"Thank you for calling me, Ms. Bowman, and not the police," Elliot shakes the consignment store owner's hand.
"Well, your family is well known around these parts," Shannon Bowman answers, "I didn't want to get the law involved and drag your name through the mud unnecessarily. I'm sure we can work this out between us."
"Of course," Elliot assures her, "I'll pay for anything she took."
Shelly gapes in her horror as her husband apologizes to the shopkeeper and hands over the amount she asks for without question. She'd expected her white knight to come in to her rescue, to stand up to her accuser, but instead he's actually taking the shopkeeper's side against her.
"That was incredibly humiliating, Shell," Elliot says when they are back at home, alone in their bedroom, the first words he's spoken to her since the shopkeeper called to tell him she caught his wife shoplifting in her store, "Why were you shoplifting, anyway? There's nothing, absolutely nothing, in that shop that we couldn't afford. You have no reason to be stealing anything from anyone."
"I know," Shelly sighs, trying to explain, "I didn't want to buy the stuff I took, I didn't even want it, I just had to take it."
"That makes no sense," Elliot says, "What do you mean you had to take it?"
Shelly can't explain the urge that comes over sometimes, the need to steal things just to steal them. Unable to defend her actions, she turns the argument around on Elliot. "I can't believe you took her side," she says, tossing her head indignantly, "I'm your wife, you should have stood up for me."
"Stood up for you?" Elliot asks, "Shell, you broke the law. We were lucky she didn't call the police or I'd be down at the station posting your bail."
"Still, you could have asked my side of the story or something," Shelly insists.
"Well, it's over now, let's just put this behind us," Elliot says, reaching over to hug her.
Shelly pushes him away before he can get his arms around her. "No," she says firmly, refusing to be placated by his affection, "Just leave me alone."
"Fine," Elliot grumbles, walking out of the room.
While he's working, Farrell receives a cryptic text from his mother, setting up a meeting time and place.
"Auberon," she sighs, reaching for him, longing to feel his embrace. It's been such a long time, she thinks, since she felt his body against her, tasted his kiss, heard him whisper her name...her name, what is her name? How strange that she can't remember.
His arms clasp her shoulders, but not with the passion she was expecting. He shakes her, as though trying to rouse her from sleep. "These are not your memories, child," he says, "They belong to another. Remember yourself."
"I don't...I don't know who I am," she ays, tears of frustration welling up in her eyes, "I've been so many people, so many names, so many faces..."
"Your name is Aouregan," he tells her, "You are dreaming."
"Aouregan," she says, remembering now, "I need to wake up. My baby," she gasps, looking down at her flat stomach, and remembering giving birth in that dungeon, the room with the strange bed. And then nothing. After that, all she can remember is this long dream lived in other bodies, other lives. "Farrell, how will he find me here?"
"Calm yourself," Auberon says, guiding her to a seat beside him, "You cannot wake up, not on your own. Evenfall put a spell on you, for your protection, and you can only be awakened when the right condition is met."
"True love's kiss," he answers with a slight smile, "Evenfall is truly her mother's daughter. She was worried, your sleep has gone on longer than she'd anticipated, and you are not our kind, despite your magic. She feared you might become lost in the dreaming, and she asked me to find you, watch over you."
"Farrell hasn't come for me," Aouregan says.
"He did," Auberon answers, "But he was too late. Evenfall tried to explain it to me, you mortals managed to change time, bend it," he shakes his head, "My daughter says that we fae are too enmeshed in the now to see anything beyond its borders, past or future, and that I don't spend enough time in the 'real' world to even grasp the present properly. Perhaps she is right. I can only tell you that you have been sleeping for a very long time, and that your true love searches for you, to awaken you."
One of Pearl's informants had tipped her off about a 'Project Sleeping Beauty', a woman held in a stasis that none of their scientists or doctors had been able to break. They were holding her in the underground labs beneath the Landgraab Water Treatment facility in Meadow Glen.
"The cells in the facility will be walled in the fae suppressant material," Pearl had warned him. Farrell had had no success so far in creating a counter agent for the radioactive alloy, so he would not be able to call on his fairy allies for this rescue mission, but they will wait for him just outside the perimeter to facilitate their escape.
"I don't like using you as a distraction," Farrell protests one more time before they carry out their plan, "I could use the ghost potion now, and slip past the guard unseen..."
"We've been through this; your ghost potion will only give you invisibility for a few moments, and you'll need that to get past the scientists when you are actually in the lab. Let me handle the guard."
"Mom..." Farrell says, and Pearl smiles indulgently at her son.
"I haven't been a real mother to you. That was just never possible. All I could give you was freedom. And if I have to give myself up to MorcuCorp to buy freedom for the mother of my grandchildren, then that's what I intend to do."
Before she sets off on her part of the mission, Pearl hugs her son for the first time.
Without the slightest fear or hesitation, she strides forward to present herself to the guard who stands watch over the secret lab's door.
Her disguise and even her MorcuCorp employee badge aren't going to get her very far, and she knows it. Her ruse about a security situation in the main building that requires his immediate attention is expected fail. Pearl is MorcuCorp, after all, she knows how they work. The guard is not going anywhere with her until he's confirmed her identity with a retina scan.
The retina scan of course reveals her for the wanted traitor she is, and the guard wastes no time in cuffing her and leading her into the main building to his superiors.
As soon as the coast is clear, Farrell rushes to the door and punches the code Pearl's informant gave them into the security lock.
