Mind Games Book 3

Mind Games Book 3

By Paradox

I676 West, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A sudden, full-body jolt had me bolting awake and looking around wildly for the source of whatever was coming after me. I was just starting to curl my fingers closed in preparation to try and conjure up an energy knife when I realized that what I took for an attack was just the bus striking a pothole. It was probably a good thing that my nap had made me sluggish because suddenly outing myself as a mutant would have undoubtedly created a panic instead of just garnering a few concerned looks. With the hopes that their attention would get off of me, I cast about a sheepish smile and mouthed, “Sorry,” before I hunched back down in my seat. Whether my apology mollified everyone or they simply didn’t care like most people these days, those eyes turned back to whatever they were doing and no one said a word.

With a soft sigh of relief, I pulled out my phone and brought up the GPS map. According to the little blue dot, I was only perhaps ten or twenty minutes away from the bus terminal. That meant I was ten or twenty minutes away from finally meeting with the person who had thus far seemed to be on my side. Of course, that could all have been a trick.

During the nearly four-hour bus ride I hadn’t slept the entire time, even though I’d wanted to. Instead, I took the time to really review everything that had happened to me in the last two days. While it was now very clear that the man who had impersonated being my father was in fact some kind of sick, deranged child rapist, was WiseCrack really any better? It was true he had done absolutely nothing to indicate anything of the sort, but the fact was I really knew absolutely nothing about him. All he was at this point was a voice on a phone guiding me from place to place. Yes, he had done a tremendous amount of work in helping me, what with guiding me out of the trailer park, securing me multiple avenues of transportation, money, communication, and even a place to rest. But what if all of that was just some elaborate ruse to get me to come to him so he could do the same thing or worse that my fake father had intended? I hadn’t told him ‘no’ flat out because he had made the offer to help me get a gun that I could specifically use on him without any hesitation.

While it was clearly obvious he was a supremely skilled hacker, his motivations thus far had just been him saying he was some kind of a do-gooder. Given everything I’d been through so far, was that enough to trust him? It would have been easy to fall back on the tired excuse, “He’s the only thing I’ve got so it’s better than nothing,” but I wasn’t sure just how true that was. When I’d first woken up in the back of that RV two days ago I’d thought the man pretending to be my father was the only thing I had, and that had turned out to be far less than ideal. Would WiseCrack fall into the same category of trying to take advantage of a helpless and scared teenage girl?

Then again, I wasn’t that same girl anymore. True I was still really scared, but I was far from helpless anymore. The only reason why I declined the offer to get a gun was because I think I had a far better weapon now, my energy knife. Granted I hadn’t really toyed around or experimented much with it yet, but the little I’d seen indicated that it was a far more effective and deadly weapon than any handgun. If WiseCrack ended up being just another carbon copy of fake-Dad, then he would help me out in a few more experiments with it.

Now, as the bus pulled into the station in the heart of Philadelphia, I told myself that it was time to put on my big girl panties and take back my life. Of course, I wasn’t wearing any panties, or a bra for that matter, a fact that was still disturbing because of how at ease I was with it, but you get the jiff.

I made sure to wait for everyone else to get off the bus before I myself exited the vehicle, and then I was subtly looking at everyone milling about to see if someone was paying an unusual amount of attention to me. I felt a little more at ease when people quickly collected their belongings and either headed off to their individual destinations or met with loved ones and departed soon after. That soon left me standing alone and looking a bit out of place.

Since a lone teen girl standing around looking lost would probably attract some attention, I walked quickly away from the bus terminal and headed for a decent sized mall called The Gallery on the opposite corner of the street. Since it was now just after noon it would be probably pretty well filled and hopefully provide me with a means of blending into the crowd so I didn’t stand out so much. At least I hoped that would be the case.

My worries eased a little as I stepped through the entryway and I saw that the mall was indeed rather busy with more than enough people for me to keep me from being obvious. What’s more, there were plenty of other girls who ascribed to that ‘grunge’ style look, which also helped me from sticking out too much. Although, now that I thought about it, a change of clothes wouldn’t do me much harm.

Shaking the thought away I focused on my primary goal, getting something to eat. Luckily the mall had a decent sized food court and I was quickly able to procure a couple slices of pizza and a Coke before settling into a seat in the heart of the dining area. I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but I was too preoccupied with trying to constantly scan my surroundings without making it obvious that I was doing so. I also just couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I really wanted to go check out those really cute dresses I’d passed by on the way to the food court. Oh, and that Victoria’s Secret, I definitely needed to stop in there for some new lingerie.

Thinking about the shopping I needed to do I wolfed down the remainder of my pizza and quickly went to go wash my hands after depositing my plate and cup in the trash. Once my hands were nice and clean, wouldn’t want to mess up the clothes I was looking at after all, I hurried off.

The moment I stepped inside I couldn’t help but just stop and stare at everything. All around me were the trappings of feminine livery specifically designed to catch and entice the male eye. While the store certainly carried a few plain items like T-shirts and jeans, it was clear that this business catered to a clientele that dressed to tease and please. Perfect.

With an eagerness I hadn’t felt in a while now I started combing through the racks of clothing looking for just the right outfit. Sure I’d rocked this truck stop look just fine, but that just wasn’t my style. I was a girl and I wanted to dress like a girl, not some fashion refugee. Yet nothing I was seeing really jumped out at me. Oh sure they were all really cute and I knew they would look good on me, but none of them really seemed to ‘speak’ to me.

Then I laid my hands on a dress that almost instantly I knew was the one. Pulling it off the rack I hurried towards the dressing rooms at the back and locked myself inside. I was so anxious to try it on I practically tore my clothes off until I was completely naked. Giggling with delight I wiggled into the dress and smoothed it out before turning and looking at myself in the full-length mirror.

Oh my god, I was gorgeous! It was a scrumptious little black party dress that didn’t quite reach mid-thigh and had scintillating criss-cross cutouts in the skirt that ran from the front of my thighs up to and around the side of my waist as well as a matching cutout that started at the strapless neckline, which showcased my breasts beautifully, and plunged down to my sternum. It made it delightfully obvious to anyone looking at me that I was completely naked underneath this dress and the idea that everyone would know it made me feel all warm and gooey. I swear I could practically hear myself vibrating I was so excited and enthralled with my look.

Of course, my hair was a mess and I needed shoes, so I practically exploded out of the dressing room and nearly begged one of the salesgirls to help me find a pair of heels to match the dress as well as something for my hair. At first, she seemed rather shocked by both my appearance and my exuberance, which confused me since this was obvious a place where women came to make themselves look beautiful, but she grudgingly agreed to help me.

When she took me over to the small shoe selection they had my eyes instantly fell upon one particular pair and I was in love. They were black suede leather stilettos with about an inch platform, a five-inch heel, a dainty little T-strap, and peep-toed. They were oh so sexy and I just knew they would be absolutely perfect with this dress.

The salesgirl once again looked at me oddly as I gushed over them and headed into the back to look for my size. While she was doing that I perused the hair accessories and located a thin black hairband that would keep my currently rather wild mane held back and contained while still giving me that sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed-but-happy-to-jump-right-back-in look. I had just peeled off the tag and affixed it in my hair when the clerk came back with two boxes. Her previously confused look had now been replaced by one of suspicion and I think she might have suspected I was either planning on trying to run out the store without paying for the clothes or simply thought I was not right in the head. Well, whatever, she was probably just jealous that I looked soooo much better in this dress than she ever would, the bitch.

Giving her a pleasant smile I tried on the first pair of heels, which fit me perfectly. After walking around in them to make sure I grinned and nodded my approval before dashing off to the dressing room to gather my old clothes. The moment I touched those rough jeans and poorly constructed T-shirt I wrinkled my nose in disgust. How on earth had I ever even considered wearing something like this? And those boots? Ugh, how tacky. This lady was no truck driver and I refused to continue dressing like one.

After plucking the credit cards and cell phone out of the pockets of the jeans I decided to just leave the old clothes behind and head for the counter. Maybe some else could make good use of them because I surely wanted nothing more to do with such rags. Besides, who would find me sexy in things like that?

Grabbing a small beaded clutch purse on the way I deposited it and the price tag for the headband on the counter and waited for the girl to tally up the price of them, the dress, and the shoes. I didn’t even blink when the total of two hundred and fifty dollars came up on the screen and gave her two of the prepaid cards. “Birthday presents,” I explained when she gave me an odd look, to which she smiled in understanding and processed them through. After signing the receipts I placed all of my credit cards and my phone in the purse and pranced away with a wave and a cheery thanks to the sales clerk, who watched me go with the oddest look on her face.

