GenoCyt Executive Enclave, San Francisco (Age 24)

Deepti Mahajan returned to the bungalow she shared with her younger sister, Marisa Narula. Mari was flopped on the sofa, watching some Netflix and doing some damage to a bag of Doritos.

Dee sat herself on one of the tufty chairs, and put her feet up on the coffee table. "I just had a very interesting discussion with Kylan," she stated, not looking at her sister.

Mari sat up, "O-o-oh?" She put the near-empty bag aside, giving Dee her full attention.

Dee nodded. "As far as Los Angeles is concerned, you and I are actually," she paused a moment. "Dead." She tilted her head slightly, regarding Mari, "Do you want to stay dead, on paper?"

Mari frowned absently, "Why would we want to stay dead? I can understand not wanting to go back to LA."

"Well, since it was released as a 'terrorist action,' if you and I, who are sisters, are the only survivors," Dee let the sentence hang.

Mari's frown grew more thoughtful, "And we're Indian."

Dee nodded, "That makes us the 'terrorists'."

Marisa continued, "And that would get messy, because even if they realise we're also victims, they'll want to know why, how we survived, and everyone else didn't."

"Precisely. So, if Deepti Mahajan and Marisa Narula stay part of the death toll, that means we take new names," Dee explained, "and continue on as new people, but continue on without getting looked at weird, or having awkward questions asked."

"Pretty much everyone we know, even our friends, they think we're dead," Mari pointed out.

"Yeah," Dee agreed.

Mari threw up her hands, "Surprise! Aah! Ghosts!" She brought her hands back down, nodding, "It would make life a lot simpler."

Dee repeated herself, nodding, "Yeah."

Marisa pondered, "What do you think of 'Vanhi' as a name?"

"I could deal with that," remarked Dee.

"I was thinking for me!" grinned Mari.

Deepti snorted with amusement, "If you want it, fine. I'm thinking 'Rahni' for myself."

"We'll probably have to move somewhere," pondered Marisa.

"Yup," agreed Dee. "But not LA."

Mari pouted, "But I liked LA."

"LA was nice," Dee nodded. "San Francisco's nice, too. And it's got Hamilton!"

Mari thought about it for a moment, "I don't think San Francisco's far enough."

"How often did your friends come to San Francisco?" asked Deepti.

Mari nodded slowly, "Good point."

"How likely were they to go to, oh, Catalina, or Hawaii, or Baja, or Vegas," Dee pointed out. "Than San Francisco? Or Seattle?"

"Ugh, too wet!" complained Mari.

"No, I mean, your friends," corrected Dee. "I know my friends are more likely to go to Seattle than San Francisco."

Mari smirked, "That's because you've got Old Lady friends."

Dee's brow lifted with disdain, despite how faint they were, growing back as they were, "At least my friends are out of diapers."

Mari pouted, "It was only that one time."

"Mm-hmm," nodded Dee. "All over the back of the car."

"But, he's not my friend, anymore," muttered Mari.

"So." Dee flexed her shoulders and stretched her neck, "I told Kai I'd talk to you about that."

Marisa thought about it a few moments, "Would we have to change our, our lives and stuff?"

Dee asked, "What do you mean?"

"Like, if you're in that witness protection thing, you can't do a lot of the stuff you used to do," Mari pointed out.

"I dunno," Dee answered.

"Like, if you were a CPA, you couldn't be an accountant, or whatever," mused Marisa.

"I think... I'm only guessing here, but, it's not quite so severe?" Dee shook her head, uncertain, and continued, "But, my face wasn't 'out there', so, it's not like anyone on the street would recognize me, that didn't know me, before."

Mari nodded, "Mine wasn't out there, either, so." She shrugged.

"I'm still in med-school, so it's not like–"

"Does that mean you have to start over?" Mari interrupted.

Deepti blinked, pondering. "I don't know." She thought about it some more, "I have no idea. Probably something we have to talk to Kai about." She sighed, and then smiled wryly, giving her sister a sideways look, "But we can ask about it, tomorrow."

Mari's attention was caught, "Oh?" Her head tilted, "Is this going to be one of those times when I come home and there's a sarong on the door?"

"No," Dee was quick to answer, "This is going to be one of those times when you'll be home before six o'clock. Because that's when dinner is getting served."

Mari nodded slowly, and smirked, "And then I have to leave after eight o'clock, because you want to put a sarong on the door."

Dee rolled her eyes, "No, he's leaving at eight. He's only got from six to eight cleared."

