Living in a World with X-Men

Living in a world of X-Men

Just once I’d like to be recognized for the person I am; to be visible and seen by someone other than Clay Overbeck and his gaggle of thugs who insist on making every effort to demonstrate their physical superiority over me. Just once I wish my father would tell me I’m good enough or that my mother would stick up for me when he tells me I’ll amount to nothing. Just once I’d like to have a moment that I rise above the mediocrity of myself and make a difference in someone’s life.

I live in a world where normal people are considered dull and boring and when you’re a seventeen year old boy with thick glasses, short, and scrawny, you’re less than dull. Ever since the evolution of people with mutant powers you have to be incredibly beautiful, smart, or a mutant to get any kind of recognition.

It was widely accepted that by the time you’re sixteen if you haven’t manifested your mutant powers yet you’re relegated to the “dull and boring” category of people. So because I’m not pretty, handsome, a genius, or a mutant, I’m sub-dull.

“Hey, Wiener!”

Sighing heavily I didn’t have to look over my shoulder to know that Clay was coming down the hall. “My name is Warner, but you already know that.”

“Don’t get smart with me Wiener.”

I’ve tried everything with these guys. I’ve been courteous and polite, contrite, angry, frightened, and stupid and nothing ever changes the outcome so I’ve convinced myself that I can get a marginal amount of personal satisfaction by being a smartass. “I’m sorry I can’t help you there Clay as anyone with an IQ over thirty will seem smart to you. What do you need today? Homework answers? Perhaps the thirty-seven cents I have in my pockets to bolster your piggy bank? Or do you just need someone to make you feel better about yourself? I can imagine that last one would be really hard to overcome.”

I know I overstepped Clay’s boundaries this time as his face turned a lovely shade of beet red. He ripped open a locker like he thought he was Wolverine or something and stuffed me inside before closing the locker back up again. “That’ll teach you, Wiener!”

One problem was this wasn’t my locker and the another problem was I couldn’t get out. Then there was the annoying clinging perfume smell. I tried unsuccessfully to get someone’s attention but it wasn’t until ten minutes later that the door opened and I fell headlong into Stacey Upton. Stacey, the prettiest and most respected student in school, was incensed.

“What are you doing in my locker?”

“It wasn’t my fault. I’m the victim of foul play. I didn’t do it on purpose.” Stacey was, in my opinion, drop-dead gorgeous. She was taller than me by a few inches, putting her around five foot six or seven. Her long blonde hair, angelic face, nice-sized breasts, perfectly flat stomach, and long tone legs put her in the category of not a mutant but really high on the social order of things.

Her face softened with the realization that I wasn’t some pervert hiding in her locker to go through her stuff. I guess that’s one of the reasons she was so popular in that she was actually a nice person. “It’s all right. Try to have a good day.”

Heading home for the day I was at least glad I wasn’t still stuck in the locker. Mom was home but dad liked to work late. I plunked myself down in front of the television and turned on the news. Mom came in wiping her hands on a towel.

“You know your father doesn’t like watching the news.”

“Dad won’t be here for a while and I want to see if Storm is out of the hospital yet.”

“News is one thing, but mutant news is another. Turn it off. You know how he gets when there’s even a mention of mutants. His…”

“…mother was killed by a mutant. I know.” Turning off the television I headed to my room.

“I’m coming to school tomorrow to watch you get the science award. I’m real proud of you.”

“Thanks, mom. Is dad coming?”

She gave a sympathetic look. “Your dad…”

“…has to work. I know.”

Closing my door I flopped onto my bed. It’s not a big thing, the science award. I didn’t even try but wound up with the top marks in the school. I was hoping somehow dad would recognize I had some redeeming value.

***

The next day started out lousy with Clay and crew dumping me upside down into a trash can. He was still miffed about my mouthing off to him yesterday. My lunch was crushed and almost inedible by lunchtime. Now I was standing offstage with a short lineup of other students waiting for our names to be called to have the awards presented. Mom said she’d be there and poking my head out from the hideous purple stage curtains I could see her there ready with her cell phone to record the moment.

Glancing over the other students my eyes were instantly drawn to Stacey Upton. She was casually talking with the other students. They all seemed so pleased to simply be in her presence. What would it be like to be so good looking and popular?

“Stacey Upton, math award.” Stacey moved gracefully across the stage, took her plaque, and then lined up on stage.

“Warner Wallace, science award.”

I walked out in a bit of a daze. I was still pondering my life’s most ambitious question. “What would it be like to be like Stacey?” Taking the award I turned and unceremoniously and very ungracefully tripped and fell towards Stacey. Trying to get my balance back I grabbed her wrist and my world lurched with a nauseating twist.

I heard gasps across the auditorium and people were running both towards and away from the stage. I looked up at Stacey and her face registered shock and surprise.

The principal started yelling. “Stay back! We have no idea how he might fully manifest.”

Standing up I immediately noticed everything about me was off. The most notable was that my hips felt larger and my pants were pinching me. The next thing I noticed was that my shirt was stretched tight across my chest. Looking down I saw two large bumps which could only be breasts. My now long blonde hair fell away from my back and drifted in front of my eyes.

Looking back at Stacey, I saw that I was now taller than her by a couple of inches. I glanced at my hands and noted how feminine they looked. Turning I saw mom standing there with a look of great concern. She reached out her hand towards me even as others shouted for her not to. “Warner? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” My voice sounded so strange.

“I think you just manifested mutant powers.”

You think? Glancing down at my now curvy female body I was shaken by a mixture of impatience because I knew something major just happened, and concern as to what in hell just happened to me. “But I’m older than sixteen and what kind of power is this?”

“Let me get you out of here. I need to take you to a specialist.”

Mom touched my arm and quickly pulled her hand away then touched me again before rushing me out of the school to her car. Her look of concern radiated outwardly while she drove.

Looking down at myself I felt the immediate loss of parts and I knew, just knew that there was nothing left down there. Pulling down the visor I closed my eyes before taking a peek. I’m gorgeous. I look like Stacey Upton, but somehow enhanced even beyond her beauty. I’ve read all about mutant powers and I only know of one with the ability to shapeshift. If that’s what I did then I should be able to shift back.

“How can this be? I’m too old to manifest and neither you nor dad have mutant powers. Oh my God. Dad.”

“I don’t know, Warner. We’re almost at the specialist. He’ll be able to tell us what we need to know. What happened? Did you feel anything?”

