A Stitch In Time: The Invitation

MONTREAL, CANADA

THE PRESTWICH ESTATE

 

Adam had always loved the smell of White Diamonds. Estelle wore the fragrance, even today, when she should have been focused on work. A woman was allowed a few indulgences, after all. She carefully, carefully, wrote a list of names in looping cursive. It was important to match the card that she had seen in her Vision, after all.

Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: The Invitation”

A Stitch In Time: Estelle

THE PRESTWICH MANOR

THE GUEST ROOM

 

“Come in, come in. Can I get you a drink?” Estelle swept the group into her guest room, a place of upholstered furniture and carefully organized china and a bar up against the wall, stocked with quality liqueur and expensive glasses of all sizes.

“That would be lovely, ma’am, thank you!” Nat said in a slightly pitched-up voice, beaming eir most winning smile. Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: Estelle”

A Stitch In Time: It’s All in the Execution

FOUR HOURS AGO

 

Lights Show had been thinking hard, and he jumped up with his hand in the air like a schoolboy proud of his answer. He flushed, cleared his throat, and started talking before someone could tease him about his opening.

 

“Let’s go to the field where he’ll be. Let’s bring a stripper pole. Nat will do eir thing, I’ll drop the beats… No one could resist a show like that.”

He punctuated his idea with finger guns and an “Ayyyyyy!”

Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: It’s All in the Execution”

A Stitch In Time: A Just Reward

Estelle sat in the largest, most comfortable chair in the guest room, hands pressed together and fingers steepled.

 

“You may have saved the world.” she finally pronounced, a queen on her throne. “Everyone, everyone, on Earth must thank you.”

“Oh goob. Dat’s fantastig.” Fi mumbled from behind a handkerchief. Apparently, kicking an angel into the back of its own mind had consequences, and in this case, those consequences were periodic nosebleeds. “but I meang. I lib on da wurlb?” Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: A Just Reward”

Recovery: Debrief

THE FLYING FORTRESS
INFIRMARY

 

Nat was awake again. Still badly injured from eir encounter with the Villain known as Sin, ey was slowly recovering. Ey was still strapped to the bed, but no longer bled through eir bandages. Surgery had removed the communication implant attached to eir lower jaw, and ey was waiting on a replacement to be installed.

 

In the meantime, ey played around on eir phone.

 

There’s a gentle rap on the door. “Bug? You up for some company?”

“Oh god, yes,” Nat’s head lolls back. “I’m so fucking bored.

 

“Good. I brought dumplings from home, home cooked, and I purchased some drinks and a hand held entertainment unit for you. The Nintendo something or other. I know, I know, you want to be out now, you want to  go home. I’m not authorized to clear that.” She busied herself serving food onto paper plates.

 

“Oh wow you’re still the best boss ever though,” Nat’s face lit up, “for real, you brought me—these are homemade? Damn, these are the tidiest gyoza I’ve ever seen. Look at that crimping!”

 

“I’m trained in many things.” Emi winked. “Benefits of my upbringing. Eat up. You need your strength. And I could use a meal too, I’ve spent the morning yelling at people. Very taxing.”

“Ooh, dish.”

 

“Let’s just say Estelle is lucky that she’s an old, sick woman, or else I wouldn’t have gone easy on her.” Emi says grimly. “And I purchased both Alice and Sawbones floral arrangements for their part in saving you and getting you back in good health, of course.”

“I appreciate what they both did,” Nat rubbed eir jaw at remembered pain, “but I’m really glad that a different doctor is doing the comm replacement. Doc Sawbones is… not gentle.”

 

“No,” Emi agreed. “She believes that being the best does not necessarily require a gentle touch, nor a bedside manner. But she is the best at what she does, even if she infuriates everyone in a two mile radius. And your health is the most important.”

“Yeah,” Nat murmured, eyes going a little distant. “They tell me I almost died of blood loss. It was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life, like I was on fire and my life was siphoning away from me. I guess it was.”