"Ah, so I have to leave at seven-thirty, so you can put the sarong on the door," Mari's grin was wicked.

Dee's tone grew flat, "No."

Mari sidled up to her, and elbowed her, "You say 'no,' now..."

She shook her head, looking away, "And I'll be saying 'no' for quite a while. We just finished the Thirteen Days."

Mari's jesting halted immediately. They both lost their parents and brother, but Deepti lost her husband, as well. Her sister would be mourning him for the full year. Marisa lifted her hand, to put it on Deepti's arm, but Dee turned away, unseeing.

"No, I invited him over for dinner tomorrow," Dee said, heading for the kitchen, "Ah, mainly to thank him for everything he's been doing for us." She smiled wryly, planning the menu. She knew most of her mother's recipes. And she knew that Marisa knew that Dee had their mum's recipes. Dee added, "Be prepared to have steam come out of your ears, tomorrow."

Mari regarded her sister with some concern, "Why?"

"Because Kai's from South Africa," Dee answered. "And they have spicy foods. I asked how spicy he could deal with, and he told me to start with a medium heat. So. I'm going to have fun. Sanjay couldn't take the spices so well."

Mari grinned, and said, simply, "Kamal."

"It was always fun trying to make Kamal cry," Dee gloated.

"Didn't happen much, though," Marisa pointed out.

"Didn't happen much," Dee conceded. "But it was fun when it did."

Marisa snorted, "Not that he'd admit it. He'd be beet-red, tears pouring down his face, and he'd say, 'That's not bad'."

"He could almost take it as well as Dad," remarked Deepti.

"Dad," agreed, Mari.

Dee nodded, "Dad. Dad could out-spice Mum."

"I think their whole relationship was based on, on–" started Mari.

"Who could out-burn whom," finished Dee, with a fond smile.

And then they both realized what Deepti just said, and they both sobered immediately, tears welling in their eyes. Dee went to one of the cabinets in the kitchen, and pulled out a box of tissue. That cabinet was full of tissue boxes.

"Does it ever get better?" Marisa asked, softly.

"It's supposed to get better, eventually," Dee replied. "But, it never goes away, though. That's what I've been given to understand. It never goes away." She wiped her nose with a tissue.

"I wouldn't want it to go away," murmured Mari, her voice a bit choked. "Because, that means we're not thinking of them, anymore." She sniffled, "I just want to be able to think of them, without– without–"

Deepti offered the tissue box to her younger sister, nodding. "I know."

Mari took the box, regarded it, still sniffling, and yanked several tissues from it. She gave her nose a mighty blow, and declared, "Drinks. I need drinks."

Dee nodded, "Drinks would definitely be good." She regarded Mari, "So, what did Kamal get you for your first drink? He never did tell me. And he kept telling me to ask you." She smiled weakly, "I had a peach margarita."

"It was a Blue Hawaiian," Marisa said, pulling some bottles from the pantry, and lining them up, purposefully. "You know what else Kamal taught me?" she asked, pouring various liquids into a glass with some ice in it.

"Huh," Deepti replied, and caught the glass that her sister slid towards her.

"Did you know he worked as a bartender?" Mari asked, pouring herself a different drink.

"I remember hearing about it," Dee replied, "But I never... Every time I thought about it, I thought of him, just, you know. Slinging beer. Not this." She lifted the glass, regarding the contents warily.

The next morning, Deepti woke up on the stool at the kitchen counter. Cookbooks and notes were spread on the countertop and the table. Not messy, but the recycle bin was full of empty bottles. There was a notepad with lists of what ingredients were missing from the pantry, what pots or pans needed to be acquired.

She considered making breakfast, but then she saw what time it was. No, she was not going to make breakfast at five-thirty a-freakin'-m. She nudged Mari, who was on the other stool, slumped over the kitchen island. "C'mon, Mari, go hit the sack."

Marisa grumbled something incoherent, and flapped her arm in Dee's direction.

"No, Mari, you can't stay like that. You'll get a kink in your neck. C'mon." Dee was gently shaking her sister's shoulder.

"Too late," Marisa complained, sitting up and rubbing at her neck with one hand. "Ow. Ow," she grumbled.

Deepti regarded her sister, her sister's discomfort, then looked at her own hand. She concentrated, and saw the heat within her flow down her arm, to her hand. Her hand started glowing, and when she felt it was warm "enough," she started reaching for the knot in Mari's neck. But as her hand got closer, tiny flames became visible, dancing across her flesh. "Nnnnewp, too much," she muttered, pulling her hand back, quickly. She took some calming breaths, and her hand remained warm, but the glow itself faded. She then rested it against that knot, where the neck meets the shoulders.

