In Distress

by Ember

Chapter One

Super Powers of Mostly Evil

A/N: It's been forever since I wrote something for FP. I've been working on this for half a year and decided to start publishing chapters while I work on it; I really like this story because it's, for the most part, a lot more relaxed than most of what I write. Tell me what you think! Please?

Warnings: Profanity (these people are potty mouths), sexual content, probable lime later in the story, possible violence, yaoi (boy/boy luff) in later chapters, erm... possibly a little more. I dunno.


Marilyn Shepard held a plastic comb in one hand, a rubber band around her wrist, and stared intently at her reflection in the mirror. The face staring back, just as intently and with equal scrutiny, lifted the brown hair that toppled down to its waist and toyed with it, trying out a variety of styles. Her green eyes were locked onto the eyes of her reflection, the same hue but fogged a little with the glass it was looking through. Her mouth twisted a little into a frown, and she played with her hair again, at last deciding on a simple braid. It showed off the length, without it just hanging, like a dead thing, in a tail. Her hands reached to the back of her head, deftly splitting the crop of hair into three more-or-less equal parts.

It's best for a little tourist action, anyway, she decided, nodding to her reflection, which nodded back, as it was expected to do. Keep it simple, and I won't have a mess when I get back in from all that traffic. I hate this city. Washington, DC was overall too crowded, too noisy, and stank horribly of oil. Marilyn hated trying to breathe among all that sweat and exhaust, while immigrants hawked food that looked suspicious and goods that smelled like sewage. For a girl born and raised in a four-story, nine-acre, rather isolated mansion in Savannah, Georgia, it was unbearable. And now, in late February, it was stiflingly cold. If only Daddy had lost the damned election, she thought, very privately, to herself, wrapping the tail end of the finished braid with the elastic band before rising to inspect the end product, maneuvering a hand mirror to show her the back of her own reflection in the broader bathroom mirror.

Really, when Christian Shepard won the presidential election, moving to DC with his wife and fifteen-year-old son, Marilyn didn't have to go. She could have stayed home; hell, she could have moved out years ago. A nineteen year old girl didn't have to follow Daddy around all the time. But Christian's wealth, his power, his influence, the political aura that he emitted whenever opposed that seemed to make everyone around believe, automatically, that he was right- in every move, he made her feel safe. She was invulnerable, around him.

Of course, there were some times when it wasn't a good idea, to be too close to him. Like when he was trying to beat past red tape and repair 'the damage the damn democrats did to the damn country.' And she wasn't about to wait around in the White House. Not at eight-thirty in the morning, when the doors were about to open. She took the stairs, mostly, two at a time, running down to the first floor and grabbing the blue jacket she had left on the rail. Her father would yell at her, if he had found it, when she got home later.

Agent Richards turned his head, slightly, as she approached, and his long tail swished back and forth in greeting. He sat, facing the White House door, arms crossed in front of him, but cracked a secret smile when he caught her eye. "Morning, Marilyn," he greeted, cheerfully.

"Good morning, Richards," she replied, returning the smile. The centaur reached forward to open the door for her, leaning his human torso out to reach the knob. The urge to pat his flank was overwhelming; Marilyn had a lot more experience, as a Georgia girl, with horses than with centaurs. Somehow, though, she thought this could be misinterpreted. While the centaurs were, as far as she could tell, immune to human charms, the human agents hadn't seemed so polite, looking openly at her pretty face and ample charms, and she didn't think it would be too wise to experiment on the centaur. Anyway, it would be too informal, and a little condescending; like treating the agent like a dog.

It was lucky that the centaurs didn't flirt with her or hit on her; most of the Secret Service was comprised of them. A bay mare with short brown hair nodded at her as she passed her post, but she didn't recognize her. She smiled and nodded back, then trotted down the gravely driveway, turning back to glance at the White House. In twenty minutes, it would be open for the public; already, a knot of tourists, mostly wearing red, white, and blue, were gathered by the heavy door. Most were human, though one was short, stocky, and had quite a bit of facial hair. She couldn't tell from here, but she suspected it was a dwarf, especially as its loud, nasal comments were high-pitched and definitely feminine.

