Copyright © by Cornwel, 1998
First: a boarder's Vernacular:
Half-pipe: A u-shaped tunnel of snow that allows riders to slide up the two walls in order to do tricks.
Bust: to "do" a trick or a course e.g. "bust a 360."
540: a snow boarder does a jump and rotates 540 degrees, in same directional stance as when they jumped.
Directional stance: having a stance on a snow board which allows one to ride forwards or backwards.
Slalom: a type of snow boarding course set up on snow banks, sort of like motor-cross.
Big air: to go very high off of a jump.
Rori Nivokova stood facing the smoke-framed dawn, a frame formed from her ornately carved wooden pipe from a stout piece of wood, the kind of tree, she was not sure of, but it had been shorn and shaped from a good piece of wood, Russian wood.
She exhaled a stream of cheap tobacco smoke from the side of her mouth, extinguished the pipe in the snow, and placed it in the pouch attached to her pants thinking of her homeland and grinning sadly.
Rori fixed her oxygen mask to her face before she became lightheaded from the height. She took a deep breath, and sailed off the mountain side.
Rori's snow-board chattered until she gained control, her speed picked up, she caught some big air from the first jump on Boar mountain, one of the most renowned snow-boarding courses since fifteen years before in 2045 when it hosted the Skull and Cross-Boned Boarder Competition which was to be held the next year in Russia.
She changed her directional stance backwards and did the next jump showing off for herself a bit and doing a 540 landing in the same position on the ground.
Rori knew she was good, she tried not to get to cocky.
She knew about getting over-confident, she had been in situations where it was lethal. When she was done she looked up at the big mountain with the respect it deserved, she snapped off her oxygen mask and went to find Morgan.
Rori's lover was still asleep in the room at the inn, she took off her boots and suit, then climbed back into bed embracing Morgan and kissing her awake.
"Hi" Morgan smiled without opening her eyes.
"Privet ["hi"]," Rori smiled, greeting her in Russian.
Morgan opened her beautiful hazel eyes, "Your hands and face are cold," she commented, "You've been out boarding."
"Yes." Rori confirmed.
"Nervous?" she smiled playfully.
They both laughed, and kissed again.
Rori looked into her eyes for a moment, "You are so lovely."
"And so are you." Morgan kissed the bridge of her nose, pulling herself close,
"You're going to make me very proud today."
"That's all I live for." Rori told her. "This is going to be it for us, Mo, once the sponsors see me they'll want me to board for them next year. Then all I'll have to do is win a few medals."
Morgan laughed, "Of course, a few medals."
Rori smiled. "It'll be a snap." Then she thought of being over-confident, she was only that way in front of Morgan, to reassure her. To reassure herself.
Morgan was sick, maybe dying. For years she had been battling with the Smotherer, a chemical that got lose at the beginning of the third World War, that still raged on. The Smotherer attacked the brain, staid there for years smothering different parts of the brain one period of time, and other parts the next.
Sometimes Morgan woke up deaf, and remained so for weeks.
For six months she was totally blind.
One day the chemical would make her go insane, or damage her brain so that she would be a vegetable.
Rori lived in constant fear of her love one day dying. Until then she could only hope she would be able to afford to put Morgan in a treatment facility, where her life could at least be prolonged.
Mo never worried though: she had faith in Rori, and she would not be let down.
Rori looked into her lovely eyes one more time before she geared up again, "I hope I don't have to kill for you" she thought.
She geared up, and stood smoking her pipe in the mirror, her reflection looking back at her through the haze, standing in a stoop that would not straighten no matter how high Rori held her head up.
Her hump felt heavy on her back as she stood there assessing herself. She felt helpless. She could imagine her hump, it made her have to get her clothes a size bigger than she really was, there it was under her thermal suit, under her jacket.
A rough patch of skin, covered it, and on the sides there were burns.
Rori remembered getting those burns under a naked light-bulb in a dirty basement. She remembered how and why she got the burns under the light-bulb, and that was the dirty secret that made the hump quiver when Morgan touched it as they made love for the first time.
"Please don't...don't touch me there," Rori had told Morgan.
Rori shook her head to release her from the memory. She grabbed her board: the memories could not haunt her while she was boarding.
"No kiss goodbye?" Morgan asked when she noticed Rori was about to leave.
Preoccupied, Rori kissed her, Morgan raised her hands and tied a band of cloth around Rori's head.
It was indigo. Morgan's favorite color.
"You should always wear your lady's color for battle." She gave a small smile, "Brighten you up a bit in all that black. Go kick some ass."
Rori went to the course, followed by smoke and the scent of Morgan's perfume. Anyone seeing her would hardly notice her deformity.
They all gathered in the boarders circle, preening on their boards, sitting in silence, listening to some classical Rock, talking amongst themselves.
Rori stood on her own wishing she could smoke, she just clenched her pipe between her teeth.
They would do some halfpipe first, then the big race course which included Boar mountain. "It looks like a big pig's head, with spikes coming out of it's mouth" someone had commented when all the boarders first arrived.
They would start on the top of Boar's head, go down his forehead, onto his snout, then onto his "spikes" the biggest jumps on the course. With all of them trying to go down at once, Boar would be difficult, even treacherous.
Someone slapped Rori on the back, "Ready Comrade?" asked John Caballero.
"Always" Rori replied, "Comrade." She did not trust John as far as she could throw him. At the weigh-in he had made comments about her hump, and said maybe she should be with the events for the handicapped.
That remark had earned him a bloody lip, and a warning for her from the officials. She wish she had a picture of his face the previous day when she had out-boarded everyone. Rori could not wait to beat him.
She wowed everyone during the halfpipe busting some big air but falling once.
John did not do so bad, he only sprained his wrist.
At 11:00 am they were ski-lifted to the top of Boar mountain.
Rori's heart pounded in her chest, as they were set on their marks, then they were off the slope of Boar's forehead, and onto his snout. John who insisted on riding anyway flew past Rori.