"Oooh," Marisa murmured, as the muscles relaxed under the heat. After a couple of minutes, "Oh, that's so much better. G'night." She slid off the stool, and then noticed the mess they'd created. "Oh," Mari grunted.

Dee regarded the spread out books and the dirty dishes in the sink. "We'll deal with it, later."

Mari stumbled off to her room, while Dee went to her own. She kicked off her shoes and just went face-down on her bed.

When nine a.m. rolled around, Deepti emerged, intending on getting coffee made and breakfast started. She figured that Marisa would still be sleeping off the multiple Blue Hawaiians from the night before. What she found, however, was the cookbooks organized, coffee made, and Mari just finishing up cooking bacon and pancakes.

"Hey, sleepy-head!" Mari greeted Dee cheerfully. She put the laden dishes on the table, and gestured for Dee to take a seat.

"Hey," returned Dee, very pleasantly surprised at the spread. She took the proffered seat, and breakfast got served.

As Dee started eating, Mari regarded her over the top of her coffee cup. "So. You've got practice. Then training." She sipped her coffee. "I got," she paused, "Nothing."

Deepti snorted a laugh at that.

"What'm I gonna do?" Mari asked, tearing up a pancake, to dip in the smear of butter and syrup on her own plate. "If we, if we become new people, what are we going to do?"

"Well, what do you want to do?" Dee countered.

"I don't know," Mari shrugged.

Dee dogged on, "What do you like to do? You're not half bad with drinks; if you want to be a bartender, be a bartender. If you wanna, oh, study something weird and get a degree in that, then study something weird, and get a degree in it."

"But then, that's, that's not," argued Mari. "That's not self-sustaining. I mean, do you actually see us living together?" She waved a half-eaten slice of bacon around, as she asked that. "Do you see us staying together?"

Dee shook her head, helplessly, shrugging. "Right now, I don't have a problem with it."

"Yeah, but that's for the short term," countered Mari. "I mean, you got married. You got... laid. A lot!" Mari smirked.

"Yeah, with a guy that was cossetting me since I was sixteen!" replied Deepti.

"I wanna..." trailed off Mari, hiding her words in her coffee cup, taking another swig.

"You wanna travel?" prodded Dee.

Marisa put her cup down and leaned toward her sister, "What's it like?" she whispered.

Deepti smiled softly, "It's a lot of fun, as long as everyone involved talks to each other. If you don't like something, say something. Because, the best sex is when you both have fun."

Mari fidgeted with another piece of pancake on her plate, "But, what if, what you like, and what he likes, don't line up?"

"Then you both try to find something you both like." Dee grinned wickedly, "There's more than one way to get your boink on."

Mari blushed a bit. She'd been trying to embarrass her sister, but wound up being the one embarrassed.

It didn't help when Deepti continued, "And remember: there's no such thing as too much lubrication."

"Well, if you keep sliding off of each other," remarked Marisa.

"That makes for different kinds of fun," answered Dee, with a fond, faraway look in her eye.

Marisa was actually speechless for a good two minutes. Long enough for Deepti to finish off three slices of bacon, two pancakes, and most of her coffee. Marisa finally said, "I never would have thought of that, about Sanjay."

Dee took a deep breath, and used her napkin to wipe a tear from her eye. "Jay was nothing, if not enthusiastic," she murmured. "With regards to a lot of things."

Marisa mulled that over for another few minutes. Deepti took the rest of the pancakes.

Mari remarked, "Kamal was so... boring. I don't even– I think he had sex? I'm not really sure. I don't think he was sure," she mused.

Dee cut in, "I'm going to let you find your own partner. I will offer you my opinion–"

"You gonna be my wing-woman?" smirked Mari.

"Doubtful," answered Dee. "There are few things more awkward than finding the guy who's turned on by the pair of sisters–"

"But we're not twins," quipped Mari.

"–and who's thinking of getting it on, with both of the sisters, at the same time." Dee finished her coffee, and put the mug down, "I'll tell you right now, not gonna happen."

Marisa looked affronted, "I don't mean now!"

"I'm just saying, not ever!" Dee emphasized.

"We got, what. Five and a half days left?" Mari pondered.

