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Set 2018.

JF thunked her head on the cafeteria table once again before she finally spoke. “Jason Allen Flame, I cannot believe you did that.” she said.

The young teenaged boy just grinned at her. Ten years had done a lot for him; the sessions in FicPsych had helped to give the boy a distinct description and had improved on his personality quite a bit, though he still blended in a bit too well in even small crowds, and the lasting effects of being practically smothered in Aura of Smooth for the first four years of his life still showed in how prone he was to following and obeying even the simplest suggestions.

Blending in wouldn’t be too be too much of a problem for him now, though; the teen had dyed his hair a vivid purple.

“C‘mon, Mum, you both are always complaining about how I get lost in the scenery!” he said, pulling a hand through his hair. “Marsha said it‘d look great.”

“I‘m not your mother,” she muttered, her cheeks not quite literally burning, though with JF it was fairly close to it. “And neither is July, we‘ve been going over this for the past ten years. And you should know better than to listen to Marsha, both her and her moms are full of crack ideas. And where the hell is she, anyway?” JF wondered, the she being July.  “Girl said she‘d be back by now with Cal.”

Arguing from near the doorway announced the arrival of two women, the shorter one dressed in a suit with closely cut brown hair, and the taller woman wearing a long dark dress and her blonde hair in an elegant bun that looked distinctly out of place in the PPC Cafeteria.

“Calpurnia, all I’m saying is- ”

“July, we have already gone over this-”

“Mum! Auntie Cal!” Jason jumped over the table to run over to July, knocking their drinks over.  JF sighed and steamed the liquid away before she got up as well.

“Jason, your hair! Whose idea was it now?”  July hugged him. “And I told you, I‘m not your mum.”

“Jason,” Calpurnia Bookridge, nee Library, shook her head in amusement.  “I suppose you‘re not going to be so easily overlooked now, are you?”

“Yes, ma‘am,” he said, and he blushed slightly. “Hopefully not, Auntie Cal. Marsha‘s idea, what do you think?” He grinned again.

“I think you look like a silly fool,” Calpurnia said, as she hugged him as well.  “How can I take you home for supper with me when you look like that, hm?”

“Ignore her, Jason, she‘s not even got to the nineteen-twenties yet, purple hair will take awhile to catch on,” July said, grinning.

“I can always use the Disguise Generator and hide my hair anyhow,” he said. “No problem that way, right?”

“None at all,” Calpurnia smiled.

“Hey, psycho avatar,”  July said to JF.

“Heya, crazy girl,” JF replied. The two pointedly did not hug each other;  while they had both buried their problems over nine years ago, there was little lost love between them, and personal self loathing made it hard for either woman to deal with what both regarded as basically themselves on an affectionate level.  “See you cut your hair.”

“Yeah,” July said, staring at the ceiling. “’Round here people kept mistaking me for you- remember how it used to be the other way around?- and with Mom at home. Kind of got tired of it.”

JF shrugged. “Well that‘s what happens when you practically all but retire.” It was true; over the past few years July had slowly withdrawn from the PPC, choosing to pursue a Real World life and career instead.

“Hey, I still help out,” she pointed out, as the group walked back to JF and Jason‘s table.

“The last thing you did was several months ago,” JF countered. “And it was a workshop, of all things.”

“Hey, all the newbies got a kick out of it; most of them hadn‘t even realized that things that weren‘t sharp and pointy counted as weapons too.”

“Medical still wants to talk to you about that.”

“Everyone in Medical should be happy, if you teach them about ducking and dodging before they have missions that really get them in danger it really decreases the fatality rate.” July did her best to defend herself against her avatar as she sat down.

Calpurnia stopped the argument the best way she knew. “Beyond July‘s work, or lack of, what have the two of you been up to?”

“Didn‘t you see my flashpatch?” Jason beamed as he pointed at it, the cactus of the Department of Mary Sues prominently displayed on his black shirt.

“Yes, I did!” July hugged him again. “I‘m so glad you‘re an Agent now!” She grinned wickedly. “It means the SO can just order you out of his office instead of sending for someone from the Nursery, or me.”

“I was little, I didn‘t know!”

