Related article: Date: Sun, 01 Jul 2001 01:50:27 -0400 From: joanbanksivillage.com Subject: TG: Absolute Power 3 & Absolute Power 4Absolute Power 3 - The Quest By Joan BanksThe Peach Street Diner was active with healthy chaos. The truckers were sitting at the bar and the locals kept to the booths and tables, all eating their dinners. There was a good relationship between these people who spent their lives on the road and the townspeople. The diner didn't hurt much either. The friendly faces and good food led many of them to alter their schedules enough to stop in Langley for a meal. Altogether it was a good situation, if everyone behaved.The cute little redhead was the newest draw for the diner. Sarah was a little tentative at first, but she was slowly coming out of her shell. The other waitresses were a little surprised when she didn't know how do deal with the innocent flirting that was part of the job (any girl that pretty had to be beating them off with a stick!). But she was getting the hang of it. She was no longer getting inappropriately hostile at the friendly comments. So hostile, in fact, that many of the truckers couldn't contain themselves. They were dropping forks and spilling their drinks all over the tables at an Dark Portal Cp Bbs epidemic rate. When the weird accidents stopped, the truckers really got into helping her with this shyness; she became their pet project."Hey Sarah! Come sit on my lap!" one particularly burly fellow called out."Why Red? Your lap cold?""Yeah baby. Come warm it up for me." He patted his lap lasciviously. She walked to the counter and picked up the two coffee pots."You want decaf or regular, Red?" she held the pots over the counter, poising them to pour on his lap. "I'd recommend the decaf, honey. You don't need any more excitement down there. In fact, I'd recommend the ice water."The bar of truckers really got into that, ribbing Red for the verbal pummeling he just took. It was all in good-natured fun. The other waitresses were proud of Sarah for the way she deflected the situation. The laughing stopped Dark Portal Cp Bbs when a loud crash came from the end of the counter as the dirty dish bin was thrown to the floor."I'm gonna kill you!" one burly man in tattered clothes screamed as he threw the trucker into the pinball machine, smashing it. Lou, the owner, came out and tried to diffuse the situation. Both turned on Lou and he was soon behind the counter, nursing his jaw. Sarah was tending to Lou as the fight raged on. After making sure Lou was unhurt, Sarah stood and looked as if she might enter the fray herself. But the fight was over.A local man, a doctor, was tending to the man in tattered clothes. Somebody called an ambulance and people started trying to finish their meals as fast as possible. The trucker returned to his place at the counter and continued eating as if nothing had happened. After sorting out the other customers while Lou cleaned the floor, Sarah went up to him."You okay?" she asked."Fine. Not a scratch on me. This'll cover the check." He handed her a ten, leaving fifty cents for a tip."What was it all about, anyway?""I'm screwing his old lady. I know some people and got him arrested as a wife beater.""Is he?""Nah, he couldn't hurt a fly. Anyway his old lady and me got all his money, his income, and his kids. Now he's going to jail for not paying child support. Ain't that rich? He can't pay me because I already get all his money!" He snorted obnoxiously. Sarah cupped her hand over her face a said something under her breath. Instantly bruises appeared on his face, his nose began gushing blood, and he started spitting out teeth. Sarah laughed."It'f noth funny." He tried to yell while holding his nose and without teeth. Also hearing what the man had said, Lou sent the man away, telling him where the local hospital was but not offering him Dark Portal Cp Bbs any help."Sarah, your Aunt's here!" Mindi, one of the waitresses yelled across the room from the door."Thanks Min. I'll be right there. Lou, I gotta go." She said to her boss."Don't worry about me. Dark Portal Cp Bbs I'll just stay and clean up....this." he looked disgustedly at the counter."Thanks, you're great! Bye everyone!" The restaurant all acknowledged her departure.Getting in the car, she greeted her 'Aunt'. Sarah had made her apparent age to be around nineteen while Debby maintained her regular age (early thirties was all anyone could get out of her). Debby now sported dark brunette hair (from a bottle, not from magic). It was Debby's idea to make Sarah so young. For one thing, no one would suspect her of her powers and for another; she had a lot to learn about being a woman. That was the subject of their current fight."Can't I just skip it?" Sarah whined."I saw you swaggering again today." Debby noted."I was not! I don't swagger!""You were walking on your lunch break. I saw you at the park and you were most definitely swaggering. And the answer is NO! You cannot skip it again. Dark Portal Cp Bbs You've skipped it every time and I think that is part of the problem." Debby pulled the car into the lot at the drug store. Sarah crossed her arms and pouted. Debby laughed a little."You do the pouty little girl act really well." She continued "But you have a lot to learn about being a woman. Girls do not swagger. No matter what super powers they have, they just don't. Now get out of this car and GO!"Sarah continued pouting as she slammed the car door and went into the pharmacy. She came back a few minutes later with a small bag."Let's see what you got." Debby asked for the bag. Sarah gave it to her. Examining the contents she noted that Sarah had purchased both pads and tampons."Very good. I'll show you how to use them when we get home."