After Kimi Vu completed sewing-up an item Diesel requested she make for her the day before the Reset (a request made long after all the strange drama involving the Force and Wang Chung had concluded), the former sent the following text to the latter's phone the next morning:
"I'm done with your silly banner. You can pick it up whenever you get a chance, I'll be home all day"
"Oh man, I didn't mean for you to do a rush job, so sorry if I somehow implied that!"
"I know there was no rush, but I did so anyway"
"Thanks Voodoo, I owe you big time. Will swing by later to get my "silly" banner"
Of course Diesel had her knowledge of the six foot long rectangular banner made of royal purple colored silk and (rather odd) wording comprised of gold nylon material, all surrounded by an inch wide border made of the same gold colored fabric that the words were sewn with removed from her mind as a result of the Reset that occured later that afternoon. That's why it surprised her when during the FFS' event at the Bi-Annual Chicorium City Arts and Crafts Fair, Voodoo asked her:
"So do you want that goofy banner you had me make for you now?"
"I...ha, had you make what?" -answered Diesel sounding distressed due to the ridiculously tight red, snake skin patterned PVC outfit she had on.
"Ha!...so you forgot too!...I ran over it two days ago and didn't even remember having or making it, but there was a note on it that said it was commissioned by you..so I figured you would get it when you were ready, but then I put it in with the materials I planned to take to this event and forgot about it until I just unpacked it"
"How weird...let me see it"
"Let you see it?...I'll let you have it...I mean it's really nice looking...of course since I made it...but it has a silly message on it so I have no use for it"
Diesel looked at the thing, was immediately confused by it, but then laughed at what it said. She offered to pay for it but Voodoo declined; saying:
"Well since it was so forgettable somehow, I guess we might as well forget about paying for it...I probably wouldn't have charged you for it anyway...just called in a favor if I needed to"
The next substantial break Diesel got, she took the thing to her car.
Yes...she had a car now. It was an El Jefe, Border Buster GS. Kid Mystery the 2nd handed her the keys to the thing and told her where to find it before he and Alvin presumably left town. She found it in a far corner of the Alpern Estate. The gas engine was rendered inoperable with the removal of the coil-packs (they were put on the front passenger floorboard), so she called Gurdy out to help her get it running. When it did get running, she offered for Gurdy to keep it, or to give it to Hurdy.
"Naw..I don't need no extra vehicle..ah gots mah Company truck...and Hurdy don't lahk ta drive"
And so Diesel became the owner of a motor vehicle for the first time, since the title and registration were all in her name somehow (she of course went to the State and Federal DMV sites to confirm that she didn't possess forged documents...although her signatures were obviously forged. Highly suspect, but she went with it, because: free car!). Later on she found a parting "gift" from the white Kid Mystery in the trunk. It was a block of reddish clay. A note was attached to it that cryptically read:
"Look who just got lucky! You little princess, that's who! You'll find this useful to make another you...enjoy it"
So Diesel deposited the loosely rolled-up banner in her car; on the back seat right next to the fake beard with the attached mustache that Gurdy left there and forgot about. All the adhesive had finally worn off the thing, and she had gotten a new one to wear when having to be Alvin.
After her errand was done, Diesel jogged back to the FFS event area. She passed row upon row of vehicles of all types, but the thing 99 percent of them had in common was that they were the typical nondescript white of most rental vehicles. That's why a dark grey sedan caught her eye in particular. Well actually it wasn't just the odd color that drew her attention as she held her gaze on it for a full second as she passed it...it was the ominous feeling seeing it gave her. But she didn't let that bother her too much, because helping to grill a few racks of vegan "ribs" was a far more pressing concern at the time.
"Hmmm...she seemed to notice us"
"Because we're in a dark grey, Government-looking car in a sea of mostly white, and all civilian cars, trucks, and vans"
"Nahhhh...it's probably because I'm so damn good looking"
"Dummy!...you know the windshield has stealth mode engaged (a recent development at that general time period that made glass for buildings and vehicles appear nearly jet black on one side, but completely clear on the other...all electronically adjustable by the user. Authorized for use only by Federal agencies and only on Federal buildings and vehicles)..plus you have the kind of face only the legally blind would find attractive at over 10 meters away"
"Well obviously she sensed that someone with a Hollywood face and greek statue body was in here!..and you have the kind of face that only a one-eyed dog!..."
