Alternative Angel – Part 03

My name is Armaita Delacroix.

Adam stared at her in complete disbelief. “That’s not possible,” he said slowly. “Armaita Delacroix was killed in a freak accident six months ago. It was all over the news.”

That’s what my father and his company wanted everyone to thing. That way no one would question why I suddenly vanished. You see, he was the one who had me locked away like that.

Jesse frowned and turned away from the screen to look at Armaita. “Your own father? How could he do that to you?”

She sighed and shook her head. I’m not really sure what all his reasons were. He put me in there after that business with some guy calling himself Kilohertz. I do know that he was afraid that I might pull a similar stunt. No matter how many times I told him that my mutation is different, he wouldn’t believe me. Maybe it was his fear talking, but he refused to have anything more to do with me.

“Wouldn’t your mother have objected?”

I’m sure she would have if she were still alive.

Jesse placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

She shook her head. It was a long time ago. I don’t even really remember her. Just impressions, really.

“So he put you away to keep your powers from causing him a massive embarrassment,” Emma concluded.

A look of surprise flickered across Aramita’s face. That’s it exactly. How’d you guess?

She smiled and shrugged. “I’m a telempath. I can read your emotions. This made the most sense based on what you told us and what emotions you’re projecting. I didn’t read you intentionally.”

Armaita looked thoughtful. Y’know, I talk to a guy who has a telempath for a friend.

“I thought you were pretty much out of touch with the outside world,” Brennan said.

She turned to look at him calmly with her white eyes. I never said that. I found a way to connect to the company’s internet and used it to keep myself sane. It was also a good way to get back at my father, run up his company’s electricity and internet bills. She gave a little satisfied smile. It’s hard not having contact with anyone. I’ve been in contact with a couple mutants. So far, I’ve been able to learn that I’m not the only one like me to be locked away, but from the ones I’ve talked to, I’m the only one who’s had such extreme measures taken against.

“Can you tell us where these other mutants are?” Adam asked her.

Armaita shook her head sadly. They didn’t know so they couldn’t tell me. In most cases, they were forcefully taken from their homes and drugged. In the others, they went to sleep and woke up some place else. She sighed. The other mutants I’ve talked to are all free, living their own lives. I was always a little jealous of that.

“But now you’re free like them,” Jesse assured her. “You can do whatever you like.”

I can’t go home and I can’t show my face in public ever again. I hate my father for doing this to me, but I can’t cause him the embarrassment of revealing that I’m still alive. He could have just killed me, but chose to keep me alive. It wasn’t living, but it wasn’t death. I am a little grateful for that. I have nowhere to go, really. I could get a hold of one of my contacts and see if they have a place for me.

“Until you find a home, you can stay with us,” Adam offered. “Or, if you like, you can stay indefinitely. You don’t have to join Mutant X, but the offer is open if you like.”

She smiled at him. You’re the first real people that’s been nice to me in a long time. Everyone calls me a freak because I have a gift with computers. I don’t understand how they work, but I can do things that I shouldn’t be able to do.

“You’re not a freak,” Shalimar said, smiling. “You’re just different. It doesn’t matter to us, though. You are what you are and we accept you for that.”

You’re serious? I can stay with you?

“For as long as you like,” said Adam.

Armaita smiled shyly. I think I’d like that.

“I just have one question for you,” Brennan said uncertainly. “What’s with your eyes? Can you see normally or what?”

I was wondering when you’d ask about that. Yes, I can see normally. After my treatment at Genomex to get rid of my diabetes, my eyes started to loose all their color. A month later, I suddenly get very good with computers. It just kept getting stronger. As long as I kept it to myself and pretended to be normal, my father pretended that there was nothing wrong. Sometimes he asked me to do some things for the company, but, like I said, as soon as Kilohertz revealed himself and started making those threats, he panicked and shut me away in that stasis tube after faking my death.

“I can understand his fear,” Adam said sympathetically. “Telecybers, like most new mutants, are very unpredictable. They aren’t as obviously dangerous as, say, a feral, but in the long run they can do more lasting damage. A powerful telecyber could knock out satellites, banks, wipe computer memory banks, and all sorts of other things.”

Jesse sat up sharply. “There’s something I would like your help with.”

What would you like?