***** Stan stood in his office staring at the wall as if it were a person. The screen in front of him was blank but the microphones were still live. It was a necessary feature of the video conferencing and for the directional microphones. Imagining he was just talking through a window was the only way he could do this without laughing. I'll bet he's watching me, he thought, and all I can think of is that my fly is probably down."The operations center was completed today, sir. I'm sure it would be a big morale boost for the troops if you came by and took a look.""Their exorbitant paychecks should be all the morale boost they need. How is the child?" Casper Collins, 91-year-old multi-billionaire and Stan's employer asked."She's very healthy sir.""Of course she is, you dolt! Has she shown any paranormal activity yet?" His annoyance was carried very well through the speaker. The child was an invader to his 'secure' compound. She had foiled foolproof defenses and disposed of his son, Robert. Of course she wasn't a small child then, she was a young woman with incredible strength and strange abilities. She was a 'whisperer', someone with the ability to cure any ailment. When she inadvertently rejuvenated herself to an apparent five-year-old girl, she apparently lost those abilities."No, Mr. Collins, she's a little quiet but a perfectly normal little girl otherwise.""Fine, fine. You WILL let me know if anything unusual occurs?" It was not a question."Of course sir. I was wondering....""You always change the subject, Stan. It is one of your skills. You wish to know why we have just built a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art data collection center? Very simple. The events that led you to caring for that young girl have also taught us a very interesting lesson. There are more whisperers out there.""I don't follow, sir.""Think about it. Larry Jacobs....." Stan bristled at the name "...was the first public whisperer. Now this young woman shows up with very similar powers, until she....What do you call her anyway?"Sarah Jean" Stan replied. He took the name Sarah from the surveillance tapes, Jean in honor of his dead son, Jimmy."Sarah Jean, fine. Why, the whole country is probably full of these people. And you, Stanley, will find one of them for me.""So I will use this facility to....""To collect the information that will locate them, of course." The old man interrupted, still irritated. "Use your imagination, think of ways to determine where unusual healing occurs. This facility can collect ANY information if you'll just use it. I expect a plan by tomorrow afternoon, 4PM." The speaker clicked."Do the impossible by tomorrow!" Stan mocked the old man. He nearly wet himself when the speaker chimed in again."Make that 3PM, I have a massage at 4. Walk carefully, my boy." The speaker clicked again. Stan grabbed his notepad and went to gather his team leaders for an all night brainstorm session.***** Sarah and Debby walked into the ICU of the small hospital like they belonged. It was now a weekly pilgrimage for them to make. They brought flowers and food for the nursing staff and they asked to be allowed the attempt to cheer up the patients. Since there were no complaints in the two weeks prior, they were allowed to enter."This is hard." Sarah said as they walked. They passed an older woman, walking to her husbands' room. "Hi, Mrs. Monroe is he doing better today?""He's stronger every day, Sarah. Thank you for asking." The woman turned to Debby "You have a fine niece here. She has to meet my Grandson.""Alright, Mrs. Monroe. See you next time." Sarah pulled Debby away just as it looked as if she would agree to the meeting."What?" Debby laughed. "I'm sure her Grandson is a fine young man.""Don't mess with me today, 'Aunt Debby'." Sarah said through gritted teeth "I'm bleeding and I feel like I could bite your head clean off." Debby smiled and pat her hand knowingly."Like I was saying," Sarah continued, "it is so hard not to cure everyone. Sometimes I just want to say, fuck it, and cure the whole place. But...""But then we'll be spotted in about five minutes. This was is best, hon. Take care of the critical ones and try to help the others a bit. Slow and steady wins the race."They made rounds of the ICU and the children's ward. Sarah always liked the children's ward. They played with her and made her feel very welcome. Curing them was always a treat, but she did do a little too much every time.Rounds complete, they drove to the next part of the weekly ritual, the library. Debby checked their email while Sarah studied more medical text. The more knowledgeable she got, the more she would be able to cure.After printing out the email and sending the replies through a remailing service, Debby started the research of what Sarah called 'The Quest'. Silly name for it, she thought, something a guy would come up with. She looked at her friend; there was no mistaking her for a guy at all. She had the mind of a man but the body of a young sexpot. No matter what he did, every transformation was only a variation of the young Sarah. She could see her in everything that her friend tried to become.'The Quest' was simply this: "Figure out why Sarah cannot change back to Larry anymore."It was that simple. Sarah had a good idea too. Find the genie (she hated the word Djinn for some reason) and ask. No wishes, just find out why. She looked at her friend once again, she acted much more happy in this form. It was hard to see the 'Larry' that was still in her. She was Sarah.*****The Ops Center was in full combat mode. Every desk was filled, every console manned. Each and every person in this room was dedicated to finding medical anomalies and predicting their next outbreak.Stan was drinking it in.The Large Screen Displays at the front of the room were constantly shifting. Different demographics were constantly displayed as the team compiled it. Every screen had one thing in common, a map of the United States. Overlaid on each was a graphic depiction of whatever data was being displayed: Life expectancy, child mortality, Hospital capacity, hospital cure rate, unexplained anomalies."Hold that one!" Stan told the tech next to him."Which one?""Go back, back, That one! Unexplained anomalies. Keep that one up at all times.""Yes sir."Unexplained anomalies looked different that the other charts. Whereas the others almost looked like temperature bands of statistical information, this one was a million tiny dots. Every unexplained healing or odd event was plotted on this map. There were concentrations near the big cities, especially San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles; there were hundreds that were spread throughout the country."Can you normalize that to population?" He asked. The screen shifted again. This time the million points reduced to fifty or so."Adjust the threshold." The dots at the big cities disappeared and three remained."Where are those?""Gulf Breeze, Florida. Kansas City, Kansas, and Langley, Wyoming."What are the events?""Gulf Breeze has had 50 UFO sightings in the last six months.....""Ignore that one.""Kansas City has had three unexplained cancer remissions in the last two weeks and a two headed pig was born. It lived for three days.....""And Langley?""Death rate has cut dramatically in the last month. Twelve people with long term injuries are no longer collecting disability. Children's wards are at twenty percent capacity.""That's it! Get the mobile team together, we leave tonight for Langley!"