I had just reached the front door to the shop when I felt my purse start vibrating. Still striding ahead, and looking fabulous while doing so I must say, I glanced down at it in confusion. Who could that be? I was just about to pop it open to retrieve my phone when I suddenly crashed into something. I stumbled back in my heels and would likely have fallen if something hadn’t grabbed me by the upper arms. “Oh I’m so sorry,” I started to babble as I followed the sight of that broad chest before my eyes up to a face that was handsome and chiseled, yet possessed several freshly made scars still being held together by dark stitches.

“Daddy!” I squealed with excited happiness.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Come on goddammit, move!” WiseCrack yelled as he swerved around a slower moving car before turning sharply onto another street and pressing hard on the gas pedal of his compact rental. It wasn’t really the other driver’s fault for being so slow, he or she was actually driving at a normal pace for a city driver. The hacker was just worried. Okay, he was more than worried. He’d actually bypassed worried and had leaped headlong into being positive something had gone wrong.

For the last twenty minutes, after having traced Kitty’s cell GPS to The Gallery right across from the bus station she was due to arrive at, he had been unable to reach her. Call after call went unanswered while the GPs only moved back and forth within about twenty feet before going stationery. All kinds of bad scenarios were flooding through his mind about what could have happened to her. Did she decide not to trust him anymore? Had the phone been stolen from her and then ditched? Had someone caught up with her? All of this and more stampeded through his head as he raced along the streets of Philly towards the mall. He barely kept from turning into the lot sharp enough to cause his tires to squeal and quickly pulled into the first open parking spot he could find before nearly flying out of the car. He took two steps before he realized he forgot his equipment and raced back to grab the messenger satchel containing his portable gear. He didn’t even wait to sling the shoulder strap across his body before racing across the parking lot, doing so while on the run instead.

By the time he reached the front doors WiseCrack had gotten himself in check just enough to keep from sprinting through the glass like a madman and instead reduced his pace to that of a quickened walk that wouldn’t seem so obvious. Digging his cell phone out of his bag he homed in on Kitty’s GPS and followed it through the wide hallways lined with a multitude of stores. With each step he took, he started to get a better and better idea of just where she might have been. A quick glance at the mall’s map on the way in had indicated this was the way to the food court, which made sense since she was probably pretty hungry after such a long trip.

However as he started to approach the semi-circular area that housed the various food vendors, he noticed that he had actually walked passed the GPS marker tied to Kitty’s phone. With a frown, he backed up until he was in line with it once again and looked over to where the signal was showing as her location.

“What the hell is she doing in there?” he muttered, looking inside of the high-end women’s fashion boutique. A sudden thought came to him and he sighed, “Oh come on, she didn’t did she?”

Swiping through his phone he quickly brought up the usage history of the credit cards and saw that one had been drained completely and about half had been used on another. “Dammit Kitty,” he grumbled, “You didn’t grab those so you could go shopping!” Switching to the phone dialer he once more called her number and listened to the line ring endlessly.

The noise level in the mall was your typical combination of music, footsteps, and voices all echoing around in a facility designed to practically amplify all of those. So WiseCrack could actually be forgiven for not hearing the cell phone vibrating against the floor just outside of the fashion boutique right away. Fortunately, he let the phone ring so many times that faint clattering of plastic striking tile in a rapid manner finally reached his ears and caused him to look down at its source.

There, vibrating on the floor, was a cell phone displaying his number on its screen. For several seconds WiseCrack just stood there staring at the phone in disbelief. Had Kitty really just gone on a shopping spree and then dumped her phone, leaving him behind after all the work he had done to try and get her to safety? He was no expert on human psychology but that was the absolute last thing he expected from the girl. Sure, he appreciated the fact that she didn’t completely trust him. In her position, it was likely he’d feel the same way. That’s why he went to such lengths to try and help her and even give her options that would allow her to feel safe and comfortable working with him. But for her to just go all Pretty Woman on him? That didn’t feel right.

Snatching her phone from the floor he hurried over to a central bench and sat down before pulling out a netbook and powering it on. As his fingers flew across the keys he pulled up the security footage for both the mall and the boutique and started running them side-by-side on the screen. His expression became a frown as, after scanning through footage starting from when her GPS signal had entered the mall, he watched Kitty practically skip into the boutique and start working her way through the racks of dresses. While the video quality wasn’t exactly HD he could tell by her movements that this wasn’t the same girl he had watched half a day ago. While her movements were still graceful, there was an exuberance of youth that hadn’t been present before. It was almost as though she was a completely different person now.

When she came out of the changing room in the very revealing and sexy dress there was no doubt in his mind that something had happened. The way she slinked about with her hips swaying in a way that was nothing short of an advertisement for sex, he was immediately struck by how identical this was to that last night in the RV park. But that would mean…

His gaze flicked over to the exterior footage of the boutique and his greatest fear was realized. Standing there trying to look casual and blend in with the crowd was Charles Sinclair. He couldn’t see the man’s face clearly, but his attention was obviously riveted on the young girl so eagerly prettying herself up. When Kitty finally got to the register and started to pay for her purchases he moved from his place of observation and slowly made his way towards the entrance of the store. He timed it so that just as Kitty was turning her head back to call out some kind of goodbye or thank you or whatever she ran straight into him.

Now, based on everything the two of them had gone through, WiseCrack fully expected Kitty to scream, slap him, run away, or maybe even try to run him through with one of her energy knives. What he didn’t expect was to see her jump with joy into his arms and plant a decidedly un-daughterly kiss right on his mouth. “Son of a bitch!” he hissed and watched helplessly as they held one another like long lost lovers before heading out of the store with their arms around each other’s waist. A faint movement from Sinclair told him that he’d gotten a hold of her cell phone and dropped it where he had just now discovered it. Whatever it was that Sinclair and whoever he was working with had done to Kitty, it had obviously reasserted itself within the young girl and she was now powerless in its grip. Using the mall’s security system, he tracked their movements until seeing which door they exited through. From there he watched them walk through the parking lot towards a large sedan with blacked out windows.

As they drew near the car WiseCrack’s eyes flickered down towards the time code at the corner of the screen. He had already been working out how to try and follow them using traffic cameras when he blinked in surprise at what was displayed by the time code.

They had walked out of the mall less than two minutes ago! Snapping his laptop closed he barely took the time to shove it into his satchel before taking off down the hall at a sprint. If he was lucky, very very lucky, that asshole Sinclair would take a few minutes to make out with Kitty once they got into the car before leaving. That might give him just enough time to get there and stop him.

The question as to how he would accomplish that came in the form of a taser gun he pulled from his satchel the moment he was clear of the entryway and wouldn’t really be seen by anyone. A quick scan of the lot and he located the target vehicle with the passenger door still open. Thumbing off the safety on the taser and thereby activating the integrated laser sight and LED light, he raced across the parking lot towards the car heading straight for that open door. He didn’t even hesitate before shoving himself between the open door and the car frame and bringing the taser to bear on its interior…

Where he was met by Kitty’s wide-eyed expression shock as she sat in the passenger seat. “Wh-who are you?” she asked with a mixture of surprise and fear. The rest of the car was empty.

“WiseCrack,” he said quickly as he looked into the back of the car just in case Sinclair was hiding behind the seats, “Are you okay?”

“Daddy!” she cried, cringing back from him as though he were some deranged lunatic there to kill her, “Help!”

“Kitty what’s wrong with you?” he demanded, his eyes narrowing as he tried to gauge whether or not she was being serious or just putting on an act.

He never determined which it was before his head exploded in pain and everything went dark.

I76 Heading West Towards Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

“Did you really have to hit him so hard?” I asked softly as I looked towards the empty back seat which concealed the trunk behind it.

“He was threatening to take you away from me Kitten,” Daddy replied as he guided the car down the highway. There was a look of grim determination on his face and his hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white. While the stitches on his face certainly added to his rugged handsomeness, I could tell he was still hurting from them by the way he occasionally winced or his eye twitched. When he finally noticed I was looking at him he composed himself with a confident smile and winked at me. “Don’t worry sweetheart, he can’t do that anymore. No one is going to take you away from me again.” These words were punctuated by his hand dropping to my leg and slipping beneath my skirt to gently squeeze very high upon my thigh.

The quick flare of heat at his touch had me sighing softly and biting back the whimper of need that threatened to slip from my throat. I’d still been unfulfilled from last night when we’d been interrupted and that desire was now freshly washing through me. “Will we be there soon Daddy?”

“Very soon,” he assured me with a smile as he took an off ramp, “But there will be a few things I need to do once we get there so I’ll need you on your best behavior.”