“I was just waiting with the others to have my name called. I was thinking about…” I was thinking about Stacey.

“What? What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking how nice it must be to be someone like Stacey Upton. She has looks, intelligence, is kind, and people adore her.”

“Why would you be thinking that?”

“Really? Don’t you know I get beat up every day at school? I’m treated like I’m less than nothing except if I were nothing people wouldn’t beat me up every day. I was just thinking that it would be nice to be good looking and respected like her. Maybe if I was like her dad would love me. That’s when I tripped and touched her.”

“Your dad loves you, Warner. Maybe you should think about being Warner again. If you change back then dad will never have to know.”

“I’m trying and nothing is happening.”

“We’re here. Hopefully the doctor will be able to tell us more.”

Stepping into the canary yellow painted waiting room I was immensely grateful no one else was there. A television was playing news in the corner. “… This just in. We have cell phone video from Hamilton High School where the city’s latest mutant just manifested.” I groaned as I watched the shaky video of myself changing from Warner to some spectacular blonde-haired beauty. “We’re here with Stacey Upton. Stacey, what happened? Did you feel anything being taken from you when he touched you?”

“No. I knew Warner had tripped and felt him grab my wrist and that was it. I hope he’s all right.”

“Oh man, that was so sweet. Warner the Wiener lost his wiener. That must be his mutant power.” I could hear Clay laughing in the background.

“No one knows where he or I guess she was taken, but we’re anxious to find out more about our city’s newest mutant.”

Turning away from the television I suddenly realized that my life was over. Dad will see the video or someone will tell him his son is now a mutant.

“The doctor can see you now, Warner. Mrs. Wallace, please wait here.”

The doctor happened to be a mutant with an extra-large cranium. He extended his hand and I hesitated in taking it. “I’m Dr. Simpson. I’m immune to mutant touch of any kind so it’s all right.” I shook his hand. “I heard the news. You turned out to be very pretty. You should be relieved you’re not blue or green and have a tail or something.”

“I’m not relieved at all. My dad hates mutants.”

“I’m sure he will get over it. Now, I need you to undress and put on this gown. We’ll get blood samples and check you out thoroughly.”

Nodding bleakly I stepped behind a curtain and stripped out of my clothes. As I suspected there was nothing left between my legs. I’m a Stacey clone, but twice as beautiful if that is even possible. I tried to ignore the swinging weights at my chest and slipped into the gown.

“Sit up on the bed for me. Tell me what happened, what you were feeling, and what you were thinking.”

I told him everything as he took a sample of blood and I watched him put the sample into a large humming machine. “Hmmm. Very interesting. I’ve not seen anything like this before. Alice, can you invite Mrs. Wallace in here please?”

My mom came in looking very worried. “Please tell me this is all a mistake or that a mutant changed him and he’s not a mutant.”

“Here’s what I can tell you. Your son is definitely a mutant and now completely female. This is his new mutant base, meaning that his mutant manifestation irreversibly changed his gender and looks. Think of it like your first memory. What Warner was thinking at the time and the touch of Stacey, allowed him to replicate her looks at the time of his manifestation. I see some anomalies in his mutant structure.”

“So you’re saying I’m stuck like this? What kind of anomalies?”

“Yes, you’re stuck like that just like I’m stuck with this larger head of mine. This is your new body. The anomaly is that you seem to have the ability to replicate skills and traits. Your cells are behaving strangely and it’s hard to tell for certain without time and testing.”

“You think I can steal other mutant’s abilities?”

“Not steal, replicate and not just mutants, regular people as well. You’ll have to be careful as you might not want to replicate certain abilities. For example, do you always want to wear ruby lenses to avoid burning people when you open your eyes?”

“How do I replicate? Do I have a choice?”

“I don’t know the answer to either of those questions at the moment. All I know is that you’re incredibly unique, even for a mutant. I’m going to give you a cell phone. Call me anytime you see a change occur in yourself.”

The doctor left and mom stared sadly at me. “You can’t go home. Dad won’t let you back in the house. I can give you some money and get you some clothes, but even that might be too much for dad.”

“You’re kicking me out? Where will I go? I don’t know anything about being a girl.”

“You’re smart, Warner. You’ll figure it out. You and I can meet at the library every other day at noon. Don’t go back to school. At least not yet. I’m going to make a call to an old friend of mine. She and I went to school together and her son manifested a few years ago. They sent him to some school in New York State.”

She turned away and placed a call as I stood and looked at myself in the mirror. This is it. This is me. I’m a girl and a mutant. My hand drifted to my breast just as mom came back.

“It’s all set. We’ll go get you some clothes then I’ll take you to Gloria Stenhold. She’s offered to let you stay a few nights but she’s seen mutant powers first hand and realizes without training you could put her family at risk.”

“I don’t feel like I would hurt anyone.”

“You don’t know that yet for sure. Change back into your clothes and let’s get out of here.”

Just as we were leaving Dr. Simpson met us at the door. “Here’s the cell phone. I’d like to see you back here in a week. Call me if you have any new manifestations.”

“I will. Thank you.”

Turning I felt his hand on my arm. “This isn’t the end of the world, Warner. You appear to be healthy, fit, and beautiful. Every time you get down on yourself, and believe me you will, remember the positive things you still have. Few mutants are nearly as lucky as you. You may find yourself one of the most popular mutants ever.”

“I’m not seeking popularity. I’m just hoping for some normalcy.”

“Welcome to your new norm.”

Sighing we returned to the car and drove off towards a small clothing store. My mom didn’t think after the news that I should be seen in a mall and I heartily agreed. There was a women’s clothing consignment store not far away that would offer more privacy.

“What’s going to happen to me?”

“I don’t know. We’ll get through this one day at a time.”

The store turned out to be packed with clothes. There were even some new items like bras and panties. I guess that made me feel a little better thinking I wouldn’t be wearing someone else’s underwear.

“Mom, Dr. Simpson suggested I can replicate skills. Do you mind if I try something with you?”

“What are you thinking?”

“When I changed, I was thinking of Stacey. I have some of her understanding but I’m lost as a girl. I don’t know anything about clothes, makeup, or what to do with my hair. If I focus my thoughts perhaps I can copy some of your knowledge.”

My mom looked hesitant. “All right. Try it.”

She is so brave. I reached out and took her hand in mine and thought to myself I could really benefit from knowledge of how to be a girl, girl’s fashion, makeup, hairstyles, hygiene, posture, walking, and everything about being female. I could feel it. My body shifted and I could tell that I knew things I never knew before.

