My name is Nicholas D. Wolfwood and I’m a minister of the Episcopal Church of St. Marks of Grey City. It’s a living, but not much of living. I rather call myself a minister than a priest. Mostly because most people associate priests with the Catholic Church, ya’ know?
So I got up in the early hours of the day. I’m really not a morning person, but the sky goes a little pinkish before going to the grey of the sky like everyday in this sprawling Mega-ultra-superduper-city. Than I go back to sleep for another few hours.
Hey, I told you, I’m not a morning person! What do you want out of me?
Vash tells me that the sky used to be blue. Which is before he starts lamenting his lost to a car crash first love who was in a way like his mother (creepy Vash, very creepy) and I have to perk him back up by driving him over to the nearest donut shop and ordering him three dozen donuts.
Vash, whose full name is Vash Alexander Saverem by the way, knows these sorts of things. He is one hundred and thirty-three after all. And if you don’t believe me, look at his driver license. And if you still don’t believe that someone looking just twenty-four could be that old, well, Vash is a Plant Angel. A Freeborn, one-hundred percent, immortal Plant Angel. My great-grandma kept articles of the first freeborn Plant births.
There were three of them. A little girl and a pair of nearly matched twin boys. Vash, his brother Knives, and the little girl Tessla. Not born at the same time. Tessla’s a year older.
Now over a century later, Vash tells me that Tessla is the corporate owner of a huge conglomerate and Knives is a hermit. Now, you’re probably asking how could only one of the first Freeborns go nutty when mental illness is an epidemic among Freeborn Plants.
Who said that Tessla and Vash were all right?
Official prognosis from their medical records: Tessla has obsessive-compulsive disorder, Knives has Schizophrenia, and Vash is a bipolar. And a lush. Vash, I mean, not the other two.
Speaking of which, I never did figure out how someone could look at a squalling newborn they pulled from a Plant Bulb and say, “I’ll name you, Knives.”
Maybe that Rem Saverem of Vash’s was an airhead. Don’t let him hear that I said that. He’d bash out my teeth if he heard me say anything about his precious “goddess”. He’s got a shrine for her in his top-floor penthouse that is paid for him by long-time friends of the Saverem family. The Polos. Max-Simon Xylise Polo happens to be close friend of his. The Max-Simon who does weather reports for the five o’clock and six o’clock news for Channel Eleven, KMAX. In short, Vash is a trust fund kid and doesn’t have to work a bit. Meanwhile, I had to pay my way through the seminary working my hands to the bone and Vash had everything handed to him on a platter. Bastard.
Don’t get me wrong, Vash “the Stampede” Saverem is one of my best friends. He always knows where the best bars in town are and if you need a mix CD made he’ll burn one up on his computer in the second bedroom he never uses. I looked in there once, it looked like something out of a Sci-fi Movie. Weird.
As I’m admiring the sunrise and preparing to climb into bed the phone rang. I picked it up. “Yeah, Wolfwood residence.” Someone sniffled into the phone. I recognized that sniffle anywhere. “Vash… for the love of God, did you remember to take your morning dose of Lithium?”
I smacked myself in the head. “Tongari,” the nickname I had baptized him with due to his broomstick like upsweep of a hairdo came out of my mouth easily as ever, “Do I have to call you in the morning to remind you to take your meds?”
The next time he spoke, he sounded a bit indignant. “I hate the way they make me feel. No sex drive.” He paused. “So I flushed them down the toilet.”
I tried walking over to the couch and sitting down, however the stupid attached to the wall corded phone could only be stretched so far. It snapped out of out my hands and slingshot across the small combo living-dining room and made a dent in the wall. I howled and than screamed every curse I knew and some I think I made up on the spot. I picked up the phone. “Did I call at a wrong time?” Vash squeaked.
“It’s not you,” I sighed, trying to prevent Vash from bursting out in tears. It at times looked comedic and like something out of an Anime, “It’s my stupid effing phone.”
“I said that I could get you a cell phone,” Vash practically crooned, “Remember, I said I would.”
Yeah I remember. And you’re not the only one. Midvalley Leblanc, my old lover, kept trying to give me a new apartment where the mice and other vermin are nonexistent. God, it makes when want to give up Bisexuality and just become plain straight. “Damnit Vash, I don’t need your Immortal Plant charity. I’m doing just fine on my own.” Something crawled over my bare foot; I shuddered and started hunting for a pack of cigarettes.