"Fuck you" she muttered, and took the steep side down to Boar's left spike, it was dangerous and cut down on her speed, but that never stopped her from taking a short cut.
Luckily her speed picked up as she slid down Boar's spike, where she caught the biggest air she ever had. She whooped and did a 360 then ran Boar's shoulder.
The Slalom was nothing. She showed off a bit more, and came in first, more than two minutes before the second place winner boarded in.
She had won. She had shown them all, she had shown Morgan, and she had shown herself.
That evening she was taken to see Jimmy Hatfield, "The Boss".
She gave him one of her brightest smiles and said, "Hello."
Hatfield did not reply. Instead, a couple of suits filled the room.
"Rori," the Boss said, "I'm afraid we've run into a problem with your blood test."
Rori tried not to let her breathing grow ragged. The blood test had not been anticipated. Nearly all sports events took blood because of the risk of a mutant or a clone, or anyone genetically altered in any way.
The Germans had a whole team of mutants who swept the 2024 Olympics of every gold medal. Since then blood tests were required, except for boarding which had started their practice the year Rori entered.
"Would you like to take another test, or confess?" Hatfield asked.
"Those are my choices?" Rori asked.
"No one wants to sponsor a mutant," one of the suits spoke up, "Mutants are war tools, and no one wants to be associated with the war right now."
She did not disagree, she only left, she knew when she was beat.
Morgan was resting when Rori returned to her. There was a way one could sponsor themselves, but it was very expensive.
"What's wrong?" she asked, immediately sensing Rori's mood. "We're leaving, that's what."
"Already?" Morgan asked, "I thought you were going to find out who will sponsor you."
"No one will" Rori snapped, "Fuck it, this is over."
"Rori," Morgan took her hands, "Explain to me what is happening"
"I just told you. No one will sponsor me."
"But...you were the best," Morgan argued.
"Well obviously they aren't looking for the best." She began to gather their things.
"Rori, I don't understand."
"There's nothing to understand. Just fuck it, it's over!" she yelled.
"We used our savings to get here, Rori," Morgan was about to cry, "I don't understand. You were the best!"
By that time the next day they were back at their home in Arcola, Texas, a little bit out of the way of Houston; where a pile of bills awaited them.
They had not spoken since the day before. It stayed that way as Rori returned to her mechanic's job the day after that, and the day after that.
On the third day Morgan brought Rori lunch,
"Tomatoes and cucumbers in vinegar and pepper," Morgan said, as they sat under a tree near the garage Rori worked for.
"Oh, love why won't you talk to me?" Morgan asked.
"Please not now, I'm working"
"No, you're having lunch." Morgan said. Rori was silent. Morgan stood up. "Goddamnit Rori, whatever happened at Boar mountain was not my fault. So what are you going to do? Huh? Shut down on me?" She bent and shoved Rori. "Don't you fucking shut down on me Rori, I don't have anyone else." She stalked off.
Rori stood there shocked. She had not known Morgan had an aggressive bone in her body. Rori left her lunch and went back to work.
She loved Morgan, and hated herself for hurting her. She also hated her hump, oh it wanted so much to come out and touch Morgan, have her touch it.
She hated the Russian officials who sold her to that lunatic Longfellow, the madman who made her into a goddamned freak.
Rori went home to Morgan who sat reading, dealing with her own present pain. She fell to her knees at Morgan's feet, "I'm so sorry for being an asshole, Mo."
"I'm glad you are," Morgan replied nonchalantly.
"Can I be forgiven?" Rori asked. She was allowed to lay her head in Morgan's lap.
"I suppose" Morgan tried to reply in the same manner, but she was softening.
Rori parted her legs and kissed the inner sides of both Morgan's thighs.
She stood, "That's not all there is to it, Rori."
"I'm such a fool" Rori said, "I'm scum."
"Yes, but we're not just going to make love and that's the end of it," Morgan stated. She turned her back.
"You have to catch me first." She turned, the corners of her mouth turned up in a mischievous smile.
Morgan shot out the back door.
Rori grinned, and ran after her.
Morgan sprinted through their yard and the open field behind their house. She disappeared into the trees. God, she could fly if she wanted to.
Rori followed. Morgan had a good lead. Once she entered the trees, Rori found a sandal, Morgan's.
A few yards later she found the other. "Silly girl, you ran right out of your shoes!" Rori called. Then she found Morgan's bra.
"Oh my," Rori laughed, "You're a naughty one" she followed the trail of clothing, finding Morgan's shirt once she cleared the trees. There was another field, then an old barn.
In the middle of the field were Morgan's shorts. Rori literally skipped to the barn where Morgan's arm waved her panties out the door.
Inside of the barn, Morgan was deliciously naked, waiting for her.
Rori ran into the barn, grabbed, and kissed Morgan, her hands and lips exploring her lover's body as she never had before.
Morgan was more warm and supple than any snow covered mountain, but just as demanding.
Rori kissed a trail down her body as is she were planning a boarding route, lingering in the places Morgan loved most to be kissed, her breasts and the valley between her thighs. Rori let herself be drowned by her senses, the feel of Morgan's hands tangling her hair, making her scalp tingle, the smell of her hot wet sex, the taste of her, the sight of her breasts rising and falling. Her breathing quickened.
Afterwards they dozed in each other's arms watching a patch of sky through the broken barn's roof.
"Rori," Morgan said, "I love you. It does not matter if you're a superstar boarder, or a mechanic. I know you are a kind, tender woman. There's nothing else more important than us: not you and your past, not me or my illness. Just us, my love."
Rori kissed her in agreement.
"I just wanted to say that," Morgan added.
Their patch of blue sky and clouds was interrupted by the passing of a black bird flying low.
"Rori," Misha smiled as he drove into the garage in his vintage 2000 Trans Am. "Privet." He honked his horn for emphasis.
Rori could not believe her eyes at first: his face was the last she expected to ever see again.