“Did that hurt you?”

“No. You’re standing differently. Did you get that from me?”

The fear of being female had drifted away and I had a newer sense of who I was. Everything still felt new, but it was as if my body now knew what to do all by itself as if I were born female. There was a moment where I felt powerful and dark thoughts flit across my mind. If this is true then I can be the most powerful mutant ever. I could replicate all their powers. I could be the fastest, the strongest. I could finally put Clay in his place. No! I could almost see Stacey before me in my mind chastising me. That’s not who you are. You’re kind, generous, feminine, and caring. You wanted to be like me and this is what you got from me.

“I’m going to be all right, mom. I’m pretty sure I got what I needed from you.”

“You’re the one from the news. My niece has mutant powers so you’re welcome to shop here. Not every store appreciates mutants. You’re a shapeshifter?”

“No. I don’t think we really know what I can do yet.”

The woman looked around at her belongings suddenly fearful that I might burn the place down. Mom helped out a lot. “The initial change appears to be the only power. The mutant specialist believes this is his new look as a mutant from here on out. We need clothes.”

She smiled, seemingly appeased. “I had a recent mutant in here the other day. Her skin was as red as a ripe cherry and her hair was as blue as the Caribbean. We had the hardest time finding her clothes. You, however, are gorgeous. I’m sure we can find you lots to wear. If you were a boy before I’m guessing you want pants?”

I realized that I had got more from Stacey and mom than I realized as the thought of pants seemed revolting to me. Come to think of it I’d never seen Stacey in jeans. Once I caught a glimpse of her in her gym shorts and thought I’d pass out just from looking upon her loveliness. “Dresses, skirts, and maybe something I can use for exercising. My change did more than alter my body.”

“Let’s start with bras and panties then.” I cringed mentally but I was sort of excited at the same time.

We shopped the store for a while and mom seemed to be warming up to the idea her son was now her daughter. We’d never shopped like this before and with each outfit I tried on her face softened and her smile grew.

Standing in front of the mirror I looked myself over once again. I was wearing a pretty red dress that accentuated my figure and long lean legs. My golden-blonde hair cascaded down my back in gentle waves. My blue eyes looked like flawless sapphires. My full red lips looked irresistibly sensual. Thanks to Stacey and mom, I was standing with perfect posture and there wasn’t a hint of my head-down stance I was so accustomed to. One thought concerned me that I looked vulnerable. I’m a very cute and sexy girl and the thought of what a man can do to me frightens me.

Leaving the red dress on we packed up the skirts, blouses, dresses, exercise shorts, top, bra, and shoes and headed back to the car.

“I can’t believe you were my son a few hours ago. I’d never tell you were a boy by the way you walk and look.”

“The sales lady was frightened of me.”

“At first. New mutants are unpredictable. Let’s get you over to Gloria’s place. I’m so sorry you can’t come home right now. Maybe one day.”

Gloria’s house was on the far side of town but being a small town it was only a few miles to our old place. I stood back a few steps as mom knocked on the door. Gloria Stenhold came to the door and carefully looked us over. She spent a long time staring at me and sizing me up.

“You’re sure she’s harmless, Mary? I’d hate to have my house frozen or melted by a mutant that didn’t know their powers. I’ve never been able to fix the wall that Kyle melded his desk with.”

This was the first time someone called me she in front of me.

“She’s fine Gloria. You know I wouldn’t ask you if I felt it wasn’t safe. It’s just Warner’s father won’t allow her back in the house and she’s too young to be getting a room for herself at some motel.”

“She can stay for a few days and we can reassess then.”

Mom hugged me which made me start to tear up. I’d been so focused on my changes I’d not been considering how hard this moment might be for either of us. “Meet me at the library at noon tomorrow.”

“I will.”

I watched as mom drove off and Mrs. Stenhold guided me inside. “Kyle was fifteen when he first manifested. His ability is fusing objects together. What’s your ability?”

“The specialist thinks I can replicate abilities. It’s why I look like this. When I manifested I was thinking about a girl at school.”

“So you have no destructive abilities then?”

“None.”

“That’s a relief. Here’s Kyle’s old room. You can stay in here.”

“It sort of reminds me of my old room at home with the exception of the desk partway through the wall of course. He’s not living here anymore?”

“He’s at the Xavier’s school for the past three years. What do we call you? Warner doesn’t sound right.”

“What do you think suits me?”

“Taryn, Lexi, Kaitlin, Sara. What names do you like?”

“Sara sounds right. Sara Wallace, although I don’t think my dad would like that I’m still calling myself a Wallace.”

“Don’t worry about your dad. Bruce was devastated when Kyle manifested. He’s really proud of Kyle now.”

“Get settled in. Bruce will be home soon and we can have some dinner.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Stenhold.”

“You can call me Gloria.”

Gloria left the room and I sat myself down on the bed and stared at myself in the mirror. This is surreal. It’s like I’m watching a movie of a sexy, cute, innocent looking blonde. I’m turned on by myself, but my baseline, Stacey, likes boys. While I scrunched my cute little nose up at the thought, I was also surprised I could see myself with a boy at some point. Mom’s knowledge about women had also left me with a pretty precise understanding of sex as a woman. Moving my hand to my breast a gentle squeeze sent a wave of heat through my body.

“Sara? Bruce should be here any minute. Can you come up and help me set the table?”

“Sure thing.”

Heading upstairs I stopped to look at a picture of the family. It was recent and who I assumed to be Kyle was sitting with Gloria and Bruce. They look happy. I wonder what that would be like to be a happy family together.

“It’s hard having Kyle away from us but he’s learning so much about his abilities and also getting a good education. You should think about going to Xavier’s.”

“Does it cost a lot?”

“It doesn’t cost anything for mutants. You’re analyzed and assessed and you become as much of a learning opportunity for them as it is for you. It’s a mutual exchange. Kyle loves it there as he feels normal with other mutants around. I can’t imagine what must be going through your mind right now. Not only have you suddenly changed genders, but your whole world just shifted before your eyes. You’re also beyond the normal age which begs the question what does it mean? I find these new mutant powers rather fascinating. Soon, people like your parents and Bruce and I will become relics of the past.”

“I hope not. Too many mutants have let their power go to their heads. We need good wisdom and people not tainted by mutations to keep us from killing ourselves.”