 

“Which is why you will NOT be working with Estelle ever again, no matter what she says about prophecies and the future. I will NOT allow it.”

“You’re the boss, Boss,” Nat agrees, nodding. “I thought it was just gonna be a party, going in.”

 

“That’s the problem with this world of ours. You never really know what you’re getting into. One time we had a party at the McGowan Mansion – this was before Scott and Alice were together, and Scott’s date was, ah…” Emi pops a dumpling into her mouth and chews thoughtfully. “A Villain of sorts, incognito. I think that might have been what pushed him out of his phase of dating random women for a night or two.”

Nat eats eir first dumpling. “Wow. Good. Really good, boss, I could take lessons from you and that’s saying something. Anyway, that’s interesting. I still haven’t met the guy.” Ey uses eir chopsticks to poke a hole in the side of the next dumpling, dunks it into the dipping sauce, and holds it there until it’s good and dead before eating it.

 

“You should. He’s a brilliant man, crucial to the war effort, a war hero… And a good friend. A very good friend. I think you would like him.”

“And I probably shouldn’t hit on him, huh.”

 

Emi shrugs. “He’d find it funny. Alice wouldn’t.”

“Alice doesn’t find anything funny. It’s what makes her so funny,” Nat smirked. “Did you need me to debrief, or do you already know everything that there is to know?”

 

“Let me hear your take on what happened.”

Nat sighs. “Okay, so. To be honest, everything went… mostly okay right up until the end. Eternium was too fast for me, but that was our tactical error, and it was bound to happen someday. I was the bait, he came at me, grabbed me by the face, hit me against somethin’. I passed out. Came out of it beat up, but mostly all right.

 

“It wasn’t until… the rewards. That things got real bad. Estelle,” Nat frowns, then lowers eir voice, “…cheated Sin. She cheated him. I’m sure he’s the scum of the earth but she made a deal and she tried to monkey paw it and to be honest, I can’t blame him for being mad.

 

“But he decided that the only thing to do was kill her, and we were in the way of that.”

 

Emi’s lips thin into a line of barely suppressed rage. “Estelle left that little detail out.” She says, voice tight. “We’ll have to have another talk, she and I.”

“She told us that she’d reward us. Give us jewels or whatever. At the end, most of us got something we wanted. But with Sin… she showed him photos of a ring. Said he’d get it when he’d made up for his crimes.” Nat frowned. “That was shitty, I feel. Anyway, Sin walked away and then turned the whole bar into shrapnel, threw it at her with his telekinesis. I tackled him and started spinning, but he hit me with that spiky chain, then threw me through the debris. People, um. People tell me that I bounced off the banister and got stuck in the chandelier.”

 

“How dare she? How dare she? She thinks that she can work outside of the Legion, her dalliances with Nova are one thing, but this… You could have died. You could have died.”

“Boss,” Nat blinked, a little surprised at the outburst. Ey reached toward Emi’s arm, but the restraint held em back. “It’s okay. I’m alive. The doctor said I’d be field ready within the week. It’s… it’s okay.”

 

“I am glad you are okay, Nat, but – you’re okay because of Alice and luck and Sawbones. You could have very easily not been okay.”

“Well, who’s to say one of my lures won’t end up being a Sin someday?” Nat says, softly. “I’m gonna die someday, and it’s probably gonna be on a mission. Right?”

 

“Bug, no. I’ve served for decades, now, and so will you. We will make you someone who can stop a Sin, stay alive. Understand?”

“O-okay.” Nat’s face still seemed a little surprised, like ey couldn’t quite wrap eir mind around the idea of not being disposable.

 

“You matter, Bug. Alright? And I will never fail you like this again. I am going to have another talk with our Ms. Prestwich… but for now, eat up, rest up. Do you like the game system?”

“Oh, uh, it looks fun!” Nat smiles. “I don’t know much about video games, but while I’m stuck here seems a good time to learn ’em!”

 

“You might like this one. Animal Crossing?” Emi looks to the side. “I had Scott pull some strings. There, ah, should be a custom avatar in the game. No ‘are you a boy or a girl’ choices. I know that’s important to you.”

