SG: ALU Interstitial #1: The Dead Dogs of CalForce
sabre at annotations.com
Wed Mar 8 07:52:15 PST 2017
The Second Week of May, 1996
Hal tapped his fork sharply against his wine glass, and waited for the din
of conversation to lessen to levels that would allow him to be heard.
"We have only three minutes to midnight!" he announced. Quickly, the noise
level subsided. "I would like to propose a toast. To say--"
"To say!" Key, Yury, Badass, Shadebeam, Tom and Max Vax exclaimed, hoisting
"That's not the toast," Hal said.
"It could be," Eivandt noted.
"Don't encourage them," Alice told him.
"Ahem," Hal continued. "To say that these last four years have been
eventful would be an understatement..."
"To understatements!" Karina Selanova exclaimed.
"These are the best of times, these are the worst of times," Hal said.
"These are times of endings, and beginnings, times of fear and hope, past
and future. Now, just three minutes before the end..."
"Two minutes," GLADYS, seated next to where Hal was standing, noted.
"...two minutes before the end," Hal went on, "I would like to recognize
the members of CalForce, past and present, who have come here this evening
to celebrate an ending and a beginning. Badass..."
"I didn't say anything!" Badass protested.
"I was just naming you."
"It's not our fault!" they exclaimed.
Hal raised an eyebrow.
"We had to say it once more, for old times sake," Key explained.
Elizabeth smiled, and felt Trashman's hand squeeze hers slightly.
"What?" Manny asked. "Ha ha! Just kidding... I think."
"You are," Chalandra clarified.
"Both here?" Eivandt asked. "What a coincidence!"
"Criticalman... Mighty Guy..."
"Hey, that's us!" the named heroes exclaimed.
"Yo. One minute to go, by the way."
"What Tom said."
"I don't have to play a song, do I?"
"And those two here in our memories... Faith and Radian. Let us toast to
their bravery, their successes... and their futures."
Hal fell silent, and the assembled group watched as the seconds ticked down
towards midnight, the final seconds of CalForce's official existence
slipping away, light as thieves....
Glasses were raised....
Final seconds... final moments....
The clinking of wine glasses greeted the midnight hour, a delicate, perfect
mosaic of sound and clarity, a sea of resonance heralding the new era....
CalForce was no more.
ALU Interstitial #1
"The Dead Dogs of CalForce"
Gary W. Olson
the fault of
who is literally writing a reaction post to a post
that itself was written almost twenty-one years ago
Elizabeth was leaning against one of the support pillars in the
terrifyingly ugly Xolchacafe on the fourth floor of the
A.L.U.C.H.Q.M.O.U.S.E., with Trudy leaning on one side of her, and Mandy
leaning on the other. They were still in their 'party' clothes from the
CalForce Retirement Dinner, though that didn't say much -- it had been an
unusually quiet and casual affair for the Californian superteam.
Granted, that was as big an indicator that CalForce's day was done as any
Elizabeth could think of.
Regardless, the three were passing a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue that
Templar had given Elizabeth, having learned that Trashman was a fan of
scotch. Elizabeth had decided to not so much give it to Bruce as drink it
with Trudy and Mandy, who didn't argue. That it was a fifth that cost
Templer six hundred bucks didn't really factor into that decision.
"So," Elizabeth said, giggling. "There was Templar. Desperately pantomiming
every little thing, unable to say a thing, while Manny was stuck in a hot
dog outfit which honestly didn't bother him too much." She took a pull off
the Blue and handed it to Trudy. "I thought his head would explode!"
"Like that'd stop him, little miss telepathic... telepath!" Trudy was a bit
on the drunk side. And by a bit we mean 'plowed.' "You'd be able to
telepath his telepathing and telepath!" She took a hit off the scotch.
"...why is this so less painful than the rotgut Bruce drinks?"
"Because Bruce drinks rotgut," Elizabeth said, accepting the bottle back
and handing it to Mandy. "Expensive, fifty dollar or more per fifth rotgut,
but rotgut. I swear, Laiphroig isn't so much a drink as punishment." She
giggled again. "And I was the one who'd won the bet with Templar! I wasn't
about to telepathy his telepaths!"
"You keep giggling," Mandy said. "I keep thinking you've been replaced by a
"I'll have you know, I giggled all the time, back in the CalForce days. I
think it had something to do with dyeing my hair auburn. Auburn's a giggly
color. I was less giggly when it was black, and blonde is tres serious. So
anyway -- we the people who'd bet on Team Cynical to win the ball game were
gloating. Oh Gods -- and you don't even want to know Yury's conditions.