***** "Friends, it is so simple. Believe and you will be healed!" The preacher gesticulated wildly as his sermon continued.Perfectly orchestrated choir music punctuated the ceremony. Theatrical smoke and lighting perfectly accented the sermon. Altogether it was a very professional show.Sitting in nearly the last Dark Portal Cp Bbs row, Sarah, Debby and a friend watched impassively. Sarah and Debby were impassive at least. Their friend was starting to get into the spirit of things."Do you believe?" the preacher yelled."We believe!" the congregation screamed in unison."Then come forward and be healed!" He made a grand 'come here' gesture. People pressed their way through the crowd and walked up to the railing in the front of the tent. A team of the Preacher's helpers talked with people and prayed with people, preparing them for their meeting with the Preacher.Sarah leaned over to Debby to whisper."Now we...." the entire room was silent. They both looked up. The Preacher stood in the aisle, his hand raised in a gesture for silence. Slowly a teenage boy, struggling with crutches, passed them and made his way towards the Preacher."Who is that?" Debby asked Sue, their friend. Sue shrugged."Son, what is your name?" the Preacher asked from a distance."Tommy..." the teenager responded."Well Tommy. Do you believe in the healing power of the LORD?" the Preacher boomed."Yes sir!""Then say it!""I believe!" his pubescent voiced screeched. Almost instantly the Preacher was next to them, standing with the boy. He grabbed the crutches and, with a little struggle, took them from the boy and threw them to the ground. The boy grabbed the Preacher's suit."Then WALK!" The older man detached the boy's grip from his jacket and took a step back. The boy teetered for a moment but did not fall down."I said WALK!!" the Preacher's voice (amplified somehow was Debby's guess) boomed through the tent. The boy teetered for a moment more and then took a tentative step...another....and another. The Preacher stepped backwards with each step the boy took, maintaining a steady distance between them.Soon the young man was walking steadily up to the stage. The preacher raised the boy's hand as if he had just won a prizefight. The music started again, joyous and full of praise."It's a miracle!" someone shouted."Praise God!"Someone led the boy away from the stage and out the back of the tent and the Preacher started making the rounds of the railing. He placed his hand on each one and ordered them to be healed. Some cried in joy; others jerked on the ground convulsively.Sue started naming each person that was at the railing. She knew most of them and they each had a fairly well known problem. Most of them were claiming to be healed. Someone wheeled an older lady into the tent. Again, Sue did not know who this person was. The woman looked to be in bad shape, dark glasses denoting her blind status, hearing aid, and the obvious fact that she couldn't go anywhere without the wheelchair.The music did not stop this time but the focus was on the Preacher. Sarah started whispering, healing all the obvious things wrong with the woman. By the time the Preacher walked up to her, the woman had already been cured of deafness, blindness and the problems with her legs.The old woman's demeanor did not change one bit. She acted old and frail and blind as a bat. Sarah smirked, this was all a set up. An elaborate ruse to trick people into believing they had been cured.There was more praising as the woman followed each of the Preachers' orders and, only then, claiming the Preacher had healed her. More and more people filed to the front to be healed.The evening went on. Debby counted at least four times when they passed the plate. Each time it was overflowing with cash.Talking with many of the people afterward, Sarah's skepticism toned down a bit. Some of the people had very real ailments before the meeting, only to be completely cured now.Whereas they had thought the whole thing was a scam before, now they weren't so sure. It was worth further investigation. The crowd was deep around the Preachers' trailer and they both knew that there was no way they were going to get to talk to him soon. They stayed and spoke with the crowds. Mrs. Monroe was there. When Dark Portal Cp Bbs she started towards them with a young man in tow, they decided to escape a while.Later that evening, the compound was quiet. Debby and Sarah made their way in the dark to the trailer of the Preacher. Sarah pulled Debby into the shadows just as they were about to knock on the door.Three men in dark clothes left the trailer. They looked guilty. As they stepped though a beam of moonlight Debby gave out a gasp. She sat on the ground and curled her legs into a fetal position."What is it?" Sarah whispered."That man. I know him." She hissed back. The men were well out of hearing range now. They got into a dark minivan and drove away."Where do you know him from?""He's the one, Stan. The one who kept me in that room. He...he....""Hush, you're not in that room now." Sarah soothed her friend by holding her head to her breast (A breast can be a handy thing to have, after all). Debby had been through a devastating ordeal while being held prisoner by Casper Collins. All of Sarah's powers could not affect Debby's emotional state. All she could do was comfort her."We need to go in there." Sarah motioned to the trailer. "If you want to wait here....""No! Don't leave me.""Okay. But we have to go now." Sarah helped her friend to her feet. Debby steeled herself for what they might find. Anything was possible with those people.Sarah opened the door. The trailer was dark. Flipping the switch, Sarah almost wished she hadn't. The Preacher lay on the table, eyes closed and mouth open. He looked dead. Debby wanted to scream and retch at the same time but instead, went into nurse mode.Checking him for obvious injuries she prepared to administer CPR."What happened to him?" Sarah asked."I don't know. He's warm but barely breathing.""I need to know!" Sarah yelled at her friend "Guess!""Looks like drug overdose!" Debby looked around for something to collect some water in. She filled a glass and threw it on the man's forehead (anything to wake him up). Sarah whispered.The Preacher sputtered and sat up, wide-awake and sober."I tell you. I can't help you!" he started in on the women."We're here to help you." Debby said, helping the man to his