I nodded my understanding but wondered why I would need to be on my best behavior. Other than the man who had tried to kidnap me that was now tied up in the trunk, who else would I need to behave for? I considered asking such a question but Daddy seemed so uptight at the moment he was practically twitching. So, for the moment, I kept my silence and just focusing on crossing my legs and perching sexily in the passenger seat just in case he happened to look over.

Once we’d exited the highway Daddy navigated the car through the city streets, going deeper and deeper into the metropolis. With every block we traversed it seemed as though we got closer and closer to the poverty line. Buildings that started out as well kept structures of brick and steel gave way to aged but well cared for apartments until finally we entered into an area where most of the buildings were dilapidated apartments or possibly warehouses. “Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked in confusion. Since we had so much money it didn’t make much sense that we would come to this kind of area. I’d actually expected we might have gone the opposite direction and headed for New York.

“Oh it’s the right place,” he said in a low voice that actually felt a bit ominous as he turned the car into one particular building’s parking garage. Once he parked the car he turned and looked at me seriously. “Now, when we go in I want you to stay close to me baby, okay?” I nodded quickly, both because it was a given I would be practically glued to his side and because the whole situation was quickly becoming pretty scary. “Good girl,” he smiled and both of us stepped out the car before heading back to the trunk.

“Now,” Daddy said as he held the remote with his thumb on the trunk release, “When I let him out he’s going to probably fight and make a lot of noise. You just stay back and don’t listen to anything he tries to say. I’ll take care of him, okay?”

“Okay Daddy.”

He smiled and pulled a folding knife from his pocket that, when he opened it, had a very wicked looking blade. In one motion he thumbed the trunk release, threw open the trunk, and was immediately leaning into the trunk bed. I had a hard time hearing him since I was standing back but I thought I was able to make out Daddy say in a low voice, “Unless you want the bathe in the bitch’s blood, cooperate!”

Bathe in the bitch’s blood? What other bitch did Daddy have here? Had he brought someone else to this place that he hadn’t told me about? Some other girl maybe? Was he looking to replace me? Panic caused my heart to hammer in my breast as the idea that I could be getting replaced with another girl filled my mind. No, I would not allow that to happen. I’d show Daddy that no one was better than me and no one could make him feel as good as I could.

That was why when my would-be kidnapper was hauled out of the trunk and set on his feet with Daddy holding his knife to his throat I was standing nearby in an utterly vampish pose that would present all of my assets to their utmost sexiness. My attempts to reclaim my soon-to-be lover’s attention were wonderfully successful as I saw both men’s eyes widen in both surprise and, in my primary target’s case, burning lust. “I hope dealing with him doesn’t take too long Daddy,” I said in a small, deliberately child-like voice.

“No, no, not long at all,” he said quickly, practically shoving the man towards an older style elevator that required pulling the gated door down. He actually did slam the man against the back of the elevator, cause the captive to grunt in pain beneath the tape sealing his mouth closed. After a quick ride in the elevator we all exited the rickety machine and stepped out into a very large, open-space warehouse apartment. However, it wasn’t the size of the room that had my eyes widening in shock and amazement, it was what was contained within it.

All along one wall were machines of different varieties. Though I have no idea how I knew this, but I was able to identify every single one of them by name and what their purpose was for. There was a mass spectrometer, a centrifuge, a blood infusion machine, and so much more. There were actually devices there that I couldn’t identify since they looked like a mish-mash of several different pieces of equipment. On the far wall that was lined with windows were two stainless steel gurneys adorned with straps positioned to hold the wrists, upper arms, waist, chest. Thighs, ankles, neck, and even the head. These tables were each upright in some kind of open seven-foot chamber that had a kind of latex skullcap dangling from a multitude of wires that led up to the chamber’s ceiling. On the third wall were several tables adorned with several computers as well as an elaborate glass distilling apparatus. But all of that paled in comparison to what I saw in the center of the room. Arranged in five rows of five were stainless steel gurneys with what could only be bodies lying atop them covered with white sheets.

As Daddy shoved the man, who was fighting with everything he had and trying to shout something at me, towards one of the upright gurneys I heard a toilet flush from the side of the room containing the computers and distilling equipment. Looking over I saw what could only be described as a mad scientist. The man was tall and lean, almost gaunt, with wild white hair that stuck up from his head in spikes as though he’d shoved his finger into a wall socket five minutes ago. He even was wearing a dirty lab coat and had a magnifier perched atop his head. When he swung his gaze in my direction his smile revealed ugly, yellow teeth, several of which were missing, causing me to back up a few steps. To say that I was disgusted by this man was a gross understatement.

“Ah,” he said in a raspy voice, “I see you’ve finally arrived. It took you long enough.”

“Sorry,” Daddy grunt as he forced my kidnapper onto one of the upright gurneys and worked to get him strapped in. In the end, the man fought so much it took Daddy driving a punch into his stomach so hard it even made me wince. For several seconds the man couldn’t even seem to breathe, which gave Daddy the opportunity to get him secured to the gurney and tighten the straps down until his skin was bulging around the leather. When the man was finally secured Daddy stood up and wiped some sweat from his brow. “I found myself unexpectedly getting another test subject for you.”

“So I see,” the mad scientist said as he walked over and began to closely examine the man, who in turn tried to glare back but it was clear from his eyes that he was frightened. “I suppose having a second test subject would only serve to further bolster the results, and I do have a client that has expressed immediate interest in a blonde. Why not kill two birds with one stone.”

With nearly medical efficiency, the scientist began to examine the kidnapper in a way that I immediately understood as checking vitals, looking at pupil dilation, checking for nervous system reactions, and so on. While he was doing that, Daddy walked back over and took me by the hand, leading me over to where the computers and distillery were and sitting me down in a chair there. “Now my friend is going to need to take some blood from you, Kitten,” he told me gently while brushing my cheek with his hand, “Just to make sure you’re okay.”

“Okay Daddy,” I whispered, unable to keep my voice from quivering with nervousness. All of this was most certainly not what I was expecting after he had found me in that mall. Where was the new RV? Where was the night out that had been interrupted? Where was that affection I had been craving so badly that I knew would lead to a night of sheer bliss? Everything that had happened so far was such a departure from my expectations. Was there something he wasn’t telling me? And what was the strange warmth I was starting to feel in my chest?

Before I could even think of trying to answer any of these questions the mad scientist guy walked over to me, grabbing a syringe from the table as he did so. “No my dear,” he said in a smooth voice didn’t seem at all to match his appearance, “This shouldn’t hurt a bit.” And with that, he plunged the needle into my arm.

Surprisingly, he was absolutely right. I only felt a quick pinprick of pain, but that was really it. Whoever this guy was he would make a terrific phlebotomist. Once he’d collected my blood within the syringe, a practice that somehow I knew was well outdated by this point, he took it over to the machine that appeared to be an amalgamation of several different ones while I staunched the droplet of blood left behind with a cotton ball he’d taken from his coat pocket and handed to me.

While he injected my blood into some kind of funnel Daddy walked over, pulled me to my feet, and slanted his mouth over mine. Instantly every thought, worry, and question that had been circling about in my mind vanished in a puff of smoke that was replaced by a slow, intense burning that started at my core and quickly spread outwards. Yes! I shouted in my mind as I hungrily devoured Daddy’s mouth. This was what I had been craving. This is what I’d needed for so long, but at the same time it was far from enough and already I was working to try and strip the clothes from his body. I didn’t care that we weren’t alone and that our audience was some creepy mad scientist and a would-be child kidnapper, I just knew that I wanted Daddy and I was going to have him no matter-

My cry of despair rang out as I was suddenly pushed back by my shoulders, breaking both our kiss and our embrace. “Now Kitten,” he chided with a wicked smile, “You know that Daddy has work to do. We can play after that.”

I couldn’t help but whimper with need, feeling as though I was on fire, as a pressure on my shoulders urged me to sink to my knees. Out of a reflex that I didn’t even realize I possessed, I immediately bent to clasp his ankle in my hands and lick and kiss at his feet, all the while moaning like the desperate bitch in heat that I was. I heard a faint chuckle from above before a finger beneath the chin had me raising back up until I was kneeling straight and my head was tipped back to look into the eyes of the man I wanted most in the world. “Now,” he told me, gently running the pad of his thumb across my lips and allowing me a few fleeting kisses of it, “You kneel there like a good little slave girl and I’ll be back very soon.”

“Oh yes Master,” I breathed, wondering why in the world I would disparage my Master’s title by calling him ‘Daddy’ for so long. That would definitely need to be rectified in the very near future. To that end, I made sure that I knelt perfectly straight with my head lifted regally while my eyes remained lowered submissively and my hands rested lightly upon my thighs. It would have been far better to be in this position naked, but for now, the dress and heels were sexy enough.