Just seeing Akane in one of those glitter bikini nightmares HotFlash and
MeltDown wore was worth the price of admission -- I thought her radiation
powers had been blocked by the fierceness of her blush!"
"Wait -- Radian was a prude?" Mandy laughed. "I can't believe it."
"Believe it. Even the boob window on her black bodysuit was 'cause of Key
and Yury. She was the second biggest prude on that team."
"Who was the first?"
"You're drinking her scotch, missy." Elizabeth took another pull and
offered it to Trudy.
Trudy wasn't talking. She was looking away.
Sober, Elizabeth would have changed the subject. Elizabeth was nowhere near
sober. "Trudy... no one was hurt more by Radian's actions than me. You have
no idea. But before all that? She was my friend -- and a really good one.
And I'm tired of pretending she wasn't. I miss that Akane, in her black
bodysuit and shy smile she hid with an affected grin." She shook her head.
"She and Faith were so good together."
"How can you say that?" Trudy asked, softly. "She killed him."
"No. No she didn't. I thought she did too. I almost killed her over it.
Almost healed her mind free of all paranormality and then wiped it clean. I
wanted to so badly -- I hated her so much... and then Faith stopped me."
Trudy looked at her. "This is some kind of metaphor 'Faith would never want
me to be a killer' bullshit, right?"
"No. I mean Faith appeared and told me not to do it. He's not even dead,
Trudy. When Ramrod shot Radian through the head, she died -- at least,
ultimately, after we all stopped existing for a second. Faith was the only
one who could save her, but no one there would tell him he had the power to
do it. So... he just... did it. He told himself. His first act of real
Will." She paused. "Second. Second act of real Will. His first act was...
no one noticed at the time. Dunno why it didn't transcend him."
"This is all crazy talk," Trudy said.
"Weirdly, no it isn't," Mandy said. "Eric talks about it too -- he was
there. It's haunting him. It... damn it. Nope. No depressingness tonight.
Not for me. S'not about me. What was Faith's first act of will, Liz?"
"Don't call me Liz. Liz was... don't call me Liz." She took another pull
off the Scotch and offered it to Trudy, who took it this time. "The first
act a'will was before CalForce. Some guys -- these dudes -- they attacked
us and fought us and stuff and I don't even care. And they tried to turn
Faith against me. But... no. He wouldn't. He told me. He told me that he
would never Believe that I hated him. He would never Believe that I didn't
love him. And I believed him. I knew it was real. That was something
stronger than Faith's gullibility." She sighed. "But love? Love doesn't get
you transcendent, I guess."
~~It was not quite that simple, Elizabeth. I had to decide to bring Akane
back to life as an act of Will, with no one telling me. I did not need to
decide that you loved me, any more than I needed to be told the universe
existed. It simply did. And you loved me.~~
Trudy's jaw dropped. Mandy stared.
"Is it ever simple, Faith?" Elizabeth asked, softly. "'m drunk, by the way.
So don't... don't let me tell you things. You know the rules."
~~The rules don't apply quite the same way,~~ Faith said, having appeared
before the three. He looked shockingly like Kid Solipsism, only in the
classic uniform Faith had worn with Healer -- albeit slightly translucent.
Faith, that is. Not the costume. PG-13 rating, kids. ~~You cannot begin to
comprehend the perception of the omniverse I now possess, Liz. You cannot
tell me anything I do not know in far greater detail than you could
"Right back atcha, Faith." Elizabeth giggled. "I'm gonna freak in the
morning, assuming I remember any of this."
~~Will you remember I love you, and will never believe you do not love me?~~
"Always," Elizabeth answered, softly.
~~Then there is nothing else that needs be said. I am curious, though.~~ He
looked at Trudy. ~~Why would you say you have such hatred for Radian,
"That's Unorthodox La--" Trudy paused. "Wait, you got it right. Huh. And if
you know everything, why don't you know my reasons?"
~~I do. I am curious as to how you would phrase them.~~
"Heh. Same as it ever was. Okay. Yeah. I'm drunk too, so why not." She took
a stiff belt, then handed the bottle back to Elizabeth. "I hate Radian
because I used to be a good person, and now I'm a terrible one."
Mandy and Elizabeth turned to face Trudy, startled.
~~And she is responsible?~~
"Damn right she is. Despite everything my Dad had done to me I was a good
person. I cared about people. I wanted to be like Trashy and Mighty Guy
and... heroes. And then we met you guys out in Xolchipalia and the
Ottsamaddawidu and you all treated me like a hero too -- a good guy. And
Radian did too -- so cool and warm and friendly. Bonded with Dianna too,
and that never happened very often. And we got back and then Trashman was
controlled and the whole thing with Dangerousman happened and we were
pushed to our edge but we held it together...