feet."What happened?" Sarah asked."Little girl. That is for the police and me to discuss. You are too young to understand these things.""I'm older than I look.""The police can't help you with those men. We can." Debby jumped into the conversation. "We've dealt with them before.""Sure you have." He snorted "Those guys are heavy duty.""How do you think you got sober so fast?" Sarah asked and grabbed his hand. Turning it over there was a deep gash. It wasn't bleeding much but the Preacher almost gagged and his face turned white."Cut. Shock." Sarah said. The cut healed over instantly and the blood returned to his head. He sat back down."So it was YOU." He said, Sarah getting his whole attention now."Yes. I caught onto your little scam tonight.""Scam? What scam?" he looked shocked and offended "Oh, you mean the 'ringers'? A necessary part of the process Miss....""Call me Sarah.""You are a remarkable young woman Miss Sarah. The healing was real..." he said, Sarah gave him a skeptical gaze "It IS real. All it takes is faith and the power of God.""The power of God?" Debby asked."Surely you've read the Bible, Miss..." he fished for a name from Debby."Debby. You were saying?""The power of God is always there. It's the faith that's the hard part. We set up a couple visible 'ringers', people who can be cured miraculously, and it helps everybody else. We had maybe four or five actual healings tonight. Not including Mrs. Winter's cataracts suddenly clearing up. Shocked the daylights out of her, I can tell you." He laughed "But she's a consummate actor, thorough professional. Nobody noticed a thing. She's a real pro, that one. Can I offer you ladies a drink? Miss you say you are older than you look. I know it is rude but may I ask how much?""I'm 35." Sarah smiled "But I carry it well.""I would say you do. Scotch?" Both women nodded. When the drinks were passed out they sat on the couch and continued the conversation."Reverend, what did they want?""Call me Phil, please?" he took a drink "Those monsters? They wanted me to heal their boss. I asked them about his faith. They couldn't answer me. I told them there has to be faith or there can be no healing. Dark Portal Cp Bbs I quoted scripture and everything. They didn't believe me.""They have a tendency not to believe what they are told." Debby said."It sounds like you're talking from experience, Debby. Since they didn't get the answers they wanted, they gave me a little shot." He held up his forearm."Truth serum?" Sarah asked."I can only assume." He said. "I don't remember much after the shot. They next thing I knew, you were throwing water on Dark Portal Cp Bbs my face.""Sorry about that." Debby blushed a little."I'm dry now." Phil laughed "Now, down to business. I have a place for you two here. Think about it. You could do a lot of good? The pay is alright, food is good, and we always keep moving?""I don't think so." Debby said, glancing at Sarah for acknowledgement "We have our own agenda right now."They talked for several hours, filling in the Preacher on most of their story."I understand." Phil did not seem surprised "But I am disappointed. Our missions are going along parallel paths." He thought for a moment then added "I don't want you to go out on some vendetta against these men, understand? What happened here is between them and me. You hear?"Both women nodded. Debby gave him the drwhisperhotmail.com address and told him to write if he needed their help. They left the trailer in the predawn hours and made their way home.***** The next day was sad for Debby and Sarah. With nothing to help them get any closer to the secret of Sarah's stuck transformation, they knew they had to hit the road."I think we should make one more pass through the ICU." Sarah said to Debby as they walked to the diner. "Collins has already looked here. It might drive Dark Portal Cp Bbs him nuts.....okay more nuts than he already is."Debby laughed and agreed."It should be the last thing we do as we leave town, just in case." The entire crew from the diner was waiting at the door. Lou held the door for them as they went inside.The goodbyes were tearful, especially with Mindi, who Sarah was feeling particularly close to. Lou paid the final check to her, in cash, and provided them with a lunch for the road. They were all gathered around the counter, promising to keep in touch when someone started pounding on the latched front door."We're closed." Lou yelled at the door "Another fifteen minutes."The young man kept pounding on the door, it was apparent he wasn't there for food. Finally Lou opened the door and let him speak. He was breathless for a moment."I'm Bobby Stone, from the Mission....you know, the tent meetings.""Yeah?" Lou said."The Preacher.....Reverend Petrie.....he's missing." Debby's heart stopped in her chest when she realized where he must be. He Dark Portal Cp Bbs was fast on his way to Casper Collins.****** Most of the town of Langley was at the town square within half an hour. Many people lived miles distant and would not be seen for quite some time."We need to divide up and search the entire area." Bill, a town councilman, had taken charge. "We'll use the diner as a base of operations. Now we don't know where he might be or what might have happened." There were sobs from one of the members of his choir. "And we should stay at least in pairs. There may some wild animal...." more sobs "out there and we don't want anyone to get hurt."Debby did not mention the specifics of the Reverend's encounter last night. Too many questions would be asked."I saw this suspicious looking black van driving around...." Debby said, her voice fading out as she realized how paranoid she sounded."Okay, let's pair off. Let .... Debby, is it? Debby know who you are teamed with. She'll be the point person at the diner.""But...." Sarah protested "She's my partner for this.""Young lady, I have serious reservations about letting a little thing like you out on this at all." He laughed. "But if you insist, we'll team you up with....." he searched the crowd "Ted? How 'bout you?"Sarah looked around where the councilman was speaking. A tall man in jeans and a flannel shirt spoke up."Sure, she'll be just fine with me." He said. She started shaking her head, how would she do this stealthily with a stranger tagging along?"C'mon. I won't bite." He whispered at her "I'll even bring a chaperone."A little boy, around age 4, bumbled his way up to Ted."Daddy, Daddy!" he yelled. Ted scooped him up and held him with one arm."Corey, this is....""Sarah." She replied."This is Sarah. She's