“We only found you because we were investigating a series of electronic thefts and vandalism. The last target was Jascom robotics. Do you know anything about those? The files that were accessed were completely random. We can’t seem to figure it out. You can have a look at what we found if it’ll help.”

Armaita blushed. Actually, I don’t need to. I can tell you right now who’s behind it. You aren’t going to like it though. She swallowed. It was me.

There was a long silence before Jesse got up the nerve to speak. “You? How?” He shook his head. “Never mind the how. Why?”

I was trying to draw attention to myself. Everything I stole I put back after I knew someone was coming for me. Before you judge, let me explain. One of the free mutants I talked to said that she belonged to something she called the New Mutant Underground. It was through her that I learned about Mutant X. I spent a few months talking to various members of it in order to try and find you. One guy I talked to…I got the impression that he knew something but wasn’t telling. The more I talked to him, the more I was sure of that. I paid close attention to what he told me while following things that could possibly have been Mutant X. Those were confirmed by my friends in the Underground. A week ago, I put two and two together, connected the dots, or whatever you want to call it. That’s when I started my bits of vandalism, to see how much attention you were paying to things. When nothing seemed to be happening, I scaled it up until I got what I was looking for: help.

“So the randomness was intentional?”

Well, that and curiosity.

Jesse felt a cold spot growing in the pit of his stomach. “This guy. Did he use his real name or a nickname?”

All the people I talk to on-line use a nickname. I know most of their real first names, but not all of them.

“What was his nickname? I talk to a few mutants on-line, so I might know him.”

Not that it really matters, but Synergy was what he went by.

Brennan looked at Jesse. “Jess, isn’t that the name you use?”

“Yeah, that’s me.” He narrowed his eyes. “Yours wouldn’t happen to be Digi_angel would it?”

Armaita sat back, eyes widening in surprise. You’re Synergy? How bizarre. We were talking about meeting and look what happened. She shook her head. Well, now you’ve met me. Now you know who and what I am.

Jesse gave her a half smile. “Just so long as you don’t have a problem with my massing and phasing, we’re cool. I’m just glad to meet you.” He paused. “So the other day when you said there was someone at your door…”

That was one of the scientists that my father hired coming in to check on me. I feel a little guilty for deceiving you like this, but it had to be done. When you’ve been incarcerated for six months, you learn to not trust people.

“How did you gain access to Sanctuary like that?” Shalimar asked, her feline curiosity getting the better of her.

I piggybacked on Proxy Blue’s signal. I figured that this Sanctuary of yours would have some pretty sophisticated computers. I can’t really explain what I did as I’m not really familiar with the correct terms, but I watched through Proxy Blue until I saw something that might be Sanctuary. When Adam walked past the screen, I recognized him from pictures I’d seen. My friend Swift Fox told me that Adam was Mutant X’s leader, but couldn’t tell me how to get a hold of you or I would have done it that way instead. Anyways, it was exhausting, sifting through all that stuff just to find you guys. Once you were found, I had to rest for a little. I traced my way back and, well, you saw the rest.

“Would you tell me how you mimicked Proxy Blue like that?” Adam asked.

Armaita smiled secretively. That’s one thing I’m going to keep to myself. It might come in handy in the future.

“If I were to ask you to do that for us, would you sometime?”

It would depend on how things are with me and what you need it for, but I don’t see any reason why not. I do owe you people a lot.

Shalimar waved dismissively. “What’s debt between friends? We’re just glad that you’re safe.”

She yawned, stretching her arms. I don’t know about you, but I could sleep for a couple years.

“Could you sleep at all in that thing?” Emma asked her.

Not what would normally be defined as sleep, no.

“So you haven’t slept in six months?” Emma winced. “That’s gotta suck!”

Now imagine not being able to move for the same time frame. Seeing them all blanch, she nodded. After being in there for a week, I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and read a good book. When I came across a free telecyber, it went away as she would read to me. I felt like a little girl, but it was nice. One can only talk to people so much.

“We’ll be back at Sanctuary in a few minutes,” Adam said to Armaita. “When we get there, you can have something to eat and get some sleep.”

Shalimar leaned forward, smiling as Armaita’s stomach grumbled at the thought of food. “In the morning, Emma and I will take you shopping. While Jesse’s clothes look good on you, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind some things of your own.”

But I don’t have any money.