As she reached the National Mall, seeing the Lincoln Memorial towering over her, she pulled her jacket a little cooler and, though it was a little overcast, pulled out a large pair of sunglasses- the very sort senior citizens wore while driving, that made them look blind and terrify pedestrians. She was very much tired of being pulled aside- "Aren't you the first daughter? Aren't you Marilyn Shepard?" The tourists she could understand, and when her disguise was figured out, she'd humor them, and talk with them a little while. But the locals, some of whom had lived here for decades, or generations- hadn't they grown tired of seeing the Presidents and their First Families?

Luckily, no one seemed to take account of her while she strode down the green-grassed National Mall, past the Museum of Natural History, down the streets to where some shopping could be accomplished. The problem with sight-seeing is, after the first few weeks, you run out of sights to see. This city isn't only dirty and unpleasant, it's boring. I wish Daddy hadn't made us come here. That was her biggest problem; she was bored. She didn't know anyone here, and didn't like any of the people she had met. She wanted to go home, but now that she'd come, she knew she couldn't. She pouted, kicking a loose rock along the road, pouting further when it fell into the gutter. Daddy could get free plane tickets, he could fly me home, but he gets so impatient with me sometimes... Her frown turned into a scowl, and some teenagers in t-shirts looked at her expression, her sunglasses, her jacket and her clothes, and kept going. She heard the words 'preppy,' 'yuppy,' 'spoiled,' as she walked past. That didn't make it better. No one here likes me. I don't have any friends. I wonder if they miss me back home. Her current mood of self-pity wasn't so deep that she would tell herself they didn't. She craved their affection like food or air.

She pushed her way through the crowd, thinking self-piteous thoughts, and every once in a while gracing her friends back home with the same pity, promising herself that when she finally got her father to let her fly home, she'd bring each one a souvenir. And something nice, too; not all of them were as well-off as she was. Smiling at her own charity, her mood considerably lighter, she got the rest of her impatience and frustration out by pulling out her credit card and warming it considerably as paper bag after paper bag gorged itself on her possessions. A cheerful faun clerk showed her an array of American flags and bald-eagle statues and various Uncle Sam memrobelia, and she chose something for each of her closer friends. Waving to the plump woman, who, her goat legs and tail hidden by the counter, looked like merely a chubby woman (with, of course, stubby horns growing out of her head, but then, this was DC. Normal people, if normal they could be called, had those sometimes too) she opened the door, whose bells chimed cheerfully, and trotted away from the shopping district, hauling the rewards of the hunt in both hands.

I don't see many fauns around here. There weren't any back in Georgia; but then, there were mostly only humans home. Daddy says there are a lot of fauns in Europe, and elves and merfolk, too. Then she shuddered; there were supposed to be other, more horrible things in Europe and Asia, though; giants and trolls and dragons.

"Excuse me?" The words sent an electric shock up Marilyn's spine and she jumped, whirling around to face the man who had lightly touched her shoulder. She fought to calm her erratically beating heart, which had just started to slow when she caught sight of the man's face.

He had shoulder-length hair which, on paperwork, would be called 'blonde,' but that was an insult to the fiery-gold color that shimmered in the sun. His face was beautiful, if a little sharp, and the cheekbones were a little too high and prominent. It didn't matter. He was damned hot anyway, and she doubted it would matter if his skin turned green. His eyes....

Stars, she had learned once in school, came in a variety of colors. The hottest ones burned blue. If she ever saw one of those blue stars, the blue flames that burned hotter than any other, she knew it would never be brighter or more intense than just one of the stranger's eyes. They were gorgeous. He had the air of someone trying a little too hard to blend into the crowd; he wore an American Flag t-shirt with a light windbreaker on, and jeans that looked like they had been faded for the very purpose of looking like everyone else's. It wasn't working. Marilyn most certainly was not the only one staring at him.

"I'm Cory Summers," he introduced himself, smiling. It was a hell of a gorgeous smile. Marilyn wondered how the hell he kept his teeth so straight and white. "I'm sorry if I startled you."

"No... I.... I'm sorry," she parroted, acutely aware of how ridiculous she sounded. She wanted, more than anything else, to tear off her shirt and scream, My father's the President! "I... was thinking. I'm... easily... I'm easily startled." If she hadn't been standing in front of the most beautiful man she had ever seen, she would have hit her forehead with her palm. She strove to make up for it, to regain her dignity, with four simple words. "My name's Marilyn. Err, Shepards."