Dee did a quick tally. Technically, the period of mourning would have started the day the families died, but as the sisters were hospitalized, and then Dee was incarcerated, however briefly, they began their informal observance of it from the evening they were reunited. Because of the necessity for Dee to learn how to control her highly volatile and destructive abilities, she observed her prayers at night, in her room. She would have shared them with Marisa, but she was too afraid her own grief might make her fires flare.

It hurt.

Deepti nodded, "Yeah, sounds right."

"I'm not gonna get– We're not going to meet anybody until we get out of here," Mari pointed out, oblivious to where her sister's thoughts went.

"That's true," agreed Dee, letting herself get side-tracked for her sister's sake.

"But, for tonight," Dee started, "How about I write up a list of what we need, and you go talk to whoever it is to talk to."

"Well, you did that, last night, but, ah," Marisa pulled out the sheet they'd been using while they were talking, and looked over it. "Maybe you need to re-write it." She handed it to Dee.

It was a list, of sorts. But she had no idea what it actually said. The scrawl wasn't in English or Hindi, but it was most definitely a list. "Yeah, I'll just re-do this."

"I'll get this taken care of, while you're in your classes," Mari agreed.

"In the mean time, start thinking about," started Dee, "Think about what you want to do. You want to take dance classes?" She got up and started taking her dishes to the sink.

Mari laughed, "Girl, I'm Hindu. I was born dancing!" She stood up and did a slow belly roll. "I could teach this stuff!"

Dee grinned, and echoed her sister's moves, nodding, "You could teach that!" They proceeded to have a laugh-filled minute, dancing around the kitchen, putting dishes in the sink, before Dee leaned against the counter, chuckling, and putting the revised list on the stack of books. "So, yeah. Think about what you want to do... Think about, what do you want to be doing in five years? What do you see yourself doing in five years? Or even next year?"

Marisa sighed, nodding. "I'll get back to you."

Deepti gave her sister a hug, "A'ight." And went back to her room, to shower and get ready for the yoga class.

On the way to that first class, she texted James with the go-ahead about the new identities for her and Marisa, that they were still deciding on new names for themselves, and about dinner with Mr. Krause. She also texted Monty, her primary abilities trainer, about the incident the night before, using her hand as a heating-pad for Mari's neck.

At her training, later that day, Monty wanted to see Dee do the hand-warming thing. Monty was in his mid to late thirties, and was safe for Deepti to accidentally immolate near, as he could turn to stone, protecting and insulating him against Dee's flames. For these training sessions, Dee actually had a set of "workout clothes," which was a set of flame-proof gym shorts and top.

Dee started warming her hand up, as she had the night before. She got it to the faint glow, and Monty nodded, "Very good. Very good. Now, just give it a little more," he suggested.

Dee's hand glowed brighter, and flames licked along her flesh, then flowed down her arm, up across her shoulders, and after a moment, her entire body was in flames, but not the furnace that had destroyed the saari when she was sixteen. It was still enough to startle her, but rather than flaring out, it extinguished.

"That's good! That's good!" praised Monty. "When you have that type of sheath going, you're well protected. Let's work on that a bit more." They proceeded to get Dee accustomed to being inside her own flames, which was a little difficult for the first few tries. Dee had been working so hard on not immolating, that making her self light up seemed wrong. They started with "immolating stuntman," which was basically a full-body fire, but they worked on having that done on purpose, rather than as reaction. During a short break, Monty pulled out a notebook. Inside, he showed Dee a chart, showing various levels of self-produced immolation, from "Flaming Stuntman" to "Glow Stick," which was literally just glowing with heat, but not yet in flames. "Eventually, you might be able to do this!" Monty said, pulling out his cell phone. He pulled up a video, of a man with similar powers to Dee's, turning his body into a psychedelic light show, by controlling and morphing where on his body the level of glows moved.

There was a voicemail on her phone after the training session. James was following up, letting her know that Mr. Krause will be there at six, and asking if there was anything she needed. As she walked back to the bungalow, she texted back that it seemed like everything was covered, and thanking him for checking.

She found, when she got back to the bungalow, that Mari had all the preliminary prep work done. "Maybe I'll be a sous chef," Marisa remarked, looking at her handiwork. Portions had been measured, veg had been chopped, cookbooks lined up in an orderly fashion.

Once the various dishes had started cooking, Deepti kept on top of temperatures, volumes, scents, tastes. She was treating it as if it was a scaled down holiday meal, cooking for the three of them, instead of her normal ten to twelve, before The Incident. While Marisa was showering and getting dressed, Dee took a few moments to wonder if it was going to be just her and Mari, down the proverbial road. Of course, if Mari found someone, Dee would step out of that picture. She wanted her sister to be happy.

