Whisper in the Dark - Chapter 03

Whisper in the Dark
by Sleethr

~o~O~o~

Whisper eats pizza and explains how she learned Italian.

~o~O~o~

 

Insert standard disclaimer here: The one that reminds everyone that this is a work of fiction. No one is real and any resemblance to someone who is real is purely coincidence, honest. This is also a Fan Fiction set in the Whateley Story Universe. No Canon characters were permanently harmed in the making of this story. I hope. :)

 

Note: Well, this took way long and it ended up long at 12k words. I hope it was worth the wait. Thanks go out to my beta-readers/editors/sanity checkers as well as djkauf for his magical editing.

~o~O~o~


--SEPARATOR--

 

** Chapter 03 **

As we drove into town, I reapplied my human illusion.  It wasn’t really much of an illusion; just a simple ear rounding and eye tweak to make myself look normal.

“Whoa!” Lindsay gasped and spun around to study my face. “That was so flippin cool!  How did you do that?  Are you a shape shifter?”

“No, it’s just an illusion. They’re still there.” I smirked as I leaned a little closer to her. “Go ahead, get it out of your system and touch them.”

I felt her fingertips gently tracing the points of my ears above where it looked like my ears ended. Needless to say, she was amazed. “What else can you do with your illusions? Can you make yourself look like a movie star?”

I grinned and glanced toward the front passenger seat. My mom started to shake her head with a mildly panicked expression. “Weeelll, I made Mom look like a Japanese school girl.”

Mom groaned and blushed while both my dad and Lindsay chorused, “What?!?”

“Yeah, it was-” I started to explain before Mom interrupted.

“Brianna...there are a lot of chores for you to catch up on young lady, but I’m sure we can work something out, right?” Her voice full of fake sweetness as she strongly hinted that the story wasn’t something she wanted told right now, or maybe, ever.

I gulped and nodded with agreement, causing Lindsay to sigh and sit back in her seat with disappointment over not getting the dirt on Mom. Dad was less reluctant to let it go. “Hon, you’re going to tell me about this tonight, after the kids go to bed, right?”

Maybe it would help Dad see what she looked like if I changed her before I went to bed. “Do you want me to-”

“No! Don’t you dare.” Mom turned back and glared at me before turning back to Dad with a sigh. “Yes Dear, I’ll tell you about it tonight.”

Lindsay reached over and grabbed my hand with an excited grin that told me she wasn’t going to give up until I told her all about it.  Mom didn’t say I couldn’t tell Lindsay and I didn’t understand why she was so upset. It was months ago and Aunt Julie was happy to have her disguise, Uncle Jim too.  Oh well, there was nothing I could do about it and I was pretty sure Lindsay was going to want a demonstration sometime very soon.

The Pizza Palace looked pretty busy, but I expected it would be.  It was a Saturday evening and, like me, all the kids were out of school. As soon as Dad gave our name to the hostess, she pointed out a waving John and Lisa. The two of them had already grabbed a table large enough to seat our party.

During the walk back to our table, my targeting system tagged and marked all the people inside as potentially hostile, low threat targets. Since I was used to targeting spam, I mostly ignored it, until it spotted the two sheriff deputies eating pizza. For those gentlemen, it pinged me with an alert and highlighted them in yellow as medium threat targets due to their weapons.  I overrode the alert level and changed them to friendly, but instructed it to alert me if they headed toward my position. I also made sure my frequency scanners and filters were up to date in case they received an alert about me.

Was I being too paranoid?  Not really. It was pretty common for the local law folks to work hand in hand with the MCO and I wouldn’t put anything past the MCO bullies. I heard a rumor that the majority of MCO agents weren’t mutant haters, but I had never met one and as a result, the haters were bringing the rest of the organization down. The MCO simply couldn’t be trusted to not be idiots in regards to mutants and especially me. It wasn’t uncommon for the MCO to tip-off the local law enforcement and inflate the danger about a mutant living or visiting a town just to make things difficult for that person.

I also spotted a few guys I recognized from my old school. None from Whateley, but I didn’t expect to see any fellow Whateley classmates  because that would’ve been a little alarming to me since none of my fellow students had listed Santa Fe as their official home address. Yes, I had “unofficially” checked the records for other students I might know.

There was one previous classmate who drew my attention, the real Chloe. She     was                              eating pizza and laughing with her friends. Seeing her sent a tiny shiver down my spine. It was a little like seeing a ghost.

“What’s wrong, honey?” Mom asked, touching my shoulder reassuringly.

I glanced back at her. “Oh, nothing. I just spotted Chloe...”

“Oh.” Mom nodded and smiled at me as she followed my gaze. “Yeah, that’s a little strange seeing her sitting there with you standing next to me.”

Of course, Lindsay overheard our little conversation and looked even more curious about what happened while I was in Virginia being chased and shot at by the CIA, MCO and a bunch of other “concerned” law enforcement types.

>Alert!
>Hostile target incoming!

What the?!?!

“Oh. My. Gawd. Bree!” Lisa gushed with way more enthusiasm than I was expecting as she rushed toward me.

Oops. I forgot to mark Lisa and John as friendlies. I fixed that mistake just in time to receive an attack hug.

“Uff!” She knocked the wind out of me. “Hey Lisa. It’s good to see you!” I returned her hug.

Where were these kind of hugs when I was still a dude? Disengaging from her, I glanced over to John. He anxiously stood behind and slightly to the side of Lisa wearing a button up, collared shirt with khaki dress pants instead of the usual t-shirt and jeans. Why did he dress up?

“Hey bro. Looking good!” I gave Lisa a little pat of reassurance, just in case she thought I might try to horn in on her man. It was very weird to even have that as a possible issue for me, but the last three months had been a crash course in female interpersonal relationships.

I turned to him and decided to make sure our friendship was strictly based on our past best-bud’s relationship. “How’s it been without having me around to kick your butt in Call of Duty?” I made a show of inspecting his clothes. “Whoa, I’m guessing Lisa used that time to clean up your image?” 

I giggled as she gasped with amusement when John blushed.  I felt a little bad putting him on the spot, but it was what friends do to each other sometimes, right?  To help compensate, I pulled Lisa and John together and gave them both a big hug. “Thanks for being here. I missed you guys so much!”

I spotted Lindsay out of the corner of my eye looking a little left out. So, I pulled her into the group hug. “You too, sis.” 

It was a simple, fleeting hug, lasting only a few seconds, but my tummy chose a lull in the volume to grumble and remind me how hungry I was.  Of course, Lisa, John and Lindsay all heard it and laughed at me. I mean, with me. I tried to play it cool. “Wow, the stomach has spoken. Enough with the mushy stuff, let’s get some foood!”

We broke up the hug and somehow, I ended up sitting between Lisa and Lindsay, with John and my parents on the other side of the table. Once we were all seated, the waitress took our orders and after she left to get our drinks, Lisa turned to me. “So, umm, what happened to your cool Vulcan ears?”

“Oh, nothing, they’re still there, you just can’t see them.” I reached up and touched the tip of my ear and to her, it looked like I was simply hovering an inch above the top of my ear.  “Go ahead, try touching where my finger is.”

