Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early the next morning
Nasty rolled over in her bed. A tinge of pain shot through her left shoulder. She groaned and tried to get comfortable. As she settled in on her back, more discomfort coursed through her. Annoyed, Nasty threw the covers off her. She fought to sit up. From beyond the end of the bed, she heard Eric mumble her name. Nasty stopped her struggles as she realized where she was. "Yeah?"
"Tash, you okay?" Eric's voice was more awake.
"Yeah. Just trying to get out of bed. What are you doing on the couch?"
"You slept on it the night before."
"I could have slept on it last night, too. You didn't have to sleep there."
Eric sat up so he could see Nasty. "You were injured. You needed the bed, I didn't."
Nasty rolled out of her bed, still wearing her battered jeans and torn t-shirt. "I . . . thanks, Eric. Do you need the bathroom?"
"Go ahead. When did you get back?"
"Two in the morning, I think." Nasty picked up her backpack with her right arm. "They gave me some painkillers last night that zonked me right out." She disappeared into the bathroom to get washed up and changed into a dark green t-shirt. Minutes later, she came back out. Eric had the bed made with all the blankets back on it. Nasty saw that he was still wearing the same clothes from the day before. "You okay?"
Eric shrugged. "I'm good."
"You weren't worried about me, were you?"
"I was. Even after Micki called and said you were okay."
Nasty slipped her left arm into a sling. "I told you, I was fine last night. Just some stitches and this stupid thing to keep my arm still. No broken bones at all. I just had to wait because my mirror universe double was so badly beaten up. That's what took so long, all the damned waiting."
"Okay." Eric walked over and kissed Nasty on the cheek. "Want to go get breakfast?"
Nasty felt her cheek grow warm. "I'm not that hungry. You go ahead, okay?"
"Are you sure? I could bring something back for you."
"Can you bring me back a muffin and coffee? Lots of sugar, no cream."
Eric beamed. "Sure." He opened the door to leave. Micki stood on the other side, her hand halfway up to knock. "Tash is awake." He slipped past the older woman to leave.
"Good morning." Micki stepped into the room. "I hope you slept well."
Nasty stared at the door as it closed. "Hmm?"
"The jam is moldy in the kitchen."
"Thanks, but I'm not hungry."
"Earth to Natasha, come in, Natasha."
Nasty blinked. "What?"
Micki looked Nasty directly in the eye. "Good morning."
"He kissed me!" Nasty fell back on the bed. "Ow."
"Will madam be giddy all day?"
Nasty glowered at the older woman. "Oh, fuck off."
Micki smirked. "There's the Peregrine I know. I've gone over the debriefing we did at the hospital and everything looks okay. I've talked to the con exec and they rescheduled your question and answer session for this morning, followed by autographs right after. I'll get your lunch for you while you sign. While you're busy, I'll start calling all the stores to find out about their return policy. I think you're going to be stuck with all the lingerie and make-up she bought, but I can get started on getting the normal clothes back."
"Actually, um, Micki, er, can I look through what she got first and see if there's anything I want to keep? In case she had some taste?"
"I suppose. May I ask why?"
"I need to wear more than t-shirts and school uniforms." Nasty shrugged her good shoulder.
"Does this have anything to do with last night? Maybe something to do with how you got your counterpart's attention?"
Nasty blushed. "What did you hear?"
"Something about her hands and your boyfriend." Micki smirked. "The Board didn't get that level of detail. Would you like to talk about it?"
"Me and Eric talked about it this morning. We're kind of boyfriend and girlfriend. Or at least trying to be. So I figured I'd need something to wear when we have a real date. Maybe there's something in all these bags that I wouldn't mind wearing. I'll make sure all the clothes go back into the right bags."
"Good luck. Just don't forget that you have a Q&A session at ten. I suggest wearing Peregrine's costume. If you get asked about details for last night, just say that an investigation is pending. Talk about how you felt, how you fought, but don't mention the alternate dimension."
"What if they ask why I couldn't speak yesterday?"
Micki raised an eyebrow. "Would you accept, 'I was trapped in another dimension by my evil twin,' as an appropriate excuse? Natasha, you're about to deal with a segment of the population that thinks reality is a cliché. They'll think that you're trying to hide something behind a bad story. It's much better to let them imagine what sort of thing you were doing than to reveal the sordid truth."
"I don't want to lie."
"You're not. First, you're not the Foundation's spokeswoman. That's more my job right now. You don't have the authority to speak for the Foundation, though you can speak for you. Second, the official word is that the police and the Foundation are still investigating and will release their findings once the investigation is complete. After that, you can talk all about what happened on the other side. You can talk about what you did, though. Just not everything. Clear?"
Nasty nodded. "I think so. Want to go on stage instead of me?"
