Belle gave Angelique a sidelong glance. "Cats. Maybe we're descended from cats," she drawled before turning back to Charlotte.
"I always thought that was redheads…" Blaze said. "Heinlein thought so, and I agree." Blaze gives her first smile since this conversation started.
Angelique chuckled softly. "I adore redheads… perhaps its genetic." she gave Belle a knowing smile.
Belle stopped and examined her cuticles. "I wouldn't know about that," she replied nonchalantly, blowing on her nails. "I seem to be more-or-less omnivorous." Then she looked up and inclined her head in Blaze's direction. "I'll admit that _this_ redhead is pretty hot, though, pun intended. You'll probably want to find out for yourself, I expect."
"Anything's possible, I suppose." Blaze replied. She cast a glance over at Angelique. "I wonder if 'everything' is similar between you two…"
Belle resumed buffing her nails. "Like mother, like… daughters, I guess you could say."
"I don't think I'm quite as loud," Angelique grinned. She looked from Blaze to Belle, "But if mother's comment was accurate we do share a family trait…."
"Only if you substitute 'species' for 'family'," Belle added.
"I think we're going to have to talk about this at some point, assuming we live through this," she answered with a shake of her head. "What you've just said begs the question, I'm afraid. If a mutation survives to reproduce, that makes it viable, more so than the alternatives. If it successfully reproduces through enough generations, it goes from a mutation to the dominant strain. If not, it dies out. No middle of the road, except for isolated areas like Hawaii or the Galapagos, where you get plants and animals so specialized that they can't live anywhere else, and are endangered by just about anything that comes in from outside in the competition for resources. I mean, that's natural selection in a nutshell, right? The way it works with every thing that's ever lived on the planet--except, apparently, us. Oh yeah, I'd say we've got lots to talk about… later," she finished emphatically. Then, almost as an afterthought, "Did my mother really think about things like this?"
Charlotte nodded. "Yes, she did. Quite a bit in fact. Her skill with Bioempathic and Kinetic arts drew her to them I think."
"A mutant facet survives if it beneficial and aids survival or benign and doesn't influence one way or the other. There are myriad small factors in humanity alone that don't work one way or the other." Angelique said.
"Not to mention the fact that people are manipulating gene pools all the time, trying for a new cure, or a perfect body, or… psionics." Blaze tapped the side of her head meaningfully.
"That's as may be," Belle replied with a puzzled frown, "but it still begs the question. We are by no means a minor, recent mutation in a niche environment. The nature and scope just aren't comparable. We have a lot of genuine survival advantages, and yet we haven't proliferated. Though maybe there's a genetic predisposition to biting off more than we can chew," she added with a grimace. "So far, the theories and the facts, such as they are, don't add up. We're more different from genus Homo than gorillas are from chimpanzees--and they're considered different species. I think this bears closer examination."
"The differences may not be as extensive as you think… and there is always sentience to consider. It complicates matters." Charlotte said quietly.
Belle looked at her for a moment. Then she replied, "Let's see… life spans of supposedly hundreds or thousands of years… a fully hermaphroditic reproductive system, the likes of which don't exist in any terrestrial mammal--or in anything larger than an earthworm, I think… highly developed psychic abilities that can apparently be categorized and proven scientifically…a--what did you call it, a 'healing factor'--that modern human medicine hinders rather than helps…strength and agility that start out at levels which would be the best that humans can possibly achieve, and go up from there…eye color which humans can only get with contact lenses…All of these things you've either shown me or told me about, along with telling me point-blank the first time we met that we're not human, in so many words. No offense, but this all sounds pretty 'extensive' to me. Or are you referring to something else entirely?"
"Our physical bodies are a touch more developed than a humans, it stems from a deeper, more instinctive connection between our bodies and minds. We know our potential and even on an instinctive level can regulate it. Its an ability that like psionics, human can share and use but have do not actively develop. It does give us a physical and mental edge, that I won't deny. But we also have our drawbacks. Our reproductive system for one, is complicated and fragile, more so than a human's."
"But at least our testicles are nicely tucked out of harms way… thank God…" Angelique put in.
"I don't think 'God' had anything to do with it," Belle drawled. "The very fact that we exist throws any such notion onto the trash-heap of history. Knowing where our balls are does remove any lingering doubt I might have had about whether we could even breed with humans, though." This last was said with a knowing glance at Blaze.
Then: "And, yeah, I guess being able to lift 4-500 kilos, and run the 2:20 mile, are pretty undeniable 'edges'--not to mention the amount of punishment this carcass of mine soaks up," she added with a glance at her bandaged body. "As to 'drawbacks', I'd already been wondering whether our reproductive system might not be the Achilles' Heel of our kind: nature seems to have it balanced so that the longer something lives, the less it tends to reproduce. Seems kind of strange that our sex organs wouldn't be as tough as the rest of us, though, don't you think?"