Lisa gingerly reached over and gasped with astonishment when her finger felt the tip of my ear while her eyes reported something different. “That’s so cool! But, why are you hiding them?”

“Oh…” I glanced over to the police officers and she caught my meaning. “Just to keep from drawing attention. The MCO has not been playing nice with me. Hell, they don’t play nice with anyone, but for me, they seem to kinda not like me.”

John looked startled. “What? The MCO are the good guys. They only go after the dangerous mutants.”

Instead of setting him straight, my parents stayed silent, but Lisa laughed at him. “John, you can’t honestly think that, can you?”

“Well, yeah. I’ve seen them on TV. That “Real MCO” show where they show how they take down the dangerous super-villains.” John defensively crossed his arms as he glanced to my parents for support.

Lisa was about to rip into him, but I put my hand on her arm to get her attention and stop her. “John...” I frowned and sadly nodded my head. “Four months ago, I would’ve totally agreed with you. The MCO are our friends who help protect us from the ‘dangerous mutant threat’.” I gave him the sarcastic air quotes before continuing. “The main problem is that they think ‘all’ mutants are a threat to humanity. I didn’t do a thing wrong except defend my mom against some Humanity First jerks and for that, they tried to arrest me, when that failed, they tricked the CIA into kidnapping me, when that failed, they had a crew follow an Air Force drop ship because they thought I was onboard. They’ve sent agents to school to try and interrogate me and a few weeks ago, they tried to kidnap me again when I went shopping at a mall with some classmates. Finally, they tried to arrest me at the airport today by sending a pair of their powered assault troopers after me.”

“No, way!” John looked shocked, but he didn’t call me a liar or dispute my claims point by point like we would if he didn’t believe me.

“Yes, way.” I sing-songed back to him with a brief smile. “But seriously, there isn’t a single person at school who hasn’t had a problem with the MCO or knows of someone who the MCO has harassed.  Even worse, there’s a strong rumor that says the MCO is behind a bunch of missing person reports and based on what I’ve seen, I totally believe them. The MCO is rotten to the core.”

John didn’t look happy to learn his heroes weren’t as shiny as he thought. “Hmmm, those a-holes better not try anything with you while you’re here. The Sheriff is a friend of my Dad’s. I’ll make sure he knows about the MCO.”

John’s support surprised me a little, but he’s my best bud and buds stick together. The ‘rents did not like my extra bit of MCO news either. My mom looked very concerned, but she should be since she’s now an official card carrying member of the mutant club. “Brianna, we are going to have a long talk about this when we get home,” she smiled at everyone, “now, can we talk about something other than the MCO?”

John nodded. “Sure Mrs. P, umm, so, Bree...how was the new school? Was it like being at the X Mansion?” He grinned excitedly as everyone at the table turned to me for some dirt.

“Weeeellll.” I slowly nodded with agreement as I worked out the best way to explain the chaos that is Whateley. “It’s kinda complicated and not at all what I was expecting, but it’s also better and worse than I was expecting.” 

Of course, my captive audience was a little confused. “How about if I explain a little bit about how the school works?”

I started off with explaining how the school is set up as neutral ground because it gets its funding from hero groups, super-villains, the government and alumni. “So, it’s a safer place for all mutants since no one wants to break the truce and risk their children. It also gives the children of super-villains a way to break free from their parents, or at least, make friends with enough people to help encourage them to not follow in their parent’s footsteps.”

“Do you know any super-villains?” John asked, causing my parents to look concerned.

“Not personally, but one of my friends is sort of friends with Dr. Diabolik’s daughter.” Judging by the glance my parents gave each other, I could tell they didn’t enjoy that bit of news. “But, I’ve never really met her and she’s not in my cottage, err dorm.” 

They relaxed a little, but I could tell it was probably time to move on. “Anyway, in addition to the normal reading, writing and math, the school has some pretty cool classes, like Introduction to Magic, Self-Defense, Survival, a Flight School that even goes into space, costume design and tons of different high-tech labs for making cool gadgets.  There’s also firing ranges with cool weapons and a couple of ‘danger room’ style simulators where we can practice using our powers without worrying about hurting people.”

Our server and one of her co-workers made their appearance loaded down with food. “Okay, we got a veggie pizza…”

“Here!” I raised my hand, causing the server to glance at me with confusion. The pizza was a medium and I don’t think she expected little ‘ole me to claim it.  She set it down in the middle of the table and closer to the girls with some extra plates for everyone to share, but I had no plans on sharing with anyone.

“And, a Special.” She set a large garbage pizza down closer to John and my dad. What was she trying to say? That only guys liked to eat those kinds of pizzas or was I reading too much into it?

I decided to let it go. I was back home, eating at my favorite pizza place with my friends and family and my empty stomach was probably making me grumpy.  I pulled my pizza to me and started to dig in while Dad and John began passing out slices of the garbage pizza to everyone else.  It looked so good, but when I helped pass a plate to Lindsay, my meat sensitive nose picked up the scent of the delicious looking bacon and gave me a reminder that the gateway meat drug and bane of wanna-be vegetarians was not my friend anymore.

“Are you really going to eat all of that?” Dad asked, skeptically looking at me, along with everyone else. 

Mom wasn’t surprised, but I guessed Dad never got the memo about my new and improved teenager appetite. I glanced down at my pizza and nodded. “Yep, but I might be able to spare a piece if we are going to stop for ice cream on the way home.”  I grinned as his eyes widened with panic as it looked like he rapidly started to consider the extra cost of groceries if I ate like this much all the time. 

“What?!?” Lisa gasped. “Please tell me that you don’t eat that much all the time?”

“Mmmm, hmmm.” I nodded as I rapidly finished chewing a bite. “Not every meal, but most of the time I eat this much.”

Lisa glanced down to her slice of pizza like it was an enemy. “How do you ‘not’  gain weight?!?”
 

“I’m a low-level energizer.”

“A what?” Lisa inquisitively canted her head.

“An energizer. I generate a little extra electrical energy to help power all my, umm, stuff.” I had learned a few things over the past month and I wanted to show them an impressive electrical effect I had learned, but having a spark of electricity jump from one hand to another would probably be a tad too noticeable in a crowded restaurant. “In a pinch, I can tase a person, but one of the side effects is that I need more calories to help with the extra load.”

Our server made another appearance to check on our drinks and ask the standard, “How’s everything tasting?” question.  Dad took the initiative to order another pizza. Our server seemed a little surprised, but happily took the order. Conversation crawled to a slow walk as we all ate. I may need to eat more, but I couldn’t magically eat faster. As a result, I was reduced to simple yes and no’s as I concentrated on devouring my pizza while everyone else took a more leisurely approach to eating their food.

I learned that Lindsay was doing well in school, but she had also been the target of some extra teasing and bullying due to the rumors of her brother turning into a mutant and disappearing from high school. The rumors ranged from me being a horribly disfigured mutant who was rounded up by the MCO before I could become an evil villain to one of the newest super-boy heroes fighting alongside one of the big superhero groups.  There wasn’t a lot of support for the former and how Lindsay managed to keep my gender change a secret, I’ll never know. Well, I hoped she kept it a secret, but I guessed that I would find out soon now that I was back home.

