WITHOUT HESITATING I quickly threw a shield spell around Camille’s family and myself! I instinctively knew Camille had to have done the same time, but even still there was a shower of sparks and I felt my shield lose some energy as a blast wave of metal and concrete hit my shield.
All around us people were screaming in pain, babies were crying, and total chaos reigned around the rink. I noticed that the ice had cracked in a couple places and that we were the only ones that seem to have escaped the attack unharmed.
“What the hell is going on?” her dad screamed.
Camille looked at him from the ground and said, “Shut up Daddy and get Mom and Cassidy out of here!”
I was just debating on whether it was wise to go ahead and unveil myself as a mutant when Caireen decided for me. I felt my new costume materialize, complete with my pacifier face mask.
“I thought you were pretending…” Camille’s mom started to say as I leaped out of her arms.
“Screw that,” I said. “I can’t let people die!”
I watched Camille quickly perform a spell to remove her ice skates as she put on her own costume magically. As I watched her, I realized my own ice skates were gone too, and I just hoped my shoes would keep traction on the ice. I began scanning for the enemies that would attack this place. ‘Terrorists, mutants?’ I asked myself. I found myself drawn to a single figure that curdled my blood and caused Caireen to scream in rage within me.
Impossibly amidst the chaos above us, and standing where the statue had been, stood… Rosemerta!
I found myself moving quickly across the ice towards the remnants of the statue, tuning out the bodies I had to jump over. I silently hoped that not everyone around us was dead. As I reached the end, I watched heavily armed police officers shoot their automatic weapons at her. She just laughed them off and kept her eyes on me. “Princess, that’s right, come to me!”
She leaped off of the ledge that remained and I watched her arms morph into wings to glide in front of me.
‘Do not underestimate her Sofia,’ Caireen urged. ‘We must hold nothing back here!’
I nodded internally to her and used one of my blast spells to attack her. Impossibly she dodged the spell and laughed, “Oh baby, is that all your mommy has taught you?”
I swore and began trying a number of other attacks that Caireen had been teaching me. All of them were ineffective or she dodged. Suddenly Camille was there and I watched as she attempted a spell to bind her with golden tendrils of magic. It reminded me of the cage she must have slipped out of in the castle. Sure enough, she laughed and with the swipe of her hand it vanished.
Impossibly a second later the cage rematerialized around Camille. She stepped back towards me and I closed to attempt to kick her in the knee. I failed to move fast enough though! Rosemerta caught my foot, then grappled with me, turning me over her knee, “Bad Baby!” She screamed at me while bruising my butt with her swat. Before she could land another swat, I charged my skin with magic and she dropped me.
“Gah!!!” She screamed! I noticed I caused her hands where she had been holding me, to start smoldering.
Some more cops began shooting at her as she started to come at me again. “Stupid mortals,” she said and without warning she flew off and up towards the group of officers.
“Watch out!!!!” Camille tried to warn them but it was too late by the time she rid herself of her bonds. She killed seven officers in seconds and returned towards us.
“We have to end this now!” I told her.
She nodded, “Any ideas?”
Rosemerta landed in front of us and began coming closer to me. “I can’t wait to spank that bottom of yours for real Princess – that was just a taste of the punishment coming your way. I can’t believe you’ve been so lucky!”
She was within a couple paces now, “It’s not luck,” I told her.
“What do you call it?”
“Courage,” Camille answered for me.
I looked down at the ice beneath her feet. With that I knew there was only one spell I had not yet tried against her and shuddered with the hopelessness that it brought me. I didn’t stop to think about it anymore though and invoked the spell Caireen had taught me to freeze a person.
“Wha?!?!” She had enough time to say before her whole body turned solid.
I looked at Rosemerta and wondered if she would be dead or just temporarily disabled. That was when several bullets went through her frozen head and gory shards of iced brains exploded everywhere.
I looked up at Camille with tears in my eyes and my arms held up to her. Out of the corner of my eye I just caught the sight of a familiar looking man wearing a hat running away from the edge of the upstairs area. ‘He was on the train…’
CAMILLE HAD HELD me for several long moments while I cried before we became aware of the police officers that had guns leveled at us. “Identify yourselves!” One officer commanded.
“I’m Sora, and this is Emerald Baby,” she said in a calm voice.
“Why did you destroy the statue?” One screamed at us.
I was flabbergasted and about to respond when a costumed superhero appeared. “Officer, I believe you are wrongly accusing these heroes.”
I twisted my head and looked to see a lady who appeared to be the heroine called Lioness from the Empire City Guard. “They were right here when it happened!”
“Yes, we were here, but we were just skating.” Camille said calmly.