The front door opened and Bruce came into the kitchen. He was a really big guy and heavily muscled. I can see why Gloria fell for him. Did I really just say that to myself?

“Bruce this is Sara Wallace, formerly Warner Wallace until today. Mary asked if Sara could stay with us for a few days.”

“You’re the one all over the news. Why can’t you stay at home?” His voice was compassionate.

“Dad’s mom was killed by a mutant. He despises them. I guess he despises me too now.”

“You manifested by becoming a girl? What a trip.”

Gloria put her hand on Bruce’s arm. “Sara doesn’t have any destructive powers.”

“Other than becoming a girl, what powers do you have?”

“We’re not entirely sure yet. The mutant specialist suggested I have the ability to replicate abilities, both mutant and human.”

Bruce frowned. “You’re talking about Dr. Simpson?”

“Yes. Something wrong?”

“He assessed Kyle. I just never felt good around that guy. How does your replication power work?”

“I’m not really sure. I believe if I touch someone I can think about the trait, knowledge, or skill I want and I get it.”

“I’ve got something we can test you with after dinner if you like.”

“I’d appreciate that very much.”

We sat down for dinner and our discussion was wide and varied covering all kinds of topics. Gloria, once she discovered I was indeed fully female and had absorbed a heterosexual leaning, suddenly seemed much more interested in me and kept steering the topic of conversation towards Kyle. If I didn’t know any better I suspect she might think I am a good match for him. That’s a really weird thought but also somewhat heartwarming to think I might be considered good material.

After dinner Bruce changed and took me downstairs to a home gym. There were all kinds of weights. He’s a real fitness buff.

“What is it that you do, Mr. Stenhold?”

“Please, call me Bruce. I’m a forensic cyber consultant. I’d be what you considered a white hat.”

“You get paid to hack? That’s so cool, but what about all these weights?”

“When I was younger I went from high school into the Marines. After eight years I entered public life as a personal trainer. That and my Marine experience led me to a job in security and law enforcement which led me into cybercrime. It was a strange, circuitous career path, but they all play well together.”

“How will this help me learn more about my power?”

“I learned a lot from Kyle and before he went to Xavier’s I tested him. Every mutant power has its limits. Let’s find out how good yours are by lifting weights.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever lifted a dumbbell before.”

“You say you can replicate skills and abilities, how about strength?”

“You mean you want me to replicate your strength? Do I want that?”

“Why wouldn’t you want strength? Right now, you’re a normal seventeen year old girl. I don’t want you to fight back or replicate anything. I won’t hurt you.”

“What are you saying?” He grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me up against the wall. “What are you doing?”

He let go and apologized. “As I was saying, you’re a pretty seventeen year old girl and a mutant without a family right now. How are you going to protect yourself? What if some guy grabs you and rapes you?”

“Strength would be useful. I concede that. But strength without skill is also not that good.”

“I want you to lie down on this bench and we’ll keep adding weight on the bar until you can’t lift it anymore. This will give us an idea of your baseline strength.”

“Okay.” I laid myself back on the bench press, careful to adjust my dress and put my hands on the bar where he showed me. The bar alone was forty-five pounds. We added weight until we got to seventy pounds and I could no longer lift it.

“Now I know the maximum weight that I can bench press is three hundred and forty pounds. Replicate my strength.”

“You’re sure?”

“Sara, I’m pleased to think that a mutant that has your capabilities is humble, but there are dark forces in this world and you need to be able to protect yourself from. Go ahead.”

Hesitantly I reached for his wrist and thought about what I needed. Strength, agility, fighting, guns, cyber. I could use it all so I took it. Once again the darkness crept around me but Stacey’s warmth and compassion pushed it back. “I have it.” Suddenly I felt very guilty. Looking down my lower lip began to tremble. “I’m sorry, but I think I replicated your fighting experience and your cyber hacking skills too. I had a moment where I was weak and all of those things seemed important to me. I’m a monster.”

“Sara, look at me. Do I look angry?” I shook my head. “I told you those things on purpose.” He sat down and I sat next to him. “When Kyle manifested, it was only a few weeks before people started coming to the door. They wanted to exploit him. Construction companies found out about his abilities and offered him jobs. That was fine at first, but then mutants came. Some good, but most were looking to use Kyle’s skills for their personal gain. That’s why we sent him to Xavier’s. So he could be surrounded by good people. I’ve seen it time and again that good people get corrupted by their mutant powers. You can use your powers for good. I see that in you. You’re not crazed on power and yet, you may be the most powerful mutant ever.”

“The thought crossed my mind, but it’s not me. I want to help people.”

“You can’t help people if you can’t help yourself. Now, lie down and try the bench press again.”

I did and Bruce kept adding weight. At three hundred and forty pounds I still found the weight light. It wasn’t until nearly seven hundred pounds that I stopped.

“You replicated my strength and yet your strength is slightly more than double mine. My God, Sara. You magnify what you replicate. Gloria!”

Gloria raced downstairs. “What’s the matter, Bruce?”

“Pack our things and Call Mary. We’re taking Sara to Xavier’s right now.”

“Why?”

“Because not only can she replicate abilities, she can also magnify them.” I watched Gloria’s face turn from perplexed to ashen white. Bruce went to a drawer and pulled out a handgun. He handed it to me and it felt perfectly normal in my hand. “Disassemble it and put it back together as fast as you can.”

My hands flew over the gun taking every piece off and then putting it back together. Gloria had gone upstairs to pack. “What did Dr. Simpson do for you?”

“He took a sample of my blood, told me a few things about myself. Theories really. Then he gave me a cell phone and…”

“He gave you a cell phone?”

With Bruce’s knowledge and skills in cyber forensics it suddenly dawned on me. They can track my cell phone. Who are they? I took the phone out and smashed it on the ground.

“I’m guessing you know how to use this gun now. Hang onto it. Grab your things.”

Rushing into Kyle’s bedroom I rolled together my new clothes and put them into a bag. Gloria ran down the hallway with a suitcase and Bruce started for the door when the door flew inwards off its hinges barely missing him. Three men in dark suits carrying assault rifles burst through the doorway. Bruce grappled with one as Gloria dove into a side room. Two came towards me. One tapped his ear. “Target is in sight.”

Raising my handgun I leveled it at the man in front. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“Put down the gun. We’re here to protect you.”

“Protect me from whom?”

“The Stenholds.”