As for my friends, John and Lisa didn’t escape the attention of the Humanity First wannabes in my old school. The wannabes along with their ‘concerned’ and bigoted parents tried to petition the school board to not only expel the known mutants -- all two of them --, but their siblings and to even consider the friends of known mutants as dangers to the student body.  According to John, everything died down pretty fast after Lisa came to the defense and kicked the asses of the three Humanity First wannabes who tried to beat up one of the two known mutants with baseball bats.

Her Dad and the majority of the other students were pretty proud of her, but the school officials were less than thrilled. It was a public relations nightmare and the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy for violence reared its ugly head, almost getting Lisa expelled, but it was a clear case of self-defense against armed assailants with tons of witnesses and two teachers willing to back her up. I thought she was pretty damn brave.

Further discussion was interrupted when Mr. Giordano, the owner, hand delivered our third pizza. I think our server tipped him off about me eating one all by myself or maybe he just wanted to get out of the kitchen.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to check with his guests about the food and he was pretty darn friendly.  The only problem he had was with other people understanding him. While he immigrated from Italy thirty plus years ago, his English was still a little hard to understand.

“Here’a isa your pizza pie, fresco from the oven! I hoppa you like.” He beamed a smile at us as he set the pizza down.

“Thanks Mr. Giordano.” Mom returned his smile. “Your pizzas are always the best!”

He bowed to her. “Ah, you’re too kind Signora Peters.” He turned his attention to me and his eyes widened with surprise as he noticed the almost finished pizza in front of little ‘ole me. “Oh mio, how isa your pizza, signorina?”

Of course, I had to show off and reply to him in Italian. “E 'molto buono, grazie!”

My simple, little compliment caused him to break out into rapid fire Italian as he asked me where I learned Italian. I confused my parents and friends even more when I replied in Italian, which then made him ask what part of town in Florence I lived in. Apparently, he thought I was a foreign exchange student who was staying with my parents. Who knew that spending two days stuck in Italy by Uncle Gothmog would make me sound like a native?

He was so delighted to have someone from Italy compliment his pizza that he gave me a hug, kissed me European style on the cheeks and bustled back to the kitchen to fetch us some free tiramisu.  He seemed so happy, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t from Italy.

The reactions from everyone at the table were mixed. Dad didn’t know what to say and Mom simply shook her head with resignation while Lindsay, Lisa and John looked excited by the free dessert. “Okay young lady, what just happened?”

Maybe if I stuck to the truth and nothing but the truth, she wouldn’t ask for more details. “Umm, I spoke to him in Italian and he was happy?”

She was buying it. “And when did you learn to speak Italian?”

“Oh, about two months ago…” I tried to end this line of questioning by taking another bite of my pizza.

It didn’t work, my mom was on to me. “Okay, and why did he feel like you were someone he knew?” 

Oh, dang. Even though she couldn’t understand a word we said, she was able to feel his emotions and now my panic as I tried to figure out how to get out of telling her about my little jaunt to Italy.  “Umm, because I spoke Italian with a Fiorenzian accent?”

“Brianna Nicole Peters, you have two seconds to tell us what you’re hiding about this sudden fluency with Italian.” Mom broke out the full name treatment, again.

I sighed with defeat. “Fine, it wasn’t anything dangerous or anything.  Uncle Gothmog wanted to get to know me, so he took me to Italy for dinner and kind of, accidently left me there when he got called away on a family emergency of some sort.” I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. “See, nothing bad.”

Of course, I kind of glossed over the ‘family emergency’ bit. It really was a family emergency, but when your school is under attack by something from Uncle Gothmog’s family tree; things are more than a little dangerous.  Even though I wasn’t very happy to be stranded, once I learned what happened, I was actually kind of glad I wasn’t around for the GOO attack on Whateley.

“He flew you to Italy!?” Mom’s eyes popped open with surprise. “Okay, and just who is this ‘Uncle Gothmog’?”

This was going to be a little tricky to explain. “Umm, well, no, we didn’t fly. He teleported us and Uncle Gothmog is Sara’s dad, he’s a Great Older One,” judging by their blank expressions, I could tell they didn’t know what a GOO was, “which means he’s kind of a god and Sara is, well, she’s Nikki’s blood sister and since Nikki and Aunt Aunghadhail sort of adopted me, now Sara is also my cousin and she’s not really a demon, but more of a goddess in training. See, nothing bad happened, I’m safe and I learned a foreign language.”  I laughed and grabbed my last slice of pizza because I really wanted to try the tiramisu.

Due to our past, geek fantasy RPG days, I think John was the only one who understood what a GOO was, but it took him a few seconds to connect the dots. His eyes got a little wide when things clicked, but I can’t blame him since Uncle Gothmog isn’t nearly as well known as his crazy brother Cthulhu.  Of whom, I am very glad I have never met and most certainly do not have on my list of things to do.

Thankfully, my mom’s super empathy didn’t pick up on John’s reaction. Instead, she focused on her parental concerns regarding ‘stranger danger’. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Backup. How did you meet this ‘God-Uncle’ of yours and why did he take you to Italy for dinner?”

The rest of the spectators at the table looked like they were watching a tennis match. With each volley, their heads all swiveled to look at Mom, then back to me.  I decided that the easiest way out of this pickle was to just tell her the story from the beginning.

~o~O~o~

> 13-APR-2007 11:30 AM EST

Yes, it was Friday the 13th and a red flag day, but it was pizza day at the Crystal Hall and I was looking forward to eating lunch. I was not paraskevidekatriaphobic at all and even considered the day a ‘lucky’ day.  Besides, the sun was shining, the temps were in the low 40’s and most of the snow was melted.  What could go wrong?  I know, I know, I was tempting fate, but I refused to be paranoid about one date over another.  If any date in the U.S. should be feared, it’s the 4th of July because random people blowing stuff up in the name of independence is not the safest idea.

Instead of a skirt, I wore the uniform pants because the skirts, even with leggings, were a little too drafty for my liking.  How some of the Alpha chicks could handle skirts and bare legs in the middle of winter was beyond my understanding. Well, not the middle, maybe more early spring, but compared to New Mexico, it was freaking cold.

I looked up and double-checked the flag status. Still red, which meant no one could show off and all the noticeable mutants had to take the tunnels. I guessed the school had some visitors on campus today and they didn’t want to spook the norms or maybe the admins had paraskevidekatriaphobia. I didn’t mind because it made navigating the school grounds easier without as many people clogging the paths.

Red flag days also made me feel a little safer because there were fewer potential hostile targets for me track. Other than that everyone has super-powers thing, Whateley was just like public school with the cliques, the bullying and the animosity each clique had for the other.  Except, the kids at Whateley could take things to a very dangerous level if they took a dislike to you.

Everything was going well until I was within striking distance of the Crystal Hall.  There was a large man wearing what appeared to be an expensive silk suit exiting the lunch hall. We had a lot of large and very large students, thus his appearance wasn’t an unusual occurrence, except I had never seen anyone wearing a silk suit before and even more puzzling was that no one seemed to notice him. People in his path simply moved out of his way without seeming to realize they had done so. What elevated the puzzling to downright mystifying was the way he was focused on me.