Before he could speak again another man in a suit came towards us, “Agent Carmichael, FBI,” he identified himself to the others.
One of the officers started, “This is…”
“Officer, you will stop there. Emerald is a member of the Agency, and we have no doubt that she was only protecting her family and other civilians. You may meet us at our office to question her for more details, but understand she will not under any circumstances be detained.”
“Agent Emerald,” he said looking at me. “We have Sora’s family in a vehicle up on the street level. We’d like to go down to the office and get an official statement.”
“Sir we had to change rather quickly into our costumes, would you be able to keep the security footage safe?” Camille asked.
“It’s already done. It is imperative that Emerald’s identity being known.”
Camille carried me up to the street level. All around us was chaos as paramedics performed triage and did their best to treat the wounded from Rosemerta’s attacks. Sadly, I saw several sheets being dragged across individuals. A paramedic was screaming as he realized the futility of treatment with a little girl who was Lily’s age. I found fresh tears going across my face, ‘Caireen how could she do this?’
‘She was a monster,’ she responded.
‘Is she really dead?’
‘Maybe…’ she said simply.
‘Is there anything I can do for…’
‘Sofia, one of the sad things with monsters is they will always exist. All you can do is attempt to extinguish them before they harm too many. Today could have been much worse.’
‘She was there for me, wasn’t she?’
“Sofia?” Camille asked. “Are you hurt?”
I looked up at her and saw her own tear streaked face. “Not too bad physically,” I responded as we had a door of a black suburban opened for us.
“Camille!!!” Her mom practically screamed in relief as she hugged her.
Her dad did his best to do the same while holding a shaking Cassidy who I saw had an accident with everything, but seemed to be fine otherwise. I used a spell to change her clothes to a new set and dried her. Her dad and mom looked at Camille, who pointed at me.
“Sorry, I know wet clothes are no fun.”
“Neither are stinky pants?” Camille asked me.
I shook my head, “Anyone happen to grab my bag?”
Camille’s mom looked guilty, “Sorry sweetie.”
I sighed, ‘Any chance Caireen?’
I felt her thinking to herself, ‘For now just this one time. You know how to do it.’
‘Really?!?!?!’ I asked excitedly.
‘Really. Don’t forget to include the cleaning spell!’
I thought to myself for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t mess up the spell before using it. Camille looked at me in shock, she had felt the change since she’d been holding my bottom at the time. “You changed yourself?” She asked.
“She said this one time she would let me!” I smiled and hugged her.
Camille’s parents looked a little lost about the whole thing. Cassidy was lost to the world in shock while nursing her thumb. “She hasn’t been allowed to change herself,” Camille told her mom.
“But you just did?”
“My spirit finally let me!!!!!” I smiled and squealed a bit. “Maybe someday soon I won’t have to depend on everyone else for that.”
The ride after that was noticeably less aromatic for everyone else, so I’m sure they were all quite content with the results. Our crowded vehicle pulled to a stop in front of the building that the FBI’s main offices in New York City were headquartered, and I felt a little in awe. The door was opened for us and Camille carried me on her hip up to the first security point. After a few nervous moments we were all through and everyone was given visitor badges except me.
I almost squealed again as it was kind of cool to be given a tag instead that said ‘Agent Emerald.’
“Please come this way,” an agent said while directing us to a bank of elevators.
When we exited them and were led to a waiting room. Looking at Camille’s parents, “I’m sure one of you will want to be in the room as we debrief your daughter and ‘granddaughter,’ would the other mind staying here with your other daughter?”
Camille’s mom and dad seemed to do some sort of mental conversation before he passed Cassidy over to her, “I’ll go in with them.”
“Thanks,” he said simply and we were led further down past open office bullpen areas and to another conference room. “Would you like anything to eat or drink?” he asked us.
“Juice?” I asked tentatively.
“Does she need a bottle for that?” he asked Camille.
“She’ll be fine with whatever you have - she’s older than she looks,” she said with a smile.
Camille sat down in a chair next to her dad and proceeded to squeeze me tight, “Hannah is going to kill me…”
“Oh shit, she’ll find out from the news…” I said panicked.
“No, I texted her on the way,” she told me.
I hadn’t even noticed - that was sad.
The door opened again and an older agent held out his hand, “I’m Agent Caruthers, I’m in charge of this office for the Bureau.”
“I’m Sora, this is Emerald, and this is my father,” Camille introduced.
“Also known as Camille and Sofia,” he said with a smile.
“Sir you know you aren’t supposed to…” Camille’s dad said.
