Voyager Shadows: Poor Little Rich Girl
Chapter 8: A new assignment
Voyager Headquarters: Tribunal Briefing Room
Phineas, Jeffrey and Michelle sat quietly across from Councilor Garth's desk and waited for him to gather his parchments into place and collect his thoughts. His giant grandfather clock ticked and whirled as the minutes dragged on. A sigh escaped Jeffrey and Bogg bumped his knee. Jeffrey lowered his head and pursed his lips so he wouldn't laugh. Garth just finished explaining the Intel that Voyager Headquarters collected on the Seekers, but there wasn't much to go on. With Drake involved, Phineas knew the Seekers weren't looking for truth and enlightenment, they were being trained to destroy and conquer. The only way to accomplish their goal was to gain the upper hand over the Voyager Realm.
Garth cleared his throat. "I must commend both you and Voyager Jones for a vital mission well accomplished. You two prove what it means to be a superior team and set the standards for excellence in both your Shadow assignments and Field missions."
"Thank you, Councilor." Phineas said humbly.
"Yes, thanks." Jeffrey added. "But now we have a big problem. How do we stop the Seekers?"
"We have two issues at hand. One is that we know very little of their organization. We must find a copy of the Seeker book of Knowledge. We need to know exactly how they think and reason, what their goals are, and plans to obtain them. All that is surely in the book."
"That's probably like finding a needle in a haystack." Phineas said disappointed. "It's not like you can just pick it up at the library."
"Hey, don't knock the library, Bogg. I'm always taking a voyage there. You want to learn history? It's all in books." Jeffrey said, teasing him.
"Nerd." Phineas groaned.
"Yeah, don't worry, Bogg." Michelle grinned. "We have a new Voyager Aide working on the project. Natalie is trying to gather all the research she can on this book. At least we know half of it is our own Guidebook."
Jeffrey cupped a hand over his mouth and snorted a laugh. "Well, that Bogg wouldn't know about either."
Phineas wagged a fist at him. "That's why we have you here."
"Our other goal is to find Voyager Drake. Bogg and Jeffrey surely understand what that entails." Garth finished.
"Yeah, a lot of history hopping and dead ends. If we catch that fool then the rest of the dominoes will fall fast." Jeffrey said.
"We need to expose his contacts here at Headquarters, it could be anyone, maybe even our friends." Phineas mused.
"I have Natalie working on that too." Michelle said.
"You're gonna work that poor girl into the ground." Jeffrey laughed.
"She loves it, she said learning about the Voyagers was the best thing that ever happened to her…and she digs that she can use all this futuristic equipment in her own time. Well, she also said that getting her family back together again was amazing too." Michelle blushed.
Phineas stared at her bemused. "Now what could that possibly mean?"
"Mary, why don't you tell them the news?" Garth told her, smiling.
Michelle stood up and took a deep breath. "This week is my last week at Voyager Headquarters. I'm going into semi-retirement. I've been away from my baby for too long. I'm going home for good and I'll assist her from time to time as a Voyager Aide."
Jeffrey and Phineas jumped up and hugged her. "Michelle, that's great! Did you keep contact with her?" Jeffrey asked.
"Yes, Jeffrey. Every day since you both saved her life. I know it hasn't been that long though." She wiped tears from her eyes. "We couldn't hide it from Kevin. He knows everything. He still finds it hard to believe but he's willing to put all his resources into helping the Voyager cause. He and I…we're trying to make it work again."
Phineas pretended to wipe a tear. "I love happy endings."
"Me too. This is like a bizarre romance novel. I'm just giving him a chance to catch up to me in age. I don't want to be older than my man. But we've already seen each other a few times. He doesn't care if I'm a hundred, as long as I'm alive and well." She smiled shyly.
"Seriously, Michelle, that's wonderful news! Kevin and I talked a lot. That man never stopped loving with you." Phineas grinned.
"That makes two of us."
Jeffrey cracked up with laughter. "Whaddya know? A Voyager Aide family. The Voyager Brady bunch. That's awesome. I guess you'll be working directly with us?"
"Yes!" Garth spoke up. "And speaking of that, gentlemen, the Tribunal has reviewed your records with a fine tooth comb and we have a brand new assignment for the both of you. You can thank Mary for the push in your favor."
Phineas and Jeffrey came to attention. "What's that, Councilor?"
"Now that we know the Seekers are trying to infiltrate our Shadow operations, they will target our candidates, just as they did with Natalie. Jeffrey, when you saved Jaiden in 2019, one of our 21st Century Aides discovered that a Seeker hired the shooter off the streets that night. They specifically targeted Jaiden."
