talk to you. They'll tell you wonderful lies about how they're going to stop me, but listen to my words. They can't stop me. I have more power than they do and I can place my destruction clouds on any part of this world. You'll be dead before anyone has time to arrive and save you. They've been trying to catch me for years and they've failed. They'll fail again. Now if you provide me with the list of individuals I asked for, they will be my hostages and treated fairly. I will return them when my future demands have been settled.”
Virus disappeared and a list of black names on a white background appeared. There were twenty individuals and most of the names were familiar ones. Trudy instantly spotted something worth noting, “Not all those are superheroes. Some of those are villains. Most of those are in lock-up, if not all of them.”
“I think they are,” Noel muttered, “And he probably knows that. So why these people?”
“I'm sure they're on that at headquarters, which is exactly where they want us,” Trudy said, giving Noel a firm look.
“I know. I'm going.” Noel turned to look at Alice, who gave her a reassuring smile. “It's okay, Noel.”
Amelia gave a quick apology, “The hospital has called in all medical staff. I have to go.”
“They want us to report to our prep station, Greer,” Marge said, reading a text on her phone. Greer looked at Brice, who nodded.
“I'll fly you two,” Mark volunteered.
“Call me when you can,” Amelia said, kissing Trudy. Noel grinned as she received a kiss from Alice, “Don't worry. It will be done in no time.”
“Stay safe,” Brice said, giving Greer a kiss as well.
Jamie looked at the three kissing couples and turned to Marge. She gave her best friend a kiss on the lips. “Stay safe, darling.”
The three parents laughed at the expressions on everyone else's faces. Then people started to leave. Soon the only ones left were the bride, the mother of the other bride, and the best woman.
Amelia scrolled through a few messages on her own phone and looked over at Brice and Jamie, “How about we change clothes and go stop Virus?”
“What?” Brice exclaimed. “The three of us?”
“I suppose the reception and the cake can hold off for a few hours. I wonder if the caterers can pack everything up for us? I'll call them on the way,” Jamie said. “Let's do it.”
Brice looked back and forth between the two women, “Okay, ladies, have you lost your minds? What can the three of us do?”
“Oh, I'll think of something on the way,” Alice said as she started walking for her SUV. Jamie and Brice followed with the latter muttering, “Crazy. Absolutely crazy.”
Less than an hour later, Alice was flying them towards South America. The three were covered in body armor and Alice had given Brice some heavy pain-killers. She no longer felt like she had broken ribs anymore, but she still wasn't sure what the plan was.
“How do you even know where he is?” Brice asked. “I can't even remember that and they changed areas so often.”
“I used all my connections to get a transmitter placed in his compound. It didn't do me any good when Noel was dying so I didn't use it. Luckily, you were there to save the day on that one.”
“Okay but that doesn't explain how we're going to stop him and all his henchmen when we get there.”
“We won't have to,” Jamie replied. “What Virus has done has pitted the whole world against him. Normal people, heroes and villains all want him finished now because any one of them can be killed by his clouds and I truly believe he can and will kill millions of people if he doesn't get what he wants. With odds like that, his henchmen will probably be deserting.”
“Alright, but where do I factor into this plan?”
Alice smiled, coldly, “You get to go chat to some old friends.”
This scared Brice a little and she remembered what Kate, her would-be killer, had told her about Alice. She asked, “You used to be an assassin, right? An unmentionable? One of the best?”
“That's a subjective opinion, but yes, I was an unmentionable.”
“So this mission will be a piece of cake for you, right?”
Alice smiled again, “I never fail. Now Brice, when we get there, Jamie and I will create a diversion for you. I want you to go find anyone who will give you information and bring it back to us. If the mission goes wrong, call Noel and tell her what happened.”
“But you said you never failed,” Brice protested. Alice shrugged, “First time for everything.”