“Don’t worry, this room has been swept twice today. I actually need to get Sofia up to speed for some changes in her assignment coming up while she’s here. That’s how we made it to the scene so fast, we were going to be making contact with her… We’ll only use their codenames when the wonderful officer from NYPD and the MCO representative show up in a minute.”
“MCO?” I asked nervously.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe from arrest due to your credentials Emerald,” he told me. “Oh, which I see they gave you a name badge, but they didn’t give you a proper badge and shield yet, did they?” He smiled.
He handed me a folder badge like I had seen on TV all of my life. When I opened it, I read my code name and saw the golden shield with an eagle at top. ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’ and ‘Department of Justice below it with the picture from my MMID. I felt a bit in shock as it blew my mind to have one of these. “This is…”
“Really cool?” He finished for me. “I must have practiced flipping that open a hundred times the first day I got mine.” His smile was genuine and I was grateful to have an ally in that room.
I smiled back at him, “Thank you sir.”
“You might put that away for now, but I think you’ll need it when the local MCO idiot gets here.”
I gaped at him, “I see you have as low of an opinion of them as I do.”
“Probably lower,” he admitted. “Depending on the officer the NYPD sends down be warned there are too many of them on the Humanity First rolls right now.”
I nodded, “The one that tried to accuse us initially is probably one of those.”
Barely two seconds after I had placed it in the same small purse that I carried my MMID in, the door opened again. Two men walked in at the same time, one dressed in a suit, and other more casually with an NYPD Detective’s shield on his belt. “Detective, let’s get this fugitive in handcuffs already and get her out of here,” the man in the suit said.
“Detective you might want to disregard that order until you get all of the facts,” Agent Caruthers said as he interposed himself between us.
“This mutant blew up a statue in Rockefeller Plaza! What more facts do you need?” The man in the suit argued.
“Sir, you are?” Camille’s dad asked coolly.
“Agent Kenton, MCO division head for New York City.” He turned his head for a moment and then looked back at Caruthers. “This mutant also has an outstanding warrant for her arrest in connection with terrorist actions in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She and her accomplices attacked MCO agents as they fled and are responsible for the deaths of two agents and the destruction of millions of dollars of property!”
“Are you finished yet?” Camille’s dad asked.
‘Has Camille ever said what her dad does?’ Caireen asked.
I thought back hard, which with my improved memory didn’t take long, ‘I’m sure she’s never said.’
As if to prove that right he pulled out a folio badge and said, “I’m Jack Jennings, D.O.J. Special Counsel.”
I looked at Camille who somehow both looked proud and embarrassed at the same time.
The MCO agent looked back at him and said, “No I’m not finished, I won’t be finished until she’s in our custody.”
“That won’t be happening,” I heard Agent Caruther’s and her dad say at the same time. “Let’s introduce everyone properly first.”
Somehow, I caught a little nod from him and so I pulled out my own badge, “Agent Emerald, F.B.I.” I was proud of my flip out with no practice and inwardly squealed.
“And this is my daughter, Sora,” her dad said protectively placing his hands on her shoulders, “she’s Agent Emerald’s friend ,and she’s staying with us for the holidays.”
The NYPD detective seemed to have a bit more common sense, “I’m Detective Nance,” he had just said before the door opened again, this time Lioness came in and joined us.
“Hello again,” she said to everyone. I swore her gaze landed on Agent Kenton and bore through him.
“Now that everyone’s here why don’t we take our seats?” Agent Caruthers motioned calmly around the conference table. Lioness sat down next to the other side of Camille and I, while her dad was on her other side. The detective and Agent Kenton sat across from us and Caruthers sat at the head of the conference table.
“Now then,” he said, “I’m hoping we can all behave professionally to determine what happened here today. Agent Emerald, would you please start?”
I sighed, “Yes sir,” I answered.
“How in the hell can you claim she’s an agent, she’s a baby!?!?!” Kenton seethed.
“If she’s a baby how could you think to arrest her as a terrorist ten seconds ago?” Mr. Jennings asked smoothly.
“She’s a mutant!”
“Well, perhaps she’s not just a baby then?” he asked. “You really do need to make up your mind, you can’t have things both ways? As it stands Agent Emerald is eighteen years old, it’s unusual for the FBI to have an agent that young, but there is nothing against them doing so.”
He shut up and seemed to pout; I could imagine steam coming out of his ears.
“May I begin?” I directed towards the others. I decided this was a moment to shed the baby persona as much as possible and jumped from Camille’s lap onto the table to stand in front of her. “I came here with the Jennings family for Thanksgiving Break when some other plans fell through. Sora and I arrived this afternoon and we had walked down from our hotel to the Plaza for some sight-seeing. Her mom had arranged for us to ice skate and we had just been skating for a while, and I had gotten a little way away from Sora.”