Twenty minutes before six, Dee slipped into her room, to change for dinner. Deepti wore her saari and choli, not the set from the court appearance, but the newer set, green with gold-tone pattern. Mari wore a violet saari with a pink choli, and her hair was in a thick braid down her back. Given that Mari was never comfortable in the traditional garb, she rebelled by wearing flourescent camo-print leggings, which couldn't be seen, given the drape of the saari itself.

Five minutes before six, Deepti was busying herself in the kitchen, making sure the dishes were seasoned correctly, the tea was steeping in the pot, the rice was suitably fluffy. It was nervous fussing, and she knew it. She wanted so much to make a good impression, it made her belly flutter, like she was going to be ill. She drank some water, and almost spat it out when, at mere moments before six o'clock, there came a politely firm knock at the bungalow door.

Marisa hopped up from the chair she was lounging in, "I'll get it!" She almost sounded like she did, that first time Sanjay came over, with Secret Food. Deepti bit her lip at the memory.

"Oh! My! Hi!" Dee heard Marisa say. She peeked out from the kitchen, as Kylan entered. She quickly pulled herself back into the kitchen, to catch her breath. He was attractive before, in his American casual attire, and even the business suits he wore during "working" hours. But with the dark blue Jodhpur suit he arrived in, it was like he could have been a younger friend of her father's, visiting for a holiday. A very attractive friend of her father's. Oh, my, indeed.

"I hope I'm not too early," he remarked to Marisa. As he took note of how Marisa was not-quite gaping at him, he remarked, sounding a touch uncertain, "I, I hope this is all right. If it's not, I can quickly change."

Deepti came out of the kitchen, with a welcoming smile. "What would you like to drink?" she offered. And so, dinner began.

It was a very pleasant meal, and they discovered that while Kylan could handle most of the spices, he wasn't quite the fire-eater as her brother. He was about on par with Marisa, and Mari pushed herself to be able to take that much more heat from the food than she normally would. Dee was tempted to kick her sister under the table. They talked about music from their respective cultures, foods they'd enjoyed in the past. After the meal itself, Marisa showed off her Bollywood moves, which turned into a laughter-filled discussion about non-English musicals.

At around seven-thirty, as they're enjoying the after-dinner coffee, Kylan remarked, "I'm glad you decided to go the route of the new identities. It will make life much easier for you."

Deepti nodded, "And for everyone who believes we're gone."

"When you are ready," he started, and then remarked, "The reports I get are showing great progress. The medical reports are indicating that you're healthy, you're good. Whenever you're ready to go, I can have the identities set up, and I can have, uhm–" Kylan frowned absently, and asked, "What did you want to do for an occupation?"

Deepti looked towards Marisa, then back to Kylan, and started to answer, "I–"

"Oh, you were becoming a doctor," he nodded, remembering. "I can easily have your transcripts transferred into your new identity. Your grades were pretty good, yes? I can arrange for help with whatever subjects were giving you problems, as well." Kylan regarded Dee with all due seriousness.

Dee took a moment before answering. "I'm aware I'm not the brightest crayon in the box."

"But you are far from the dullest," Kylan pointed out.

"I'm far from the dullest," she agreed. "But, I've been wondering– I do want to go into some manner of medical career, but I've been thinking less general practitioner or sports medicine, and maybe go into emergency services." She spread her hands out, "All things considered," she smiled, wryly.

"Oh, there's no rush," Kylan hastened to assure her. "You have as long as you need. Nothing, here, is on a time schedule."

Dee nodded slowly, and began muttering "But, we're not–" She stopped, frowning, and spoke up, "Neither of us wants to abuse the hospitality."

Kylan nodded, acknowledging the statement, "But, it is here as long as you need it," he said, looking at each sister, reassuringly.

"We appreciate that, immensely," Dee smiled, gently. "We're still, ah, figuring things out."

Kylan was about to say something, when a soft chime sounded from somewhere on his person. His expression turned to vague irritation, as he muttered, "Sometimes, I wish I didn't have this."

The chime came at seven-fifty. Deepti looked to Marisa, who gave a subtle shrug of incomprehension. The few scheduled meetings she'd had with Kylan, his time-to-go chimes sounded only a few minutes before his actual time-to-go, not ten minutes earlier.

