Maybe We Really Win

Stokley and Marybeth are sitting on the bleachers in the gym; Marybeth was one row above and to the left of Stokley. Are we going to win? she thought. Can we or is it too late? She wasn't sure if it's really possible at this point. She was even less sure of how she felt. She liked Stan, at least until he was taken or did she? She was beginning to suspect it was only because of Delilah, that she even noticed him. It doesn't matter, she thought, all the alien stories she had ever read ended with them winning. It especially doesn't matter, since she felt sure in suspecting that Marybeth was the queen alien. I guess if you're going to go, it might as well be by the best.

She gazes about the gym noticing how the streamers are moving like tentacles, like her tentacles in her true form, rhythmically. This has not gone well, she mused. I really wish that I hadn't come here. I wanted to find a new home for myself and my people not a world to conquer. The neophytes got too excited, she mused. The neophytes were the adolescents of her kind, which had been altered to bond with a host of another species. This was what the scientists of her world deemed their best hope for survival. So, the genetically modified the next generation to need a host, preferably on a new world that wouldn't be soon to dry out and die. They would forfeit their identity as a species, but gain a new world and be half of a new species. But the neophytes were too excited. They bonded to these humans without asking permission, and took over their hosts, not sharing a body and becoming one with them. Fortunately, she contained within herself the remaining unbound neophytes. Perhaps there was still a way to salvage this venture, perhaps if Stokley could be convinced to help. She liked Stokley a great deal, in just a few encounters she had introduced a variety of different concepts, like mating without thought to procreation.

Stokley spoke interrupting her line of thought. "I was beginning to think that the only alien here was me."

After a pause she said, "That's not the case. Who do you think it is, the master alien, the queen bee?" Marybeth smiled to herself, the queen bee was such an apt comparison. She was pleased that she was competent enough with this language that she could be honest without being obvious.

"Could be anyone," Stokley replied. Like you she added in her mind.

"How does it turn out, the invasion of the body snatchers?" Marybeth asked.

"Simple, they win, we lose."

"Do we? Maybe we really win. Stan looked happy."

Stokley reached out, pulled Marybeth closer and kissed her. Her hand lingered on Marybeth's cheek. She whispered, "You'd know if he was happy. I know you are the queen." She stroked Marybeth's face. "Why didn't you take us when you had the chance, all the chances you've had?" She was afraid, but thought that Marybeth would be kind enough to make it quick and painless.

Marybeth smiled her bright Georgia smile. "How did you figure it out?"

"First I saw you with Delilah, in the science room. You dragged her behind a lab bench. You had a second alone with her, that would have been enough. Then during the test you tipped your head back and then Delilah's alien took over and no one was watching. Your reaction to the drug was too delayed and too forced. Very good, subtle, but I saw." She paused Marybeth was nodding, not attacking. "But... It must have hurt watching two of your people die to protect your identity. Or don't you have feelings like ours? Why didn't you take us all over then. we were certainly distracted." Fucking Christ she had so many chances, she shuddered thinking about the numerous times and was she could have died that day.

Marybeth caught her hand and held it against her face. She let one of her finger turn back into a tentacle and with the tentacle she caressed Stokes from her fingers, up her arm, and finally to her face. Stokes flinched at first but soon relaxed and enjoyed her touch. It was easier if she didn't let herself notice the tentacle. "We have feeling similar to yours, not as intense and we have more control over them." She paused. "Yes it did hurt to let Furlong die and to kill Drake myself. But honestly," she lowered her voice. "Furlong's symbiote was a headstrong idiot, who wanted to take you all in himself and take all the credit. He didn't listen when I let it be known that your group of would-be rebels was not to be interfered with. Sadly, most of the neophytes bound to humans know my mind voice, but not the body I wear. Drake, knew who I was but was afraid that you did too. She wanted to lure you out for my safety. She was so painfully surprised when I threw the scat at her, but she understood before she died."