"And then Radian? She went and killed a child and threatened everything
that lived and then killed us all."
"Killed us all?" Mandy sounded surprised. Elizabeth just looked at the
bottle of scotch.
"Damn right. Just for a few seconds but I felt it. Everyone felt something
but I felt... I dunno. Maybe it's my connection to the Unorthodox
dimension. But it hurt and there was nothing I could do. Nothing at all.
And then the next thing I know the M.I.B. had me, and you helped save me,
"Don't call me Liz."
"He can call you Liz!"
"Faith can do anything within our limited perception. Go on, Trudy." Drunk
or not, Elizabeth's voice was softer, now.
"The M.I.B. nearly broke me... I'd love to say that's what made me terrible
-- blame it all on that. But it wasn't. Because before the M.I.B.? Was the
Professor Backslash thing, when Mike and Ja-- the Dash and--"
~~I assure you. I know all the secret identities of all who have ever
"Seriously?" Trudy peered at Faith's ghostly form. "Who killed Kennedy?"
"I knew it! But anyway, they were missing and the Reverse Dash was all like
killing people, and Scholarman and Ignorantman showed up to help us out...
"Scholarman healed me twice. Almost wrecked himself to save my life after
Backslash hacked me almost apart -- Hell, he probably used up some of the
reserve he really needed when Bulletproof shot him. Pushed back time
itself. And I was so scared of him and hated him so much, because magic had
taken the woman who'd made me feel like I could be a hero and made her the
worst villain who ever lived, and all I could see was the same thing
happening to him. I almost killed him -- but decided I owed him one. And
decided that balanced the scales. That I'd saved his life by graciously not
killing him." She took a deep breath. "Then the MIB happened, and broke
away what was left of my heroic facade. I was just... scum. And gosh --
what happened next? I joined the Revolution."
Trudy was in her own world now. "And I was going to kill them all, Faith. I
wanted every mage dead before they could kill innocent people -- and yeah I
get the contradiction in that sentence. I hated every last one of them, and
I wanted to wipe them all out. The only reason I didn't was Dianna. She
held me back. Over and over again. Whatever was still good in me she held
onto. And then everything crashed down around us, and in the wreckage of it
all... I got slapped on the wrist, which is admittedly more than almost any
Revolutionary got... and Dianna, who was a good guy, even down the wrong
path... became the most hated person in Superguydom. Get it? She became the
new Radian to most of the world. Me? People cheer for me on the streets."
"You do good work, Trudy," Mandy said. "You really do."
"She's right," Elizabeth says. "I know it feels--"
"No I don't. I'm amused, and I act out and have fun and joke and take risks
because fuck it. And then Spandy saved me on Planet Seattle. Won the day.
And when I was throwing all caution to the wind, drunker than I am right
now and about ready to sleep with half of Seattle in an orgy of Rad-ish
proportions--" Trudy paused. "Radish."
Trudy, Mandy and Elizabeth burst out laughing. Apparently comparing Rad to
a small vegetable was the funniest thing imaginable. Faith patiently let
"--whoo. Anyway. 'sdumb, but I was the center of attention and all these
amazing people wanted to be near me and wanted me, and I was all like 'yes
please!' And Dianna reached out to me -- reached out because despite
everything and despite my getting away with everything and throwing her to
the fucking wolves for two solid years... despite her saving my life again
and being the MVP of the day and out of her cage for the first time ev--
you two don't know that."
"Patient/doctor confidentiality," Elizabeth said.
"Don't even fucking care," Mandy said.
"Yeah. First day out of the cage, and she tried to help me. And I hurt her.
I bit her to the fucking bone. I threw my murdered mother in her face,
guys. And she retreated and she went into her room and as near as I can
tell she won't come out even for Dani. I did it. I broke her. I took her
last bit of good and destroyed it. Because I'm a selfish, evil bitch who's
made out of hate. And that? Came from Radian. I hate her so much. And now
she's dead and I can't even beat her down or bring her in. She got away
with it. At the end of the day, she got away with everything, and me? I'm
not even sure why Trashy doesn't fire me, any more."
She looked up at Faith. "Does that answer your question, Obi Wan Kenobi?"
Faith nodded. ~~It does. I do not say I agree with your assessment, because
your assessment cannot possibly be anywhere near as well informed as my
own, but it satisfies my curiosity.~~
"Do you still hate mages?" Mandy asked.