The man reached for me. The skills from Bruce became really important all of a sudden. I reacted like a whirlwind. Grabbing his wrist I snapped it with a twist. Catching his rifle as it dropped I swept his legs and slammed the butt of the rifle into the face of the second man. With a knee to the first man’s head, they were both out cold. Bruce was still struggling with the third man but once he got the right hold on the gunman the man dropped to the ground like a stone. I placed the pistol on a shelf.

I stepped out the front door with my rifle ready just as Bruce yelled for me to stop. I didn’t think there would be more but there were. Two more. A woman floated ten feet off the ground, glanced at my rifle, and mentally flung it from my hands. She’s the one that knocked down the door. I turned to run back inside but a leash of light wrapped around me holding me tightly. Behind the flying woman and the man casting out his light stood Dr. Simpson.

“Bring her to me and put her in the dampening cell.”

The woman sneered and floated down to stand before me. “She’s what you called us to retrieve?”

“Stay away from her!”

The light was around my waist holding me fast, but my hands were free. Bruce is right. I can’t protect others if I can’t protect myself. Reaching out I grabbed the woman’s wrist. I need her powers was all I had to think. I felt the darkness once again but I pushed it away then sent her flying into the man with the light. The light flickered and went out allowing me to move again. I ran to where the two mutants were lying together. I grabbed the man’s wrist and replicated his power.

The two were coming to so I used my new power to wrap bands of light around them both binding them tightly. I then turned towards Dr. Simpson. I registered fear in his eyes.

“I’m trying to protect you Warner. Do you feel it? Do you feel the darkness when you replicate an ability? It will corrupt you. You need to come with me so that I can help you.”

Is he telling the truth? “Why come here with two mutants and three armed men when you could have simply asked to train and work with me when I was at your office?”

“I did more research on your blood. I didn’t know then what I do now. I can help you.”

I had at least twice the power of these mutants. I wrapped another band of light around the doctor and dragged them towards the van where a bluish light emanated. Lifting them I pushed them inside and closed the door having never moved from where I was standing.

Bruce and Gloria were standing at the door watching everything. Turning to them I saw the fear in their eyes. Moving towards them I fell to my knees at their feet. “I didn’t want any of this. I don’t want this power. You say Xavier’s school can help me? Will you please take me there?”

“Of course. Grab your things Sara.”

***

We drove for hours in silence and I had the strangest thoughts running through my mind. During the entire fight my dress was never soiled. I’m some kind of mixture of Jean Grey, Wonder Woman, Hercules, and Rambo.

“How much further?”

“We should be there by morning, Sara. You’re awfully quiet.”

“I’ve known about the X-Men and some bad mutants, but is it me or do these people seem like organized enemies?”

“There are several dark mutant alliances out there. Any one of them would want to get their hands on you.”

“But why? It’s not like I want to do bad things. I could just say no.”

“They have some mutants that can force you to do what you don’t want to do. But, you’re right, there’s something more to this. The more powers you replicate the harder it will be to catch and control you. There must be something else about you Dr. Simpson sees. Maybe they want to harvest you; to find a way to consolidate power into one person.”

“I’d be captured by them if you hadn’t helped me.”

Bruce’s eyes caught mine in the rearview mirror. His concern for me was obvious. “Try to sleep if you can. We’ve got another six hours to go.”

Lying down on the back seat of the SUV I felt my body weight shift. I’ve been a girl for less than a day now. A mutant girl. A mutant girl with long hair that gets into my mouth and breasts that shift heavily when I lie down. I’ve got a dad that’s disowned me. My eyes grew heavy as I slipped into a fitful sleep.

***

“We’re here, Sara.”

I blinked several times feeling rather groggy and sat up. We were parked before a large iron gate with stone pillars. On the mossy stone a simple sign read Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.

“I can’t imagine what kind of bullies they have here. It was bad enough back at Hamilton High School.”

“Kyle was worried about that as well but he says everyone is very nice. It’s more like a family.”

A red light scanned the SUV and the gate slowly opened. “That’s a good sign I guess.”

“They’re not too worried, Sara. There are nearly fifty students here and the location is the base for full-fledged X-Men. I think they can handle us without much trouble.”

We pulled in front of a large gothic looking stone building. I saw Kyle run out to greet his parents. Grabbing my plastic bag of clothes I held it close like my life depended on it. Bruce and Gloria hugged Kyle tightly. Kyle was tall and good looking like his father.

“You should have called to tell me you were coming.”

“We had to make an unscheduled visit.”

Kyle’s eyes drifted over towards me. “You must be Warner Wallace. Don’t look so surprised. We listen to all the news across the globe.”

“Please call me Sara. Warner just doesn’t sound fitting anymore.”

I hadn’t noticed anyone approaching but now as I looked around fully two dozen people stood in front of us. Wolverine paced off to the side with a disinterested look. Storm was there looking healthy and well. The Professor, whom I’ve only seen once before on television, was there in his wheelchair. I suddenly had a desire to run.

The Professor spoke. “Welcome Bruce and Gloria. We heard about some commotion. Why don’t you come inside and refresh yourself while you tell us all about it. Hello Sara. It’s nice to meet you.”

***

The wood paneled walls provided a warm yet classical feeling to the room. People came and went as the Professor spoke with Bruce and Gloria. I sat on a chair trying to look dignified but I’m sure all I looked was frightened.

“You’re telling me, Bruce, that Sara can replicate abilities and magnify them?”

“By all rights, twice the strength. She took down two trained armed military men, and then took out a woman with black hair that has a strong telekinetic ability and a man that leashes people with light.”

“These are class A mutants. The woman is called Frenzy and the man is Lightrope.”

“Sara, are your abilities temporary?”

Everyone turned to look at me which made me squirm in my seat. “I can’t say for sure but they feel permanent.”

Bruce continued to press his concerns. “I can only think of three reasons why they want Sara. First, they want to harvest her ability to replicate and strengthen powers. Second, they want to turn her into a weapon. Third, they know something we don’t.”

The Professor turned to face me and look me over carefully. “Sara, I’d like to probe your mind. You represent a real risk to the students here and I want to make sure what kind of character you have.”

“I understand.”

“Give me your hand and try to relax.”

“Easy for you to say.” For the briefest of moments I struggled with the idea that I could replicate the Professor’s ability, but hearing people’s thoughts made my stomach turn. I reached out and took his hand. I could see his power in my mind.

