Trigger Warning: murder, racism, drugs, rape, basically everything
This is what I have so far. It's not great, and I'm way behind. Oops.
Sgt. Simon Jackson stood at the front of the room. "We’ve got the go-ahead to plant some undercover people to bust up the Czar’s ring. Any volunteers?" Every hand in the room went up. "Now, don’t be so shy."The room chuckled. They all knew about the Czar. Half of them had family whose lives had been ruined by him, his people, or his drugs. The Czar has been running the poor parts of the city for years
"Who here has ever taken an acting class?" Some hands went down. "Who was actually good at it?" More hands dropped. Shani looked around- it looked like there were still more than could actually be on the assignment, but not by much. She had a decent shot, then. "You lot. We're sending you to a course on disguise all next week, since practically everyone mob knows what the police look like and you need to actually be undercover. Five best at the end are in. If there's no other questions from those of you who aren't going, I'd like to talk to the ones who are
Most of the room stood up, the day shift to clock out and the evening shift to their jobs. "Officially, there was never a government alliance with these people. We know that's bullshit. I have it from the person who gave me the go-ahead that Intelligence does not want this ring busted and only got overruled because the Vice President's cousin lives in the area the Czar is trying to move into. You know what that means about covers- someone will be trying to blow them. If you have a family and want to back out, now's the time." No one moved.
"All due respect, my family is the reason I want in. You know one of them shot my son." That was Dion Freeman. He lived in the projects they controlled, same as she did. They'd gone to school together, even dated for a few weeks. She'd known his son, too. All he'd ever done was refuse to carry for a dealer, and they shot him, a beautiful five year old boy.
"Same." Hong Yan- her husband was still on leave after some of the Czar's men "taught him a lesson." Neither Yan nor her husband were sure what the lesson was supposed to be, unless it was that the Czar and his Sacks needed one.
"My daughter can't walk to school alone because of them." James Fisher. His wife taught English at the same school where Janice taught, and their daughter had just moved up to the high school this year. Through middle school, she'd gone with her mother, which was usually enough. Not always, but usually, which was the best anyone got around here.
"My brother deals because he knows they'll kill him if he stops." Walker Brown. His brother Aidan was in jail again. Not really for dealing- more for having been caught. Most had dealt, and even more had used.
"No one left." Samson Greene. He'd never married, his parents died of cancer, and his brothers had already been killed. This was a man with nothing left to lose.
"I'd like to be able to look my son in the eye and tell him I tried to make the city safe for him, even if I have to do it from Heaven." Andrew Young. He and Dion were good friends, and his son had turned five last week. Mark and Jo nodded.
"I don't want to worry that my roommate won't come home some night because of them, but staying out of this won't do that. Busting them will," Shani said.
"Had to give you the chance. Be here 6am sharp Sunday-you'll be flying out then. Night shift- you're still getting paid for tonight, but you can go home and get ready. We'll clock you out when your shift should end. Same goes for tomorrow- stay home and get ready. Take a brief on the way out and read it before Sunday morning."
Shani followed Yan out. "You OK?" she asked.
"Of course I'm not, but this will help. I hope." Yan's voice shook as she said it. "Not shooting the bastards on sight might be hard though."
"Land them in jail instead. Shooting's too quick for the men who beat up Shirong, and you know it."
Yan managed a bit of a laugh. "Can't I shoot their nuts off and then arrest them?"
"Go for a kick. Easier to look the other way."
"You think they will?"
"As long as you don't get your cover blown doing it? Jackson will. He's almost as pissed as you are."
"Someone's late," Janice teased as Shani opened the door.
"Meeting between shifts." Shani dropped her bag and flopped onto the couch. "Interesting meeting. They want to bust the Sacks proper."
Janice dropped the pot, and Shani heard something slosh onto the floor. "Shit."
"You OK, hun?"
"My hearing is apparently going and I just spilled water all over the floor. I could have sworn I just heard you say they're finally busting the Sacks."
"You did. They're sending five of us in undercover. Deciding the five by who does best in a disguise class they want to send us to, and the plane leaves Sunday morning."
Janice stood in the doorway, wet towel in hand. "Say what?"
"I know. The vice president has a second cousin living in the part of the city the Sacks just started moving into or some such shit. You know they only care when the big folk could get hurt."
Janice sighed. It was true, of course. The world could crap on people like them all day, but god forbid some politician have a cousin who could be hurt. That would be unacceptable.
"Don't worry about dinner. We can get takeout using the money we won't spend on my groceries and coffee next week."
"Oh? Why won't-wait. Disguise. Sunday. That's not my hearing."