"Nah. I'm scared'a them, but I'm scared'a lot of things. But... this girl,
Rainy Day Woman? I got to know her after the Revolution. She and Mike
helped me cope after I woke up in a cell post Revolution, even though they
were both Counter-Revolution. She helped me understand... really understand
that my anger at Radian couldn't be applied to everyone else." She laughed,
slightly. "'Course, Radian didn't even end up in that jail with us. She won
again. She always did."
"Funny," Elizabeth said, softly. "It took me a long time of wrestling with
even darker thoughts... but I realized that Akane kept losing. She lost the
battle against the magic, making her the Dark Goddess. She lost the power
and transcendence -- lost it to save all of us. She lost you, Faith -- in
the sense that you two weren't physically together any more--"
~~She found Ramrod. I was content to see that.~~
"Yeah, but then she lost him too -- she died."
~~I perhaps see things differently.~~
"Perhaps. She saved the world, Trudy -- before any of this. You probably
don't know about the Magic Wars... but if she hadn't taken up the Z
Medallion and fought her way through the Looking Glass... you'd be dust and
nothingness. You were once, you know. In fact, she sacrificed herself over
and over again -- ultimately sacrificing her transcendence to restore the
world. I didn't know that for quite a while. And it took a long while after
Russia before I really got it."
~~You saved her and Shadebeam in Russia, Elizabeth.~~
"You saved all of us, there, Faith. Even my mother."
"What are you talking about?" Mandy asked. "Or am I just drunk?"
"Assume you're just drunk." Elizabeth took another hit, then handed the
bottle over. "Gods -- how much is in that bottle?"
~~I thought it prudent to replenish the supply.~~
"Gods I've missed you, Faith."
"You know -- I noticed that." Trudy said. "Not the missing Faith thing. God
knows I've missed Faith most've my life--"
~~I saw what you did there,~~ Faith said, amiably.
"--but you, Liz--"
"Don't. Me. Liz. Call."
"Right. Lillibets. I'll try to remember. You always say 'Gods' when you're,
like, swearing or taking in vain or stuff. Never the singular."
"Hm? Oh, well -- yeah. Habit I got into so I wouldn't get weird looks."
"I was raised in two religions. Mom was Roman Catholic, Dad was a worshiper
of Kali-Ma. Pretty much whenever I say 'Gods,' assume I mean
Trudy blinked. "Your Dad worshiped death and destruction?"
"Pfah! PFAH, I tell you, unbeliever! Kali is the consort and feminine of
Shiva! She is the destroyer of evil. The divine protector. The sexual and
sensual that gives new life out of death. Goddess of Tantra and
beneficence. And most of all -- wait for it... drumroll please... the
Healer. Apparently Spielberg neglected to, y'know, read a book before he
made that damn movie. I am who I am because of Catholicism and Kali-Ma."
She paused. "Maybe that's not such a prize. I'm a bitch."
~~I do not believe that is true, Liz.~~
Elizabeth smiled, softly. "Thanks, Faith."
~~Always, Liz. Even if you cannot hear me... I am always listening to you.
You are precious to me, and I would never lose sight of you.~~
Trudy snorted. "Yeah, well... you're better off than me. I'm pretty sure G
dash D gave up on me a long time ago. How 'bout you, Mandy?"
"I was raised Didactic Authorist. Now I'm an atheist."
"You've literally met Gods, Mandy," Trudy said, taking yet another hit of
"Yeah -- and that cured me of any desire to worship them."
"You're still a believer, Trudy?"
Trudy shrugged. "I don't talk to God any more. Believe? Sure. But we pretty
much mutually decided to break up. 'Cept at Passover and the High Holidays.
Can't miss a shot to repent or eat unleavened bread."
~~Interesting. The Ten Days of Repentance are largely concerned with asking
forgiveness for your sins against others, but you would not forgive Akane
"Yom Kippur prays for the repentant, not for the unrepentant. Not up to me
to forgive her." She shrugs. "This is a pretty damn depressing vigil."
"Yeah. We're sitting Shiva with Lizitikitavi for CalForce."
"Not Shiva," Elizabeth slurred. "Kali-Ma."
"Jewish, Tirkoff. Jewish."
"We are going to be so hung over, tomorrow," Mandy said. "But! We were
sitting Vishnu for CalForce -- how'd you first get involved with all of
them, anyway, Liz?"
"I the Liz am not being called. And simple. Faith and I were sent by Dan
Quayle to bring Rad to Washington by any means necessary, and then Key
garotted me while Yury stalked Rad. It all kind of snowballed from there."
"Huh," Mandy said. "Weird. Hey, Faith... what do I... that... I...."
"Well said," Trudy said.
"Shut up, Galloway. Your brother. Eric. I... what do I do? How do I help
"You told me to come talk to him," Elizabeth said, cutting in and nodding
exaggeratedly. "But I can't. He won't."