Stokley had a hard time taking this in. She looked at Marybeth's tentacle, it was reminiscent of a squid's but without suction cups. It felt slick, cool, but not bad. It would have felt very nice if she wasn't so scared. "You wasted all the scat on Drake, clever." She paused, looking into Marybeth's eyes. "I don't get it. Why did you come to this world? Why Ohio? Why didn't you make the attack more coordinated and subtle once we found out? Why didn't the symbiotes, the bound let/make their hosts appear more normal? I've read a great deal, I have a guess or two. But if you're not going to enslave me now, I want you to tell me." Stoke's mind was still a muddle, not believing that she could sit so calmly talking to an alien who has at least appeared to trying to conquer the world. If this goes badly, if I can get away, if Zeke found more scat...

Marybeth smiled again. "I knew I chose well. No, slavery is not what it's about, nor monarchy, it's about symbiosis. You know like the Trill in Star Trek. Except things didn't go as planned, it takes days for a neophyte to properly bind to their host. So, the neophytes aren't communicating with their hosts, they're pulling the strings. But their hosts aren't totally powerless, strong emotions force actions from the neophytes. Thus everyone is off, their actions are jerky."

Stokes snorted in amusement, "So that's why Ms. Burke reamed Zeke so harshly and the game was so blood thirsty."

"Yep, the same reason why Coach Willis and Mrs. Olsen attacked Ms. Drake prior to her commutation, why Casey is currently being reamed by Delilah, and why Zeke's life is a bit more interesting now."

"Currently... Are you telepathic or otherwise linked?"

Marybeth smiled, "You guessed right, take me out and all the neophytes die. But only until they're fully linked to their hosts, then we'll lose the telepathy and they can live without me. I rather wish the geneticists found a way to make the telepathy permanent."

"So what's the deal and who are your people anyway? You're species modified itself to invade new and exciting worlds?" Stokley asked. She traced the curve of her cheek.

"We are the Riiiishanawww," to Stokes' ears it was a shriek and a growl. "Our world was dying, drying out. It was all ocean, beautiful, I miss it. When it started happening our people began preparations to survive. Some researched making us less dependent on water, others for getting the water back, my group looked for new worlds to settle. Soon we found there to be no other ocean worlds anywhere nearby. We looked at several worlds including Earth, and came to the conclusion that since we couldn't yet survive on a dry world, we had to change our self to a for that could live symbiotically with the native life. I was one of several chosen to carry my people, our next generation, to find a new home. I've traveled and searched for over a millennia, before I came here. I landed in Georgia first, where I bound to Marybeth. I learned from her, about your cultures, how you live, everything. We're one now. My Marybeth self really did lose her parents and came here to live with relatives."

"How do I know you're not just saying this? How do I know that Marybeth is still herself with an alien partner?"

"I still have friends in Georgia. Would that prove it to you, if they would verify that I am as they remember me? Or would you suspect they have neophyte symbiotes too? Other than that, there's no way for me to prove it."

"Honest enough. So why talk to me?

"As I said, enslaving humans wasn't the plan, but to an extent it's happened. I need help to change that. I especially want your help. Among other things your knowledge of science fiction, and your perspective as a female lead me to ask. Our people have no concept of gender or sexuality, we're all hermaphroditic, reproduction is an exchange of gametes, over in a few minutes. The genders and sex are the most confusing concepts to the neophytes."

"Like I have a sex life? I don't know that much about gender, and not much more than the watered-down stuff taught in school about sex. Maybe I can help though. How long did it take for you and the few others to properly join with your host/ for the human to accept you? What does it take? How about the humans? What do they need to accept you? Besides asking their permission in a way that the understand both what they give up and gain..." Stokes stopped herself, her usual cynicism came back to her voice, "Why should I help you? If you're not taking over my home world, then you're radically changing it. What are you plans, beyond survival?"

