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Monday, 03 April 2023 19:00

Inaba 4: A Light On A Distant Shore

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A Whateley Academy Tale

Inaba 4: A Light On A Distant Shore


Rose Redd


Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

Gordon Lightfoot, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


Somewhere in Dreamspace

Carrie Running Elk stood at the boundary separating the void from the pocket of Rose’s personal space. Three days had passed since the fight, and the death of Steven Hedgeworth. Looking about the dream-space representation of the Northern Minnesotan wilderness, Carrie saw movement in the trees. A figure approached, entering a clearing. Frowning, Carrie looked over the arrival. At first glance one could almost… almost mistake them for the person she had come to talk to, that is if one ignored the fact that this person had white fur and hair covering their body, pronounced digitigrade feet, and large paws for hands. Looking at the new arrival’s face, the features of the girl that resided here were subtly visible behind the rabbit nose and pronounced muzzle.

“Inaba” Carrie said, looking at the yukata-clad individual “is there a reason you look like her? Talk to me, spirit. Where is she?”

The lapine spirit looked at the woman and shook her head sadly. “Is the man dreaming of being a butterfly, or the butterfly of being a man?”

Crossing her arms under her breasts, the spirit stood silent.

The Native American woman eyed the being before her suspiciously. “That is clear as mud, and ultimately says nothing”

The rabbit-woman shrugged her bare shoulders as the loose fitting and very short yukata showed her ample cleavage and long legs. “I’ve never had a host before, and as you know… our joining was far from ideal. But think about this, shaman… How did I find her in Minnesota? Me, a spirit from the Far East?”

Carrie looked at the spirit before her, uneasy in just how much of Rose’s appearance Inaba had taken on.

“My best guess is that we may have been fated to meet. I have known spirits in my pantheon whom have told me about feeling a pull on the core of their being, a feeling of being drawn to one who is destined to be their host. That’s just conjecture, but to me it makes sense. I love this girl, and I would never hurt her. I would protect her with my very being.”

Carrie nodded and followed the rabbit spirit to the campsite that marked the center of Rose’s dreamspace.

“She is asleep still, but she should awaken soon.” the spirit remarked as it shifted back to the appearance of a small white bunny.

Satisfied that her charge was protected and safe, Carrie woke up from the meditative spell she had used to dream-walk. Still, it bothered Carrie that the spirit was clearly manifesting traits from Rose. It was a two-way street they were both influencing each other at some basic level. What worried her was the unanswered question… Just how deep did this melding go?

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November 5th, 2007
St. Luke’s Hospital
Duluth, MN

Rose woke up groggy, holding her head. The pounding was down to a deafening roar. “What…” she mumbled, her head swimming. Her right arm felt odd, weaker than normal. She tried to flex it, barely succeeding. She heard breathing off to her left, and turned to face Carrie. Carrie was sitting in a bedside chair, smiling sadly. “Arm feeling okay?”

Rose mumbled “It feels a little weak. Kinda strange.”

There was a sigh from Rose’s guardian. “The doctors examined your arm. Apparently it was worse than initially thought. There was too much damage to the bones, tendons, and ligaments for it to be surgically repaired. It wouldn’t have healed properly on its own, either. They had no other option but to put you under and amputate, so that it could grow back correctly. I’m so sorry.”

“Heh. Heh heh Ha HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Rose sat up, looking at her arm, laughing maniacally. Everyone in the room looked at her concerned, as she grew silent, and flopped back to sleep, like a light had suddenly been switched off.

Carrie looked at her, then over at Lia, who was looking between Rose and Carrie, confused.

Carrie smiled weakly. “I suspect that Inaba put her to sleep somehow. I can’t say for certain, because I highly doubt the hospital would want me burning medicinal plants in the room, so I could dreamwalk.”

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The next day…
Overlooking Duluth Harbor
Duluth, MN

Rose sat on the retaining wall, looking out at the harbor. Construction teams were swarming over the wreckage of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Her mind couldn’t help but dwell on the battle. Flexing her ‘new’ arm, she sighed. Feeling a disturbance in the crisp Autumn air, she turned and avoided the rock that had been hurled at her head.

“Mutie freak! Enjoying your handiwork?” A man stood there, staring at her. He was portly, with disheveled hair, and held a bottle of something in a brown paper bag.

With a scowl, Rose spotted a pebble on the ground. A well-placed kick caused it to impact with the bottle, shattering it.

The man yelled “My Cuervo! You are gonna pay, you bitch!” before stumbling towards the angry girl. Rose balled her fists, and stepped closer, but suddenly a familiar figure stepped in front of her. The man looked over the muscular woman, with the imposing antlers and decided it was better off to head the other way.

Caribou looked at her young charge and sighed. “You could have gotten in a lot of trouble if I hadn’t arrived just now. Lia’s mother runs the MCO office here fairly, but beating up on drunks would put her in an awkward place. I mean having to arrest your daughter’s girlfriend for beating up drunks… what were you thinking?”

Rose sighed. Carrie was right. “I… I’m sorry. I just… I don’t know. Things are spiraling out of control, and I-I just feel so helpless.”

Carrie nodded and wrapped her arm around her ward’s shoulders and guided her to her SUV. “Would a stop for ice cream help?”

Rose smiled. “When doesn’t ice cream help?”

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Same Day
Office of the Headmistress
Whateley Academy

Elizabeth Carson looked up from her paperwork as Sam Everheart entered. “Admiral, what can I do for you?”

The young-looking security officer stood at attention for a moment, before opting to take a seat. “Just had an interesting conversation with Sanguine. It appears that Pin Cushion is putting together a group, and tried to recruit her. Given her family’s past with the Richmond family, I’ll have security shadow UpBeat and Downtrodden.”

Carson sighed and shook her head sadly. “I let her and her brother in against my better judgment. I bought into her brother’s act. He was good. So good that even Louis didn’t sense he was holding back on his powers and intentions. Likewise, he’s tried in the past to get a reading on Ashleigh, but according to him, it’s next to impossible with her… mental issues.”

Everheart snorted. “Fancy way of saying she’s loonier than a Northwoods lake.”

Carson winced. “An apt description. And I fear that with her brother’s recent death, she may be even closer to falling over the line into permanent instability. I asked Bellows to have a sit-down with her, but he couldn’t get anything out of her, other than an attempt to bite him. I further fear that with the girls indirectly responsible for her brother’s death due to start school here in January, she may be a ticking time bomb.”

Sam nodded “I agree with what you’ve said thus far, but having seen her file and knowing her power-set, why the dread in your voice?”

Elizabeth Carson sighed. “It’s not widely known, but back when I was starting out as Miss Champion, I had an encounter with her mother. If not for the timely intervention of the battleship New Jersey, I most likely would not be here today. Evil Eye is a powerful mage, and if half of what is rumored about her in the magic community is true, there are perhaps a handful of mages in the world that could go toe to toe with her.”

Sam frowned and looked down. “And of those, how many are on campus currently?”

Shaking her head, Carson sighed. “Including myself? Perhaps three.”

The two sat for a moment in silence, before Sam left to continue her work.

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November 7th, 2007
Duluth Superiors HQ
Duluth, MN

Lia sat and watched as her sweetie concentrated on her one-armed push-ups. Since her release from the hospital, it seemed that Rose was obsessed with getting back to one hundred percent.

Rose wasn’t entirely oblivious to the fact that Lia was watching, and as she flexed, she perhaps put a little extra sexiness into it, pushing out her ass a little for her girlfriend, and occasionally arching her back to push her chest out. Lia loved the show. She loved her little bunny. After a while Rose stopped and headed off to the shower. With Transistor downstairs in the garage, Lia thought better of joining Rose. Still, she got to watch as Rose walked to the bathroom, that sexy little sway in her walk making the view all the better.

As she walked into the main room, Lia happened to catch her reflection in a monitor. She saw the viscous sludge that was her blood surging through the veins that ran along the surface of her face. Repulsed and disgusted, she curled up on the couch, her head buried as she hugged her knees.

She remained in that position when Rose returned 20 minutes later. Even with the baggy gray hoodie she wore, the tight lycra pants she had chosen showed off her shapely hips, narrow exemplar waist, and perfect butt. Lia fumed, and when Rose tried to hug her and ask what was wrong, all she received was a shove.

Rose looked at Lia, hurt. She wanted to ask what was wrong, but Inaba prodded her to give Lia some space. Looking back at her girlfriend, she sadly got up and moved across the room, busying herself with reading the activity reports from other hero teams across the country.

After an hour or so of the two unsuccessfully ignoring each other, Caribou entered suddenly. Rose and Lia looked up at the man that followed her in. It was the same man that had saved them, He was tall, and had on jeans and a red plaid flannel shirt. His beard was scruffy, and he had that ‘I’ve been sleeping under the stars’ rough look about him.

Rose gasped. “You!”

The gruff man smiled and looked at the two young girls. “Carrie-Boo, you mind introducing me to the young ladies here?”