I tried to think back if there were any warning signs before then, “Her mom had just come to get me to rejoin her family when the statue overhead exploded. I instinctively put up a magical shield around all of us to try and protect everyone.”
I looked at Camille and she nodded her approval, “I did simultaneously as well. It’s a good thing both of us did it, since that explosion was intense.”
“I’ll say, Rockefeller and all of the nearby buildings are evacuated pending structural assessments. We think there’s significant damage to a couple of them.” Detective Nance said.
“I think they’ll be all repaired sufficiently for now,” Lioness said, “My team, and another, were working on it when I left.
I was a little bit intimidated then with the thought that a major superhero group and I now were sort of working together.
“What happened next?” Lioness asked me gently while she seemed to be nervously doing something with a staff she carried.
“I made sure everyone was okay and changed into my costume to try and avoid recognition.” She smirked at that, but I continued, “As I jumped out of Camille’s mother’s arms, I noticed a figure who must have been responsible for the attack. She recognized me and began attacking me.”
“Recognized you?” Detective Nance asked, his eyes narrowing.
‘Careful Sofia, you can’t let out too much.’
I sighed, “We’ve had some run-ins on another… astral plain of existence. I didn’t think she could exist in the normal world.”
“Go on,” Mr. Jennings coaxed. In about ten more minutes I had told the full story of the fight from my perspective. It was like the debriefings I’d heard some of the other kids talk about the last week from their combat simulator time, and just as frustrating to me.
A cell phone announcing a text sounded off and I watched Agent Caruthers look. “Okay, here let’s watch the video of this to confirm their story.”
What amazed me most about the video, shot from an NBC camera that always was directed at the plaza, was the fight was really over so quickly. From explosion to the bullets to Rosemerta’s head, just three minutes had elapsed. I looked at the edge of the screen and sure enough saw a man run as soon as he saw Rosemerta destroyed.
“Looks like it confirms their story to me,” Agent Caruthers said. “You have the remains of the villain in custody, correct?” he asked the MCO agent.
I could tell he was angry, “No, somehow she thawed out, regrew her head, turned into a bat, and flew away!”
I would have laughed if it wasn’t so familiar. “That’s not the first time I’ve seen her do something impossible like that,” I responded aloud.
“Who is she? And… what is she?” Detective Nance asked.
“Her name is Rosemerta and she’s a vampire.” I told him.
Agent Kenton snorted, “There’s no such thing.”
“Not what you all have in your common myths. Vampires were real long ago, but they didn’t suck blood, they fed on essence from magic users they attacked. For her to be as powerful as she was – she has killed a lot of people…”
“Why was she there?” Agent Caruthers asked.
“If I had to guess it was probably to kill me.” I said honestly.
“What?” Mr. Jennings asked in tandem with every other voice in the room.
“In the other plane that I spoke of, we have a war that just started. She has tried to capture me several times there, and her King attempted to kill me in the last attempt. I never would have dreamed that she would be able to appear here. I wonder if that means others?”
“I’m satisfied that Agent Emerald did nothing that makes it even possible for you to think of arresting her today,” Agent Caruthers said to Agent Nance.
“But what about the outstanding warrant?”
“She and all involved have been given immunity for all parts of the incident,” Mr. Jennings stated.
“By who?!?” He practically screamed.
“By the Attorney General for United States of America,” Agent Caruthers answered coldly. “Detective Nance I appreciate your much politer behavior than you’ve demonstrated in the past. We may be able to get along better in the future thanks to that.” He nodded, “Would you please help escort Agent Kenton back to the scene so he may conclude his investigation?”
“Sure,” he said simply.
I could tell there was no love lost there, but apparently maybe he was turning over a new leaf. I watched as Kenton spluttered some more but allowed himself to be led from the room.
“Now that he’s gone, what else is going on?” Mr. Jennings asked me.
‘What do I say?’ I asked Caireen.
‘You can trust them, but make them swear on the secret.’
“I will share everything with you, but only if you take a vow to not disclose it to anyone outside of this room.”
Caruthers looked a little hesitant, but in the end they all agreed to be bound by an enchanted oath that I gave. I spent a half-hour giving them all a cliff notes version of the war in Caireen’s Kingdom. When I was done, I said, “There may be a clue in that video, can you zoom into video with this system?”
Caruthers nodded, “Devisors are handy to have around. Where?”
I pointed at the man and as the image cleared and I got a good look at him I shuddered. “He looks like an older version of King Camulus’s son that he wanted me to marry.”
