The delicate sound of birds chirping wafted through the panes of the window. Light from the early morning sun as it rose permeated into the room, dusting the room in yellow. The room in question was a complete mess. Clothes and trash littered the floor. A pile of blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals sat under the large window. The pile wiggled as something adjusted under the large fuzzy blanket.
“Good morning, Penn.” A voice said from a speaker. The pile of blankets let out a loud unhappy groan.
“It’s time to wake up. We’ve got work to do, come downstairs.” The voice continued.
A tuft of orange curls started to emerge from the pile of blankets. Groggy and confused from the bright light of the morning, Penn made another groan. The tip of her tail twitched as she glared over at the phone on her dresser.
“Whass goin’ on Vierna?” Penn asked with a yawn.
“We have our first mission. Come down,” Vierna answered. Penn stared at the dresser and contemplated the time. She licked her lips and rubbed her head, pricking her finger on her small horn.
“Ugh… Why so god damn early?”
“Because it’s a time-sensitive mission that needs to be done,” Vierna explained. Vierna leaned against the wall of the kitchen sipping their coffee as they waited for Penn’s response. Enjoying the smell of fresh pancakes as it permeated the small kitchen.
“But don’t worry, there’s breakfast,” they added. Smirking as they could hear Penn’s interest piqued.
“Wait, breakfast? What’s for breakfast?” Penn asked, as she started rolling out of her blanket nest. She got up onto all fours, using her tail to flick the blanket off.
“I guess you’ll have to come down to find out,” Vierna teased. They paused momentarily before quickly adding. “Also, please take the stairs.”
The phone clicked as Vierna hung up. They sipped their coffee as they looked over to the winged woman at the stove flipping pancakes. She turned and smiled at Vierna sweetly.
“Penn coming down?” she asked as she put a hand on her hip. Vierna nodded and tapped on her ear piece.
“Yep. Now it’s time to wake the beast.” They said connecting to the next phone.
“Bryce, it’s time to wake up.”
An incoherent growl came from the sleeping man next to the speaker. One of his wolf ears twitched as he buried his face away from the bright neon blue light from the phone. His monarch wings flexed as he relaxed back into his pillow.
“I know it’s early, but it’s important. Come down, please.” Vierna said, taking another sip of their coffee as they heard Bryce growl again. He buried himself into his pillow again and angrily fluttered his wings.
“There’s half a pot of coffee waiting for you.” Vierna bribed, smirking as they heard him get silent.
“... I’ll be down in a moment…” he growled, slapping the phone to hang up. He growled another time before rolling over gently onto his back. He rubbed the sleepy out of his eyes before deciding to get out of the bed.
Penn stretched her back out as she slowly crawled toward the door. Once in the hallway she climbed up the railing and down onto the ceiling of the first floor. Being somewhat careful of the lights as she crawled to the entrance of the kitchen. Penn’s nails dug into the plaster of the ceiling as she peaked down into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” Penn asked, sounding more awake than a few moments before. Vierna didn’t look up at her as they drank their coffee. Removing the earpiece from their ear and pocketing it within their dress pants.
“You, currently. I thought I asked you to take the stairs?” Vierna asked now looking up at Penn. Penn pursed her lips and shrugged, her orange curls bouncing.
“Mmm.. I don’t think so,” Penn replied cheekily. Vierna crossed their arm across their chest, propping their other arm with the coffee mug up. They slowly pushed themself off the wall and turned their gaze up.
“Oh really? Could’ve sworn I did,” Vierna said.
“You’re crazy.” Penn stated.
“Guess I am.” Vierna agreed with a small smirk.
The winged woman turned to face Penn with a bright smile, her bright pink dress fluttering as she moved. The frills of the dress and apron fell into place as she balanced a plate of pancakes stacked so high it could topple over at any moment.
“Good morning, Penn!” She chriped. Her macaw wings fluttered as Penn smiled back at her.
“Mornin’ Mika~! Oooo Pancakes?” Penn asked, her eyes going to the giant steaming stack.
“Yeppers! Nothing better for breakfast right? So, how ya hanging?” Mika asked, turning the stove off and setting down the spatula.
“Oh, you know, low and to the left~” Penn joked. Her head bobbed as Mika let out a little giggle.
“Nothing better than early morning coffee and dick jokes,” Vierna sighed with a pleased expression. “Anyway, Penn, get down please.”
“What? Why? I ain’t breaking anything,” Penn said with an eye roll.
“Yet. I would like to keep this place intact since it is Mika’s home.”
“Last time was not my fault.” Penn objected.
“You crashed through half of the clubhouse last time.” Vierna added.
“Not intentionally… I was just trying to catch a litemous… It was an accident,“ Penn pouted.
“Sure it was. Crashing through the walls of the dorms to catch a small mammal was an accident,” Bryce said, lifting Penn’s hair as he walked into the kitchen. He had a menacing scowl on his face as he stretched his arms up, his wings unfolding behind him, one of them bopping Penn in the face. She brushed his wing away before smiling at him.
