Roulette part 3

August 1st, 2007

“Another day in paradise,” I muttered from where I sat on the floor of my prison cell. Sure, it was probably a bit more comfortable than most prison cells, but that didn’t change what it was.

At the moment, I was on the floor with my legs spread apart, leaning forward against one leg to stretch and then shifting over and doing the same to my other leg. I spent about five minutes stretching this way, getting a better feel for my new body, which was noticeably more flexible than my old one. I’d performed this stretching routine yesterday morning as well and found that it helped me to feel like I had a little bit of control, at least for a few minutes.

While I stretched, my thoughts turned back to the events of the other day, when I’d not only woken up from my latest burnout, but also learned a great deal of surprising information. Of course, the true nature of my powers was one such surprise, though the fact that my biological father was one of my kidnappers was an even bigger one.

Dr. Smith still hadn’t told me anything about the real nature of my powers, at least not directly, but I’ve been listening in and paying attention. I was making a point of trying to learn as much from my kidnappers as possible since the more I knew, the better off I’d be when it came to escaping. The big trick was to make them think that I’d given up and was going along with them until they let me go. I was pretty sure that was never going to happen.

Dr. Smith and Archimedes were pretty interested in my powers and how I was able to shift from having one power set to another. Of course, they were more interested in using that information to duplicate it, to intentionally give specific powers to people. From what I’d heard from Debra, they planned on giving powers to baseline humans, but they might not have been completely honest with her. I still didn’t know why they wanted to do this, whether it was so everyone could have powers and be considered equal that way, or more likely, if they just planned on selling powers. The truth was, I didn’t care about their motives, only what they planned to do with me.

It was strange to realize that every night while I was asleep, my body changed shape and I never even would have realized it if it hadn’t been for my eavesdropping. Apparently, this mode change even took care of any injuries I had, such as the small bruises and cuts caused by my power testing, leaving me to wake up with a fresh new body. That was one of the reasons I’d started this morning stretching, so I could sort of break in my new body.

I shook my head, knowing just how lucky I was that my body did reset whenever I changed modes. If it hadn’t been for that, then I probably would have died during my first burnout, much less surviving my second one as well. Being able to wake up the next morning with a fresh body, without any of the injuries I’d gone to bed with, wasn’t quite as impressive as regeneration, but it came close. In some cases, like with my burnout, it might even be better.

Then my thoughts turned to my dad, Walter Hanson…aka Thomas Charles…aka Asshole. While I’d been growing up, Mom had told me all about him, largely as a warning about the kind of person I didn’t want to become. After hearing about the man who’d seduced, manipulated, and betrayed my mom, I’d never had any interest at all in actually meeting him. Of course, I’d imagined that meeting on numerous occasions anyway, but the real thing hadn’t been anything like I’d envisioned. The real meeting had been…anticlimactic.

After I’d called him, “Daddy,” I’d expected some kind of big reaction, perhaps even a show of horror and regret over his part in kidnapping me. Instead, he gave me a look of surprise, then merely sneered and said, “You aren’t any kid of mine.” And with that, he’d calmly walked away, not even bothering to look at me again. I knew he was still hanging around the building, but I hadn’t seen him again since.

“Mom was right,” I muttered with a snort of disgust. “He really is an asshole.”

When I finished with my stretching, I stood up and brushed off the sensor suit which I was still wearing. Dr. Smith insisted that I wear it at all times, except when I was taking care of my personal business. He even insisted that I wear the suit while sleeping so he could track my nighttime shifts, not that he actually told me his reasons. I just grimaced in annoyance since after a couple days, it was starting to get a bit gross. Unfortunately, I doubted this thing was as easy to clean as just throwing it in the washer.

I went to the small bathroom and stripped off the sensor suit, relieved to get it off, even if it wasn’t for very long. I did my business on the toilet, then turned my attention to the rest of my personal business, cleaning up as much as I could. I hadn’t had a shower since I arrived at this place so I’d been forced to make due with sponge baths from the sink. Fortunately, they’d thought to provide me with soap, shampoo, a wash rag, and a towel. Though I’d washed up last night before bed, sleeping in the sensor suit made me feel dirty again, not that washing would do much good since I’d just be putting the thing back on in a few minutes. But at least I’d feel clean for a minute or two.

A short time later, I was once again dressed and waiting for Debra or Dr. Smith to come get me. I’d already seen my guard this morning, when she’d come into the room, pounded on the door, and yelled for me to get my lazy butt out of bed. Then she’d slammed the door, once again locking me inside. I knew that before long, she’d be back with breakfast, and after that I’d go for another round of testing. I didn’t really see much point to testing me today since Dr. Smith had already tested this particular power set.

At the moment, I was in my psychic mode, with what Dr. Smith called my level 2 telekinetic powers. My telekinesis definitely wasn’t on the strong side, and I seemed to be limited to twenty pounds with a ten yard maximum range, though I did have one advantage he didn’t seem to know about. I wasn’t just a telekinetic…I was a package deal psychic. My other psychic abilities were pretty weak and I hadn’t been able to really test them without letting Dr. Smith know of their existence, but I hoped they could be useful.

I closed my eyes and listened to the esper sense that I’d discovered the first time I had this ability. I could ‘feel’ Debra just outside the door, but that was about the limit of what I could sense. I could tell when other people were close, and in the hospital, the same sense had warned me when I was in danger. However, this aspect of my power didn’t seem to do much more than give me that small boost to my awareness of my surroundings.

Of course, the limited abilities I had at the moment were much more useful than the ones I’d had yesterday. Yesterday, I’d discovered what powers came with that mysterious fifth mode of mine, though I’d spent half the day thinking that I didn’t have any. We’d gone through all the power testing steps AGAIN, and I hadn’t shown any signs of possessing any abilities at all. However, that all changed when we looked over a collection of random junk that Dr. Smith had called ‘mystic objects’. I’d already looked over the book, figurine, magician’s hat, and crystal ball during my previous testing, but yesterday was different. That time, they’d all glowed.

“You’re sensitive to magical energies,” Dr. Smith had announced in delight, only to admit a minute later that he didn’t know anything about magic and had no idea about how to test me further. After going through the entire power testing scenario again yesterday, the only thing I’d walked away with was Dr. Smith’s guess that I was a low level magic user, or that I at least had a low level ability to tap into raw magic energy.

“Not that it does much good when I don’t know how to actually use magic,” I muttered in annoyance. From what I understood, this was like having access to a power outlet when I didn’t have anything to plug into it. “Now if only Hagrid would come and whisk me away to magic school.”

The other day, I’d heard Dr. Smith say that he’d detected five distinct modes that I kept shifting between, and so far he seemed to be right. I seemed to have five separate sets of powers that I alternated between at random, though none of them were particularly strong. My first mode was the exemplar one that came with several enhanced physical abilities, and then there was my current mode which included few psychic tricks. Both of those could be useful for my escape, along with the energizer one…assuming I could learn to actually control it. My devisor and magical power sets had the potential to be useful, but they required either materials or training, both of which were currently in short supply.

Since I was paying attention, I knew Debra was coming, right before she opened the door. As usual, she set my plate of food on the floor, announced, “You’ve got fifteen minutes,” and then left again.

“My favorite,” I said with a roll of my eyes as I looked over my breakfast. “Cheerios.”

When Debra came for me again a short time later, I was a little slow getting up and going to the door. For a moment, I thought she was going to give me another zap of ‘motivation’ from the collar, something that I’d avoided for a couple days, but instead she just grabbed my arm to give me a light push. Considering the fact that she obviously didn’t like me, it was fairly gentle. I probably wouldn’t even have a bruise from it. Probably.

But as Debra grabbed hold of me, I felt something in my head and heard her thoughts, “I almost feel sorry for this girl, but it’s her or Carrie…and I pick Carrie every time.”

I was a little surprised by what I heard, though not by the fact that I heard it. I’d already discovered that a part of my current power set was that I could hear people’s surface thoughts, as long as I was actually touching them. I’d discovered this the first time during my kidnapping, when my asshole father had grabbed hold of me, and I’d experienced it again briefly a few days back when I’d come into contact with Dr. Smith during our testing. However, I was careful not to show any reaction to what I’d heard since I didn’t want any of my kidnappers to know that I was holding back.

I arrived at main testing room to find Dr. Smith and Archimedes in the middle of a conversation. Archimedes looked angry, and to my surprise, it seemed to be directed at his partner.

“Your BIT detector was able to confirm the presence of a BIT,” Dr. Smith told Archimedes, trying to calm him down with a gentle and friendly tone. “But as you know, your BIT scanner isn’t fully functional yet. I know this offends your scientific sensibilities, and admittedly, it does mine to a degree as well. However, I feel that I had little choice…”

“You know how complicated the issue of a BIT is,” Archimedes stated, sounding a little defensive. “Our understanding is…incomplete. Even my technology falls short, but I’m certain that with a little more research…”

“I’m certain that you’ll be the first to patent the technology for a working BIT scanner,” Dr. Smith assured him with a gentle smile. “But the truth is, we don’t have the time to wait…which is why I acquired that devise. As distasteful as it may be to resort to using a devise, this is our most efficient option at the moment.”

Archimedes scowled at that and shook his head. “Devises are…unreliable. Any results you obtain from this devise would be questionable at best.”

“Perhaps,” Dr. Smith agreed with a chuckle. “But if nothing else, it may indicate a direction where we should focus further research.”

Archimedes didn’t anything more to that, though he did glare to an odd piece of equipment that had been added to the lab. It looked something like a high tech chair that was connected to a bunch of wires, circuit boards, and blinking lights. Then he snorted before abruptly turning and walking away, much to my relief. Archimedes made me very uncomfortable, but at least he was honest about his contempt for me, unlike Dr. Smith.

Once Archimedes was gone, Dr. Smith turned to me with a smile and said, “Good morning, my dear. I hope you slept well.”