"I don't really have plans, just making this world better. I'm the leader, but only until we're all safely assimilated to our new home. As to why to help or at least not stop..." Stokley was about to protest but Marybeth pressed her tentacle to her lips. "Don't bother, I know you're still considering killing me, I would if I were you. Think of this, what would happen if I was killed and all humans were solely themselves? Would you go back to your lonely life, could you? Would anything change? You know what your life was, but see this situation as an opportunity. The known of what your life was or the new unknown we can build together..." Marybeth unfurled more tentacles and caressed Stokes as she leaned closer and kissed her cheek. Stokes caught her and kissed her on the lips.

"I like you Marybeth even if you carry a Riii," she stumbled over the shrieky pronunciation.

They heard someone enter the building and then banging on the doors. Marybeth already knew it was Casey, with the Riii-bound football team just behind. Stokes noticed and stumbled down the bleachers as Marybeth shifted to her fully Riii shape. Marybeth was beautiful in a way Stokley didn't yet understand and wouldn't for a time to come. Casey runs up from behind where she's gawking, grabs her elbow as she's forced to run with him. They're half way to the door to the pool before Marybeth leaps down and begins chasing them. Marybeth was rather wishing that Casey would stop for a second, so they might have a meaningful discussion. I guess it won't be as easy Stokes was, she thought. Stokley wished she had more time to talk with Marybeth, she's made her decision, but wanted to know more, kiss her more. Casey simply ran, he was scared and would feel the hurt from Delilah's comments as soon as he stopped.

An instant after they entered the natatorium, Marybeth dove into the pool. She reveled in the feel of water against her flesh, despite the chemicals, as she swam to the other side. She saw Stokes and Casey running. almost to the door. Marybeth wanted to share some of this with Stokley, the freedom of water. She reached with one of her tentacles and caught her ankles. Being grabbed by the ankles pitched Stokes forward, just as her chin was going to hit the ground another tentacle shot out, breaking her fall. It still hurt and would probably leave a bruise, but at least it wasn't broken, like a direct impact to the tile floor would have caused. Stokley was slightly dazed as she was pulled through the water by her ankles. Several other tentacles came toward her, one went over her mouth and nose, another supported her as the tentacle at her ankles let go. Yet another tentacle went to the back of her head; she could feel a few tendrils along her neck as they

penetrated, she could feel them in her neck, her head... She tried to scream despite the tentacle over her mouth and being under water, to discover that there was air coming from the tentacle, she writhed trying to get away. In her mind she screamed, I can't believe I was beginning to trust her. That bitch, why did she talk if she was planning to just take me over like this...

In her mind she heard Marybeth, :I'm not taking anything from you, I just wanted to talk. Please stop squirming, I haven't even begun to do anything interesting to you yet.: Stokley could feel over tones of amusement and annoyance from Marybeth.

Stokley stopped squirming and relaxed into Marybeth's grasp, she felt surprisingly safe. She thought, This is rather comfortable, rather like a cross between a hammock and waterbed.

:I'm glad you feel safe, perhaps this will help you feel more... comfortable.: Stokes couldn't place the curious lilt to her thought, but a second later she had no doubt that it was lust.

Marybeth slid a tentacle across Stokley's breasts, very gently, but enough that her nipples began to tighten. Marybeth caressed her from cheek to thigh with another tentacle.

Stokley gasped and blushed a bit. :Not fair! I don't even know what is sensitive on your Riii self. Besides this underwater stuff is a bit on the kinky side for me. What happened to little Miss I-don't-know-about-sex?: She sighed in delight as Marybeth continued stroking her. Not knowing what else to so, Stokes stoked the tentacles nearest her. She tried to maneuver closer to the trunk of Marybeth's body, but the tentacles supporting her and giving her air always held her off. :What are you afraid of? If this is how my first time is going to be, I want to touch you too.: She thought to Marybeth.