gonna hang with us guys for a while." Corey held out his hand in a very adult gesture. She shook it."Pleased to meet you, Corey.""You're real pretty." He said, matter-of-factly "Isn't she Daddy?"Ted turned red."What have I told you about flirting, young man?" he scolded, jokingly."And you are very handsome, Corey. Thank you.""You're getting real good at it." Ted whispered into Corey's ear. Corey grinned."My truck's down the street." He gestured to Sarah "I've got a few ideas."Sarah followed behind."I'll bet you have." She said under her breath. She followed.There was no opportunity for Ted to act anything other than the perfect gentleman. Corey's car seat sat between them in the cab of the pickup, a perfect chaperone. Corey was infatuated with Sarah; he spoke only to her for the entire trip. Sarah was quickly won over by the small child and completed doted on his every wish. Ted just grinned."Miss Potter has been awful sick for quite a while." Ted explained "The Preacher may have heard about her and gone out to call on her.""That sounds reasonable." Sarah replied. Reasonable but wrong, she thought, he's in a van speeding away and I'm the only one who can save him."She lives out on Route 20. It'll take us about 40 minutes to get there." He explained.Forty minutes seemed like a lifetime to Sarah. She started calculating how far away the van would be. Say two hours, they'll be just at the speed limit so they won't get pulled over. They are at least 140 miles away. At my fastest I can ru...."Know what?" Corey interrupted her thought."What?" she was a little irritated. The word came out just a little too harshly. His eyes teared up and he crossed his hands in front of his chest."I'm sorry, Corey, I'm just a little grumpy. Now what?""No!" the pout continued."Corey! You be nice to the pretty lady." He tickled the child under the arm. The pout lasted about 2 seconds into the tickle."Know what?" he said, bright again."What?""Chicken butt." He laughed uproariously. This, apparently, was the epitome of humor. The laugh was contagious and soon they were all at least chuckling.Wait a minute, Sarah thought, he called me pretty! She had been called pretty before, but this time she felt a little nicer inside because of it.The rest of the ride was spent keeping Corey entertained. Sarah kept trying to formulate a plan to rescue the Preacher but she kept getting distracted."This is it." Ted stopped in the driveway. "It looks like their home.""They?" Sarah asked."Aunt Freddy!" Corey unbuckled his seat and started crawling out over Sarah."Hold it there, partner!" she held the squirming child back. The kid was good, she thought, he could be a pro wrestler. Corey got free and started running towards the house."I guess we better get him." Ted pushed his way out of the truck and started walking to the house. "Come on." He disappeared into the house. She rushed to catch up.A woman in a housecoat met her at the screen door."I'm Sheila. I take it you came with them?""Guilty. I'm Sarah." They shook hands and Sheila led her inside. Corey was bouncing on the lap of a large woman in the living room. Ted was sniffing pies in the kitchen."Make yourself at home." Sheila smiled. "Got room for some supper?""Sure, Mom. Sure smells good. How about it Sarah?""Your son is a very naughty boy." Sarah said, scolding Ted with her eyes "We really have to keep looking...""It'll take us an hour to get back to town. May as well have some food before we head back.""You don't want to hurt my feelings, do you hon?" she asked. Corey voted with a big hug around Sheila's legs."Just a quick bite." Sarah gave in "We really have to look for Reverend Petrie. Phil could be in danger.""Phil?" Ted asked."Phil, Reverend Petrie. You know, the guy were searching for?""I didn't realize you were on a first name basis with him." Ted bristled."We talked for a while." Sarah replied. Sheila started setting the table."There's a hundred people looking for him. They'll probably have him by the time we get back.""Can you help me set the table?" Sheila asked without looking. Sarah knew she upset her somehow, but didn't know why. "Ted why don't you go in and say hello to Freddy?""Sure." Ted left, knowing he had been dismissed."In my day a young girl didn't call an older gentleman by his first name. It's disrespectful." Both of them were putting the dishes in their place."I'm sorry. I didn't mean disrespect.""Well, that's settled then. Now about Freddy....""Telling stories Momma?" the large woman from the living room was standing in the doorway."I'm Sarah." She held out her hand."Freddy." Her hands were large and her voice had a strange quality. Sarah tried not to stare but she thought she saw an Adams' apple."Ted and Corey are washing up." Freddy said, grabbing plates of food and placing them on the table. The rest of the table setting continued in silence.The meal was wonderful, good home cooking eaten with a family."So, Ted, why did you think the reverend would Dark Portal Cp Bbs be out here?" Sarah asked."Well Mom...." Ted replied. His mother interrupted him."Corey, honey. Why don't you go watch some TV?". Dutifully, the four year old left the table and plodded into the living room."I've got cancer." Sheila said. "We don't like to talk about it in front of Corey.""I'm so sorry." Sarah said, Dark Portal Cp Bbs "May I ask what kind?" Sheila glared at Ted, who looked away as if not in the conversation at all."Breast cancer. Inoperable." She slapped Freddy on the back of the head. "Beats the tar out of me why you would want to expose yourself to that.""Momma.""I'm lost here." Sarah replied."You're so kind not to say anything." Freddy broke in "I'm a pre-operative transsexual. I'm trying to live my life as the woman I know I am.""Darn foolish to purposefully grow breasts when you KNOW it runs in the family." Sheila said."Momma supports my decision. She just doesn't like the risks.""You could have at least had some kids before going through all this.""I know, Momma. But would it really be fair to put a woman through being married to....this?""Well, if you cut your hair and wore some.....""Just stop! It's not going to happen! I want kids too. But I just don't have that opportunity anymore." The argument went on for several minutes. It stopped abruptly when the TV was turned to a higher volume to drown out the fight."We have to keep looking for the Reverend." Ted finally said. He was looking for an excuse to leave the awkwardness of the situation."Corey can spend the night here." Shelia said, "He loves staying over with Grandma. You