The next morning Septi revealed her findings to the members of the VI4C, letting Ferinequell and Ryan read through the collection of lab reports that she had stolen. Everyone reacted differently, but Ferinequell took this news the hardest.
“This is so… so…” he stuttered, unable to find an appropriate word for CAMM’s activities.
“It’s illegal, isn’t it?” Gin asked, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. “How they’re treating the animals.”
“Yeah,” Septi said, leaning over the desk in the office. “Or it should be if it isn’t.”
“The animal rights people would be very interested in this I expect.” Ryan said slowly. “And government branch or not, this might be very valuable in getting CAMM off our backs.”
“Yeah,” Septi said, an idea forming. “Ferinequell, could this be used against CAMM in the California court system?”
“No,” he said, looking up at her. “Because of how we obtained it, it cannot be.”
“That’s what I thought. So we can’t be the ones to push the case. But what if the animal rights people got their hands on this?” Septi glanced around triumphantly, looking for reactions on her companions’ faces.
“But they’d still be able to trace it back to us,” Ferinequell said.
“Not if we didn’t leave any fingerprints,” Septi said, smiling smugly. “Because as far as any witnesses will be able to tell, it will be one of the officers of CAMM turning it in anonymously.”
“Septi, how do you think you’re going to be able to this?” Ferinequell asked. “For one thing, we don’t know anything about a single officer; besides a lot of their information is tightly locked down. For another, that drug is still blocking your powers.”
“The officer that I will impersonate is female,” Septi said, crossing her arms. “Mikey’s sister in law. There must be a report of the wedding in one of the newspapers.”
“But we don’t know when or where they got married,” Gin pointed out.
“They look for announcements about a Chuck Burlington getting married from within the last five years,” Septi said. “And if that doesn’t turn anything up try looking for Charles Burlington.”
“Yes, Septi,” Ferinequell said, turning to the computer and pulling up a search engine.
“And let’s hope that there’s a picture with it,” Septi said as she made her way to the door.
“Septi, wait,” Gin called, following her. She froze in the hall, fighting to keep her expression mask like as she turned to face him. She knew what he wanted to talk about and she wasn’t looking forward to it.
“Yes, Gin?” she asked politely. Septi had been up all night the night before thinking about her answer, but she was still uncertain and reluctant to give it.
“Have you thought any more about it?” he asked, seeming to be nervous.
“Yes, I have,” she said quietly.
“And?” he prompted, looking a little hopeful.
“And I don’t know,” Septi said, biting her lip. Gin’s face fell and Septi sighed. She knew that she had come to care for him more than she should, and she knew that that could be potentially dangerous. She had hoped that if she could ignore her feelings that they would go away sooner or later, but they hadn’t.
“Why not?” Gin asked. “If you didn’t like me you would’ve just said so. So why not?”
“I…” Septi hesitated, not wanting her charade of nonchalance to come crashing down. “I don’t want to risk the consequences.”
“If it doesn’t work out, we can still be friends and team members,” he said, trying to convince her to say yes.
“Those aren’t the consequences I’m afraid of,” she said with a sarcastic smile. “What if it does work? What if one of us is killed by CAMM? What if I had died last night, after giving you the answer you had wanted? I don’t want to be hurt. Not again.”
“Septi,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Do you ever do anything without thinking of all the bad things that could happen? I mean, if you think about it, almost everything you can do can result in some kind of pain. Do you not do those things? No. Take a chance, Septi. Be adventurous.”
“I don’t know, Gin,” Septi said uncertainly.
“What would one date hurt? Maybe bad things will happen down the road, but maybe the good stuff is more than worth it,” he said, looking at her searchingly, locking gazes with her.
“Alright,” Septi said, relenting. “But only after we turn in the information.”
“That’s the best answer I’m going to get, isn’t it?” he asked, letting his hand fall back to his side and grinning a little ruefully.
“Yes, it is,” she said with a small smile. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things I need to do.”
“Of course,” Gin said, taking a few steps back. “Will next Friday night work after you get back from your classes?”
“Yeah, sure,” Septi said with half a grin. “I’ll see you later.”
I hope that I didn’t just make a huge mistake, she thought as she walked away.
The next several days flew by as they got Septi ready to turn in the info, which had been burnt to a disc and slipped into a thin jewel case in Septi’s, or rather, Ivy’s bag. One a picture had been found, Septi began working on her impersonation. Ferinequell proved himself an invaluable help as he manipulated the animals around the CAMM base, making them watch Ivy as she went about her work.
Finally the drug wore off and Septi’s impersonation of Ivy was nearly flawless, and it was time for Septi to make her way to the nearest animal protection group office, disk in hand. As she approached the building she began to glance around as if she were afraid of being followed. Quickly she slipped into the building.
“How may I help you?” the secretary asked without looking up from a cheap romance book.
“I have some information that you might be interested in,” Septi said, miming Ivy’s American accent easily. “But I want to make sure it gets to the right people.”