"Thank you for dinner, for your hospitality," Kylan said to Dee. "Thank you for your dancing; you are quite talented, and I do know some people who could benefit from learning your moves," he said to Mari. His tones were the essence of politesse, and his expression verified the truth behind the words. He regarded Deepti once more, "Would you see me to the door, please?"

"Absolutely," she agreed, getting to her feet.

He gave Marisa a farewell half-bow, before returning his full regard to the older sister, as they went to the door. Ever the gentleman, Kylan opened the door, and Dee was surprised to see James waiting outside, with a file-folder in his hand, and a sober expression on his face.

Kylan said, softly, "You have a great life in front of you, whichever way you go. I don't mean to twist or complicate it, but this is important." He took the file from James, and offered it to Deepti. "Be seated before you look at this." His tone was gentle and dead-serious, and Deepti was completely baffled.

Not bothering to hide her confusion, she looked from Kylan to James, and back to Kylan, "O-o-okay."

"If it is all right with you, I would like to leave James here for a few minutes," said Kylan. "And then you can dismiss him, as you see fit." Dee glanced at James, who had a carefully neutral expression on his face, and nodded. "Have a good evening," he said, and left.

Kylan strode down the walkway, away from the bungalow, and was joined within a few steps by someone she hadn't noticed earlier. They start talking, quietly, as James shifted his position to catch Dee's attention.

"You might want to take a seat," James said, softly, guiding Dee back inside, to the table. Mari had cleared most of it, already.

"W-would you like a drink?" Dee asked, trying to take a step towards the kitchen. James gently redirected her to the chair.

"No, thank you, I'm fine," he replied, as Dee sat at the table, folder in hand. She was very nervous about reading whatever it contained. James stepped away, once Deepti put the folder on the table, and started opening it. He was out of her direct line of sight.

Marisa came out of her room, asking, "What's going o–" but it seemed she caught James's expression or a gesture from him or something. Deepti's full attention was on the pages in the folder. She read through the pages, and frowned, and started reading through everything once more. She looked away from the folder, to one side, as she did some mental calculations, and her eyes widened, as she read through the first page, a third time.

Deepti took a deep breath, and exhaled, "Well!"

"What's it say? What's it say?" asked Marisa, finally stepping forward, trying to see the pages.

"Uhm," started Dee, "You know those drinks you made for me, last night?"

"The yummy one?" Mari nodded.

"The very yummy one?" Dee agreed. "If– if things go according to schedule, I won't be able to have another one of those for at least, oh, thirty-eight weeks." She sighed, sitting back in the chair, "And I'm going to have to avoid fish, as well."

Marisa looked confused, "Why?" Dee offered her the folder. Mari glanced at it, shrugging, "I don't know what that says."

"I'm pregnant," Dee stated.

Mari frowned absently, "How?"

Dee shook her head, "I have no idea. Well, I know the mechanics on how, but I don't know how it took."

Dee and Mari glared at each other for a moment, before James spoke up, "With your permission?"

Two sets of eyes snapped to him. Deepti answered, "Yeah?"

He reached into his jacket, and pulled out a folded paper, and stepped forward to offer it to Dee.

She took it, unfolded it, and read it quickly. It was from Kylan. "We came across this, and I wanted you to know, but I didn't know a more proper way, but you needed to know sooner, rather than later, but all options are open to you. If you wish to discuss this further, you can talk with Doctor Woo (Doctor Woo was the lead geneticist, who was following up on the work Hemanti had been doing). I hope you find this as happy news, in light of your recent loss. Kylan"

Dee sat there for several moments, after reading the letter, digesting the words, and the medical report. She took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. "Well. And it's still there, after the explosion," she murmured, more thinking out loud than talking to either of the two people present. "So, it's probably a good bet that my powers don't affect it." She turned, regarding James with a business-like gaze, "We're going to have to have a chat with Doctor Woo." She then looked to Marisa, "All right. So, tomorrow morning, I'm going to make an appointment with Doctor Woo. Have a little chit-chat."

James tapped something on his tablet, and spoke up, "Done." At Dee's confused look, he grinned a bit sheepishly, "It had already been set up, we just needed to know how you were going to handle this. I'm just here to make certain you're all right."

"Like the over-abundance of food prepared this evening, this will take some time to digest," remarked the mother-to-be. "It's very welcome news."

James nodded, "Okay."

Dee continued, "But there are– concerns." She looked away, not focusing on the empty chair across from her.

"Is there anything I can get for you?" James asked, solicitously.