~~You have. Both of you. You have spoken to him and helped him and he has
answered you both. You cannot hear his answer. He doesn't realize you have
spoken. But it has been done. For which I thank you. I always looked up to
"Why?" Trudy asked. "You were always awesome. I mean -- even when we met
an' you'd lost your powers because Timmy "Oh shut up and die" O'Larson
fucked up you were just... the best. Worried about Elizibusybet here, but
"Awww... you were worried about me?"
~~You had been captured by Dana Wader. Of course I was worried. I could do
nothing to help you.~~
"You are just the best, Faith. And you did help me. You always help me.
Sitting Shiva indeed. Shiva was Kali's consort."
~~Of course. The Healer takes the Supreme God of Terror and Delight upon
the Tiger Skin as Consort.~~
"It's just a codename, Faith. And Bruce is no god."
~~Indeed, he is not. Faith cocked his head. Do you need help getting to
"No! No...I do not. We are watching and waiting and sitting Kali-Ma for
CalForce. As long as I'm awake... as long as I'm awake then CalForce isn't
done yet. I'm still here."
~~You left CalForce years ago, Liz. And they dissolved at Midnight. All
"Yeah -- Dead Dog rules only work at Cons," Mandy said.
"I'll wait for them! They'd wait for me! They'd all wait for me if I
needed... all of them. Even Karou. I don't even know Karou."
~~You would like him.~~
"I believe you."
"Me, I'm staying up because I want to put off the morning," Trudy said.
"You know Trashy'd be in one of those--" She tightened her voice in
imitation. "--it is incumbent upon us to remind the world that even if
CalForce is gone there are still heroes who' blah blah blah. With that
whole smug 'we're the best ever' attitude, which was always dumb. We
weren't the best. We still aren't."
"CalForce was," Elizabeth said, slapping the linoleum floor. "We were twice
as strong and four times as cool as the League at its height -- we'd be
more but you had the Dash. We had Faith, Akane, Chalandra, Badass, Key and
Yury, Templar, me-- I mean, seriously. In a real fight we'd have smoked you
"No argument here," Trudy said.
"Well, I say 'me.' I was never... I wasn't exactly the showstopper. I think
I got in out of nepotism. Faith was the real--"
~~You were one of the most valuable among us, Elizabeth.~~
"Pah! The day I left Badass left, and I promise they missed him more.
'Specially Chalandra. Well, for a lot of reasons. Wink. Say no more."
"Not Python," Mandy said. "Please."
"You know what I was to CalForce? You know what it was... I did? I was Mom.
Manny and Eivandt and Key and Yury could be all 'it's not my fault' because
I was there to be Mom. And they just found some other Mom. MicroVAX maybe.
And they had Kent, so who needed a telepath?"
~~I needed you, Liz. I still do.~~
"I know. But you were gone too. Me? I wasn't..." she sighed. "We talk, for
now. Some of us. I hadn't spoken to Badass in years. But... right now it's
just me. I'm CalForce. I have as much right to declare it as anyone."
"I'll join," Trudy said.
"Me too," Mandy said. "I have an unbreakable brip."
"And you look just like Chalandra if Chalandra were short haired and
brunette," Elizabeth said.
"And twenty pounds heavier. Be fair. And of course I do."
Mandy snorted. "My last name's Harken. It was anglicized at Ellis island
when my family immigrated. Do the math."
"You... you're Chalandra's descendent?"
"Um, no. Don't think she had kids before she went vamp. Or if she did I
dunno. But families were big back then. We're descended from Chalandra's
father through a son. The resemblance is mostly coincidence."
"No no no no no," Elizabeth said. "I know for a fact that Vander Harkness
was Chalandra's father's descendent through a son, and they didn't
anglicize his family name! Your story holds no water! It is..." she held a
drunken chin up "waterless."
"...Elizabeth... in all the generations from Chalandra's father to today...
is it really that hard to believe that one of those families had two boys
instead of one, and that maybe one of those two boys married outside the
normal family circles, and lost its connections to the Harkness family
fortune?" Mandy half smiled. "And by one family I mean 'tons?' There's a
bunch of variant anglicized names for the broader Harkness cohort. You
should have heard my grandfather rant about it, too -- generations before,
but he was convinced the Harknesses owed him... I dunno. Money. Me? I'm
just glad I didn't end up in the side of the family that loved insane
names. Seriously -- Chalandra? Vander? Bertrand?"
"As a proud daughter of Mister Tirkoff... Tudegretwytenort Tirkoff--"
"It's a beauty way to go," Trudy muttered.
