1971 – 4:11 A.M.
The cold was the first thing he noticed – before he lifted his head through the pain, and found himself staring at a spectacular pair of breasts sheathed within a heavy wool sweater.
"Hey – looks like you need to slow down on the brownies that Turquoise makes!" a young woman's voice said, focusing Archangel's eyes away from the woman's torso. "Oh, and stop staring at my boobs."
"Sorry," he said automatically.
Archangel glanced away, blinking away the pain behind his eyes. "I said, 'stop staring," the woman said, a teasing tone in her voice. "I didn't say that I had a problem with you taking a look. I never let 'the Man' get into my head, or buy into the hang-ups about my body they want you to have. You know – that way, the fat-cats that want us to buy into what people should look like, can get you to spend all your money trying to have that look."
The Ringbearer's head dropped. "Damn. I'm back in the Sixties again."
The woman took on a confused tone. "You've been hitting the 'brown acid', man," she said. "It's okay, though – you're safe in good ol' 1971. As safe as you can be in these times, anyway."
Archangel's Ring helped him damp down the pain from the pain of the dimensional crossover – and that has never happened before, he noted - to see a young woman – late teens or early twenties, with long, shaggy brown hair – helping him to his feet.
The woman's tone slipped over into concern. "Oh, my," she said, an affected accent that he instantly equated with the upper class (and which she'd apparently been working to suppress with that whole 'counter-culture speak, he thought. It slips occasionally, doesn't it?). "You must have had a bad time in the war if you're still hitting like this."
"Yeah... yeah, I was in the army," the Ringbearer said, allowing the young woman to guide him to a chair. "Flew helicopters..."
"It's still almost three hours until sun-up," the woman told him. "All the Grays who are outdoors get active then, with the sun warming them up... and you must have stories to tell, being out there so long, without being turned..."
"I'm all right."
"Well, if you say so," the young woman said. "You know, you're going to be really happy here. There aren't that many guys around here – well, there aren't any..."
Archangel looked up to see the young woman studying him in a frank manner. "I'm Lavender," she said. "Everyone's going to be shocked by you being here – and with only that pistol for protection. I guess the Army trained you well."
As his eyes finally cleared, the Ringbearer took in the appearance of the young woman in front of him. Chestnut hair cut short – or hidden beneath the woolen winter cap she wore, curvy figure beneath the heavy, yet worn denims and thick sweater she wore, attractive and intelligent brown eyes –
"Does it even have any bullets in it?" she asked. "You don't look like you even have any spare bullets."
Archangel couldn't keep the surprise from his voice. "Helen Morgendorffer?"
Lavender's eyes went narrow as her voice sharpened. "Barksdale," she said, and the sharpness turned to a wellspring of sorrow from deep within her that Archangel's Ring picked up easily. "If things hadn't happened the way they did, it would have been 'Morgendorffer' - how did you know my name, anyway?"
"Everybody know who you are – well, everybody I work with," he responded, taking in the area around him. "The kitchen."
"He's quite observant," another feminine voice spoke up. "And I hope that you don't think that you're going to get him just because you saw him first."
Lavender spun around, and the attractive, dark-haired woman also in denims and a sweater (slightly taller, and not put together as well as Barksdale is, Archangel thought as his eyes flickered from one young woman to the other) stepped back, even though she was on the other side of the room.
"Oh, shut up, Phone! Nobody's thinking about getting anybody – unless you've finally given in and started sleeping up in Turquoise's 'sky palace'."
Unknown to anyone in the room, Archangel's Ring had created a rotating holographic overlay of the room that constantly refreshed itself as it scanned the area - and everyone within it, as several other women, drawn by the commotion, entered the room with weapons drawn.
"What the hell's the matter with you two?" a slender Black woman hissed, her voice at once both soft and filled with malice as she glared at Lavender and the woman addressed as 'Phone'. "The Grays don't go back down until sunrise, and they're already been sniffing out this entire area – why the hell are you causing so much damn noise?"
"I think I might be able to help you," Archangel said, all heads turning in his direction as he moved from the door to a window. "Just a moment..."
The women blinked in surprise as a thin, flickering wave of blue light flashed out from Archangel's Ring, spreading across the room in the blink of an eye. "You can speak in normal tones now," he said. "Or louder. The entire building's been sound-proofed – for the time being."
Dark eyes filled with distrust, mingling with barely-concealed lust, turned upon the Ringbearer and appraised him like a piece of meat – before dropping down to his Ring.
"You – are not from here," the Black woman said. "Even without – that thing-"
The Black woman hissed at Archangel. "I can tell that you don't belong here. You are not of this time, this world... or this reality. The nature of this building somehow brought you here, but this is not your reality – and that ring is your link to the whole of existence."
"Yeah – go on and freak out the only man on Earth by doing your whole 'seeing beyond seeing' thing," Lavender huffed. "That's 'Book' – her real name's Michelle – and over there's 'Phone' – Linda. We're the only 'Specials' in this part of the country."
Archangel looked around the room at the women, and only then noticed that they were all unusually attractive – not just the women named, but all of them...
"Specials?" he repeated. "What does that mean?"
"You really aren't from around here," Lavender spoke, leaning against a wall. "Okay – very fast story. A man-hating mad scientist chick by the name of Janet Barch came from the future and popped off some sort of virus – a 'super-bug' - that was supposed to wipe out all men, and make it so women wouldn't need them."
She plopped down in a chair, and Archangel couldn't help noticing the way her breasts heaved. "The drag is that it didn't work the way that she thought it would," Lavender told him. "That psycho made life an all-out Hell for every single woman still left alive."