“Fine,” I answered, not bothering to point out that I would have slept much better without the sensor suit or the bomb strapped to my neck.

“Good good,” he responded. “Since our sensors indicate that you currently have your telekinetic powers active, our normal power testing won’t be necessary. However, I do have some new tests that you can help me with.”

“I’m always happy to help,” I told him with a sigh. Then I reached out and touched his hand before asking, “How much more do we have to do before I can go home?”

I was already pretty certain that he had no intention of letting me go home, in spite of what he’d said the first time we met. However, I wanted him to think that I still believed him, and more than that, I wanted to confirm my suspicions.

“Maybe another week at most,” Dr. Smith assured me, giving me a friendly smile as he lied.

Since I was touching Dr. Smith, I was able to hear his surface thoughts, and it was all I could do not to yank my hand back when he thought, “I’ll have everything I need from normal testing within a month, then I’ll move to the dissection stage…”

“Good,” I told him with a forced smile of my own, trying hard not to show my fear.

A minute later, I climbed into the odd looking chair, the BIT scanning devise that Dr. Smith had somehow acquired. I watched the doctor, thinking that after hearing his thoughts, he was even scarier than before. And oddly enough, after listening in on Debra, I was just a little less frightened of her. After all, she was humane enough that she actually seemed to feel some sympathy, even though she wasn’t going to act on it.

Dr. Smith had me sit in the chair for about ten minutes, then he ran a few other tests on me. When he was done with this, he looked over the results, frowning thoughtfully and glancing back at me. Then he finally mused, “This could be problematic…”

“What?” I asked, feeling a little worried. I had to remind myself that just because something was a problem for him, that didn’t mean it was for me. In fact, it just might be good news.

“Unfortunately, Archimedes was correct,” Dr. Smith explained with a thoughtful look. “Devises are inherently unstable and unreliable, and this one certainly isn’t easy to make sense of. It doesn’t help that no one truly understands what a BIT is…even those who claim expertise.” He gave me a curious look while I tried to remain calm and patient, waiting for him to get to the point. “If I’m reading this correctly, it seems that your BIT may be damaged.”

I froze at that, feeling a cold chill run down my spine. For an exemplar, their BIT was a blueprint for their entire body and even some of their powers, and I was pretty sure the same thing was true for shifters. If there was something wrong my BIT, then there was no telling what that could do to my body.

“I wonder how this relates to your alternating powers,” Dr. Smith mused aloud, seeming to be talking to himself more than me. “Or your burnouts…”

Those words made me gulp as I considered all the consequences that could come from having a damaged BIT. With a damaged BIT, there would be a high risk for GSD, so I could very well end up looking like some kind of hideous monster, something that was so bad that death might be preferable. My powers could go wild, spinning out of control so that I become a danger to myself and everyone around me. And of course, a damaged BIT could easily lead to burnout and death.

As I considered these possibilities, I thought about how my body had already changed, how my powers kept shifting on their own, and how I’ve already gone through two burnouts and came extremely close to dying in both. How much of this had been caused by a damaged BIT?

“And just when I thought I was getting a handle on this,” I mused, taking a deep breath and trying to stay calm. After all, freaking out about this wouldn’t fix my BIT, if it really was damaged. Even Dr. Smith, who’d just run the tests, didn’t seem completely certain of that. My best bet was to have Mom and Beth talk to some of their friends. They both had a lot of contacts in the mutant community, and surely one of them would know enough about BITs to verify if mine was really damaged or not.

I turned my attention back to Dr. Smith, who was running through the data again with a look of annoyance. He obviously wasn’t happy with the idea of my BIT being damaged either, though he had a completely different reason. My guess was that he was afraid of how this would affect his research and the likelihood of being able figure out how I was able to take on different powers.

Dr. Smith ran me through a few more tests, keeping me occupied until it was about time for lunch. At that time, Debra led me back to my room, just as she usually did. I went along without causing any problems, trying not to think too much about my BIT. After all, I had other things to focus on, ones that were of a little more immediate importance. In fact, I had to focus nearly every bit of concentration I possessed on one thing in particular, though it was all I could do not to grin until I was back in my room with the door locked behind me.

“Got it,” I quietly exclaimed, chuckling evilly to myself as I looked up towards the ceiling. Floating near the ceiling was Debra’s cell phone, which I’d snatched with my telekinesis and had snuck into the room right above our heads. “Come to Papa…Mama.”

The moment I had the cell phone in my hand, I dialed home, hoping that Mom would actually answer. Mom never heard the phone ringing when she was in her lab, and especially not when she was in one of her obsessive building phases… After several rings, I was about to try Beth when Mom suddenly picked up, with, “Hello?”

“Mom,” I blurted out in relief.

“Austin?” Mom exclaimed.

“Amy,” I corrected her with a sigh, realizing even as I said it that I probably shouldn’t waste time making a big deal about my name.

“Where are you?” she demanded, her voice filled with worry. “The nurse at the hospital said that you freaked out and ran off… What were you thinking? I’ve been so worried…”

“WHAT?” I gasped, hardly able to believe what I was hearing, or at least that Mom would believe it. “I didn’t run off…I was kidnapped. The nurse was in on it…”

This time it was Mom’s turn to blurt out, “What?”

“It was Archimedes,” I explained quickly, knowing that she’d recognize the name. I heard a gasp from the other end and knew that she got how serious this was. “He’s working with some guy who calls himself Doctor Smith, but I know that’s not his real name. I think he’s a baseline scientist and they’re trying to experiment on me…” I paused at that, suddenly realizing that I was starting to ramble.

“Amy,” Mom said, her voice shaking. “Where are you?”

I took a deep breath, then admitted, “I don’t know.” My voice shook from the emotion as I continued, “I’ve been locked up in this building since they took me and they never said where we are…” Then I paused again, biting my lip for a moment before adding, “And there’s more…”

“Archimedes,” Mom whispered, sounding more than a little worried.

“Archimedes was one of the guys who grabbed me from the hospital,” I explained quietly, feeling a knot forming in my stomach as I thought about how she’d handle what I was about to say next. “My dad was the other.”

“WHAT?” Mom demanded, her voice suddenly being filled with shock and anger. I could easily picture her expression.

“It was him,” I told her grimly. “He has a limp and a cane…”

“The BASTARD,” Mom snarled furiously. “I knew I should have just disintegrated him. But no, I had to get fancy with a concussion grenade…”

I grimaced, recognizing that tone of voice and knowing exactly where it would lead. “Mom,” I said in my best calm and reasonable voice, hoping that I still had time to get her back on track.

“But he won’t get away from me again,” she continued to vent. “This time, I’m going to stick a rocket up his ass and launch him into the stratosphere…”

“MOM,” I repeated a little more firmly. “I need you to focus…”

“No,” she exclaimed in the manic tone that indicated that she’d slipped into a full blown Diedricks episode. “I’ll build fireworks into the rocket so he’ll explode in a brilliant display…a warning for anyone who’s even thinking of crossing me…”

“Don’t drick out on me now,” I ordered, though I knew that I was already too late. Mom had already left the phone, not even bothering to hang up. “Damn.”

Since Mom was out of commission for however it long it took to build a butt rocket, I hung up and made another call. This time I called Beth, but I only got her voicemail. Still, I left her a message, explaining what was going on, though I doubted it would do much good when I didn’t even know where I was.

“Maybe Kara,” I muttered, thinking maybe that I should let her know that I was all right. However, I didn’t know what to say, not at the moment. Beth would let her know I was alive, but when I did call Kara, I’d prefer it if it was to tell her I was free.

I stared at the phone for several seconds, annoyed at the fact that I’d completely missed a major flaw in my plan. Sure, being able to call out was great, but the fact that I didn’t know where I was sort of limited how useful that was. Of course, Beth might get some of her super hero contacts to track the phone call, but I didn’t know how long that would take, nor could I count on it happening at all.

Debra would notice her missing phone before long, and I doubted that it would take more than a few minutes after that before they searched my room and found it. That would definitely be a problem, especially considering what else I’d been up to. I had been hoping that I could wait for my rescuers to come to me, but now it looked like I was going to have to go with my riskier plan B. I’d been hoping to save that one for when I was an exemplar again and would be better suited to physical activity, but it seemed that I didn’t have much choice. I’d have to take my opening now while I still had it.

I took a minute to mentally prepare myself, then I turned my attention to the ceiling tiles, or at least to one specific one. The last time I’d given that tile my attention had been two days ago, and then I’d had to stand on the bed to reach it. This time, I had my telekinesis to make it easier. With my power du-jour, I moved the tile aside and retrieved the small object that I’d hidden up there.

The devise was an odd looking thing about the size of my fist, made from recycled parts from the sensor suit as well as a few small items I’d palmed while Dr. Smith had me out for testing. I’d build the devise that night before bed, and then hid it until it was the right time to use it.

“Please work,” I told the small devise, and then on a whim, I gave it a gentle little kiss. I figure that since I’m a girl now, maybe I can tap into some of that girl luck they used when kissing dice in casinos. Or did they blow on the dice? I wasn’t really sure since I’d never actually been in a casino.

I held the devise up to the collar around my neck and pushed the button. An instant later, I felt a hum through the collar, right before the latch popped open. I didn’t waste any time in tossing the collar as far away from myself as possible.

“It looks like my collar unlock-o-matic works,” I joked, feeling pretty giddy about this. I actually made a devise that worked…on purpose.

I looked at the door to the room and frowned, wishing I could use my devise to unlock that as well. However, it was designed to unlock the magnetic lock in the collar, not the old fashioned key lock from the door. But the truth was, that would have been convenient, but it wasn’t necessary.

I rubbed at my neck, which felt much better without that horrible collar I’d been wearing for the last week. And though I’d like to toss the sensor suit as well, that wasn’t really an option at the moment, not when I didn’t have anything else to wear. However, I made a mental note to take care of that as soon as I reasonably could.