"Privet." She ran over as he jumped out the car, and they embraced.
Back in Kiev they had been the best of friends. In grade school he brought out her joy in delinquency. Misha was always the brains, she the brawn. They ruled the school yard.
They were the leaders of Misha's schoolyard crime syndicate, which consisted of gambling, extortion, selling drugs, anything illegal.
Thanks to Misha they never got caught, and even if they did no one did anything to Misha or any of his close friends. They did not want to face the wrath of his father, who ruled the Russian Mafia.
When they were in their late teens, Misha and Rori went to play with the big boys. Rori went from beating up schoolmates after one of Misha's temper tantrums, to hired hit woman. On her hands was the blood of dealers who took too much off the top, pimps who got too greedy, or anyone who tried to cheat Misha's father of his dues.
She lived the life of a Russian mobster: heroin, booze, international whores who were beckoned from miles away by their johns, chosen from a computer catalogue.
She had killed over fifty men.
Rori had been invincible in those days. The authorities could not catch her: enemies of the Russian mob were no threat. She was strong, she was tough. She killed fast and efficiently, as though it was a profession.
The lifestyle ended as fast as it played out, when she was caught by the Russian authorities at the age of 21.
"We have been searching the continent for you," he exclaimed as two more of their friends stepped out of the car. Igor and Katherine, one of Rori's first lovers. Both were part of Misha's branch of his father's enterprises.
Rori embraced them both and said to Misha, "I have a feeling it has not been for sentimental reasons."
Misha laughed, "You know me, always business."
"How have you been?" Katherine asked Rori. She was as beautiful as she had always been, and probably still tough as nails. She was an expert on hand-to-hand combat: she knew techniques from cultures all around the world.
"Good," Rori replied as Katherine took in her surroundings.
"It does not look so," she commented. "You've gone to being a grease monkey"
They all laughed except for Rori who said in a low voice, "I'm living honestly now."
"We don't?" Igor asked, then laughed. He was a big bear of a man, gone bald since she had last seen him.
"No, let's not make fun" Misha patted Rori's back, "There is nothing wrong with an honest life."
"Yes," Katherine agreed, "Honesty is always so meek and poor though. It is nothing like our friend Rori." She winked.
"We went to your place," Misha said. "The tender morsel who answered the door directed us here....you are a farmer now?"
"You just like to live in the sticks," Misha nodded grinning. Rori was getting angry. She wished Misha would have left her alone. Misha knew of her anger, "Listen now my friend, we will have some fun tonight, a party."
"I don't feel like a party tonight Misha," Rori told him.
"No party?!" he exclaimed, "You have been living a dull life, my friend...my cestra " [sister]
His sister. He always called me his sister, and I called him my brother.
"Come on we'll have a party tonight, just the four of us." He shook his head. "No, the five of us. What is your new lovely's name?"
"Morgan," Rori told him.
"Morgan." They all laughed.
"You two ladies go get some food and booze," he told Katherine and Rori, "and we'll go talk to Morgan."
Rori was stunned. "No, you will not talk to Morgan. She's not some whore."
"Cool it," Misha said, "We only want to find out about the new you."
"I'm not kidding, Misha," Rori argued.
"Fine, we will be gentlemen," Misha laughed.
"I'll call her first," Rori said. "You two will probably scare her to death."
"Did your friends find you?" Morgan asked when she picked up the phone.
"Yes they did," Rori told her. "They want to have a party tonight."
"Rori," Morgan groaned.
"They were my good friends back in Russia."
"So?" she asked.
"Morgan, please," Rori said, and explained that they were on their way.
She sighed, "You owe me big."
"Big what?" Rori asked suggestively. She was answered by a dial tone.
"She is very pretty," Katherine said of Morgan as they prowled the grocery store.
"Yes she is," Rori agreed.
"Do you love her?" Katherine asked.
"Da [Yes]," Rory affirmed.
"Do you tell her?" Katherine asked.
"Yes I do, as much as I can," Rori replied.
"Did you love me?" she got to the question she had probably been burning to ask for years.
"I don't think I did," Rori said calmly, "I was young, you were young."
"I always thought you'd come back for me," Katherine murmured.
"I could not," Rori's voice hardened. "The Russian authorities would have killed me instead of selling me to a madman."
Katherine said nothing until they were leaving the store, "Did it all make you very bitter?"
Rori laughed, "You have no idea how bitter."
"She helps you though...Morgan," Katherine said. "She soothes you."
"Yes she does," Rori replied.
"Then you are richer than I, or Misha will ever be." Katherine sighed.
When she and Katherine walked through the door, Rori saw that Morgan was not enjoying herself. Misha sat right beside her in their living room, Igor right across from her. She jumped right up, "We should talk, Rori."
Igor and Misha burst out laughing.
"What's up with them?" she asked.
"Nothing, they are just merry," Rori laughed and kissed her.
"I bet." She raised one eyebrow. "I get the feeling you aren't all that happy to see them."
"They are like family."
"Ahh," Morgan said, "relatives."
They sat around half the night drinking and talking about the old days, until Igor remembered he could play the piano. The other half of the night was spent singing and dancing, Igor pounding out notes on Morgan's old piano.
Morgan was noble and hospitable like any good wife; but after she danced with Misha five times and Rori two times, she was exhausted.
By then Rori was having a good time, so they sent her to bed with a hearty, "Doebree vecher [good night]."
And went on drinking and talking.
"We are all coming back to America," Misha told Rori. "The FBI chased the Russian Mafia out, but we plan to return."
"Where do I come into this?" Rori asked.
"We need your skills," Misha said as if speaking of an art form.
"I don't kill anymore," Rori informed him.
"Oh yes, the honest life," Misha sighed, "the best policy." He laughed, "You need money...we know all about your sick wifey. She has not received any treatment. You want her to die?"
"Don't pull that shit on me Misha," Rori growled.
"I'm pulling no shit," Misha shrugged, "just telling the facts."