“Don’t worry about that,” said Adam. “If you really feel badly about it, just help me and Jesse fix Sanctuary’s computer so that something like what you did can’t happen again. I know you had good intentions, but I’d rather not take the chance that a hostile telecyber could do that same thing.”

That sounds like a fair trade to me. She and Adam shook on it as the Double Helix entered it’s hangar.

“How is she?” Brennan asked Emma as the young psionic joined him and the others in the main room.

Emma sighed and sat down. “She fell asleep a lot faster than I thought was possible.”

“After a meal like that, I’m not surprised,” Jesse said, smiling. “I’ve never seen anyone enjoy a meal like that before.”

“I bet you’ve also never met anyone in her situation before, now, have you?” Emma teased.

“Well, no,” he admitted.

“Poor thing,” Emma continued. “She was asleep before her head hit the pillow. Literally.”

“And here I thought that was just an expression,” Brennan put in.

Adam smiled. “There was a girl in my first biology class that could effectively cat nap. She would fall asleep whenever she wasn’t doing anything and be wide awake the instant anyone woke her up. She could sleep anywhere in any position she could find. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen.”

“So we shouldn’t worry about it?” Shalimar asked.

“She’ll be fine after a long snooze and some more food. Emma, how is she doing emotionally?”

“She seems ok. She’s been a lot more relaxed since she learned that Jesse is one of her chat friends. It gave her something that she knew, something familiar, and I think she needed that more than she thought.”

Jesse shook his head in disbelief. “I’m still having a hard time putting the girl I tease on line and this really cute girl we rescued together as being one and the same.”

“I hear you, Jess,” Brennan admitted. “She’s hot!”

Shalimar punched him in the shoulder. “That’s the last thing she needs after being cooped up for so long.”

“Actually, I’m of the opinion that it might do her good to get back into things,” Adam countered. “She’s a big girl and can likely handle it. At the very least, she knows what she can deal with and what she can’t. If you boys are attracted to her, tell her and let her figure out what she wants to do about it.”

Jesse and Brennan exchanged a look. “You’re sure about this?” Brennan asked. At Adam’s nod, he stood up. “I’ll go talk to her right now,” he said, taking off.

“He seems to be conveniently forgetting that she’s asleep right now,” Jesse said, smirking.

“He also seems to be forgetting that she can’t really speak,” Emma added, watching Brennan leave.

Brennan walked into the room where Armaita was sleeping and sat down on a chair beside the bed. Her short hair was a tangled mess around her head, despite having been brushed before she went to bed, and one arm was flung over her forehead while the other rested lightly on her stomach. She was wearing an old pair of Jesse’s pajama pants and a t-shirt. He had to admit that Jesse’s clothes did look good on her, but he also had to wonder what she would look like in his. He reached forward and touched her arm. Her skin was soft and warm to the touch.

The contact woke her up. She sat up, looking around in confusion. It took her a minute to recognize Brennan. She relaxed a bit.

“There’s something I’d like to talk to you about. It’s kind of important. Do you mind?” She nodded her head, so he took her hands into his. “I know you’ve only just met me and I didn’t even know you existed until recently. In the short period of time I’ve known you, I think I’ve become attracted to you. I don’t know how you feel about it, but if you’ll let me, I’d like to take you out for dinner or a movie. Or both, if you like.”

Armaita stared at him. Did he just completely forget that I can’t talk or is he just conveniently ignoring the fact? “You don’t have to answer right away. I’m sure you want to get back to sleep, so I’ll just get out of your hair. Take your time. I’m patient.” He leaned forward and kissed her affectionately before getting up and leaving a puzzled Armaita behind.

She stared at the door for a long time before lying back down. She tossed and turned but couldn’t get back to sleep. Brennan’s words were massively puzzling to her. She’d heard of the thing people called love at first sight, but personally didn’t believe in it. He had a point, though. They had only just met. The short time period wasn’t really enough for her to form any sort of opinion, either positive or negative, and that little speech wasn’t really helping.

She sighed and stared up at the ceiling for a few more minutes before getting out of bed and heading out to see if anyone was free to talk.

As luck would have it, she crashed right into Jesse when she turned to go around a corner. He knocked her to the ground, falling on top of her. Embarrassed, he got up and pulled her to her feet. She rubbed her head, a confused look on her face.

“Sorry about that,” he apologized. “I really need to watch where I’m going.”