“But first things first,” I mused, looking back up to the tiled ceiling.

When I’d been hiding my devise up in the tiles, I’d taken a brief look and saw that the crawlspace extended beyond the walls. It was obvious that this room hadn’t been originally built to hold people prisoner, because instead of trying to get through the locked door, I merely had to go up into the crawlspace and I could climb right on over it. However, I’d been hoping to hold off on that until I was a bit more athletic, and I still had to get past Debra who’d hear any noise I made while trying this.

Though it wasn’t easy, I forced myself to be patient and wait, just as I’d been doing for the last two days. I stretched out my esper senses again, this time no longer feeling Debra on the other side of the door. I smiled faintly at that. Since I was locked up in the room and had the collar around my neck, there was no need for her to guard my door constantly, and I knew that she’d frequently wander off to take care of other things. This meant that it was time to act.

I quickly pushed the bed into a corner and used it to help me climb up into the crawlspace. I had to grab some pipes and metal supports that had been hidden by the tiles, using them to pull myself up and support me so I didn’t fall back down. After all, the ceiling tiles wouldn’t be able to support even a fraction of my weight, so I didn’t even try. I knew that I made a bit of noise while I was doing this, which was why I’d waited until Debra was away. Still, I had to hurry before she came back.

Just a minute later, I dropped down through the ceiling tiles into the next room over, one that looked like it was being used as a storage room for medical supplies. I looked around nervously, using my esper senses as much as my eyes and letting out a relief when I saw there was no one coming.

The door to this room wasn’t locked, so I stuck my head out, and once I saw it was clear, I hurried down the hall. After a minute, I heard Dr. Smith and Archimedes having a conversation, but instead of stopping to listen in on them, I changed direction and made a wide detour. It didn’t take me long to find the exit of the building, and as I rushed out, I had an immense sense of relief.

Once I was outside, I looked at a nearly empty parking lot, then at the building I’d just escaped from. To my surprise, it wasn’t some warehouse or old abandoned building, but instead looked like some kind of professional office that was well taken care of. There was even a sign that said, ‘Harris Medical Supplies.’

I still wasn’t sure of exactly where I was, but this gave a big clue. I hurried away from the building as quickly as I could, trying to avoid being seen. Only then did I use the phone to make another call, not even bothering with my mom since I knew she’d be caught up in her lab. Instead, I called Beth and left another message on her voicemail.

Next, I needed to get even more distance between these guys and myself, and of course, find some real clothes to wear. I should probably find the cops as well, but I wasn’t sure how seriously I’d be taken by them, being a mutant and dressed in this weird outfit. For all I knew, they might decide I was a threat and report me to the MCO. I didn’t want to risk that.

However, before I could get any further, I suddenly began to feel hot and achy, symptoms that I was more than familiar with after going through two burnouts. I felt a surge of fear as I realized that it was happening again. I was going through another burnout.

Even as I felt worse and worse, I realized just how bad it would be this time. The first time, I’d probably survived only because Mom had been there with a freeze ray to keep my body temperature down, and the second time, Dr. Smith had been on hand with medical attention...at least enough to keep me stable until my own powers reset my body and reversed the damage. But this, I didn’t have either of those things.

I curled up on the ground in pain, hurting too much to move. I felt as though I was going to burst into flames at any moment, but that didn’t happen. And though I expected to lose consciousness again, this time I didn’t.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, something changed and the pain receded, though it didn’t go away. Instead, it continued increasing again until it was back to the previous levels.

“Here she is,” a familiar voice called out.
I looked over and saw Debra coming towards me with a pissed of look on her face. With every step, the concrete ground beneath her cracked and her feet sank, giving me the first real clue as to what her powers might be, though I was still hurting too much to really care.

“You selfish little bitch,” Debra exclaimed with an angry snarl. “Do you realize what you almost cost me?”

“At ease,” Dr. Smith told Debra, though he gave me a cold and angry look before he dropped down and began examining me. “Our subject is going through another burnout. If it wasn’t for the sensor suit warning me of her vital signs…”

While Dr. Smith was looking me over, my pain and fever faded away, but I was pretty sure that it had nothing to do with his treatment. Instead, it seemed that my power had taken care of the burnout before it got as bad as the last two times, though I still felt like crap.

Dr. Smith looked at a computer tablet, then at me before observing, “The burnout appears to have already run its course.” Then he gave me a flat look and said, “You’re quite fortunate that this was merely a…micro-burnout. I believe that term is accurate.”

“Somehow, I don’t feel lucky,” I responded bitterly, silently cursing the fact that this burnout had cut short my escape.

I felt a moment of hope as I realized that my escape might not be completely over. I tried using my telekinesis to knock Debra off balance, only to discover that power was gone. I mentally tried going through my powers to determine which one I had, but I didn’t sense anything. That meant I was either a devisor again, or had that magical sensitivity, neither of which would do me any good.

“Take her back inside,” Dr. Smith told Debra. “And there’s no need to be gentle.”

“My pleasure,” Debra responded, glaring at me before grabbing my arm and yanking me to my feet. There was a sharp pain from my arm and I cried out as it broke. She didn’t seem to care though as she just picked me up and tossed me over her shoulder, then carried me back inside.

--------------------

August 2nd, 2007

I was more than tired of Dr. Smith’s lab and all the testing he kept putting me through. Now that we knew what my different powers were, he’d shifted away from power testing and kept going a lot of other things instead. That meant, I kept going into several full-body MRI type machines, and of course, he kept taking blood samples.

At the moment, I was sitting on a stool and waiting for him to decide what he wanted to do next. It was all I could do not to tug at the collar, which was once again locked firmly around my neck. Of course, the collar was pretty minor compared to the fact that whenever they left me alone, they now chained me to something as well. I’d spent the entire night chained to the bed, unable to even get up to take a piss until Debra checked on me this morning.

I kept thinking about my escape attempt and just how close I’d come to making it. If it hadn’t been for my going into a burnout, I would have been home free. But not only had that burnout stopped me dead, it had also warned my kidnapers that something was wrong.

Debra was standing a short distance away, watching me with a cold glare. She was the one who broke my arm yesterday, but she was acting as though I was the one who’d hurt her. I was just glad that with the way my shifting power worked, I woke up this morning with my arm fully healed.

Dad came into the lab, though he made an obvious effort to not even look in my direction. Though he firmly denied that he was my father, and he’d carefully avoided me ever since, I still made him uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if it was the idea of kidnapping his own kid that made him avoid me, or if it was just the idea of even having a kid. What I did know was that once I had a chance, I was going to make him pay for what he’d done to me…and to Mom.

“Bad news,” my dad told Dr. Smith with a deep scowl and a shake of his head. “That power mimic I had a line on… She ended up on the bad side of some Humanity First. Apparently, they put a bullet through her head.”

“Most unfortunate,” Dr. Smith told him with a frown. “And the man with the varying powers?”

“It turns out he’s some kind of magic user,” my dad explained with a sigh. “All the different powers are really just different magic effects.”

“A pity,” Dr. Smith said, glancing to me and musing, “It seems our little volunteer is still our best chance to succeed.”

I scowled at his calling me a ‘volunteer,’ but I bit my tongue and didn’t say anything. The last thing I needed was another zap from the collar, already having received several of them since my escape attempt.

“Unfortunately,” Dr. Smith continued, talking to my dad and appearing to ignore me. “She appears to have a damaged BIT, and from what I can determine, it’s causing subtle flaws in her various modes…ones which have resulted in the multiple burnouts. I fear that this taints the readings we have on her so far. If we try duplicating her powers, there’s a large chance we may duplicate the flaws, resulting in unstable powers with a high risk of burnout.”

“And that certainly wouldn’t be good for business,” Dad mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “At least she keeps bouncing back from the burnouts pretty quickly…”

Dr. Smith nodded at that before responding, “For now. With the damage to her BIT, it may only be a matter of time before one of her shifts results in a fatal flaw, or triggers a burnout that she’s unable to recover from.”

That news hit me like a physical blow, though I tried not to show it. Instead, I clenched my hands into tight fists and bit my tongue, knowing that I’d learn more by staying silent and continuing to listen. So far, that strategy had been working pretty well for keeping me informed.

My dad glanced towards me, and for a brief moment, I thought that I actually saw a look of sympathy on his face, though he quickly looked away and covered it up. “So basically,” he asked Dr. Smith with a frown, “every time she shifts powers…it’s like playing Russian roulette?”

Dr. Smith hesitated a moment before answering, “That’s a crude way of describing the situation...but an apt simile.”

“Damn,” Dad muttered with a shake of his head, making a clear effort not to look at me again. “I’ll keep looking for possible replacements.”

As soon as Dad was gone, Dr. Smith turned back to me, giving me a friendly smile, “Now then, you’re quite the fortunate girl. My research may be just the thing you need to fix your little…issue.”

“I hope so,” I said, though I knew full well that Dr. Smith wouldn’t be able to do anything at all for me. It was already pretty clear that he didn’t know much about how a BIT worked, and he certainly wouldn’t be able to fix one that was damaged. In fact, I didn’t know if there was anyone in the world who was capable of doing that.

Dr. Smith put me through several more tests, this time with just a little more urgency. I suspected that he was trying to get as much out of me as possible before I self-destructed. I continued to cooperate, just as I’d done before my escape attempt. After all, I wanted them to lower their guard again so I might find another opportunity.

Eventually, my dad came back, announcing, “Hey Debra…you were saying you lost your phone?”

“Yesterday,” she responded with a scowl.

My dad held up her phone and said, “I found it outside, near where you guys found her…” He gestured to me and then handed the phone to Debra.

Debra seemed surprised at that but didn’t hesitate to look at her phone. After several seconds, her eyes went wide. She suddenly glared at me and exclaimed, “You tricky bitch…”

“What?” Dr. Smith demanded, holding up a hand to stop Debra, who’d begun walking towards me.