Rori pushed him out of his chair. "You bastard, you come back to me looking for my weak spots, trying to get me to do your bidding. Fuck you."
Misha stood, pulling a gun from his jacket and offering it to Rori. "You should go shoot her in the head now," he said in Russian. "I've seen what that disease does to people...I've seen." He threw it on the floor. "Just a few jobs, then you can get your wifey some help."
"Get out of my house...all of you," Rori said in Russian, "Get out of my life."
Misha smiled self-righteously, "Come on, she's drunk, angry....she'll change her mind."
Igor and Katherine went out the door. Misha put his card on the windowsill, "Call me once you've thought it over...you can't look in her eyes anymore and know she will die."
"Doebree vecher," Rori said coldly.
"Doebree Ootro [good morning]," he corrected, pointing at the dawn outside the window and left.
Rori went to her pipe, dumped out the marijuana mingled tobacco, and got some of her cheap brand. She smoked for awhile then went to bed.
"Friends all gone?" Morgan asked, taking Rori in her arms.
"Yeah," Rori said.
"I'd have never thought you would have friends Rori," she smiled, "especially rowdy ones."
Rori laughed. "They are just fun loving."
"I gathered as much." Morgan laid her head on the pillow and yawned.
"They are very wealthy rowdy friends," Rori said. "They want to throw some work my way...earn some extra money."
"Really?" she asked, "How much?"
"Enough to get you in a treatment center" Rori replied, and Morgan squeezed her tighter and gasped.
"Rori?" she asked with tears in her eyes, "Are you for real?"
Rori nodded, "Yes my love, yes."
Morgan made a short cry and buried her face in Rori's neck crying.
"Hey" Rori assured, "It's going to be fine now, you'll get better, and live with me forever"
Morgan cried more.
"Shh" Rori said, "Morgan..."
She raised her head, " Oh. Rori, I don't know what to say...it's just that you've done so much for me...and now this." She cried a while longer. "Aren't I ridiculous?" she asked, wiping her face with her hands.
"No you aren't," Rori told her, helping wipe away some of the tears.
"Yes I am," she laughed, "I've dealt with this disease all of my life. No one helped me, no one cared. I was just pitied, or abandoned by the system, by my own family. You're my hero, Rori...my personal hero who fights for me. Transmissions and cool boarders, you fight them all for me."
Tears streamed down Rori's face, "It sounds nice, but I'm no hero. I just love you so much."
"So much, I'll kill for you," Rori thought.
"My father sent Demitri here to set things up for us," Misha explained." He's delayed us for five years with his antics. He told the FBI our plans; and they, the biggest drug dealers in the world, don't want us on their turf."
"So you want him dead." Rori filled in the rest, her part.
"It's easier said than done." He passed Rori some photos over the glass coffee table of the hotel where he stayed. The photos were of a church, a big stone, gothic affair with gargoyles. "It was build in New Orleans in 2009, during that big gothic revival thing. It's a goddamned fortress. Demitri has bought it with our money and has many men guarding it, and his ass."
Rori remembered something, "Is this the same Demitri that likes little boys to sleep with?"
"The very one," Misha replied lighting a chic new brand of cigarette that gave off colorful smoke.
"I suppose that will make it slightly easier to blow him away." Rori puffed on her pipe.
"That's it," Misha encouraged sarcastically, "Look for that silver lining."
They were silent, smoking.
"I'm sure you're thinking of a way to get in there," Misha commented.
"Thought," she corrected. "I've thought of a way to get in there."
"You want me to take off the burns?" Dr. Polk asked. He was another good friend of Rori's, one of the first she ever made in America. Polk helped mutants hide their defects, he helped them into society.
"I need them off." she insisted. She did not have to worry about Morgan noticing, she never saw Rori's back much. Rori had showed it to her once, let her get a good look to satisfy her curiosity. The burns, of course, were fakes Polk made for her, to hide her secret.
"That may cause you a lot of trouble Rori," Polk sighed. "Now I say that to say this...you might not want them off at this point in time."
Rori shook her head, and realized she would have picked up on English much faster if she had never met Dr. Polk.
"I'm sure, doctor." Rori said to him, and they went back down into the dusty basement with one naked light bulb.
That next evening she stood outside the church Demitri hid in. She knew he was on the highest floor, close to the roof with the helicopter pad, and he also had an emergency elevator. He was also paranoid.
"Hold on Demitri," Rori said, slipping off her jacket. Underneath she wore a bulletproof vest, with the back cut out. Her hump quivered as it was pelted by rain.
"You just hold on," she said, and checked the gun at her waist.
"Alright," she said, now in the driving rain, "You've been waiting for this, come on out" she arched her back so they could unfold.
She spread the glossy black wings Longfellow had grown on her back. He had a thing for ravens, the crazy bastard.
She flapped them to loosen and warm them, then jumped continuing to flap, propelling herself into the air.
She flew low at first, circling the church, the rain nearly blinding her. She did not need eyes, only the instinct that was injected into her.
Rori flew higher, her arms folded. She stopped to rest on a ledge, shivering in the rain, her wings folded behind like the gargoyles that surrounded her, spouting water because of the rain.
Rori flapped and jumped off the ledge and climbed the air to the very top ledge. She had grown stronger and flew by each of the windows until she heard Demitri's laughter coming from one.
Rori burst through the door to find Demitri with a naked boy on his lap. The boy's face was flushed, but went pale when a woman with a black wing span of six feet burst through the window.
Demitri threw him off and produced a gun. Rori shot first, and he fell backwards onto the bed with two holes in his head.
The boy screamed and ran at her with an ice pick, screaming. Rori slapped him to the floor and stomped his hand with the weapon, breaking it.
Demitri's men came through the doors shooting. Rori ran back to the window bullets, flying past her head. She put her wings away so they would not get shot, then jumped out the window and unfurled them as she fell.
