"...For no other reason, than because it is right!"
- the final sentence of Superman #276, 'Make Way for Captain Thunder!', June 1974
Agency Sector Headquarters. Earth SCR-001
Richard – the Agency Supervisor who also acted as the official liaison with the Corps of Ringbearers – frowned momentarily as he watched the small, tortoise-shell cat, sitting in a corner of his office, and nibbling gleefully at the mixture of minced prawns and steelhead trout in her dinner bowl.
"Well, if nothing else, you certainly know how to spoil the little princess," he said, looking up at Archangel, his liaison/counterpart with the Ringbearers. "So – assuming that I even agree with this idea of yours – why don't you just keep her yourself? You obviously like cats..."
"Two reasons," Archangel said, stopping to frown as he watched Richard covering his face with his palm as he leaned forward. "What's wrong with you?"
"Whenever you start listing reasons, I have to repair the BS setting on my mini-computer," the Agency supervisor said. "Why don't we just cut to the chase, and you start offering me the things that you think will get me to change my mind about which regulation you want me to overlook or outright ignore. I've a busy schedule, and after I say 'No', you and your new housemate can get on with your new lives together."
Faster than Richard had ever seen it happen before, Archangel disappeared from sight as a pinkish ring of energy suddenly encircled him; he reappeared in the same manner less than ten seconds later, and Richard barely flinched as a large, covered silver platter appeared on the desk before him as a second pinkish ring whirled into life and just as quickly, faded away.
"That's a nice trick," Richard observed, lifting the silver cover and examining the workmanship with a trained eye. "I'll assume that this is real silver - poking around in the 1700's, yes?"
Archangel took a step back as Richard took in the meal resting before him – a fresh Florida lobster with clarified butter and lime, a healthy order of hushpuppies, and cheese grits on the side – and smiled at the expression on the man's face as he covered the meal again. "That's playing dirty pool, Wright," he said, resisting the urge to pop a hushpuppy in his mouth and forcibly ignoring the wafting scents of the meal. "This couldn't have been prepared more than ten minutes ago, right?"
"Are you kidding?" the Ringbearer laughed. "Nothing on that tray is less than thirty seconds out of the broiler, skillet or boiling pot! Oh, and I'm not finished..."
Richard didn't even react as a pinkish ring of energy, the size of a screen door, appeared besides Archangel; using his telekinesis, he withdrew an oversized coffee mug made of amber-hued crystal. "I pulled a favor to have this made," the Ringbearer said. "It's unbreakable, it'll never lose its luster, and best of all..."
He put it on the desk in front of Richard. "Think of any liquid beverage or liquid-based food that you want, any way you want it, and this mug will provide it for you. Twenty ounces of 'Oh, my God, how did I ever live without you in my life?'"
Before Richard could speak, a large coffee bag floated out of the portal. Damn, he's pulling out all of the stops, he said, the rich aroma that wafted from the coffee beans instantly recognizable. Jamaican Blue Mountain No. 1 – and that looks like a twenty-five pound bag. Whatever he wants is going to get me really angry.
"Nice try, but I do have a regular supplier for coffee – an old friend, from my days before the Agency," Richard said, losing his fight with his impulses and scarfing down a trio of hushpuppies.
Archangel almost laughed out loud; his Ring allowing him to feel just how much Richard wanted to dig in, but restrained himself. "Oh. Well, if you don't want it, or the lobster-"
The Ringbearer had to force
himself not to laugh when Richard placed his lightsaber on the table. "Okay,
then," Archangel concluded, his psionic power effortlessly drawing an aged oak
cask from the portal, which then closed as Archangel turned away to place the
cask besides Richard's desk.
Richard silently filed away this new piece of information about the Ringbearers. "Personal 'hammer-space' portals that you can create and access with your Rings," he commented aloud. "Wouldn't think that you'd need something like that, considering that anything you could ever need, you can get with your Rings alone."
Archangel brushed a bit of dust from the top of the cask. "As with the coffee - this, I thought that you'd want from a natural source," Archangel told him, as he tapped on the cask. "We have to have a place to keep the good stuff, right? Now, this - this is the topper."
He lifted his head and smiled. "A cask of Macallan Select Oak, from the original production run of the 1824 Collection, stored in a special area to ensure that everything is in order. Paid for it with gold ingots – twice the actual cost, but when you start throwing around money like you mean it, people give you what you want."
Archangel's smile widened just a tough; he'd bought several casks from the distillery during a month-long vacation, and he'd only planned on spending a day or two in Ireland – but ended up spending his entire vacation there...
The Agency supervisor rose, ignoring the smile on Archangel's face as he looked the cask over; an expression of near-reverence crossed his face as he touched the wood-
"Spanish oak?" Richard asked, and Archangel nodded. "Whatever you're planning on asking for is really going to tick me off, isn't it?"
"Meow." I like them both.
"I thought you would," Archangel said, smiling as the cat padded her feet upon Daria Morgendorffer's Doc Martens boots, and then hopped up upon the couch between the bespectacled, auburn-haired girl and the slender, dark-haired boy sitting next to her.
"You can talk to her?" Daria asked, scratching behind the cat's ears and earning a long, satisfied purring that rumbled from deep inside. "Does she like this?"
"Meoooooooow...rroowwllllrrrllll..." Yes...good, strong fingers... I think that I'll keep this one for myself.