The elevator leads him down into a long hallway lined with securely locked doors, each one a lab for a different project.
Only one door interests Farrell, the one his Aouregan is locked behind. He peers through the door's small window, sees the scientists inside. The labs are never left unattended, his mother had told him, even at he latest hours, you'll find someone working.
Farrell drops the vial of the ghost potion he'd created on the floor, and the rising vapor swirls around him, putting him in an immaterial state that will hide him from human sight, and allow him to pass through walls.
He hasn't had much time to field test it, but the scientist inside don't notice his entry.
Before the ghost vapor dissipates, Farrel quickly drops another vial onto the ground. The scientists react to the sound of glass shattering, but it's too late for them; the gas he released knocks them out instantaneously. His own immaterial state makes him immune to it, and will last slightly longer than than the noxious gas' rate of dissipation.
This lab has windows facing two separate cells, Farrell quickly notices. In one, a man, or something that looks like a man, anyway, sits on the floor so deep in meditation that he doesn't seem to notice that his captors have all fallen unconscious. Farrell can't be sure what he is, but he notices the panels on the walls of the cell, very like the panels that had covered the walls of Moth's cell in the dungeon of Landgraab castle.
The other cell houses a woman asleep on the single hospital bed. Aouregan, at last. He only has to awaken her, and then get her out of here.
His ghostly state vanishes as the vapor dissipates, so Farrell must enter her cell by unlocking the door manually.
Her sleep is no natural state, he can see that immediately. She lays too still, too perfectly unmoving, cocooned in a sparkling nimbus of light. She can only be awaked by true love's kiss, the fairy Evenfall had told him. He still wonders how that works, how the spell would be able to tell the kiss of true of love from any other kind of kiss, or how one would even define 'love' outside the vagueries of philosophy. But there isn't the time for musing about those sorts of things; either this works, or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, he'll carry her out of here and figure out another way. Farrell caresses her hair as he leans over her, brushes his lips against her cheek.
"Come back to me, Aouregan," he whispers before gently touching his lips to hers in a tender kiss.
She moans, the smallest of sounds, and her eyes flutter open. Farrell sink to the ground on his knees, overcome with relief.
"This is real?" she asks, taking his hand as she sits up on the bed. "I'm not dreaming?"
"This is real," he assures her, "We don't have much time, we're not safe here."
"So, sleeping beauty finally wakes up," a voice crackles over the intercom, followed by the snicking sound of the electronic lock on the cell door sealing them in. "Excellent work, Brannon, now we have you both."
It was a trap, Farrell realizes, Pearl's 'informant' fed them this information to get him here. And he just fell right into it.
"The Landgraab's assassin!" Aouregan gasps, recognizing her face immediately, "She's the one that took me captive."
"She's...my mother," Farrell says, recognizing her face just as clearly, "But, no, that's not possible. She's too young. A clone, of course," he says, figuring it out as he speaks, "Pearl's DNA was crafted in a lab, of course they'd be able to make copies."
"Honestly, Teal, I would have thought a copy of me would at least know how to dress more practically for battle," Pearl says, coming up behind the geneticist-assassin.
"How did you...?" Teal starts to ask, but Pearl is on her too quickly, pressing her arm against her throat as she pushes her into the wall. Locked in their cell, Farrell and Aouregan can only watch, helpless.
But Teal is as well trained as the original, and breaks free from Pearl's grasp, punching her hard in the gut, knocking her back.
The captive in the other cell rises from his meditations to watch as the women fight outside his window.
Age hasn't slowed Pearl down, she's as fit as ever and has years of combat experience over her competition, giving her the edge she needs to reverse their situation and come back out on top.
Holding her throat, Pearl cuts Teal's air off until she loses consciousness, and then quickly unlocks the cell her son is locked in.
"We'll copy whatever data they have here, then scrub their system," Pearl says, "Move quickly, before they figure out I've escaped and come down to rescue you."
"What about him?" Farrell asks, gesturing toward the other prisoner, watching them impassively from his cell, "We can't just leave him here."
"We have no idea who, or what, he is," Pearl answers, "You can't just unleash him on the world like that."
"Whatever he is, he doesn't deserve to be experimented on by MorcuCorp. And letting them keep him can hardly be in the best interests of society," Farrell says, "If he's dangerous, that's more reason to get him out of MorcuCorp's hands."
Pearl shrugs, "Good point. Do it quickly then, we don't have a lot of time."
Farrell unlocks the cell and steps inside. The captive doesn't so much as look in his direction. "You're free to go," Farrell says, wondering if the man-creature-whatever even understands him, "But if you want to leave, do it soon. They'll be back, looking for us."
The newly freed captive does not respond, but follows them as they take the elevator up to the ground floor.
"What's your name?" Aouregan asks him gently, "Are you of the fair folk?"
"I am called Suchandra," he answers, breaking his silence, "I am of the gandharva."
Farrell, Pearl and Aouregan exchange glances; none of them have ever heard of a gandharva.
"Let's hope he's not bent on world destruction," Pearl grumbles.
"My power returns," Suchandra declares once they've stepped outside. He raises his hands and looks back over his shoulder at him. "Flee now, mortals, or die."
"Oh, crap," Pearl sighs as a swirl of magically energy surrounds the gandharva. "Run, now," he says one more time.
The sky above them crackles with unnatural light, and they do not need to be told again to run for their lives.
Extra special thanks to Zhippidy for making the 'true love's kiss' pose set for this chapter. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that, no other pose set quite fit the bill for that.