“I have to say Doc,” Master commented as he took one last approving look at me before walking over to his associate, “I didn’t expect Project Kajira to be this effective. I mean she’s turned into a complete sex slave and I haven’t really had to do anything.”

“Yes,” the scientist agreed distractedly as he started inputting data he had received from the odd machine into one of the computers. “It certainly looks like Dr. Blake outdid himself. Though, I suspect he never even imagined the possibilities when he created Project Mantis. Had he not, I’m sure it would have taken me...oh...maybe another six months to come up with it.” That last was said with what was probably supposed to be a self-assured smile but actually looked more than a little crazy. “As it stands, the good doctor only hastened my research as well as provided me with the perfect test subject.”

“Yeah,” Master agreed, “He made it almost too easy for me.”

Who was this Dr. Blake they were talking about, and what was all this talk about Project Mantis and Project Kajira? And why the hell was that heat in my chest not going away?

“I take it then,” the scientist inquired as he switched to the other computer, “That you had no trouble convincing him to participate in the experiment?”

“Nah,” Master replied as he himself went over to check on several of the connections leading from the chamber to the latex skullcaps, “I just whacked him on the back of the head when he found the girl in the test chamber. After that I followed your directions and bam,” he clapped his hands to emphasize his words before looking over at me, “Instant sex slave.”

While that intensity of his gaze had things low in my body clenching with desire, a part of my mind squirmed uncomfortably at what I read in those eyes. He wanted to do things to me and not all of them were probably good.

“I take it you had no difficulties with it then?”

Master shrugged a little and walked over towards the assortment of corpses in the center of the apartment. “Not really. I had to hit her with the inducer a couple of times because she started to regain his memories, but it looks like the pattern’s holding strong now. There shouldn’t be anything left of him at this point.”

“That’s something to consider,” the scientist mused as he approached the man fighting his restraints on the gurney. “Perhaps an amalgamation of both programs utilized at once might yield a more effective result.”

Reaching up he took the skullcap and carefully fitted it over the man’s head despite his now panicked struggling. From the skullcap he detached two rather long and thick needles that were connected to the cap by wires and position the tips of the needles at on either side of the man’s head high on the crown. Those needles would be plunged into the cerebral cortex to allow for two-way transmission of the data impulses the machine would generate and filter through the mnemonic net contained within the skullcap. Wait, how did I know that?

Resisting the urge to scratch at the warm irritation I was now feeling radiating from my chest up to the back of my head, I watched in horrified fascination as the scientist plunged the needles into the man’s skull, eliciting a blood-curdling scream that penetrated the barrier of the tape wrapped around his head and sent chills of dread down my spine.

“Oh do be quiet,” the scientist said in an annoyed voice as Master turned a few dials on the exterior of the chamber that I recognized as the electrical pulse regulators. “Mr. Sinclair, if you would please move it into position.”

My Master nodded and drew back the sheet from the gurney he had rolled over to the empty chamber, revealing a beautiful naked girl around my age possessed of chalk white skin, lips, and faded hair that I suspected would have been a rich honey blonde had she not been dead. With a grunt of effort, he hauled the corpse off the gurney and placed it onto the one held upright within the chamber before securing it with the inlaid straps. Once the body was in place the scientist stepped forth and fitted the skullcap on the girl’s head before plunging the attached needles deep into her skull.

By now, I was literally needing to bite my lip to keep from asking a plethora of questions like how they were maintaining a stable neural net during transmission or what processing algorithm they were using to facilitate the exact cortex pattern duplicate. Of course, that didn’t stop me from wondering just how in the hell I even knew about such things, but it was a real struggle not to vocalize them.

“Now then,” the scientist said as he strolled over to the computers and typed in a few commands, “Let’s see if that sample is what I needed. Hmmm,” he hummed as he looked at the formulas appearing on the screen. “So that was what I was missing. It was so simple I don’t know how I missed it.” His tone had changed in the end to indicate anger, seemingly with himself. “All that was needed was a simple adjustment to the AARS2 protein to account for the mitochondrial loss how could I have missed that?” By this point, his voice had risen to shouting levels and he slammed his fists down on the table, causing the distillation assembly to jump and wobble precariously.

When he suddenly looked in my direction I thought for sure he was going to leap at me and tear my head from my shoulders. His eyes were wild and I could now see they were bloodshot from whatever it was that had been driving him. His teeth were bared in an almost animalistic snarl and a fine strand of saliva slowly trailed to the floor from the corner of his mouth. “You should have told me!” he hissed.

I was on the verge of screaming that I didn’t know what he was talking about when my Master stepped between the two of us. “She didn’t know Doc, how could she? We wiped his memories remember?” It was clear by his tone that he was trying to be soothing and placate this clear madman.

Those wild eyes shot to Master’s for a moment before he literally seemed to collapse in upon himself until once more he was just some ugly man in a lab coat. “Of course, quite right,” he said as though that outburst had simply been a normal, civilized conversation. And turned back to the computer to go about putting in this new adjustment to the formula. “Done,” he announced, “We can begin immediately.” Master nodded and walked over to a large switch on the wall, gripping the long handle before glancing to his associate. When they both nodded to one another he pulled the switch.

At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then I heard the low, quiet hum of machinery starting to engage that quickly grew in volume. While this was happening the scientist was typing madly, switching from computer to computer so fast I barely could keep track of his movements. “Neural coding is buffering,” he reported.

“Power levels are high but within limits and stable,” Master countered.

“Buffering complete. Beginning neural transmission.”

At this point, I could see arcs of electricity coming from the chambers, down the wires, and into the skullcap assemblies. While the man was straining against the leather restraints for all he was worth the corpse didn’t even move other than a faint twitch now and again due to the electrical impulses passing through it. There was a faint smell of burnt hair wafting through the apartment.

“Transmission complete,” the scientist reported excitedly, “Begin cardiac stimulation.”

Master pressed several buttons on the side of the chamber the corpse was being housed in and several mechanical arms extended out from its interior. Two of these arms linked together to form a kind of wide band around the girl’s chest while the third, which was tipped with a very large syringe, angled itself over the corpse’s sternum. That needle pierced through its sternum and injected whatever fluid contained in its reservoir directly into the deceased heart. As soon as that was finished the linked arms around the chest began to rapidly constrict and relax over and over again.

“Come on, come on,” the scientist urged as his gaze shot from the corpse to the computer and back again. “Work damn you!”

That was when we all heard the beep. I immediately recognized it as the tone of a heart monitor indicating a cardiac rhythm. All of us looked over at the computer and saw that the small window in the upper corner of the screen was showing a cardiac monitor with a line consisting of sharp peaks occurring regularly in time with the movements of the chamber arms. A window beneath that showed an almost identical setup except the line was blue instead of red and it was straight and flat…

Except for the one small little peak that was traveling across the line. I watched in amazement as that one peak not only began to grow in size, but it was joined by first one, then another, and another still, each differing in size and thickness until the flat line was gone completely and replaced by an assortment of impulse markers.

“Hold compressions!” the scientist barked and Master slapped a button beneath the switch, instantly shutting the entire process down within both chambers. Once again, other than a faint beeping coming from the computer providing audio signals to pair with the impulse markers, the air was still and quiet. I could see the scientist’s face begin to cloud with anger when a second beep, this one a different and higher tone from the first, pinged through the air. At the same moment, the cardiac monitor’s line went from flat to showing a sharp, high peak. This one was followed by a second, along with a corresponding tone, and then another and another and another.

“Sinus rhythm,” someone breathed.

When the scientist and Master both looked at me I realized I had been the one to speak. Quickly I ducked my head and tried to resume a submissive posture but I knew it was too late. A set of rapid footsteps approached me moments before I felt my hair in a painfully tight grip and my head yanked back so I was looking up into the once again wild mien of the scientist. “How do you know that expression? Tell me how you know it!” he demanded without waiting for me to answer the question.

“I....I…” I could do nothing but stammer because I truly had no idea how I knew the phrase ‘sinus rhythm’ nor did I know how I understood it to be any cardiac rhythm where depolarization of the cardiac muscle begins at the sinus node.

“Did you tell it about this project?” he demanded of Master, who was shaking his head negatively in a furious manner. “Then how do you account for this?”

“I don’t know,” my Master said with a helpless shrug. “She hasn’t said a single thing indicating she had any of his past knowledge.”

She had any of his past knowledge. That was the third time they had referenced both me and some man in the same context, almost as if we were one and the same. But that didn’t make any sense. I was a girl. I’d been born a girl...hadn’t I?