two scoot! Go find this lost man."Ted went to tell Corey that he was staying over. He really wanted to spend time with Sarah, but he finally relented. Sarah helped Sheila and Freddy clean the table while Ted was out of the room. Sarah whispered."Did you say something?" Freddy asked."I was just mumbling. Sorry, I do that sometimes.""Oh." Freddy replied. She was unaware of the changes that would be happening in both her and her mother. ***** One of the townswomen relived Debby on her base of operations duty. She got a sandwich from the diner and decided to walk a bit. There was a baseball field at the edge of town and a small picnic area adjacent to that. She sat and started to eat her sandwich.Someone was walking down the road, carrying a can. It was obviously a man, tall and with dark hair. She put her sandwich down and started towards him."Phil!" she called and waved as he approached "Where have you been?"It wasn't Phil. Fear gripped her heart when she realized whom she had been yelling at.It was Stan.She started walking away, quickly. Running would just goad him into something. So far he hadn't recognized her. She was nearly back to the picnic bench when he was right behind her. She started running.He caught her quickly."What's wrong? I'm not going to hurt you." He said. "YOU!""I have a gun in my pocket. I don't want to have to use it, but I will." She bluffed with a hand in her pocket.Stan knew that after what he had done to her, no one had more motivation to kill him. He let her go."Sit." She ordered. He complied sitting across the table from her."I should kill you now." She said, malice in her voice "But I need to know some things.""Shoot. I.....I mean go ahead. What are your questions?""Where is Reverend Petrie?" she asked."Beats me. At his trailer? Is he missing?""Don't play dumb with me. I know what you did to him last night."Stan looked embarrassed."He should be fine by now. We didn't do anything permanently harmful to him.""Why should I believe you?""Would I be walking to the town I kidnapped someone from? You can check all the vehicles if you like.""Vehicles? More than one?""A souped up bus and two vans. I ran out of gas or I would be there, getting ready to leave. The Reverend was a dead end. It was psychosomatic healing at best. Most of his show was an act, fake." He was starting to doubt the presence of the gun. She started finishing her sandwich with one hand. At his piteous look, she handed him a piece of it."More than what you did for me." She said "More than you deserve.""I know, but I thought you were....""What? The whisperer? Don't you think I would have healed myself?""That's what I said. Anyway it was your friend who was the whisperer, right? She was at least one of them. Until she youthened herself, anyway."Sarah smiled a secret smile. Apparently the ruse had worked and they thought that Sarah was captured."Do you have her locked in that room, too?""Nah, she's living with the wife and me. Don't give me that look! We're raising her as our own.""That's a relief. Stan, can I ask you a question?""You have the gun.""Why are you doing this? You don't seem to be a bad guy. What turns a guy like you into a kidnapper and an interrogator? And what you did to that dog and that young woman?" She steamed up more as she remembered each incident.When Stan captured Debby, a dog and a young woman were exposed to poison gas in an effort to get her to show her powers. At that time Casper Collins believed that Debby was the mysterious 'Whisperer'. Stan was starting to doubt that Debby was the one they were looking for at that time and it was actually Robert, Casper's son that did the actual gassing. Stan did not even know it had happened until weeks later.Only the heroic rescue by Sarah had saved the young woman and freed Debby from Casper's grasp."I had nothing to do with that." Stan said. "My beef is with the first Whisperer guy. Larry Jacobs.""Really?""We were in the hospital, my son Jimmy was dying. He didn't have the guts to show his face and do what he shoulda done. Jimmy died right before every single child on the floor was 'Miraculously Healed'.""I'm sorry." Debby said."Casper heard my story and made me this great offer. I find him a 'whisperer' and he sets me up for life. Every time I think about that Jacobs guy I just get so MAD!" he pounded the table."You know, just because he didn't heal your son doesn't mean he didn't want to." Debby told him "I don't think they're omniscient."They sat quietly for a minute. Stan then stood up, picked up the gas can and started to walk away."Hey!" Debby yelled at him "Forget something?" She wiggled her finger in her pocket."Debby, you don't have a gun and more than I do. Listen, I'm sorry for what we did to you. I don't have the Reverend but I hope you find him. Now I'm going to go get some gas and get out of this little dustbowl of a town." He continued walking."You know," he said from a distance "If I really was all bad I'd catch you again so you wouldn't talk. Have a good life, Debby." He walked into town, leaving Debby to think.***** Sarah and Ted talked very little on the way back into town. Sarah felt tricked into the dinner. What was Ted's motivation? Why would he drag me out there for nothing? She realized then that it wasn't for nothing. Ted's mother is now free of cancer and Freddy? She smiled. Freddy would have a little surprise by morning; she had invoked a slow change in Freddy that would make him a beautiful complete woman by morning. The last time she delayed a transition was with the prisoners all those months ago. At least it was a happy thing this time. The delay would give her time to get away."Your family was nice." She said."Real winners, eh?" he snorted "All they do is fight since Mom got diagnosed. Don't get me wrong, Freddy is great, she's been taking care of Mom for months now. She gave up her job and a lot of her plans. She was supposed to have the final surgery six months ago, but it got put off.""I'm sure everything will work out in the end." She tried to say without smugness "Stop!"He slammed on the brakes at the command."What? Did I hit something?" he asked, searching the road."That van. It looks just like the one from last night.""Last night?""Debby and I visited the Reverend last night. He said that the people that got into this dark van had threatened to take him away." She lied, still not wanting to tell the complete truth. "I'll bet they've kidnapped him!""Okay, I'll check it out. You wait here.""But....""No argument. I don't want you getting hurt. Now if you don't stay here, we