"--that is... I can understand. So, is your name actually Mandy? Or is it
short for Amanda...?"
"No -- short for Mandalora. Mandalora Forsythe Harken."
"Oh yeah. Dodged a bullet there," Trudy said. "Wait -- why did they have to
"Oh, like I understand immigration from the thirties? And is Trudy short
"Nope! Short for Awesome, though the birth certificate just says Trudy."
~~Eric kept me sane long before I met Liz, though I admit he did not do as
good a job. No matter how selfish he seems he was the most loyal person I'd
known before Liz as well. He was my hero.~~
All three blinked. "What?" Mandy asked, softly.
~~Trudy asked why I looked up to Eric. I looked up to Eric because Eric was
my hero. His certainty counteracted my gullibility. Liz was far better at
it, as I said -- in ways my life began when I met her. But Eric was the
best person I had ever known before her.~~
"And let me guess -- he told you that and you believed him," Trudy said,
~~No. Eric never attempted to use my powers. In part because he believed I
only had them because his subconsciousness was trying to tell him
"Yeah, he's nuts," Mandy said. "Wonderful and nuts."
~~Eric is perfectly sane, from a certain point of view you are not capable
"With our limited perception!" Elizabeth shouted, laughing.
~~Precisely.~~ Faith sounded pleased.
"Wait," Mandy said. "You mean there's a point of view where he did dream
all of us up?"
~~His power is Belief, as mine was and is. By definition, there is a point
of view where he has done precisely what he claims.~~
"No, wait," Trudy said. "I call bullshit. I've read up on this. If he were
literally correct -- if he were a true solipsist and if the world only
existed because he was there to perceive it, then we wouldn't be here right
now. He can't perceive us right now, right? Or can he? Oh crap -- can he?"
~~In one sense, he can perceive you right now, yes. Though not with what
you may consider consciousness. There are many things that can be perceived
without realization, at least until you transcend. For example, I am
letting you perceive me here. I am also elsewhere, and if you were capable
you would see me there, too -- but you are not, so you do not.~~
"Where else are you?" Elizabeth asked. She sounded a bit less drunk, at
least for the moment.
~~That question is not easy to answer. Perhaps it is easier to say I am
also perceiving and interacting, essentially simultaneously, with Rad,
Shadebeam, Manny, Chalandra, Hal and Ak--~~
"Hah! So you're not the only one Dead Dogging CalForce, Liz," Mandy
shouted. "They're doing it too!"
"Me Liz not being called, Mandy. And even if they're up, they're not...
like was said earlier. They decided. I'm the one who decided she was...
I..." She shook her head. "I'm being silly. I just can't let go. And I
don't have the right. If I were going to be like this, I should have stayed
with them. It's not fair for me to be throwing a tantrum because they
decided to go on with their lives the same way I decided to do the same
years ago." She swallowed a long drink off the bottle, handing it to Trudy.
"I'm just scared of a world without them. I burned my M.I.B. bridge once
and for all--"
"Liz--Elizabeth?" Trudy said, softly. "Thanks for that. I don't think I
ever said that."
Elizabeth shook her head, putting her hand on Trudy's shoulder. "Y'don't
have to thank me, Trudy. But still -- that was me from post-medical school
to CalForce. Right up to Intelligence Czar reporting directly to President
Seconds. That's gone. CalForce is gone...."
"But the Academy's still here," Mandy said.
"And speaking as no one with any authority at all? The day you want to be
primary team's the day we make you primary team, Healer. It'd be an honor
and a hoot."
"Thanks. But that's not me. The superhero Healer was CalForce. The Healer
who's here is someone else."
"And before CalForce? What -- the government?" Mandy asked.
"No. Before CalForce... half of Faith and Healer. Faith always gets dibs."
~~Then perhaps I should mention this, Healer.~~ Faith's voice reverberated
through the three as he spoke. ~~You said that as long as you stayed awake,
you were a member of CalForce and therefore it hadn't ended. Well, as long
as I am awake and capable of perception, I am half of Faith and Healer, and
I will never sleep as you know it again. You are one of the two people I
love most in any world.~~
"The other being Eric?" Mandy asked, quietly.
Elizabeth shook her head. "The other being Akane." She was crying, softly,
but not unhappily. "Thank you, Gary. I'll name my firstborn after you."
~~No. You will have another to name him after. That is all right. You'll
have more than one child. And yes, the other was Akane. I do love my
brother, but it is... different."~~
Trudy paused, and nodded. "Okay. Okay, still hate her... but maybe a little
less. If she meant that much to you guys..." She paused. "Wait, did he say
you saved Radian in Russia?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "What's a disintegration bobby pin to dissolve bonds
here and there?"