She shook her head, gesturing dismissively.

“Would you like to talk?” he asked. “There’s a computer upstairs that you can use.”

Armaita nodded and Jesse led her upstairs. She looked around with interest. Jesse patiently waited for her to finish staring at things before he guided her over to the computer. He pulled a chair up for her and sat down in front of the computer.

“So, can’t sleep?”

No. I had a rather…unsettling visit from your friend Brennan. She shifted uncomfortably. He’s very…odd.

Jesse laughed. “That’s one way of describing him. I can guess what he had to say.”

Now how would you know that?

“I’m a little embarrassed, but we were talking about you before he got it into his head that you would be open to his attentions.”

She rolled her eyes. So let me get this straight. He barely knows me, decides I’m cute and therefore…

“That’s the idea. I agree with him on one thing though. You are kinda cute. Problem is, I know you too well to think that anything would work between us. I’m happy with just being your friend. The man in me is kicking the brain for saying that, but there you have it. An average guy would ignore his intellect and jump right in.” He smiled. “I’m not an average guy.”

You have no idea what a relief that is.

“Adam is of the opinion that it would be best for you to get right back into life. That’s where Brennan got the idea to talk to you when he did.”

Adam’s wrong, you know. I don’t want to just jump back into things. I want time to ease into it. She examined her long fingers. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with other human beings. I’d really rather not unless I have to.

“I’m a little sad to hear that, but I understand. I think.”

That’s really all I’m asking. For someone to understand, that is. I just want to relax for now and get used to interacting with other people. It’s been a while and I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

“You’re doing just fine. Would you like to use the computer to get a hold of your friends?”

Armaita smiled gratefully. I’d like that, thank you.

Jesse got up and moved aside so that Armaita could get at the computer. “I trust that I don’t need to tell you what to do.”

Even though I have no clue as to what I’m actually doing, no, you don’t. She turned to look at him. Jesse?

“Yeah?”

Thank you. For everything. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be stuck in that tube.

He nodded. “You’re welcome.” He bent down and planted a quick, brotherly kiss on her forehead. “If you need anything, just let us know.”

She smiled, nodded, and turned her attention back to the computer screen.

A week after Mutant X rescued Armaita from Jascom, they took her to a secluded spot on the edge of town where she was going to meet her friend from the group of new mutants she’d told Jesse about. They weren’t there for very long when a silver Ferrari pulled up. A tall man with short, unruly blond hair climbed out and headed towards them.

“You all must be Mutant X,” he said with a thick Irish accent. “I’m Luke O’Connell.”

Adam shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

Shalimar narrowed her eyes. “You’re a Feral, aren’t you?”

He nodded. “I’m a fox, to be precise.”

Emma eyed him appraisingly. “How…interesting.”

“Why do I always get that kind of reaction when I say that?” he groaned. “We’d best be off. Bear gets ornery when we’re late getting back, and I promised that I wouldn’t be gone long.”

“Bear? Another Feral?” Jesse asked.

“Yes.” Luke rolled his eyes. “I’ve never met anyone more suited to her feral nature than Bear.” He looked at Armaita. “My lady, your chariot awaits,” he said with a bow.

She cuffed him on the head lightly as she walked past, her shoulders shaking. If she’d been capable of making sound, she would have been giggling. Luke lingered a moment longer. “Thank you for rescuing her. The others will be very glad to see her. We’ve been trying to get her out of there, but hadn’t been able to figure out how. I guess it’s handy to have an intangible around. Until we meet again, stay well.” He put Armaita’s bags into the trunk and got into the car, driving off.

They stood there, watching the car vanish from sight. “Well,” Emma said. “That was interesting.”

“She was really nice for someone incapable of speech,” Shalimar added.

“Armaita never did give me an answer though,” Brennan mused. “I didn’t see a whole lot of her in the last week. You two took her shopping so much that she was hardly around.”

Emma and Shalimar exchanged a secretive smile before sauntering back onto the Helix, leaving a puzzled Brennan behind. Jesse, who knew what was going on, opted to not fill his friend in on the secret. After the talk he’d had with her, he figured that it would be best to keep her away from Brennan. He’d enlisted the help of the two women. They’d planned on taking her out places anyways; this just gave them a reason to do more of it. Adam looked just as puzzled as the three of them got on board the Helix and headed back to Sanctuary.