aren't checking this out, understand?""Yes." She replied as a small, chastised child would. Ted got out and started toward the pair of vehicles. Not knowing what to do without being detected, Sarah increased Teds' strength, speed, and Dark Portal Cp Bbs reaction time. He approached the bus. The bus was so dark that it seemed to be absorbing light. The windows were all tinted or blacked out, she couldn't be sure which. Ted knocked."Yes?" a man in dark glasses poked his head out the door "I'm sorry, no the Judd's aren't on this bus. Go away!" Ted pounded again, harder. A small dent appeared in the door."Didn't I just tell you to go away? Now shoo, country boy, before I have to get violent.""I'm looking for Reverend Petrie.""This ain't no church." The man said in a fake drawl. He shut the door again. Ted pounded once again. This time dents were apparent in the door. The door creaked open, getting stuck once before opening all the way."Fine, I tried to be polite." The man stepped off the bus. He stood half a head taller than Ted and looked to be built of muscle. He reached quickly out to grab Ted by the throat.Ted wasn't there. He had deftly avoided the man's attack. Sarah started running towards the bus. Five more men started jumping out the door. Ted started fighting for his life and Sarah started revving up her own responses. Before she got there, two were down and the remaining four surrounded him.A sixth man was slowly working his way off the bus. He held a gun.Sarah launched herself onto the bus like a banshee. Her hand came down on the shooter and broke his arm before he had even seen her. The gun went off as it hit the ground. The shot distracted Ted who looked behind him, in the direction of the bus. The remaining four launched at Ted. He didn't have a chance. Ted was clubbed from behind by a hideously large hunk of wood and fell to the ground, still. They turned to her."Boy's you don't want to do this." She said. They grinned. Because they didn't see her attack of the gunman, they just thought she was a defenseless little girl."You want to play it that way? Fine." She stood her ground."Weak." She said. They instantly dropped their weapons and their arms hung at their sides."Inner ear." Their abilities to balance disappeared and they all fell to the ground."Concussion." She said, and Ted stirred a little."Short term memory. Blind." She said to the remaining men. She made a quick search of the bus.No Reverend. No one at all.Carrying Ted back to the truck, she put him in the passenger seat and buckled him in. As they passed she gave the men some of their strength back and their vision. Their ability to balance she left severely hampered. They drove into the distance.The men got off the ground and tried to remember how they got there. No one remembered. Everyone was puzzled by Rodriguez broken arm.***** Stan walked back up the road, gas can in hand. He knew that he had parked near the railroad tracks so he thought he would take a shortcut and just follow them straight out of town.He stopped on the bridge over a small gorge. Sitting on the tracks, he set the can down and rest for a moment. Spacing out for a moment he heard rustling in the brush."Who's there?" No answer. Rustle rustle."I'm not kidding. I've got a gun." The rustling stopped. He stood and walked to where he heard the sound."Please don't hurt me." The Preacher cowered against the ground."I won't hurt you." Stan said, "A whole lotta people are looking for you, Rev.""I needed some time on my own." He said, "A little time to contemplate my faith. What're you doing? Looking for someone else to interrogate?""Heh, no." Stan sat beside the Preacher "Reverend, I don't have anything against you. There was nothing personal to all that.""You won't mind if I take it personally. I didn't catch your name when you were over the other night.""Stan. I guess you probably would mind, wouldn't you?" Stan sighed, "Sometimes I wonder why I do this.""Why do you do this?" Phil asked."You're the second person to ask me that today." He let out a breath and stared at the sky. "Vengeance, I guess. That whisperer fella let my boy die.""He did??" Phil was appalled."I suppose if he knew about it, he woulda done something. Just..." Stan noticed the Reverends' leg for the first time. It was tied to a large rock. The rock looked almost too heavy for one man to move alone.The Reverend was going to commit suicide."What's going on, Rev?" Stan fingered the rope. The man of God broke into tears."All this that I do. Is it enough? There are people out there who can do so much more.""You're kidding, right?" Stan asked. He knew he wasn't kidding."All my life is a sham. You were right the other night, psychosomatic cures, that's all it is.""Rev, you surprise me. Do you believe in God?""Of course.""Then how can you go 'round saying Dark Portal Cp Bbs that it's all for nothin'? People feel better because of you. Heck, for all I know, people are actually cured because of you. Those men I was with wanted to take you away last night. It isn't a pretty sight, I can tell you. I stopped 'em because of the strength of your convictions and your faith. Don't doubt your faith, Rev, I don't doubt it."They spoke for several hours, until the sun was starting to go down."C'mon, Phil. I'll give you a ride into town. My van's just a mile up this way or so.""My trailer would be better. If I could trouble you.""No problem at all." The men traded off carrying the gas can and soon made it to the car.The Reverends' compound was devoid of people. Everyone must Dark Portal Cp Bbs be off to dinner, he thought. He went into his trailer and promptly fell asleep.Stan drove the van into town, stopping for gas along the way. A crowd was gathered at the diner, he drove up and asked what was going on."Reverend Petrie is missing." Someone said."No he's not." Stan replied "I just dropped him off at his trailer.""And who might you be?" a large man asked. He was someone you didn't want to meet in a dark alley."Name's Stan. Follow me, we'll go see him."A huge caravan of cars followed Stan back to the Reverend's trailer. Debby rode with the city councilman.The compound was a mess. The trailer door had been forced open and torn off its' hinges. It lay on the ground twenty feet from the trailer. The Reverend's belongings were strewn all around the campsite. There were the obvious signs of struggle."Liar!" Debby yelled at him. "You did this! You've taken him prisoner.""Debby, no! I didn't.""Somebody call the sheriff. If we check all the roads, we might just stop them." Someone