"Damn... do you still carry those spy things around with you?"
"Trudy, I'm no longer a government operative."
"That's not an answer."
"No it is not."
«Hey guys,» JOEL's voice chimed in. «I've been on Privacy and all but
you're in an open space and there's Academy kids coming down the elevator
so I needed to warn you, since--»
"Oh crap," Elizabeth said.
"I don't think I'm up for a mad dash to a hiding place," Trudy said. "Not
without leaving a trail of vomit."
"I can't even feel my legs."
"It's fine!" Elizabeth said. "I'll telepa...no I won't. So drunk. No
telepathing the telepaths. Um... um... Faith! You have the power to cloak
us all from the view of the students!"
There was a pause. Elizabeth flushed. "...uh...."
Faith chuckled. ~~I Believe you, Healer. It has been taken care of.~~
There was a dinging sound, and Memorex, Kid Electron and Frigid Girl
rounded the corner. "This isn't going to work," Fridge was saying. "JOEL's
watching even if no one else is!"
"JOEL won't narc us out to Tirkoff," Kid Electron said. "He's a pal.
Besides, we're not gonna hurt anyone."
"We can go to the Five Spot and get Transit breakfast from there!" Frigid
"This is better," Memorex said. "If we cook it, it'll be made from love."
"Love doesn't make pancakes not suck, Mem."
"Neither will we," Kid Electron said. "Trust me -- what could go wrong?"
"You did not just say that," Frigid Girl said, as the three snuck into the
"Should you do something about that?" Mandy asked.
"In my current state?" Elizabeth said. "I'm not even sure I should stand
up, much less try to be the Tirkoff one narcs to."
"Works," Trudy said. "So... your Dad was the convert?"
"Convert?" Elizabeth asked.
"No... Dad's from Moratuwa and Mom's from Volgograd. They met in Des
"...So... he's... okay, I don't know where Morat--"
"...so he's Indian?"
"No, he's Sri Lankan. And Mom's Russian." Elizabeth shook her head to clear
it. "What's the weirdness here?"
Trudy cocked her head. "Okay, speaking as the only Semite in the room...
you're telling me your Dad's Indian?"
"No, I'm telling you he's Sri Lankan. Admittedly of Indian ancestry, but
that's not the same thing. What, do I have to go put on a Sari? I can do
it. I own many saris."
~~I have never seen you wear a sari, Liz.~~ Faith put in.
"Well, yeah. I'm more a jeans and tee shirt girl, and it's not like Dad
exactly cared if I--"
"You're half-Indian." Trudy sounded dubious.
"I'm half Sri-Lankan. Of admittedly Indian-- what's the issue here, Trudy?"
"What's the-- Liz, you're the whitest girl in this room. Maybe in this
building. Not only don't I buy Indian -- I don't even buy Russian! You're
like a blonde cornfed midwesterner!"
"The hair's a dye job, Trudy. You know that. Oh, and Sri Lanka, not India,
and don't call me Liz."
"So... your Dad's mostly British descent, then?" Trudy asked.
"Maybe a quarter -- here." She opened her purse and fished through. "Here.
Eleanor and Tudegratwhytnort Tirkoff, circa 1983."
Trudy stared at the picture. "So... yeah. You're adopted?"
Mandy peered over at the picture. "I'm kinda with Trudy here. Genetics only
pushes so far -- you don't have either of your parents' coloration, they're
both brown eyed and you're kinda blue or grey or something like that--"
"Dude," Trudy said. "Your Dad kinda looks like Robert Stack! Only Indian!"
"Sri Lankan. And yes he does! And I'm not adopted. They'd have told me! And
Gods know they were wild enough to have three or four kids!"
"Where do they live now?" Trudy asked.
"Mom's back in Russia. Lives with her new husband. She's Eleanor Selenova
now." She paused. "I kind of have a step sister now, too. I'd bring her by
but we have no contact with each other and also she's MIB so no fucking way
does she get in this building."
"And I thank you again," Trudy said. "But you get to spend time with your
stepsister. Just, you know, do it at the Five Spot." She paused. "She
wasn't part of--"
"Fuck no. She had nothing to do with any of that, Trudy. Pinky swear."
"I believe you. Or at least believe you believe."
~~Karina Selenova had nothing to do with what the Mega-Intelligence Bureau
did to you, Trudy,~~ Faith said. ~~And for the record, had either Healer or
I understood the depths some branches would stoop to--~~
"Dude -- you're both ginchy with me. No sweat. Mandalora fell asleep."
Elizabeth looked over her shoulder. "So she did."