Jeffrey's face blanched. "No kidding? I don't believe this! These guys are playing for keeps. It's insane."
"That is why the Tribunal and I decided to instill a new Voyager Shadow Task Force, and we want you both to spearhead the group. The main purpose is to start keeping track of all the Seekers in history. Your members are to observe and report, and above all, keep the field Voyagers safe to correct history and protect the candidates at all costs. You must work closely with the Aides and train and supervise the other Shadow members. So far you have the Powers family and Jaiden Hoyt under you. It is imperative that Voyagers are one step ahead of the Seekers at all times; otherwise the flux of history will be destroyed. Are you up to the challenge?"
Phineas and Jeffrey took deep breaths and they released them at the same time.
"Let's show this team what it really means to be a Voyager. Whaddya say, Jeff?" Phineas grinned.
Jeffrey leaned forward ecstatic and shook Garth's hand. "Does an omni have red and green lights? Of course we're up for it! You got yourself a task force, Councilor!"
"Looks like it's a done deal." Phineas laughed.
"I will tell the Tribunal your decision and they will set up a center of operations, which will also include a duplicate Omnibus to track the Shadow omnis. I'm very sorry to say that until we filter out our leak in Headquarters, we have to be very wary about everyone in the Omni Control Center. You will both receive proper training on how operate the new Omnibus." Garth advised them.
"Our Mansion can be used for Shadow meetings, boys." Michelle offered. "And Natalie gave me a contact date for you. She said to look her up in the year 1972. By then she completes her Academy and Aide training and is better equipped to serve the team."
"Sounds fine. But she'll miss us for those eight years on earth time. We'll certainly miss her." Phineas said.
"You're only a communicator and omni away boys, don't be strangers to us."
Wisconsin: Spring, 1972
Two weeks after the Tribunal gave Phineas and Jeffrey the green light for the Task Force; they decided to gather for the first meeting in the Powers Mansion. It was imperative to discuss the delegation of responsibilities for the current five members, the main objective of the team, and review Seeker information that Natalie and Michelle uncovered while playing history detectives. It was up to Phineas and Jeffrey to meet the other applicants on the list to see if they qualified. The Tribunal expected the team fully operational within three months time.
"Well, Bogg, we made it. This place is gorgeous, secluded, and has an awesome swimming pool. Hey, we can have group barbecues." Jeffrey kidded as they walked up the path.
"Jeff, we're not here to lounge, we're here to work." Phineas scolded.
"Come on, I was just saying. All work and no play makes Jeffrey a grouchy Voyager. You remember what having fun was like, don't you, Bogg?"
Phineas glanced at him bemused. "Yeah, wise guy. I still know how to kick up my heels, but like Kevin always says…"
"There's a time and place for everything…I know, I know. That proverb is as old as the hills."
They rang the bell and the door opened wide. Jeffrey's jaw dropped and his cheeks flushed. Natalie Powers matured into a beautiful woman. She dressed comfortably in tan bell-bottom pants and a fitted lavender tee shirt with dark brown boots. She styled her layered blonde hair in a long ponytail over one shoulder. A wide smile enveloped her face.
"Hello, I have an appointment this afternoon, I believe someone needed a Chauffeur?" Phineas grinned.
"Cheese head! I'm so glad you're here! It's been forever!"
Jeffrey turned around laughing. All Phineas needed was the Wisconsin cheese wedge hat to fit the image. He'd be sure to get him one before they left.
"I know we passed each other on and off while I was at the Academy but I chose to take most courses from home." She dabbed her eyes to prevent tears from ruining her prettily designed black make-up. It made her green-eye color pop.
"Come in! Please! Mom and dad told me you were coming. They're not here. They went on a Hawaiian vacation for their anniversary a few days ago."
"What? Already skipping out on the meetings? We'll have to have a talk with those two." Phineas laughed.
"Well, Mom likes to consider herself a 'consultant' nowadays. But she puts in a lot of research for the cause. Dad's 'on call' but his heart is still with the wine and cheese, so we're going to have a great meeting tonight." She giggled.
"I'm all for a glass of fine wine." Jeffrey mumbled.
As Phineas passed the threshold, Natalie hugged him tight. "I'm so happy we're together again. This is going to be a big adventure."
"It's great to be here. You look amazing, sweetheart. What are you now, twenty-one, two?"
Natalie chuckled. "Try twenty-four. Well you boys haven't aged a day. I need to learn the Voyagers secret of youth."
"Maybe one day I'll show you the fountain, but right now you look fresh as a daisy." Phineas joked. "Ah, twenty-four, so young. That's about the time I picked up Jeff. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and sometimes I think we've been partners for a thousand years."