“Yeah, and it was creeping people out, for a while there were rumors that the Sunflower had decided to get a pet human,” JF snickered. “I still hear that rumor when people decide to haze new recruits. Like they need to learn the fear of Flowers, it only makes it worse processing the ones that get randomly dumped and see a Flower first thing.”

“Why do you always pick on me?” Jason asked both of them.

“’Cos I can,” July and JF said in stereo. They glared for a short moment at each other, and then at Jason once they realized he had set it up that way purposefully. After awhile July added, “That, and your older sister doesn‘t put up with it. So you get to deal with all of it.”

Calpurnia looked about. “Where is Sally? I thought you had said she would be here, JF.”

The avatar shrugged. “She got caught up in her work again. Never expected that kid to end up in Medical, y’know? Igor says she‘s well suited to the work, apparently she and some other newbie nurses helped him with a surgery, and she was the only one who didn‘t faint.”

“Well, no one exactly expected you to end up working for the Marquis.” July stuck her tongue out at her. “After all, paperwork? Blah.”

“Oh, the paperwork!” JF brought her hand up to her forehead and sighed dramatically. “I hate it, yet it calls me so!”

“It‘s not for me at all, must be that four year difference that makes you like it,” July said.

“July, that is possibly the worst lie I‘ve heard from you.” Calpurnia said. “There were nights where you‘d be up until about four AM, cackling over that giant sheaf you had to fill out so you could use your time here in substitution for college.”

“Worst lie? Me? You‘re the one who lied about your name for more than half a year!”

“How was it lying? It was my surname, I just chose to not tell you my first name.”

“That‘s purposefully clou- oh, forget it.”

“I think my lunch break is nearly over, I need to get back to work,” JF said. “I‘ve got to sneak that fertilizer cube that I had soaked in vodka into the Marquis‘ pot before he waters himself; that damn Daisy works us all overtime, and only way to get out early is to get it completely drunk. Good thing he‘s such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol,” she said. A grin of insanity was more than apparent on her face.  “And tonight is poker night with those girls from Finance, and I was winning, last game.” With a crazy laugh, JF left.

“Beyond the flashpatch and now being actually kick-out-able by the SO, what have you been up to, Jason?” July said, looking at her technical son.

“Stuff,” he said, shrugging. “I‘m supposed to be getting a partner sometime this week.”

“That‘s nice,” Calpurnia said. “Do you have any idea if it‘ll be someone already here or one of the new recruits?”

“No idea. I think JF knows, or is helping choose, because every now and then when she sees me she starts laughing. Last time she burst into flame and set off the sprinklers,” he added.

“I can‘t be blamed for that bit of insanity,” July said. “And if you get some whackjob newbie who doesn‘t listen, remember, I‘m a veteran Agent, Cal is, and so is JF if you really want to stretch the definition, and the three of us can lay down a beating, a flamey beating,  to show them what for.”  Calpurnia gave her a look. “What are you looking at me like that for? It‘s true! You would help!” Doing her best to change the subject, she looked at Jason’s backpack, which was open. “Hey, what‘s this?” She pulled a comic book out of it, and the moment she got a complete look of its cover, began to laugh. “Oh Gawd that‘s hilarious.”

“Mum? What’s so funny? It’s just a Dafydd Illian book,” he said, completely confused.

July was laughing hard enough that she didn‘t notice he had once again called her ‘Mum’. “It‘s just, hah, when I had joined, people were still threatening to ‘pull a Dafydd’ and quit, and DOGA was practically idolized- I mean, Gawd, they had Sun Crushers, who wouldn‘t want to pilot a fracking Sun Crusher? Now it‘s all about orbital cannons and the DOK.” she straightened up and looked serious for a short moment. “Heh, I almost feel sorry for the Flowers and whoever is making that comic.”

Jason stared at his strange mother in curiosity. “Why‘s that?”

“Because people said his wife was scary as hell,” she laughed.

Calpurnia shook her head in amusement at her former partner. “Let‘s go,” she said, putting the comic book back in Jason’s bag. “That movie is going to start soon, and I‘d like to enjoy it. I can‘t trust my husband to be able to handle the baby if she wakes up, he‘s useless if she‘s fussy.”

The three walked out, completely happy and anticipating the movie they had planned to see together. The past ten years had been good.