I wasn’t sure how to handle this threat. He was smiling instead of scowling. He clearly wasn’t a student and unless he was a new hire, he probably wasn’t staff either. I stopped in my tracks and simply waited to see how this would play out.

“Brianna! How’s my favorite niece?!?” His booming voice, joyous expression and proclamation of relationship confused me even more.

“Daddy, please stop! You’re scaring her.” Sara rushed past him and to my side. 

I wasn’t exactly scared of him. Yes, I wasn’t sure why he thought I was his niece but, at that moment, I was more worried about people noticing how friendly Sara was with me because I had spent the past month pretending to not know her and even dislike her a little.  However, there seemed to be some sort of invisible bubble of do-not-notice-me surrounding us as students came and went without ever appearing to see or hear us.

“Sara, what’s going on? Why aren’t people looking at us and…” I kind of lost focus when his arms wrapped around and hugged us both. I was able to filter out and compartmentalize the strange, tingling sensations of desire that Sara’s physical presence caused, but his presence added on top of Sara’s was something else. 

I decided to gloss over the rather intense sexual feelings with my friends and parents. They didn’t really need to know exactly how strong my desire was to rip off Sara’s clothes and have sex in the middle of the sidewalk. Well, try to anyway because I was so consumed that I collapsed when my knees buckled when an intense feeling of warmth washed over me. I’m pretty sure I had an orgasm and worse, it felt like I had peed my panties a little.  Talk about feeling embarrassed.

“Daaaddy, you need to be a little more gentle with Bree!” Sara helped pull me back up as my emotions stabilized, leaving me feeling relieved and a little disappointed. “She’s pretty strong, but she’s only mortal.”

I glanced around and my embarrassment faded a little when it looked like no one had noticed my little show. Even though it was busy and the middle of the afternoon, all the other students continued to flow around us like we were part of the landscape, but if Peeper and Greasy managed to get it on camera, I was going to have to hit them where it hurt, their electronics.

Sara’s dad looked a little chagrined as he took a half-step back to give me some breathing room. “Sorry about that, but when Sara told me about you, I just had to meet you right away.” He took a step forward and gave me a hug. This time there was only an easily ignored, mild tingle of lust. “I’ve never had a niece before and I find the experience absolutely fascinating!”

Sara had warned me --well teased me-- about her Dad and now, ready or not, it looked like the moment had come.“Umm, thanks, Uncle Gothmog-”

I would’ve continued, but Uncle Gothmog pulled me into  another hug and it felt like his entire body was hugging me. I’m guessing he had some of those tentacle things like Sara. I thought I saw some strange looking temple in the middle of a vast, alien landscape, but just as it was coming into focus, he pushed me away with an audible slurping sound. Yes, definitely tentacles or something, but for some reason it didn’t freak me out in the slightest. I thought the temple was kind of cool looking. Was there anything valuable in there?

He turned me to face Sara and hugged me like a normal person, with his arm. “She called me Uncle Gothmog!” His face lit up with joy. “You’re right my daughter, she is an amazing treasure and I can’t wait to get to know her better!”

“Daddy, what are you thinking?” Sara looked a little alarmed.

He gave me a quick, reassuring squeeze and mischievously grinned at Sara. “Oh nothing major Kellith dear, I just want to take her out to lunch. Is that so bad?”

Sara grabbed my arm and pulled me away from him. “No, absolutely not. She’s not ready for that yet.”

Uncle Gothmog pulled me back. “Not there!” He turned to me. “What are you hungry for my dear, delightful niece?”

What was this ‘there’ place he mentioned? I glanced with longing to the Crystal Hall before turning back to him. “Well, I was looking forward to getting some pizza, umm, sir?”

My reply seemed to fill him with even more joy and he gave me an excited squeeze. “Did you hear her Kellith? She called me ‘sir’. You could learn a lot from your cousin!”

Sara rolled her eyes. “Daaaddy, please.”

“So, what do you think Brianna, how about some Italian?” Uncle Gothmog glanced back to Sara with a smirk.

Alarmed, Sara reached out to try and pull me away from him. “No, don’t-”

Her voice cut off as I was pulled into Uncle Gothmog’s body. I was briefly surrounded by smoky black tentacles before they faded and light returned. Wherever I was now, it was a lot warmer than New Hampshire and the buildings, streets, cars and people looked European. It was pretty obvious that he had teleported me.

“Ahh, here we are my dear.” Uncle Gothmog let go of me and pointed to a little corner restaurant half a block away.

Knock me down with a feather. Flashback’s ‘little’ teleport from Low Earth Orbit to Whateley was nothing compared to getting whisked halfway around the world. “Whoa, are we in Italy!?”

He chuckled and nodded his head. “Of course my dear. Nothing but the best for my niece!”

I decided that teleporting was a way cooler power than being able to do some simple illusions.  There was one teensy problem though. “Umm, I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Carson is going to miss me.”

“Nonsense my dear, I’ll have you back there in no time! You were on your lunch break, no?” Uncle Gothmog dismissively waved away my concern.

I couldn’t help feeling that something would go wrong with this and maybe there was something about this Friday the 13th, but he was a god and he had to know what he was doing, right? “Well, yes and I guess as long as I don’t miss my next class, everything will be good.”

He chuckled as he held the door to the restaurant open for me to enter first.  His chivalry made me feel important.

“Signore Dominguez! è un piacere rivederti!” A smiling and pretty hostess greeted Uncle Gothmog and naturally, I didn’t understand a word she said.

I think she said something like Mister Dominguez, but I wasn’t sure and the rest was a blur of Italian.  Regardless, she sounded happy to see him, but I was a little distracted by her looks because I thought she was very pretty. She had jet black hair accented by a few dark purple streaks combined with a light olive complexion and a naturally beautiful, heart-shaped face and bright green eyes. I wasn’t sure how common green eyes were for Italians, but maybe she dyed her hair?  Regardless, she was beautiful and smiling and I liked her a lot.

Uncle Gothmog bowed and kissed her hand. “Ahh, Signora Sophia! It is a delight to see you once again. Please excuse my use of English, but I brought my niece, Brianna.” He glanced back to me. “She’s from America and doesn’t understand Italian.”

Sophia blushed and surprised me with a quick curtsy. “It is a pleasure to meet you Signorina Brianna.”

Her English was pretty good and she had a delightfully charming accent. I felt myself getting a little flustered by the attention and decided I needed to learn Italian ASAP, when in Rome and all that. Plus, I hated not knowing what people were saying.  Not because I was nosey, but because it helped with situational awareness. I didn’t expect to be attacked here, but it couldn’t hurt to know the lingo.

Sophia turned back to Uncle Gothmog. “Would you care for your normal table, Signore Dominguez?”

I guess Dominguez sounded a little more normal than Gothmog.  Uncle Gothmog or Uncle Dominguez motioned for me to precede him. I followed Sophia and couldn't help noticing that she walked with a sway to her hips that accidently attracted my eyes. She had nice legs and her short black skirt attracted my eyes as it swished back and forth.

I tried to distract myself from her shapely rear by scanning the interior of the restaurant for dangers as well as marking possible exit and entry points. My tactic didn’t work because I got a little distracted when I spotted a woman disappear under the table as the man she was with pulled the table cloth over until it blocked the view of his legs.