Nat stared at Emi, wide-eyed, for several seconds. Ey looked down at the game system, then back up, then burst into tears.

 

“You – you don’t like it? I’m… I’m sure we can find a game you do like!”

“I—I—” Nat sobs, “n-no one’s ever done anything like this for m-me before! N-no one!”

 

“Ah -” Emi said, still looking uncomfortable. “You’re family, Nat, I… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I th-thought the club would be the closest thing I ever had to family.” Ey snuffled, trying in vain to raise a wrist to wipe eir face, but the restraints weren’t long enough. “Fuckin’—boss, can you loosen these so I can wipe my face and hug you.”

 

“Absolutely.” Emi leans over and adjusts the restraints. “I would love a bug hug.”

Nat drifted forward and wrapped eir arms around Emi, crying into her shoulder.

Recovery: Trial By Hire

THE FLYING FORTRESS

ALICE MCGOWAN’S OFFICE

 

Alice’s office is surprisingly small and cramped and cozy for such a high ranking officer of the Legion. Small desk, cross on the wall, and desk piled high with papers. Things look organized at a glance, but a keen eye can spot the chaos hidden beneath the surface – papers shoved into drawers, important forms under a keyboard. Alice herself glances up in surprise – it’s rare Tabitha comes to see her instead of the other way around.


“Estelle Prestwich,” Tab said, flatly. It was sort of like ‘hello’. Sort of.

 

“The witch, yeah? She seems kind of nice. We don’t talk much.” Alice shrugged. “Is she okay?”

“She’ll live,” Tab strode into the room, “but she insists that if everyone doesn’t do exactly as she say, no one will. She wants to reactivate… and she wants Core access. And all of her keycodes. In short, she wants authority.”

 

Alice looks briefly panicked before she manages to reign that original reaction in. “Gosh,” she finally says. “What was her rank before she retired?”

 

“Just below Legion-General,” Scanner pipes in from the walls, and Alice makes the same face she always does when she realizes Scanner’s been listening in.

 

“You know me, Alice. I am well aware that even the Legion needs to break a few eggs to make a… a justice omelette,” she barreled forward, committing to the analogy, “but Estelle is willing to break eggs whether or not they end up in the pan. She knew that this might happen to Nat. She gambled with eir life.”

 

Alice spun in her chair, an irritatingly childish nervous tic of hers. “Is she willing to work with a team?” She finally asks.

 

“Apologies, Legion-General, but I didn’t think to ask,” Tab’s tone and face were both flinty. “I imagine she’d be issuing commands to teams, if she were hired. I’d have little say.”

 

“And you’re talking to me because it’s my say?” Alice grimaces. “That’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?”

Tabitha put fingers to her temples, closing her eyes. “You are literally one of the three highest-ranking Legionnaires on Earth. Yes, it is a lot of responsibility.”

 

“But they didn’t make me a General because I’m good at making big picture plans like these,” Alice says with a hint of desperation in her voice. “Do you want me to decline her offer? I mean, her Vision has helped. I do want to use it a little. And she could go to the Freelancers, and we’d lose that…”

Tabitha looked at the floor for several seconds. When she spoke, her tone was quiet, almost defeated. “You’re right that her Vision would be very useful in our hands. And likely put to nobler use than with the Freelancers. If she’s right that there’s a war coming, some threat that we cannot see, she might be able to make a difference. Maybe that means letting her spend our agents, friends, family like gambling tokens. I don’t know.”

 

“Alice…” Tabitha shook her head. “I’m lost too. All right?”

 

Alice spins in her chair again for a few cycles, shaking her heavy mane of golden hair, and then straightens her back. Tabitha knew Alice; the administrator know how she will waffle on a choice until she makes up her mind. The sudden determination in her spine and eyes reveal that she’s made her choice.

 

“She starts at the bottom. She can get promoted back up. And she can have supervised Core access. And if she goes to the Freelancers, we’ll take her to court. We’re the good guys. We don’t do what the Freelancers to do get ahead.”