“She must have swiped my phone before she ran,” Debra spat out, giving me an angry look. “There are a couple outbound calls from yesterday…and I don’t recognize the numbers.”

Dr. Smith suddenly snapped around to glare at me with a similar expression to the one Debra possessed. “Who did you call?”

“The Ghostbusters,” I responded, only to get a zap from my collar that caused me to drop to the floor in a series of painful spasms.

“Who did you call?” Dr. Smith demanded again.

“The exterminator,” I answered with a grimace of pain. “This place is full of rats…”

Debra came towards me, and for a moment I thought she was going to kick me while I was on the floor. However, Dr. Smith stopped her. “We might be compromised,” he told her with barely contained anger. “We need to move our operation immediately.”

“I’ll let Archimedes know,” my dad announced before he hurried away.

“Bring her,” Dr. Smith told Debra, gesturing to me. “And don’t hurt her too much. It’ll be easier to transport her if she’s not too injured.”

“Lucky for you,” Debra told me, grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet, this time doing it without actually breaking my arm. “But if you even think about trying something else…”

“We grab just the essentials and leave now,” Dr. Smith announced. “You and Archimedes can come back for everything else later…assuming it’s safe.”

Twenty minutes later, we stepped out of the building and started into the parking lot. Archimedes and my dad had already filled a van up with whatever they could in that short time, and there was another car with a loaded trunk. I was actually impressed at how much they’d managed to grab in that short time, though most it seemed to consist of various computers, hard drives, and tissue samples.

“I’m afraid that you’re going to regret this inconvenience,” Dr. Smith told me, no longer playing nice. “You’re fortunate that we still need you alive and in one piece…”

“Yeah, but she heals up pretty quick,” Debra reminded him, giving me an evil smirk. “Even when she doesn’t have regen.” The look she gave me contained a promise of great pain in my future. I gulped.

Suddenly, the air was filled with a strange humming sound, one that I’d heard before, though it had been a couple years. Then there was a flash of light from the van, followed by a loud BOOM. A moment later, I saw that the van was gone, replaced with a small crater which contained a twisted metal sphere…which was all that was left of the van.

“My research,” Dr. Smith exclaimed in shock and horror.

“What the hell was that?” my dad demanded as he looked around frantically.

“A singularity bomb,” I answered with an evil grin.

Several years ago, Mom had taken me to a test range to show off some of her more destructive weapons, especially the oldest ones that she no longer used. At the time, she’d been cleaning out the back of her armory in order to make room for new additions. I remembered her singularity bombs because they were so unique. They momentarily created an artificial singularity, which generated such a sudden and powerful gravitational pull that it caused an implosion.

“A singularity bomb?” Debra demanded, suddenly looking more than a little worried.

The humming sound started again, and a moment later, the car suddenly imploded the same way the van had. The car and everything inside sucked together, forming a dense ball in the middle of the crater.

“My research,” Dr. Smith cried out, dropping to his knees and looking as though he was about to burst into tears. “All my test results and samples…”

“It looks like my mom is here to pick me up,” I said with a grin, seeing a look of fear flash through my dad’s eyes.

“I only know one person who uses singularity bombs,” Debra exclaimed, looking around frantically. Then she suddenly glared at my dad and demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me who her mother was? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“Control yourself,” Archimedes ordered Debra with a note of contempt in his voice. “Whoever her mother is, she’s just a devisor.”

“True,” a familiar voice called out. “But I’m not.”

With that, Beth stepped into view, or more accurately, Statuesque did. Beth was fully powered-up and in her costume, looking pissed and more than a little intimidating. I immediately let out a sigh of relief when I saw her.

“Statuesque,” Debra stated with a sneer, giving me the feeling that there was some history there.

“Dense,” Beth snarled. “I heard you went into the villain game after graduation, but I never thought you’d go for kidnapping kids…”

“My name is DenSITY,” Debra snapped back angrily. “Not Dense…”

“As far as I’m concerned, Debra,” Mom’s voice called out, “your name is dead meat…”

With that, Mom stepped into view, joining Beth. I stared at her in surprise since she was wearing the outfit that she’d worn during her brief career as a super hero. She had a dark blue jumpsuit, which I knew was made of fireproof and impact resistant materials, and it was covered with straps and pouches, all of which contained various weapons. She even had a large rail gun strapped to her back. And to top it off, she was wearing the goggles which served as a mask.

Debra glared at Mom and spat out, “If it isn’t Boob Job.”

“That’s BOOM Job,” Mom responded angrily. “With an M.” Then she turned her attention to my dad, giving him a cold look that should have made him turn and run. “I’ll deal with you in a few minutes…”

“I’d run if I were you,” I told my dad cheerfully. “When I talked to her yesterday, she said she was planning on strapping a rocket to your ass and launching you into space.”

“Enough of this posturing,” Archimedes stated, glancing to Debra. “I’ll deal with the devisor. You handle the hero.”

“Gladly,” Debra responded, giving a nervous glance at my mom before she started walking towards Beth. As she started walking, the concrete began to crack under each footstep and her feet began sinking into the ground.

“This has been a long time coming,” Beth told Debra.

“Come on, you overgrown bitch,” Debra responded, right before the larger woman punched her. Debra went flying back, and when she came to a stop, the concrete cracked beneath her and she sank a little into the ground. She got back to her feet, seeming unharmed, which showed just how tough she was if she could take a hit like that from Beth.

“Are you all right Au…Amy?” Mom asked me, giving me a worried look while still keeping an eye on Archimedes.

“Just fine,” I responded wryly. “It’s not like I have a bomb around my neck or anything.”

I started backing away, only to have Dr. Smith glare at me. “Don’t move, child.” He held up his hand, revealing the small remote he had that triggered my collar. Though he didn’t give me a zap, the threat was there.

Without warning, Mom swung her freeze ray at Archimedes and pulled the trigger, though nothing happened. Archimedes just stood there with a smug look, not flinching in the least. Of course, not only was Archimedes a gadgeteer, but he also had his other ability, the one that he could use to stop any devises near him from working.

“No devise will work against me,” Archimedes stated arrogantly. “Science is far superior to that unreliable nonsense you devisors build.”

“Don’t underestimate Boob Job,” Debra called out to him, not taking her eyes off Beth. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that crazy bitch has a nuke on her somewhere…”

“That’s Boom Job,” Mom snapped, pulling out a shrink ray and trying to shoot Debra with that, though this weapon didn’t work anymore than the freeze ray had. “I wish I’d never picked that codename…”

“I guess that explains why Mom never told me what her codename is,” I mused, watching Archimedes carefully.

Though I was trying to act calm, I was worried about my mom. Sure, Mom had some pretty powerful weapons, but that didn’t do any good when none of them worked. And unfortunately, Archimedes didn’t have that problem since all of his weapons would still work.

I glanced over to Beth, who was dealing with Debra. Though Beth towered over Debra by more than a foot, the smaller woman was definitely holding her own. They were trading punches and kicks, though Debra’s feet kept sinking into the ground, showing just how heavy she’d become.

Then I looked back at Archimedes, who pulled out his high tech weapon and calmly stated, “Now I’ll demonstrate just how inferior devisors are…again.”

“Leave her alone,” I snarled, pissed that he’d dare threaten my mom. However, Archimedes didn’t even look at me.

I glanced to Dr. Smith and my dad, both of whom were standing back, confident that Archimedes and Debra had everything under control. Dr. Smith still had the small remote held in his hand, ready to use it the moment I caused any trouble. I scowled, knowing full well that even if Mom and Beth were able to beat Debra and Archimedes, he’d just use me as a hostage. There was no way I was going to let Archimedes hurt my mom, nor let myself be used as a hostage.

I took a deep breath and then shifted my vision so I could see the glow that marked electromagnetic energy around me. There was definitely a strong glow running through Archimedes’ armor and weapons, giving a clear indication that he was indeed wearing power armor.

“Do you really think I’m afraid of you?” Mom asked Archimedes, giving him a cold glare. “I came to get my daughter back, and that is exactly what I’m going to do…”

“I respect your tenacity,” Archimedes said as he raised his weapon. “It’s unfortunate that you’ve wasted your life with that pseudo-scientific drivel…”

While they were trading barbs, I’d already begun using my energizer abilities, pulling as much energy towards me as I could. I focused all the gathered energy into my hands, hoping I could get enough to do something useful. Then Dr. Smith finally noticed what I was doing and he tried activating the collar to give me a zap, but my power absorbed the shock and transferred the energy to my hands along with everything else I was gathering.

“Cease,” Dr. Smith started to command, though I completely ignored him.

Since I’d already learned during testing that I couldn’t throw this ball of concentrated energy, I leapt at Archimedes instead. I slammed the glowing blue ball right into his back and suddenly sparks exploded from his armor, and a moment later, he dropped to his knees. At the same time, he dropped his weapon and began to shake as though having some kind of seizure. I just jumped back, amazed that my attack had that kind of effect.

“A focused EMP,” Archimedes gasped. “My armor took the brunt of the attack… You destroyed it.” He turned to glare up at me, looking pissed…and in pain. “You’ll pay for that, child…”

“No, she won’t,” Mom stated in a hard tone, suddenly pointing a gun right at Archimedes’ forehead.

“Devises don’t work near me,” he smugly reminded her.

However, Mom just smirked faintly, cocked the gun and stated, “This isn’t a devise.” I stared at the weapon, realizing that it definitely wasn’t one of her high tech ray guns. It was an ordinary looking handgun. “Amy warned me you’d be here, so I came prepared.”

Dr. Smith and my dad both started to back up, though Mom immediately pointed the gun towards them and snapped, “Don’t move. You both have a LOT to answer for…”

I looked back and forth between the three people my mom had just taken prisoner, and then I looked at Beth, who was in the middle of body-slamming Debra to the ground. The ground shattered and the smaller women sank a bit, but then she started getting back up.