“Eeek!” My eyes snapped back to Sophia’s pleasing backside. Double eeek.

“Here is your table Signore Dominguez.” She smiled and gestured to a table situated near the rear of the restaurant and with a commanding view of almost the entire place.

I moved to the side when he reached past me and took her hand. “Ahh, wonderful. Thank you Sophia. It’s always a pleasure to have you serve me.” He bowed and kissed the knuckles of her hand.

Her face flushed and her knees wobbled a little before he released her hand. “Oh mio mio…” Sophia gasped as she absently brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “Umm, perdonatemi, ti porterò il vostro vino subito, umm,” she apologized to me with a subtle nod while maintaining eye contact with Uncle Dominguez, “sorry,  I mean, I’ll bring your wine and a pair of glasses right away.”

He beamed Sophia a smile that caused her to knees to tremble again. “Ahh, yes, wine would be most welcome. Thank you, Sophia!”

Sophia departed and I moved to take a seat, but Uncle G stopped me by gallantly pulling out my chair and motioning for me to sit. Since I didn’t get a chance to order a soda, or something, I wondered what I was going to drink. I was only fifteen, but we were in Europe and didn’t most European countries allow people under twenty-one to drink? My parents had allowed me to have a small, very small amount of wine during last year’s Thanksgiving dinner, but I wasn’t sure if he meant for me to drink wine in public and I didn’t want to get Sophia in trouble.

Alone, with my new Uncle and in a foreign country where everyone spoke, well, not English. I felt a little overwhelmed. “So, umm, Uncle Dominguez?” I wasn’t sure how it wanted me to address him.

He smiled at me with a fond twinkle in his eye. “Sorry, my dear favorite niece, but my guise among the mortals is Antonio Marques Dominguez, but you may call me what you wish.” He sighed. “However, I must admit that it gave me an unexpected thrill to have you call me ‘Uncle Gothmog’”

“Ummm, okay Uncle Gothmog it is then.” I glanced around the restaurant again and accidently caught sight of the man with his missing female companion clutching the table. I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks and I’m sure I turned a bright shade of red as I hastily averted my eyes. Italians appeared to be a tad more open about sex, but maybe Uncle Gothmog had something to do with it.

“I see you noticed the young couple enjoying themselves.” He gestured back to the pair.

I refused to turn back, but nodded to acknowledge him. “Uh huh.”

“They have been dating for six months now. He’s very traditional. No sex before marriage.” Uncle Gothmog sighed with disappointment. “Damn Christians and their guilt. I would complain, but it makes them very easy to ‘encourage’.” He chuckled. “Suppressing human nature is foolish. I’ve gained more followers from the ‘Christian’ tribes than any other.”

I couldn’t resist, I had to sneak a glance back at the couple.  She demurely sat by his side and took a sip of wine as the man slumped bonelessly in his seat, adoration written clearly in his eyes.  Yes, based on his skin temperature and pupil dilation, I’d have to say he was definitely feeling a little ‘drained’ from the experience. I slowly nodded and turned back to him.

“See, my dear niece, there is nothing better than forbidden and public sex to express one's desire for another. The ancient Romans really knew how to have an orgy. Oh, how I miss those days.” He grinned and sighed with fond remembrance as he glanced around the restaurant.

I didn’t know how to respond. This topic wasn’t something that had ever come up before. Now, my parents weren’t prudes by any means and both Lindsay and I knew what it meant when they had a ‘date night’, but to have the topic spoken so openly. I have never had an adult speak to me so casually about sex. That reminded me of my earlier introduction to Uncle G because my panties were very, umm, uncomfortable. “Umm, okay. I guess I can sort of see that, but I sorta need to go to the bathroom.”

Methinks I will need to have a little chat with my lovable, evil cousin when I get back.  She’s a bad influence, but is that really a bad thing?  Oh, I felt very confused.  Speaking of confused, the bathroom doors didn’t have the handy male/female icons, just “Donne” and “Maschi”. Which one was I supposed to use?  I really needed to learn Italian and fast!

I picked the Donne door, but only because Maschi sounded like it could be Macho.  It proved to be the correct guess. No urinals, but who knows what the Italian men use?  I took the opportunity to relieve myself and dry up down there.  My panties were embarrassingly damp and I debated taking them off, rinsing them and, well, my mind kinda shut down after that because it would’ve made them worse and there is no way in heck I’m going commando. No sirree bub.

Well, if my nanites could clean blood off my clothes, they should be able to take care of a little excess moisture, right?  I cautiously instructed them to take care of it, but specifically instructed them to not destroy the fabric like they did with my blood back in Virginia.  Amanda helped me pick out this set and they were my favorite. I can’t believe I have a ‘favorite’ pair of panties. Favorite geek slogan t-shirts, comfy jeans or cool shoes is okay, but panties?!?!  I sighed with resignation as my panties appeared to auto-magically clean themselves.  Well, score one for me, but just in case, I added a panty liner to the mix.

As I washed my hands, I scanned the local TV stations for anything I could use to speed learn Italian. Nothing jumped out at me, but they did have a handy closed captioning option. “Hmmm, maybe…”

There was a local wi-fi connection available, but it was secured. Paige’s handy dandy hacking training came in handy and I was inside the router in less than a second. It’s amazing what you can find on the torrent sites!  I grabbed a copy of an English-slash-Italian dictionary and even better, started the download of a pirated version of an expensive Learn Italian language program.  While the program was downloading, I set the dictionary to start matching the subtitles of every TV program I received and set that process to run in the background. I started a third sub-process to try and match any spoken words in the restaurant with the matched words from the TV shows.

It took a little CPU, but nothing I couldn’t do without while eating dinner. If stuff happened, I could simply pause the process.  It worked pretty well because when I exited the bathroom and turned around to make sure no one was laughing at me for using the wrong restroom, “Women” showed up as a subtitle for the “Donne” sign on the door. Augmented Reality was kind of handy, but it was kind of a shame I wasn’t going to be here long enough to really make good progress with cracking the language.

The couple was gone and their meal was half eaten.  I guessed they were in a hurry to get someplace, but I stopped my imagination from continuing down that path. I didn’t want to have to run the bathroom to change liners. Unfortunately, there were other couples who appeared to be under Uncle G’s influence. There were a lot of men and women with elevated respiration and higher than normal skin temperatures, but I didn’t spot any ‘strategically placed’ tablecloths. So, maybe he was toning things down a little?

Sophia looked a little busy delivering wine to the tables and the place seemed a little more busy than it was when we arrived. Was she the only waitress? Oh well, I rejoined Uncle G at the table and found a glass of white wine waiting for me and a bottle of sparkling water.  I guess they don’t do simple glasses of water here, but maybe there is a reason. I would hate to return home with Montezuma’s Revenge, err, Hannibal’s Revenge from drinking the water.

“Ahh, there you are!” Uncle G beamed me a warm smile as he got up and once again, helped me get seated.

I could get used to being treated like royalty, but I started to feel another warm tingle in my stomach and I quickly changed mental gears before I further embarrassed myself. Geez! He was my Uncle for goodness sake. Well, sorta since before today I had never met him and I wasn’t really related to Sara.