Her head shook slowly, "Nothing I can think of, at the moment."

He offered, tentatively, "I'm really good at boiling water."

There was a glitter of amusement in Dee's eye as she regarded Kylan's assistant. She replied, holding up her left hand, "So am I." Her hand was in flames, briefly.

"Kylan asked me to be on-call tonight. So, anything you need, at any time," he let the sentence trail off.

Dee nodded, "Thank you; I appreciate it." She thought for a moment, then came to a decision. "I... need to take a walk."

Marisa chimed up, "Want me to go with you? Or d'you wanna go by yourself? Is this going to be a–"

Dee cut in, "Yeah, this is going to be one of those long, brooding walks. Yeah." The gentle smile she offered her sister belied the somewhat sharp tone of her interruption. She tucked Kylan's note on top of the papers in the folder, and closed the folder, itself. She grabbed a travel pack of tissues from the cabinet that held the boxes of tissues.

James spoke up, but softly, "Would you like me to, ah, shadow you at a distance, just to make sure everything is okay?"

Deepti shook her head, and asked, a touch of irritation in her tone, "What's gonna happen?" As if it was either unlikely that anything at all would occur, or that she was confident in her ability to deal with whatever might pop up.

James's expression showed clearly that he was running any number of scenarios through his imagination, but he wisely opted not to give them voice. He finally nodded, after a moment. "You're right. By your leave."

Dee stated, "There's a very– This area has a very low crime rate, so I'm not worried about a mugger. I do understand how traffic lights work, in case I feel a need to cross a street."

"True," agreed James, "But not all drivers have grasped that concept."

"And," she continued, "I just need some air."

"Yes, ma'am," mumbled James, taking a discreet step back. "But, please, make sure you carry your phone, in case you need to reach out." He nodded a good night to each sister, and made his exit.

Marisa had remained unusually quiet through the whole exchange, and watched as her sister made a point of getting her cell phone, tucking it into her choli, between her breasts, and head for the door.

It wasn't long after eight, even though it felt much later, to Deepti. Unhurriedly, she walked along the concrete paths through the enclave, heading towards a hill. She hadn't realized how large the property was, as it looked like the entire hilly area was part of the enclave itself. There was a path leading up, unlit but easily visible in the clear night. The moon was three quarters full, and as Dee wasn't in any rush, her eyes had adjusted to the dimness. Towards the top, there was a bench overlooking the bungalows, and giving a pleasant view of the city, and the open sky and stars, and that's where she sat, to give thought towards her next steps.

She spent the next hour apologizing to Sanjay, that he wouldn't get to meet his child, to her parents for making them start their next cycle so soon. Berating herself for that loss of control at the courthouse. She whispered promises to the life growing within her, how much she wanted it, how happy she was that it was there at all. She then gave voice to her fears: for herself, for her sister, for the baby. She understood that GenoCyt in general, and Kylan, specifically, were going to be fully supportive to her (but why? Why was she worthy of so much special attention? - those doubts were not voiced, but they nagged, deep within her), but she felt the lack of a family network support. She had no family, aside from Marisa, who had as much experience with motherhood as Deepti did. She could, theoretically, go to Sanjay's extended family, but they were far more traditional in their family practices than her parents had raised her and her siblings. She didn't think she wanted to raise her child in an environment of being seen as the family charity case, with infant, unable to answer questions about why she couldn't go to her own family's extended network; she had no idea who they were. Plus, why was she suddenly pregnant after a year of being told she couldn't get pregnant; what would his family think of her? Of her child? They would have doubts that it was truly Sanjay's offspring, from this woman that survived the explosion that almost no one else had, including the baby they were going to adopt. Why her? More questions she could not answer.

She started to realize some of what her own parents went through, with the necessity of leaving India and their families, while her mother was pregnant, and starting completely anew elsewhere, with new identities. The necessity of leaving their support networks behind, finding new resources to make up the lack. "Oh, look! I'm upholding a family tradition! Had an accident: had to move and start a new life!" She laughed helplessly, and patted her belly, "Start a new life!" She looked to the stars, and the moon, heedless of the fresh tears falling.