Lia lifted her head, and looked at Rose, and silently mouthed ‘Carrie-Boo?’

Rose shrugged and looked back at her guardian, who was in full face-palm mode. “This”, she said and then paused for a moment “is Lumberjack, a former member of the team.”

The scruffy man looked over at her. “And Carrie’s boyfriend.”

Carrie looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Before you disappeared suddenly… two years ago. You promised me an explanation, so let’s hear it.”

The large man walked over to an open couch and slumped down on it, his head down. “I heard rumors… that Tourmaline was spotted, and I had to go investigate. I mean, it’s a family matter. I couldn’t involve you or the team. My sister isn’t well, and with her schizophrenia and her Deidrick’s… I know how dangerous she can be. I had tracked her down to Devil’s Tower, and... she got the drop on me. I only recently escaped and I made my way here. I was on my way to find you when I stumbled across the girls and their fight.”

“And...and Rebecca?” Carrie asked, looking at the large man.

Lumberjack sighed. “She’s been transferred to ARC. They are going to try to help her, but… given everything, I fear she’s going to be put in cold storage again.”

Carrie turned and hugged the man, and Rose could see that that perhaps the feelings weren’t entirely gone, at least on his part.

Breaking the hug, Carrie awkwardly stepped a discreet distance away. “Anyhow… um proper introductions. As I said this is Lumberjack, also known as Paul Bannion.”

Rose and Lia looked at each other, trying not to laugh. Ignoring this, Carrie continued. “Paul is a size warper and exemplar. As you probably figured. And no Paul, I know what you are going to say. Despite all your insistence, there is no evidence that you are the avatar of the character from the tall tales.”

Lumberjack rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to speak, but shut it again, perhaps thinking better of it.

“Paul, this is Rose Lindevall, also known as Inaba. I’m her legal guardian. The girl next to her is her girlfriend, and my best friend’s daughter, Liabella Navarro --also known as Lamprey.”

A small mooing was heard from behind Paul, and out from behind the giant man came a small blue-gray ox, about the size of a corgi. “Nobody’s forgetting about you. Paul thinks that if he’s the avatar of the fictional giant, that he needed a blue ox. So he had a devisor make Babe.”

Rose looked at the diminutive bull, and found it hard to believe that this tiny thing was the enormous bull that gored Steven.

Paul smiled “He’s super smart and loyal, and his size-changing makes it easy to have him around.” Babe let out a happy moo, and jumped up into Paul’s arms, where he was happily petted.

Lia sat and watched as her girlfriend interacted with the others. She noticed how Rose would arch her back, sticking out her chest, or emphasizing her ass. Her tail would wiggle suggestively. Shifting her stance, she would show off her long legs. One minute, her eyes would be wide, and full of innocence and wonder. The next her eyes would be peering under heavy lids, her thick lashes batting suggestively.    The worst part of it all for Lia was that she knew Rose was completely unaware of the flirting. She loved Rose, but deep down buried where she didn’t want to admit it, there was a simmering ember of jealousy and envy.

With a sigh, she sat on the couch alone, watching Rose petting the tiny bull. It just wasn’t fair. Yes, Rose had nearly died from cancer, but she was better now. Lia would say improved. She, on the other hand, had lost all her amazing boobs and that ass that had been to die for.

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Next morning…
November 8th, 2007
The bedroom of Lia Navarro

Lia stretched and yawned before looking over at her bedmate. Rose was sleeping, her night shirt bunched up under her, pulling it tight and exposing the girls ample cleavage. Lia’s eyes traced their way down the mounds of flesh and fabric, noticing the nubs that revealed her girlfriend wasn’t wearing a bra. Her eyes traced their way down the curves of Rose’s hips. The nightshirt was caught up at the base of the tail, revealing the white cotton panties covering that plump ass. Unaware of the ogling, the bunny girl’s nose and whiskers twitched in her sleep. Lia took in the entire scene and frowned, her brow furrowed. She didn’t know why she was so bothered, but she was.

Slipping out of bed, Lia quietly headed to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, she again frowned at the black ichorous blood pulsing through her veins below the surface of her skin. Deftly applying her concealer, she was out without waking the sleeping girl.

Five minutes later, she sat on the retaining wall, overlooking the aerial lift bridge. Construction crews were busy at the site, some removing debris and twisted wreckage even as other crews were busy rebuilding. She was pulled from her concentration when a woman sat down next to her.

The blonde woman looked at the goth teen, in her purple leggings, black skirt and black hoodie. “Spectacular sight, isn’t it?” the blonde woman commented. “My company is handling the clean-up. It’s sad though, so many people lost their lives that night. Some irresponsible kid causing all that death and destruction.”

The woman looked at Lia. “I can see it on your face, you're worried… I know what you are. But you don’t have to be concerned. I’m a mutant too. And I am so sorry for all the loss and destruction that boy caused.”

Smiling, the woman snapped her fingers and a little flash of blue flame briefly appeared. “I used to be a villain in my younger days, but now I’m just a business woman, wife, and mother.”

Lia hugged her knees as she looked across the bay. “What… what do you do though if that life can never be yours? If under the make-up and concealer you are a monster?”

“Nobody is a monster outside, They are only a monster on the inside.” The woman replied.

Lia exhaled, “What if the outside makes the inside worse?”

The woman looked over. “Then we change what we can change. I need to go, but it’s been good talking to you. My name is Genna, here is my card. Call me whenever you need to talk.”

The woman offered a business card, and Lia took it. Looking at the name on it, she stared back at Genna.

“Power corrupts, and they say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are especially prone to falling into this trap. I do what I can to influence their decisions, but ultimately it’s up to them to do what they feel like doing.” Genna stated flatly.

Lia watched her walk off, and then looked at the card again.

Genevieve Hedgeworth

CFO Hedgeworth Industries.

Flipping it over, she noticed writing that hadn’t been there before.

For Occult and Arcane discussion, place this card against a mirror, and say my name.

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The bedroom of Lia Navarro

Rose groggily stirred. From the firmness of the mattress and the fact she had fallen asleep on her side, she knew she was at Lia’s. As the morning haze wore off, she recalled cuddling up to her love and snuggling before she fell asleep.

Getting out of the bed, she slipped out of the sleepwear and put it aside. Donning her outfit from the day before, she trudged down the stairs. Smiling, she waved at Mrs. Navarro, who was sitting at the breakfast table. Lia’s mother had on her usual black work suit and was looking over some papers as she drank her coffee.

“Good morning, Conejita. Lia left rather suddenly. Did something happen between you two?” she asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“Not that I know of, we had a nice night cuddling… Just cuddling” Rose quickly added.

Isobel raised her eyebrow, but didn’t pursue it further. “Is everything okay between you two?”

Rose sighed, her ears drooping. “I… I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve done anything, but she seems kind of distant lately. I wish I knew what was wrong.”

Isobel nodded, “I wish I could help you. I’ll talk to her and see if I can find out what’s wrong.”

Rose shook her head. “That might seem like I put you up to it. I’ll just see if I can find out on my own.”

After a breakfast eaten in silence, Rose headed home.

When she got home, Rose found Carrie in her office, looking over papers and sighing. Walking up behind her guardian, she gave her a big hug.

“Hello Rose. Have a good night with Lia?” Carrie asked, smiling.

“Yes and no. The cuddling was nice, but she’s dealing with something. I don’t know what.” the sad bunny girl replied.

Carrie put down the papers and turned to the girl, reciprocating the hug. “I’m sure she just has something to work out. She’ll be back to normal soon enough.”

Rose nodded. “Perhaps. Anyhow, what has you looking down?”

Carrie sighed and picked up the papers again. “Notice from the University. They have received a large donation from an ‘anonymous benefactor’, one which stipulates that a portion must be used to return the mansion to its original condition.”

Rose saw the issue right away. “In other words, we have to move out.”

The older woman nodded. “That’s the gist of it, yes. They’ve given us til the end of the month.”

Rose looked at her. “Want to bet that Steven’s father is throwing his money about again?”

“No bet here.” Carrie said, before changing the topic. “Say, want to take the Cat out?”

Rose’s eyes widened. She had seen the Catalina on several occasions, of course, but had never been up in the plane before.

The pair walked out to the boathouse. The plane was still docked on the lake, but with November’s cold weather and the lake’s reputation for dangerous storms, the old plane would need to be transferred to the airport for the winter.

Once aboard the plane, Rose clambered in the co-pilot seat. She couldn’t fly the plane, of course, but it was better than sitting in the back alone.

After contacting Duluth air control and filing a flight plan, the plane roared to life and then taxied across the inlet before the engines came to full power, the props created a spray of water behind them, and the amphibious plane began the slow, ungainly process of taking off.

“I love flying. There's nothing like the open skies before you,” Carrie commented as she banked the plane and set a course over the water. “I figure we can do a quick patrol and then land at the airport. Should take an hour or two.”

It had been about thirty minutes when they spotted the clouds. The weather report had mentioned the possibility of a storm forming over the lake, but estimates had put that at about thirty-five percent.