At first they did not seem strong enough to start flying at such a speed, to carry her. They flew though, flew her away from the church and Demitri, his dead boy crying at his side.
One week and one more killing job later, Morgan went blind. She called Rori from Misha's hotel in a panic.
Rori found her sitting out in their hammock, eyes staring up at the sun blindly.
"Don't look that way," Rori told her cradling Morgan's head, "you'll hurt yourself."
"Rori," she whispered, "I'm glad you came home...I know it's early."
"No problem," Rori said kissing her. "Can you see anything at all?"
Morgan shook her head.
"It's okay, love. We're so close," Rori told her. "Soon you'll be able to see some real doctors besides free clinic idiots."
"Don't work yourself too hard, it's not healthy," Morgan said.
"I'm too good to have to work hard," Rori laughed.
A few evenings before Rori had killed a mortician who smuggled drugs stolen from Misha's father in his clients' coffins.
Rori posed as one of his clients and laid under a sheet surrounded by bodies that got dressed up and embalmed with no place to go but six feet under.
When the mortician got to her, a fully dressed corpse, he was surprised. When she sat up and pointed a gun in his face, the mortician was terrified. That did not last for long: she blew him away, then burned down his morgue, drugs, bodies and all.
Morgan kissed Rori's hands as they lay in the hammock with no idea of the damage they had done. Rori was glad she did not have to look into Morgan's eyes for awhile, it was getting harder and harder.
Rori had dreamed that night that she was sobbing on Morgan's shoulder, her wings free, touching Morgan.
"So, have you enjoyed being back in the business again?" Katherine asked Rori the next day. They sat on a sofa in Misha's suite, waiting for him to finish a phone call back to Russia. "I can't say that I have," Rori replied refilling her pipe from the pouch of expensive tobacco Misha had given her.
"You enjoy that smoke, it's all a part of the business." She lit Rori's pipe, took it from her mouth put it between her own lips.
Rori reached for it, and Katherine grabbed her by the wrist, put the pipe back in Rori's mouth and kissed the side of her hand.
"I've decided that I don't want you to go back to this Morgan so easily," Katherine said. "I should at least try to seduce you"
"There's nothing wrong with trying," Rori told her. "That's all it will be."
"Don't be that way," Katherine pleaded. "Come back to me, come back to us."
"No." Rori looked away from her, "I am past all of that-"
"All it will be is treatment," Katherine's eyes flashed with anger. "Morgan still might die anyway, she should be dead now."
Rori slapped her with such force Katherine fell off the couch, "Stop trying to manipulate me. There is no way in hell I'd ever go back to you or the Mob again."
Katherine stood. "Do you think Misha is going to let you go? You're in the mob for life unless you betray it, then you are dead. You should know that, you're the killer."
Misha entered. "Katherine, what is this bickering?"
"One more, Misha," Rori told him. "One more killing, and then no more."
"You don't like working for me anymore?" Misha asked.
"I don't like the killing!" Rori yelled, "Not anyone, no matter if they made you mad, or stole from you and your father, or killed you aunt...I don't want to do it anymore"
"I cannot believe what I am hearing," Misha grabbed the sides of his head. "Even if someone tries to rob me, and your friends of our dignity?"
Rori shook her head "No."
"Even if?" Misha continued, "Even if they did something really awful to you?
Made you into a freak of nature?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Who am I walking about," Misha corrected.
"The man named Longfellow."
Rori took her pipe from her mouth, "You want me to kill Longfellow?"
Misha laughed, "I knew you'd like this one. Yes, Longfellow. It seems my father finances Longfellow's research. He escaped to America after not giving my father his fair share of the profits he made from certain scientific breakthroughs."
Rori was silent.
"Longfellow was supposed to get his subjects from the streets, peasants," Katherine explained. "He went to the government and paid them big money for prisoners sentenced to death." Rori said nothing.
"You seem fine besides the hump," Misha said, "What did he do to you?"
"I want him dead," Rori answered.
"Must have been pretty brutal."
"Where is he?" Rori asked.
"Somewhere in Nevada, he was last seen around Vegas," Misha said nonchalantly. "Are you going to go kill him?"
"Da " Rori grinned, "maybe even some torture, like the Italians."
Katherine and Misha laughed.
Las Vegas was the perfect hideout for Longfellow. It was a place of despair, all the glitter and colorful neon had left the town almost forty years ago. Now there was nothing left but dust, drugs, and disease. Longfellow would have full cooperation from the locals for his experiments. All he needed was to show five dollars, just enough for a fix of any kind.
Rori decided she would strangle him.
She wandered the streets of Las Vegas for days, wearing clothes that better displayed her hump, It was her prop for this trip.
One night she sat in a shack that served as a bar. She had gotten no leads on the whereabouts of Longfellow.
"You look like you could really use a fix." A kid who was no older than ten asked her, half of his face was covered with scales.
"Yeah I guess I could," Rori replied.
"No money?" the kid asked.
Rori shook her head.
"Then come with me, to earn money," he said taking her hand.
"To see Longfellow?" Rori asked.
"Yes, you have been to him?" he asked motioning to her back.
"I have, a while ago"
"And he's not called you back?" the boy asked.
"I did not want to go back. Now I should"
The boy led her out the bar and down the street, "Do not be afraid."
"I'm far from afraid," Rori answered.
They were silent as he led her out of the city.
"How far?" Rori asked.
"Just a bit into the desert," the boy replied.
In a few hours they came to a building surrounded by high fencing.
At the gate the boy used a key around his neck to let them into Longfellow's new compound. Rori could smell the death as soon as she walked in, well covered up, but not enough. On entering the building there was a corridor, all the doors on either side were shut and had a small window. Rori saw forms in the rooms and looked away. She only followed the boy to the door at the end of the corridor.
"I brung you a woman," the boy announced on entering.
Longfellow sat at a desk poring over some papers. Te room was his lab, where he performed his atrocities.
He looked up at her with his piercing gray eyes, his brown hair almost totally gray.