“I’ll just have to increase my density a little more,” Debra said, suddenly sinking a little further.

“I know,” Beth responded with a snort. “The more you increase your density, the stronger and tougher you become. But I also remember that if you get too dense, the ground can’t support you anymore and you just sink right into it. I think you’re at about your limits.”

Debra stood up, but she was sunk into the ground up to her knees, which was clearly making it difficult for her to move. Because of that, she couldn’t maneuver fast enough as Beth started to kick her until she finally surrendered.

“The reinforcements I called for should be here any time,” Beth told Mom.

“Reinforcements?” I asked, nervously glancing at Archimedes, who no longer seemed to be much of a threat. I’d fried his armor and Mom had a gun pointed right at his head, which seemed to have removed any fight he had left.

“We were holding back and waiting for them to arrive,” Mom told me with a faint smile, “but then we saw you all trying to leave… We weren’t about to let you leave here with them.”

“I don’t even know where here is,” I responded with a shrug, looking around and trying to place the area.

“They brought you north…to Tacoma,” Beth called out, grabbing Debra and marching her towards us. “Don’t even think of trying to run, Dense….”

“Density,” Debra snapped, then muttered, “Why in the world did I ever pick that codename?” Mom gave her a sympathetic look and nodded in understanding.

“Lizzy,” my dad started, giving her a charming smile and practically radiating a slick confidence.

“Don’t Lizzy me,” Mom snapped, giving him a glare that made him pause and gulp nervously. “You lied to me…stole my weapons and…” Then she paused, suddenly looking even more pissed, “You kidnaped my daughter…”

My dad gulped nervously, then his smile reappeared, obviously forced. He glanced to me and stated, “She said I was her father…”

“No, you’re not her father,” Mom said, catching me by surprise since I’d been so sure. But then she continued, “You don’t deserve to be called that. You’re just the sperm donor…”

For a moment, my dad looked at me again, this time more steadily than before. I suddenly realized that until now, he hadn’t really believed he was my father. Until now, it had probably been easy for him to just deny that it, though my mom had made that almost impossible.

“What are you going to do with him?” I asked Mom, knowing just how much he’d hurt her with his manipulation and betrayal. Even if he hadn’t kidnapped me, I still would have had a major grudge against him just for that alone.

“I’m going to shrink him to the size of a mouse,” Mom stated, making my dad flinch with a look of worry. “Then I’m going to make him swim in a public toilet…”

“Nasty,” I commented.

“And THEN,” Mom finished with a familiar note of finality in her voice, “I’m going to mail him to Abu Dhabi…”

I raised an eyebrow at that, then said, “I thought you were going to stick a rocket up his butt and launch him into space…”

“I changed my mind,” Mom responded, much to my surprise. Whenever she was caught up in one of these Diedricks fueled rants, she never responded or listened to reason. Then she looked at me, and I was startled to realize that her expression was angry but still clear. For once, this wasn’t her Diedricks speaking, though I didn’t know if that made her latest threats more or less frightening.

While Mom was distracted, Archimedes made his move. I saw him reaching for his belt, but before I could warn Mom, there was a blinding flash of light. I instinctively covered my eyes, but it was already too late.

“No,” Mom cried out before she let out a loud gasp of pain.

“A simple chemical reaction,” Archimedes stated, his voice once again filled with its usual arrogance. “Completely unaffected by the EMP.”

I tore my hands away from my eyes, and everything was a bit blurry, but I could make out enough to see that Archimedes had taken the gun away from my mom and was now pointing it at her. I snarled and immediately began gathering more energy for another attack, not knowing what else I could do.

Without warning, Archimedes swung the gun at me and pulled the trigger. There was an explosion of pain in my stomach and I fell back with a scream. I hit the ground and grabbed my stomach, feeling blood all over my hands.

“NO,” Mom yelled, her expression going from worry to mania in an instant. She grabbed one of the weapons from her belt and immediately tried shooting Archimedes with it, but nothing happened.

“Foolish devisor,” Archimedes said with a sneer as he turned his weapon back towards Mom.

However, a loud voice yelled out, “Drop the weapon immediately.”

Though I was hurting like hell, I was still aware enough to look around and see that we were surrounded by more than a dozen men, most of whom were wearing MCO uniforms, though several of them were in powder blue suits of power armor.

“Oh shit,” I whispered, realizing that the MCO had arrived. We’d just gone from the frying pan to the fire.

Before I realized it, Archimedes was on the ground with his hands being tied behind his back while an MCO agent bent over him, saying, “You have the right to remain silent…”

“By the book,” another MCO agent called out. “We don’t want their lawyers getting them off on a technicality.” Then this agent came over and I got a better look at him. He was a stern faced man with dark hair that was turning gray. He took one look at me, then demanded of one of his men, “What are you waiting for? She needs medical attention.”

A woman in an MCO uniform bent over me and began checking my wound, though it was getting hard to focus on much of anything. I looked at Mom, terrified that the MCO would arrest her too, but that wasn’t happening, though Beth was trying to calm her down and keep her under control.

“She just manifested and hasn’t had time to get her MID yet,” Beth was explaining, giving me a worried look but not seeming bothered by the MCO agents that surrounded us. It was only then that I realized these were the reinforcements they’d been talking about.

“My power,” I whispered, not having the strength for anything more than that. I was trying to explain that they just had to keep me alive long enough for my powers to shift to another mode, and then my body should heal itself, but my voice wasn’t working right. And then as I started to lose consciousness, my last thoughts were, “Not again.”

--------------------

Tacoma Washington, August 3rd, 2007

One hospital room was much like another, though after the events of the last week and a half, I was beginning to think of myself as something of an expert. This particular hospital room was nicer than the one Dr. Smith had locked me up in, but not quite as nice as the one in Portland.

All in all, I was sick and tired of hospital rooms and eager to just get back home to my own bed. I’d woken up a few hours ago, perfectly fine and healthy, with no sign of ever having been shot, but the doctors wanted to keep me here for a bit longer just to be safe.

“Will you stop pacing?” Mom asked me with an exasperated sigh. “With the way you keep walking back and forth, you’re making me itch to go build a treadmill to harness the energy.”

I stopped my pacing and gave Mom a curious look, trying to decide if she was serious or not. With my mom, you couldn’t always be sure. She’d once joked about finding a way to get me out of bed more quickly in the mornings, and when I came home from school, I found that she’d rigged my bed to give me an electrical shock ten seconds after my alarm went off. Needless to say, I’d quickly dismantled that one.

“I just want to go home,” I told her with a sigh. Unfortunately, the doctor was talking about keeping me there overnight, and I remembered quite well what had happened the last time a doctor wanted to keep me overnight for observation.

“I know,” Mom said, coming over and giving me a hug. She pulled back and gave me a worried look, then promised, “You’ll sleep in your own bed tonight.” Then she hesitated a moment before asking, “How are you feeling?” It wasn’t the first time she’d asked that question since I woke up here, or even the fifth.

After hesitating a moment, I shrugged and answered, “I feel fine.” I ran a hand through my purple hair, feeling a bit self-conscious about it. Mom hadn’t said a word about my newer physical changes, but I was definitely aware of them, especially of my larger breast size. “It a bit weird, but I’ll adjust.”

Mom nodded at that and admitted, “When you got shot…” She paused, her eyes tearing up. “I…I lost it.”

I nodded, knowing that she’d gone into a Diedrick’s episode right afterwards. If Beth hadn’t been there to keep her under control, there was no telling what she would have done, especially with the MCO there. I shuddered at the thought of how close Mom had come to being arrested by the MCO.

“You have no idea how worried I’ve been,” Mom told me, grabbing me for another hug. “First you go through a burnout, then you disappear from the hospital, and now this…”

“How do you think I feel?” I asked her wryly. “I’ve only been a mutant for two weeks and I’ve already been through three burnouts, a kidnapping, and I’ve been shot. If I’d known that being a mutant would be this exhausting, I would have just skipped the whole thing.”

Mom chuckled at that, then pointed out, “I never told you that being a mutant would be easy.”

I nodded at that, thinking about the nature of my powers, and more specifically, the way my BIT was supposed to be damaged. I scowled, having a severe dislike of Dr. Smith and his methods, but I had to admit that he seemed to know what he was talking about. If he was right, then there was a very good chance that I could expect more burnouts in the future, and possibly worse.

Though I’d told Mom a little bit about the power testing and the real nature of my powers, I hadn’t said anything about my damaged BIT. I didn’t want to make her worry any more, at least not yet. I figured that I’d wait till we were at home before bringing up the subject. After all, if I said anything right then, I’d probably end up stuck in the hospital for another week of testing.

Just then, there was a knock on the door, which was already open. I looked over and saw Beth coming in, or at least, I saw Statuesque entering. She was powered up and in costume, and a moment later, I saw why. There was a man in an MCO uniform right behind her.

“It’s okay,” Beth quickly assured me when she saw me give the MCO agent a nervous look. “He’s just here to ask you some questions and have you fill out some paperwork.”

“Paperwork?” I asked in surprise.

“Archimedes and Density are in custody for your kidnapping,” the MCO agent explained with a grim expression. “Among other crimes. I need a full interview for my investigation, and I’ll need an official statement.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “And there is the small matter of your MID…”

I glanced at Beth, who just gave me a reassuring smile. “I explained how you just manifested and haven’t had time to get one.”

“I’m issuing you a temporary waiver,” the MCO agent explained calmly. “You won’t be allowed on an aircraft, but it should suffice should anyone in the MCO question your current status. Of course, you will be expected to get power testing and an MID as soon as possible.”

“Within the week,” Mom promised him, looking relieved.

“But I already had power testing,” I protested with a shudder. “Every day I was with them…”

The MCO agent nodded at that, not seeming to really care. “Archimedes indicated that under questioning, but I believe all notes and records from that testing were destroyed during your rescue.”