The incoming insult was cut short by a couple of knocks on the rear window. The two occupants had their guns out in an instant, but powered down when they saw who it was that had caught them so off guard.
That person went around to the driver's door, which window was rolled down.
"You two are bickering again aren't you?...I couldn't sneak up on you if you weren't...or actually I could if I really tried, but still...knock off the damn spitting matches when we're out in the field on a mission!...got it!"
"Yes boss" -said grudgingly...like a kid who was irrate at being scolded by a parent or teacher...by the black haired one in the passenger seat who had a high opinion of their personal appearance.
"Perdon Kawasaki" -apologized the short medium brown haired driver, sounding sincere.
"Just get yourselves right...I know you two don't get along as well as most, but keep your stupid fighting to when we're not doing something important like surveilling a person of interest...so on to more important things, what's the abnormality count so far for you?"
"Oh the weirdness meter is off the charts in this instant soup of a town boss...actually it started even before we got here, but we didn't even know it TILL we actually got here"
Kawasaki just stared at black hair for a few seconds.
"Make sense of your partner please"
"Of course...this morning we went to Two Short, Fat, and Ugly Guy's Diner for breakfast..."
"And let me tell you, that PERFECTLY describes the two owners" -interrupted the partner, to the annoyance of the other two.
"Ahem...the two owners and seemingly only employees happened to be talkative types, and they went on and on about winning a trip to Las Vegas, and that they just returned yesterday, the 7th..."
"But get this and stick it in your pipe and smoke it...the sexy lady we've been tailing's car was brought and paid for and registered at the two struggle faced dudes' used car business...on the 6th"
"Yes...and before I was interrupted (casting a dirty glare at the partner) I was going to point out that the muy feo guys said they went to Vegas on the 1st of the month...when I called pretending that I was served a meal at their diner on the 5th that made me ill and that I planned to sue them, they called me a scammer and told me to basically go screw myself because they were the only workers they had, and that their three businesses were closed from the 1st through to the 6th...and also empty head didn't mention regarding the car that the two scary looking guys said they never had such a vehicle on their used car lot..."
"I was going to mention it you stick figure of a person, damn!..I'm the one who called to ask if they had or could get in a Border Buster GS after all!..quit stealing my thunder!"
"Your thunder?...more like a little static electric spark that NO ONE wants to steal or even have!"
"How about YOU stop buggin about it...it's just the thing we do bro..." -the murderous glare received from Kawasaki caused black hair to relent and take on a submissive tone in a hurry- "...I meant Kawasaki"
"That's right you better back down...now to get back on point...what other irregular things did you find since you came here two days ago?"
"Well there have been messages here and there about how the short, fat, and ugly businesses WERE actually open during the time that they supposedly weren't, and that a couple of supposedly incredibly good looking men...or women, depending on who was talking...were fronting as the owners slash employees...there's nothing to verify that, but it seemed relevant to the mission"
"Well then there's this website that most decently sized towns and cities have versions of nowadays that deals with local urban legends and paranormal happenings...here it's called Chicorium Oddities...that's where most of the online chat about the pretty men or ladies who allegedly ran the uggo's vehicle, food, and eye surgery places has gone on...people there also mention recent instances of false memories, and there's a controversy about a dude they call "Kid Mystery"..whether he's black or white...but it wasn't worth diving too deeply into...just bunch of no-lifes trying to get in on the UFO bandwagon since the Government's been more up-front about that kind of thing lately"
"The Government..." -only Kawasaki of the three wasn't shocked to hear the voice of their Superior- "...plays it's game...and since we are a part of the Government...it's our game too...but the game is deeper than most..including the Government..can imagine..." -and then Mr. Hue stepped out from directly behind Kawasaki...quite the feat since the former was taller and about the same width as the latter- "...hearing you talk about the Government like it's a separate entity is almost amusing Honda (black hair)...and those regionally focused paranormal type websites are more often than not goldmines of useful intel...do not overlook them"
"No Sir, we won't" -replied brown hair enthusiastically, before elbowing Honda.