He didn't seem overwhelmed by the fact that she was the First Daughter; his expression could only be described as pleasant surprise. "Really? Well, Ms. Shepards, then you should be able to help me."

"Ms. Shepards. I mean, Marilyn. You can call me Marilyn." God, she was horrible at this. Like he would want to go out with her, anyway. He had to be at least twenty-one, probably more. He probably had a girlfriend. Hell, he was probably married.

He smiled again; flashed those perfect teeth and cocked his head slightly to the side. "Marilyn, then," he said, saying her name in a voice that made it sound undescribably beautiful. Now to just get him to scream it.... "I was hoping you'd know how to get to the National Mall from here. It's right near where you live, and I'd like to visit it. I'm going home tomorrow, and I'd like to get some pictures first." Her heart sank. Okay, so wearing a shirt that screamed 'tourist' had lowered the chances that he was a local, and he certainly wasn't a rude as the people around them, who started to shove and push to get around them. Cory grabbed her arm and pulled her back to the wall of the store they stood beside, leaving his hand on her shoulder for just a moment longer than necessary.

As he knew she would, Marilyn glowed.

"Of course I know the way," she said, and started to give directions. By the time she'd gotten to the third right, however, he was shaking his head.

"I'm horrible at those," he said, quietly. "You think you could just guide me, Marilyn? It won't take long. Of course, if you're busy...."

"I already finished what I was going to do," she said, happily taking the lead. He made a little sound of appreciation as she moved forward, which was taken the wrong way until he said, "Your hair!"

Her hair! Why hadn't she done something, anything, but a normal braid today? Today, of all days, she had decided to go with simple style! She stopped herself from saying It normally looks better, and said instead, "Thank you."

Cory was smiling, she could feel it, between her shoulder blades. "So how long have you lived here, Marilyn? I saw your home in Savanna on television; it looked much nicer than in the city. A lot quieter. Hell of a transition."

"The city's not bad," she lied. Now that she had gotten what she privately decided to call her Cory legs, she wasn't going to let him slip away by acting like a brat. "It doesn't really matter to me, you know. I miss my friends."

"Must be tough." There was genuine sympathy in his voice, she could hear it. Though he could only see the back of her head, she nodded.

"I know they miss me," she added, for good measure.

The walk ended far sooner than she would have liked. The National Mall, which, as it neared ten, was beginning to pick up a bit of a crowd as people brought late breakfasts and early lunches to eat on the grass in the sunlight. Cory picked a more secluded spot, looked around, and smiled.

"Well, Marilyn, thank you. You've made my vacation much easier." He grinned; Marilyn sudden was a little uneasy of that grin. His canine teeth seemed a little overly pointed.

"It was no problem," she replied, starting to turn.

"Oh, Marilyn? Don't go yet," Cory said, suddenly; she turned around, suddenly a little scared by him(men in the city trying to get her to follow them around), and became terrified. His eyes, his fucking gorgeous brilliant eyes, had lost their pupils. She screamed and backed away, but his grin had grown larger, insane- then too large, it spread from ear to ear like it would split his face in two. She was still screaming, though she remembered making no conscious decision to do so; she was vaguely aware of the shrill ringing of her own voice in her ears. There was shouting behind her, and someone else screamed as Kory swelled, his human form rippling with color and light. It hardened, grew glassy, shimmered in the pale February sun. His too-wide mouth stretched out, and out, while his head caved in on itself and grew narrow and streamlined. His back arched and didn't stretch back out, and bat-like wings exploded from his shoulders that were growing more animal-like and less human-like every second, and all the while he kept swelling and growing and expanding. A long, serpent tail swept around his four clawed feet, his neck stretched to bear his equine head a full two hundred feet above her, and the glassy skin shattered and broke into a thousand, a million, billions of scales that glittered like armor. Horns protruded from the scaled skin.

But... Marilyn thought, despairingly, trying to will the strength to flee as those pupiless blue eyes landed on her. But... there are no dragons outside of Eurasia...

Defiant to her thoughts, one huge foreclaw of the red and gold dragon wrapped around her, he threw his massive head to the sky in a ferocious scream, and, spreading those leather bat wings, he left the earth with a dizzying lurch.

Marilyn's head swam, and she blacked out.