Carrie pointed out the huge black thunderheads. “I don’t like the look of that, we’d best steer clear of it.”

Rose looked at them and nodded. She had learned all about the dangers of winter storms on Superior. Thanks to a popular song, practically everyone recalled the 1975 storm that had caught and sunk the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald with a loss of all twenty-nine crew members; some of the elder crowd remembered it better than most, having lived through the mighty wrath of the storm, even on its fringes

The PBY-5A banked sharply to turn away from the invading tempest when the radio spring to life.

“This is the fr(static)ter Spirit of the Lakes. We...<bzzzt> foundering off <bzzzt>) and are in need of aid. If anyone can hear us our co-ordinates are (static<bzzzt> -king on water, and our bow is down. I repeat This is the freighter Spirit of the Lakes. Mayday, mayday. We are down by the nose and <bzzzt> foundering.”

Carrie looked at the teen sitting in the co-pilot seat. With no words spoken they both knew they had to respond.

Reaching for the radio, the heroine flipped a switch and started to speak. “November-Delta-Lima-Four-One-Niner to Coast Guard base Two Harbors, come in. Over.”

The radio crackled to life.“November-Delta-Lima-Four-One-Niner, this is Two Harbors Coast Guard. We read you over. How can we help you? Over.”

“We are receiving a mayday from the freighter Spirit of the Lakes. She is foundering and taking on water. Received coordinates as 47°06'28.3" North by 90°39'19.3" West. We are proceeding in that direction. Over” Carrie stated in a calm, collected manner.

Roger that, November-Delta-Lima-Four-One-Niner, dispatching ships to assist. Over.” Came the reply.

Glancing over once more at Rose, Carrie spoke. “I know this is not what you expected, and I wouldn’t subject you to this normally, but there are people’s lives at stake, and I’ve given you the best training I could. I will need you to be the best you can possibly be.”


For her part Rose looked back at her guardian. “You've helped me in so many ways. You're who I want to be like one day. We'll go help these people, don’t worry. I'll be safe, because I know who I want to grow up to be like.”

The Catalina seaplane banked again, heading towards the ominous storm clouds on the horizon.    Very quickly, the winds picked up and the plane rocked unsteadily. The rain was mixed with snow, and the heaters that Transistor had installed were keeping them from icing up, but just barely. If they made it through this, she'd have him look into upgrading them for situations like the one they were now facing.

It wasn’t long before they spotted the freighter. Her bow was noticeably lower into the water, with waves crashing over them and rocking the big ship back and forth.

Carrie called out to the sinking vessel.“This is November-Delta-Lima-Four-One-Niner to Spirit of the Lakes. Over. We are responding to your distress call. State number of souls on board, and status of your survival craft. Over.”

“This is Captain Eugenia Austin of the Spirit of the Lakes. We have twenty-three souls. Our Emergency craft broke free and sank in the storm. Please assist. Over,” the captain stated somberly.

Carrie shook her head and lamented her next words. “Rose, sweetie. I’m going to say something, something I was hoping I wouldn’t have to. I’m … I’m going to have to drop you down onto the freighter. We have some wetsuits in the back, there should be one of my former teammates that will fit you well enough. Also, grab my life jacket, and put it on… you’ll need to loosen the straps some.”

Rose turned her head. “What was that last part?”

“I called you a dork, you boobie-monster.” Carrie stated, in an attempt to lighten the mood. “You’ll find a couple of orange cubes in the back, each about the size of a breadbox. I’ll need you grab a pair of them. I’m going to drop you onto the freighter. Looking at how far down the ship is, they won’t last until the rescue boats get here, and those waves would capsize us if I were to even try to land.”

Rose nodded solemnly and did as she was told. The suit was a little snug around the hips and ass, and wouldn’t fully zip over her chest, but it was better than the loose clothing that she had been wearing. Putting on the life jacket, she quickly found the compressed rafts… and another helpful tool. It looked like a bracer, and fit snugly over her right arm. Attached to it were a multi-tool, high beam flashlight, knife, GPS and a tightly wound length of para-cord.

Carrie said a silent thank you to Transistor; if he hadn’t modified the plane and added wing flaps, this maneuver would not have been possible. She called back to Rose and had her stand at the ready by the bomb-bay doors. Slowing to near stall speed at fifty miles an hour, the plane came in dangerously low over the freighter. At about fifty feet clearance, she opened the doors, and Rose jumped.

Hitting the wet deck, Rose rolled with the impact, though her feet and ankles still hurt. After a minute, the pain had lessened, and she made her way to the bridge, clinging to the rail the whole way. Reaching the bridge, she opened the door, and found the crew gathered. It made sense that they had all assembled at the highest point of the ship.

Captain Austin looked in wonder at the shapely girl that entered her bridge. The diminutive redhaired girl with the impossible rabbit features beckoned to her.

“I’m Inaba of the Duluth Superiors, I brought a couple rubber escape rafts with me. We are going to get you all out,” she stated calmly.

As everyone scrambled out of the hatchway, they could see more clearly how desperate the situation was. Water was spilling over the deck, and it would only be a matter of minutes before the ship foundered and went under. She was sitting nose-down, and three quarters submerged. Helping the rabbit girl, Captain Austin inflated one of the rubber domed rafts and lashed it to the rail with a length of para-cord that the girl had given her. Nodding to her first mate, a young man named Scoville, she had him load on with eleven others. With a nod, he sealed the inflated dome. Austin took out her trusted old pocketknife and cut the raft free, watching it drift free of the doomed ship.

Rose was hurrying people into the other raft, and managed to get the remaining crew members on. She called the captain over, and they were ready to board. Suddenly the ship lurched, metal groaned audibly as the doomed freighter started sinking faster. It began to pull the raft with it. Looking at the captain, she saw the older woman nod sadly. They had to cut the raft free now, or risk it going down with the ship. There wasn’t enough time to board.

Watching the raft float away, Rose held the captain and jumped with her into the water. The intense shock of the cold water hit her like a punch to the gut. Clinging to the older woman, she drifted away from the ship, her legs wrapped in an iron vice-grip around the woman as she performed an impromptu back stroke. Rose never saw the wave that hit them, causing the pair to go under.

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Gallica Celtica, near Avaricum.
113 B.C.

The young girl stumbled as she ran, her feet bleeding from the rough stones of the road. Exhausted, she nearly gave up, but she had to escape that man. It had been only three years since she was given over to him in marriage, and just like her first child, this one had been born dead. She was bleeding from the ordeal, her gown stained red. She could hear the dogs barking in the distance as the hunt for her was on. Given her condition, it had been a minor miracle that she had escaped. Blood flowed from her face from where his anger-fueled rage had resulted in his striking her with his hunting knife. She couldn’t see from her eye, and she wasn’t sure it remained. Making it to the woods, the girl hid among the trees, waiting for the inevitable. The birth had taken everything from her physically, and she was sure she would fall asleep and never wake up again.

That’s how the mysterious man found her. Face down in the woods, bleeding out from the miscarriage and the injury to her face. The girl woke up a short time later. She looked around, scared. But this wasn’t the humble house on the farm. Nay, it was a mansion, velvet sheets and expensive trappings surrounded her. There were expensive draperies and wondrous paintings covering the walls.

Attempting to rise, the girl failed. She was too weak. Looking up, she saw a figure wearing a long cloak with a hood obscuring the owner's face.

“Pray tell, why am I here, what wouldst thou want with me?” the girl asked in a frightened voice.

“Fear not child, I bear you no ill will. I didst find thee in the woods, mere moments from death. I brought you here because I sensed in you something unique. A power sleeping in you, dormant. Mayhaps in later generations, it may appear. But with thy need, I shall wake this power in you, so that you may live,” the mysterious man stated in a deep, booming voice.

Laying her weary head down, the young woman asked the mysterious figure a pair of questions. “Good sir, by what craft would you do this, and what is thy price?”

“Ah, good verily, thou doth have a brain in thy head. You ask pertinent questions. I have many enemies old and new throughout the world, and many yet to be born to these ages. I need a servant that can aid me in matters of import.” The man reached up and took off his cloak. His face was not that of a man, but he bore a resemblance to a ram, with long curled horns, and horizontally slitted eyes. “Nay, your eyes do not deceive. I am no man, rather I serve a power much greater. The method of thy repair would be magics, of course. And the cost merely your indentured servitude.”

The girl shuddered and attempted to get up, but she was far too weak. “I… I do not want to die, but God has abandoned me. I no longer seek his favor, for he has shown me none. Pray, tell me what I must do.”

The goat-headed man smiled. “I shall require a pact of blood, something that thou has available in abundance.”

Taking his hand and running it up her exposed thigh, the demon spoke in a language the girl did not understand. He placed his blood covered hand over the ruined eye. “Repeat after me: I do swear fealty to Azazel, holder of mine debt, to serve in good faith for so long as I shall exist. A covenant I enter freely into. On my name I do swear! Then recite your name.”