I decided shift gears and try the wine. Not like I was an expert or anything on how wine should taste, but it made me feel all grown up.  It tasted good and left a nice warm afterglow as it traveled down my throat. Better than the stuff my parents let me try, but nanites eliminated the alcohol molecules before they made it two centimeters into my bloodstream. 

Instead of Sophia taking our order, the owner or head chef, not sure which, came to our table. My translation, subtitle program caught about 50% of what he and Uncle G said, but it was enough to know that Uncle G ordered some sort of spinach dish with fresh fish for me. How did he know I didn’t like red meat? Oh yeah, he’s a god, err, GOO or maybe he just asked Sara? He ordered a prosciutto and pasta dish with a tomato sauce. Mmmm, sort of bacon. Man, I missed bacon! Dang sidhe genes.

We chatted about school, my family, and friends and even a little about Sara, err, Kellith as he called her. It was kind of a normal, everyday conversation a person might have with their Uncle during the getting to know you phase. He had a wicked sense of humor, I liked it and everything was going well until about halfway through our meal. Uncle G suddenly put his fork down and frowned. “Oh, that’s not good.” He glanced back to me. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Did he dash from the restaurant like a normal person would in an emergency? Nope, he disappeared with a smokey black, shrinking tentacle black-hole kind of special effect and in a flash, I was alone. I sure hoped he got back fast because if not, how was I going to pay the bill or make it back in time for my next class?

I decided to call Sara and let her know that I might be a few minutes late. Maybe she could explain to Mrs. Carson that it wasn’t my fault.  It took a few extra seconds to establish a connection using the Italian cell phone company’s network, but it didn’t help because her phone went straight to voicemail.  She must have had her phone turned off due to class interruption.

Pretty much all of the students I knew would be in the same situation because having your cell phone confiscated by your teacher was a pain. Well, it was in public school, but I guessed things could be different at Whateley. With my built in commo suite, it wasn’t something I paid attention to though.

I decided to wait a little longer before calling the big guns. I still had thirty minutes before my next class started and Uncle G only disappeared a few minutes ago. I was hardly in danger. Instead, I sent her and Nikki an email. I expected to be back in school before they read it. It probably end up being one of those funny topics we could all laugh about later.

<Mail delivery error: Unknown host>

“What tha?” I sat up and verified their email addresses.  Nope, they are correct.  I tried resending, but a minute later, I got the same bounce message.  Maybe the school was having problems with their network. I decided to try again in fifteen minutes if Uncle G was still AWOL. 

Sophia stopped by and checked on me, but didn’t say anything about Uncle G. She was pretty busy. Maybe she thought he was in the bathroom or something because I doubted she would think he just teleported away.

I finished my lunch-slash-dinner and still no Uncle G. My pirated learn Italian program was ready to install. So, I decided to amuse myself by taking it apart, check it for nasty viruses or other malware. That took a whopping five minutes. Hey, it was kind of a complex program due to the speech recognition module.  I tried sending another email and calling Sara. Same results. 

“Hmmm…” Now I was getting a little worried. Time was getting a little close and there would be no way I could make it back in time if I had to walk from Italy. Okay, somehow buy a ticket and get back to the U.S. without a passport or any record of leaving. If the Italian authorities didn’t have a cow over my little visit, I’m sure the MCO and Customs would have a little something to say about it.  If I left right this second, I might be able to make it back to school by Monday, but probably not with my luck.

So much for the easy way out. It was time to face the music and explain things to Mrs. Carson. I sighed with resignation as I dialed the number for the front office.

All circuits are busy. Your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check your number and dial again.

Say what?  How was something like that possible?  A busy signal on a single line I could understand, but an all circuits message?  I tried Nikki’s cell phone, same thing. It was a Friday, maybe people were making a lot of calls during lunch to get ready for the weekend? Maybe it was something wrong with my systems.

I tried my home phone and that got through. No one answered and I didn’t expect anyone to be home, but I left a message. “Hey Mom, it’s me. Just calling to say hi during my lunch break. Love ya, Ciao!”

Okay, it wasn’t me.

Sophia made another run at my table and she forgot I didn’t speak Italian, but fortunately my translator system was working pretty well now. {“Did Signore Dominguez leave?”} Her eyes focused on his half-eaten plate of food, causing her to frown. {“Oh no, was he infelice with his meal?”}

I didn’t get the infelice word, but based on context, I assumed it meant unhappy. “Oh no, he liked it, but he got called away on something. He said he’d be right back, but that was thirty minutes ago...” I sighed as I tried to figure out how I was going to pay the bill.

I only had twenty dollars and I doubted it would cover the meal. If they would accept it U.S. money over whatever they used here. Was it the Euro? My credit card might work, but I wasn’t sure.  It was an U.S. government issued card and I bet they blocked foreign transactions.  I wondered how many dishes I would have to wash. I dug into my book bag for my wallet and pulled out my credit card. “Do you all take these?”

Sophia laughed and waved it away. {“Oh, your Uncle is an old friend of my papa. You don’t have to pay. He has a tab.”}

I sighed with relief as I put my card away. “Oh, that’s good, but I wish he would get back soon. I’m late for school now.”

She smirked mischievously for a second before her pretty green eyes narrowed with sudden suspicion. {“Hey, I thought you didn’t speak Italian! How are you understanding me?”}

I smiled apologetically. “Umm, I don’t speak it, but I guess I can understand you a little better now?” If I stayed here much longer I would need to be able to speak Italian too.  I devoted a little extra processing capacity to disassembling the language program’s speech module and figuring out how use it to help me speak Italian too.

Following Uncle G’s instructions, I stayed at the table, but I did move over to take his seat. It had a better view of the restaurant.  Without anything else to do, I poured all my effort into the Italian program.  Its dictionary was much better than the one I downloaded earlier. So, I swapped it out and got it going on all the TV shows to help build my vocabulary. The grammar and language rules built into the program helped a ton more and when Sophia came back to check on me fifteen minutes later I was ready to try speaking.

{“Hey...Sophia...my...uncle...still….hasn’t...returned. How...is...my...Italian?”} I know I probably sounded a little mechanical, but it had to be better than nothing.

She winced as she reached over and poured me a little more wine. {“Your pronunciation is good, but painfully slow and without passion. How did you learn so quickly?”} 

I applied another 20% of CPU to the speech module. {“It’s a little...hard to explain...but, I don’t...know what I...will do if...he doesn’t return...soon.”}

{“That was a little better.  Keep practicing?”} Sophia smiled and gave me an encouraging thumbs up before glancing around the restaurant. {“I think the dinner rush is over. You can stay as long as you need or until we close at 9pm.”}

As soon as she meandered away to serve another customer, I tried reaching Sara and the school again. No luck at all. There was only one person I could call now who might be able to help. I debated which number to try first. His cell phone or work number. I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt him with his cell phone if he was in a meeting.

His assistant picked up the phone on the first ring. “Deputy Director Reilly’s office. Susan speaking, how may I help you sir or ma’am?”

I had never spoken to her before, but judging by how she answered, I was pretty sure she had a military background. “Hi ma’am. This is Brianna Peters, umm, Whisper calling. I’m kind of in a jam and Mr. Reilly was the only person I could think of who might be able to help.  Is he there?”