"What!?...I didn't say I wouldn't do that!"
Mr. Hue just shook his head.
"Kawasaki come with me to the young lady's car...Yamaha is already there with Miss Columbia...Suzuki and Honda...since you're already in civilian garb, come out and mill around about 25 to 50 meters from that location so you can be early warning lookouts, and to run interference if need be"
Kawasaki and Mr. Hue came upon Miss Columbia and code-named "Yamaha" standing beside Diesel's car staring into it's side-rear window.
"Is the stench of intruders coming from that car?"
"Yes...very strong...from the motor vehicle AND the hairy object within" -answered Miss Columbia.
"The hairy object?" -asked Kawasaki, a moment before the two newcomers came up to the opposite side of the car. Looking in, they saw a beautiful and clean interior comprised mostly of white leather; with the only out of place things being Gurdy's old synthetic facial hair and the quickly thrown in banner.
"It looks like a flat, dead little dog..like a Shih Tzu..as terrible as that sounds" -said Yamaha, feeling bad about it midway through the statement.
"Looks like a toupe...can you open it please" -requested Mr. Hue of Miss Columbia.
And in an instant both car doors opened enough to access the manually actuated handles. Mr. Hue carefully held the mass of hair up by both ends for all to view.
"It's neither a toupe nor a dead dog"
And then Yamaha followed up Hue with:
"It's a halloween costume beard with a mustache attached"
Kawasaki reached in and grabbed the banner.
"Hey get the other end of this thing (requested of Yamaha)"
Both of Mr. Hue's subordinates laughed at what it said, but their boss said the wording aloud:
"Here we are...the mighty..the brave..the hotties..the...babe protection force?" -He seemed to ponder it seriously for a short while; but Kawasaki just rolled it loosely back up and put it in the same original spot.
"Is that related to some kind of kids super hero team type thing?...like a bad clone of the Power Rangers?" -asked Yamaha; to which Kawasaki answered:
"Who knows..or cares...it was good for a laugh though...the others will find it funny too"
"So what kind of intruders do you sense here?" -asked Mr. Hue.
"They seem to be the same ones as in the case in Pittsburgh...but no Human translated to Angel type"
"It seems Honda and Suzuki had a very good detective sense about that young lady...Diesel Feinman right?"
"Yes, that's her name...and considering the rarity of this car and how it came into the possession of a person with a very average status and background, it very much stands to reason why they would focus in on her" -was Yamaha's assessment.
"I see...it seems I've taken on quite the capable team of individuals"
"Thank you Mr. Hue" -Kawasaki replied.
"Well I talked to the top person of this town..and I don't mean the Mayor..I mean Yaakov Alpern...he seems to have some difficulty with his vision thought he thinks it's perfect since he recently got LASIK done by the two fat and ugly and short fellows of all people...and like some seem to have said, the version of them he dealt with were slender, beautiful, and tall with pale shin and blond hair"
"Heh..that sounds like you" -Kawasaki looked at and was referencing Yamaha with that quip.
"Well since we're here, let's go see the what Miss Feinman is up to at her club's event...put on your civies and tell the others to tag along but at a distance so it doesn't seem like we're together...and in that same tactical consideration..you two wait about five minutes after we (Miss Columbia and himself) head over there"
Mr. Hue and Miss Columbia stayed in their grey suits although it was rather warm. The six of them observed the fashion show and the general goings on of the FFS. They mingled with the crowd (the four "motorcycles" did...not so much the case with Mr. Hue and Miss Columbia) and brought food and just had a good casual time. About 22 minutes into the Government Operatives little fun time, Mr. Hue came across a Future Female Society member named Sarah Hazar who was sitting at her easel and canvas.