Griffin Mason watched the door to his cell, focusing on the little window in the steel-and-plastic door. When the guard's greasy black-haired head passed it, he'd be safe. Fingering the cardboard box under his pillow, he lay back against the hard mattress, his eyes briefly closed, the air around him still. The lights were off; they turned off automatically at nine PM and he didn't have a damn say in it, so it was dark but for the yellow square in the door. Griffin counted down the seconds in his head, discovering that two hours, or one hundred and twenty minutes, or seven thousand two hundred seconds after the lights-out, the guard was late. He shook his head; the damned man was never exactly on time, and was late more than half the time. Probably half-asleep on the job. The only time he was ever early was on Friday nights; doubtlessly, to get in a little drinking before his own lights-out.

Griffin sighed, softly, and leaned back, two fingers still on the cardboard box whose outer plastic crinkled slightly under the pressure of his fingertips. Once, to pass the time, he'd judge how late or early the guard was to pass his door. He was usually accurate down to a tenth of a second, and once or twice he got it down to a hundredth. That got old, though, so now he just watched the light square, quiet within his own mind, like a silent snake waiting to strike.

When at long last, the grease-speckled mass of black hair cast a shadow in the yellow square, Griffin let out another, less disgusted sigh, and fished the box from under his pillow. He slapped it against his palm, twice, until a yellow-brown and white stub finally fell into his hand. Holding it between his index and middle finger, he fished around under his pillow until he came to the tear in the sheet. His hand stuffed under the fitted sheet, he felt around for the tear in the mattress, and, from that, fished a small, metal lighter.

If the guards found the cigarettes, he'd be in trouble. If they found the lighter, he'd be in for more time, probably, for possession of a weapon. Staring at the little window, he quickly struck a tiny flame, stuck one end of the cigarette into his mouth, and pressed the lighter flame against the other end, watching the leaves inside smolder and burn, glow orange, then slow their burning, letting him breath in the calming smoke and let it back out in a slow breath. Quickly, he pushed the lighter back into his mattress.

"Those things kill you," came the sleepy mumble from below him. His room-mate, of a sorts, poked his head under and looked up at the inmate on the top bunk. Griffin glowered back down at him. "You're supposed to be a genius, aren't you? You know what those things got in 'em?"

Unlike dark-skinned Griffin, whose face and ebony eyes blurred with the shadows until only his teeth and the whites of his eyes- and, of course, the orange vest of his prison uniform- were visible after lights-out, Larry's pale white skin was obvious even with the very weak light, and his light blue eyes were as apparent as a cat's glowing coals. His hair was the color of sand and, close-cut, got everywhere, as if straw was poking from his skull, not human hair. He was missing two teeth in his upper jaw, and one in his lower jaw was obviously fake. If he wasn't wearing the prison vest and pants, both a bright orange, and the plain white undershirt, the only clothes Griffin could think of him wearing were a wifebeater and gray sweatpants, both stained. He was, in all senses of the word, a redneck. He had thrown a tantrum when he had first discovered his room-mate was black, demanding another of his race to live beside him, and had been terrified that the other prisoner was going to beat him unconscious and rape him before either of them could get out. Griffin had been disgusted at the idea.

"Are you aware how close we are to Washington, DC?" he asked, toying with the paper tube in his mouth. He was feeling patient enough to deal with Larry, now that the cigarette was taking care of most of his nerves. "Do you have any idea what the air has in it? A cigarette or half of one every now and then is NOT going to kill me."

Larry snorted. "Whatever," he moaned, turned over, and was silent.

Griffin finished his cigarette, then, quelling the urge to take another- now would not be the best time to get dependant on these things- he pushed the box under his pillow, then pulled the sheet over himself. It had to be midnight, because the lights outside the cell shut off as though some invisible hand of darkness had snatched the light away in its palm. The cell was pitch black. Griffin rolled over and fell asleep.

