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Ch. 3.2 – Sara

Sara craned her neck around Molly to try and see past Alex. “I’m sorry?” the artist asked the woman at the door. He sounds confused. Hard to blame him-

For a moment, Sara could only gape as Molly leaped through Alex at the woman in the hall. Her unfortunate new friend gasped, hand patting at his chest to assure himself that everything was still where it belonged. It better be, she thought in annoyance, striding forward.

Once she could see clearly into the hall, Sara watched with a flat expression as Molly pinned their visitor against the far wall in a tight arm lock. “Molly!”

“It’s Max,” Molly rumbled, her grip tightening.

“Wait, what?” Alex asked.

Sara folded her arms. “Anima adaptation. Max — Maxine, like this — can change shape, gender included.” Gently moving Alex aside, she walked up to Molly and thumped the larger woman on the shoulder. “And I can see who she is. Molly, let her go.”

“No,” Molly replied curtly.

“It’s okay, I get it,” Maxine said quickly, “but could you ease up just a little please? My shoulder is really not happy right now.” Max tried to look through the shoulder-length hair, now genuinely black, that covered the half of her face that wasn’t forced against the wall.

“It’s going to get a lot less happy if you move one hair from that spot,” Molly said, voice low and tight. “You betrayed Sara. I should rip you in half for that.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Max insisted. Alex was still staring from the doorway, but he’d Conducted some kinetic force into a sheath around himself. “They got to me!”

Molly snorted. “So you’re a coward. That’s very comforting.”

“Hey!” Max blurted, and Sara clamped her hand on her mouth to stop an almost-hysterical laugh. “Would a coward have come here after last night?” Molly grimaced, and let the tiniest fraction of pressure off Max’s arm. “They got into my head, Dunn,” she continued, looking down again. “I’m Reanimate. You understand.”

Wait a minute. Sara stared intently. “You said they had you by the short hairs. That implied threats, not domination.”

“You think they wanted to let you know I was mind-whammied?” Maxine insisted, squirming a bit. Molly’s grip intensified again. “This is Gray Company. They pull crap like that six times before breakfast.” She slumped. “Yeah, the bad makeup was a weak signal, but it was the best I could do. They got some real Vision hotshot to wind me up. You hear stories of being doubled inside your own mind, watching an almost-you do stuff while you scream in the back of your head, but living it…” Max shook her head. “It was worse than the mugging.”

“How could a mugging even compare?” Alex asked. Molly and Max both looked in his direction, at least as much as they were able.

“Max was transgendered before she was an Adept. Born biologically male,” Sara explained. “He was beaten to death. That’s when he was Reanimated.” Alex gasped.

Molly let her go. Max rolled her shoulder, wheeled her arm around, then sighed. “So how do you want to play this?” Max asked quietly.

“If they were in your head,” Molly said evenly, “then you could still be a plant. You wouldn’t even have to know.” She nodded her head sideways at Alex. “So could he, for that matter.”

Sara put her fists on her hips. “That’s ridiculous. You think they’d let a plant stop the Skeptic?”

“We have to go to the Oracles to check out Maxine,” Molly noted, voice and posture equally unflappable. “Might as well make it two for one. We have to be sure, Sara.”

“It’s all right,” Alex insisted, and Sara stared at him in amazement. “I mean, I’m not crazy about someone looking at all the embarrassing bits in my head, but I’d rather be sure myself.”

Ben stuck his head in over Alex’s shoulder. “So, one more for breakfast?” he asked with a grin. The glare Molly shot back could have killed a mundane at ten paces, but there was nothing mundane about Ben.

* * *

“I can scan him, you know,” Ben said casually, using his fork to play with some bacon. Matt yawned and rubbed his eyes. “I’m pretty handy with Vision Talent myself.”

“I’ll want you to do that,” Molly replied after swallowing a forkful of egg, “but if this is Skeptic-serious, we’re not taking any chances. I want Alice.”

“The kid?” Max asked with a grimace. She’d taken on a more androgynous look, her hair shorter and curves less pronounced, but Sara could sense that she was still a woman. So why change looks now? she wondered idly. “She’s not old enough to drink.”

“She’s also good enough to see a gnat on the other side of the world, if it works for the Complex,” Molly retorted, glaring at her. “You don’t get a vote.”

Max glared back. “I. Am. Here. To. Help. The Grayboys messed me up and turned me on a friend. I am going to make them regret that in every way I can imagine, then steal a few ideas when I run low.”

Molly leaned forward, hands poised to push herself out of the chair. “Well good for you. Now give me a reason to trust you.”

“Molly,” Ben said with a grimace, putting his fork down. Sara felt a subtle calming Weave emanate from Ben’s armrest. “This is still my place. Unless she tries something, I want everyone playing nice.”

Maxine snorted. “Hey, I’ve got no problem with a good Visionary making sure all the wires are yanked out of my head.” She folded her arms and looked away. “I just don’t think little miss Sailor Wonderland is our best choice.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. Sara grinned at him. “Alice Robinson is barely eighteen, and goes out in a red and green dress to fight evil as ‘Majestic Champion Wonder Rose.’ She also might be the most brilliant member of the Oracle Society in the Western hemisphere.”

“Alice can take care of you,” Molly insisted, gaze boring into Maxine, “and herself. This isn’t a debate. We leave as soon as Ben’s scanned the both of you.”

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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