“Not good,” Camille said.
“Not good at all,” I told her. “Are they like avatars or actually from the other realm?”
Camille’s voice changed to her spirit’s, “I can’t say, but either option is very bad for all of us. I know of his father and he’s a ruthless man.”
“Just why are they so interested in you?” Lioness asked.
“My avatar spirit is a minor goddess,” I said. At me calling her a ‘minor goddess’ I felt Caireen gripe. “In the other realm she is the queen of a great kingdom. When she joined with me, she chose to make me her daughter there. I guess that means that I’m the heir to the kingdom. King Camulus wants me to marry his son so he can take over our lands.”
“He wants a baby to marry a grown man?!?” Lioness asked.
I sighed, “Well he’d like to use some sort of magic to bring me back to my real age.”
“Even still, that would be awful,” Mr. Jennings said.
“Not going to lie, I’m not a fan of that plan – and neither is Caireen!” I scowled a bit at it all. “Should we go ahead and arrange for me to go back to Whateley? I hate to endanger your family.”
He shook his head, “No, you and Camille handled that just fine, and we’ll get some extra protection now from the Empire City Guard now if I had to guess.”
Lioness nodded, “You’re adorable, if anything happened to you here it would be unacceptable to us.”
“What about the casualties from today?!?” I asked angrily.
Agent Caruthers shook his head, “It’s not the first time something like this has happened. You’ll notice that it took three minutes for the whole thing, and really police opened fire seventy seconds in. The casualties were from the initial blast and the police officers she attacked…”
“How many?” I asked coldly. I was sure that chill in my voice was especially unnerving given my size and its pitch.
“Fifteen dead, twenty in critical care, eighty-six serious condition, and another hundred needed light care.”
I felt the tears run down my face and let Camille pick me up and give me a hug. I stayed there for a few moments before I calmed down some. I fought with all my might the urge to ask for a pacifier or place my thumb in my mouth. After I calmed down, I gave Camille another squeeze and turned to look back at the rest of the group.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“Well, it’s late and you probably should head back to your hotel,” Agent Caruthers said. “I do need a few moments with you alone though before you leave, Agent Emerald.”
I nodded and motioned for the others to go. Lioness came by and said, “This wasn’t your fault,” and gave me a hug before she left too.”
“Okay Sofia, I don’t have a lot of extra time to waste with everything here. Agent Sanders is on his way here to the city as we speak and he needs to meet with you tomorrow. He said we need to get some time in for you at a range, and maybe a few other quick training exercises in a simulator. Fortunately, you go to Whateley and already had martial arts experience before then.”
“I think they said we would be going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty tomorrow.”
“I understand that’s your morning plans. I think we could go ahead at lunchtime get Lioness to bring you back here first to meet with Agent Sanders, and then you can go back with her to the Empire City Guard’s headquarters. They have a good training facility there that you can work at.”
I nodded, “So until then?”
“Lioness will escort you back to your hotel, and then another Guard member will take over for her there with being a bodyguard so she can get some rest.”
I sighed, “So much for thinking I could have a quiet holiday.”
He laughed, “Agent Emerald, you go to Whateley - I swear we have a major incident from at least one of their students in this city every single holiday break! The only city with a worse rap is Boston!”
I laughed lightly, “I’ve heard plenty of stories.” I hated that mine was now one of them and people had died. Their ghosts would probably haunt me forever.
He offered me his hand which I took it and shook it. “Sofia, you did nothing wrong, you can’t blame yourself for what happened. The only thing you can do is keep pushing forward and do your best to stop things like this from getting worse - which is what you did!”
“Thanks,” I told him awkwardly and then I jumped off the table and walked to the door that he opened for me.
Outside Camille and Lioness waited, I held my hands up to Camille and she carried me on her hip down the hallway to her parents and Cassidy. She felt my diaper and sighed, “You really need a new diaper Em.”
“Emerald is a lot to say!” She defended herself.
“Next thing it’ll be Emmy”
“Hmm… I like that!”
I groaned. “Unfortunately, my diaper bag and everything is still in the locker we put everything in?”
Camille’s mom was standing there and shook her head, “No, here you go,” she said and handed the missing bag to Camille. “One of the agents was kind enough to grab it for us. The stroller will be locked up in evidence until forever, but at least you have everything else.”
I nodded and smiled a bit.
“Let’s go find somewhere to change that diapee,” she told me with a smile.
Fifteen minutes later we were in another unmarked suburban heading back to the Plaza. I nursed a bottle all the way back doing my best not to burst into tears. I fell asleep sometime before we got to the hotel and didn’t remember them putting me to bed.