Tabitha nodded slowly. “The other Legion-Generals will need to weigh in too.”

 

Alice sets her jaw. “I’ll make them see reason. We are the good guys.”

“All right. Thank you for listening, Alice. I…” Tabitha frowned. “I think she is right that something is coming. Scanner and Stheno have reported a surge in Emergences and strange activity. We may… we may need to think about building bridges with the Freelancers, Alice.”

 

The Oathkeeper grinds her jaw. “They’re jerks.”

“Yes they—well. Cheney is an unbelievable jerk. Nova is a jerk. Many of their executive-level agents are absolutely jerks, yes. But… many of their field agents aren’t. They’re reaching out to Legionnaires. Helping us, with no gain for themselves. And if the Earth ends up in trouble from some kind of world-ending threat? We’ll need their numbers, their infrastructure. Their power. They’re competition, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be allies.”

 

“…I’ll talk to the other Generals.” Alice finally concedes. “The ones on Earth, anyways.”

“Thanks,” Tabitha sighs. “I should… probably sleep. It’s been days.”

 

“I worry about you, Tabs.”

Tabitha looked Alice in the eyes, frowned, and nodded. “Yes, that seems reasonable,” she conceded.

 

“…I’m making you take a week off.”

She looked at Tabitha’s face.

 

“Three days.”

“Hon. Alice. Sunshine. No. If I take more than one day off this place will collapse in on itself like a kinder egg with a black hole as its special prize.”

 

“I can take over for a day or two! I can do paperwork.”

“Alice do you remember that time that you tried to expense thirty six hundred dollars’ worth of candles?”

 

“…We needed candles. I’m wild about candles. And thirty six hundred dollars isn’t a lot, is it?”

“Listen, hon, I could go on about how many times you’ve forgotten what a gross is, but the point is that we are still understaffed and I am not nonessential staff. I haven’t been for a decade. I… I promise that once things die down a little, I’ll try to take a vacation.”

 

“One day?” Alice pleaded.

 

Tabitha looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well. Nat is having eir implant reinstalled tomorrow, and is recovering well. Adam Nova… left reasonably quickly after his impromptu visit. Estelle will be discharged as quickly as possible, and you’re taking responsibility for that mess and I won’t have to clean up for a few days. Um, yes. Yes, I think I can take a day off the day after tomorrow.” She didn’t sound sure.

 

“It’s an order. As a Legion-General, you HAVE to take the day after tomorrow off.” Alice folds her arms. “Go to a spa. Get some sleep.”

“Sleep,” Tabitha said wistfully. “Yes, all right. Okay. Actually, maybe I could actually get a little sleep now. After all, talking to you was the last thing I had t—”

 

Her wristwatch buzzed. Tab blinked and looked at it. “I thought I asked…” She tapped just behind her ear, activating her own comm implant.

 

“Ray? Is everything—no, I—I’m sorry Ray I’m very tired, could you say who it is again? No. No say again, it—” she laughed, an exhausted edge to the sound. “—it sounds like you’re saying ‘Helen Havelock’. That. What?”

 

Tab looked faint. “Oh. She… yes, no. Okay. I’ll be right there?”

 

“Helen Havelock’s very nice,” Alice says with a smile, and you realize it’s the first time that she seems more capable than you in a situation. “Have fun. You’ll like her, I think!”

“Why did she have to show up now?” Tab whined, but ran both hands down her dress to smooth it out and took a deep breath. “Yes. This is Fine. Okay. Alice, please let me know what the results of your meetings with the others are. Oh, and go say hello to Nat before ey gets discharged, please; ey really does like you in spite of the baiting.”

 

“Of course, I always listen to you, don’t I?” Alice teases. “Go, go, go meet her. She’s just a person. And remember – day after tomorrow! Take off!”

“Yes good sure right okay, ugh she’s never going to let me forget this moment,” Tab mutters to herself as she clicks away on her sensible mid heels.