The light on her face woke Shani much too early Saturday morning. Janice, who was somehow blessed with the ability to sleep past dawn, snored softly next to her, and Shani wished she could do the same. Over the years, though, she'd learned that it was futile, and besides, she needed to read the briefing and get something cooked that Janice could just microwave most of the week. Janice could manage simple dishes, usually, but getting one big pot of chilli ready for the week would prevent her from returning to a disaster in the kitchen from an attempt at something more complicated than macaroni and cheese or ramen, she hoped.
Or they would be out of ground beef. That worked too. She wrote a note saying she had just gone to the grocery and kissed Janice on the forehead, then let herself out. This early on a Saturday, it should still be safe to walk.
Yan was at the grocery too. "Early riser too, huh?"
"When I don't have the night shift. Setting up?"
"Yep. Chilli. You?"
"Probably chilli." Yan paused. "Do you... do you think you could get someone to check in on Shirong a couple times? I... well, I worry."
"You have every right to worry. I'll ask Janice to swing by. Call me around noon and we'll work out when and all. Number hasn't changed."
Janice was still asleep. Shani put the kettle on and plugged in the waffle iron, then pulled the old square waffle iron out of the cupboard, taking care to keep the cupboard door attached to the wall. She mixed the eggs with the oil, then the Aunt Jemima's, then the milk, just as her mother had taught her, and filled the same big pot from last night with water to start the beans soaking while she waited to the iron to finish heating. After ladling the first waffle's worth of batter into the iron, she pulled out plates and forks, then began to read the briefing.
She already knew the contents of the "background" section. It said how the Czar started out as a small-time dealer in 1966, selling to his middle school buddies, then worked his way up. There had been a couple of "convenient" disappearances of dealers a step or two above him his freshman year, and he dropped out to deal full time as a sophomore, believing that gaining the time spent in classes was worth more than the easy direct access to the student market.
The risk paid off. By 1970, he was the biggest dealer in the city, and now? By 1980, he had more authority than the police in the poorest parts of Charlfield, and he only gained territory with time. Undercover agents occasionally busted some of the smaller dealers, but no actual progress was made curbing the Czar's reign of terror. There were few plausible explanations for the length of his reign essentially unchallenged by authority, and none of them could be officially speculated. (Code for corruption, clearly, but that wasn't news. She'd become a cop so that the corruption wouldn't turn on her and to be one of what she figured to be the few good ones in a very broken system, not out of any belief that she could make a systemic change.)
The briefing suggested that she think of someone she knew well and try to describe their appearance without looking at them, just to see what she noticed. Since she'd never seen a mission briefing where disguise was part of the preparation, she wasn't sure if that was typical, though it would make sense. It was something she did before shifting to look like someone, certainly. The point was probably to think about what physical characteristics people noticed. She figured it would be a good exercise to see what differences there were in what she remembered about someone she had shifted to look like before and someone she knew well but had never shifted to before, just to see how different those would be. If they asked for one, though, it would be for the person she had never shifted to- no need to go in noticing more than she probably "should."
Janice- She was short and slight, barely 5', probably around 90lb. (Some of her middle school students were taller than her!) Her skin was medium brown with an olive to yellow tint, and she had curly black hair, somewhere between the crinkly frizzy her mother had and the straight smooth hair of her father and yet not really either. After years of wearing it to her waist, she had just cut it off at the shoulders, and it had gotten significantly curlier since. The bridge of her nose was nearly flat from the tip to her forehead, separating large dark eyes. Her face was round, and she had dimples when she smiled. Her ears were nothing unusual, though they were rarely visible since she usually wore her hair down. Her limbs were fairly long for her height, and they were thin- the kind of thin where the untrained eye might think it meant weakness, but what little flesh was there was pure muscle. She might not weigh much, but unless you knew how to get the advantage in leverage, a fight against was not going to go well. Her fingers were long too, actually. For someone as short as she was, "long" seemed to describe a lot of her features, proportionately.
Shani smiled. It hadn't been the way she told Janice she was a shape-shifter, but looking like her double made a fun proof. Now to see what she noticed about someone she had never tried to double.
Yan- She was surprisingly broad shouldered, and she was tall. It was all muscle, too. Whoever had said that Chinese woman were all small and stereotypically feminine had clearly never met Yan. She could dress to fake it, but she usually pushed even further in the direction of androgynous appearance. As a cop, it was probably a matter of practicality- none of them had much authority in the worst areas, but the men were at least usually less subject to harassment.
She put her pen down. WAY more actual details talking about Janice, as opposed to vague descriptions of impressions. So if she just changed the impression looking at her gave, that might be enough, or nearly so. People who couldn't shape-shift managed to make disguises work all the time.