The girl did as bade, and after the demon placed his hand over her blinded and damaged eye. Dark smoke poured into the empty socket, and a black orb filled it.

In her master’s care, the girl recovered and flourished. Her modest figure rapidly blossomed, filling out into the form of a desirable woman. Under her master’s tutelage, she picked up magic like a sponge, becoming powerful and dangerous. True to her oath, she protected her master’s interests and over the centuries, she indulged in the lifestyle afforded to her by her gifts. She gained status and wealth, mingling with the famous and infamous over the centuries. Indeed, the “daughters” of her line all were said to resemble her, as she passed from one identity to the next. Invariably she bore many children through the centuries, passing her unique genes throughout France, and later the rest of Europe. Occasionally some descendant would pop up to interfere in her plans, and she had to orchestrate a beheading, or in the case of a certain troublesome girl, a burning at the stake. Bonaparte, de Gaulle, Robespierre, Renoir, Monet were but a few names that shared her bed. Biding time, doing as her master instructed, she hid in the shadows manipulating history in her homeland. Her sights spread farther afield however, as she worked her magic -literal and figurative- throughout Europe.

End Interlude.

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November 8th, 2007
Glensheen Manor
Duluth, MN.

Rose sat on the couch, tired. She had recovered from the ordeal physically, but knowing that the captain had slipped from her hands and drowned weighed heavily on her. She knew that she had saved everyone else on the freighter… but that was little solace for what she saw as failure. Carrie had been understanding and reassuring. Paul told her the story of his first loss in the field, and how even the greatest hero couldn't always save everyone...but one could still take reassurance in the lives that were saved. People that had loved ones that would see them again thanks to her. Miguel stopped by and added to the attempts to comfort the girl. The problem was that for all the people that came to help, the one Rose wanted most was nowhere to be found. Rose’s messages went to voicemail, and Isobel had not seen her daughter, and could not get in touch with her either.

Sitting in the dark, Rose balled her fists and curled into a ball. With her curtains drawn, she sat in the dark. In the silence, Rose could hear the pump implanted in her back working overtime to pump chemicals into her system. Even with it, the Deidrick’s gnawed at the edge of her consciousness. She resisted the urge for meaningless gratification, retreating into her dreamspace.

Looking around the mental dreamscape, she looked around, she spotted Inaba sitting by a lit fire. She nodded her head to the girl, and beckoned her to come sit with her. Nothing was said, but Rose understood. Picking up the little spirit, she set the bunny in her lap and stroked the soft fur, falling asleep as she did.

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November 9th, 2007
Navarro Residence
Duluth, MN

Lia slipped into the house quietly. It was almost three in the morning and her phone had been blowing up all day and evening. She was dreading the confrontation with her mother. To Lia it was worth it. She felt rejuvenated, refreshed. The boys she had seen once again stirred something in her, and it was not revulsion. Ever since her change, the nightmares recalling her past sexual encounters haunted her. What should have been erotic was horrifying. Her brain knew fundamentally that in the past she had found the boys attractive, and that she had enjoyed the sex. But her post-manifestation brain pushed lesbianism on her. Lia didn’t mind the new experiences, but she was so very tired of having lost what she once craved.

Her hopes of avoiding her mother were dashed when the light in the living room clicked on.

“Come here, Liabella. You have a lot of explaining to do” her mother said from the other room.

Mami… I am sorry, I met a new friend and I lost track of time” Lia stammered.

“Your father and I have been worried sick about you! Not to mention Conejita! Did you know she nearly drown today? Or that she has been having a hard time because she couldn’t save someone?” Isobel said with a frown.

“Wh...what?” Lia said shakily. Isobel sat her daughter down and told her all the details of the rescue, and how Rose had failed to save the captain.

Lia hung her head in shame, tears falling.

“You are grounded young lady, EXCEPT for going to see Conejita, which you will do in the morning. Understood?”

Sighing, Lia responded. “Si, Mami

Walking up the stairs to her room, Lia sat on the bed and changed into her pajamas. After braiding her hair for the night, She settled in to bed, oblivious of the triangular mark that had appeared on her neck.

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Later the same day,
Glensheen Mansion
Duluth, MN

Rose sat in the back patio, watching the snowflakes fall. Her resistance to cold meant that the tee-shirt and yoga shorts she had on were enough to be comfortable. She could hear Lia creeping up. She chuckled quietly to herself. Of course she could hear her, how could she not with ears like hers?

“You know that I can hear you, right? And I know it’s you Lia. Your heart beats slower than everyone else’s.”

With a sigh, Lia sat down beside Rose and hugged her. “I’m sorry. It’s no excuse, but I met someone and we got to talking. She could relate to me, and understand what I was going through and the doubts that I have. Things that… I can’t share with you. Things that would hurt you to know. That would strain our relationship. …No, nothing bad about you. Things about me that I can’t talk to you about. I hope you understand.”

Inside, Lia winced at the lie she had just told. She did love Rose… but she also resented her, how even her abnormalities made her more attractive. Inching closer, she put her head on Rose’s shoulder and leaned into her little bunny. With her lower body temperature, the cold didn’t bother Lia as much as it normally would, but she was slightly chilly.

With a whisper, she spoke again. “Mami told me all about your ordeal. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you, but you were brave and saved all those people. I remember something that Mami once said, back when she still worked for the FBI. I had asked her why she had to have such a dangerous job. She told me that “She couldn’t save everyone, but if she saved those that she could some other little girl or boy out there would have their Mami or Papi safe and sound. We do what we can, and we aren’t perfect. But we make a difference The best we can.”

Rose took Lia’s hand and squeezed it. Then having the mansion to themselves, they wandered inside and went up to Rose’s room.

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Meanwhile, across town.

Caribou walked beside a short African America woman in a professional-looking blazer and skirt. The woman nodded and took out a ring of keys. After unlocking the door, the pair entered the empty house. She looked around at the deserted space.

“It seems to have been cleaned thoroughly.” Caribou commented.

“Of course, As one would expect from professionals”, the other woman said. She was a seasoned agent and knew what the woman accompanying her was looking for.

“What can you tell me about the neighborhood?” The heroine asked, looking around the living room. There was no sign that anyone had been there recently. The furniture had been cleared out. All that remained was empty space.

The agent turned and looked at her. “Pretty typical middle class neighborhood, close to the elementary and high school. A couple nearby parks. From the second floor, you can see down to the docks and watch the ships coming in. An ideal setting.”

The heroine nodded. “It certainly does sound like it. I’ll need to look into its history more, and do some investigating. But it seems like this is the most likely place, so far.”

With an understanding glance, the agent looked at her and both women continued looking over the place. After several minutes Caribou spoke again. “I still have to check things out at city hall, but once I do, I’ll get back to you.”

With a handshake the women departed separately.

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Interlude 2: Electric Boogaloo
November 14th, 2007
Whateley Academy

Tiffany Cobb walked across the lunch room, Her new bestie was waving at her. She was just a country girl from Nebraska. That someone so rich and famous as Ashleigh Hedgeworth would even notice her was unbelievable. All the nice things Ashleigh had given her had to cost, like a bajillion dollars. The nice clothes, the fancy treats. Amazing things, like chocolate from Swissland and Bel… Belgerm, wherever that was.

Ashleigh was so much better than those snooty Venus Inc girls. So what if Tiffany turns into a rat? It’s not like she eats garbage or has all sorts of diseases. And it wasn’t her fault that that one girl screamed and blew out the windows, and all that expensive camera equipment. It was like no fair that they threw her out.

Ashlegh smiled at her and motioned her to come sit next to her – as if Tiffany wouldn’t have done so anyway. Handing her some of that delicious cheese she loved, Ashleigh asked her some questions. “So, what did you learn while watching the Richmond twins?”

Tiffany thought hard. “Not much. They just sat together quietly, sometimes they would look at each other, but they didn’t say anything at all. I think they were talking in that tele-thingy. What’s it? Telegraphy?”

“Telepathy.” Ashleigh responded. Thinking about it, it made sense, but it had never occurred to her. If UpBeat and Downtrodden were able to talk telepathically, it would explain why one would always show up when she harassed their sibling. ‘Just what else were the twins keeping secret?’, she pondered silently as she watched her puppet nibble happily at the block of Havarti that she had given her. Ashleigh knew she would have to investigate them more thoroughly, and not just because Daddy told her to make things difficult for them.

End Interlude.

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November 15th, 2007
an Undisclosed location in Superior, WI

Genevieve sat pouring over her books and tomes. The magic she was performing was risky, even with her sponsor having helped supply the materials and resources. She had been one to be on the front lines, but that was fifty years ago. She had warned Darrow once about the dangers of putting oneself in the way of danger. She still remembered her loss to Carson and the U.S. Navy. Even with her magic and exemplar regeneration it had taken her over a decade to walk again. On her last visit to Whateley, she had sensed overwhelming power coming from one of the dorms. Three individuals with frightening power.

