On the Way
Minerva's phone rings about ten minutes after she initially called the supposedly powerful woman she knows as "Alice." It might register in her mind that it's a confidential call as the caller profile is now the head of a white fluffy Samoyed (not a paw print icon) and the name is now "Lanie (Alice)."
Minerva lies in her bed, trying to stay calm. It was all going to be fine. It always had been before, right? She'd been on ten of these jobs in just about six months, and it was fine. She was fine. They were going to go out, and find Mars, and bring her home safe, and it would be fine. The young foxgirl jumps some as her phone rings, and she picks it up, looking at it and nodding a bit. At least she recognized it this time. She answers it, and then.. "Lanie?"
"Minerva, I need to apologize for forgetting to contact you after the ritual. Obviously I'm alive, and I'm also de-cursed now. It's been..." Lanie sighs. "... a life."
"It's okay. I'm glad you're de-cursed! And...I'm sorry about that. Can I help at all?" She wiggles her nose some, just staring at the ceiling. She had her own issues, of course, but Alice was going out of her way to help her. She should at least do anything she could to help in response.
Could she? "Thanks for offering. Nothing comes to mind at the moment--" a lie, the first one Minerva's heard her tell "Well, nothing of high enough priority." The truth. "I still have a demon to tame and a frien--husband to de-curse, but one thing at a time." Another sigh. "Anyways, from now on, I'm 'Lanie.' I've just shed the 'Alice' identity. Hopefully that won't make too big of a splash on the news, when they find out."
Minerva tilts her head to the side just a little at that lie, and then nods slightly after. "Okay. After, then..." She makes a mental note to get out of Alice what she could help with, and then do so. She owed Alice already. She could understand that maybe she wasn't strong enough to help tame a demon or such, but surely there was something to do.
"...Ah. Okay..." She takes a moment. "Lanie. Okay. " There's a pause, as gears turn in the young girl's head, but it doesn't quite come to the right conclusion. She'd seen the Pepsi commercials, but.. she didn't make the link. That, and she wasn't a big Pepsi drinker. Stuck to her teeth. Half a conclusion, though. "Why'd you shed the name Alice? I think Alice is a nice name."
Lanie answers slowly. "The Alice identity is tied to two people who are wanted by the FBI, one who is suspected for brutally murdering an FBI agent and the other who is suspected of helping a cop-killer escape execution. Neither of my friends are guilty of the charges, but its best I step away from them both physically and legally for now until they figure out how to handle their situations. Basically, I don't want to drown in the waves of their messes."
A pause. "Plus, 'Lanie' is part of my original name. It feels better."
"...Okay, Lanie. Lanie is a nice name too. And I hope your friends sort out their issues! And it doesn't come back on you. ...I hope helping me doesn't make any trouble for you."
"No more trouble than I want to take on. To be honest, you caught us at a good time. Albert and I were just leaving the scene of Alice's 'death' and I had forgotten to destroy this borrowed phone. That being said, you can't reach me by that number anymore, but here's the new one..." She reads it out slowly once Minerva's ready to type it down. "Part of my delay in getting back to you was my busyness, but the other part was that I was waiting on some things. To catch you up, my four friends went to the scene of the crime and followed a trail to their closest safehouse in Goshen, which by the time they got there was very trapped and abandoned. Albert did most of the work, including getting all the evidence and information, and advised that I dismiss the other two from the investigation given how little help they provided--and the third one left before the investigation really began because a sniper almost took him out as he snooped around the police station on his own." A pause. "He's fine now--I hired a friend to restore his eye. It's taken a while for Albert to recover the data from the wiped and broken hard drives. In the meantime, I've recruited one more person to join us: a professional bodyguard and quite possibly a mercenary named Amarjeet Interpal--one of us."
"Okay... as long as you're sure." She nods after. "Okay..." She takes a moment to write the number down in her phone before going back to listening. "Mmm." She still feels a little annoyed she hadn't gotten a chance to help with that! But there was nothing to do about it now. "Ah, and- oh!" She says as soon as the sniper is mentioned. "Is he- Oh. Good. ...A sniper..." She shivers a bit. Scary. What could one do against a sniper? At least he survived.
She nods again. "Okay, and that's good!" A professional bodyguard sounded great, really. She quickly googles them, and then... "...Oh." She'd seen this video before. "Um... is she good at her job?"