“Sara, don’t probe.”

“I’m sorry, it just sort of happened.”

“It’s part of your mutant power. Try to relax.” I looked over at Wolverine sitting with his arms crossed and Storm looking somewhat frustrated pacing back and forth. Looking back at the Professor I saw his eyes go wide and he pulled back as if in shock. He placed his head in his hands. Wolverine stepped up next to me and I felt the warm metal of his blades against my throat. His muscles were tense.

The Professor put his hand up. “It’s all right. Sara’s fine. You’re more than a replicator, Sara. You’re a lens. When I touched you my power increased significantly. For a moment I was overwhelmed by thoughts from people all around the world. Without technology I can’t do what I just did. If our enemy knows about this ability, they won’t stop trying to come after you.” Wolverine backed away, silent as usual.

The Professor sat with his hands together and his fingers touching just below his nose. “Sara, I’m sorry I had to dig through your head but it’s important. I’ve seen how you were bullied and mistreated and how you long for approval from your father. Any of those things could easily have pushed you towards the darker emotions like anger and revenge and yet you’re filled with compassion and a desire not to hurt anyone. These are good traits and I dare say, I’d not want your power for fear of being corrupted by it. You’re a good and caring person.”

He frowned as he turned back towards the others in the room. “Our enemies won’t stop in their attempts to secure Sara for themselves. Sara’s presence risks all of our lives. We need to fully test her abilities and allow her to replicate selective powers so she can protect herself and others.” Turning back to me he looked somber. “Welcome to Xavier’s School, Sara. That’s if you want to be here.”

“I do but what about my parents?”

Gloria stroked my hair gently. “I’ll get word to your mom that you’re safe.” No one ever did that to me when I was a boy before. It’s oddly comforting.

“You can’t mention where Sara is. I’ll meet with my core team to come up with some strategy for testing, training, and protecting Sara. Sara, follow Kyle and get settled. We have a room for you. I’ll send someone to you to begin your training.”

I hugged Bruce and Gloria and thanked them for all they did for me. In some small way they seemed more like parental figures than my own parents. Kyle seemed happy to see me to my room and after he said goodbye to his parents he led me through the massive structure to the student’s quarters.

“You know, Sara, that I’d never have guessed you were a boy a day ago. You act just like a girl. I don’t mean that in any way disrespectful.”

“If I were honest, I wasn’t much of a boy. I was about four inches shorter than I am now and was quite the nerd with thick glasses and everything. I guess I’ll forever be the mutant girl that used to be a boy in everyone’s eyes.”

“Don’t think like that. We all used to be something different and we each have our own unique history. Are you still a guy inside?”

Frowning I wasn’t sure how to respond or even why he was asking questions like this. “Yes and no. I mean I’m still me but my manifestation made me a girl. Completely. Even my brain seems to work differently.”

“So, not only did your body change, but your mind adapted as well. That’s very interesting. So do you like boys or girls now?”

“I don’t know. This is really sort of hard to talk about right now.”

“I understand. I just want you to know that relationships are not uncommon here. Actually, they’re promoted. We’re like the CIA in a lot of ways. People in the CIA tend to either have no relationships or relationships with others in the CIA due to the nature of their work. There are few mutant-non-mutant relationships that work out.”

“That’s all good to know I guess.” Probably more information than I want right now.

“So do you have a boyfriend?”

Stopping in my tracks I glared at Kyle. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Sorry, I had to ask out of fun. I can’t imagine what the transition was like for you and you’ve been rather serious. You need to smile more.”

“It’s hard to smile when my world has just been turned upside down. Yesterday I was a seventeen year old boy going about my life when suddenly I’m a mutant girl with people trying to kidnap me and kills those around me.”

Kyle shook his head. “Man, I’ve always wanted to be in a mutant fight and here you get in one just hours after becoming a mutant. Dad said you kicked butt.”

“I didn’t feel like I kicked butt. I felt weak and inadequate.”

“I felt that way when I first started training. There are only a few class A mutant students here. I’m considered a class B because my skill isn’t so useful compared to others. It wasn’t until I started thinking outside the box did I start seeing my ability as something powerful.”

“I would think you could fuse your enemy to the ground. That seems pretty powerful to me.”

“Where were you when I started out? You’re pretty smart and, if I may add, the best looking girl here.” I’ve never been called good looking before. I don’t even know what to do with a comment like that. “Here’s your room. It’s nice in that it has a private bathroom. All our rooms do since some mutant powers can either be embarrassing or downright dangerous to others. Go ahead and settle in. You might want to change if you have exercise clothes. Dresses can be unpredictable during training. There’s also a room where there’s additional clothes if you need them. I suspect they won’t want you offsite anytime soon.”

“Thanks, Kyle.”

“Is it true what they’re saying about you?”

“I’m not sure what they’re saying.”

“That you could be the most powerful mutant ever?”

“I would highly doubt that, Kyle.”

“I’ll see you later, Sara.”

Sitting on the edge of the bed I looked around my new room and then fixed my eyes on the mirror. The pretty blonde girl stared back at me. My hair was a little stringy looking and I was sort of disheveled. Mom and Stacey’s knowledge kicked in and I felt Stacey’s disgust at me letting my hair get so messy. Moving to the bathroom I found soap, shampoo, conditioner, and towels. I might as well shower.

Stripping down I found myself glued to the mirror once again. I’d never seen a girl naked before and now I was one; possibly the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Just looking at myself I felt a deep need to explore myself. I stepped into the shower and let the hot water rinse away the tensions I held onto. My hands moved of their own volition and soon I was writhing in ecstasy on the shower floor. My first female orgasm was mind blowing and I was so thankful to have replicated female skills. With the orgasm and the rush of endorphins my spirits lifted greatly and I further explored the silky suppleness of my body.

When I finally stepped out of the shower the entire bathroom was filled with steamy mist. It was the longest shower I’d ever had. I dried my hair as best I could but I found no brush and realized I’d have a tangled mess if I didn’t do something. Changing into the exercise clothes I set about exploring hoping to find someone that might help me find a brush.

After about ten minutes I finally ran into a girl a little older than me. She was cute and had an infectious smile. “You must be Sara. It’s an honor to meet you! I’m Hannah.”

“Hello Hannah. I’m surprised you know my name.”

“We’re a pretty tight bunch here and when someone new arrives everyone learns about it quickly.”

“I was looking for the room with extra stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t arrive with anything but a few clothes and no toothbrush or brush for my hair.”