“Whisper huh?” She lightly chuckled, followed by an amused sigh. “It had to be on this Friday. I’ll patch you in. Please hold.”

The line chirped and some on-hold music started playing. What the hey?!? I wanted to ask her what she meant by that. This is the first time I’ve called him since Virginia and it was only a big coincidence that it was Friday the 13th.  It took a few seconds before his phone started ringing.

“Please tell me you’re not in trouble.” Mr. Reilly begged.

Why would he think I only call him when I’m in trouble. I’m in Italy. Hmmm, maybe he doesn’t need to know that right this second. “No...not right now, but I’m having trouble getting a hold of Whateley. It’s like everything is down there. Nothing works. No phones, email or web.”

The line was quiet for a few seconds. Was he trying to call the school? I thought I lost him. “Okaaay, and what do you mean by ‘there’, you’re there, aren’t you?”

He was definitely one of those suspicious of everything kinda folks. A lot like my mom. “Weeelll, not exactly. I’m kind of in Italy-”

“WHAT?!?!?” Mr. Reilly sounded more than a little surprised. He sighed heavily as I pictured him leaning back in his chair and rubbing his temples with frustration. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“Sorry sir. I’m in Florence, Italy,” it was time to try distracting him by the real problem, “but I’m more worried about Whateley and missing my class.”

Mr. Reilly didn’t agree with me. “Let’s not worry about that right this second. Dare I ask, how did you get to Italy?”

He sounded a little frustrated and his voice stress meter was solidly in the yellow band. “Uncle Gothmog, he’s Sara’s Dad, was visiting and it’s pizza day. Well, he decided to take me out to get some Italian food for lunch, except it’s not really lunch time here. Anyway, I was pretty surprised when he somehow teleported me here and everything was going good until he said something about something not being good and for me to stay here before he disappeared on me.  So, I’m kinda stuck and late for class by a lot and I can’t reach anyone.”

“Hmmm…” Mr. Reilly was silent for a few seconds. “Okay, are you in a safe place?”

“Uh, huh.” I nodded my head as I looked around the restaurant. It seemed pretty safe and armed robberies weren’t very common in Italy or restaurants, right?

“Good, here is what I want you to do. Stay there. Don’t move and whatever you do, don’t get into trouble.”

“Okay, but-” I tried to tell him it wasn’t my fault.

“I know, I know...it wasn’t your fault.” Mr. Reilly sighed with resignation. “I’ll make some calls and call you back as soon as I know something. Okay?”

I nodded with agreement. “Yes, sir.”

“Good, if you don’t hear from me in an hour, call me back.”

“Yes, sir.” I glanced around the restaurant. It was starting to get busy again and Sophia was looking a little harried. “Umm, do you want me to send you my current location?”

“Yes, that would probably be a good idea and…” Mr. Reilly briefly chuckled. “Any updates when something happens.”

I sighed with defeat. “Yes sir. I will.”

“I know you don’t try to get in trouble, but it seems to have a way of finding you.” His tone softened and dare I say, he sounded almost affectionate. “Now, I have some calls to make. Stay safe.”

“Yes sir.” After he disconnected, I stood and waved to get Sophia’s attention. I needed something to do while I waited.

{“It looks like I...might be here for...awhile. Do you want...some help?”} I think my Italian was getting a little better as more and more language data flowed in and was processed.

She blew a stray lock of hair away from her eyes and dubiously studied me for a second. {“Do you have any experience?”}

{“No.”} I slowly nodded my head from side to side as I pointed to a table with dirty dishes and glassware. {“But I can bus your...tables for you and...maybe help refill drinks?”}

{“Okay, come.”} She gave me a cursory inspection and then, motioned for me to follow her. {“You cannot wear that. It might get stained. I have a spare uniform in the back.”}

I changed into her skirt and white blouse combo in the small back office, but decided to tweak my disguise a little because as pale as my skin was, I doubted I would pass as an Italian. After I darkened my complexion, I also tweaked my hair to look longer and match Sophia’s style.  Maybe people would think we were sisters or something. 

When I stepped out of the office, Sophia’s eyes widened with surprise, before settling on pleased satisfaction. {“Ah ha! I knew it!”} She waved for me to follow her into the kitchen where she introduced me to her father.

Mr. De Luca enthusiastically hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. {“Thank you Signorina Dominguez. You’re too kind! It is an honor to have you and your Uncle grace my humble restaurant!”}  He hugged and kissed me again as I turned head to toe red with embarrassment.

{“Bree, or Brianna is fine sir. I...just met my Uncle and Sophia...looked a little busy out...there.”} Yep, my Italian was getting smoother and using Sophia’s pronunciation and inflection, I was starting to add some native accent to my words.

The food smelled good and I was already starting to feel a little hungry again, but the orders were piling up and Sophia needed help. I ventured into the lion's den armed with a dish pan and cleaning rag.  I spotted her near the front speaking with two large, 6 foot tall men dressing in dark, indeterminate clothing. I needed to ask her where I should start.

*Beeeeep!

>Alert! Concealed weapons detected!

My system highlighted both men in red and second, smaller targeting bracket focused on their side and highlighted the shape of a hidden pistol.

Oh crap, what do I do now? Did the MCO find me already? Well, if they did, running away would only draw their attention to me. Maybe they were simply customers waiting to be seated, but if not and Sophia needed help, I would be there and if they were after me, I’d somehow deal with them. It wasn’t until I got closer that I noticed the collars of their shirts. Phew, they were priests, but no priest I knew packed a concealed firearm.

One of the priests desperately grabbed Sophia’s arm. {“Signorina Esposito, your immortal soul is in grave peril. Tell us where the vile creature is!”}

The second priest’s eyes tracked me as I approached their position. These guys weren’t normal priests. Heck, they might not even be priests. I was about to jump in, but Sophia quickly pulled her arm out of his grasp and dismissively laughed at him. {“Hmmmpph! Inquisitor Rossi, we both know that Signore Dominguez left over an hour ago and he is not a ‘vile creature’. He’s a nice gentleman and so was his niece.”}

Holy cow, an Inquisitor with a capital ‘I?  I didn’t know those were still around. If I was surprised by that little info nugget, their reaction to Uncle G having a niece was worth the price of admission.

{“It has a niece!?”} Both of the Inquisitor’s faces drained of blood as they gasped, took a step back and performed the sign of the cross. I never had anyone react to me that way before and it took all my willpower not to giggle or run up and yell ‘boo!’. Instead, I played it cool by ignoring them and working on a table in obvious need of cleaning. The skirt Sophia gave me was a little short and without tights, I had to be careful as I bent over.  I didn’t want to give the Inquisition dudes any fan service.

{“What was its name?”} Inquisitor Rossi recovered his earlier zeal.

Hey! I’m not an ‘it’ you jerk!  I almost said that out loud, but that probably would’ve been bad.

Sophia crossed her arms and pretended to ponder over my name. {“Hmmm, her name started with a ‘B’ and was a pretty name. I don’t remember exactly, but if I heard it again…”}

The second Inquisitor gestured to me as I finished loading the dirty dishes. {“You there, did you see the foul creature or its niece?”}

{“Creature? Here?”} I paused for a second as I glanced to Sophia and used the time to build up a buffer of speech because I needed to sound like a native Italian. {“I just started my shift Signore.”}

The man looked disappointed and it looked like he was about to ask me further questions, but Sophia interrupted him.