Mom bit her lip and looked just a little embarrassed. Those singularity bombs certainly had been impressive to watch, but unfortunately, they were now coming back to bite me in the butt. If nothing else, at least Dr. Smith and Archimedes would be even more upset by the loss.

I spent about an hour answering questions for the guy from the MCO, as well as filling out paperwork. When he finally announced we were done and left, I let out a long sigh of relief.

“I was afraid he was going to arrest me or something,” I admitted to Mom and Beth.

“I’ve worked with the Seattle field office a couple times,” Beth assured me with a chuckle. “Trust me, that guy might have a bit of a stick up his ass, but I’ve dealt with much worse.”

With that, Beth went and closed the door to the hospital room, then she shimmered and changed back to her normal appearance. Before I had a chance to say anything else, she came over and gave me a hug.

“You had everyone worried,” Beth told me with a smile. “Kara was running around Portland, trying to find you. She wanted to put up missing person posters, but we didn’t have any pictures of your new face…or your newer one.”

“I don’t look that much different,” I protested, only to earn a look of amusement.

“So,” Beth said, giving me a curious look. “You’re a power shifter?”

“It looks like it,” I responded with a shrug. I’d already told Mom about that, and I’d repeated it a little for the MCO agent when I was trying to explain why those guys had been interested in me. “It looks like I’ve got five different power modes I shift between.”

“So you can switch powers at will,” she commented, looking impressed.

I just shook my head at that, then admitted, “I wish.” I frowned for a moment, trying to think about how to explain it. “So far, it just happens when I’m asleep…or going through a burnout or something.” I shuddered faintly as the memories.

“And what powers do you have right now?” Mom asked me curiously.

“I think I’ve got some kind of wizard power right now,” I explained, having tested out my abilities shortly after I’d woken up. “But I don’t know the first thing about magic, so it doesn’t do me any good…”

Beth gave me a thoughtful look before saying, “I’ve got a friend in Seattle who knows a lot about magic, so I’ll ask if she can take a look at you.”

“Thanks,” I said, not looking forward to more power testing, though it would be nice to know more about this magic ability I had. I couldn’t help but thinking about Harry Potter and wondering if I’d be able to do those kinds of spells. That would be great, and Kara would be really jealous.

“Magic,” Mom commented with a sigh, shaking her head faintly and giving me a skeptical look. I knew that she wasn’t a bit fan of that ‘mumbo jumbo’ as I’d heard her call it before, but she wasn’t nearly as bad about magic as Archimedes was about devisors. “I just don’t understand that stuff…”

“I’m sure they don’t understand your devises either,” I assured her with a faint smile.

“Hell,” Beth said with a roll of her eyes. “Most of the time, I don’t understand those devises.”

I chuckled at that, knowing exactly what she meant. I’d lived with Mom for my entire life, and I’d seen countless odd devises that could do almost anything imaginable, but I still had a hard time believing that most of them could actually work. After all, shrink rays and singularity bombs didn’t make any logical sense…which was why she was a devisor and not a gadgeteer.

“That reminds me,” I said, thinking about how that MCO agent said that they had Archimedes and Debra in custody. “What about Doctor Smith and my dad?”

Beth’s grin immediately turned into a scowl, letting me know that she didn’t have good news for me. I took a deep breath and tried to avoid jumping to conclusions as I waited for her to answer my question.

“Your Doctor Smith escaped during the confusion,” Beth admitted with a look of anger.

Mom gave me an almost evil grin as she added, “So did your deadbeat father.” Then she absently patted the side of her purse, sending a faint chill down my spine.

Before I could ask Mom any questions, Beth told me, “Doctor Smith… His real name is Jacob Harris. Apparently, he used to work for Goodkind Research, but got fired because he was more interested in creating mutant powers than curing them.”

“Figures,” I responded with a scowl.

“When Archimedes made his move,” Beth continued apologetically, “Harris used the distraction to run. The police are looking for him, as are a few of my friends.” I stared at her, being pretty sure that those friends wore spandex.

I scowled, angry that Dr. Smith…Dr. Harris had managed to get away after what he’d done to me. However, I knew that Beth wasn’t going to just let him walk away without doing everything she could.

“When you get him,” I told Beth, giving her a forced smile. “You don’t need to be gentle.”

“I won’t,” she promised.

“I’m going to talk to the doctor about getting you out of here,” Mom said, giving me a hug and then another odd look before she hurried out of the room.

It was just Beth and I in the room, though I wasn’t really sure what to say. She took care of that by saying, “You know, Kara is going to be over to visit the moment you get back home.”

I nodded at that, having a lot to tell her. I definitely wanted to show off my new powers, and admittedly, get her advice on a few things. Now that it seemed I was going be permanently stuck as a girl, I was going to need some help adjusting. Sure, I’d been a girl before, but I’d only been ten years old at the time and it had only been for a week. Being a teenage girl full time was probably going to be a bit more involved.

“At least I’ll be able to show off my new powers,” I mused aloud, knowing that Kara would definitely be impressed. I also knew that it wouldn’t be long before she insisted I show her what I could do.

I thought about my current powers, which I understood less than any of my other abilities. Dr. Smith…Harris said that I had magical sensitivity, but he didn’t know how to test for magical abilities. Because of that, my current power set was still a bit of a mystery.

“Let’s see,” I mused, trying to think of what I could do to test my magic. I held my hand out towards the hospital bed, wishing I had a magic wand and announcing, “Accio pillow…” When nothing happened, I said, “Well, that was disappointing.”

“What are you trying to do?” Beth asked me curiously.

“Trying to figure out this magic thing,” I explained self-consciously. “I mean, I can sort of feel some sort of energy out there…a little like when I’m an energizer. I wonder…”

With that, I concentrated on trying to pull some of this energy towards me, the same way I did the ambient electromagnetic energy when I was in my energizer mode. Some of the energy did start coming towards me, but it was slower and a lot more difficult. In a way, it was sort of like trying to drink a really thick milkshake through a straw. I could drink it, but it took a lot of sucking to really get anything.

Once I thought I’d gathered enough of what I thought was magical energy, I gestured to the hospital bed again, focused on the pillow and announced, “Wingardium Leviosa…”

I tried pushing out with the magical energy, willing to the pillow to start levitating. However, there was a sort of explosion of energy, and a moment later, there was an ugly green toad the size of a cat, sitting on the floor in front of me. I stared down at the thing in shock and confusion, absently noting that it actually had pink butterfly wings on its back.

Suddenly, the toad began hopping around the room, slamming up against the wall with a thud, then bouncing towards the door. Beth jumped into its path, and instead of hopping the other direction, the toad jumped at her, head butting her in the gut before being knocked back to the ground. Then it leapt at me, hitting me and knocking me down.

“What in the world…?” I started, staring at the large toad and wondering what I’d done.

Just then, Mom came back into the room, only to shriek as the toad jumped right at her. A moment later, she pulled a ray gun from her purse and shot at the thing, missing the toad and creating a charred spot on the floor.

“Watch out,” Beth warned, gesturing to the toad. “I think it’s a hobgoblin…”

“Like the ones Sister Wyrd used to make in Dickinson?” Mom asked with a look of surprise.

“I think so,” Beth responded, looking at me and scowling. “Amy created it while trying to do a spell…”

Before I could ask what a hobgoblin was, the toad jumped through the door while Mom raced after it into the hallway, firing several more shots with her death ray before exclaiming, “I got it…”

“And after that,” Beth pointed out wryly, “I don’t think we’ll be welcome in the hospital anymore.”

I stared at the charred spot on the floor, then thought about what damage Mom might have done in the hallway. I shook my head, then asked, “What was that?”

“If you’re a mage,” Beth told me with an exasperated look, “then that was probably a hobgoblin.” At my blank look, she explained, “I’ve seen magic users make them by accident when their spells went wrong.”

“Oh no,” Mom exclaimed, staring at me with a wide-eyed look of horror. “You mean we’ll have more of those things around the house? I thought I’d never have to deal with mage screw-ups once I left Whateley…”

Before I could say anything, Beth just smirked and said, “I seem to remember you making more than a few screw-ups with your devises… Do I need to remind you about the antimatter incident…?

“Um…no,” Mom said, blushing bright red.

Beth just smirked and told me, “Remember, just because you can build something, that doesn’t mean you should.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” Mom protested, which told me that I REALLY wanted to hear the full story of this one.

A few seconds later, a doctor and several nurses came bursting into the room, making it quite clear that we were invited to check out and leave the hospital as soon as possible. I just glanced at Mom and chuckled, knowing that I should be bothered by her overzealous handling of that hobgoblin thing, but it was getting me out of the hospital sooner than the doctors had indicated, so I wasn’t about to complain.

While we were being politely but quickly ushered out of the hospital, Mom announced, “Oh, I have an errand to run on the way home…”

“An errand?” I asked curiously.

“Nothing to worry about,” Mom responded, giving me an evil grin as absently patted the side of her purse. “Just a quick stop at the post office.”

--------------------

Portland Oregon, August 12th, 2007

I closed my eyes and smiled as I savored the mouth-watering scents that filled the air. Of course, there was the smell of fresh cooked breakfast sausage, but there was also the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg from the freshly made French toast. I looked over the sheet of French toast that I’d just pulled out of the oven, then sprinkled some toasted almonds and powdered sugar over each slice. Perfect.

“That smells delicious,” Beth announced from the table, where she sat with Mom and Kara.

“Now can we eat?” Kara asked with a grin. “You’ve been torturing me with that smell for hours…”

It had been a week and a half since I’d been rescued from my kidnappers and I still felt like celebrating both my freedom and the opportunity to eat real food again, so I’d invited Beth and Kara over for Sunday brunch. I spent half the morning preparing the food, or at least it felt like it was that long, though it would be well worth the time and effort.