“I can help with your hair. Let me touch it.”

I was immediately hesitant. I’ve just entered a world of mutants and who knows what kind of power she might have.

“It’s my power, Sara. It’s great for me because I can change my hairstyle, makeup, and clothing. With training I’ve been able to style other people’s hair.”

“You don’t need a brush for your own hair?”

“Not at all. I step out of the shower and poof; it’s exactly what I want it to be. I can even change my hair color and length but I can only style other people’s hair. Because it’s not an offensive or defensive skill I’m only a class C mutant. What’s your ability, Sara?”

“I can replicate mutant powers.”

“Wow! That’s so cool. Do you want to replicate mine? That way you won’t need extra clothes or hair care stuff. It’s a little selfish of me to want someone else to have my skill because all the girls come to me to get their hair done and between you and me; I’m getting a little overwhelmed by it. It would be nice to have someone share the load. Does it hurt to replicate a skill?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Okay. I’m ready.”

“You sure you want me to have your skill?”

“Please. To know I’m not the only one that has my skill would make me so happy.”

“Only if you are positive you want this.”

“I’m positive.”

I was still hesitant but I stretched out my hand. “Let me hold your hand.”

Touching her warm hand I reached out for her power and replicated it. Upon letting go of her hand she looked disappointed.

“I didn’t feel anything. Didn’t you replicate my power?”

“Let’s find out.” I pictured my hair perfectly brushed out with a slight curl to the ends and instantly my hair was exactly as I pictured it.

“Oh my God. You did it! Here, try this.” Hannah pulled out a fashion magazine and flipped to a page of sexy formal dresses. She pointed out a red dress and instantly her clothes changed on her body. Even her shoes changed to heels. “Try changing your clothes to this sexy black dress.”

My exercise outfit vanished and in place was an alluring black dress. “Do you know every woman in the world wants your gift?”

“I know, but it’s so nice to be able to share it. See if you can change my hair style.”

With her red dress I pictured her hair being black, long, and flowing to the small of her back. With a touch it changed.

“Oh my God! How did you do that? You changed my hair color and length! I can only style someone’s hair.”

“Thank you, Hannah.” Turning I saw the Professor. Before I could ask a question he answered me. “I asked for C class volunteers to see how easily you could replicate someone’s abilities. Hannah volunteered.”

I was a little angry. “This was a test?”

“Yes, in several ways. Hannah’s power is alluring. Who wouldn’t want to get up and not have to worry about their hair? Of course, being bald, I have no worries there. Anyways, you could benefit from Hannah’s power and yet not only did you hesitate, you asked permission several times. I must say, Sara that I’m impressed by your character. You’ve already shown as well that you’ve increased the power of the replicated ability by being able to change someone else’s hair color. Do you think you could change her clothes too?”

I glanced at Hannah who was still staring at me in awe. “Pick an outfit, Hannah.”

She flipped through her magazine until finding an adorable sun dress with white sandals. Reaching out I imagined the outfit on her, touched her, and her clothes shifted. I also changed her hair color and style again to match the girl in the photo.

“Exceptional, Sara. You realize how important this power can be for yours and other’s protection?”

“By changing looks and clothing we could blend in anywhere and become something others aren’t looking for.”

“Exactly. Hannah, thank you for being gracious and giving of your abilities.”

“It was my pleasure. It’s so nice knowing there’s someone else here to take care of people’s hair now. See you later, Sara!” Hannah skipped off.

Turning back to the Professor I could see the look of intense thought on his face. “You know I could probably give you hair.”

Laughing he turned and headed down the hallway. “Follow me, Sara. You might want to change back to your exercise clothing.”

I sort of liked the dress I was wearing, but I changed back. I’m going to love this power. The Professor turned into a gym with more than a half dozen mutants including Storm, Wolverine, Blink, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, and Yukio. Do I ever feel small in this crowd.

The Professor spoke to everyone. “Everyone, this is Sara Wallace, our latest recruit. You’ve already heard the rumors about her and about the attempt to kidnap her. Sara is a replicant enhancer. By touching another mutant or human for that matter, she can selectively gain powers and abilities. Those replicated skills are increased in power. I just witnessed this with Hannah and I’m impressed that Sara is hesitant to replicate anyone’s power. Sara, why don’t you provide a summary of those skills you’ve already replicated?”

Nothing like being put on the spot with the biggest names in X-Men history. “I’m almost embarrassed to talk about my manifestation.”

“Don’t worry, Sara. Each or our stories is special and no one here will make light of your situation.”

“I was a boy before I manifested and my first manifestation came when I was thinking about how wonderful it would be to be like…” I emphasized the word like. “…Stacey Upton. When I accidentally touched her I replicated her looks and also a fair bit of her personality, some of her knowledge, and character.”

“Here is a picture of Stacey Upton. You can see the resemblance, but Sara’s replication enhancements are clearly visible. Continue, Sara.”

“My mother took me to see Dr. Simpson and then took me shopping. Because I knew so little about fashion and feminine things, I asked to replicate my mother’s knowledge and skills. Later that day I stayed with Kyle’s parents, the Stenholds, because my father hates mutants.”

“Sara’s grandmother was killed by a mutant.”

With a nod from the Professor I continued. “Bruce Stenhold wanted to test me so he had me lift weights. He then asked me to replicate his strength. I must ask everyone’s forgiveness as I was terribly afraid for myself. Bruce had told me about his combat experience, martial arts skills, and I took not only the strength, but those as well. I never asked him to do that and I still feel badly.”

“Bruce told me you did this but that he baited you to do so. He wanted you to have the ability to protect yourself. Continue.”

“After I replicated those skills, we tested my abilities once again. I was able to bench press over seven hundred pounds, just over double what Bruce could do himself. Then we were attacked. Three military men armed with rifles attacked the house. Using Bruce’s fighting skills I neutralized two men and then I was seized by a rope of light. Frenzy, against Dr. Simpson’s warning flew over to me, close enough that I could touch her and replicate her powers. Using her telekinetic power I tossed her into Lightrope knocking them both unconscious. I took his power as well and used both powers to contain Dr. Simpson and the other two. Finally, just before coming in here, Hannah offered her power to me. I admit I was a bit selfish at the moment because my hair was a mess.”

“Show us what you can do.”

Over the next hour I lifted things with my mind, picked up weights, lassoed objects with light, and changed my clothes and hair. I even flew a little with the Professor’s insistence.