“Enemies in the compound! Enemies in the compound! Report to your stations!” The alarm screamed repeatedly. Duster studied her wrist communicator and shook her head. It didn't look good. Everybody had scattered under the bombing instead of reporting to their stations. Virus was missing and she had just managed to find Lamb and Erin. They stood in the lab, trying to figure out what to do. The bombing continued as the building shook. They didn't know that Alice had set her plane to random fly and shoot missiles at the building as they snuck in.
Duster was just about to speak when someone burst through the lab's double doors and Brice came within seconds of being killed.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Duster shouted. “I should kill you for escaping and making a fool of me!”
“No time for that. I need to know what's going on because we're here to stop him. Any information will help. Why does Virus want all those people?”
“He's absorbing their powers for himself. When he absorbs their powers, it kills the other person. I guess the people he wants are powers he wants,” Erin explained.
“Did he really have to start a world panic for super powers?” Brice asked, frowning. “Why didn't he just quietly pick up one or two people at a time from around the world? Why do this?”
“Because he's gone fucking crazy,” Duster snapped. “He killed Kitty.”
“I am sorry,” Brice said, meaning it. “Is there anything else you can tell me?”
Lamb spoke up, “I can tell you a little bit about how the absorption process works.”
Brice didn't really care how it worked but nodded because the information might be useful to Alice.
“His type of absorption is parasitic. He's been picking off our own people,” Lamb explained. “I've only had a short time to observe the bodies and only seen him do it once, but I can hypothesize.”
“Well, do it quickly,” Brice said, looking at her watch. She needed to get back to Alice and Jamie to make sure they were okay.
“I don't know how he attaches to the victim, but he somehow connects to them on a genetic level. His DNA and their DNA mix together but his mutations are stronger. His DNA is able to absorb their mutations and take on their form, mixing with all the other mutations he already has. His powers and mutations will keep growing.”
“Fascinating,” Duster drawled. “How is this going to help us stop him?”
Erin understood where Lamb was going and said, “Lamb's onto something. Virus's DNA absorbs other mutations, but sooner or later he's going to run out of room. If he mutates too much, he'll no longer be considered human and his body can't handle that.”
“And who exactly do we let him feast on until that happens?” Brice snapped. “We can't let him drink his way through dozens of people.”
“Noel sounds like a good choice right about now. Shame she isn't here,” Duster said. Brice sighed, frustrated by the lack of useful information. “Okay, well, thanks for the information, I guess. Get out of here. I don't want any of you hurt.”
She took off at a run for the warehouse before Duster could reply with anything nasty.
Virus personally handled the intrusion of his compound. He cornered Alice in the large warehouse and taunted her while he searched down the rows for her. “Come out, little girl.”
“I saw you absorb people, Virus. I don't think so,” She shouted. He sent a ball of lightening in her direction but she burned it off with a flame shield. When she took down her shield, she saw he was only a few feet from her.
“So I hear you just got married,” Virus said, lighting his hands on fire much like Alice's. “Welcome to the family.”
Alice said nothing. She circled, studying him. He knew what she was doing and said, “You won't find a weakness. I have powers beyond your wildest imagination.”
Virus shifted his form until he looked like his daughter. He asked, “Can you strike the form of your wife?”
She fired at him in reply and rolled to avoid his flames. He changed back into his normal form as he continued to shoot fireballs. Alice noticed Jamie slipping into the warehouse and shouted to distract him, “Do you know why you'll lose even with all your powers?”
“Why is that?” Virus laughed.
“Because you don't know shit about using them. I've spent years perfecting my power and you've spent five minutes. Try this on for size!” Alice placed her hand on the ground and sent a tunnel of fire through the ground. Virus barely had time to step back, and where he stood, a tower of flames roared. It singed the bottom of his suit, which made him angry. He inhaled deeply and when he exhaled, gale force winds blew out from his mouth. The stacks around Alice started to fall and she had to run to dodge them.
“Hey Nick!” Jamie shouted as she sent a wave of ice blades at him. He barely had time to stop exhaling and throw up his force field, the knives merely skidding off. Virus jumped and flew on top of one of the racks, where he proceeded to run towards the door. Alice and Jamie ran after him, shooting fire and ice at him which he easily deflected. Once on the other side of the door, he evaporated into dust and they lost sight of him.