"My shadow, he murmured,standing, "You have come back to me."
"Yes," Rori answered, "I have."
She pulled out her gun, "I've come to kill you...on behalf of myself, the Russian Mob, and all of your patients."
The boy hissed, and started at her.
"One more move and he's dead," Rori told him, "Is that what you want?"
"Milo, please," Longfellow said to him, "stay where you are."
"Now where was I?" Rori asked, then released the safety from her gun, "Oh yes, that's where I left off."
"Rori, no," Longfellow said sternly.
Rori laughed in his face. "I'm not one of your pets, I never was," she scoffed.
"You kill me and you're killing knowledge, knowledge that can rid this world of disease forever," Longfellow said. "That's exactly what the Russian mob wants, the ignorant pricks. That's not you, though, my shadow."
"Die," Rori said and put her finger on the trigger.
"I've cured dozens from diseases like AIDS and the Smotherer!" Longfellow blurted. "I just don't want the government to get their hands on it. I want to make it available to everyone, rich or poor; and the Mob wants to charge an arm and a leg for it."
"What do you mean?" Rori asked, "A definite cure?"
"Yes," Longfellow answered. "Don't tell me it's gotten to you?"
"No," she said. "I want to see some proof."
"It's back in Russia. Is there someone you know I could cure?"
"How does it work?" Rori asked.
"Much like the gene I gave you."
"I was not sick"
"No you weren't but I was just developing it then. Now I know its full potential. Healing."
"What? No freaky side effects?"
"None that you're speaking of," Longfellow said. "It's the essence of animals who are immune to the diseases. I put what they have into the sick."
"What about if someone had been suffering from the Smotherer all their life?" Rori asked.
"How long has this life been?"
"Nearly thirty," Rori replied.
Longfellow thought a minute, "That's a lot of years. If your friend has lived this long, then he is a good candidate, the best that I know of."
Rori narrowed her eyes, "I don't trust you."
"I don't understand why," Longfellow said.
"You turned me into a freak"
"No. I gave you a beautiful set of ebony wings," he said wistfully.
"You're mad." She lowered the gun. "My lover Morgan is blind right now, other times it's other things like she won't be able to hear. The Smotherer is in her head."
"I can cure her, Rori, just let me live," Longfellow pleaded.
"You have to do all I say, or the mob will murder us both," she told him. "Get all these people and your data out of here. I have to burn this place to the ground."
Longfellow nodded and said to Milo, "Gather everyone and take them to the emergency house. I must destroy this place and go for a while."
Milo looked at Rori jealously, "Will you come back?"
"You know I'd never leave any of you," Longfellow told him. "Right now Rori needs my help, and I need hers."
"She is one of your children?" Milo asked.
"One of my very first," Longfellow said.
Rori scoffed, and the boy left.
"Where is this cure?" Rori asked.
"Siberia," Longfellow answered. "Do not worry about the cold. I have technology and children there to watch the place."
With Longfellow hidden away in Houston, Rori went to retrieve Morgan. She was still blind, and moved in jerky movements.
"We have to go, love," Rori told her.
"Go? Where?" Morgan asked.
"I should not tell you yet," Rori answered.
"Is this some sort of joke?" Morgan asked.
"No, we just have to go." She took Morgan by the hand and led her out the door.
Misha and Katherine were just driving up.
"Rori, you have taken care of the urgent business in Nevada?" He winked because Morgan was around.
"Da. I was just coming to see you."
"Well let's go have a few drinks," Misha suggested.
"Now?" Rori asked pulling Morgan close.
"Oh," Misha put up his hands, "you want time alone. We understand."
He turned and went back to his car, Katherine followed.
Rori breathed a sigh of relief. "Come on," she said to Morgan.
"Is something wrong, Rori?" Morgan asked.
"I cannot answer anything now, I need to think," Rori told her. "Just trust me love."
"I trust you, Rori. It's just that-"
"Then get in the car, please."
It took a few days to get through all of the red tape, and obtain valid passports, even with Longfellow's influential friends.
Rori nursed Morgan and waited. She only told Morgan that they were going to a cure for Morgan's disease. Rori explained Longfellow as an old friend. Rori slept on the plane to Russia, a peaceful sleep. For days she had dreamed of a giant Misha shooting her out of the sky as she flew, wounding her.
Then he would hold her between his thumb and forefinger, then strip her of all her skin, her wings of feathers.
Katherine watched over his shoulder with a cooking apron and nothing else.
Misha would then pull off her wings and Katherine would dip them in batter and deep fry them as Rori watched, in agony. There was an obscene absence of blood, like when one pulls the wings off of a fly.
Once they reached Moscow, they traveled to a farm house where some of Longfellow's children lived.
There was a man Alexander, a woman called Vera, and several children. They were a family Longfellow had put together out of his test subjects.
Rori began to wonder if she was Longfellow's only unhappy mutant.
Alexander had hooves in the place of feet. They made a sound on the wooden floors of the farmhouse Rori found surprisingly pleasant.
His wife Vera's eyes had been moved to either side of her head like a bird's. Her eyeballs could roll around and look behind her. The only odd thing Rori noticed about any of the children was that one practically had fangs in his mouth. He looked about three.
"I will fly you to the edge of Siberia," Alexander said, after they were all introduced. Rori could sense Morgan's puzzlement.
"I will take you to rest," Vera told Morgan.
"Yes, you should rest," Rori said. "We'll talk later."
Longfellow wandered off with the children. They smiled and reached out for him when they first saw him. He picked them all up, laughing like a grandpa.
"What did Longfellow give you?" Alexander asked Rori, then added with haste, "It is how we know each other."
"He cursed me with this hump on my back," Rori retorted.
"What is in the hump that you hide?" Alexander asked.
"Wings? That is a curse?"
"Yeah they are," she told him.
Alexander looked up at the sky, "They actually work?"
"Yes, they work."
"So any time you want to, you can go up there?" he pointed at the sky.