She heard a giggle from Marybeth. :Oh my dear, you seem to be mistaken, this isn't going to be you first time. I'd like to share that with you in my human shape, I'm getting these ideas from my human half anyway. I'm just exploring...:

Her thoughts were cut off by Stokley who was trying to think as she writhed in her grasp. :You've come light years... just... to tease... : Stokley soon gave up trying to communicate with words, instead she sent feelings of pure lust at Marybeth. Those feelings showed Marybeth where Stokes wanted more attention, Marybeth used that information to tease her rather mercilessly. She continued writhing under five of Marybeth's stoking tentacles. The tentacles tugged at her clothes, and teased her as much as possible before finally removing them. The tentacle coming from the left seemed fond of her breasts, it kept curling around to try to pinch her nipples. It was clear, if a distant thought that Marybeth had never tried to apply her tentacles this way before. Another tentacle caressed along her spine, another tentacle at her feet seemed to be trying to tickle her, but she was aroused enough that it only made her more aroused. The other two tentacles stroked her side, occasionally darting in to rub her inner thigh and ever so briefly touching her clit, labia, or perineum. Stokley moaned, or as much as one could with a tentacle shaped, mouth-piece. Stokes tried to get closer, but couldn't, soon she even found her hands and feet restrained by the tentacles. Marybeth shifted shape, but left the tentacles as extensions of her fingers. She was now quite naked and made sure she got Stokes to look at her. Despite moaning and flailing Stokes managed a coherent thought. :Why don't you come over here?: She thought suggestively, :I could make you feel as good as your making me.: She thought to her of stroking Marybeth as she was doing to her and the many amusing and arousing things one could do with a tongue.

:Not yet. Didn't you tell me that doing this underwater was too kinky? So I think we'll wait till later to finish.: Pleading thoughts came to her. :No don't beg, we can do that later too.: Marybeth withdrew the tendrils and tentacles from Stokley's body and swam to the edge of the pool and got out. Stokley joined her though she was a bit unsteady, especially walking. Stokes glared at Marybeth with much unrequited lust. Marybeth chuckled. "Shall we find the boys? I think they're both in the school somewhere, no one has seen them recently."

Stokes continued to glare, "Let's hope we find Zeke first, it would be easier to convince Casey things are okay if we had his help too." They went into the boys locker room and quickly found Zeke.

"Hey, why are you two naked?" were the first words from his mouth, doing a double take and then leering a bit. "Casey said something about one of those fucking aliens chasing you two," he said to Stokley. "Why are you wet?"

Stokley took the lead and put an arm around Marybeth and smiled. "Okay, I lied about not being a lesbian."

"But, but... Marybeth! Did...," He stuttered but, quickly recovered. "You know if you two girls want to have a good time, I'm always up for a party, just the three of us," he said with a leer.

Stokes gave a disgusted look. Marybeth just laughed, "Only if you bring enough scat for all of us."

"I can fix you up," he said with a smile, "after the alien gets his." Zeke waved the last couple of tubes of scat. Stokes mentally congratulated Marybeth on getting Zeke to show off the last of the scat. If Marybeth could flirt with him enough, she could take the scat. Maybe I'm nuts, she thought, an few hours ago I would never have considered this. Marybeth was right a new world might be better than the one she's always known, perhaps she meant all of those platitudes about making life good for everyone. But maybe I should take precautions...

Casey quietly came out from behind the locker. "She's the alien," he said quietly. Before Zeke could gape in denial, Stokes grabbed the scat and took off down one of the aisles of lockers. She turned several times, ignoring the commotion behind her.

They all were calling for her, each for their own reasons. Both Zeke and Casey horrified at her betrayal of the human race, but deeper than that Zeke hurt boy cum drug dealer wanted a return to the status quo. He may not have had a position before the alien takeover, but he was higher up than the class outcast and herself outcast-by-choice. In Casey's voice she heard his anger at the loss of a silent ally and reminder that life begins after high school. Curiously she could only hear concern and list from Marybeth, perhaps she understands what I'm doing. She hear someone coming after her and Zeke screaming then begging not to die. Stokley stopped at a bank of lockers; 1342, what an appropriate pair of numbers, she thought. Too salient since it was Casey who was following her. She pushed the tubes of scat through the vent on the locker next to it and circled back to where Marybeth held the now whimpering Zeke.