“Fuck,” Alice cursed. Jamie silently agreed, since she was a little out of breath. Brice came running down the other hallway. “Are you guys okay?”
“Fine. What did the others have to say?”
“That if Virus keeps absorbing powers, he might overload but they had no idea what his limit could be,” Brice answered.
“Great,” Alice sighed. “Just great.”
“Alice isn't answering her phone,” Noel said, looking at Greer, Marge and Mark. The trio had flown to Noel's head quarters after Greer and Marge had gotten debriefed. Everybody was on standby as they figured out what to do.
“Neither is Brice or Jamie,” Marge said, hanging up her phone.
Greer's jaw slightly dropped when a thought came to her. “You don't think they…you know?”
Mark answered, “Yes.”
“Fuck!” Noel cursed. “Well, I can't find Virus but I can track them. Give me five minutes.”
“Come on,” Duster ordered. “We need to get out of here. To the hangar. Forget those files, Lamb!”
“This is hundreds of hours of work,” Lamb cried. “I can't leave it.”
“I'm going to leave you if you don't hurry your ass up,” She barked back. She turned to look at Erin only to find Hyde in her place.
“Trouble is coming, darling,” Hyde purred. Duster nodded and slowly crept forward, slowly dusting her body so that she made no noise as she walked. Peering around the corner, she saw Virus. He stood in front of a kneeling man, one of theirs, and he was absorbing his powers. Virus let the man fall as he finished and turned his glowing eyes toward Duster.
“I see you, Duster. I bet Dr. Bradley and Lamb are with you. They will be tasty, and together we shall rule the world through me. All of us together.”
Duster knew this fight would be epic. It was the kind of fight people would write about for years to come as she and the others fought Virus off to save the world, probably forfeiting their lives in the process. The only problem with that was she wasn't about to risk her life or the others'.
She turned and ran, “Let's go!”
Hyde shouted, “I can take him! His pussy ass doesn't stand a…”
Duster didn't have time to argue. She changed the density of the dust in her hand to harder than stone and punched Hyde in the head, knocking her out. She caught the woman as she fell and charged at Lamb. With a lighter punch, she knocked the scientist out and she grunted under the weight. She had never evaporated with two people before but with Virus rounding the corner, she was about to find out if she could.
Brice left Alice and Jamie by the warehouse as she went to the hangar. She didn't know what she was going to do, but she knew having something big would help. She ran down a row of fighter jets and hover crafts and skidded to a stop in front of a bus. Brice didn't know why Virus had one and she didn't care. She grinned, “Hello, beautiful.”
Virus sensed most of the people around him were leaving the compound, but he could sense two large power sources still near the warehouse. He knew it was his daughter-in-law and his former wife. Feeling hungry, he went after them. Soon they were in a three way battle. Alice and Jamie were throwing all they had at him, but he merely kept his force field up. They had to construct walls of ice and fire to block his attacks when he went on the offense.
Tired of playing games, Virus stopped shooting and concentrated on creating one giant ball of energy to shoot. The force of the explosion it would create would force them to heavily shield themselves while he used the chance to sneak up on them. However, a bang and then a crashing sound caused him to break concentration and the energy evaporated between his hands. Brice had flown the bus into the warehouse, almost in the same spot she had flown out of during her escape.
“Get in!” She shouted, hovering the bus over the wrecked aisles of supplies. Jamie and Alice made a run for the bus and Virus fired lightning at them. It bounced off the bus's own force shields. Alice and Jamie passed easily through the shields and climbed onto the bus.
“Fly!” Alice shouted, but Brice was already on it. She lifted the bus into the air and flew out the hole she had created.
“Can he fly?” The former assassin asked. Jamie looked behind them, “Well, he didn't use to be able to. Seems that has changed.”
Alice ran to the back of the bus to see Virus shooting towards them like a rocket.