"You couldn't pay me enough to go out there." Micki laughed. "Besides, you're the hero. You get the adulation. It makes up for the bruises, stitches, and broken bones, or so I've heard."
"And this is just part of being Peregrine."
"You're catching on."
Nasty sighed. "Great."
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early morning
Vicki finished putting her clothes on over her costume. She checked herself in the bathroom mirror, making sure none of Pixie's outfit could be seen. As she turned around to make sure her costume was safely tucked away, her image in the mirror shimmered. Vicki jumped away, pressing her back against the towel rack on the other side of the bathroom. The shimmering resolved into Sandra's face. "About time you're up, Vicki. I saw you on the news."
"Sandra, don't do that! Give me some warning first, jeez."
"I tried a sending into your dreams. It's not my fault you sleep so soundly."
Vicki rolled her eyes. "I was tired. You fight a giant you after escaping from another dimension."
Sandra leaned closer in, growing larger in the mirror. "Dish, girlfriend. What happened? I saw a giant you, some chick in a glowing metal bikini fighting a robot, and was that Peregrine fighting herself?"
"Yeah, it got weird there." Vicki pushed away from the wall. "First, we got set up and landed in a trap where we had to escape from another dimension. Then, when we get back, we find Peregrine's mirror universe self hitting on her boyfriend. You don't want to know how bad she looked when Peregrine was done with her. Man, she was pissed."
"What did you do? I know I saw you on TV."
"Sandra, your folks have a big screen television. That's the only way anyone could see me. I couldn't even find myself on the news here." Vicki sighed. "I'm going to have to find neon-coloured cloth at this rate."
Sandra fixed her friend with a stern look. "Vicki."
"Okay, okay. First of all, evil me was immune to my dust, so I had to hit her." Vicki shook out her hands. "Why didn't anyone tell me that would hurt? Peregrine makes it look so simple."
"Tell me you at least beat your doppelganger."
"Not even. I switched off with Peregrine to put hers out for the count, then dealt with the guy running away from, well, the robot, which it wasn't. Sandra, I don't suppose you could give me a power boost? It's really humiliating being small and ineffective."
"Vicki, I don't know what you were watching. I saw you swooping around. The camera got a good shot of you pulling on that giant's hair. You stopped her but good."
"I saw the clips when I got back here."
Sandra shook her head. "Weren't you watching CNN? They had a crew on the spot getting a lot of good shots. Man, Mystery Dude is going to be jealous of you. Amazing form, too."
"Did you record it? I want to see it."
"Naturally." Sandra smirked. "Besides, how often do any of us get national exposure? This is a keeper." She turned to look off the side of the mirror. "I have to get going. Dad's getting antsy about me using the mirror. Like I'm going to summon a demon or something through it. Sheesh. Call me when you get home." Sandra's image faded away.
Vicki smiled at her reflection. "I made the news. People finally realize I'm not just a colour dot on the edge of the screen."
"Vicki, are you going to be much longer?" Richard knocked on the door. "Breakfast is waiting."
"Coming, Dad!" The blond teen grabbed her backpack and dashed out.
Parking lot, Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early morning
Meredith slowly became aware of a tapping on the glass of the Yugo's window. She shifted around, trying not to bang her knees. As she opened her eyes, she saw Keith waving outside. "Wha--?" She checked her watch. "Keith, do you know what time it is?"
"Yes. Mere, what are you doing here?"
"Trying to sleep. What are you doing here?"
"Checking on the car. Naomi wants to go for a drive once we're all checked out at registration."
Meredith sat up. "What time did you two finish whatever two geeklings do after hours at a con?"
Keith took a look at his watch. "Forty-five minutes ago."
"Wait, what? What were you two geeklings doing all night?"
"Remember that talk we had where you told me about what you never wanted to hear from me?"
Keith smiled. "This is one of those things you didn't want to hear."
Meredith blinked as she processed Keith's words. "Oh, ew!" She shuddered.
"We had to do something. I kept expecting you to return."
"You had the Do Not Disturb sign out. I checked several times."
"We didn't want to be disturbed. I took it off at four AM."
Meredith got out of the cramped Yugo. "Thanks for letting me know."
"If it helps, I put the coffee machine on to brew. It should be ready soon."
"Thanks." Meredith leaned close to Keith. "I assume Naomi has left?"
"I walked her back to her room this morning."
"You are too adorable for words. I'll see you for breakfast."
"Oh, no, sorry. I'm kind of meeting Naomi for breakfast."
Meredith slumped melodramatically. "You're abandoning me." She sniffled.
Keith rolled his eyes. "Go get some coffee."
"I hate public speaking."
"Second, you're not wearing your helmet. Is there a reason?"
"I'm not a role model. I don't think any one should follow my lead. There are better people out there."