“I could always donate money to your church,” he offered.
I found a pack with three cigarettes still in it. I lit it and inhaled sweet cancer. “What makes you think our church is in need of money?”
“Because I’ve seen it.” Ouch, score one for the Immortal Plant Boy in his fancy uptown penthouse. “Wolfwood, are you smoking?”
Vash’s voice turned stony on me. “Don’t lie to me,” he warned, “I know when you are.”
How does he do that? “Fine,” I said, taking another long drag on my cigarette, “I am.”
He audibly sighed on the phone. “I wish you wouldn’t smoke.”
I was right back with a snappy comeback. “Well, my friend, I wish you wouldn’t drink.”
“My liver is immortal,” he said after a few minutes, “Your lungs are very mortal.”
“Aww come on and lighten up,” I said, “I think Grey City will kill me first.”
“It’s called Morningstar,” he sighed, “Anyway, I’m going to see my brother this afternoon.”
I snickered. “Which one?” He has thousand of brothers, more bulb-bound than the small handful of freeborn boys. I knew he was talking about Knives, but I loved to rile him up. “Gotta be more specific.”
“Knives,” he snapped, before clearing his throat, “He’s got a boyfriend slash lover now and he wants me to meet him.”
“How can he meet another person?” I asked, fingering the hole in the wall and visualizing my security deposit flying out the window, “He never goes outside.”
“He does at night,” Vash chirped, much more cheered up, “I’m meeting him this afternoon. Coming along?”
“I met your twin only once and that was enough,” I said, snuffing out my cigarette and wondering if I could plaster up that hole in the wall before management noticed. “I’m going to have say no.”
“Oh. Well, talk to you later. Carpe Diem.”
“I’m going back to sleep.”
He hung up the phone with a click. Sighing, I walked over to the small single bedroom and slumped onto the mattress covered by a few blankets and dirty clothes. Sighing, I burrowed under them and found my pillow. I closed my eyes and found that I was wide-awake.
Carpe Diem Vash had said to me before he hung up. Thanks to him, I was wide-awake and I bet he knew it. I think that was the reason I was in the church before noon. And I have to thank him and curse his name because that might have been the start of all our problems. Or not. I still don’t know.
Meryl Stryfe of the Bernardelli Insurance Society and her partner Millie Thompson worked on commissions. She worked in an important office in Morningstar City (also known as Grey City to many) and by God, she had worked to be respected. She was an important employee, highly valued, sent to insure a highly valuable man. If said man were to accept insurance, the company would benefit and so would she.
She was also stuck in the worst of the worst traffic the Grey City had to offer.
“Darn,” she slammed her hands on the steering wheel. “Why now of all times?”
Millie climbed back into the car. Traffic flow being nonexistent she was able to run to the nearest drive-through and get breakfast. Neither had been able to eat a bite that morning, Meryl stopping by the Thompson residence early to rouse Millie out of bed. She remembered Millie’s mother standing outside, holding a skillet full of bacon in one hand and wielding a spatula sword-like in the other. “Don’t you want to stay for breakfast?” Ms. Thompson had asked, holding up the pan for emphasis.
“No, Ms. Thompson,” Meryl said, pushing Millie in the direction of her bright white four-door sedan. “But I’ll be here for dinner.”
“Wonderful,” Ms. Thompson said, “I’ll set an extra spot at the dinner table.”
Now, two hours later, Meryl wondered if skipping breakfast with the Thompsons had been such a bright idea. Her mouth watered as she thought of crispy bacon, buttery scrambled eggs, and perfect coffee just the way she liked it with no cream and no sugar. Millie handed her a Styrofoam cup. Meryl held it up and inspected the logo. “McDonalds? What? No Starbucks?”
“Sorry Ma’am,” Millie apologized, “But this was all there was near us.”
Meryl took a swig of the watery tasteless swill. Just as foul as ever which explained why the temperature of the coffee was beyond volcanic. Her poor tongue gave a burst of protest at being abused so. “It’s not your fault,” she wheezed as for the first time in thirty minutes the traffic moved.