Casey found her before she got back. "How could you? Where is it?" He pelted her with those words and others, but prudently took a few steps back.

"I'm not an alien, so you can stop backing away. As for the scat, Marybeth enlightened me to a few choice bits of what's really going on, I still have doubts so I wanted an insurance policy." Stokley saw that there's no need to bother lying, since it would be obvious soon enough. I think Zeke is done crying, shall we go back and be proper hosts and representatives of Earth?" She asked with her usual sarcasm.

Casey was hesitant as one could expect, "Are you sure it's safe? Can you prove you're not one of them?"

"I like to think it's safe, Marybeth is my girlfriend, fuck-buddy, something; so I hope so. I can't prove that I'm human," she said.

"So it's true, you're a dyke and with an alien. So why didn't she take you over?" he asked.

"I think it's because she likes me," she replied. They returned to Marybeth and Zeke. She looked a bit exacerbated and he looked scared, but covered it with arrogance.

Stokes said, "I'm kinda hungry, shall we talk to Marybeth over dinner?"

Casey shrugged, "Sure."

Zeke snorted, "What, are us real humans going to be the main course?"

"Don't be stupid Zeke. If we wanted you dead or as dinner, we wouldn't be having this conversation," said Marybeth. "Let's hit the pizza place down town."

"Is it really open?" asked Casey.

"I'm sure it will be, I have connections." Marybeth wriggled her eyebrows and smiled knowingly. They drove downtown in Ms. Drake's sports car. They had no interference, only seeing a handful of people going about their business. It was eerie in it normalcy. There was a good number of their fellow high school students at the pizzeria, like after any game on Friday night. They were a little too quiet and too well behaved. There was an empty table with four seats waiting for them. They drew stares as they sat down and there was a murmur of gossip. Delilah, Elizabeth, and Stan looked on form a neighboring table.

"Marybeth, can you do something about that?" Stokes nodded toward their schoolmates. "They're squiking me out." Marybeth got a distant look in her eye and suddenly those staring found somewhere else to look and spoke in regular tones about the usual teenage things. It was the most normal moment since the aliens came.

"How did you do that?" Casey asked.

Marybeth explained as she had to Stokes, amid Casey and Zeke snorting in distaste. "So I would like your help, if you're willing," she finished.

"If we're not, are you really going to let us walk out? Or are you going to turn us into more of your lackeys?" Zeke asked cynically.

"Listen to the opportunity we have here, we have a chance to be significant voices in changing the world. We can be who we really are, not what we have been forced to become," said Stokley.

"Seems to me you're just making a human fifth column, any way you can," said Casey looking pointedly at Stokley. She just glared back.

"Since you're that determined, why don't you walk out and see for your self. I've made it quite clear that you three are to be left alone. You can even leave tonight, but I think Delilah and Elizabeth would appreciate if you both reconsidered," Marybeth said.

"I wouldn't call Elizabeth's behavior leaving me alone," Zeke complained.

"From what I heard of it, Zeke, she was flirting with you as much as she wanted to capture you. If you spend any more time with her tonight, things might get interesting," said Stokes with a sly smile. "The same if you spend time with Delilah, Casey."

"Like he said, they're getting a fifth column any way they can. I can't believe you betrayed us Stokes," said Zeke.

"Casey," she implored. "Did you enjoy being beaten up and harassed everyday? If we killed off the aliens now, do you think things will be any different?"

Casey looked like he might be listening. Zeke said in a pained voice "Don't listen to her!" Delilah and Elizabeth came over to the table.

"With all due respect Beloved Mother, you're getting no where, let me try," said Elizabeth. She looked Zeke in the eye. "May I have some of you're time, Zeke?"

"What if I don't trust you not to try anything?" asked Zeke.

"If you were listening, Marybeth is the only one of us who has symbiotes to spare. I won't try to kill you, I have other things in mind for you, if you're willing," she said with a glint in her eye. She took keys from her pocket and tossed them to him. "Since my words aren't enough, there's a car outside and a bench nearby,

I'll stay on the bench. If you feel like I'm threatening you, then drive away." Zeke grudgingly accepted and left with Elizabeth.