In the morning, he woke from a dream of a purple tiger tap-dancing to John Lennon, and he had watched it and clawed his brain apart because he could not, in the dream, for the life of him, remember what the tiger's name was. When he woke, the name Kordrikai was on his lips, but he had never heard the name before and dismissed it from his mind. The lights had turned back on at six o'clock; of course, the ones outside had flashed back on at four, when the centaur lady-guard would take her post to the right of Griffin's cell. At six-thirty, like clockwork, the two inmates from every cell had their day clothes ready in a pile in their arms, and the bolts removed themselves from the door the moment the clock struck half-past. Three guards on each side of the hall watched the six cells empty the twelves inmates into the hall, and guided them to their wing's shower. Griffin took a showerhead to the far right, left alone by the others, who had figured out his first year here that he wanted no one getting too close to him. And despite that he, at five foot six, was far shorter and far skinnier than most anyone else there, they had learned quickly enough why. He didn't look like much, but he'd put the biggest of them all to the ground screaming before the guards had moved.

This time, the guards were loitering on the edge of the shower room, including the centaur lady and a human woman, neither of whom seemed in the least put off- or on- by a dozen showering men. They had run in and restrained him when he'd decked the bastard, but they hadn't hit him or been rough, particularly as he stopped fighting as soon as they'd touched him. He controlled his adrenaline carefully when fighting, or doing anything else for that matter. They were professional; they'd seen the other guy's type before. He had done nothing wrong in their eyes.

This time, though, when he had dressed and picked for a moment at his short fuzz of hair- he had liked to keep it long, braided, before he got arrested, but there was no one here to help him dreadlock it, and so he kept it shorn, shaved, and neat- the centaur woman approached him. "Mason?" she asked, cautiously. "Griffin Mason?"

He nodded in dumb assent. She went on. "The Parole Board would like to speak with you."

The Parole Board spoke to no one but those who actually were going to be paroled. They didn't like to waste time; most of it was spent telling people they didn't have enough of it to deal with that serial murder case, or that rapist who'd gotten a taste of his own medicine. Griffin nodded again, then mutely followed her. There was no point to wasted words. He'd never wasted words.

By the time her hooves were clattering on tile instead of stone, two humans had come over and pulled his hands behind his back. He cursed when one unconsciously jerked his arm the wrong way, and a spear of pain went through his shoulder. He walked dumbly forward, now more propelled by the two guards than actually walking himself. The Parole Board room looked like a court. As well it should have. It was a court.

It was also empty. The humans pushed him past it, the centaur leading, to a smaller room- an interrogation room, where lawyers would drill witnesses of the opposite side of a case to make sure what they said in court measured up to what they said privately. Someone had left a red purse in the corner. The ends of Griffin's mouth perked a little. It smelled like Meth.

There were two people in the room, and Griffin highly doubted either of them would be carrying a red purse loaded with crystal Meth. Lawyers didn't carry drugs into public courthouses, even ones attached to prisons; they weren't idiots. The other might have very well been an idiot, but red wasn't President Christian Shepard's color.

Shepard looked from the guards to the centaur guard to Griffin, then back to the centaur. At last, his green eyes met Griffin's dark ones. "Griffin Mason?" he asked.

He nodded, again. Mute. Pulling the chair that was obviously waiting for him from under the table Shepard and his lawyer leaned across, Griffin sat in it, keeping a carefully sculpted, relaxed posture. "You'd be Shepard," he said, quietly.

Shepard nodded, too. "Do you have any idea why I'm here?"

Griffin blinked at him. He'd been puzzling that over since he'd gotten in, but there was really only one reason. "You're here to grant a federal pardon. Or reprieve. I'd like to say pardon." He looked up at Shepard; the President nodded, but not to assent to either pardon or reprieve, simply a gesture for him to go on. "Which, as I doubt you've been worrying over records of drug-related arrests on the Federal level and got stricken with the sudden urge to give me the benefit of the doubt, I would have to assume there's someone else out on the streets."

"There's someone else," Shepard said. "But he's not a dealer."

Griffin quirked an eyebrow. He wasn't often caught off-guard. "Really? Murderer? You want someone as bait? I don't see why that would bring your Highness here to deal with me."

Shepard shook his head, was quiet for a second, then spoke again. "You were wrong, Griffin. I was looking over the list of people arrested at the Federal level. I did find your name and have a sudden impulse to give you the benefit of the doubt." Now his smile was a grin, almost malicious. "What do you make of that?"

Mason shrugged. "A lie," he said. "There was a reason. Something you want."

"How do you get that?"

"You're Republican."

Shepard broke a far friendlier grin, and almost seemed to laugh. "And what if it's true? What if I truly decided to see if you really were guilty of the crimes you were sentenced for?"