"S'good plan." Trudy leaned on Elizabeth's shoulder. "Wake me if the alert
goes off, so I can flip it off and go back to sleep."
"Right." Elizabeth laughed.
Behind the pair, there were several loud crashes. "Damn it, Fridge!" Kid-E
"Hey, it's not my fault, Kid-E! You don't know how to balance--"
"SHH!" Memorex's voice was lower. "We'll get caught! C'mon."
Elizabeth chuckled. "At least CalForce has a legacy, Trudy."
There was a pause.
~~She is also asleep, Liz.~~
"Seriously? Wow, she's good." She looked up at Faith. "Hi, Gary. Thank you
for... thank you for tonight."
~~I was there toasting in spirit. And I would not miss this, Liz. Not for
"I know. So Chal, Manny, Rad and the others are doing this on the West
~~They are. Do you want me to say hello?~~
Elizabeth paused. "No. They saw me earlier tonight." She snorted. "All my
talk of being CalForce, but I'm on the East Coast and they're all together.
Why aren't I with them?"
~~Because you belong here, Liz. I... find it strange to consider, since I
never had to grow up, but you grew up.~~
"...what? C'mon. Don't tell me they aren't adults."
~~They are. They have also grown up. But growing up is more than age. It is
learning to go where you should, instead of where you may want. And also...
learning what you want now is not what you wanted then. I could be wrong,
since your minds are so small as to be nigh incomprehensible to my greater
"Yeah." She smiled a bit. "CalForce. We really were the best, you know?
Absolutely the best."
~~I believe you.~~
Elizabeth took a long breath. "If that offer to help us up to bed is still
~~Of course it is, Liz.~~
Elizabeth grinned. "You know what to call me, partner."
~~Yes I do, Healer. Hold on.~~
Elizabeth's eyes opened. "What time is it?" she asked.
"Seven forty," Bruce said. "You didn't wake me when you came to bed."
"You sound surprised."
"I'm usually more observant."
"Well, I'm good at masking my movements when I need to. I actually used to
sneak up on Chalandra. Not many people could do that."
"You're not many people." Bruce leaned over to kiss her. "Though you need a
shower. You reek of Johnny Walker Blue."
"...you can tell what I was drinking purely by smell hours later?"
"That can't surprise you. Do you need an analgesic?"
Elizabeth paused. "You know... no. No I don't." She smiled a bit.
"You must have had a lot of water."
"Not a drop after dinner, and I put away at least a fifth if not more."
Bruce arched an eyebrow.
Elizabeth smiled. "I'm going to go shower."
"That seems wise. I'm sorry I didn't stay up with you -- there was--"
"I remember the alert. Everything okay in Dark City?"
"Never -- but the immediate issue's been dealt with. Are you all right? I
was worried you'd be a bit...."
"Morose? I had good people with me. And now I shower. Just glad it's
Saturday. Though I'll need to check if Trans is feeling any better."
Bruce nodded with a slight smile. "I've got to head down and relieve
Spandex Babe. She elected to do the overnight as well. And... I'm worried
"We all are." She kissed again. "Go be great." Elizabeth stood up, heading
into the small half-bath connected to the suite. Rank hath its privileges.
After getting cleaned up, Elizabeth considered her closet. She normally
wouldn't bother with a uniform on a Saturday. On the other hand, she was in
a 'Healer' kind of mood....
She arched an eyebrow as she saw a uniform at the end of the rack, which
didn't look like the red and white uniforms she normally wore now. She
considered some of the things from the night before, and reached over to
She wouldn't have been surprised if it didn't fit -- she'd put on some
weight, though in generally good places, according to reputable lecherous
authorities -- and some additional muscle tone, but it zipped right up. Red
and black paneled, with military belt and matching military boots. She put
her hair up -- she'd been deep brown with reddish highlights in Russia,
after she reupped with the Mega Intelligence Bureau to help hunt for
Radian, but didn't feel up to dye or henna today. It wasn't her original
costume -- but then, her original costume was a cross between a Marine
dress uniform and Samantha Fox's 80's wardrobe. Nostalgia only went so far.
"Don't mind me," Bruce said, crossing through. "Left my wallet--"
Healer looked over her shoulder, legs slightly spread, hands on hips. "Yes?"
"I... don't... think I need my wallet today. Excuse me."
Healer smiled a little bit as Bruce withdrew. She looked back in the
mirror. It seemed like a good day to fight a little crime. And if a student
happened to see her? She was certain it would be educational.
*Will you stay with me to the end?*
* When there's nothing left*
* But you and me and the wind*
* We'll never know till we try*
* To find the other side of goodbye*
--"Please Stay," Warren Zevon
With thanks to Gary
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