It was perhaps best to stay away from the school in anything but a parental role. That didn’t mean that she couldn’t use her children to her advantage. Sure, her son had been an abject failure in this regard… but Ashleigh was easily manipulated. The perfect weapon, just point her at someone and let the chaos begin. Her new project may prove to be an even better weapon, one nobody would expect. With a wicked grin she sipped some wine, and watched her lesser demons as they continued their work on her new sanctum.

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November 18th, 2007
Leif Erikson Park
Duluth, MN

Rose sat and watched as the snow fell. She knew that being on the shores of Lake Superior, the city received a lot of lake effect snow. This storm was predicted to drop a half-foot over the next two days. That didn’t concern her though. What occupied her mind was that Lia was late. They had specifically agreed to meet at noon. Looking at her special watch, Rose saw that it was now a quarter after two. With a sigh, she pulled out her phone and used the speed-dial to call her girlfriend. It went straight to voicemail. Hanging up, the dejected teen sat and looked out at the water.

Getting up, she dejectedly walked home. Entering the mansion, Rose was greeted by silence. Heading to her bedroom, Rose sat in the quiet and hugged her knees, rocking back and forth. She heard the pump in her shoulder silently click and pump medication into her bloodstream. The urge to vigorously pleasure herself faded into the background, but it was still there, taunting her from the shadows and dark recesses of her mind. Eventually she slumped forward, too tired to care. Darkness took her, and she fell into dreamless sleep.

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Seriously? Another Interlude…
November 22nd, 2007
DARPA Research Facility
Arlington, VA

Nicholas Reilly stood in the dark room. The walls were cement, reinforced to be able to withstand bombs, earthquakes, and high-level mutants. On a metal slab in the middle of the refrigerated room sat a body. But not just any body. This body held his attention for specific reasons. Reasons he would share with the two people that entered. Looking towards the door he saw his old friend, Sylvia Burrows and her guide dog. Behind her was a man in a dark black suit and tie. He was tall easily six foot two, with glasses and a shaved head.

Stepping forward, Nicholas held out his hand. “Deputy Director Wallace Tanner, I’m Nicholas Reilly, Deputy Director here at DARPA. My friend here--”

The other man stepped forward. “I know Lady Penumbra by reputation. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Special Agents Miller and Scolaide had only good things to say about you in their reports to me. But I’m somewhat at a loss as to why we are here.”

Nicholas turned to the others and then pulled the sheet off the body that lay on the cold metal slab. On the autopsy table lay the partial remains of a woman. Her body was interwoven with artificial muscle tissue, nano-polymer ligaments, and clearly artificial components.

“I called you both here to hopefully help me with a mystery. I read the reports from your agents regarding the incident in Idaho, as well as Penumbra’s recounting of the incident.” Nicholas stated.

“Two days ago, an unknown party stormed the compound of a reputed crime figure. During the incident the unknown person or persons encountered a cyborg of unknown origins. Our cadaver here.

Records have identified her as Cora Ramos. Ramos was a former Army ranger, severely wounded near Mosul. Official records are redacted, but rumor is that she was severely wounded by a mutant terrorist. She was dishonorably discharged due to an incident where she attacked a mutant employee of the Veteran’s hospital where she was being treated.

After her release, she fell off the radar. There were occasional reports of her appearing at Humanity First meetings, and unconfirmed rumors of her becoming involved in more militant endeavors.”

Tanner and Reilly looked at the body on the slab closely. Penumbra looked down, but her guide dog looked intently at the table.

“It’s just like what was done to my sister” Penumbra stated sadly.

Tanner looked solemnly at the corpse and after a pause, he spoke as well. “The over-all appearance and configuration matches what my agents reported. From the ray emitter in the palm to the distinct cable-like appearance of the artificial musculature.”

Nicholas Reilly nodded and sighed. “That’s what we were afraid of. Someone is taking anti-mutant radicals and turning them into weapons, and then dropping these sleeper agents back into the public.”

Stopping briefly, Reilly lifted up the left arm. “Our analysis of the synthetic skin indicates that it has mimetic properties. It can change color and hue, allowing the individual to mimic different races and ethnicities. Our forensic scientists believe it can even operate in a manner similar to certain octopi, allowing them to reflexively blend into their surroundings. Similarly, the ‘hair’ is not hair at all, but nano-fiber optic material that can mimic human hair.”

Penumbra frowned at the thought. “It’s worse than that. I was there, and I fought one of these monstrosities, in the form of my late brother-in-law, may he rot in Hell. He was a willing participant, but my sister was converted by these degenerates. Reprogrammed to be a killing machine. Thankfully she managed to break their programming, or else not only would she have killed me, but her own daughter as well.”

Shaking his head sadly, Nicholas Reilly led the others out of the cold storage lab. “Sadly, we have no information on the party or parties behind this. All our attempts to back-trace the technology have hit dead-ends.”

Wallace Tanner looked over at the DARPA deputy Director. “I’ll check through the FBI records and put a request for any information that could be related to this to be flagged for my review. Beyond that, if you need my aid with anything else, don’t hesitate to contact me.”

Penumbra stroked her guide dog, and turned her head in Reilly’s direction. “Nick, of course I’ll help you in any way I can. We both have girls who are precious to us that we must protect from whomever these bastards are.”

With no further words, the three walked out of the cold-storage unit and went their separate ways.

End of Interlude.

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That same day
Glensheen Mansion
Duluth, MN.

Rose sat on the edge of her bed, excited. It was Thanksgiving. Her first outside of a hospital, and Carrie had promised her it would be special. She had picked out her Red wool turtleneck sweater and a long black skirt with green vines stitched down the side. She wanted to look her best for Lia. Rose could tell that something was wrong, but she didn’t know what. Both Carrie and Inaba had told the girl to ‘be there for Lia’, but not to ‘smother her’ with attention. Looking around the bare room, Rose shook her head. Most of her things had been cleared out, and she dreaded the uncertainty of where they would end up next. Carrie had reassured her that she would not be abandoned, and yet that insecurity still lingered in the back of her mind.

Heading into the bathroom, Rose stopped and did something she usually never bothered with. She got out a small make-up bag, and got to work. Several minutes later, she was finished. After donning a pair of black flats, she descended the stairs.

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Across town.

Liabella lay on her bed, a smile plastered on her face. In the couple of sessions she had had with Genevieve, she had already started to change for the better. She was able to swallow food and drinks normally once again, though she refrained from doing that around anyone else, for the time being. Her control over the mouths and tongues that had grown on her hands had increased. They obeyed her will now, without need for the control spells. Still she wore those, passing herself off as having not changed. Most importantly to her though was the fact that her appreciation for men had returned full force. No more did her memories of sex with boys cause her to be disgusted and ashamed. She once more craved it and enjoyed the memories fondly. Perhaps at the new school she would find a boy that would appreciate her new look?

From downstairs her father called out. “Lia! Don’t forget we need to be to the mansion in two hours. Andale!”

Lia sighed and shook her head. How could she forget her girlfriend? She sighed and wandered off to the bathroom. After slipping out of her pajamas, she climbed into the shower. Looking over her body, Lia noticed she didn’t look any different, but she also had been told to be patient. The transformation wouldn’t fully take hold until all the sessions were complete. Still, she couldn’t wait. She would be a hot chica again, not this pasty, pale zombie-looking disappointment. After she finished and toweled off, Lia dug through her closet and threw on some tights and a big oversized black hoodie. Afterall, she really had no reason to get all dressed up.

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“Don’t do it!”
Whateley Academy
That same day.

Ashleigh Hedgeworth sighed and walked around the Quad. It was a depressing Thanksgiving. Her brother was dead, and her mother was off in fly-over land, actually consorting with one of her adversaries. Daddy had gone to see the twins, somewhere in Iceland, or Finland, or some other land, where they were at boarding school. As usual she was alone, because nobody cared about her. There weren’t a lot of students around, most had gone home for the holiday and some of the foreign kids that didn’t celebrate had all booked some sort of skiing vacation. She did have one thing though that made her smile. She had seen the eagle-bitch on campus earlier. So she could at least torment her. Or so Ashleigh thought. Her fortune reversed immediately upon seeing the Richmond twins walk up to Raptor and the three walk off together in another direction. Ashleigh knew she would need more help. Cobb was not on campus and even with her, she would be outnumbered. With a sigh, she turned and walked back to her dorm to strategize.

End Interlude.

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Back at Glensheen Mannor
Duluth, MN

Rose had a smile spread across her face as she practically danced around the kitchen. The Turkey had been in the oven for a couple hours, and she was mashing potatoes in a bowl, while looking at the instructions for her pumpkin pie. She was determined to make this a wonderful Thanksgiving, and was putting in all her effort. After all her effort, she sat down on the couch, everything was ready, it just needed to finish cooking. Carrie took over and watched the food while Rose sat on the couch.