Delilah looked at Casey. "Why don't we talk? Come with me. My house is nearby, my parents would like to meet you."

"But they aren't you parents anymore," he sputtered.

"Of course they are! Granted, we all have dual personalities and our Riii selves are the same age. Our first conversation was stilted, but we'll get used to it," Delilah said. She smiled and held her hand out, "Come on."

"Same deal as with Zeke, no attempts on my life, right?" He asked dubiously.

"Well maybe just the little death," she said with a audacious side-long glance. Casey just blushed. The quickly left together.

"Now I have you all to myself," said Stokes, mimicking the glance Delilah gave Casey.

"Not so fast, my pretty," Marybeth said. "I want to create some sort of agenda for the town meeting tomorrow.

"Come on..." Stokes groaned.

"We'll just plan on the walk home, shall we?" Marybeth coaxed.

"Which home? We could go to my place, you could meet my mother and my little brother. Or we could go to your relatives place." Stokes suggested.

"Let's go to your place tonight, my aunt and uncle and their symbiotes don't expect me home tonight, but your mother does."

"A relationship with you would be interesting with that telepathic line to my mother," she said with sarcasm.

Marybeth put her hands up, "Hey, Jackie called me."

The left the pizzeria taking the long way to Stokes' house. Marybeth asked for Stokley's suggestions for making the symbiotic relationships work and for expanding it to include more than this town and part of the next one.

"I'm not really sure how a human/ Riii pair work. Actually I'd like to set up a little experiment if it's not too late. Can you tell 15 pairs to have a conversation between their halves, get to really know each other. I know it sounds sort of corny, but have them tell each other their life's story. Pick a third who get along really poorly, a third neutral and a third who get along well. Then pick another 15, also in thirds, to act more normal. I guess you can advise accordingly when we see how it works by tomorrow night."

"Sounds like a good plan." They walked in silence for a few minutes, Marybeth wore a distant look on her face. Stokes presumed she was relaying the instructions. "I'm not sure if any of that will work, but it beats doing nothing. There are many more neophytes I want to find hosts for."

"Whoa, slow down! I want to see human/ Riii pairs genuinely get along with each other, then fit into full-human society and creating a new one here. Besides we don't even know what reproduction will be like. Are you hoping for true hybrids? Or are the species to remain separate?" She paused, "Just how many more neophytes are there anyway?"

"About 3 million. As for reproduction, I don't know. Our geneticists told me their thoughts on different types of species we might bind to, sexual and asexual reproduction tend to clash, but there's still a chance to hybridize, especially if each of the Riii selves are firmly entrenched in their human self's body. I couldn't begin to guess how the DNA would mix or not."

"How about seeing if cross fertility works, one person's Riii self with the other's human self. It might only work with women, unless Riii selves are talented enough to make men carry young." Stokes giggled at the thought of pregnant men, but found it a compelling image.

"But for this meeting... Besides getting people to move on blending their selves together and fitting in; what do you think about the immediate future?

"Just that will take a while. If you're serious about making Earth better for everyone, we should work on the community here. There's what, maybe 5000 thousand pairs. I like the communal sort of plan, pool resources, needs for food and housing, outside debts, et cetera. We as a community need to look at environmental impact, if the Earth's to remain habitable we need to act now. It would also be nice to get more diversity in this community and deal with the "isms". When we have that down and built up a new culture based on symbiosis and a blend of the best human and Riii culture. Then we can invite people in, those who like what we're doing can be approached about becoming hosts. We can also look at recruiting hosts of various fields and of various positions in industry and government." This sort of thought made Stokes happy, it fell in with her make-your-own-world fantasies.

Marybeth smiled, she really did choose well, Stokes was as useful as she was good to have a relationship with. "I like it. We'll see what everyone else thinks too, maybe they'll have more ideas and plans for implementation. Will you present you're thoughts at the meeting?"