"You want to give your conspiracy theories a real workout consider this…maybe we have ascended to power and no one knows it yet…" Angelique chuckled.
"Like I said, anything's possible…"
"But everything is not probable."Belle shrugged. "Well, if so, the only 'conspiracy theory' that that would serve to explain is the one about why the world is so fucked up," she retorted. "Anyway…"
"Art…and my mother…" Belle muttered as if she couldn't imagine saying both those words in the same breath. "She never gave me any sign of having an interest in art. But then, she never gave me a sign about much of anything. She never even said a word when I took up weightlifting, let alone karate or wrestling." She looked up at Charlotte. "About all I remember is the way she looked at me, like I said. Though now I think she saw you when she was looking at me. I'd like it if you'd fill in those blanks too, sometime."
"I apologize. Arts is a term for the different divisions of psionics skills…I'm so used to everyone knowing the jargon. I use it reflexively." Charlotte said.
"Don't mention it," Belle replied. "Once I'm well enough, though, I want to start learning about it… all of it." The tone of her voice reminded Charlotte that her long-lost offspring was spoiling to make up for lost time, and get her hands on the birthright which she had been denied for so long.
Then she turned to the redhead. "I don't mean to trivialize what you've been through, and like I said, I'm sorry you had to see any of it. You're right: we've all got our problems. On the other hand, I've spent pretty much my entire adult life, such as it is, in one kind of trouble or another--usually the kind where you don't know whether you're gonna live or die from one day to the next. And whatever you were before you became Blaze, I doubt--I hope--that you didn't have to live like that too."
"I don't know, Belle. I just don't. It's like all that information was ripped from my head, and put back in tiny pieces. I doubt it too. Being a doctor doesn't imply a 'street life', so I doubt I lived like you for very long, if at all. I don't even know how I survived the time I was on the streets…"
"This is all new to me. I think I'll go check on the others. Ms. St. Clair, if you'll just tell me when you're ready to go see Lauren, I'd really like to come with you." Blaze stood up and stretched, painfully aware of how short she was among these women.
"Thank you. I appreciate that. She pulled through really well." Blaze walked toward the door. "I need to find some smokes. No pun intended…"
"And that's probably as good a note as any--and certainly better than some--for us to part company for the time being," Belle added. "Go see Lauren now, and give her my regards, like I said. And Charlotte?" she said with a note in her voice that might have been affectionate. "Go back to being a brunette. Blonde doesn't go with your eyes. Take it from someone who knows."
"I see…" Charlotte stepped into the hall, leaving Angelique sitting on the desk still, still smirking ever so slightly.
Blaze walked through the halls…looking in various rooms to see what Angelique meant by Charlotte's interest in history. She hoped to find Habib or someone who could point her in the direction of some cigarettes. This was getting more confusing by the minute…
Once they were alone, Belle put the receiver to her ear, and punched in one of Weng Chow's many private phone numbers. As she did so, she looked at Angelique again. "So tell me," she asked conversationally, "whose little girl are you, anyway?"
"Daddy's name was Cassandra, aside from that I don't know much about her. He wanders quite a bit. I'm the result of a one night stand I believe…"
Belle laughed as the phone rang and she waited for an answer. "I can't remember the last time I heard anyone say that. Though I wonder if it means we can control our fertility, along with everything else. I guess we'd have to be able to control it somehow, otherwise we could end up male when we meant to be female, and vice versa… Or does it happen in set periods, like in those stories by LeGuin… Anyway, that whole 'one-night stand' complaint always seemed so silly to me. I've had warrior's rests that would have been the equivalent of lifelong love affairs for some. They lasted just as long as they stayed good, and that was it. Any longer than one fuck would have been too long in some cases. If only more humans had a sense of the real lifespan of an encounter…"
"Controlling menses is easy as as keeping your weapon concealed as it were. Just takes a little practice.ö Angelique. ôI can help you practice if you like, sis…I assume you want to continue to be referred to as female? My first experience was both so I'M fairly flexible."
"What, did you hang upside down from a trapeze?" cracked Belle as she tried to visualize how such a 'first experience' might be physically possible. Then she continued, more somberly, "My mother raised me as a human female, taking the truth about that and everything else to her grave. So I guess that'll do for now, at least until I figure out what I really am."
As the phone started to ring, she looked obliquely at Angelique. "My period is the least I want to know about, right along with this cock I've suddenly grown. Like I told Charlotte, I want to know about everything my mother tried to hide from me." Then she added, "Oh, and call me 'Belle'. Charlotte's right: of all the names and nicknames I've had, it's the one I'm most attached to. That, and I'm just not used to thinking in terms of family. I'm not even sure what the word is supposed to mean."