suggested. The crowd was getting angry. Stan found himself thrown back into his van and driven back to town.Stan thought he was going to be lynched. The crowd was angry and they were starting to push him around more and more forcibly. Nothing he said would get them to listen.Sarah and Ted drove up just as things were getting really ugly. Stan was handcuffed and people were taking turns hitting him in the face."Wait!" Sarah yelled, her voice augmented to a level that drowned out the crowd. Ted stared at her. The crowd stopped for a moment. Dark Portal Cp Bbs Her voice returned to a normal level."What is going on here?" she asked. There was a screeching of tires as a black van tore into town. The crowd dispersed to avoid being hit. The side door opened and the Reverend Petrie fell to the ground, unconscious. Sarah was the first one over to him."Conscious." She said. He woke up, barely. The crowd surrounded them, staying back about twenty feet."Bleeding." All of his bleeding stopped, internal and external. A small boy pushed his way to the front of the crowd followed quickly by an older woman."Mom, Corey, Dark Portal Cp Bbs No!" Neither would be stopped and they went straight up to the pair lying on the ground. Sarah looked up, her power no longer a secret."Legs." She said. "Arms. Debby I need you!" Debby pushed her way to the front of the crowd and knelt next to them."Punctured Liver. Possible peritonitis." Debby started listing through everything that might be wrong with him. Sarah repeated everything her friend said. The Reverend was coming around. Sarah looked up at Stan. Beaten and handcuffed, he stood staring at her."You? How?""You will pay for what you did to this man...." she drew in a breath to begin her curses. There was a tug on her pants."Sarah?" Corey held his arms out to be picked up. She did. She stared at his frightened face. She looked at the men holding Stan."Don't Sarah. He didn't do this." Reverend Petrie stood, fully healed. "It was others. Not Stan.""Let him go. You won't be able to prove anything." She looked at Stan "You are a lucky man. This time, I let you go." The handcuffs were removed and Stan limped back to his van and sped away. She looked at Debby."We have to go. He'll be back after us in hours." Sarah squeezed the child tight."Don't go." The child said. The tone of his plea nearly broke her heart. Ted took the boy out of her arms and handed him to Sheila."He forgot his bear." Sheila said sheepishly. Ted stared at her."What are you?" he asked."Just a person." She said, "I can just do a few things. Can we talk for a minute?" The entire town was still watching them. He took her hand and pushed his way through the crowd."Sarah?" Debby asked."Just give me a minute, okay?" she called back. Debby went back to making sure the Reverend was all right."Nothing to see here, folks." Lou tried to break up the crowd. "Give 'em some privacy." Reluctantly, the crowd dispersed."Your family is very nice." Sarah said. She was feeling suddenly shy and vulnerable. She didn't know why. He was still holding her hand."They really liked you." Ted said "Especially Corey.""He's a great kid." She said. "Listen, I have to get out of here and...." He kissed her.Sarah fought back for a moment and then gave in to the pleasantness of it."Wow." She said."Wow." He agreed."I have some confessions to make." She said. "Have Sheila go to the doctor. She should be alright now." Ted started crying "Freddy has a few surprises in store as well.""Thank you." He said "Can't you stay?""No. I have to keep moving. If we stay in place too long then....well....you know.""I don't like it but I understand." He said, the tears stopping. Debby coughed."I hate to break this up but....""I know." Sarah sighed. Not knowing why, she kissed him again.Walking back to the diner, the car was gone."Deb, the car!""A little creative paperwork. That is our car now." She gestured to the car that was now in their parking space. "They won't be able to trace us from my old beater. It was Lou's idea."Boom! Something attached to Sarah's leg."Don't go!" the voice cried, "I'll be good." Sarah tried to detach the child, but his grip was too strong. She kneeled down. He detached the leg and grabbed the neck.She kissed Corey and gave him a huge bear hug."Corey, I'll see you again. I promise." She said to the crying toddler "It's not you. Bad men are after me.""I'll get them. They won't get you!" he said."I know you will." She smiled "But I need you to take care of your Daddy for me, okay?""Okay." He was not happy about this. Debby had the car started. When Ted took the child, he kissed her one more time. She got into the car and Debby pulled away."Larry?" Debby asked her friend "What was that about?"Tears were streaming down Sarah's face. She spoke in gasping sobs."I don't know."***** EpilogueThe crack of dawn struck. Rays of light were just starting to hit the windows of the Potter's farmhouse. An alarm clock went off."What the...." a young female voice exclaimed."No way....." There was happy excitement in the voice."Woo hoo!" Freddy cheered as she discovered the gift that Sarah had given her. She was woman. She was whole.****** Stan called Casper from his home this time. He was sitting on the couch and was nearly screaming into the phone."That's twice you've sent in the goon squad to mess up a perfectly controllable situation!""Stanley, you have the drive but not the ethical flexibility I need to get this job done. I was merely helping you.""Well stop it!""You say you ran into this Debby Waters again?" Casper tried to change the subject."Yes.""It must be more than a coincidence, my boy. She is still the target.""I don't think so, sir.""Why's that.""Sarah was there too.""The child? Why on Earth would you bring her?""Not the child, the adult. Sir, she is still at large.""Interesting. We must lure them in.""I agree.""The bait must be undeniable.""Yes sir.""I'll handle this one personally. I don't think you'll like it. Do you have a problem with that, Stanley? I understand you have a sizable mortgage.""I'll go along, sir." The house was too much for Stan's income and they both knew it."Good boy. Now get some rest, we have a huge project ahead." The receiver clicked.Stan looked up. The five-year-old version of the woman known as Sarah stood in the doorway. The child stared at him with the eyes of an adult. She said nothing."The question is, " he said to her "Who the heck are you?"The Story Alcove http://www.geocities.com/dejahcarterJoanbanksivillage.com

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