As the warmth in the back of my head grew to a point that it was becoming hot and a new heat was gently blossoming in my chest, I pondered what they had been saying about me so far. Since I was clearly in their eyes the slave of Master, they had spoken almost as though I was a piece of furniture that didn’t even need to be acknowledged. That meant their mixing me with male and female pronouns wasn’t just a slip of the tongue. They were saying that I was, in some way, both he and she. But how was that possible?

“Kitty,” I heard a female voice say weakly.

In a heartbeat, all eyes snapped to the girl that was strapped within the chamber. By this point, her vital functions regarding heart rate and brain synapse, according to the monitors on the computer, had stabilized to the point of normalcy. Her skin had flushed to the point that it was once again healthy looking and her lips had taken on a more rose-pink color. Her lashes fluttered several times before she was able to open her eyes, revealing them to be a dull blue that seemed to be quickly darkening to a more sharp, steel gray. After a moment during which I’m guessing she was trying to get her eyes to focus, her gaze settled on the now motionless man in the chamber beside her. For several moments she could do nothing but stare in abject shock and horror, her mouth opening and closing with no sound coming from it.

Eventually, her voice returned to her in the form of a whispered, “No!” which was immediately followed by a shouted, “No!” and then a terrified scream of, “Noooooo!”

SLAP!

The scientist’s hand crashing against the girl’s cheek sounded like a gunshot that echoed throughout the room. It snapped the girl’s head to the side, splitting open her lower lip. “Do shut up,” he said in such a casual manner it gave me chills. Turning towards Mas...Da...the other man, he offered a pleased grin. “It would appear that our efforts were successful. Now it’s on to stage two. Would you please take care of the primary host while I prepare the neural package.” He turned a sickening smile full of rotting, yellow teeth towards the girl. “We wouldn’t want to leave you with any hope of going back, now would we?”

At first, those words confused me. Why would this girl, who had apparently come back to life, want to go back to being dead? It made no sense to me. However as I watched...the associate approach the unconscious man on the other gurney and draw a gun from his waistband, I suddenly had a very bad idea of what the scientist meant.

Apparently, the girl understood what he meant as well because she had just enough time to scream, “NO!” before the gun roared and the back of the man’s head exploded in a spray of blood, gore, and gray matter.

And that’s when I exploded.

That’s the only way I can think to describe what it felt like. I don’t mean I literally exploded into tiny chunks of flesh and decorated the room with my entrails. What happened is I experienced a very sudden and extremely rapid sensation of pressure within my brain until it seemed to simply explode into an invisible white hot light. All at once knowledge and information suddenly flooded my consciousness. I still had no idea who I was beyond two days ago, but that simpering, slut of a slave girl who had been ready to have wild, animalistic sex on the floor of this lab with the man who pretended to be my father seemed to literally go up in flames within my mind before the ashes were scattered into the ether. Once again I was back in control of myself, and I remembered.

I remembered how WiseCrack had done so much to try to help me, how even when I’d been lost to myself because of whatever Sinclair had done to me in the mall he’d still risked himself to come after me. I remembered that helpless agony that had been held trapped in the back of my mind as I watched him being hooked up to this Frankenstein-like creation while I just stood by and tried to fuck my own father. And I remembered how callously my would-be rapist ended his life as though it was nothing.

With barely a thought, a blue/white blade of crackling energy formed in each hand as I slowly stood from my kneeling position and glared at these two monsters with more rage than I think I had ever known. The man, my supposed father, my perspective lover, my personal childhood nightmare, looked at me with absolute shock written on his face that made it clear he had no idea I was a mutant.

He also had no idea how deadly I could be, but he quickly found out when he started to raise his gun and I sent the two knives blazing from my hands. My aim wasn’t precise, they both got him in the center of the chest instead of the face and the dick like I’d been aiming for, but it was more than sufficient to tear through his skin, pierce his chest cavity, shred his heart, punch out of his back, and slice through the brick wall of the apartment as though it was nothing. I didn’t even bother looking at his expression of horror and disbelief as he pitched forward as I was already spinning towards the scientist with two new energy blades blazing to life in my hands.

Interestingly enough he didn’t look afraid. Instead, he held a curious expression on his face as he tilted his head slightly in a decisively inquisitive gesture. “Fascinating,” he remarked casually, as though he hadn’t just seen his associate murdered violently right in front of him. “The chip should have kept you quite docile. How is it no longer functioning?”

Now at this point in comics or action movies, this is where the heroine would make a joke, say something clever, or offer a witty retort. But this wasn’t a comic or a movie, and any sense of...that...was currently lost to the anger boiling inside of me that was as hot as the instruments of death in my hands.

So, instead of uttering something glib, I unleashed a primal scream of rage, rammed the two blades into either side of his head, and turned his brain into soup.

As he slid to the floor, still wearing that almost comically confused expression on his face, I turned and looked over at the body of WiseCrack still strapped to the gurney. Instantly my anger was washed away to be replaced by a deep sadness that the one good person I knew had been taken from me by these animals.

My knives winked out of existence as I haltingly walked towards him with tears pouring down my cheeks. When I finally reached his side I wanted to caress his cheek or maybe stroke his hair, just something. But the damage done by that bastard had been far too great and his face was far too mangled by the point blank muzzle blast to leave anything left to fondly touch. “Thank you WiseCrack,” I whispered in a choked voice, “And I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” I heard the girl quietly say behind me.

Blinking in surprise I turned my head to look at her before my eyes narrowed with my still simmering anger. “You didn’t know him,” I hissed. It was stupid and made no sense snapping at this innocent girl, especially when she had been dead only minutes ago, but at that moment rational thought wasn’t much more than a polite suggestion.

“Kitty,” she said and I could hear her voice fail momentarily as she choked on her next words, “I am WiseCrack.”

At that point, my brain decided enough was enough for the day and it was time for bed.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

We had been sitting quietly sipping coffee in our little rear corner booth at Denny’s for the last ten minutes or so. I couldn’t speak for WiseCrack but I know I was still trying to process everything that had happened and all I had learned an hour ago. Even knowing what I now knew, it still seemed so wildly impossible it almost felt like this should have been some sci-fi story you’d find on some Internet fan fic, not real life.

Once I’d woken up after fainting, it hadn’t been easy coming to grips with the fact that this was indeed reality. That WiseCrack’s consciousness had been digitally transferred into the mind of a dead sixteen-year-old girl was such an outrageous notion it had taken probably another ten minutes for him...her...dammit it’ll have to be him for now...to convince me he was who he said he was. For the record, it was recounting the incident in the gas station that had finally done it since no one else truly knew what had happened there. Once I’d gotten him unstrapped from the gurney and he’d covered himself up using a spare lab coat that had apparently been meant for my fake father, he immediately went to work looking through the computer systems within the lab.

This had actually been my first time seeing WiseCrack in action from this side and, if his normal speed was even close to what his was in a new, female body that he constantly complained about feeling awkward in, I was truly scared for anyone that really pissed him off. The way his fingers danced across the keys was tantamount to a concert pianist playing Mozart. Within moments he had announced that all of the data files were intact and he was uploading them to his own personal server while simultaneously destroying any and all other copies.

Once that was done we went about destroying every bit of equipment in the apartment until it was nothing more than trash and then set the building on fire by me throwing one of my knives into the gas tank of what turned out to be the scientist’s piece of shit VW bus in the garage. You might call all of that overkill, but you’ve never been a couple of angry teenagers who just discovered their entire lives were manipulated in a way designed to make them permanent sex slaves against their will utilizing brain transference technology. I think it’s reasonable to give us a pass on this one.

After procuring my parental imposter’s car (we made sure to take any keys, money, or portable equipment before blowing up the damn building, duh), we drove to the nearest Super Kmart so WiseCrack could get a full set of clothes and I could switch out my dress for something that didn’t make me look like a walking sex advertisement. Thankfully there was plenty left on the prepaid cards I still had in my purse, especially after WiseCrack reloaded the ones I’d already used, so I had little trouble getting us at least one outfit apiece until we could figure out our next step.

The one bothersome part of that was the clothing I myself had chosen. Since WiseCrack couldn’t come into the store with me, what with being functionally naked and all, I had to go in and pick out both of our clothes with him watching me via my cell phone camera. Since he had no concept of women’s fashion all he could do was suggest the kind of stuff he wanted and left it to me to make sure he didn’t look like an out of place fashion disaster. While he didn’t need to look like a model, dressing like you were a homeless person picking random clothes out of the trash wouldn’t help us blend in and that’s what we wanted to do. So, based on some rough measurements we’d taken in the car, I selected a simple pair of jeans, a red-checked flannel, some basic underwear, socks, and a pair of work boots. Other than the shirt and underwear, it was very reminiscent of what I’d chosen at the truck stop yesterday.