“You can leave it here at the desk, and I’ll give it to my boss,” the secretary said, setting down her book. “If you’ll just give me your name…”
“I can’t,” Septi said, glancing around to see if there were any security cameras. Seeing one she leaned in close to the desk. “If anyone were to know that I’m here, it would cause huge trouble with my work. Please, I need to give my information to whoever is in charge here.”
“What would be me,” a sweet looking middle aged woman stood by the door. “I’m Samantha Jones, president of our local chapter. What is it that you need to give me?”
“This,” Septi said, turning to the woman and pulling out the jewel case. “It holds lab reports on experiments and the conditions of the test subjects CAMM has been using for their research on mutation.”
“Oh, darling, we can’t help you if it’s a mutant issue,” Samantha said, eyeing the disc like it was a bomb.
“But you to have to help,” Septi said, feigning desperation. “They’re testing on animals. I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. Please, you can do something about their cruelty to those poor things.”
“I’ll look into it, dear,” Samantha said, taking the disc, but she still looked wary.
“Oh, thank you,” Septi said. “I can’t stay, but thank you. It means so much for me that you would consider this.”
“Of course, darling,” Samantha said with a weak smile and Septi turned to leave.
As the door closed behind Septi, she allowed herself a self satisfied grin, but let no other sign of her excitement and relief show until she had gotten into her car. Ferinequell, who had some errands to run that day while in the city, took one look at her as she began to subtly change back. “I take it that went well,” he asked before pulling out into traffic.
“She seemed to be convinced by my performance,” Septi said, smiling. “But I guess that we won’t know for a while how well that worked.”
“No, I’m sure we won’t,” he said. “I’m sure we won’t.”
When Septi and Ferinquell returned to the VI4C, Gin was waiting for Septi. Ferinequell gave Septi curious look, which she returned with a glare.
“I’ll be waiting for you when you get back tomorrow,” Gin said to her quietly as Ferinequell walked away. “We’ll go out for dinner, and then maybe take a walk of the beach. Maybe a swim if you want.”
“Right,” Septi said uncertainly, fiddling with her jacket. “Excuse me, I need to go-”
“Wait a moment,” Gin said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I was actually wondering if you would want to train with me.”
“Not right now,” Septi said, blushing.
“What, you don’t want to spend time with me?” Gin asked teasingly.
“It’s not that,” Septi said, her blush deepening. “I just don’t want to have any excess awkwardness in the VI4C.”
“Sure, that’s your reason,” Gin said with a smirk. “You’re just afraid that I’ll beat you is the problem.” Septi, who had been walking away, stopped and turned to face him.
“Is that a challenge?” she asked, her voice testy.
“Only if you want it to be,” he said, his smirk growing bigger.
“Meet me in the training room in ten minutes,” she snapped before storming off. You shouldn’t let him get to you, Septi, she thought, momentarily regretting her knee jerk reaction. Why do you care what he thinks? He’s just another member of the VI4C. No one special, right?
Tell your feelings that. You know good and well why you care. You don’t want to look weak, look less than perfect for him. You like him, no matter what you want to say or do about it.
I know I’m a fool, Septi thought, letting herself into her room and changing into loose exercise clothes. I know how dangerous it is to care. Why am I doing this then? Tiredly she glanced in the mirror, pulling her hair back tightly.
I just hope that I’m not making a mistake, she thought, strapping her blunted weapons on.
Quickly she made her way to the training room, distracted and anxious. Gin was already there waiting for her.
“Ready?” she asked, stepping into the room.
“Sure,” he said. “Weapons and powers both permitted?”
“Sure,” Septi answered, watching him. “Let’s get to it.” Smoothly she flicked her wrists, catching her daggers.
“Ladies first,” he said with a mock bow. “I insist.” Septi laughed slightly and took a half a step to the side.
“If you say so,” she said. Quickly she threw her daggers, one on either side of him. Gin retreated several steps back as Septi lunged for him, claws forming on her hands.
She hit the ground hands first, and curled into a tight little ball, somersaulting neatly. As she rose to her feet, after retrieving one of her daggers, Gin struck out at her with his sword. Septi dropped, swinging a kick at Gin’s legs, but he jumped back a couple of steps.
She pivoted to face him, holding her dagger tightly ready to strike. Gin chuckled slightly as he lunged at her, aiming another blow to her torso. Septi stopped the blow with the dagger and her arm sheath, sweating slightly.
“Getting warm?” Gin asked, drawing the sweat to himself with his right hand while holding the blow with his left.
“You would know,” Septi snapped, twisting her arms and disarming Gin. Smoothly she placed the tip of the dagger against his neck. “I win,”
“If you say so,” Gin said, letting the little globe of sweat fall to the floor. Septi lowered her dagger after a moment, unsure as to whether he was serious or not.
They stood there for a couple of seconds, panting from the exertion of the rapid strikes. A flood of emotion hit Septi, and without thinking she stepped closer to Gin and kissed him on the cheek. As she turned to go, Gin caught her by the wrist and pulled her in close, kissing her on the lips. Septi stiffened up for a moment before giving into her emotions and senses.
How can something that feels so good be all bad? She wondered, her arms slipping around Gin’s neck as she kissed back. What could it hurt?