“He's gaining on us,” Jamie reported unnecessarily. “What are we going to do? We are more experienced at our powers, but he has more tricks up his sleeves.”
“I don't know,” Alice said softly. “Call Noel? Ask her to save us?”
Little did she know that a whole army of agents were flying towards the compound as Noel had tracked her wife's cell phone. She, Greer, Marge and Mark had broken off from the pack to fly in another direction as their signal changed. They were gaining on them and would soon catch up.
“I know what you're going to do,” Brice said. “Take a seat. I got a plan.”
Alice and Jamie did as she requested since they had no other ideas. Brice pressed a few buttons and safety straps heavily crossed their chests, securing them tightly into the seats. Alice called out, “What are you doing, Brice?”
Brice looked over her shoulder. “Saving your lives.”
With that said, Virus burst through the back of the bus and when he did, Brice ejected Jamie and Alice from bus. Their seats dropped down from the floorboard and parachutes deployed immediately. She then quickly set the autopilot.
Virus shouted in anger and moved to go after them.
“Take me!” Brice shouted as she stood, trying to draw his attention away from the women parachuting towards the ground. “Have a quick snack before you go!”
“You won't save them,” Virus sneered. “I'm still going to have them and then everybody else. I'll be the only person with powers left in the world.”
“Well, then it won't hurt to snack on me before getting them,” Brice said.
“What would I want with you? You don't have any powers.”
“That's not true,” Brice defended. “Lamb said I could survive any type of poisoning. I never get sick or infected. I could withstand a nuclear fallout.”
Virus licked his lips. “That's a small power but you're right. It wouldn't hurt to have a snack before I go. Kneel!”
Brice knelt; all the while hoping the others arrived to save Alice and Jamie before Virus went after them. She didn't know Noel had caught them in mid-drop and was currently chasing the bus down. She hoped most of all that Lamb was as smart as he believed he was and everything he said had been true.
Virus laid his hand on Brice's head and started the absorption process. Brice felt him connect to her, somewhere inside. Everything started getting warm and she could see gold light everywhere, outside and in. She felt him tugging at something inside of her and her genes seemed to go gladly.
The crazed villain couldn't believe the rush he was getting from absorbing a baron. It felt like her life force was reaching everywhere inside of him. Seconds passed and he started to panic. It had never taken this long before and it felt like he was growing weaker after the initial rush. He didn't notice or care when Greer boarded the bus.
“Stop!” Greer screamed. “Stop or I'll shoot you!”
Virus wanted to stop. He tried to pull his hand away from Brice's head, but he couldn't. He could see his glow was fading and when he could, he yanked his hand away. Brice fell to the floor, like all the others. He turned to Greer and held out his hand to shoot a fireball, only one never came.
“What?” He gasped. He tried to shoot her again and she shot him with the super-killer serum they had gotten from the government. The serum was used to execute serial killers with super powers. It went through destroying all the mutated genes, which resulted in the person's death. It was rarely used, but they had been given permission to shoot Virus on sight
Once she shot him, she ignored him and ran to Brice's side. Noel, Alice, Jamie and Marge boarded after her, but she didn't care. He would die soon and she didn't care. She only wanted to hold Brice.
She collapsed by Brice's side and cried, “No! Why didn't you wait for us! Stupid! Stupid!”
She slammed her fist onto Brice's chest and received a groan in reply. Her tears cleared instantly as she realized Brice was still alive. She didn't know how because she had been told Virus's absorption process killed the victims, but she didn't care. Brice was alive.
“Brice!” She cried out, wrapping her arms around her. Brice croaked, “Hey.”
Everyone else was shocked. Alice said, “But that's not possible. We watched him kill others. Why isn't she dead? Why aren't you dead?”
“Who cares?” Marge asked, tears coming out of her eyes. She could not stand almost losing her daughter like this.
“No!” Virus cried out, stunning everybody again. They were certain the serum would have killed him by now. “Where are they? Where are my powers? Give them back, you bitch.”
Jamie walked over to her former husband and kicked him in the head, knocking him out, “Shut up.”