I knew that Mrs. Lawrence would approve of the meal, especially since she was the one who taught me to cook French toast this way. This wasn’t one of the things that she usually fixed for her catering business, but she’d shown me how to make this just the other day after I’d asked her what she recommended for a good brunch meal.

Mrs. Lawrence had always been nice to me, and after giving me a job and teaching me how to cook, I thought she deserved to know what was going on. After all, I’d suddenly stopped coming to work, and Mom said that she’d been pretty worried about me after I’d disappeared, so I told her all about my being a mutant. She’d been a bit shocked at the fact that I was now a girl, but she got over it pretty quickly. And to my relief, she even tried to treat me the same way she always had before.

I gave everyone a fresh cup of hot chocolate, then I began plating the food, feeling quite proud of my achievement. When I got to my mom, I gave her a disapproving look and reminded her, “No death rays at the table.” I picked the weapon from where she’d set it while she gave me a chagrinned look.

“It’s not a death ray,” she muttered self-consciously. “At least not for anything but vegetation.”

I stared at the odd looking weapon for a moment, then said, “So this is responsible for Mrs. Bonner’s yard…”

Mom just sat there, trying to look innocent while Kara asked, “What do you mean?”

“Don’t think I didn’t notice the way all her hedges and roses were all dead,” I said, giving Mom a flat look. “Wouldn’t it just have been easier to trim our hedges?”

“That’s not the point,” Mom complained while Kara just burst out laughing.

“If I didn’t know you two,” Kara teased, “I’d have a hard time guessing which one was the mother…”

Beth burst out laughing next, adding, “She does have a point.”

I frowned, suddenly feeling self-conscious about my new gender. Most of the time, it wasn’t really that big of a deal, but every once in awhile I suddenly remembered that everyone else was going to be looking at me and treating me differently than how they used to. Strangely enough, I was more concerned by how other people would look at me than I was about things like the idea of having a period or the possibility of getting pregnant. Admittedly, both of those did make me squirm just a little when I thought of them, but they were facts of life I’d have to deal with.

“In spite of the new packaging,” I reminded Kara, “I’m still the same person inside.”

“I know,” she responded, not looking the least bit sorry. “The truth is, I’ve always kind of thought of you as being one of the girls.”

“Do you want to eat or not?” I asked her, though I was grinning as I did so.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Kara told me defensively. Then she grinned and added, “But someday, you’re going to make someone a great wife…” Mom and Beth both started laughing.

Once I sat down to eat, I looked at Mom and thought about the way she’d come charging in to rescue me from my kidnappers. I felt a surge of pride at that, especially when I remembered the look on Archimedes’ face when she pulled a normal gun on him. Mom was nothing, if not full of surprises.

“So,” I said, giving Mom a mischievious grin as I remembered a question that I’ve been dying to ask her. “What was that they called you? Boob Job?”

“Boom Job,” Mom snapped, letting out a sigh while Beth just burst out laughing. “My codename is Boom Job.”

“She was so oblivious,” Beth told me, trying to keep from laughing long enough to talk. “She had her codename for almost a year before she finally realized that everyone was calling her Boob Job behind her back…”

Mom gave Beth a mock glare and asked, “Do I have to tell them about that time you got drunk on devisor booze?”

“Tell us,” Kara blurted out eagerly.

Beth just grinned and continued her story. “Instead of changing her codename, she just told everyone to start calling her BJ for short…”

“You didn’t?” I gasped, hardly able to believe anyone could be that oblivious. Then again, this was my mom we were talking about.

“Oh yeah,” Beth responded with a chuckle. “It took awhile for that one to sink in too…”

“Why didn’t you just change your codename?” I asked with a shake of my head. Then again, it was probably the same reason she didn’t just trim our hedges.

“Did you tell Kara your new codename?” Mom abruptly asked me, obviously trying to change the subject.

“Not yet,” I answered.

A few days ago, Beth had taken me to Seattle so some of her friends could perform my power testing for me. However, after less than a day, they’d given up, deciding that with the nature of my powers, it would take far too long to test me properly. After all, I’d be tested again once I got to Whateley Academy, so for now I’d just been given a preliminary MID that gave an even more basic overview of my powers than normal.

“Is it Dice?” Kara asked me with a grin. “I mean, every time you change powers, it’s like rolling the dice.”

“Close,” Mom told her with a chuckle.

“Maybe if I had six powers instead of just five,” I responded with a shrug. “Besides, Dice would make me sound like I should be a gambler.”

“True,” Beth agreed.

I frowned for a moment, wondering if I should pull out my temporary MID to show her. “I picked Roulette.”

“Roulette?” Kara repeated with a thoughtful look.

“Yeah, I don’t have nearly as many powers as a roulette wheel,” I said, knowing that Kara would point out that flaw in the name. “But it sounds a lot better than Dice.”

“I like it,” Beth told me, giving me an approving look.

I nodded, not mentioning the other reason I’d picked that specific name. Dr. Smith…Harris had said that with my damaged BIT, every time I switched modes, it was like playing Russian roulette. However, Mom was staring at me with a grim look that told me she’d caught the reference.

It hadn’t been easy to tell my mom about my damaged BIT, or what it meant for my powers and health. She’d been shocked and horrified at the news, especially after I went through another micro burnout in front of her. Afterwards, she started to blame herself, thinking that my BIT had been damaged because of all the times I’d been exposed to her devices. The truth was, she might be right about that, though I didn’t blame her.

“Are you okay?” Mom asked, giving me a worried look.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I responded wryly.

Admittedly, I was worried about the fact that my own power might end up killing me, but the truth was, it was a possibility…not a certainty. I’d grown up around death rays and doomsday weapons, so I was used to being surrounded by danger. Just because something MIGHT happen, that didn’t mean it would, so there was no use worrying about it. At least, that was what I kept telling myself, though I still wasn’t sure I actually believed it.

“I did find something out from that testing,” I told Kara, trying to distract myself from thoughts about my damaged BIT. “I went to it in wizard mode, so I was able to find out that I’m either a high wiz two or a low wiz three.”

My magical power levels weren’t really all that impressive, and I wasn’t going to be throwing fireballs around anytime soon. The fact that I only had magic one or two days a week would limit me even further. However, Witchling, the woman who’d done my magic testing, said that with a little education and preparation, I should be able to cast spells and store them for later use. That way, as with my devises, I’d be able to get some use of the power even when I wasn’t in that mode.

“It doesn’t do me a lot of good at the moment,” I admitted with a shrug. “But Witchling gave me a beginner’s book on magic theory and a quick lesson on basic principles. She said she’ll try giving me another lesson before I go to Whateley, but I probably won’t be able to really do much until I get some classes there.”

“Still, you’ll be able to do magic,” Kara pointed out, pausing to take a bite of her breakfast. “And you’ve got those other powers too.” There was a clear note of envy in her voice, then she mused, “I can’t wait until I manifest.”

I frowned slightly, not bothering to point out that the odds were actually against her being a mutant. Sure, she had a mutant in her family, but neither of her parents were mutants. She might end up being a mutant, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it. Still, I didn’t want to burst her bubble since I knew she really wanted to have powers of her own so she could go into the hero business like Beth.

“I wonder what powers I’ll get,” she thought aloud. “Maybe I’ll turn into an exemplar babe…”

“What?” I asked with a look of mock innocence. “You mean you aren’t already?”

“Oooh, you’re really going for the bonus points,” she said with a grin, looking inordinately pleased by that.

“Just be careful what you wish for,” Beth warned Kara. “If you do manifest, you might end up with a power you’d rather not have…”

“Or GSD,” Kara agreed with a sigh, though from the look she gave me, I knew she was thinking about the issues I had with my powers, just like I was.

For the rest of breakfast, we talked about my different power modes, avoiding the subject of my damaged BIT and what it could mean for me. I was glad to avoid that particular subject since it was easier to just not think about it.

Once we were done eating, Kara and I went back to my room. I let out a faint sigh as we passed through the living room, which was missing half the furniture. After Mom had used a freeze ray in there to save my life, she’d left everything coated with ice. The ice had melted but she’d been so caught up with my burnout and disappearance that she hadn’t thought to clean it up.

When I’d returned home, I’d been horrified to find just how messy the house was. Not only had the living room been left a ruin, but Mom’s lab had been filled with clutter as well. As a result, I spent a whole day just cleaning Mom’s lab and hauling ruined furniture out of the house. We still needed to buy new furniture and carpeting for the living room.

“Nasty,” Kara commented. I thought of the mildew in the couch cushions and nodded agreement. However, since everything had been destroyed while Mom had been trying to save my life, I couldn’t exactly complain.

As soon as we were in my room, Kara looked around with an expression of amusement. Her eyes went to the girl clothes that were spread out on my bed. Unfortunately, none of my old clothes fit anymore, so I’d been forced to do a little shopping. She picked up a bra and smirked at me without saying a word.

“What?” I asked defensively, suddenly feeling quite aware of the way bra straps were currently stretched across my shoulders. “It’s not like you’re not wearing one too…”

Kara just burst out laughing, then gave me a broad grin. “You’re cute when you blush.” I blushed even brighter at that, which only made her laugh again. Still grinning at me, she teased, “I bet it must have been fun putting it on for the first time. It must have been embarrassing having to ask your mom for help with it…”

“I didn’t need to ask anyone for help,” I pointed out, trying to maintain what little dignity I could. “Compared to the harness for that jet pack my mom had me test for her, this thing was a piece of cake…”

Kara nodded at that and mused, “Whatever happened to that jet pack anyway?”

“Mom is leasing it out to some rich adrenaline junkie,” I answered with a shrug. “Personally, I think he’s using it to play super hero.”

“And what about you?” Kara asked me excitedly. “Have you invented anything new?”

“Not really,” I admitted with a shake of my head. Then I thought of my first devise, which was currently down in the lab. “I did upgrade my floating sphere. “I modified it so that it can follow me around now.”

