[This scene occurs shortly before the events in Visitation Rites]
Angelique Carpenter needed to pee really bad.
At least, that was the excuse she had given her mother to leave the wake and go back to her hotel room. Not that she'd used those exact words; Elaine Carpenter would not have tolerated such language from her daughter. Still, it gave her a reason to sneak off without raising immediate suspicion.
The problem was that her bladder was trying to make the excuse real. And, Angelique thought as she carefully made her way down the dark and smelly alley, she didn't have the luxury of making a pit stop right now.
She decided to keep going, armored in the confident invulnerability all teenagers possess, scanning the gloom for her target. Even so, she didn't notice the shadow detaching itself from the surrounding blackness and approach her.
So she was totally surprised when she heard a raspy voice hiss behind her.
"Are you lost, little girl?"
Angelique squeaked and spun towards the source of the voice. After a second, she straightened and put her hands to her hips in anger.
"That wasn't funny, Lizardbreath!"
The shadow chuckled as it resolved itself into Elizabeth Carpenter, Angelique's older sister.
Having dispensed with the required sibling ritual of using each other's pet names, the sisters embraced in greeting. After a moment, Elizabeth pulled back.
"C'mon. I know we don't have much of a window, and we need to talk. I found us a good place."
The older sister shucked off her softskin calf boots and handed them to Angelique. Her now-bare feet, as well as her hands, transformed into long-clawed extremities reminiscent of creatures from nightmare.
Angelique did not react to the metamorphosis as she grabbed the boots and leapt on her sister's back, making sure she had a strong grip on both footwear and body.
Elizabeth grunted, "Oof! Been gaining weight there, Sis?"
"I got two words for you. Bite... Me..."
"What kind of language is that, young lady?"
Angelique made a rude noise and giggled, then gasped as Elizabeth leapt up to a building wall and, insect-like, clambered up its side to the darkness above.
The two sisters sat on the edge of a roof, their feet dangling over the dark empty space below them. Rooftop generators hummed behind them, muffling their voices.
"How's Mom doing?" asked Elizabeth.
"She's presiding over everything, as usual. I am so glad to be out of there. I was ready to scream if I heard her introduce me one more time as 'our promising next generation'."
"What about The Moth?" Elizabeth continued, referring to their brother, Timothy.
Angelique shrugged. "He's heading back to college tomorrow. He says the school didn't give him a lot of bereavement leave, but I think he's just making an excuse to get out of there quicker."
"Mom's still miffed at him for not joining the Order?"
The young girl shrugged again. "Meh. I think she's resigned to the fact by now. Especially since I'm there to pass along the family tradition."
"What about you? Are you sure that's what you want?"
Angelique's shoulders got another workout, but she didn't say anything in response.
"Angelique, it's your life. You get to decide what to make of it, what to do with it."
"Heh. You sound just like Dad."
It was Elizabeth's turn to keep an uncomfortable silence.
Angelique stammered contritely. "I... I'm sorry, Elizabeth."
"It's all right, brat. I miss him, too."
The sisters leaned over to hug each other, drawing comfort from their shared pain.
After a few seconds, Elizabeth continued, her voice shifting to a business-like tone. "Ok, you gotta get back there soon, before anyone throws a conniption fit, so listen up.
"Before he died, Dad and I had a talk. He was concerned that there was something wrong going on in the Order, and, well... he wanted me to be careful. You, too."
Angelique frowned at the news. "Another Masada?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not sure. In any case, I wanted you to know so that you can keep a sharp eye and be prepared in case things get difficult."
She hesitated before going on. "And I wanted you to hear something from me instead of someone else."
Angelique caught the hesitant tone in her sister's voice and narrowed her eyes. "Hear what?"
"I... I'm planning to legally change my name."
The younger girl's outburst gave no doubt as to her opinion about this.
"WHAT? What kind of stupid stunt is that?"
She jumped up to face her older sister.
Elizabeth stood up too, trying to placate her sister's temper.
"Look, I don't know what's going to happen, but I want to make sure if I end up pissing off the wrong people, it won't get back to you, or Timothy, or Mom."
"Oh please. That is so lame."
Elizabeth grabbed her sister's arms, anxious to make her understand.
"Listen! I don't have the time to get into it, but trust me. I have a strong hunch the shit's going to hit the fan. I don't want you guys to get dragged into it because of me.
"Whatever Dad was worried about, I think it may be big. And bad. However it goes down, I need to know you guys will be safe, OK?"
Angelique fumed, unwilling to accede to the idea.
Elizabeth reached up to brush an errant strand of hair from the young girl's forehead. "Look, no matter what, you're still my sister. Nothing'll change that. I promise. Please?"
Angelique gave a snort of defiant resignation. "Fine. I still think it's a stupid idea."
Elizabeth hugged her sister, holding her tight. Angelique returned the hug, and this time neither was in any hurry to break it off.
Finally, Elizabeth pulled back, trying to casually brush her eyes. "OK. I'll drop you off back at the hotel."
As Angelique climbed on Elizabeth's back for the return trip, she pressed against her sister's body in a backward hug. Her head nestled against Elizabeth's neck, she whispered.
"I love you, Lizardbreath."
She felt more than heard the throaty chuckle.
"I love you, too, Jellyfish."