"Hey there FBI looking man, how about having a portrait done of yourself...only Twenty-five bucks"
Mr. Hue glanced at the her just because she engaged him, but intended to just keep passing on by to check out the other mostly food items on that "leg" of the merchandise display tables. One thing caught his eye though and for some reason it put a fire to his intuition. It was a portrait of a young man of African descent with a military haircut that was sitting at the feet of the young artist. He looked at the painting and said:
"So that's an example of your work I presume"
Sarah lifted it up to show it off better.
"you presumed correct"
"It's very nice work..looks like a photo...and the young man is a very dignified looking fellow...looks like he's a member of the military...I was in the Army back in the day...what branch of the Service was he in?"
"Oh I actually don't know this person and haven't really met him...I know that sounds strange since I'm out here doing portrait paintings of people visiting our exhibition...but this is the person whom I'm sure is the real Kid Mystery"
"Oh I've actually heard something about that oddly enough...but I've heard that he was a white guy"
"Wow, what a coincidence!...but the truth of the matter is that about half the people say that Kid Mystery was white and the other half like me says the ORIGINAL kid mystery was black...I was actually in the first camp, but then I just got a feeling that this good looking guy here was the FIRST Kid Mystery...and then I got a face in my mind along with the feeling, so I did this painting of him..." -she then felt and looked embarrassed; lowering her head a bit even- "...and I guess I said too much and you think I'm crazy right"
"No, not at all!...I've experienced some strange things in my life too...tell you what..how about I just give you that twenty-five dollars"
"Alright, just stand as still as you can and in about 20 minutes I'll give you a portrait painting of yourself that will be good enough to hand down to your future generations"
"No...just take the money...consider it a donation...just remember I did this when you're a world famous artist one day"
"Oh..well the money gets thrown into the Future Female Society's funds"
"Then take fifty bucks and consider half a tip...you can take tips right?"
"Sure can!...thanks a million!..." -while she separated and put the money away, Mr. Hue walked back over to Miss Columbia waiting a few feet away- "...wait, what's your name so I know who helped me out as a nobody artist when I maybe become the world's greatest painter?"
"I go by Mr. Hue" -said as he looked to the side and back while walking away.
Later as Hr. Hue and his team met back at the visitor parking lot, he showed them a picture he took with a tiny camera that was imbedded in one of his jacket buttons.
"You took a picture of a picture of some black guy" -said Honda.
"It's not just a blown-up photo on a canvas backing, it's just that the painter was so good that it looks that way"
"Oh ok...who is he?...someone we need to keep tabs on while in town?"
"He may or may not be a figment of the imagination...a few here in town would contend that he's the original and therefore true Kid Mystery...whatever the case is, commit this face to your memory because who knows if we'll run into him someday"
The four subordinates looked at each other and seemed to accept without saying a word about the strangeness of the order.
"The four of you can call it a day...just have a report ready for me to read at 10:00 tonight"
After that Mr. Hue and his beautiful, tall, and androgynous companion made their way to the defunct wind tower that served as a hiding place for intelligence gathering and relaying equipment.
"This place has artifacts of the intruders"
Mr. Hue punched in the code to gain access to the tower just to have Miss Columbia verify what he already knew: that the inside of the place was also heavily artifacted with intruder "scent". On their way out of the rusting structure, the latter alerted:
Mr. Hue already had his gun drawn and was in front of Miss Columbia when he heard a familiar voice coming through the door from not far away.
"My intuition told me that some kind of bargain-bin spy or hacker would try to tinker with the equipment in there...you know the United States Government has ways of telling if crap like that is happening even if I didn't already sense it...they also have ways of dealing with intruders into their business..." -the female whom the voice belonged to was right near the door then. Since Mr. Hue knew this person, he was going to re-holster his sidearm...
since Mr. Hue knew this person, he decided to keep it out with his finger on the trigger- "...and lucky me, I'm one of those ways"
And then she launched herself into the tower.
~ The next day at Alpern's New Age Foods Corporate HQ ~
"I demand to see the old man!...I meant Mr. Alpern!"