Later as emergency responders checked her vital signs, Brice explained what she thought had happened. Much later scientists would agree with her basic hypothesis.
“Lamb said that my DNA was perfect and had no mutations. He said there was nothing that would ever change it either, not even falling in that vat of toxic waste. He told me a few hours ago how he thought Virus was absorbing other people's powers. He said Virus's DNA found other people's mutated genes and absorbed them, taking on their mutation. I took the chance that when his DNA tried to absorb mine, it would backfire on him in some way. It seems it did. Instead of absorbing me, my DNA changed his to be like mine. He's a baron now, no longer able to use powers.”
“That is the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard and you're damn lucky you didn't die,” Greer scolded. “I'm so furious with you right now.”
Her words were not withstanding because she kept giving Brice a kiss every few seconds. Noel, who hadn't let go of her wife's hand for over an hour, looked over at the swarm of agents overrunning the compound. She sighed, “I should go help them.”
Soon everybody wandered off, leaving Greer and Brice by themselves. Greer asked, giving Brice another kiss, “What do you want to do?”
“Get my pets and go home.”
“Good, because I'm not letting you out of the house for ten years and not out my sight for fifty years. At least.”
Brice smiled. “That doesn't sound so bad.”
Erin slowly opened her eyes and started investigating her surroundings. She soon concluded that she was strapped into the co-pilot's seat of a jet plane and Duster was flying.
“What happened?” Erin asked. Her head throbbed in response to her talking. “Why does my head hurt?”
Duster sheepishly grinned. “I had to knock Hyde out to get you both to come along or risk getting killed. Sorry.”
“It's quite alright,” Erin said, “What happened?”
“Well, after I knocked Hyde out, I had to subdue Lamb. I somehow got all three of us to this jet. He's sleeping in the crate back there. I couldn't just leave him for Virus to absorb, the freaky bastard. To think the cancer was the only thing keeping him sane these past years.”
“Yes. It will make an interesting case study,” Erin agreed. She shifted in her seat to look at Lamb's crate and then faced forward again. “So where are we going?”
“Honestly? I don't know. I'll drop you off wherever you want to go,” Duster said, suddenly finding the buttons on her other side fascinating.
Erin thought this over. “What are you going to do?”
Duster shrugged. “I don't know. Find some freelance work here and there. I've got a good bit of money saved up. I can work from anywhere.”
“Me too,” Erin stated looking at Duster, who refused to meet her eyes. “Look at me.”
Sand-colored eyes met green ones. Erin said, “I don't know where this is going. Between you, me and Hyde it's going to be chaos. But this is the happiest I've felt in a long time and I know Hyde is having fun. I'd like to continue this, whatever we are. I think Hyde would agree, but what do you want to do?”
“I want you and Hyde to stay with me. I want to continue this too.”
Erin beamed, which caused Duster to slowly smile. Erin said, pointing forward, “Well, let's go. Things to invite, sex to have.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Duster laughed.
“Wait. What about Lamb?” Erin asked. “He's a pain in the ass sometimes but he doesn't deserve to be left on the side of the road. I don't necessarily want him with us either.”
“Already taken care of,” Duster promised. “I know the perfect place for him. It will just be the three of us on our adventures.”
“What the hell is this?” Noel asked, walking into the mail room. She was tired after working so long at the compound and had only stopped at the office to get a few files. Noel hadn't been pleased to get a call from Trudy ordering her to the mail room. She looked around at the stacks of unsorted mail, “I never knew we had a mail room.”
Gertrude rolled her eyes, “There was a package addressed to you. There seems to be a human body inside of it. Nothing else harmful was picked up on the scanner.”
Suddenly serious Noel said, “Let's get this over with. I want to get home as soon as possible. Paperwork sucks as much as this does.”
With crowbars, Noel and the postmaster opened the large box. On a bed of bubble wrap with an oxygen mask around his mouth, Lamb lay sleeping. On his chest was pinned a note. Noel and Gertrude shared a stunned look before Noel bent to get the note. She read it aloud.