After a while the doorbell rang, and the bunny girl shot up and bolted to the door. Opening it, she let the Navarros in. Salvador gave her a big bear hug, that practically lifted her off the floor. After he let go, Isobel gave her a slightly less powerful hug. Lia, however just sort of walked in and sat down on the couch. Scooting next to her sweetie on the couch, Rose tried to give her a kiss on the cheek, but Lia was distracted by something she was doing on her phone.

Lia looked at the message on her phone, Genevieve wanted to schedule another session for the twenty-eighth. With a smile, she texted back her affirmative. Initially Lia was nervous about coming here, but the sorceress had assured her that the magic was all but undetectable. It seemed to be true, as she watched Ms. Running Elk talking to Lia’s mother. The mage hadn’t looked at her suspiciously once. Rose was leaning against Lia, which kind of annoyed her. She didn’t know why it did, it just did. After scooting away from her a couple times, Lia stood up and moved to a chair opposite the couch. Totally engrossed in social media, Lia was oblivious to the bunny girl’s tears, or the dejected way her ears drooped down.

Isobel glanced over at her daughter and shook her head, before pulling out her own phone. Lia’s phone chimed that she had a text message. Looking at the sender, she swallowed hard. With a resigned sigh, she walked over, and placed the phone in her mother’s outstretched hand.

The doorbell alerted Rose to more arrivals, and She bolted up to check who had arrived. Returning to the living room, she was followed by a blue ox the size of a corgi, evidence that Paul Bannion had arrived. In a matter of moments Paul and Miguel Santino walked in, carrying a case of craft beer for the adults, and a large jug of apple cider for the girls. Carrie took these into the kitchen, allowing the men the opportunity to greet the others.

Rose didn’t pay much attention to the conversations going on. She looked up at Lia, who was obviously trying to look anywhere but at her. Rose slunk off to the kitchen, followed by Isobel.

After checking the turkey and making sure all the sides were cooking, the girl sighed and slumped against the counter. It was tearing her apart. She had put on make-up, she had put on a really nice outfit. All this cooking by herself, she wanted everything to be perfect, and Lia could not care less. Isobel called her over silently and gave the distraught girl a hug.

Conejita, forgive my daughter. She is acting out of character. I don’t know why she does this, but it’s not you. I will ask Carrie to have her stay over tonight. You two talk your issues out. I love you like a daughter, you are good for Liabella, and if she does not see this, she is a pendeja!

Rose snorted and began to laugh out loud. That Isobel would call Lia a fool was nothing she would have ever expected.

Smiling, Rose eased out of the hug. Isobel smiled back before speaking. “Now, if you could send that girl in here, I need to talk at her.”

Rose stepped through the door, and stood in front of it. Clearing her throat, Lia met her eyes. Rose nodded her head towards the kitchen. Lia’s head dropped as she got up and slunk into the kitchen.

Quickly moving away from the door. Rose sat back down on the couch and concentrated on not listening to the fired up Latina mother, and her sheepishly responding daughter.

The pair walked back out, and Rose noticed Isobel’s rather firm grip on Lia’s shoulder. The pair sat down on the couch and Lia had the look of someone on death row, awaiting their last meal.

Soon enough the turkey and sides were ready, and everyone stood around the table. Everyone complimented Rose on the extraordinary feast. Even Lia mumbled her praise, nervously looking at her mother. Carrie said grace, and the meal began in earnest. After dinner, the men sampled the fine micro-brewed beers and watching football, while the women opted instead for coffee and conversation.

Lia sat down beside Rose, and sighed. “I...I apologize. I’m sorry. I was just having a rough time. It was stupid to take my aggravation out on you. You did nothing wrong. It’s... I’ve been having nightmares. I remember things from the past... boys, mostly. I remember sleeping with them, and how much I enjoyed it, I remember how much my body enjoyed it… but now it repulses me.”

Rose nodded, and put her arm around her girlfriend. “Shhh… it’s okay. I understand.”

The two girls cuddled on the couch, oblivious to everyone else. They didn’t even realize that everyone else had cleaned up, or that hours had passed and all the guests had left.

Heading up to bed, the two got undressed and after some quiet giggles and whispers, they climbed into bed together.

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The next morning.
Glensheen Manor
Duluth, MN

Liabella Navarro lay naked in bed, her girlfriend sleeping pressed against her. She stared at the ceiling and thought to herself. She loved Rose, but minor things still annoyed her. Petty jealousies ran rampant through her head. Feeling the girl’s large breasts pressed against her irritated her. Running her hand down her lover’s back and feeling that plump, firm squeezable ass. Yes, when the sessions were done, she would be back to her old sexy figure, or better… Genevieve had said that there was a good possibility she might come out of it even more shapely than she had previously been. After all, it would correct her body’s template from trying to be an exemplar boy to being an exemplar chica. When her body’s template had busted, her powers had stopped developing. She was thrilled that she could be stronger. Picturing herself lifting school busses and flying, she grinned.

Rose felt a nibbling sensation on her left ear, and groggily opened her eyes. Lia was turned to face her, ear clenched gently in her teeth. She had her head turned to the bunny girl, propped up by her left arm.

“Morning, lover” Lia said in a sultry whisper, letting go of Rose’s ear.

Rose smiled back and kissed Lia’s nose. She got out from under the covers and stood up, giving Lia quite the view.

Lia pouted. “Come back to bed…”

Rose sighed. “I would love nothing more but if I did, I’m sure we would have Carrie in here to forcibly separate us.”

Lia giggled and got out of bed herself. She saw her reflection in the mirror across the room, and pretended it didn’t bother her. Seeing the black ichorous fluid that had replaced her blood pulsing through her vein just under her skin made her feel sick to her stomach, as did her narrow hips and smallish breasts. Carefully masking her revulsion, she got dressed and waited for Rose to do likewise.

After a breakfast of turkey omelets and cornbread stuffing hash, Lia kissed Rose goodbye and headed home to face the music.

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November 24th, 2007
Whateley Academy

Ashleigh lurked in the tunnels, under the campus grounds. She had often heard that you could meet individuals there that would suit her purpose. Many GSD kids were disenfranchised, angry balls of rage and hate. Someone like that would certainly benefit her. After a while she just leaned against a wall, waiting. There was one individual that she had heard of that intrigued her, and she was eager to meet him.

After about twenty minutes, the individual in question came around a corner and appeared before her. “Springbuck, I presume?”, she inquired.

The nine foot tall boy looked down at her. He brushed a mossy shag of fur away from his eyes, and looked at her.”Yes, whadda ya want?”

Looking at the boy, she smiled deviously. His GSD was rather prominent. He was hunchbacked, and covered in long shaggy fur, like a sheepdog. Unlike a sheepdog, it was patchy and green in spots. Moss and lichens were growing in it. The shaggy mop went from the top of his elongated deer-like head, to the tip of his four foot long tail. He had large antlers, that had vines curling around them, and other things growing from them. Ashleigh was reminded of the trees she had seen when they had summered on the plantation in Louisiana, covered in overgrowth and kudzu.

“I have a proposition for you. My name is Ashleigh Hedgeworth. You may know of my family, owners and founders of Hedgeworth Enterprises. I’ll come to the point. I would like to shall we say… ‘put you on retainer’ for services that I need.”

The large boy looked down at the slender girl in front of him. “Bah, I have no need for money. Where would I even spend it, and on what? No, your money is worthless to me”, he stated in a bored manner.

Ashleigh nodded, understanding. Fortunately, she had prepared for this. “I have something else that might serve instead.”

Motioning with her finger for the boy to follow her, she led him to a room that she had procured from one of the cottage fixers. Stopping at the door, she leaned against it, while unbuttoning a few buttons on her blouse. Opening the door, she went in and after he followed, the door closed. After some heated back and forth, the negotiations were... concluded.

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Same day
The bedroom of Liabella Navarro
Duluth, MN

Lia sat on her bed, looking over her Bookface account. Of course she hadn’t posted pictures in ages. Not since before the fateful night. She looked at herself, rocking the skimpy bikini or the tight dress or pants. With a sigh, she flipped through her friend list. Old friends from her New Mexico days were posting the latest pictures. Even ugly ol’ Rebecca Bailey had filled out and was sexier than she was now. Kailey Duggan, that pathetic mousey little girl that used to follow her around, had hooked up with her ex-boyfriend. She was expecting a baby. Life was so unfair. Right now she bemoaned the fact that the only guys she could probably get right now were creepy necrophiliacs. She threw her phone across the room, watching it smack against the wall and fall to the floor. Soon though, soon she would be attractive again. Soon she could have anyone she wanted.

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November 28th, 2007
Glensheen Manor,
Duluth, MN

Rose looked about her room. Everything of her was packed in boxes, ready for moving to who knows where. She had asked Carrie where they were going to end up, and Carrie had only told her that everything was settled. December first was in a few days, and the university was going to expect them to be gone. Perhaps Miguel and Paul would share a room at the headquarters, and she and Carrie the other? Nah, that wasn’t a good idea. Besides the whole issue of how hard it had been to stop thinking of Carrie as hot and sexy, seeing her routinely getting dressed and undressed might break that. And then there was the issue that it allowed neither any privacy. Rose glanced over at the box marked ‘Rose’s- do not open’ and sighed.