"Sure. We should also see how Casey and Zeke are in the morning about being two of three humans left in town. Assuming they can still walk in the morning," she said with a grin.

The were talking at Stokes' front door. "Speaking of still being able to walk in the morning..." She reached out to caress on of Stokes' breast, tweaked her nipple and ran to the back of the house laughing the entire way. Stokes sputtered and ran after her.

"I'll get you my pretty and you're pussy too!" She yelled panting after Marybeth. It was completely dark in the backyard. "Let me guess you can see in the dark too," she said. She heard a giggle in reply. Stokes followed the sound to the garden. She managed to grab and tickle Marybeth she was tweaked again.

Just then the flood light went on. "Hello," she heard her mother call out. "Who's back there?"

Stokes sighed and let go of the laughing Marybeth, who was now trying to stop laughing and look somewhat presentable a formal introduction to Stokes' mother. "It's Marybeth and I, Mom, we were just horsing around," she said.

"Why don't you both come in," Jackie called back. They went into the kitchen, where there was already tea for three set out. Marybeth wasn't kidding when she said her mother's Riii self called her, Stokes thought. The sat down at the table, and helped themselves to the assorted teas laid out.

"How are you tonight, Stokes?" Jackie asked.

"I'm ok, had a rough day though," she said guardedly.

"So I heard," Jackie said looking at Marybeth.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, in person, Ms. Mitchell," said Marybeth extending her hand. They shook hands.

"Thanks for letting me know where Stokes was. I was worried when I heard that there were some deaths at commutation tonight." Jackie said. "Then I didn't hear from you," she looked at Stokes, "and I was worried."

"Deaths, who died tonight besides Drake and Furlong?" asked Stokes. She noticed how calm but alert her mother was, who was neither freaking out nor drunk. Perhaps the Riii was having a good influence on her mother...

"There were a few older folks who weren't in as good health as we thought and the neophytes, that gave them their symbiotes were overly ambitious. I'm not sure if you knew them; Mrs. Clark, Mr. Rosenthal, and Mr. Sherman. They lived in the apartment building for older people, downtown. I'm sorry I didn't mention them earlier. Did you know any of them?"

"No I didn't know them. But Casey might have, he volunteered with an elderly visitation program a few years ago," she said sadly. "Thank-you for telling me." Stokes looked at her mother.

"Perhaps we should set up a memorial service for them," Marybeth suggested, thinking of the people she could assign the task to; there were a few who knew them. Stokes brightened a bit.

"Now then," Jackie said with finality, "I believe I interrupted something..." There was a twinkle in her eyes.

"Mom!" Stokley blushed as her mom left the room.

"She's right we do have unfinished business. I think there are a few more details to tomorrow's meeting that need to be considered," Marybeth said with a wry grin.

Stokes stared, unfinished business, two could play at that game. Then said "Let's discuss it in my room. I need to put away laundry before bed anyway."

Marybeth would have sputtered, but she was just joking; however it was late and perhaps Stokes was too tired to notice the innuendo. Repressing her desire for the moment, she followed Stokes up to her room. She thought of more fun things they could do tomorrow before the meeting.

"...then we can have each of the working groups give a synopsis of the their plans for the next week. What do you think?" She paused, "Marybeth? Were you listening?" Stokes asked noting a far off to Marybeth's eyes. She ushered Marybeth into her room, then started on the mound of laundry on her bed.

"I was listening, it was a great idea," Marybeth broke off looking at the posters and books around Stokes' room. Noticing this, Stokes continued talking about the meeting in a quiet monotone and quietly moved the laundry to a chair. She was murmuring sure and um-hums whenever Stokes paused, continuing to stare at the walls.

This was quite convenient for Stokes, she not only had enough time to remove her clothes, but also to get her handcuffs out. She went up to Marybeth in silence and handcuffed her. She didn't think this would hold her, but Stokes would use the few seconds before Marybeth could shape-shift well. She spun Marybeth around and threw on to the bed landing on top of her. "I believe we had unfinished business," she purred into Marybeth's ear.