By Nicole Dinner
So? This is the house?
Yes, your grace.
Excellent. Now, you know what to do right? Just get your little friend in there, and we're set.
Lucca is NOT my friend! She's an airheaded snot!
Oh, shut up. No one seems to be your friend Iris. But, they can be. You want power right?
Of course, more than anything!
Right. So tomorrow, I expect you to go in that house, and begin our plans. Put your petty grudges aside, and I garuntee, it will be worth your while...
Yes, your grace, I will get right on it. Tomorrow...
Do not fail me, Iris...
That morning the unfortunate people of Truce were awakened by a loud explosion coming from the edge of town. A disgruntled citizen nearly fell out of bed, thinking it was the end of the world, then, when looking out the window, calmed down instantly and groaned.
His wife walked up behind him excitedly "Oh my stars! What was that?"
The man snorted and pointed to a smoking house near the ocean. "Who do you think? It's those blasted Nu's again!! Gawd Dammit! Every morning those two nutballs DO this!"
"Blow crap up! Geez, you'd think they'd wait till afternoon or the evening to pull this, but nooooo! They have to do it at the crack of dawn!" The man dissolved into mumbles.
The wife sighed "Now dear, you know that getting angry will only raise your blood pressure..."
The man grumbled and climbed back in bed, mumbling some more. "Damn those Nu's. Shoulda whacked their smart assed little heads in...mumble mumble..."
"Hey! You! Yeah you, you little inventor kid that couldn't! What happened? Did your toaster blow up again?"
The girl laughed. "It's not a toaster, it's a spring loaded culinary device!"
The boy scratched his head, dumbfounded. "HUH?"
The girl laughed harder, glad that, for once, she made the town bully look completely stupid. "No really, it's the prototype of my latest invention, moron."
The boy snorted. "WAS your prototype, more like it! Face it Mariah, nothing you make ever works! You and your kooky mom are just that, KOOKY!"
Mariah whirled to the bully and gave him a thorough stare down. "You know, how old are you now? Sixteen? Aren't you a wee bit OLD to be pulling this kind of stuff? Don't you have anything better to do?"
The boy had her now. "You're just pissed because you know you and your mom are failures and everyone hates you!"
Mariah gasped. "That's not true!"
Now it was the boy's turn to laugh. "Oh yeah, the only people who like your are the Stoner kids and everyone knows they are crazy to begin with. Face it, you're a freak!"
Mariah fumed, and got up to pummel him. "Come back here! NOW!" but it was too late, the boy already ran off. She sighed. He was right about one thing, not many people liked them. She really didn't know why, actually. Was it their fault that they chose inventing as their way of supporting themselves? True, they were noisy, and true, their inventions often backfired, but that was still no reason to hate them!
Mariah heard a voice call from inside her house. "Mariah? Are you outside?"
Mariah forced herself to calm down. "Yeah Mom, what do you need?"
"Oh good. Anyway, I'm really close to getting this phase distorter done, but I need an extra set of hands. Do you mind, or am I interrupting something?"
Mariah looked down at her prototype, which was now in a sorry state of strewn nuts and bolts. She sighed. "No, I guess not Mamma, I'll be right in."
Mariah sat on her little workstool, holding various tools as her mother worked below. This all seemed so routine now. Her Mom had been working on this invention for three months, without a whole lot of success. Often, Mariah wondered why she continued to work on it. It was obviously going nowhere, and there were so many other things her mother could invent. Often, she wondered what drove her mother in the first place. She remembered a conversation she heard in a restaurant once.
"You know that Lucca? Wonder what makes her tick? Maybe she's just strong willed!"
" Nah, Maybe she's eccentric."
"No, I think she's a bit of both."
Mariah didn't care though. Eccentric or not, she was still her mom.
Her Mom began to chat with her, to break the silence. "So honey, how's school lately?"
Mariah grumbled. "Same as always."
Lucca gave a soft sigh. "Now Mariah, I know school's a little rough for you now-"
"A little rough? That's a understatement..."
"Well, anyway, I know it's rough, but give it time. You'll find lots of friends in time."
"Oh, but Mom, I just don't get it! I try to be myself, but people hate me! And...when I try to be someone different, people still hate me! Remember when I tried to copy the way Liana Parker dressed last year?"
"You mean with those tube top bras and spikes? Oooh boy, yes, I do. Took me a month to convince you how terrible you looked. Spikes...oooh, I don't want to remember that."
Mariah laughed. "Quite blunt about it, huh?"
"Well, It's hard to get near your daughter when your afraid those spikes and chains will poke you!" Her mother giggled, then coughed. "Well, I think that about does it!" She slid out from underneath the machine, and Mariah giggled more when she saw that her mother's face was covered in soot. She rose up and took her glasses off, and wiped them on her shirt. "There! Now," She put them back on, and began to glance around the room. "to find test subjects..."
"Um...Mom, your not going to use Prometheus again, are you?" Prometheus was the family cat.
"Well, we can't use humans yet, so he's my only option. Now...where is he?"
Mariah knew perfectly well where he was. Hiding. She couldn't blame him. That scruffy old cat must have been the test subject in about a zillion of her mother's experiments, and often, they didn't work. He always knew when she needed him for another. Her mother called out to the cat, cooing "Here Prommie Prommie. Mommy's not gonna hurt you. Here kitty kitty...AH! There you are!" She smiled when she saw her fat old tabby cat curled up against the radiator. She quickly groped for it, but it was too fast for her, and ran off to the other side of the room, while Lucca bonked her head against the radiator. She fumed, hissing. "Damn that cat! Why can't he just stay still??"