After a nice, hot shower Rose put on a pair of nice loose-fit jeans and a hoodie with a picture of a cute cartoon bunny holding a bloody knife. Heading down the stairs, she heard nobody else within earshot. In the kitchen there was a note stuck to the fridge.

Rose, I have a few errands to run, I should be back before too long. I may need your help though when I get back. I’ll give you details then. Love, Carrie.

Forty minutes later, Carrie returned to the mansion, wearing black leather pants and boots, with a matching jacket. She had on sunglasses and her medicine pouch was hanging from her belt.

“I hate to involve you in this, but With Miguel and Paul unavailable, I need your help on a case. You see there’s this place I’ve been keeping tabs on, I will do an entry search. I need you to wait outside and keep a lookout for suspicious activity.” Carrie said in a serious, no-nonsense tone.

“I..I but... my..b… okay.” Rose responded. She sighed and followed Carrie to the garage. They got into her SUV and took off.

A few minutes later, they arrived at their destination. They were across the street from a rather ordinary house. “I’ll go in. You stay here in the SUV, and keep an eye out. I’ll call you in if I need you.” Caribou said in in a serious manner. Handing her a radio receiver, Caribou got out of the vehicle and looked around before sneaking across the street. Reaching the porch, she flattened against the wall next to the door. Testing the knob, it turned and she went in.

Rose sat in the car for a couple minutes before Caribou’s voice came over the radio. “The building is clear, but I’m going to need your help. Join me inside.

Rose hesitantly exited the SUV, and hurried over to the house. Dashing through the door, she was met with the last thing she would have expected. Carrie was standing there with Paul, Miguel, Isobel, Babe, and another woman that she didn’t recognize.

Above their heads hung a banner that said Happy Birthday! Speechless, Rose stumbled backwards against the door frame before falling on her butt.

Stammering and stuttering, all Rose could manage was to say “Wh… how… where..?”

Smiling, Carrie came over and gave her a big hug. “Happy Birthday. You like the house? I bought it. We will be living here from now on.”

The woman cleared her throat.

“Oh, sorry. Rose, this is my friend Judge Abigail Reinhardt. Abi, this is Rose.” Carrie explained. “Abi is here for a special reason.”

The Judge shook her hand and handed her a small stack paper. “Normally, I would insist on this being done at the county courthouse, but given that Carrie is a dear friend, and that it’s your birthday I didn’t want to take time away from your party.”

Confused, Rose looked at the papers, reading the cover page. Petition for adoption.

Her eyes widened, and tears ran down her cheeks. “You mean…?”

Carrie hugged her tight, almost smothering the young girl in her embrace. “I have come to care for you deeply, and I think of you like a daughter. I thought that it was right that it be made official, that is … if you want it.”

Rose extricated herself from the death-hug, and smiled. “Of… of course. I love you too.”

Abi smiled. “Now if you both sign and date the forms, We can have our witnesses sign below as well. I understand that Mrs. Navarro, you are a notary and you have brought your stamp?”

Isobel nodded. “Si, your honor”

Paul and Miguel signed as the witnesses, and once the signatures were certified, the Judge took them back. “I’ll take these down to the courthouse and file them myself” she said.

“Abi, don’t you want to stay? We have cake and ice cream, and there will be food as well.” Carrie asked.

“No, I have to get back to work, I’ll see you soon Carrie. Call me later, okay?” Abigail responded before walking out the door.

Carrie ushered everyone into the dining room. It was a bit spartan, but there was a table with folding chairs around it, and a cake sat in the middle. Rose looked over at Carrie and rolled her eyes. “Carrot cake? Really?”

Everyone laughed and the candles were lit. With a puff, Rose blew out all fifteen. She smile outwardly, but inside she was upset. Glancing over at Isobel, the question was in her eyes. Isobel looked back and sadly shook her head. Resolute not to let Lia’s absence bring her down, she hugged everyone and sliced up the cake, handing out the pieces herself.

Soon after pizzas arrived, and a boom box was located. There was music and dancing, and people getting down. Rose giggled as she noticed that Carrie and Paul had been dancing together through all the songs. Picking up Babe, Rose swayed to the music with the tiny bull in her arms.

After a while the music stopped, and Carrie called everyone over. “It’s present time!”

Rose stammered. “You… you don’t need to give me anything… y..you gave me the best gift ever… M...Mom.”

Tears streamed down the faces of both women, as they hugged. Carrie extricated herself from the bunny girl’s tight grasp.”I may not have, but I wanted to.”

She nodded to Isobel, who went to a nearby closet and pulled out several boxes, all wrapped in colorful paper.

Handing her the first package, She smiled. Rose read the tag. “From Isobel and Salvador.” Rose smiled and tore through the paper, and opened the box quickly. Inside were several items. A gift card for ear piercings at the mall, a set of books on knitting, needlepoint, crocheting. Yarn and thread, crochet needles, and knitting needles.

“I love it! Thank you! But If I get my ears pierced, the holes will just regrow if I take the piercings out.”

Isobel smiled. “Conejita, they use these caps now that go into the piercing. Like those what do you call them…? Gauges. They prevent the holes from closing, and you can take your earrings out and not worry about them growing back.”

Rose got up and hugged Isobel, and then walked over to Salvador and hugged him, as well. Looking over at Isobel, Rose’s eyes asked the question she couldn’t voice.

With her head down, Salvador answered. “I’m sorry, she was already gone by the time we got up. I was hoping she would show up here, but we don’t know where she is.”

Sighing, with her ears drooping, Rose picked another package from the stack at the Navarro’s side.

“From Paul, Happy birthday!” the tag read.

Tearing into the package, Rose found a utility-style belt. Paul smiled and spoke up. “That’s a belt made by a kid at Whateley, it has dimensional pockets in the pouches, so you can store a lot of things in it, like load-outs and supplies. Looking in the pouches, Rose found bandages, a tourniquet, some anti-septic spray, a small canteen, and a spool of para-cord. Hopping up from her chair, Rose ran over and hugged him. “I love it, thank you!”

Paul nodded.”When you get to Whateley, make sure to always have it on you. There can be some… less than honorable kids there that might try to pick fights with you.”

Rose swallowed hard, wondering just what this school would be like. But if Paul and Carrie could make it through, so could she. The next package she picked up was from Miguel. Tearing it open, she found a laptop that surely been modified for her. In addition to the numbers on the keys, there were dots that corresponded to them. Miguel spoke up. “I made that especially for you. If you press the blue button above the keypad numbers will be translated for you into dots, just like on your phone.”

Rose was teary-eyed, and she hugged the gadgeteer tightly. “thank you. Thank you so, so much.”

The next present was labeled as having come from Carrie. With a smile and tears, Rose took the package and looked over. “R...really, you didn’t have to...M...mom, you have done so much already.”

Carrie got up and hugged her new daughter. “I love you, how could I not?”

Rose opened the box and found a small, flat disc with an engraved image of the moon on either side. She looked at it questioningly, and Carrie spoke up. “Press on it, carefully.”

Rose pressed both sides together and there was a clicking sound, after which three crescent moon-shaped blades sprung out of the disc. “It’s enchanted to return to you after hitting the target”, Carrie explained. Looking at the fan-blade looking item, Rose pressed the sides together again, and the blades retracted. She dropped the weapon into her new utility belt, and went over to hug her mom again.

Rose was momentarily saddened that Lia wasn’t there, and there was no gift from her, but her eyes widened when Inaba spoke to her. “I also have something for you, I’ve been saving up energy for this for a while. I know I’ve been rather quiet lately, but I hope this makes up for it.”

Everyone sat and stared at Rose as she stood there silently. “Oh, sorry. Inaba was talking to me.”

Rose sat down in the middle of the floor, cross-legged. She placed her hands palm up, as the spirit instructed her.

“Okay, I want you to close your eyes and picture a mallet. Part of my duties as a lunar rabbit was to pound rice into mochi for the other deities. Now, obviously a mochi mallet would be a terrible melee weapon, being horribly unbalanced. But if you can, imagine a mallet that you can use as a weapon.”

Rose thought about it for a minute, picturing it in her mind. It took several minutes, but everyone around Rose gasped as it slowly materialized. The handle was about thirty-two inches long, made of dark wood, with silver rings and adornments. An elaborate leather grip covered the bottom of the handle, long enough for Rose to grip it with both hands. At the butt-end of the handle was a small conical pike. The head was about ten inches long, rectangular, and tapering towards the ends. A metal bracket surrounded the middle portion of the head, affixing it to the handle.

Inaba spoke to Rose again. “A magnificent design. You did well. You can now summon this mallet at need. It is durable, and will serve you well. If it is broken, recall it, and you can summon it again whole.”

Rose said a silent “thank you” and smiled. But she was not fully happy. There was one person missing, one whose absence hurt like no other pain imaginable.