Lanie's mind goes back to the same video that Minerva's watching. "My bet is that she's advanced over time, like we all have. Mark Collins recommended her, so I'm willing to find out how skilled she is. Plus, I'm already pulling heavily on my Network to take down a sapient, powerful demonic being that recently attempted to murder my daughter and continues to curse my husband--an endeavor that's scheduled for late next week. With one friend uninterested due to the sniper incident and the other two dismissed," and Iryna dead, and Mark Collins tied up in legal trouble, and Jason Valent missing, and Bu Fang being mentally and emotionally unstable "I'm running low on people to pull in."
"...That's fair, we all have, and- Wait, you know Mark Collins? Wait, is he one of us too?" Minerva blinks a few times. When her her mother told her she could grow up to be like The Mother of Dragons or Mark Collins... maybe she really could be. But really,
Alice Lanie knew everyone! They were like the godfather or something. "...I'm sure they're very skilled, then..." A sapient, powerful demonic being. Wow. "...Can I help at all with that? I'm not very strong, but I have some abilities..."
Lanie blinks. It wasn't obvious that Mark Collins was a Contractor like the rest of them? She had pieced that together since her very first job, during a conversation with the harbinger. "Lets try to survive this first task--one thing at a time." It wasn't a yes, and it wasn't a no. "I'm confident that with Albert and Amarjeet co-leading, we have a solid shot at extracting Mars, assuming she wants to leave. That being said, have you been able to touch bases with her in the dreamworld or otherwise?"
"...Okay." She nods some. "That's good, and... no. Typically I can reach her in the dreamworld, but... there's no link anymore, it's unstable. I guess... I guess I kinda use my amulet as a crutch in some ways, and I think hers was taken from her. So I can't reach her. I'm sure she'll want to be rescued, though.. and... and I know they can mess with memories, but.. I think I can too. I think I can fix them."
"Oh?" That wasn't on this list of supernatural skills that Minerva had originally provided. "Is there anything else you'd like to share with me?" An open invitation to self-disclose whatever the girl considered important. Assuming the principal consented to it, they would soon walk into something exceedingly dangerous together. Better to know more than less.
"Umm.... I've... I've just been getting stronger. I can put people to sleep... and go dreamwalking... and pass though walls and doors if I focus enough, and.. I don't know, I've been practicing just a little, it's like... I can influence people to accept me as long as I'm not the focus of attention." She scratches behind an ear. "I.. think that's it?"
Lanie adds these three to the mental list. "My ally was right when they recommended you to join the Network. They described you as 'very capable in your magical and physical capabilities.'"
Minerva smiles a bit at the compliment. "... I'm glad! I'm sure it's nothing compared to the rest of your allies, but... I'm getting stronger! Maybe in another six months I'll be as strong as some of them." She nods. Very capable! Yay. She glows a little at the compliment. Literally.
"On my end," Lanie continues, "since we last spoke I've almost fully shed my human form along with my identity. This comes with pros and cons, but I've been preparing for it since I started on these jobs."
She nods a little. "... I understand that. Human form sucks. I have too... even if I need to go back into it when I go out because people are lame." Minerva doesn't think too deeply on it past that - she'd shed her human form too!
"People are... complicated," Lanie answers in partial agreement. "I'm glad you're finding your way. Now, one last thing before I reach out to Principal Wolstenhome and then Amarjeet. I'm considering attempting to call Mars without directly revealing who we are and that we're all on our way to her, as I'm not sure how much memory reading and manipulation is happening on her end. What would you like me to tell her, if I reach her? The same thing you said before about you not wanting to play second fiddle?"
There's a pause. "Mmm." She comments, and then tilts her head to the side. "....Somehow I doubt she has a phone. Does she need a phone? And.. yes, that's probably the best thing to tell her. She'll know it was from me, at least..."
"Any electronic device that sends and receives audio will work, even a two-way radio or an Airpod or something, so long as its in her possession. It can even be dead or broken. We'll see. I don't expect to reach her, but I can't think of any massive downsides from trying to. Anyways, we'll be in touch."
"Okay..." She wasn't sure Mars would have any of those. "How long? It needs to be soon, doesn't it? Or they'll move safe houses..."
"We'll need to swing by Albert's house to pick up the explosives. Aside from that, can you travel on your own or do we need to pick you up?"
"Umm... I can.. typically arrange transport.... If you're passing by, though, travelling with you would be nice..."
"We aren't passing through Massachusetts; that would add 20 hours to the drive to pick you up. Let me confirm that you're coming with your principal. Assuming it's a yes, you can meet us at the Minneapolis airport, and we'll drive the rest of the way from there."
"... She said I could go if I went with someone else already!" She huffs a little. "But okay... I can make my way there."
"Indeed, our conversation should be quick and seamless," Lanie states. "Talk to you soon." The call ends.