When it came to my turn for clothes, that’s where things got a bit...strange. I fully intended to just grab something very similar to what I’d picked out for WiseCrack, but as I started reaching for the jeans I caught sight of the more feminine apparel on the other side of the section. Almost against my will, I found myself walking over, sorting through the racks, and selecting a short little skater dress with a skirt that barely hit mid-thigh. I had been just holding it up to myself and imagining wearing it when the phone had rang and WiseCrack was demanding to know just what the hell was I doing. That angry voice barking in my ear snapped me out of the slight daze I now realized I had been in and I had mumbled an apology while putting the dress back and making the silent vow that I would not dress like some cheap slut.

Unfortunately, I was only able to half keep that promise. Despite my intentions, I ended up buying a curve-hugging maxi dress with a gorgeous looking Aztec-like print and a daring little slit up both sides of the skirt that reached my knees and thin little spaghetti straps. It was certainly a far cry from the little skater dress, but it still showed a generous amount of cleavage and did nothing to hide the fact that I had a sexy body.

By the time I’d gotten back to the car, I could tell my new friend was not at all happy about my personal choice, but he seemed to soften when I tried to explain that it didn’t really feel like I had much control when it came to my clothing choice. From that moment until now, where we found ourselves sitting in this Denny’s at 2 A.M., he had been working furiously on his laptop that luckily had been left in the trunk of the car after my father impersonator had yanked him from it.

He didn’t even look up when the waitress came by for our order and only grunted when she asked what we wanted to eat. I did my best to defuse any insult that might have been construed by the waitress by giving her a friendly smile and politely asking for two Grand Slam breakfasts and another couple of cups of coffee. Thankfully, either because she’d been in this business too long to care or because she took my friendliness and politeness as something extraordinary, the waitress returned my smile with a genuine one of her own before heading off to place the orders.

Once she was out of earshot I leaned over and pinched WiseCrack on the thigh, making him jump and cry out. “What the hell was that for?” he snapped.

“You were being rude,” I chastised him, “And we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves remember?”

His eyes, which had been narrowed in anger, slowly relaxed until I could see a mixture of pain and fear in those lovely gray eyes. “Sorry Kitty,” he said quietly, “I’m still trying to deal with...this,” he said and indicated himself.

“I understand,” I told him and this time when I touched his thigh it was with a gentle pat. “You’ve been working non-stop since we left the lab,” I observed in a deliberate detour off topic, “What are you looking for?”

“I was trying to make some sense of all of the research data that I uploaded to my server. Unfortunately,” he sighed, “Medical science isn’t my thing and most of this is over my head. The only thing I can really work out is that they were using a combination of medical biology and computer science to essentially treat the human brain like a computer hard drive, make a copy of that hard drive, and transfer the data into another human brain. How they managed to accomplish this I have no idea, but obviously it works.” His shoulders slumped at that last part, undoubtedly due to the fact that he was now condemned to live his life as a girl.

“Can I take a look?” One finely arched eyebrow winged up as he looked at me with clear skepticism. “Look,” I said patiently, “It very well might be over my head too, but back there I seemed to know some things when it came to medical science that I don’t remember ever learning. Maybe it’s something locked in my memory and looking at this data might bring it back out.”

The hacker seemed to consider this for a moment before shrugging delicate shoulders and turning the laptop so I could see the screen. “Why not? You can’t have any tougher of a time than I have trying to figure this crap out.”

Taking my time, I looked through the mountain of data that I slowly clicked down through. Like WiseCrack suspected, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense other than some very basic things such as the concept he’d already explained. I was able to pick out a few key items such as the need to adjust the AARS2 protein in the brain to allow for proper synapse cohesion and the requirement of needing a direct link via a complex neural net system to facilitate proper data streaming, but beyond that it was, as they say, Greek to me.

By the time I’d finished looking the data over my eyes were blurring and my food was already sitting in front of me. Looking over at WiseCrack I blinked in surprise when I saw him chowing down on his meal with half of it already gone. “When did this get here?”

“‘Bout five minutes ago,” he said around a mouthful, “You were really into that stuff.”

Shaking my head with a sigh and started on my own meal. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much more sense of it than you could. There’s a few things that stand out that I’m aware of, but I don’t know why I’m aware of them or how they fit into the whole formula.”

He nodded and took a gulp from his coffee before looking at me with a rather sorrowful gaze. “There was one thing I saw in there that finally clears up who you are.”

The fork was halfway to my mouth when he said that and his proclamation nearly caused me to send it clattering back onto the plate. Instead, I slowly put it down and pinned him with an intense stare that actually had him squirming a little. “And you were planning to tell me this when?”

“Hey,” he said defensively while holding up his hands as though to ward off an attack, “I only just found it when you said you wanted to look at the data. I worked it all out while you were looking.”

“Well don’t leave me in suspense here Oh Great One,” I snapped impatiently, “Who the fuck am I?”

“Keith Blake.”

I thought it would have been more of a bombshell, but the name didn’t mean anything to me. When I tried to go back into my own mind to see if it would ring any bells that only thing that greeted me was silence. “It doesn’t feel familiar at all,” I finally admitted dejectedly.

“I’m not surprised,” WiseCrack said with a sigh that indicated he too had been hopeful the name would have jarred some kind of memory. “Though I’m not sure about the details, it looks like when Sinclair and that science guy digitally mapped out your brain, your former brain I mean, they changed the data so you’d not only forget who you were but give you a whole new persona. My guess is they couldn’t overwrite every single trace which is why those medical and science terms seem so familiar to you.”

“And my abstract memories,” I continued for him, “I remember very generalized information about, well, everything, but when it comes to my own personal information I draw a complete blank. I don’t know who my parents are, I don’t remember any uniquely personal experiences, I can’t even remember if I did well in school or not. I could tell you who the current president is but I can’t remember how I know that. You understand?”

He nodded and tapped out a few keys on the keyboard while I took another bite of my cooling meal. “From the look of things, and we’d need an expert on this to be sure, they were able to identify your specific personal memories by the way their data chain looked when your brain’s information was converted into computer code. From there they simply deleted the part of the code that governed your unique experience.”

“Layman’s terms please,” I groaned and tried to stave off a tension headache that was starting to build by pressing my fingers between my eyes.

“Okay. Basically, every memory you possessed was turned into a line of computer code. What those bastards did was take those codes and remove parts of them that, when re-introduced, eliminated your own personal experience that caused those memories in the first place. That’s why you have knowledge of everyday life, but they don’t feel like your memories because there’s no personal connection.”

“So they essentially took away my personal identity from those memories,” I said, starting to follow the line of thinking.

“Exactly.”

“So how did they do this to me?” I asked. “I can’t imagine volunteering for something like this.”

WiseCrack sighed and leaned back in the booth with a look of regret. “Unfortunately, Sinclair disabled the lab camera long before he did it, so there’s no visual record. From what he and that madman were saying back in the lab before they brain-swapped me it sounds like Sinclair knocked you out, put you into the machine, and activated the process. You didn’t go in willingly, that much I’m pretty sure of.”

“But you still have all of your memories and personality,” I reasoned before taking a sip from my coffee, “So how did the process not affect you the same way it affected me?”

“Two projects were associated with this whole thing,” he informed me, “Project Mantis, which was commissioned by Westlake Industries by way of the military, and Project Kajira, which seems to have no connection with Mantis other than the use of the technology. The purpose of Mantis was to transplant the minds of male undercover agents into female corpses so they could infiltrate enemies of the U.S. and either eliminate or redirect the efforts of these enemies so they were more in line with our government’s agendas.”

“Why not just send female agents?”

That question brought out a long sigh from the hacker as he shook his head. “Apparently, the powers that be in our military weren’t confident that a biologically female agent would be able to separate her duty from her sense of romance. Essentially, they were holding onto that bullshit fifties attitude that women are ruled by their hormones and will fall apart if a man says they love them.”

“That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” I cried.

“No shit,” WiseCrack agreed, “But Mantis wasn’t used on you. Apparently, that crazy guy used the Kajira formula which from what I can tell is a reworking of the original so the transferred brain pattern would be infused with a set of subroutines that were designed to amplify certain feminine traits such as the libido and a deeply routed submissiveness.”

“So they were basically creating slaves,” I growled.

“Exactly,” he agreed, “But because those lines of code couldn’t quite hold together when integrated into the existing brain code they had to use an external chip implanted in the back of the brain to essentially force the subroutines into activation. Additionally, this chip had to constantly receive an activation signal via enhanced RFID or it would simply shut off. That’s why whenever you were away from Sinclair you stopped being a sex-starved slut and your own personality re-asserted itself.”