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At the same time
Across the bay in Superior, WI

Lia relaxed on the cold marble. Her low body temperature made her less uncomfortable than the average person would be. Her eyes were closed, and she was naked in the middle of the pentagram that was carved into the slab. She heard Mrs. Hedgeworth dancing and clacking together objects. She knew the woman was also naked, adorned in glyphs painted in blood. Lia had similar markings painted on her body. She wasn’t afraid. Not of the knife the woman carried, nor of the bowl in her other hand.

Letting her thoughts wander, Lia ignored the chanting and the sensation of more markings being painted on her body as something inhuman screamed. She had watched the first time, as the mage summoned a demon, and then killed it and danced while gathering blood in the bowl. And that one time was something she never wanted to witness again. She sat there for hours as the ritual progressed. She had to be patient. Mrs. Hedgeworth had explained that the reshaping and modification of her body’s template would take many such sessions, but Lia could already see some improvements. She found her interest in boys had returned with a vengeance, she could actually eat normally now… though she still kept up appearances by eating through her palms. Lia wasn’t sure, but her body temperature might have gone up a few degrees since the treatments had started, as well.

Four hours later, Lia Navarro staggered into her home, exhausted. Her father’s Freightliner FL86 was not parked in the side driveway, so he had to have left on a trucking job. Walking in the front door, Lia was met by her very upset looking mother. “And just where have you been?”

“Mami, I just went out to hang with some friends.” The girl lied.

“And they were more important than attending your girlfriend’s birthday party?” Her mother angrily countered.

“Shit, was that today?” Lia sighed and rubbed her forehead.

Shaking her head sadly, he mother responded. “We reminded you several times this week.”

Lia frowned, “I screwed up royally, didn’t I?”

Isobel nodded. “Si, all through the party you could see her disappointment. She put on a brave face, but she was clearly hurt.”

“I’ll go over there right now…” Lia tried to say, but her mother cut her off. “Do you know where their new house is?”

“New house?”

“Si, Carrie bought a house, and she and Conejita moved in. I’m sure she would have loved for you to have been there to see it.”

Lis sighed. Her mother was trying to guilt her, and she deserved it. She would get the address and go the next day.

Stumbling up the stairs, Lia staggered into her room and collapsed.

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The next morning.
The home of Carrie Running Elk and Rose Lindevall
Duluth, MN

Lia anxiously checked the piece of paper with the address for the umpteenth time, as she stared at the door. Slowly the door opened and Lia backed up. Rose was standing there, looking at her, her eyes were clearly red from crying. “Come in…” she said in a quiet voice.

Lia stepped over the threshold into the house and looked around. There were boxes and packages lining the entryway. Following Rose, Lia gingerly sidestepped the various obstacles and made her way into the living room. There was a couch covered in plastic that Rose gestured to. Taking a seat, Lia hoped Rose would sit next to her, but it was evident that things were bad when Rose opted instead to pull up a wooden crate and sit across from her.

“Rose, I…” Lia began.

Rose cut her off, and glared at Lia as she did so. “I am so mad at you. Mad and disappointed, so very, very disappointed.”

Lia swallowed and tried to apologize. “I’m sorry I missed your --”

“It’s not just about yesterday, though that did sting. Everyone did their best to try to make me happy, but they could tell I was hurting. I was so embarrassed. But this has been going on for a while now. You don’t listen to me, you show up late to our dates, or not at all. You always seem preoccupied. I am tired of it. If something is bothering you, let me know. But don’t shut me out!” Rose was almost at the point of yelling, and tears were welling up in her eyes.

Lia lowered her head. She wanted to tell Rose all about what was going on, she really did. But she was afraid. How do you tell your girlfriend that you are allowing the mother of the boy that forced her into losing her virginity to perform dark magics on you? There was no way. No way at all that she could inform Rose of what was happening. She just had to keep it to herself until the process was completed. Then they could be happy. Lia would be beautiful again, and she could make Rose happy.

Rose sighed. “I think we need some time apart.”

Lia stood up and crossed over to her. “No, you can’t mean that. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I love you!”

Rose shook her head. “You can’t love me, because you don’t love yourself. I think you should go.”

Lia slunk off towards the door. After Lia walked out and the door closed, she fell to her knees sobbing.

Rose didn’t see it, because she was too busy crying her own tears. Walking up the stairs to her bedroom, she grabbed her robe and shed her clothes. Rose shuffled off to her bathroom. She could feel herself on the verge of an episode, breathing hard. Turning the temperature of the shower to its coldest setting, she threw her robe on the floor and entered the freezing water. Sliding down the wall of the shower, she was soon on her knees, as the water poured over her. The cold helped her medications stave off her Deidrick’s. She could hear the implant cycling, feeding chemicals into her system. Inaba tried her best to soothe the girl, but she was inconsolable.

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Lia clenched her fists and started running. She had no clear destination. All she knew was that she had so much rage inside that she had to let out, she didn’t even know why. She wandered into a sheltered park. There was nobody around, With a scream, Lia walked over to the closest tree. She saw a squirrel climbing on a branch. Not thinking, she lashed out with one of her hands, sending the tongue flying towards the rodent. In a fit of rage, she wrapped the poor creature up and squeezed until the creature was nothing more than a red, pulpy mass. After she consumed the carcass, she looked for more things she could take her anger out on. Murderous thoughts invaded her mind, the desire to kill made her giddy.

When she got home, Lia walked over to the garage. She peered in, her mother’s car was gone. More than likely she had gone in to the office. Careful not to get blood on the doorknob, Lia slipped into the house. Her anger and bitterness and remorse swirled in her like a storm. Volatile emotions ground against her very being. Something was wrong, but she didn’t care. The anger felt good. Intellectually, Lia was aware that she should be afraid. However, she welcomed the chaos. The voices were her own, and they felt… right. With a wicked grin, Liabella Navarro thought about how good it had felt to control the fate of the squirrel. She felt in charge, in control. She had power. The power over life and death. Reaching the kitchen sink, she carefully washed the blood from her hand, and then went upstairs to her bedroom. Stripping her clothes from her body, Lia laid down on her bed. The erotic feeling of power rising to a frenzied heat as she reveled in it.

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An undisclosed location in
Superior, WI

Genevieve Hedgeworth smiled. She could sense the euphoric sensations that were flowing through her new subject. Things were falling into place. Between her daughter’s efforts at Whateley, her husband’s political and financial clout, and her own powers the family could not lose. All their enemies would fall. And the best part was that she didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting herself. She learned an important lesson painfully many years ago, when you need something done, it is better to operate behind the scenes. Use your pawns, that’s why you have them, for they are disposable and easily replaced. Thinking about it, her old injuries throbbed. There was some degree of satisfaction that she would be pulling the strings right under Carson’s nose. Standing up, Genevieve stretched. Despite all her magic and her mutant regenerative abilities, the pain still lingered from that fateful day many years ago, when her hubris caused her to challenge not only one of the strongest heroes in the world, but the might of the United States Navy.

Still, caution was warranted. The Lindevall girl had a well-connected spirit, with allies all over the spiritual realm. Remembering her own confrontations with the Monkey King, she was not eager to get on his bad side again. There were other beings that were even more dangerous that she didn’t want to even contemplate getting involved. Yes, caution was certainly called for. But all the same, she had no doubts her goals would be met. Patience, patience. Her new cat’s paw certainly was a very promising solution to many of her goals. Not just dealing with the rabbit girl, but also those troublesome twins that stubbornly blocked the family’s plans. She couldn’t wait to get her onto the school campus, in order to wreak chaos and discord. And the best thing was, once she was there, Genevieve wouldn’t need to lift a finger.

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November 30th, 2007
Hawk Ridge Nature Center
Duluth, MN

Liabella Navarro was up before the sun, traipsing through the snow. Reflecting on the previous day, she recalled the squirrel, and how it felt to kill it. She relished it, and it frightened her a little now that the novelty of the moment had worn off. Licking her chapped lips, she listened to the sounds around her. A bird was singing in a tree off to her right. She looked up and saw the gorgeous plumage of the yellow warbler. A smile crossed her lips as she just sat and enjoyed the bliss. Breathing in the crisp cold air, she was feeling a little hungry. She left before her mother had awoken, not wanting to deal with the confrontation that surely would have followed. Her mother loved her, she knew that. Still, she knew that she was sympathetic to Rose’s side of things, and treated her like a second daughter. After a while the hunger from skipping breakfast started to really get to her. Turning her head toward the singing bird once again, Lia contemplated going to go get some breakfast. Without thinking she turned her head and her tongue shot out, wrapping around the small songbird that sat perhaps twenty feet away. Not even a second passed and she realized she had sucked it into her mouth, and was chewing it and swallowing.

“Hmm… that’s new” she commented to nobody at all.


The End

Read 2429 times Last modified on Saturday, 08 April 2023 20:54
Rosalie Redd

The Murder Bunny

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