Her partner took a sip of her orange juice before shoving her whole McGriddle sandwich into her mouth. “Well, it’s no pudding,” Millie said, which came out more like ‘mumble mumble mumble’. She swallowed the entire sandwich down. It would have looked impressive only on a normal sized woman and Millie was a giantess. At least in proportion to her senior partner. “Ooh, look, Ma’am,” she said pointing, “Traffic is letting up.”
“I see,” Meryl said before patting the dashboard of her beloved car, “Come on, Thomas. Let’s get us a commission.”
The car’s engine gave a few sputters before dying.
Meryl stared at the car as if trying to will it back to life by the sheer force of her will. Finally she turned off the car and tried to restart it again.
She looked up at the heavens and swore she heard God laughing.
The apartment where his brother lived was known for being one of the worst sides of the city to live in. It was somehow both greyer and more polluted than the area he lived in. Vash sighed, not looking forward to that long drive. He sighed. The driver of the rented limo, Brad, happened to be one of his favorite drivers. Even if Brad thought Vash was shoehorning in on his girl. “I’m really glad you guys will pick me up, rain or shine.” Nothing. Vash frowned then cheerfully smiled, “I asked for you personally, since you are the best driver… ever.”
Brad turned the rear mirror to see him better. “Look,” he groused, “I don’t do this because I like you, I do this because it pays good. Got me?”
“Crystal clear,” Vash squeaked softly, keeping his gaze outside as Brad maneuvered the limo through morning traffic.
Something caught his eye. Two women, sitting on the hood of their car. A small one with short black hair and white clothes. Even her ankle length cloak, her sole item against the constant cold nip of the city was white. The giantess of a woman beside her wore clumsy men’s attire that worked with her almost stringy looking hair. Shame she didn’t brush it, she would have been prettier if she did. “Oh, oh, oh!” Vash tapped on Brad’s shoulder while waving at the tinted window at the same time.
“What is it now?” Brad said, trying to ignore Vash. He already had to deal with his crush Jessica babbling how Vash was God’s gift to the world. He really didn’t need to deal with Vash himself.
“Stop the car! Stop the car!” he then paused, thought about it for a minute and continued, “Stop the limo! Stop it now!”
“And why should I?” Brad snapped back, feeling both snarky and ill at ease.
“Because I pay your salary!” Vash raged enough to make Knives proud, as he pounded on the dividing glass. Normally made to withstand bullets, it crumbled under Vash’s touch.
The limo stopped a few seconds later.
Meryl had many ideas on how her day would get worse. Comet could come down and crush them all. One of the hidden weapons under her cape would fall loose followed by the other forty-nine Derringers. Millie would talk to the wrong person and be a little to honest. Limo for no reason would stop and back up to meet them. Oh great, she thought as she dusted off the skirt of her dress and black tights, just what I needed. Someone thinking I’m homeless.
One of the tinted windows in the back rolled down and he stuck his head out. She didn’t know who He in question was save that he had bright green eyes behind yellow tinted sunglasses and blonde hair which for some reason he decided to brush straight up into a hairstyle that made heavy use of hair-gel. And he had an earring and from what Meryl could see of him, he was wearing a red coat. Methodically she stored all this information away in her head and prepared her best greeting in question.
Millie on the other hand beat her to it. Bouncing up and down in a way that no one would expect a woman of her size to do, she chirped, “Wow, Mister, you have a big and nice shiny car. Do you have a phone in there? My partner and I… well our car broke down and…”
Meryl sighed, “You do not need to give our information to a complete stranger.”
Trust Millie to strike up a conversation with someone she barely knew. Then again, Millie’s habits were why she had the younger woman as a friend. “Why don’t we have introductions?” she asked, looking from the smiling young man to Meryl and back again.
Meryl straightened herself to her full and yet not impressive height. “I am Meryl Stryfe and this is Millicent…”
“Millie,” Meryl corrected, glancing at Millie quickly, “Thompson. We are members of the Bernardelli Society and we are in a very big jam which I doubt that you could handle.”
“And what is this situation?” the man asked, flipping up his shades before blowing a quick bubble. What kind of man had a beauty mark anyway? she found herself asking. “You sure I can’t help?”
“Not unless you have a phone in there,” Meryl began, but Millie once again piped up.
“Excuse me for asking, but do you know a Mister Vash Saverem? Mister Bernardelli asked us to give him an insurance policy.”