{“Bianca, can you take care of table eleven while I deal with these ‘gentlemen’?”} Sophia turned  and rolled her eyes with frustration for the men as she pointed to a table with two guests in need of a beverage refill.

{“Okay!”} I nodded and acted a little more enthusiastic than I felt. I kind of liked Bianca as a name. It sounded more Italian than Brianna or Bree. Let’s see, how many different names had I had over the last couple of months, three or four?

Having the Italian Inquisition after me was bad, but I felt like I could probably take these two if I had too. Sophia seemed to know them. So, maybe things would turn out okay, but now I was more worried about dealing with customers. Taking on people with guns seemed easy compared to messing up someone’s food order and driving away a customer with bad service.

I’ve never once considered being a waiter or waitress before and I had no clue what to do. I still had the tub of dirty dishes in hand and debated running to the kitchen first, but I swung by and asked the couple if they needed anything. It seemed like the thing a real waitress would do.

The couple sat side-by-side and kissing each other. I felt a little embarrassed about interrupting their moment, but they seemed unconcerned about their public display of affection.

{“Hi, I’m Bianca. Sorry for the wait, but I need to drop this off.”} I dipped the tub of dishes to show why I wasn’t ready. {“Can I get you two some more wine and take your orders after that?”}

I hoped they agreed because I didn’t even know what was on the menu. 

The woman giggled and snuggled into the man’s side causing him to smile fondly at her before he took charge and turned back to me. {“Yes, that will be fine.”}

They seemed pretty happy with my plan, but it looked like they were more interested in getting to know each other over eating. Oh well. I dropped the tub of dirty dishes next to the dishwasher, grabbed a bottle of wine and scanned the menu so I would know what they wanted. Thankfully, it was a simple, single page menu. 

As I took the couple’s order, I couldn’t help being a little distracted by how touchy-feely and freshly in love they appeared to be. They looked like they were in their twenties. I thought adults weren’t supposed to act like teenagers? Was there something in the air or did Uncle G ‘adopting’ me give me an additional, weird super power?  Gosh, I hoped not because growing a bunch of tentacles would be kind of hard to explain.

The time flew and before I knew it, it was time to try getting a hold of Mr. Reilly again, past time actually. That was not a good sign. He was normally very punctual. I dialed his office number again and Susan promptly answered, giving me her standard greeting.

{“Hey Ms. Susan. It’s Bianca.”} I blushed with embarrassment when I realized what I said and felt grateful she couldn’t see me. {“I mean Bree, umm, Whisper. Is everything okay?”}

{“Oh, hi Bree. I’m glad you called. Mr. Reilly is pretty busy right now, but he wanted me to tell you that he’s working on it and strange as it sounds, he’s glad you’re in Italy right now.”}

{“He is?”} That didn’t sound good. {“What’s going on?”}

{“We don’t know, but everything is down in the Whateley area. The President, Air Force, National Guard, State Police and even the MCO are all involved.”}

{“Oh, that’s not good...”} What in the heck was I going to do now?

{“Nope. So-”} Susan was interrupted by Mr. Reilly.

If that’s Whisper, tell her to stay there. Get her a hotel room and I’ll arrange for a flight home as soon as possible.

“Yes, sir!” Susan’s voice was a little muffled. She must have put her hand over the receiver.  “Okay, Bree.” Her voice returned to full volume. “You heard the boss, right?”

{“Yes.”}

{“Good, I’ll hunt down a hotel for you and call with the details, okay?”}

{“Umm, sounds good.”} Actually, I was more amazed that I wasn’t in trouble, but I also wondered what the heck was going on at school.  Did Uncle G know something bad was going to happen? Is that why he took me to Italy?

Sophia still needed some help, but things were finally starting to slow down. I had a pizza to deliver and it smelled very good. My stomach grumbled and papa De Luca overheard it. “You need some more food Bianca! I’ll make you both a pizza. You take a break when it’s ready!”

Pizza? Real, Italian Pizza with a capital ‘P’?! I didn’t need to be told twice. We -- funny how I thought of the restaurant -- were down to only one customer. Sophia and I grabbed a table and Papa De Luca brought out a pair of matching pizza’s for us.  Unfortunately, I forgot to request a veggie pizza and had to pick off, what I’m sure was some really good Italian sausage, but other than the meat, it was a good pizza. To be polite, I tried the sausage, but it tasted bad to me. On the other hand, the crust and the cheese were the best I ever had.

Finally, I had a chance to ask Sophia about the Inquisitor, priest dudes. I was a little worried about getting Sophia and Papa De Luca in trouble. “So, the guys who asked about Uncle Dominguez were priests or something?  Are you all going to be in trouble with the Church?”

She giggled and dismissively waved away my concern. “The Church has people keeping an eye on us.  They know when Signore Dominguez visits almost as soon as we do, but they always wait until they are sure he is gone before they ‘visit’ and try to ‘save’ everyone’s souls.”

It made no sense to me, because if they were so worried, why didn’t they send in an assault team to take out Uncle G.  Well, I guess they could try because I doubted anyone could hurt him.

Sophia must have noticed my confusion. “When I was one or two years old, they tried to capture your Uncle. Papa said that they sent a huge team with lots of big guns. They never made it in the doors.”

“Oh, what happened?”

Sophia laughed. “Instead of shooting up the restaurant, they started a big orgy in the middle of the street. After that, they were too embarrassed to even think about messing with him, but every time he visits, they go through the motions because they have to.” She shrugged her shoulders dismissively. “Idiots, but oh well. Now our restaurant is famous and everyone brings their dates here.” 

“Okay, I guess that kinda makes sense now, but when I heard you call them Inquisitors, I got a little worried and that line from the Monty Python show flashed through my head.”

Sophia stood and forcefully proclaimed. “Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

We both broke into giggles afterwards because it was too funny. I didn’t realize Monty Python was so popular.

~o~O~o~

I decided to end it there because the rest of my surprise visit to Italy was pretty boring. Well, boring, as in no one shot at me or tried to kidnap me boring, not boring boring because I did partake in some educational side-trips. Like, I went to the Stibbert Museum, it was pretty cool seeing all those old weapons and armor, and just to see if I could still enter a church without spontaneously combusting, I visited the Florence Cathedral. It was very pretty by the way and not even a little singing or surprise attacks by Inquisition commandos.

“So, that was pretty much it. Uncle Gothmog never returned and it took Mr. Reilly a day to get things worked out which let me hang out in Florence. No, I didn’t get into any trouble and I took the train to Aviano AFB for a flight back to the States. I made it back to Whateley Monday morning and I didn’t get in trouble for skipping school either. Mrs. Carson was very understanding about the whole thing.” I grinned and shrugged my shoulders. “See, no big deal.”

Mom looked a little dubious. “What happened to umm, Uncle Gothmog?”

Thank god she didn’t ask about what happened at Whately. “Oh, he showed a few days later and apologized for leaving me. He wants to take me to Germany for dinner during the break, but other than the Autobahn, I’m not so sure because Germans aren’t known for eating their veggies.” 



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