“Bryce! Mornin’ buddy!” Penn exclaimed rather loudly in Bryce’s ears.
“... I swear, Penn…” He growled angrily. Vierna chuckled as they moved over to the coffee pot. Pouring a cup in a specially marked mug that read “Bitch” in pink glitter.
“Calm down. I have your coffee,” Vierna said, passing the mug to Bryce. “Would you handle a problem for me?”
Bryce took a long sip of the fresh coffee, enjoying the roasted flavor as it touched his tongue. He heard Vierna’s request and without responding reached up and grabbed Penn’s tail. In a quick movement before she could react, he yanked her down off the ceiling. Penn let out a yelp as she landed on her head before falling onto her back. She stared up at the ceiling with an angry pout. Any pain she felt had dissipated as soon as it hit.
“God dammit…” she mumbled.
“Thank you, Bryce. Hopefully she’s learned her lesson about climbing in the house,” Vierna said, playing with their hair. Bryce let out a snort as he moved past them toward the dining room. He paused as the back door opened, watching the small almost translucent alien walk in.
“Don’t count on it.” He yawned, before nodding to the alien. “Mornin’ Susie.”
Susie was typing on a projected keyboard, using her other hand to tap against her Seeing Glass headpiece. Adjusting the controls of the screen she was viewing. She gave a small smile as she hit a button turning off the projector and the screen.
“Good mohn-ing!” Susie said happily, removing the headpiece and smiling up at Bryce.
“Working this early?” Bryce asked.
“Uhn. Put data file for Vierna. En-formation send for lo-kaytion and sample,” Susie explained. “Was hard get, but I has good sample to begin study!”
Bryce raised a brow confused, his ear twitched as Vierna walked up behind them.
“Study?” Bryce asked.
“I’ll explain in a moment. Please, take a seat.” Vierna instructed. Bryce nodded and made his way to the table, finding his seat as he relaxed into it. Mika had already sat down, each place being set with preferred foods. She waved at Bryce that raised his mug to her and mouthed thanks as he took a bite of a pancake.
“So you transferred all the data we received?” Vierna asked Susie, following her into the dining room. Susie nodded climbing into her seat.
“Data was not conclusive, so I run study. Is unknown,” Susie explained as Vierna plugged in a device into the central hub of the table.
Penn had crawled into the dining room silently. Climbing up into a chair and plopping into it, she shot a glare at Bryce. He didn’t look at her as he slid over the container with the syrup.
“Dick.” She mumbled, grabbing the syrup and drowning the first stack.
“Stop climbing the walls,” he retorted. Penn shrugged and went about shoving bites of pancakes into her mouth. Vierna pulled a bright blue projected screen up at the table for everyone to view. Bryce and Penn both looked to the screen as Vierna typed on a keyboard screen near them, preparing the files for the briefing.
“If everyone is ready, let’s get down to business.” Vierna stated. On the screen several portraits of teenage girls appeared. Penn’s eyes focused on the different faces, her expression becoming more taut.
“We’ve been called in on an assignment to investigate the disappearances of several young missing persons,” Vierna began. Bryce held up a hand before interrupting.
“Why are we handling missing persons? That’s more of a job for the Police Division.”
“Well, there are many reasons why. One is that no bodies have been discovered and there were no clear indications of whether they ran away or were taken.” Vierna said, adjusting their stance. “None of their personal effects were taken and their interweb information had been completely deleted off every device. There was no trace left of them.”
“Wait, like no trace at all? Is that even possible nowadays?” Bryce asked, confused.
“In all honesty, it is. With the right tech. With that knowledge, we’ll be working under the assumption that the victims were taken.” Vierna said.
“Be-cause their stuff got deleted?” Penn asked after she swallowed the last bite of her first plate of pancakes.
“It’s extremely difficult to erase data,” Mika explained, looking at Penn. “Especially with technology tracking and backing up information hourly. It would take someone well versed in hacking to be able to do this.”
“Which is another reason this is coming to us. I’ll be working with the Intelligence Division to attempt to recover any information possible. What ever happened to these victims, the assailant went through a lot of trouble to ensure they wouldn’t be found.” Vierna said.
“The final reason this falls on us, is that we have first-hand experience dealing with Shells.”
“Whoa, wait…” Penn paused on her next bite of pancakes setting the fork down as she stared at Vierna. “I thought we wiped out that factory that was making them? Back during the Academy?”
“We did, but I don’t believe it was the only one mass-producing those things,” Vierna added. “There have been too many variants of Shells for them to have only been created in one place.”
“How do you know Shells are involved? We haven’t heard any reports since graduating the academy, so why now?” Bryce asked, he set his mug down. Running a hand through his tangled hair.
“They could have gone underground with their manufacturing. As for how we know, we did manage to retrieve a single clue from one of the victims,” Vierna said, hitting another button on the keyboard. The screen changed to show a sound player, Vierna paused a moment. “Prepare yourselves, this isn’t easy to listen to.”
Vierna hit play and at first static played. Before a soft voice whispered into the speaker.