“Wait,” I said as a thought occurred to me, “Why would Sinclair ever let me out of his sight then if he knew the chip would become ineffective?”

“I dunno,” my friend said with a helpless shrug, “Maybe he didn’t understand the entire principle behind it and thought the signal was transmitted via a data stream, not RFID. The guy was a mechanical engineer, not a computer programmer.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” I decided, smiling a thank you to the waitress as she took our empty plates away and refilled our coffee, “I have a feeling the chip’s gone. When I...activated,” I said and used a small stabbing motion under the table to simulate using my energy knife, “I felt a very intense heat in the back of my head that I’m pretty sure disintegrated it. But then why am I still so damn girly?” I asked and indicated the dress I’d chosen from Kmart.

“My guess is residual code,” he said, though it was clear by his voice he was only guessing. “That chip was being used so intensely maybe it actually re-wrote some parts of your personality. But I don’t think you need to worry about suddenly turning into a sex slave again.”

“Oh?” Funny how that was my exact concern at the moment.

“Well,” he observed, “Since that moment when you, apparently, destroyed the chip, you haven’t been acting anything like some sex-starved slave. The only thing that seems to be left over is an almost impulsive urge to be feminine, such as your choice of dress and the fact that you’re still wearing five-inch heels.”

The mention of said footwear had me looking beneath the table at my crossed legs and my high-heel-shod foot lightly bobbing up and down. “They’re surprisingly comfortable,” I noted quietly, which even to me sounded strange since most women usually complain how wearing high heels for any real length of time tended to become painful.

“I think that’s just part of the programming left over. It might go away in time but it’s probably safest to assume it won’t.”

“You know,” I said cautiously as I leveled a speculative gaze at him, “You seem to know an awful lot about this stuff.”

Instead of looking chagrined or embarrassed like I’d just found him out, he merely shrugged. “I got quite an education looking at all of this the last few weeks and I’m pretty good at putting pieces together. Look,” he said, leaning towards me and resting his arms on the table, “All of what I’ve been talking about with this stuff is just educated guesswork. I could very well be wrong about all of it, but I don’t think I am, and really I don’t know anyone who could really make sense of all of this.”

“Except for me,” I said quietly and felt a small clench of loss around my heart, “Before all of this.”

“Yeah,” he said in an equally soft voice. “But,” he continued in a stronger tone, “Now we have to think about the future. Obviously we can’t go back to who and what we once were, especially you.”

“Considering it seems like I’ve lost a multi-year doctorate, gonna have to agree with that one. But what about...you know?” I asked, picking up the butter knife and clenching it in my fist.

He looked at me with confusion, switching his gaze back and forth between the utensil and my face. “What? Dessert?”

Rolling my eyes I smacked him on the shoulder, causing him to wince and rub it with an offended look. “No doofus. My…” I looked around before lowering my voice to a whisper, “My power. Was I a mutant before?”

“Ohhhh,” he intoned with eyes widening in understanding. “No, you weren’t. And even if you were, it wasn’t like they literally changed our bodies into females, it was just our minds and consciousnesses that were transplanted. No that came from your new body.”

Slowly setting the knife back down on the table I narrowed my gaze suspiciously. “You know about who this body used to be?”

He nodded and I could tell by the haunted look in his eyes that he’d probably seen a great deal more than he ever wanted to. “Too much,” he confirmed, “But you might not want to hear about it.”

Leaning back against the booth I sighed and re-crossed my legs. “I won’t stay in the dark anymore,” I told him definitively, “This body is mine now and I need to know what kind of life I could possibly end up walking into.”

For several moments neither of us said a word and just looked at one another. I’d say it was a contest of wills but no one was trying to force something from the other. For me, I was just waiting to see if I would need to try a more compelling argument. For WiseCrack, it was clear he was weighing the differences between full disclosure of information and wanting to spare me from…something.

Eventually though, he closed those lovely gray eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded. “The girl’s name was Kitty,” he began, “But it wasn’t Kitty Sinclair. Obviously, that was done by Sinclair himself to try and screw with your head and make you think you were his daughter. Her actual name was Kitty Boudreaux and she was from New Orleans. When she turned fifteen, about nine months ago, she manifested as a mutant with the power you’ve got. Unfortunately, her parents were excessively religious and thought her being a mutant was a sign of the devil. So, they did what any parent who takes the word of their imaginary friend as law would do: they fed her a big bowl of corn flakes with rat poison liberally sprinkled on top and pretended it was cinnamon.”

“Jesus!” I breathed, “They killed their own daughter just because she was a mutant?”

WiseCrack nodded solemnly before going on. “Shortly before they killed each other because, according to their suicide note, they couldn’t live with the guilt that they were responsible for bringing Satan into the world.”

“Fuck me!” I whispered and took a long swallow of coffee while wishing it contained a healthy drop of liquor. “So I, or Kitty, technically has no family?”

“None,” he confirmed.

Sitting back, I thought about what a heartbreaking story that was, but I also didn’t feel nearly as bad as I should have. The lack of emotion seemed to harken back to now three days ago when I’d first woken up in the back of that RV and was told what was supposedly the story of my life. Then, just like now, I couldn’t muster up any real serious emotion when hearing that my now-imaginary mother had died. I didn’t know these people who had killed their daughter before taking their own lives. Even though I was the literal embodiment of this girl, I couldn’t feel much beyond the sense of pity and loss that one would feel if they heard about such a thing on the news. It was sad and tragic, but it really didn’t affect my life overly much other than I wouldn’t have to explain to any parents why their dead daughter was suddenly alive.

“What about you?” I asked as a way to change the topic slightly, “Any idea whose body you’re wearing now?”

“I haven’t had a chance to take a selfie and run it through facial recognition yet. I’ll do that once I get back to Reading.”

“Reading?” I raised an eyebrow at that.

“Yeah, that’s where I have my mobile base of operations. I gave Westlake a fake address,” he explained before I could ask, “So they wouldn’t be able to easily find me and I could get out of town at a moment’s notice if things went sideways.”

“Makes sense. So you’re going to hightail it out of town when we get back?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed with a nod, “Although I do need to forward some of the information I found to a friend of mine just in case he wants to continue the investigation.”

“Why don’t you keep doing it?” I asked with a curious tilt of my head.

He shook his head negatively to that, his honey blonde hair swirling about his face before he impatiently shoved it out of the way. “Can’t. Obviously I don’t look the same so my credentials are worthless. Plus, Westlake knew about this project and he knew what it was being designed to do. The fact that he hasn’t already put two and two together just means he’s got tunnel vision on finding...well...you at this point. Thankfully you’ve got the perfect camouflage. Oh yeah,” he said, as though the thought had just occurred to him when I stared at him in confusion, “They think you were responsible for this entire debacle. It’s because they can’t find you,” he explained as I opened my mouth to object, “And while I’m not one hundred percent sure, I’m pretty certain Sinclair probably tossed your body into the lab incinerator once he’d done the mind transfer.”

Now that hurt. It was one thing to hear about someone else’s life going to hell, but it was a completely different ball of wax to hear about your own life being flushed down the shitter. Despite the fact that I intellectually knew being in this body was permanent I think deep down I had this irrational belief that if I could find my old body that somehow, some way, I’d be able to re-engineer the process once more and be able to transfer my consciousness back into my old body. Unfortunately, given the brutality in which Sinclair and his scientist friend operated, there was probably zero chance of that happening. Hell, they’d blown the brains out of WiseCrack’s old body the moment they knew the operation had been a success and he was just a nobody to them they’d lucked into grabbing off the street. The other me had been someone important and, if i understood the process correctly, that also meant that the other could have feasibly re-created the process and fixed all of this. Of course they had to get rid of my male body.

“I’m sorry,” WiseCrack said softly, interrupting my thoughts, “That was pretty harsh of me. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I’m not crying,” I tried to deny even as my throat was threatening to close and choked my words into sharp gasps while a distinct wetness ran down my cheeks. I tried to avoid his pitying gaze as I quickly rubbed at the dampness on my face with little success. Why couldn’t I get my face dry? Even using a napkin didn’t help. It just seemed like it was permanently wet. How could that be?

It wasn’t until I was enfolded in WiseCrack’s embrace that I realized I was sobbing uncontrollably. The only thing that kept my wails of anguish from echoing throughout the restaurant was the fact that they were muffled due to my face being buried in the soft mounds of his breasts. I distantly heard him make some excuse to the waitress, who was likely concerned and came to check on us, about my having just lost a relative or something like that. The funny thing was, it was pretty damn close to the truth, and that just made me cry all that much harder.