The man actually stuck his whole upper torso out the window. “Know him?” he chirped, eyes wide with obvious interest as he cracked his gum, “I am him!”
Meryl gave “Vash” a rather doubting looking. “You sure?”
“I am,” he insisted, withdrawing back into the limo, “But are you sure you are just going to sit around there with your busted car all day? I mean I can call a tow truck, but I don’t think you would want to wait the six hours it takes to get here.”
“Six hours,” Millie repeated as she looked at her senior, “Ma’am, I need to eat and go tinkle during that time.”
Meryl sighed, “Fine. But make any wrong moves and I swear to god, you’ll rue the day you were born a man.”
The door opened. “That’s a word I haven’t heard people use in awhile,” Vash said, “Rue. You must read a lot. Though I never met a woman with derringers in her cape. Dainty pistols, but still tough.” He grinned. “That goes double for your friend’s stungun. Although I wouldn’t call it dainty.”
Stunned, Meryl climbed into the limo. She could hear her partner say, “Wow, how did you know?”
Wonder what I did after Vash gave me that rude awakening? Well, first of all I tried to get back to sleep. Sleep didn’t come at all, so I spent thirty minutes smoking a cigarette as I watched the sky turn from one shade of grey to another grey shade. Bastard. At least Vash could have waited before he woke me up.
I ended up calling Vash several choice words including many variations of the word penis. So sue me, I had to be crude. Some of us don’t know several languages to cuss in.
This by the way was the week it all began. And it centered around a group of five dozen plantlings. What are Plantlings you might ask? As it so might happen, I’m not really in the mood to be telling you and once I get around to telling you why you will understand. All right, I’ll tell you. Plantlings are Freeborn Plants under the age of two.
I went to the church and spent the morning in the parish hall, sipping weak coffee and trying to do a two week old crossword someone had left behind. It was going to be one of those days. I could feel it in my gut. Like I had gargled a dozen bags of nails chased by a vat of acid. There were probably worse ways to feel and the dozen bags in my stomach were the least of my concerns. The fact that bills were pilling up and I was too proud to give Vash the Agnostic the knowledge that I needed help was one of the things that kept me smoking by the pack.
Now what in the hell was three across? The fact that I shouldn’t have cared what the capital principality of district eight of the Grey City didn’t matter. I chewed the pen in my hand and thought of pulling out my pack of cigarette and having a nice long smoke. I even had reached in my blazer for my battered lighter when I spotted Livio entering the parish hall. He wore a lumpy grey sweater the exact same ugly color as his hair. It (the sweater not his hair) was covered with small clumps of yarn. Obviously, Lazlo was nowhere in sight.
Dealing with a person with multiple personalities is hard. Livio, crybaby that he is, was the easy person to deal with. Lazlo had to be kept away from the orphans. I didn’t know what he would do to one of them and personally, I didn’t want to know what he was capable of it. Despite the lumpy sweater, Livio was inhumanly strong. So was I, although I didn’t know what the reason for that was.
“You shouldn’t be smoking,” he said, picking at one of the loose threads on his sweater.
I squeezed my eyes shut until I could see sparks at the corners. “Just making sure my lighter is still there.”
“Is it?” Livio asked.
The lighter, battered as it was, had been a present from Vash. It looked good before I stomped on it a few times. Lame thing didn’t light most of the time. “Yeah,” I said, “It is.” I paused, removing my hand from the lighter and folded up the crossword. That goddamned three across would have to wait. “So, what do you want?”
Livio dropped his voice to a whisper, “Snacks.”
I blinked and straightened up much to the protest of several muscles in my lower back. “What do snack have do with anything?”
Great. Livio the crybaby’s eyes started watering over, magnifying the wrinkles near his eyes. Great, the man is twenty-nine, yet he can’t keep from acting like the world is going to end if someone talks to him in a firm tone of voice. Why me? I mouthed to myself. This was going to be long morning.
I snaked an arm around Livio’s harder than concrete shoulder and tried not to look disgusted as he blew his nose on my sleeve. Jesus Christ, I didn’t know anyone could produce that much snot. “Um, so, Livio… what’s this about snacks?
Sniffle, sniffle went Livio, “For the orphans.”
“There are none.”
Sigh. “Great, just, great. I thought you had bought a new shipment.”
“I think Lazlo ate them all. He’s a mean person like that.”