“Noel, circumstances have led to this poor scientist being in need of a new home. You will find he is house trained. If treated with respect and given a large laboratory to play in, you will find him to be tolerable and useful.”
The white-haired superhero read the note silently one more time before laughing, “Well, let's take him to lock-up. I'm sure we can turn him to work for us.”
Noel tossed the note aside and dusted her hands. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going home to sleep with my wife. Then we're going on our honeymoon. Goodbye.”
“It's so good to be home,” Brice cried out, collapsing face down on her bed. She hugged her pillow towards her and inhaled deeply. Her head shot up as she recognized the scent.
“My pillow smells like you,” She accused looking at Greer, who was standing in the doorway. A hint of red crossed Greer's cheeks. “I may have slept here a time or two since you've been gone.”
Brice smelled the pillow again, “Or three or four.”
Realizing Brice wasn't mad, Greer merely smiled. The once again bus driver flipped over onto her back. She stretched out and stared happily up at her ceiling, “Isn't that the most beautiful ceiling you've ever seen?”
Greer chuckled as she climbed onto the bed and lay down beside her. She stared up at the white ceiling and feigned seriousness, “Absolutely. That is the best ceiling I've ever seen. Beautiful enough to make you cry.”
“Yeah. It is.”
Greer heard the crack in Brice's voice and looked over at her. She felt a bolt of panic run through her as a tear slipped out of the corner of Brice's eye, “What's wrong? Don't cry. I lied. The ceiling isn't that beautiful.”
Brice snorted and brushed away the wet marks on her face. Greer asked, “Why are you crying?”
The brunette smiled, “I'm just so glad to be home. It doesn't feel real. I'm finally home, Virus is gone, I got my job back, Noel and Alice are married, Monty and Python are out there reclaiming the house as theirs and you are here in bed with me. It feels like a dream. A dream that I don't want to wake up from.”
Greer rolled over so she was half lying on top of Brice, resting her weight on her elbow. “Well, it's not a dream. If it was a dream would I do this?”
She leaned down and gave Brice a kiss. Brice gave it some consideration, “I think you would kiss me in a dream, yes.”
“How about this?” Another kiss followed, this one longer and deeper. Brice nodded, “Yes. That would totally happen in a dream.”
“Would I do this then?” Greer moved so she was straddling Brice and sat up, her weight on her legs. She grasped the bottom of her shirt and pulled it up and then off. Brice swallowed heavily, “That was very dreamlike but can we stop the dream metaphors? It's getting hard to think.”
Greer smiled, trying to ignore the pangs of nervousness she felt. She had never made love before and there was only so much you could learn without hands-on experience. Brice noticed Greer's nervousness, perhaps because she was just as nervous, and said, “We can slow it down if you want.”
“We've made love dozens of times in my visions. I think it's about time I see what all the fuss is about.” She leaned down to kiss Brice, who returned her kisses. Brice then arched her brow, “So you want to see what all the fuss is about?”
She ran her hand slowly up Greer's back and undid her bra with one hand.
“Yes,” Greer said. She let Brice slide the straps down her arms and helped toss it aside. She then urged Brice up to pull off her shirt. “Of course I'll have to take it easy on you, considering your age.”
Brice smirked and rolled them over so that Greer was on her back, “Oh, I think I'll keep up just fine.”
It didn't matter how many times Brice had had sex before or the fact Greer never had. They had never made love to each other. They took turns exploring each other and when Brice couldn't bear waiting any longer, she urged Greer's fingers inside of her. She massaged Greer's clitoris in time with the thrusts inside of her and when she felt herself starting to climax, she rubbed harder making Greer orgasm just moments after herself.
“Wow,” Greer exhaled as she felt herself come down from that high. “Wow.”
“I agree,” Brice said, burying her face in Greer's neck. Greer gave a short laugh, “Why haven't we done that before?”
Brice snorted, “How about we do it again now?”
“I like this idea.”