Eventually, after maybe five or ten minutes, my tears were pretty much cried out and I was left gasping and hiccuping for breath while WiseCrack gently rubbed my back. “Th-thanks,” I stuttered, my voice not yet stable from the outburst.

“It’s okay,” he assured me, “I had a pretty similar reaction too, and they did it right in front of me.”

I thought that sounded pretty damn cold and cavalier considering the circumstances, but when I lifted my head to look at him I could see the agony in his eyes that was only just barely being held back. I imagine it was a pretty good mimic of how I was looking at the moment. “We’re a pretty fucked up pair, huh?”

“Yup,” he said and took another sip of cold coffee, “But I think I got the better end of the deal.”

“How do you figure?” I asked with a raised eyebrow, “At least I don’t have any memory of being a man, I don’t have a problem with being a girl.”

“True,” he allowed, “But you also have some residual from Project Kajira that might or might not go away. I only have to adapt to being a girl.”

“Speaking of,” I said thoughtfully, “Project Mantis I get. The concept is like when a female praying mantis eats the mate’s head after sex. What the hell is Kajira.”

“Ugh,” WiseCrack grunted with disgust, “Apparently that came from a really bad set of sci-fi novels. Apparently the author was really big into BDSM and female domination and established an entire fictional world where pretty much every female on the planet was completely subservient to men and their biggest life aspiration was to be a man’s loving and devoted sex slave. The word Kajira is that world’s word for ‘slave’ or ‘slave girl’. My guess is either Sinclair or the scientist, or both, really ascribed to that particular ideology and decided to try and make this fictitious world a reality.”

“Bastards,” I growled and had to really fight not to instinctively form an energy blade that had no actual target.

“Yup,” he repeated and drained the remainder of his coffee.

“So where do we go from here?” I asked, realizing at this point both of us were essentially nameless entities with no identity.

“Well, it’ll be simple to put together identification. I can get into whatever DMV we want to be from and cobble together a birth certificate and driver’s license. Unfortunately, the best I can do for ages is make us both sixteen so we can at least drive.”

“Why not eighteen?”

“We just don’t look it,” he replied with a sigh, “As it is convincing a stranger we’re sixteen is going to be a bit of stretch since we both look fourteen, maybe fifteen. By the way, that’s how old you really are,” he informed me, “At least physiologically.”

“So we’re stuck as minors for now,” I concluded dejectedly. I had hoped that maybe I’d be able to try and start a new life somehow, but being legally sixteen made it a lot more complicated. The fact that I had no living, legally parents or guardians meant I couldn’t get a job, a car, or even a place to live. “So how are we going to survive?”

“Well for now,” he said, already going to work on his laptop, “We can use my mobile base. I haven’t had an actual home for a while now since it’s always been smarter to stay on the move.”

“And exactly what is this mobile base?” I asked suspiciously.

I don’t know if it would have been obvious when he’d been a man, but there was no way he could hide the embarrassed blush that tinted his cheeks. “A minivan,” he said sheepishly before looking up at me with apologetic eyes. “I usually just got hotel rooms.”

“It’s all right, but we should probably think a little more long-term.”

“Well,” he mused as he tapped away at the keyboard, “We do have access to the money that Sinclair stole from Westlake, five million dollars.”

I blinked in shock at the amount of money we suddenly had access to before a slow, eager smile spread across my lips. “I think I might have an idea.”

Keystone RV Center, Greencastle, Pennsylvania

“You sure you little girls can handle a beast like this?” the man asked while looking at us suspiciously. Of course, it wasn’t too suspiciously given that WiseCrack had just put a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar cashier’s check in his hand. Paying ten grand over the asking price for a recreational vehicle tended to help people forget about little things like how a pair of young girls could afford such an amount.

“Oh sure,” I replied, keeping my voice casual, as I looked over the large Winnebago, “My Daddy taught me how to drive one of these things years ago. We go on family trips a lot,” I finished with a smile and I felt quite proud that saying the word ‘Daddy’ only caused a sharp twist in my guts instead of full on nausea.

“Well, I hope your Daddy likes it,” the man called as we climbed aboard with me behind the wheel and WiseCrack in the passenger seat.

“Are you sure you can actually drive this thing?” she, because after the last few days acceptance had finally settled in, asked me without being able to disguise the nervousness in his voice.

I just grinned wickedly at her and started the engine before smoothly pulling out of the driveway and heading down the road from the clearly well-to-do farm. “I guess I used to drive one of these things back when I was a guy because it feels pretty familiar.”

Actually, driving one of these things had been the least of our worries for the last four days. We’d been pretty busy laying the foundation for establishing our new lives. The first step had been actually getting some money. Fortunately, Sinclair had left his bank card in the car’s glove box so it had been a pretty simple matter for WiseCrack to hack into his account and change the pin to whatever we wanted. After that, several quick stops at ten different ATMs, with WiseCrack heading off any digital warning signals sent to the bank about unusual activity, had netted us enough cash to get started on identification. For that, we went to a local office supply store and bought an expensive ID card printer and a package of PVC card stock. Since ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ was the best course of action WiseCrack keep his license as being from Ohio, her home state, and changed her name in the Ohio birth certificate database from Harry (that got a laugh out of me) Wiseman to Angela Wiseman, in honor of his mother. I chose to do some honoring myself by electing to keep my first name Kitty to honor the loss of the girl whose body I now possessed, but I changed the last name from Bordeaux to Blake to minimize the possibility of someone recognizing the old Kitty. I also chose to keep her place of birth and licensing state in Louisiana since WiseCrack, Angela, told me it would be easier to adjust the existing file with the new last name. Plus the old me had apparently already possessed a state ID card so she could use the existing photo in the database for my new license.

Once our identities had been established she used our new ID printer to create really good fake licenses. Since we weren’t in our ‘home’ states they would likely pass anything other than really intense scrutiny. With the matter of identification out of the way, Angela set up a joint bank account for the two of us, using my old self’s deceased parents as the parental authorizers. A quick trip to a local branch and we had brand new debit cards as well as platinum credits cards that just so happened to be linked to the account. So now we had ID and money, that just left decent transportation.

Since we didn’t want to go through a dealership and leave a paper trail, Angela scoured the classifieds until finally finding a farmer looking to off-load his practically brand new RV. A quick trip to the bank for a cashier’s check, a drive down to the farm, and not only did we have a new RV but we even sweetened the deal by throwing Angela’s old van in when the farmer commented on how he needed a new van for hauling feed.

Now, as I guided the RV towards the highway I asked, “So where are we heading?”

“Well,” she said, leaning back from the laptop resting on the fold-away table in the passenger area, “Now that I’ve got the registration switched over to us, we can pretty much go wherever. Any ideas?”

As we approached the highway interchange I was given the option of taking I81 north or south and for the first time in days I felt like I actually had control over my life. True, this life wasn’t the one I was born with, but it was the one I had now and I was determined to make the best of it. There were still plenty of questions in my mind, like what was the extent of my power or did I possess any others. That would need to be looked into even to the extent of possibly going to the MCO to get power tested. Angela told me I’d have to do it eventually if I ever planned to do any traveling by boat or plane since she wasn’t able to hack into their systems and simply create a file for me. Apparently they had some of the best digital security anywhere and even her vaunted skills were no match for it. Considering Angela was pretty goddamn scary when it came to her hacking ability, that was really saying something. If she wanted, I had no doubt she could ruin countless lives and bring whole corporations to their knees. Thank God she was on the side of the angels and only really used her skills against bad people.

I really had no idea where to go from here. Everything up to this point had been finding out the truth about myself and trying to reclaim my memory. Now that I knew such a thing was pretty much impossible, I really was something of a blank slate. I had no tangible history that guided my motives or my actions. For all I knew I was a complete asshat as Keith Blake and whored around with impunity while diabolically trying to come up with new ways to screw people over. What I did know was that wasn’t who I was now. Now, I was sixteen-year-old Kitty Blake who, while certainly damaged, wasn’t the kind of girl who sought out to harm people. In fact, I was absolutely sure I was the kind of girl would defend my friends like Angela with everything I had to make sure they were safe.

I don’t know who I would become or how my future experiences would shape me, but I’d like to think I had a pretty good start. There would be plenty of challenges, sure. Sinclair and that scientist had made certain of that. Probably for the rest of my life I’d be fighting against the residual of whatever programming they’d tried to stuff into my head, but that wouldn’t define me. I was my own person and no one was going to take that away from me again.

So, I took the next step in reclaiming that life by making my choice and turning onto the highway.



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