"I can safely say that she's very happy with the way you pet her," Archangel said, taking the handful of colored pencils that John Lane had been using with his sketchbook and transmuting them into platinum. "With this, you should have more than enough to cover her room and board, and plenty left over."
Helen Morgendorffer watched as Archangel transmuted the plastic carrying case the pencils were into omnicloth - a near-indestructible material the Ringbearers used for most of their outfits – and after the Ringbearer returned the platinum pencils back to the case, accepted the gift with wide eyes. "I – I don't know what to say."
"I'm the one who has something to say, and that's 'thank you," he responded. "I can't really go into details, but it's important that our furry friend stay with you for a few months."
"Daria, John – just keep that little monster out from underfoot," Helen said, giving Richard (who she knew from previous encounters) and his guest a cross look as the cat, finding a comfortable spot in Daria's arms as John looked on, stretched herself and began to lick Daria's left earlobe. "I'm not exactly a fan of the furry little beasts, you know."
Richard tossed a warning look at Archangel as he cast warning thoughts at the Ringbearer. Don't even THINK of making jokes about cats and lawyers.
Oh – you mean 'How do cats tell the difference between rats and lawyers? Lawyers hide their scent better, and rats hang around a better class of people!' Excuse me. I'm not stupid. I want her help.
"Hey, you little bandit – that's my job," John said, reaching out to rub the cat's tummy and getting his fingers licked in response. "Daria, now she's trying to take your job."
Having missed John's first comment (but catching the second), Helen's eyes flared as she stared at the two young people she and her husband had all but adopted as their own children: the inter-dimensional doppelganger of her own eldest daughter, safe at the summer camp she and her sister attended as children back on their now-ravaged former homeworld – and the male counterpart to her Daria's best friend Jane Lane.
A former zombie and Daria's loving boyfriend – for now, Helen thought, watching the way the two young persons cuddled the cat and lovingly showered attention over it; almost as if they were playing with a baby. Well, that's going to happen sooner or later, and watching over this cat for a few months will be good practice. Hopefully, we can hold off on any babies until they both finish school and put on wedding rings...
"Well, it seems as if the little beast has found a nice foster family," Archangel said, noticing how Daria had gestured with one hand, and a small bowl filled with tuna salad drifted lazily from the kitchen to land gently in front of the couch where Daria and John sat. "I know that this will be an imposition upon you, Mrs. Morgendorffer, so, in order to make it up to you in some small way-"
A pinkish ring-portal appeared next to the Ringbearer, and he drew several items from the portal that, as Helen laid eyes upon them, made her eyes go moist.
The older woman couldn't trust herself to speak; still, she managed to whisper "Are those – are those what I think they are?"
"Your family photo albums," Archangel said, setting the albums down on the coffee table in the living room as Helen sat down on the love seat directly behind the table. "Richard gave me permission to travel back to a point just before- well, you know."
Helen nodded, grateful that he didn't continue, even though it was barely a year since the events of the Daylight Crisis had struck almost all of the Earths in the jurisdictions that both of their organizations covered. Both Richard and Archangel knew that virtually none of the survivors were anywhere near having found a true sense of closure over the events that had brought them away from their former homes and lives. .
"Photo albums, framed photos, diplomas and certificates – memorabilia," Archangel continued, drawing a trio of large boxes through with his telekinesis and setting them on the floor. "I even made a stop at your husband's office and your law firm, to pick up some things you might like. I also brought this for you."
He reached into one of the inner pockets of his coat, and Helen couldn't stop a trail of tears from running down her cheeks as Archangel placed a cell phone on the table in front of her. "Thank you," Helen said, not trusting herself to pick up the phone, for fear that she would begin to cry uncontrollably.
Daria left her spot on the couch to go to Helen. "Don't worry, Mom," she said, putting her arms around Helen. "It'll be all right. We're all here for each other. We're all rebuilding everything – remember when you said that to me?"
Richard nudged Archangel, and the two men left silently as Helen held Daria close to her; as Archangel left, he saw the cat walk away from its snack to rub against Daria's ankles.
"When did that thing start
turning stuff into platinum?" Richard asked, looking back as he closed the
front door of the Morgendorffer home, and seeing the look on Helen's face as
she examined one of the platinum pencils. "What was that, thirty or so
Archangel glanced over to his Agency counterpart. "I counted forty-two. They can use the extra money – after all, even here, people need cash, credits, bucks, whatever it is you need to get by – and the Ringmasters decided that it would be a good idea to have more to offer than just gold, silver and diamonds. They expanded transmutation to also include crystal, rubies and steel – on a lot of worlds, they want steel more than they do gold."
The Ringbearer looked back, and
saw that the cat was playing with Daria's hair. "You told them what to name the
Richard nodded. "Done. You're not what the others in the Corps think, are you?"
The Ringbearer gave him a small smile. "One thing about these Rings. The rubes call it 'pain-sensing' – but the endowment the Rings possess is for full empathy; even if we can only use it while wearing the Rings. We all have a very good idea of who and what the others are – but it's impolite to make a big deal of it."
"Still, I've got the feeling that you're the type of guy who makes out like a bandit when the women figure out that you actually want to watch the movie they've dragged you to – or that you actually listen to what they're talking about." Richard brushed his hair back and laughed. "Yeah, you're permanently off the 'Scrooge' list for this stunt."
A ring of pinkish energy appeared around the two men. "Let's go," Archangel spoke up. "We have two more stops to make."
End Part Two