“I want to go too!” Christopher whined loudly from the kitchen table. Brice, who was standing at the sink, gave him an understanding smile. “Aw, come here, champ.”
Chris flew up and across the room into his mother's arms. She hugged him tight, “You'll go to International High soon enough. Look at your brother over there. He's not complaining he can't go to high school yet.”
Garrison briefly looked up from his laptop before looking back down, “Whatever.”
Brice held in a sigh. All the superhero perks and advancements in the world couldn't lessen the onset of teenage hormones and mood swings.
“But Uncle John was nine when he went to the high school,” Chris protested, “I'm 10!”
“And most people go when they're 16 like your sister is now,” Brice countered. Chris crossed his arms with a pout and she just chuckled as she put him down. She looked up to see Greer coming into the kitchen. “Is she ready?”
Greer gave a thumbs up and turned to watch their daughter enter behind her.
“It's just high school, Mama” Rosalie said, rolling her eyes at her parents. “You two are acting like I'm going off to college or something.”
“Don't even mention that day,” Greer firmly stated, “I can't bear the thought.”
Brice moved over to hug her daughter, “Are you sure you don't want to call Aunt Alice or Grandpa to give you a ride to school? I mean you don't have to take the bus if you don't want to.”
Rosalie rolled her eyes where only Christopher could see, who giggled, and said, “I'll be fine, Ma.”
Greer's phone started beeping and she pulled it out of its holster, “Seems the bus is asking permission to enter our barrier. I'll grant them access. Get your bag, Rosalie.”
“Come on, Garrison, Chris. I'll drop you two off at school,” Brice said. Garrison closed his laptop with a sigh and evaporated. A few moments later they could hear him at the front door.
“I'm waiting,” He impatiently called. Brice chuckled as she grabbed Chris's hand and started pulling the floating boy to the door. The ten year old started his morning round of twenty questions, “Why did you name Rosalie Rosalie?”
“After Grandma's mother,” Brice answered.
“Why did you name Garrison Garrison?”
Greer picked up his book bag, which was beside the stairs and helped him put it on, “After my father.”
Garrison and Rosalie went to stand on the front porch to watch the bus land in their front yard. The others followed. Brice said, hands on her hips, “Well, there's a sight I haven't seen since I retired.”
Greer leaned forward to whisper in her ear, “I'm glad you did. I needed a good stay-at-home house slave to raise my children.”
Brice laughed, “Just for that, you have to pick up dinner tonight.”
Garrison nodded at his sister as she went to climb aboard the bus while Chris was steadily waving. He looked ready to fly after them, but his Ma kept a firm hold onto the back of his book bag.
“I take Garrison and you take Chris?” Greer suggested.
“Sounds like a plan, man.”
“I am no man,” The blonde retorted. Brice laughed, “Thank goodness for that.”
The couple shared a kiss that turned into four while Chris mimed gagging and Garrison pulled out his phone to text. The family then broke off into separate vehicles. Once buckled into her new mini-van, Chris continued his questions as his Ma drove him to elementary school.
“Why am I named Christopher?”
“Because your mother and I flipped a coin and I lost.”
“What?” Brice repeated, just to tease him. Just as she knew he would, Chris changed the subject, “Will Rosy be okay? Since she doesn't have any powers and all?”
Brice had asked herself that question several times since her oldest had announced she would be applying to go to International High. She had decided she was going to be a superhero whether she had powers or not, and trained constantly with Greer and Noel to improve her fighting skills. Her Uncles John and Michael showed her how to build gadgets to help her fight against criminals.
Much to her parents' surprise, Rosalie was accepted to International High. Though no one stated it, she would be the first baron to attend the school.
“Do you, Ma? Do you think she'll be okay?” Chris repeated, not used to waiting on answers, especially when the subject was his sister, who he idolized.
Brice smiled at him in the rear-view mirror, “Yes, I think she'll be okay. She will have a lot of adventures.”
~Thanks for sticking with me until the end. I've enjoyed going on this long adventure with you. Let's go have another one.
Return to the Academy