“Why?” Kara asked me with a blank look.

I just chuckled at that. “Why not?”

Kara stared at me for a moment and then burst out laughing again. “Oh yeah, you’re definitely a devisor… You’ll be building death rays and killer robots in no time at all.”

“Not likely,” I admitted, feeling a little self-conscious. “Mom is a high level devisor…but I’m not. I’m on the lower end of the devisor spectrum. I mean, all these different powers I keep switching between are basically just side effects of my main powers…shifting.”

“Side effects or not,” Kara told me with a grin, “they’re totally awesome.”

I laughed at that since the powers were pretty cool, even if they did keep changing around like that every time I went to sleep. It was just too bad they also came with some pretty nasty side effects, though I was trying hard not to think about those. Being a girl was awkward, but I could live with that. However, the damaged BIT and the burnouts…

Kara seemed to sense my mood shifting because she grabbed my hand and insisted, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to work out fine. I’m sure Aunt Beth or your mom will figure something out.”

“Thanks,” I responded, noticing that Kara was still staring at me with an odd expression. “What? Do I have something on my face?” I used my hand to wipe around my mouth, wondering if I’d been a little messier with breakfast than I’d realized.

“You know,” Kara finally said, giving me a faint smile, “I was really worried when you disappeared like that. I mean, everyone kind of thought that you must have finally freaked out about being a girl and a mutant so ran away…but I knew better. I knew there was no way you’d run away like that.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, and before I could come up with something, Kara grabbed me in a tight hug. I was a bit surprised by that, though I certainly didn’t have a problem with it either. I hugged her back, enjoying having her body pressed up against my own, but also feeling just a little naughty for some of the things that were starting to creep into my head. But then, almost as if reacting to my thoughts, Kara surprised me again by kissing me on my lips.

“Wow,” I said once Kara pulled away. She’d definitely caught me off guard with that one.

For a brief moment, I expected Kara to say, “Gotcha,” but instead, she stared at me, blushing brightly as she did so. “You’re really pretty,” she finally blurted out, clearly embarrassed.

As I stared at Kara in stunned silence, several pieces snapped together in my head. About a year earlier, she’d told me that I wasn’t her type, and at the time, she’d suggested that she was really more into jocks and bad boys. However, I realized now that I’ve never actually seen her dating those kinds of boys…or any boys at all. And with the way she was looking at me now, it was clear that she now considered me to be her type.

“You know,” I told her with a faint smile, “ever since I changed…I prefer boys.” Kara gasped at that, and before she could actually say anything, I said, “Gotcha.”

Kara’s eyes flashed and she punched me in the arm. “You asshole…”

“Hey,” I responded, rubbing at my arm where she hit me. “I bruise more easily now…”

“Well, you deserve it,” she insisted, sticking her tongue out at me.

I nodded at that, agreeing, “Probably.” Then I stared at her again, not really sure what to say. After all, Kara had been my best friend for a long time, and when I’d suggested we try dating, she’d cut me off with the, ‘you’re not my type’ line, which had felt a bit insulting at the time. “So…why didn’t you tell me you liked girls?”

“I thought I just did,” she muttered self-consciously.

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by ray guns, doomsday weapons, and strange inventions that most people would never believe really existed outside of science fiction, and for me, all that stuff was old-hat and nothing to get excited over. However, in spite of my vast experience dealing with miraculous devises, I had almost no experience at all when it came to dealing with girls…or at least not when it came to romantic relationships with them. Suddenly being transformed into one myself hadn’t really given me any great understanding either.

“I’m…a little surprised,” I admitted awkwardly.

Kara stared at me, looking a lot less confident than she usually came off as being. “Do you even like me?”

“Of course I do,” I blurted out in surprise. “I always have…” Kara gave me a look of surprise while I gulped, feeling as though I had a knot in my stomach. “It’s just…I knew I wasn’t your type and that you weren’t into me like that…so I guess I’m just used to trying not to think about you like that either.”

“So, I think you’re pretty and you think I’m pretty,” Kara said with a nervous grin. “So, what do we do now?”

“Well,” I responded, feeling my heart race. “I am a devisor today, so how about we experiment…?”

“Oooooh, good line,” Kara teased me.

Kara and I started kissing again, which was nice and awkward at the same time. After all, we’d been friends for a long time and we were both a little nervous about trying to change anything. And though I’d imagined kissing her more than a few times, the real experience was definitely a little different. I was thinking about what it would be like to go further, and I suspected that she was as well, but neither of us was ready to try anything more than the kissing…especially not when Mom and Beth were both in the house. Eventually, we went back to talking, though we kept holding hands, giving each other appreciative looks, and blushing furiously. But between discussing GEO, my new powers, and what it had been like being held prisoner, we kissed a few more times as well.

The two of us had been in my room for about two hours when there was a knock on the door, followed by Beth’s voice asking, “Are you two decent?”

“Define decent,” Kara joked in response.

Beth opened the door and came into my room, pausing to look at us. She smirked faintly and said, “Amy, you have some lipstick on your cheek…” I immediately went to wipe it off, only to remember that Kara wasn’t wearing lipstick. Beth burst out laughing at that while Kara and I both turned bright red. “I had a feeling you two would get together after…” She paused to look at me, making it clear that she meant after my transformation.

“You knew?” Kara blurted out in surprise.

“That you liked girls?” Beth responded with a look of amusement. “Ever since the last time you stayed the weekend with me. The next time you look at some of those websites on someone else’s computer…you really should clean the history when you’re done.”

“Oh God,” Kara exclaimed with a mortified look on her face before turning bright red again and then covering her face with her hands.

Beth just grinned, then turned to me. I wasn’t quite as embarrassed as Kara, but I still wanted to crawl under my bed to hide. “Amy, you’re going to be leaving for Whateley in just a couple weeks, so Liz and I were talking…”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about that?” I responded wryly.

“Because you’re a smart girl?” Kara joked.

“Before you leave,” Beth continued with a faint smirk, “we decided that we wanted to give you the full experience.” Her smirk deepened just a little as she added, “So we’ve scheduled a full day at the spa tomorrow for all four of us.”

“Yes,” Kara exclaimed, jumping to her feet with a grin. I gave her a look of surprise since Kara wasn’t usually into girly girl stuff like spa trips. “What?” she asked defensively. “So I like getting a massage…”

“I didn’t say anything,” I protested.

“You’re going to enjoy getting a massage,” Beth told me with a chuckle. “And the rest of the works as well. It’s going to be a wonderful girl’s day out.”

Once Beth was gone, Kara gasped, “That was so embarrassing…”

I nodded agreement, knowing that the whole spa thing would probably be even worse. However, it was all part of the girl experience that Mom was trying to share with me, so I wasn’t going to complain. In fact, now that I was thinking about it, I was actually a bit curious about what it would be like. As a boy, I never would have been caught dead in a place like a spa, but as a girl, I might very well end up enjoying it.

“Since you’re going to do the whole girly girl thing,” Kara teased me, “maybe we should go all out. A nice makeover…a sexy dress…and heels. Definitely heels…”

“You don’t wear high heels,” I pointed out with a faint smile, “so why should I?”

“Oh sure,” she responded with a roll of her eyes. “Use reason.” Then after a few seconds, she grinned again and suggested, “How about this…? I’ll wear some heels if you do…”

I looked Kara over, thinking that it would definitely be nice to see her all dressed up for once. “Tempting,” I told her with a grin. “Maybe after I get a little more used to being a girl.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she promised, giving me an obviously appreciative look and then a rather passionate kiss, one that sent sparks straight to my new parts.

As I sat there with Kara, I was still amazed by this sudden and unexpected change to our relationship. Then again, my entire life had been filled with surprises over the last few weeks, some of them good and some of them bad.

It would have been easy to focus on the bad things, such as the fact that my body had changed without warning and I’d turned into a girl. There was the unpredictable and random seeming nature of my powers and how they kept changing on me, making it difficult to really get a handle on any one power. And of course, there was my damaged BIT and the fact that it might very well end up killing me one day.

My thoughts turned to Dr. Smith…Harris, who’d been obsessed with my powers and how they might help him unlock the mystery of mutant abilities. I had no idea if they could actually do that or not, though he seemed pretty certain. Unfortunately, he’d slipped away from the MCO and escaped during the confusion of my rescue, and he was still out there. I had no idea if he’d just go into hiding and disappear, or if he might end up coming after me again someday. As long as he was out there, I would have to keep looking over my shoulder…just in case.

But in spite of the bad, there were a number of good things to have come out of the last couple weeks as well. The most immediately noticeable was my relationship with Kara, who’d been my best friend for a long time. And even though I’d imagined taking that friendship further over the last couple years, I’d never seriously thought it could happen until now.

My powers kept changing, but there were positives in that as well. Being a devisor brought me closer to my mom and helped me to understand her a little better. I’d always dreamed about having magic, and now I’ll be able to learn how to cast real spells. Enhanced strength and healing, moving objects just by willing it, and even being able to form balls of energy in my hand were all really cool too. Most mutants were stuck with just one type of power, but I could actually use a variety of different abilities.

Being a mutant may have added a lot of complications to my life, but I tried to think of those as just being challenges to make things more interesting. Sure, Dr. Harris might come after me again…but he might not. And there was no way to know for certain if my damaged BIT might eventually kill me, merely the theory of an obsessed scientist.

I’ve spent my entire life with someone who altered the laws of physics on a daily basis, and I’ve seen unbelievable things happen nearly as often. Failsafes failed, accidents happened, and sometimes even the impossible could happen. If there was one thing that I’ve learned from my mom, it was that there were no guarantees in life. All you could do was make your choices, spin the wheel, and then wait to see where things landed.

With that, I took Kara’s hand in mine, looked her right in the eyes, then asked, “So, what were those websites that Beth was talking about?” Kara just punched me in the arm, though it was quickly followed up with another kiss.

The End…for now



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