Griffin shrugged. "I pled guilty, Shepard. There's not much question."

The lawyer had been silent until that moment, but then his eyebrow furrowed. "Why?" he asked, suddenly; Shepard jumped and Griffin focused his dark eyes on the bespectacled ones of the taciturn man. "Why plead guilty? According to records, Griffin Mason, you have an IQ of two hundred and eleven."

Griffin shrugged. The last time he had checked, it had been two hundred and twelve, but he suspected there might be a margin of mathematical error.

"Why plead guilty? If you defended yourself, you could have led them all in circles. You could have played head games with the jury. You could have proved your innocence even if you made up evidence, or used pirate hats made up of folded newspaper to disprove the charges. Why plead guilty?"

Griffin shrugged. "You underestimate yourself and your kind," he said, quietly. "One can read all the books in the world, and not get a practical outlook on what they want to do. I wouldn't read about how to swim and then jump into the shark pool. I wouldn't read about lava and then leap into the volcano. Someone who deals with something every day has a clear-cut advantage to someone seeing it in practical terms for the first time. And anyway, why fight to be declared innocent? I'd invested everything in that ring, and that was gone. I may as well decay in this hellhole."

"Fifteen years is a long time," the lawyer said, then fell silent.

"Tell me about it," Griffin growled. "So, Shepard. Why are you here? Wanted to relate to the common man? Court some reelection votes from some minorities? Or are we going to cut to the chase here, before I miss breakfast?"

Shepard chuckled again. "I'm here to offer you a pardon."

Griffin nodded, urging him to continue.

"In exchange, I want you to help me. If you're the romantic type, you may call it a... quest."

By the expression on Griffin's face, he wasn't the romantic type.

"My daughter was abducted, in the National Mall, in front of dozens of people. Hundreds saw her abductor leaving. You might not have heard of it yet; the rest of the nation has. I want you to find her. Before other people start trying to, start hurting themselves."

Griffin considered. He seriously did. But then he flashed a white grin and shook his head. "No challenge," he whined, eyes twinkling. "What would I do when I got back?"

"You might find her captor a bit of a challenge."



"Well, what was he? Or she? Dwarf? Faun?"

The President shook his head, the look on his face betraying, for a moment, the concern he held for his daughter. There were livid purple rings under his eyes. He hadn't slept since she had been taken away. "Dragon."



Well, that made it interesting. But one thing still puzzled the prisoner. "One more thing, Shepard. Why me?"

The President shrugged. "There are murderers here, Griffin. Murderers and rapists, people who got away with huge lines of obscenities, things that should never have happened but did for years. But I want none of them loose. I need someone capable of something impossible." Now he flashed a white-toothed grin and folded his arms across the table. "Like running a drug ring through thirty-eight of the fifty states, importing crystal Meth and selling it illegally to addicts."

"I almost got to forty. I wanted the forty-eight mainland," he said.

"How old are you, Mason?"


That seemed to solve the extra ten states in Shepard's mind. "Two years in prison. You were only twenty-one when you were arrested? Barely old enough to buy drugs yourself."

"There's no age limit in dealing," Griffin replied.

"Well, most of these people are thirty to fifty. Most of the ones who actually did something impressive are too old to do what I want you to do. What are you going to ask of me?"

The challenge, the idea of facing a monster famed for having wits far outshining those of a human... it was all too much for Griffin. He was almost salivating. However, he pushed the whole thing out of his mind and met Shepard's green eyes. "Full pardon, or nothing."

"Full pardon if you bring her back alive," he replied. His voice cracked as he continued- "Probation if she's dead."

He hadn't wanted the President to start crying. "Alright," he said. "I'll do it."

"Thank you."

Griffin snorted and rose, refusing the hand that Shepard stuck out for him. "And I thought you had come to buy some Meth," he said.

"That, of course, was next in our conversation," Shepard replied dryly, unphased by Griffin's indifference.

"Well, if you still want some, that lady left it in her purse," he said, nodding to the red bag. The centaur guard walked cautiously up, lifted the bag in her human hands, and carefully opened it.

She had been silent throughout the exchange. For the first time, she spoke, with a gracious nod to Griffin. "Oh, Mason. If only you used your super powers for good...."