"And I TOLD you, the Senior Mr. Alpern left last night to go to the Free South-East Asian Economic Block (South Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam) for fifteen days"
"And I told YOU that that's impossible because there is no official Vice President of the Company..and since being that I'm in charge of hiring, I would rightfully be the one to take over in the extended absence of the old man...Mr. Alpern hasn't said anything to me about running the place for him so there has obviously been a mistake made somewhere"
"Dill Pickle I'll handle this flaming male egoist"
Hurdy had just walked into the Administrative Office startling both her FFS sister and Otis Liakos.
"Thank you, I have papers to deliver upstairs" -Dillena didn't really; she just grabbed some random sheets of paper on her desk before she fast-stepped out of there, and was glad not to have to be run around in a circular argument anymore.
"And whom might you be?" -it sounded more like a demand more than a request.
"I'm the one you better be a HELL of alot more civil towards if you want to know what's going on with you and the Company...see how I separated you two...that's because as of 9:00 am today, you've been suspended from the Alpern's Corporation with pay"
"By who's authority?!"
"By the authority of the Company is nice enough to give you pay for no work but can just cut you off from the payroll if you keep up your attitude!...that's whos' authority bro!"
Otis seemed to take his precarious position into account, and in a meek tone asked:
"Please...I just found out about my...situation...about an hour ago...so if the old man is really gone then just who is in charge?...because only the top dog of the Company can suspend me"
"It should be obvious who's running the place...the older Alpern has a kid after all..." -right then the back office door opened, and out stepped Gurdy in "Alvin mode"- "...you don't have get involved...I've dealt with plenty of hard-headed men and this is just one more"
"Come on in you two (bidding them with hand and arm motions)...we don't want the front office area to get anymore shaken and stirred"
Once inside Yaakov Alpern's spacious office, Gurdy took off the fake facial hair and thus her whole Alvin personna.
"What the?!...that beard and stuff is fake!...wait a second...MELINA!"
"Keep it down you doofus!"
"Hay hay brother...look at me, I'm a big ta do in the city!"
"How!?...when!?...why!?..." -Otis was beyond confused and flustered; but then he calmed down upon realizing something- "...well actually thank goodness..I'm not actually suspended"
But his realization was false.
"No, you're still suspended...your sister IS legally Alvin Alpern"
Hurdy took a single plastic sealed card off of her girlfriend's desk and showed it to Otis.
"This (holding up the red, white, and blue card)...is Alvin Alpern's Federal ID (by that time, the Federal ID was the only ID needed...taking the place of State IDs, welfare IDs, Social Security Cards, etc)" -the pic on it looked alot like the real Alvin Alpern, but those who knew Gurdy could tell it was her, even with the fake stache and beard.
"Ok...so that's a well done fake ID...I can see that that's a picture of my sister"
"Well did you know that the photo or even the signature isn't the thing that makes a person who they are according to the Federal Government?..." -she then spoke from knowledge given to her from Wang Chung- "...starting in 2024 there has been nano-fibers with alterable codings that have been put into everyone who recieved their mandatory multi-flu shots...your sister has Alvin Alpern's code on this card and in her bloodstream...she IS..Alvin Alpern"
Otis scrunched his face and his head seemed to vibrate until he burst out with:
"Nahhhhh, no!...that's crazy!...Melina...and you, whomever you are..you need to stop this before you get into real trouble with the law"
"I thought you wouldn't believe me"
Gurdy then put her fake facial hair back on and looked to the door while calling out:
"Officer Pilner please come in..." -after a moment, an average height but brawny muscled male came in with his Chicorium City Police uniform on. He was widely known in town since the Chicorium PD was only 5 members strong and did mostly community-building-type activities since there was very little crime being committed- "...sorry to have you waiting outside"
"It's A-ok Big Man Al..." -he put his arm around Otis's shoulder and gave him a squeeze and shake- "...you being cool Otis?...of course you are!..I know you, you're not one to carry on all out of sorts"
"He's just having an odd episode..." -said Hurdy, feigning concern- "...he seems to think that Alvin here isn't the real Alvin"
"Uh'oh...did you get you're hands on some candy?..." -he gave the man an even harder squeeze...enough to cause discomfort- "...that sugar rush gets people hyper and affects their thinking"
"No Officer, I stay a million miles away from the sweets, I swear!...you can talk to my dentist"
"He got on to that paranormal website, Chicorium Oddities, and let that talk about how there are people or beings who can shape-shift and even look exactly like other people get to him when he found out that he was put on suspension with pay..." -the Officer gave Otis a mean, sideways look- "...but it's not like it was for bad behavior!...he just works so hard that it was the only way we had to make the poor guy take a vacation"
Officer Pilner let go of Otis and gave him a "manly" slap on the back that made him nearly fall over.