“Okay,” I said, trying to wipe that wad of snot off my coat sleeve, “Dammit, Livio, could you be less of a baby for once?” He looked at me with watery eyes. With Vash and his child-smooth face I could actually feel sympathy for the guy. Livio, on the other hand, I wanted more than anything to slap and tell him to grow a spine and a nice set of balls. “How about I go and give you some money and you go down and buy some cookies and some juice?”
“I can do that,” Livio said, wiping his eyes with his ratty sweater, “I can be down to the store and back in about thirty minutes.”
I opened my wallet and pulled out a balled up wad of bills. I picked at the ball until it unraveled to become five ones and a twenty. “Buy something with that.”
He took the bills from my hand and stared at them. “That not enough for fresh cookies.”
I rolled my eyes. “Just get the stuff in the aluminum bags and some of that powdered drink mix.”
“Kids ain’t gourmets,” I drawled lazily, “Just, just go, Livio. I’m sick of your face.”
Livio looked like he was going to cry again. The door slammed behind him. Then it opened again, letting a tall woman glide in. She was wearing some fur stuff against the perpetual cold that Grey City is known for and a little pill box style hat. “You,” she said in a voice too low to belong to any woman, “You Nicholas D. Wolfwood?”
“Whatever,” she sighed, peeling off her coat, revealing her turtleneck sweater and long slim fitting skirt.
I noticed she had absolutely no tits to speak of as well as an Adam’s apple. “Great,” I said, “Just what I need right now… a drag queen.”
“Transvestite,” she… correction… he said, scornful little smile on his lips.
I cleared my throat. I really wanted a cigarette right now. “There’s a difference?”
He opened his mouth, perfectly covered in red, red lipstick. The kind that’s two shades away from fluorescent. “About three tons of make-up,” he said, holding out a gloved hand, “I’m Elendira T. Crimsonnail.”
I blinked. “So?”
“So,” Elendira said, “My employer, Mr. Millions needs your help.”
From archive klx19, a letter from Rem Saverem to a Captain Joseph Cruz of the Air Force. This letter was dated three days before her death. Also included is Captain Cruz’s response.
To: Joseph Cruz
Been awhile since we’ve been together. First with Project Seeds and we all know all that fell through. Don’t worry. : ) I’m sure you’ve would have made a first rate ship captain. Alex would have been proud. Come to think of it, we haven’t seen each other since Tessla...
Well, anyway, how is she anyway? Knives expressed great concern over the fact that she was very thin. I reassured him that Tessla was ill a lot as a child, but there was a look in his eyes... like he knew!!! What if he knew, Joey? I kept the records under triple encryption, but what if he was THAT smart? No, no, I’ve seen his brother as well as him break through encryption after encryption, but Tessla wrote that encryption and the only ones who know that are you, me, Steve, Bill, Mary, and Rowan. There’s no way Tessla could have given him the fifty codes needed to break encryption on her own report and my file is still encrypted.
Tell me that I’m paranoid, Joey.
We really shouldn’t have the done the things we did to her. I can tell by the way she looks at me that she loathes me and wishes me dead. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this.
I like to think that taking care of the twins is somehow going to be my penance for my sins. Remember, I poked and prodded Tessla just as much as our team of researcher. It was only when she developed bone cancer and had to have a leg amputated that I protested. I want Vash to think I am the good guy (gal?) for now. Someday, I will tell him.
Oh, Vash has a bit of a cold so I’m keeping an eye on him. The twins tell Tessla to stay healthy because they really enjoy having an older sister. Well, I’m rambling again. Let’s meet in a week or so. I’ll bring the boys on by. I hate the thought of Tessla taking the taxi alone. She’s such a frail girl, something might hurt her.
Well, let’s hope to arrange a meeting.
To: Rem Saverem
You are slightly paranoid. And rambling too, but I can forgive you for anything. Yeah, keep an eye on Vash. We don’t know Plants that well and there are only three “freeborns” in the world. My file is still locked so check with B, M, R, and S for confirmation on their line. The phone book is a little out of date so you can call me if any of their numbers don’t match up, because I have Phonepal service and that’s extremely up-to-date.
Yeah, a visit from you would be nice. Or a phone call. Have the twins really kept you THAT busy?
Please direct all comments through: Sailor Lilith-chan