Natalie stared at Jeffrey. "And aren't you happy you dragged him with you, Phineas?"
"It has its moments." He nudged Jeffrey, who kept unusually quiet.
"Hey, listen, being a Voyager is great fun, but we can't forget about the dangers of the Seekers, Natalie." Jeffrey spoke up concerned.
He thought of the swamp, and how he briefly touched her hand before the killer dragged her underwater. He never wanted anyone on his watch to come so close to death again. It disturbed him for a while afterwards. He finally retired Phineas' old omni and had a state-of the art exact replica made. The original proudly sat on display in their complex next to a photo from when Jeffrey was twelve. Phineas posed dumbfounded while Jeffrey stood on his head with his legs opened like a 'V.' It was classic Bogg and Jeff humor.
Jeffrey didn't mean to sour the good mood, but a keen desire to keep Natalie safe at all times kicked him full force. "Umm, I mean, the Seekers know where you live, and they also know that you're a Voyager Aide. We have to take extra precautions."
Natalie slipped from Phineas' arms and faced him. "We'll discuss that. I'm willing to take the risk, just like you both could have died for me when I was nothing but a dumb, spoiled teenager."
Jeffrey moved closer, unsure what to do. "Maybe you were, but you were certainly worth it." He smiled. "I'll never forget how brave you acted out there and fought off that creep."
"Really? I remember acting like a helpless infant."
"There's nothing helpless about you." He complimented her. "After we start training you'll be a force to be reckoned with."
Natalie fidgeted and stroked her hair. As she stared into Jeffrey's soft brown eyes, desire welled inside her. She recalled the night he rescued her and how he touched her face. Natalie always cherished the warm contentment she felt being in Jeffrey's presence for that short moment.
Jeffrey put out his hand to her. Natalie gazed at it and pushed it aside. Jeffrey sighed and they fell into a soothing hug.
Phineas smiled, unable to conceal his delight. He slowly walked away to check out the décor. Not much changed in eight years; the Powers family preferred classic furnishings that always came back in style. He visited the music room and was glad to see Natalie kept the harp on prominent display.
Jeffrey pulled away from Natalie, but kept ahold of her waist. She inched nearer.
"So, where do we conduct this top-secret meeting?" He grinned. "In the panic room?"
"Oh we have those, but there's a big useless parlor next to the music room. I converted it to a mini-Headquarters station with all the latest technology, it's so groovy."
Jeffrey laughed. "Groovy. I haven't heard that word in ages. I see you got some bead curtains going on too." He pointed at the entrance to the parlor.
"Now that I've seen the future, I realize it's classic 'seventies.' You'll probably see all the customary trappings around except the bong and hookah."
Jeffrey chuckled. He already felt light-headed and giddy around her. The conversation lulled as they eyed each other gently. Jeffrey tightened his grip and Natalie clutched the back his neck and drew him close. She ran her fingers through his long curls and kissed him softly on the cheek. Her lips faintly brushed his mouth. "Thanks for dropping into my life Jeffrey Jones. I hope you plan to stay for a long time." She whispered.
Her cheeks glowed and she casually walked away to announce to the other team members that their group leaders had arrived.
Phineas saw it was safe to come out and went to Jeffrey's side. He waved a hand over his face, but Jeffrey kept dazed and rooted to the spot. Phineas cupped his ear.
"Are those knees I hear knocking? Is that a heartbeat or a jackhammer?"
Jeffrey ignored him as he contemplated all of Natalie Powers. He would not let her slip through his fingers.
Phineas tapped him. "Hey you, NO romance while the omni is red."
Jeffrey broke his stupor. "What? Where? Who made up that dumb rule anyway?"
"Some know-it-all kid from 1982." Phineas patted his shoulder. "Hmm, who would've guessed it? And I thought she liked the blonde type."
"Not after they meet Italian stallions." Jeffrey bragged. "She's probably sick of blonde men in her life, no offense to you and Kevin…and every other guy in this sweet, white-bread town."
"Ahh, okay. Twenty-four years old…you're twenty-six…Now I quite understand why she chose 1972." He grinned slyly.
"I love when you finally catch on." Jeffrey couldn't contain his wide-mouthed smile. "I'm counting on a very good year."
Phineas rolled his eyes. The Bogg torch was passed. Jeffrey at last discovered what was really important.
"So, are you ready, Shadow Leader?"
Jeffrey straightened up and fixed his collar. Natalie was right. Adventure awaited them.
"I certainly am, Shadow Leader. Let's go meet our Task Force."