"Then that is the most magnificent thing he has done."
"He's not a god, you know. He's just a man, a mad one at that."
Alexander gave her a look. "He is better than a God because he is a man, a very compassionate man. He has given us health and hope. Much more than God who made Abel to be ill in the Beginning."
"What did he cure you of?" Rori asked.
"Heroin addiction" Alexander said. "My wife Vera was hit with the chemical, that Smotherer."
"Now you see what a liar your God is," Rori growled. "He told me there were no side effects."
Rori turned and ran looking for him.
Longfellow was sitting on a bench showing the children a little dragon marionette. It flew for him as he maneuvered his dexterous fingers.
He had no right.
Rori ran at him, a primitive rumbling in her throat. She tackled him off the bench and into the grass, locking her hands around his neck. The children ran off screaming for their parents.
She grunted, choking the air from him, he managed to gasp her name, "Rori," and a short plea, "No."
"You can fuck around with the whole world," Rori said to him, "give every human being a pig snout, and horns of their head if you want...but not Morgan, not Morgan."
Then Alexander was pulling her off Longfellow, throwing her away. Then the children attacked her, biting her shoulders and hitting her with what seemed to be a million little hands.
Rori screamed. Her wings escaped, causing her shirt to split in half.
The children gasped and scrambled away. Rori sat up and saw Vera, Alexander, and even Longfellow looking in awe.
"Rori?" Morgan asked, blindly picking her way out of the house.
The wings went back into hiding, and Alexander approached her menacingly.
"Stop," Longfellow ordered, "I will have no fighting amongst you."
"She meant you harm," Vera spat.
"Forgive her for me, Vera." Longfellow sighed, "It is my fault, I let her escape into the world too soon after I fixed her."
"You fixed nothing." Rori pointed her finger accusingly at him, "I was fine. What do you think? Humans are all in need of fixing? That you have to go fuck up what is already screwed in the beginning."
Morgan had followed her voice and now stood beside her, "Rori calm down...I've never heard you speak like this before."
"I saved you from the Russian authorities." Longfellow said, "They would have killed you for working with the mob."
"Shut up," Rori told him.
"I see you went back to them," Longfellow said, just as calm as he always was. "Killing for them. What is that? Kind of on the line of what you accuse me of."
Rori ran at him again, but Alexander stopped her.
"What is all of this?" Morgan asked.
"It's bullshit," Rori told her, "That's what this is." To Longfellow she said, "I should have killed you when I had the chance, before I could listen to any of your filthy lies." She took Morgan's hand, "Come on Mo, we're getting out of here."
"What about the cure?" Morgan asked.
"There is no cure," Rori told her.
"Yes there is," Longfellow said.
"Then I want it." Morgan took her hand.
"No," Rori jerked her hand back, "He'll turn you into a freak, give you hooves, or eyes on the side of your head. All these people around you are freaks of nature."
"Don't you think I knew they were different, Rori?" Morgan asked, appalled. " Don't insult them like that."
"Morgan you don't understand-"
"I understand perfectly...these people were cured, the side effect was some other attribute. They seem happy and healthy to me...so did you," Morgan trailed off.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Rori asked, fearing what her lover had figured out.
"The hump, is that what happened to you?" Morgan asked.
"Is it what you want?" Rori asked, "A grotesque lump on your back? A whole bunch of hair? Horns?"
"I'd face a hump the size of an old Buick, rather than waking up blind, rather than dying." Morgan said charged with emotion.
Rori dropped her hand, "You're right. If he is what you want then stay with Longfellow, have your cure and your curse"
Rori turned and ran into the woods, Morgan calling after her. She felt betrayed.
Morgan found salvation in what Rori scorned: Longfellow who had taken her against her will, wrecked her body, and nearly killed her spirit.
She returned at nightfall. She could not just leave without Morgan, she could not blame her for wanting to end her suffering. Maybe Morgan would get wings too, a white pair, like the angels.
She found the dog-toothed child she had heard called Sasha.
"Hello lady," he said.
"Hello," Rori told him, "What are you up so late for?"
"Waiting for you," he said apologetically, "I am sorry for biting you."
"Then I have favor to ask" he asked.
"What is it?" Rori asked suspiciously.
"To fly with you" the child requested sheepishly, "Through the clouds, without a plane."
His eyes shone in the dark, and Rori replied, "Only if you are not too heavy." She picked him up, testing his weight.
"I suppose you are light enough." She gathered him in her arms, he hugged her neck, his little body trembling, excited.
"You must promise to hold tight."
"I promise," he said in a small voice.
Rori grinned, released her wings and flapped. They took to the air, flying close to the ground then higher. The boy peeked down. "Higher please, up, up."
Rori laughed, and was filled with strength, their speed gathered, and she held the boy by his upper arms, letting him dangle beneath her.
"I'm flying!" he yelled, "Just like the birds!"
Rori took him above the trees, through a low cloud, then let his feet skim a small pond. When she let him go in his yard, he fell into the grass. Rori thought he was sick, or faint, but he stood right up.
"You should not be ashamed of something so wonderful," he said solemnly. "If I had wings, I would fly every night."
"I'm sure you would." Rori smiled.
"I suppose it is because you are a grown up," he said sorrowfully. "If kids had wings we'd use them all the time." He grinned mischievously.
"Rori," Morgan said, joining them relief if her voice. "I'm so glad you are okay."
She came and put her arms around Rori, "We have to talk about what is upsetting you so much to go running off into the woods."
"There should be nothing upsetting me," Rori told her. "If you want to be cured no matter what the cost, I should stay with you through it."
"I knew you would," She replied matter-of-factly. "You'd never let me down. I know that, Rori; it's not in your heart. At least I know that about you."
Rori kissed her hand, "I should have told you about my past long ago."
"You can tell me now. Just no more hiding." Morgan put her arms around Rori again to touch the hump. The wings beneath gave a tremor, then popped out.