"I knew you were a stand-up guy!"
"He's the kind of employee that may get shaken but never gets stirred"
"Uh, yeah...so we just called you here to prove to him that Alvin is really Alvin...is that possible?"
"Piece of cake!..." -he then pulled out a small device that looked like some kind of ray-gun from a sci-fi/space battle movie. He input some info on it's touchscreen and put it on Gurdy's forearm where blood is commonly taken from and left it there. Then after about a half a minute a green light came on and a beep sounded from the device...he then fiddled with the touchscreen again and then aimed the "barrel" of the thing at Gurdy's ID. This time the green light and beep were near instantaneous- "...double greens...you are who you are Big Man Al..no shape-shifters here!" -and then all but Otis laughed.
After farewells were made and the two Liakos siblings and Hurdy were left in the room...the latter gave Otis a hard look and said in no uncertain terms:
"You get it?...in the age where it's fairly easy to have surgery to change one's appearance and gender, the authorities have made a fool-proof way to make sure that people are who they say they are...or at least are who the Government says they're suppose to be...but your sister and I have an in with a Government employee who can work that system...and now Gurdy..I meant Melina Liakos, is now Alvin Alpern...so you just take your little forced vacation and keep your face shut about what you've been told here...because unlike with DNA that is a part of the body, the ID system being used now can make a certain person have an ID..BUT, it can also strip the IDs from people...and I guarantee that you do not want to be seen as an ID-less, non-person in the eyes of the Feds"
It was difficult for Otis to take all the information in, much less consider it's ramifications on his life; so he just cried out in a pathetic voice:
"But why!?...why do I have to get suspended!?...it will look bad on my record!"
Gurdy went back into her normal mode.
"Awwww shucks, ah was feelin so dern bad bout'chuh when yuh always tolt me an the family that yuh never got the time off of work to go see them...then I done fount out in muh learnins tuh become the boss of this here business bout how the Company can suspend a person with or without pay, and ah thought tuh muhself, that's the winner, winner, chicken dinner!..I'll suspend yuh so yuhs kin git back tuh visit the farm...then yuh can come on back and the suspension will be over!"
"Geesh Melina, how about I just use my saved-up vacation time!...I've got about three weeks now!...I mean...I'd like to go to Vegas"
"No, absolutely not!..." -was Hurdy's immediate reply- "...you take the time to see your family...then as long as you spend the whole time with them, you can come back and your "suspension" won't even make it on your record..." -a little tune buzzed out from the laptop on Gurdy's desk. She hit a botton on the touchscreen and a voice came over the speakers notifying her that certain business related visitors had arrived in the Reception Room (which was oddly enough in a separate building)- "...well that means it's time for you to go pack up for your trip...a car has been rented for your trip and is at your place"
"A fancy one too...I done picked it out muhself..." -Gurdy then handed her brother the keys for it, and then with her facial hair-piece in place, she changed modes- "...do have yourself a stellar time at home"
After Otis was out of the building, he just sort of wandered around in the general direction of his abode. He saw the large, and indeed rather fancy looking sedan in his allocated parking spot (he lived close to work and only rented a vehicle as the need arose). When he got inside he sat at his kitchen table. he sat like that for many minutes barely moving a muscle, but trying to comprehend what was going on with his sister and the situation that was thrust upon him. Finally he looked up...clenched his fists...and cried out...
"What in tarnation just done happened tuh me!"