PROLOGUE: AMELIA

"Daaad, we're home!" Amelia called into the foyer as she and her sister arrived.

"In the kitchen, don't come in yet!" was the harried reply. Well of course I'm not gonna come in, Dad, do you really think I'm gonna ruin Taylor's birthday surprise? Today was not a day for such ghastly mistakes! No, today would be perfect, because today was her big sister's Sweet Sixteen and Amelia would allow it to be no other way. Taylor caught her eye-roll and shot her a grin before, of course, sprinting directly for the kitchen - and promptly slamming face-first into a quickly grown wall of bone.

"Dad, that's cheating!" Taylor grumbled from the floor, checking if her nose was okay. She's taken worse, Amelia mused, thinking back to last year's Christmas. Serves her right for trying to sneak a peek the night before, of course. The pitiful girl wriggling around on the floor going cross-eyed to check for crookedness refused to allow any surprise to be left alone.

"I'm cheating?! You know the rule! No peeking before the cake is on the table!" The indignant response was slightly muffled by the thin, porous layer of bone, and neither of the girls needed to see through it to picture the smirk on their father's face.

"What happened to no powers in the house?" was the grumbled reply from the floor, where Taylor still lay.

"That's for you, Taylor, if and when you get your own! I won't bring the house down, and Amelia isn't going to turn Frankie into a monster any time soon," his voice called out, brimming with smugness. At the mention of his name, the mint-toothpaste-colored ball of slime oozed out of the bony barrier and flubbed his way onto Taylor's lap, blinking up at her with one newly-grown eye. Deciding against spending the rest of the day on the floor, the birthday girl extricated herself from her own ball of knees and elbows, cradling Frankie and giving one last once-over to her nose before that grin came back.

"Do you think it's gonna happen soon?! I want to work with you and Ames on the Boardwalk!" Amelia rolled her eyes, thinking back to the hours and hours spent with her sister discussing possible powers and costumes. Her own powers had shown up just two years ago, when Taylor broke her ankle on one of her morning runs.

"It'll happen when it happens, mon petit ouiseau, now get in here and help me eat this cake!" Taylor scrambled with supernatural speed into the kitchen the moment the bone-wall lowered, skittering into a chair and rocking it back with the force of her entry. Upon confirming her supervillainous father was not, in fact, eating her birthday cake, she grabbed a fork and knife to cut a piece of the two-tiered chocolate-frosted masterpiece for herself. "Why yes, father dearest, thank you so much for baking this delicious cake all by yourself! Why, you even remembered the fudge filling! Oh I love you so very much!" The mocking, high tones of her father's impersonation of Taylor greeted Amelia as she took her own seat more carefully and cut a slice of her own.

"So, tell me about your days?" Dad took a seat across from them and cut his own, significantly larger, slice of cake as Taylor looked at him with the most soul-felt look of betrayal in the history of mankind before shoveling her own slice of cake into her mouth and forgetting all about it. Taylor nudged her sister with her foot, prompting her to answer first. There's no point putting it off, you know, Amelia said with her eyes, before indulging her big sister as they both knew she would.

"Biology's been hard to fake being dumb at, but I'm managing regular A's without correcting the teacher," she answered, remembering how mortified she was the first day back after her trigger. It's not my fault Ms. Platt can't graph the biological storage coefficient of quadrihelical DNA strands... "Oh, and that Brigade girl is still giving me funny looks. I think she knows about you but can't bring herself to do anything about it." Her dad nodded, expecting as much. Amelia shot her sister a pointed look, your turn, and nudged her back with her foot, exactly as hard as necessary. "Taylor's day was much more interesting though!"

Renewing her look of ultimate betrayal, Taylor winced as her dad's attention switched to her. Casting one last baleful glance at her sister, she slowly started answering with, "Well... I may have accidentally... completely by mistake and not at all intentionally... kicked a Nazi in the balls?" As Amelia wondered once again how one accidentally inflicts testicular trauma on a neo-Nazi, their father was much less amused.

"Taylor, what have I told you about fighting in school?" Recognizing the beginnings of an argument on her lips, he quickly interjected, "I don't care who started it, you continued it! You and I both know the principal knows exactly who you're related to and she's just begging you to give her a good enough reason to expel you!"

"Dad, he called me a-"

"I don't care what he called you! You had a responsibility to walk away! When you're in that building, no matter what, you play nice, do you understand?"

"But he-"

At this, their father quickly stood up and pointed into Taylor's face as Amelia shrank back. Recognizing the beginnings of anger, she silently wished Taylor would know better than to argue back. "I said I don't-"

Whatever Marquis didn't was never finished, as at that exact moment, a hardlight javelin speared through the window, through the back of his head, and continued on out the inner left corner of his right eye socket before burying itself into the polished wood surface of the kitchen table, pinning his skull on top of the two-tiered, fudge-filled chocolate birthday cake. Taylor's gaze was drawn to the way his blood began pooling over the side of the cake; it almost looks like raspberry syrup, she deliriously thought. Amelia and Taylor quietly sat, stunned, for what felt both entirely too short and far too long of a time.

DESTINATION

AGREEMENT