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The ladder is rickety, like it will break at any moment. The metal bars seem planted into the wall with gorilla glue and duct tape. But the speed with which they descend means they don’t have any time to think about it.

Master Keitou, the elderly woman who met Delta and her wife in their own kitchen, speeds down the wall as if gliding. Delta has never seen such tremendous speed and agility from someone seemingly so frail. The South African Secret Service members, Agents Y and Z, hardly have any ability to catch up to her.

Eventually, they reach the bottom of this vertical tunnel and come into a large open space, its walls stocked with shelves and shelves of sealed boxes and various knick-knacks. Almost like a warehouse, except for the four beds laid out over to one side, and one cubicle-like area on one end sealed off. Presumably the bathroom. There is no kitchen, no TV, no windows.

Deep underground, in an undisclosed location, they have found their safe house. Keitou, Julie, Esther, and Delta will be staying here for the foreseeable future, it seems.

Agent Y, the stocky white man, says, “Nice place, don’t you think?”

“No, I don’t think,” Delta mumbles.

“Sorry for the rush, but it was real important we extract you,” Agent Z, the short Black woman, says. “We found out you were compromised. If we waited another day, they’d have got you.”

“Who?”

“The U.S. government,” she says. “When pink girl over here turned on her powers, she sent an energy surge up to space. Master Keitou here sensed it from Los Angeles. We picked it up with our satellites.”

Julie bows her head. “I’m sorry, Delta, Esther.”

“No, this wasn’t your fault,” Esther says. “You were meant to unlock your powers. It’s part of the timeline.”

“Sweetie, why don’t you let the grown-ups talk?” Agent Z asked. “Go over and play with the toys.” Esther scampered off to the corner of the safe house where a single toy castle and three dolls were laid out. Not exactly a robust collection. “How old is that girl, anyway?”

“Thirteen months,” Delta says.

“...Huh.”

“So what do we do now?” Julie asks. “Sit here until it all blows over?”

“Not a chance,” Master Keitou says. “The government has already captured one system user, that Solbourne man. And another has already joined their ranks, that Mayor Pete man.”

“Oh, I voted for him,” Julie says.

“Wait, Solbourne? ERYK?” Delta gasped, literally. “When did they capture him?”

Agent Z coughs instead of responding. Then Agent Y says, “About a year ago, don’t you think?”

“The same time the clone was around... Wait, he got captured a year ago and you’re just now going into action? What the hell?”

“We, um, didn’t find out about it until last week,” Agent Z says.

“Well, no matter about that,” Master Keitou says. “We’re here now. And we have a lot of work to do.”

“You mean, we’re prisoners of these South African spies,” Delta says.

“Actually, no, don’t you think?” Agent Z says. “You’re free to go whenever, don’t you think?”

“What’s with that verbal tic on this guy?” Delta asks.

“I don’t know, and it’s awful,” Agent Z says. “But he’s right. We just wanted to help you. Actually, our agency’s stretched way too thin now, and we’re getting sent back to Joburg. You’re on your own from here on out. That okay?”

“We’ll be fine,” Master Keitou says. “I must train Julie and the girl. My skills must be passed down, and I already failed with Solbourne.”

Julie looks extremely determined, like she’s really buying what this old woman is selling her. “I’ll do my best.”

“Okay? You’re sure you don’t need anything?” Agent Z asks. “Last chance.”

Delta shakes her head. “No. Good luck in South Africa.”

“We’re gonna need it with the chewing out we’re going to be getting.”

“Goodbye, don’t you think?”

And with that, the South African Secret Service agents climb back up the ladder and leave the safe house.

Master Keitou gives a mischievous glance in Julie’s direction, and as if on cue, Esther runs back over to her mothers’ side.

“You wish to learn about the power of Mystix,” she says. “I can teach it.” She speaks some words in a foreign language, and suddenly water sprouts from her finger tips, dripping onto the floor. “Try it, Julie. Try it, Esther.”

They both do, repeating the words as best as they can. It takes a few attempts, but both manage to produce water; Esther is even able to summon an entire round of bubbles that float up to the ceiling and pop. Raindrops keep falling on Delta’s head.

“This is so much fun,” Esther says.

“It’s called magic, little one.”

“Hey, Master Keitou,” Delta says, “do you know what’s, like, up with the baby?”

“I’m a baby,” Esther says.

“Yeah, you know, the fact that she’s still a baby? Uh, kind of?”

Master Keitou. “I have absolutely no idea.”

“Dammit.”

“But surely we will discover the truth if we work together,” she says. “We have all the time in the world, so why don’t we just take it nice and slow?”

“We got everything we need,” Delta says in partial agreement.

“Time enough for life,” Julie says.

“And for a hell of a lot of training,” Master Keitou says. “If Julie and Esther don’t have the skills to defend themselves within one month, then I have failed utterly. So I will make sure that does not happen.”

Delta’s spent a year supporting her wife, and then her daughter too. And that is going to continue here in the safe house. Whatever happens, they’ll do it together, and she’s perfectly fine with that.

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Thedude3445

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Mikayla Buan. https://twitter.com/mikayla_buan

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