Morgan put her hands on them, smoothing the feathers, running her fingers against them in order to feel the flesh and sinew beneath. Seeing with her hands.
"Rori" she whispered, "You make me pissed at you for not sharing something so beautiful with me."
Rori kissed her, "I kept it from myself...I.." she laid her hand on Morgan and sobbed.
Gunfire rang out. Rori dropped to the porch floor, pulling a startled Morgan with her. It was Misha, she knew it.
Alexander appeared on the porch, crouched down. Rori pushed Morgan through the door as Alexander handed her a shotgun.
Rori took it, put her wings away and left the porch, Alexander behind her. Bullets landed in the grass as they moved.
"Go back," Rori told him. "They have night vision."
"So do I," Alex said, "The natural kind."
"I see five," Rori said.
"So do I" he ran a few paces and shot, "That takes care of two."
Rori wanted to laugh. She saw the last three making their way to the house. She shot one of them, and saw two more coming.
"I will get them, then double back to the house," Alexander told her. "You get the other two. I hope there are no more."
"Don't worry comrade," Rori told him. She sprouted her wings and made an air attack, slaughtering the two men, then checking the road for any more.
Then she realized this was not Misha. He would want to be there, for something as dramatic as this. She made her way back to the house. Cloaked in darkness, she watched through a window as Misha paced. There was his old friend Igor, with a gun pointed at Longfellow and the children.
Vera lay dead or injured on the kitchen floor. Morgan was beside Katherine.
Once she arrived the party would begin. Why should she keep them waiting?
She burst through the window and took out Igor with a shotgun blast to the stomach. He fired off one round, shrapnel-bullets that exploded into tiny pieces of metal. Her whole left side was sprayed with hot lead.
"It's not like you to make such a grand entrance." Misha grabbed Morgan by the hair. "I am pleased."
"I'm not here to please you, Misha," Rori told him. "Just to kill you."
"Me?" he asked, acting very surprised. "Why, my cestra? You are the one who betrayed me."
"I had a good reason my brat [brother]," Rori told him. "I'm not on your side any longer."
"Well, this is beyond personal business," Misha said disdainfully. "You see, you were to do a job for me. You lied, and let Longfellow live." Misha shot Longfellow in the side. "But as my father told me, if you want something done, you must do it yourself." He was about to shoot Longfellow once again when Sasha jumped in front of the scientist. The bullet meant for Longfellow killed the boy instantly.
Rori ran at Misha and punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the floor. Katherine stood, and gave her some kind of karate kick in the side.
Rori was stunned, she shook off the pain, Katherine was upon her again, using her honed fighting skills against Rori.
She was not against one who did not how to fight. Rori blocked Katherine's blows, and managed to tackle her into a small table.
Misha whooped at their struggle, barbarian that he was, and whistled.
Katherine reached for a knife strapped to her leg. Rori slapped her hand away, and was rewarded with a karate chop across the bridge of her nose.
Katherine retrieved the knife, and stabbed Rori in her side already damaged by shrapnel from the recently deceased Igor.
Rori screamed, and Katherine drove the knife in deeper. Rori thrashed, and kicked her attacker in the thigh.
The grip on the knife loosened. Rori was able to wrench away and dig the knife from her shoulder. Katherine was about to come at her again when she was taken down by Alexander, who clubbed her in the stomach with his hoof.
Katherine grabbed his ankle and tripped him, delivering a blow to his back as he fell to the floor.
Rori had the knife out. She ran at Katherine who drilled Rori's side with her foot. By themselves, Rori's wings released and lifted her into the air. Katherine's foot tipped her forward right over her head.
Rori took advantage of the opportunity and drove the knife into Katherine's skull. Her body stiffened, began to spasm then crumple onto the floor.
"Rori!" Alexander yelled and pointed to the kitchen doorway where Misha had Morgan by the hair, dragging her towards the back door while kicking Vera's body out of the way.
Rori bolted out the front door, remembering Sasha. He had been such a wise, solemn, boy she had never had a chance to thank him for his words.
She flew from the porch, up high then down again. She swooped down on Misha. The bastard saw her in time, raised his gun and shot her in her left wing. The pain was so intense she nearly lost consciousness.
Morgan screamed as Rori lay in the grass, squirming.
"Like a wounded bird!" Misha laughed. Morgan fought him, but he was too strong.
Rori moaned. Now he would grin and pull off her wings, he would call her his cestra, pull off her skin and feathers.
"Now my sister," Misha sighed. "I must kill the one who betrayed me." He added soothingly, "You should have understood, you should have known."
He shut his eyes, and aimed.
Morgan turned away.
Misha's head tilted back, he fell to his knees, then lay in the grass. Longfellow limped forward leaning on a baseball bat, smiling grimly. Fatherly.
Rori raced down the slope. She discarded her oxygen mask, and put her pipe in her mouth. She was nearing the end of the course at the Skull and Crossbones Boarder Competition. She was in the lead...big surprise.
Morgan watched bright-eyed in the stands. This was her first outing in months since they had begun Longellow's treatment.
As Rori neared the finish line, she thought of Alexander, she thought of Milo, and Vera and the wise boy Sasha. All her brothers, all her sisters.
She thought of Morgan, the way her fingernails had lengthened as they made love a few months before, displaying a retractable set of cat claws.
Rori thought of Longfellow, who had saved her life twice. Her father.
Rori jumped into the air as she approached the finish line. Her wings burst through her boarding uniform: she soared, grabbed her board, and unhooked her boots from it. Instead of crossing the finish line, Rori flew above it. Below her in the snow her board was joined by a big black feather.
She soared over the trees, she would not allow anyone to pull off her wings ever again, especially not her own hands.
If you have enjoyed Cornwel's "Corvus Corax", then please be certain to e-mail her at cornwel[at]hotmail.com and thank her for posting this Story.
Click here for a list of all of Cornwel's Stories and Poetry at Sapphic Voices Authoresses.
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