She firmed her decision, to take the new identity, to forge forward with GenoCyt, despite some seemingly irrational misgivings. From discussions with James, and with Kai, she knew she'd be able to continue her education, and if it took her there, she'd be able to get daycare for the baby when it was older and she could go back into full-time schooling or work. Mari would have the stability of a secure home, so she could go and explore her own dreams and not worry about a shoulder to cry on, should the need arise. Dee started to consider going into pediatrics, all things considered, as Emergency Services had irregular hours and it would be harder to find childcare for some of the shifts she might need to take. Plus, with her powers, she wasn't sure what her professional future would hold, if she truly was as potentially powerful as Kylan had intimated. She still held her doubts on that, but didn't voice them.

She wiped her nose with another tissue, looking back to the lights below her. "And that assumes you make it to term," she murmured, her other hand on her belly. As it was still the first trimester, that was the time when if something was going to go wrong with the embryo, it was most likely to happen, and she'd miscarry. She decided she was going to continue her activities as she had been, her classes, her training, add in some water-based exercises, as she knew her body was going to change and adjust to the life growing within her, and her balance was likely going to get strange. She also decided she wanted to take excursions out of the enclave entirely, visit parks, museums, see the sights of San Francisco, since she was there. She might be in mourning for her husband and family, but that didn't have to stop her from learning about the place where she was putting down new roots. She gave a short huff of amusement, determined not to be All GenoCyt, All The Time. Mari would definitely enjoy stretching her own legs, too.

With those half-formed plans in her mind, she started back down the hill, back towards the bungalow. As she stepped off the dirt path, back onto the concrete walkway, she saw James's car parked nearby, his window down. Their eyes met, and he asked, "Are you okay?"

Dee nodded, "I'm good."

He nodded back, and wished her a good night, before driving off.

When she got back to the bungalow, Marisa was waiting there, with a gallon of (half-melted) ice cream, and a computer-printed sign that read, "Happy P-Day." Mari asked, "So, whatcha gonna name'im?"

"Dunno yet," Dee replied. "Dunno if it's a boy or girl. Too soon to tell," she pointed out.

Doctor Anton Woo was a man of middle years, who presented a no-nonsense front, yet appreciated a good sense of humor in others. Deepti Mahajan's appointment took place late the following morning, instead of her yoga session.

When she sat with Dr. Woo, she started off explaining how the date of conception was the week before the incident at the courthouse, and how that didn't trigger anything.

"Actually, we found that your mother's treatment began breaking down," he replied. "You were on the suppression regimen, for how long? When did it start?"

"Since before I was seventeen," Dee replied, honestly.

"And you were on it for, how long?" He was reviewing his notes as he asked those questions.

"For about five years. I was twenty-three when I got married, and we believed that half a decade of treatments was enough to eliminate the condition," she admitted.

"Well, they were good at suppressing," Dr. Woo explained, "But during the last few months– but we're not certain if your body built up immunities or resistance, but the effects were the same. That's why you were able to get pregnant."

"Well," echoed Deepti, a bit taken aback.

"We've also found," continued the doctor, "your mother's sequencing procedures. Unfortunately, if we tried to re-institute them, you would lose the child."

Dee shrugged, shaking her head, "Thank you, but I'm keeping the powers. I can't let it– I can't let what happened at the courthouse happen again."

Woo referred to his notes once again, and nodded, "Ah, yes. Well, since you're keeping them, the powers, let's go to this set of notes." He shuffled through his papers, tucking several to the back. "Right. So, we can start your prenatal care, now, with vitamins and mommy-and-me classes. The initial reports show that it's strong and well-attached."

Dee smirked, "So, it's a good little parasite."

"Indeed," he replied, deadpan, "It's latched on, and sucking up your life-essences, as we speak." He couldn't quite hide the twitch of a smile. "For the next twenty years."

She nodded, "Well, yeah, it made it through the explosion, so that says something, right there. If anything was going to dislodge it, that probably would have. Considering everything else. So, it looks like I'm adding more classes." She thought about it a moment more. "I imagine this will have an impact on the intensity of training my abilities, probably?" she asked.

Dr. Woo nodded, "There are certain techniques that Burkhart will teach you, to combat certain, ah, 'ouches,' pains, contractions."

"Okay," murmured Dee, listening intently.

"The major concern here is the emotional swings," he pointed out. "But you have the breathing techniques already. If you start recognizing it, you can start with those techniques, and go from there."

She considered his statements, nodding slowly. "All righty," she said. "I'm going to have a baby!" she exclaimed, with a bit of a goofy grin.

Author's Note: This is a world similar to the one in Vox Veritatus, and adjacent to Incendia Ascending. They were built using the Mighty Protectors RPG system published by Monkey House Games. The images were created in Titan Icon, from the City of Heroes MMO.