After five minutes of mayhem, they finally had Promenteus in the machine, and he didn't look very happy. Mariah petted the cat's back and whispered. "Don't worry. If this works she'll leave you alone for a while."
Lucca began flipping dials and levers, jotting down notes in her scrapbook, and reading the monochrome monitors as she readied herself to turn the machine on. "Well, Mariah, here goes nothing, eh?" As her Mother flipped on the last dial, Mariah tried to remember what this machine was supposed to do in the first place. According to her mother, it was supposed to change the atoms in a subject temporarily so that it gave the subject a totally new look. A person could change their eye color, hair color, size, and even their sex in for a total of ten minutes, which Lucca hoped would eventually lengthen. It was perfect for people who needed a quick disguise.
The machine buzzed and whirred as the cat meowed in terror. Suddenly, a flash enveloped the room and Mariah blinked, trying to refocus. "Aw Mom, I think we just toasted the cat!"
"No Mariah! We didn't! LOOK!" Her Mom sounded like she won the lottery.
Sure enough, there was the cat, with white fur instead of the gray fur he once had. Mariah couldn't believe it when she saw it, and she still couldn't believe it when, ten minutes later, the cat still had white fur. Then, slowly, it changed back. Mariah was flabbergasted. After three months of work, her Mom's invention worked!
"I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!" Lucca danced around the room, and hugged Mariah tightly. "This is fantastic!"
"I know!" Mariah cried back. "I'm so happy for you!" She then looked out the window, and saw her prototype still littering the backyard. "I think I'm going to work on my invention now Mom. You gave me inspiration!"
Lucca continued to smile. "That's great Pumpkin..." She trailed off, trying to think. "Oh yes! Now I remember. I got so wrapped up in this invention that I forgot to tell you."
Mariah looked confused. "Tell me what?"
"We're going to have some company over tomorrow. An old friend of mine from college. She's stopping by here and I expect you to be on your best behavior."
"Ah mom, aren't I always?" Mariah grinned.
"Well, yes, USUALLY. Anyway, just remember, all right?"
"That's fine. What's her name?
"Her name's Iris."
The next morning, a lone figure drove her motorcycle into the dirt driveway of Mariah's house. Pulling off her helmet and shaking the dust out of her short, curly blonde hair, she grinned at the prospect of what today would bring.
All she had to do was act. Make Lucca trust her, and them...WHAM! She'd have whatever she wanted! Although, Iris wasn't aware that Lucca had a daughter until just a few days ago. She wondered who the poor husband was, and was suprised to find he had been murdered ten years earlier. She knew better than to bring THAT subject up. But, she wasn't concerned about Lucca's little brat in the slightest. She could handle her...and if anyone caused her any trouble...why...she's just put on her happy face, and sing and dance...until everyone was right in the palm of her hand.
Shaking with anticipation, she rang the doorbell, eager for the fireworks to begin.
"That's her!" Lucca yelled.
Mariah ran down the stairs. It was common courtesy to at least say hello to the woman, and then, she could go upstairs and invent whatever she wanted to pass the time. Her mom was pretty loose about those kinds of things. But, as she opened the door, and got a look at the woman standing in the doorway, something inside her told Mariah she wouldn't be leaving so quickly.
Because she was scared. Scared for her mother's life.
She didn't know WHY this woman frightened her so much. Maybe it was just the way she carried herself. Maybe it was the way she looked, and acted, so incredibly fake, and only Mariah could see it. But no, there was no real reason except for a gut feeling. This woman was up to no good.
"Lucca!" she began "It's been ages!" She gave her mother a hug, and Mariah felt herself cringe. "You haven't changed a bit!" She looked in Mariah's direction. "And is this little Marie?"
"Mariah" Mariah growled.
"Oho! My mistake!"
Lucca gave Mariah a look like "Don't you make any trouble." and turned to Iris. "It's so nice to see you. Here, come in the living room. I have some tea out."
"Wonderful" Iris boomed, and the two went into the next room, with Mariah watching them, closely...
For the next two hours, Mariah watched them. She couldn't believe her mother was being duped so easily by this woman. Every word that came out of Iris' mouth had to be a lie, Mariah could just feel it, and her mother believed every word.
Finally, Iris pulled out a large sheet of paper. Mariah figured she needed a closer look and rose from her hiding place, and entered the living room. Her mother seemed surprised she was there, which was odd. Her mother never really seemed to care about that before...
"Sorry. I just was passing through to get to the kitchen. What is that? " Mariah pointed to the piece of paper, and Iris snatched it away. "Ahem! Well, it's plans to an invention we'll be working on..."
"Invention, plans...WE? Mother, what is going on?"
"Mariah! Don't use that tone of voice!" Mariah jumped back. Her mother never scolded her like that before. "Anyway, Iris will be living here for a little while. We're going to work on this invention together. It's a machine that can produce mass energy, so we'll cut down on the need for coal and oil! Isn't that wonderful?"
Mariah just stared. "Mom...you're just SUDDENLY going to WORK with this woman? You barely even know her!"
"Mariah! What a terrible thing to say!"
"But mother, I don't think..."
"THAT'S ENOUGH, young lady! Upstairs...NOW!" Lucca leaned against the couch, giving