“The question is not if, but when our enemies come looking for Sara. There is one question remaining. What else did Dr. Simpson see that caused him to try and kidnap Sara?”

Wolverine finally uncrossed his arms and stepped up to me. He waved over a younger mutant. “Create the largest energy blast you can and fire it at the absorbing panel over there.”

It was actually pretty cool to see a burst of blue light coming from the boy’s hand. When it hit the panel there was a fizzle and a digital sign registered 15.7. I’m not sure what that meant but I guessed it was the amount of power.

“Sara, don’t replicate his skill. Just let him touch you.” I think the boy was as hesitant as I was but he reached for my wrist and held it tight. “Now do it again.”

The boy’s eyes widened as the ball of light grew far larger than before. He flung it towards the panel and before the panel burst into flames the sign read 160.3.

Turning to the Professor Wolverine smiled for the first time. The Professor looked a little ashen. “She’s a magnifier. Dr. Simpson would have seen this from her blood. That’s why they want her.”

“When I touched her I felt something similar. Ten times magnification. This changes the game. I’ve read Sara’s mind and she’s as pure and kind as anyone I’ve ever met. She’ll fight, but I can tell she won’t be of harm to us. I’m going to recommend we allow her to replicate additional powers; powers that will help protect herself and others. I’m willing to give her my mind blocking ability.”

Jean Grey suggested my telekinetic ability was already greater then hers but that she could give her telepathy skill. Blink offered her portal ability. Yukio offered her fighting skills and her precognition. Storm her flight abilities and control over the weather. Wolverine offered his strength, agility, speed, and regeneration. A young girl offered her healing skill. Emma Frost offered her diamond skin power.

“No. I can’t take them.”

The Professor took my hand and my mind was suddenly filled with images of the power of our enemies; people’s skin falling from their bodies, children shattering like glass.

“Stop it!” I pulled away from him. “There’s an injection that will remove my mutant powers. Inject me. If I’m such a threat, remove me as a threat.” I held out my arm realizing that for all the power and being a mutant I didn’t want to be the most powerful. “Do it!”

Emma walked up to me and sat me down. She stroked my hair and hugged me. “You have the ability to be greater than all of us and yet you choose to remove yourself from the equation. Have you asked yourself why any of us would be willing to give you our powers?”

“No.”

“Together we’re stronger. There’s a world of mutants out there that will stop at nothing to dominate the world. They wish to subjugate everyone. I know my limitations, but my abilities alone can’t stop the onslaught. We need good people that can stand with us. To hear you say you’re willing to remove your power makes me know you can handle our powers. Fight with me. Fight with us.”

I looked from person to person and was surprised to see that they were not afraid of what I might become. “All right. I’ll do it. I just hope and pray I’ll not let you down.”

“You won’t.”

***

Wolverine slid his blades out from my ribs as I screamed in pain. My body healed instantly but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like hell. “You never told me it would still hurt.”

“You never asked. You’re healing faster than I do.”

“Sara! Come quickly. One of the students is hurt in the courtyard.” In the blink of an eye I created a portal and stepped through to the courtyard. A young boy had badly broken his arm. I rushed over to him, eased his mind of the pain, and healed his arm. I was beginning to see how these powers could truly be a blessing.

“Thank you, Lensa!”

“Lensa?”

“Sorry, Sara. The young ones overheard the Professor talking about you and how you are like a magnifying lens. They started calling you Lensa.”

It had been a week since I arrived and was in training nearly eight hours per day. I was feeling pretty confident that I had a good handle on most of my powers and ever so slowly the reflection in the mirror wasn’t so foreign looking.

I had been working on an outfit for fighting and Hannah’s powers gave me ample opportunity to try endless variations. Admittedly I was slightly vain in wanting my appearance to be gentle, soothing, sexy, and impressive at the same time.

I’d been walking back to my room when the Professor rounded a corner. “I’ve been looking for you. I think it’s time you go home for a day.” I hadn’t thought much about going home with the exception of seeing mom. “You’re hesitating. You need some closure. I recommend going to see your old school, your mom, and your dad.”

“I’m afraid of at least two of those visits.”

“You’re the most power mutant I’ve ever met and you’re afraid of going to your old school or meeting your dad?”

“Power does nothing to prevent the hurt and humiliation I feel inside.”

“That’s why you need to go.”

“What if I run into trouble?”

“Worst case scenario, teleport back here.”

I changed into a white dress and let my blonde hair fall freely over my shoulders. “I’m aiming for cute but vulnerable.”

“You’ll never be cute, Sara. You’re a very beautiful young woman. Take a few blades with you just in case.”

Lifting the hem of my skirt a little I showed a long dagger on each thigh. “After fighting with Wolverine, I’ve taken to wearing these all the time. They’re adamantium. You never know when he’s about to sneak up on you and they’re the only blades he can’t cut through.”

“Why aren’t you using your precognition?”

“I am; I’m just giving Wolverine a chance.”

He smiled. “You want to take Kyle along? You can stop by and see his parents.”

“You know, that might not be such a bad idea.”

“He’s a nice catch.”

“Don’t tell me you’re trying to set me up too. Hannah’s trying to get me dates, Gloria thinks I’m a good match for Kyle, and Kyle seems more than a tad interested in me. I don’t understand why since he knows what I was before.”

“Do you feel at all like Warner anymore?”

“Just a little. There’s no question I feel like a girl. It’s as if I was always a girl.”

“Then I wouldn’t worry about your past.”

“Easy for you to say, Professor.”

“Off you go. Have some fun.”

I scampered off to find Kyle. He had been nice to me all week and I’m sure he would appreciate getting out of the school for a while. When I found him he seemed ready to go already.

“Why is it I’m always the last to know what’s going on around here, Kyle?”

“You need to be in the inner circle or bump into the Professor when he has something up his sleeve. Where to first?”

“My old school.”

“Just think of it this way. You can now go into the girl’s change room.” His smile was infectious.

“You ready?” I created a portal and we stepped through finding ourselves standing in front of the school. It was lunch time and most of the kids I knew would be in the cafeteria. I turned around wanting to head the other way when Kyle grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the school.

“This is going to be great.”

I groaned. By the time we made it to the cafeteria we had a following of about thirty students. I spotted Stacey and felt I owed her something. I just don’t know what I can offer her. “Hello Stacey.”

“Warner? Is that you?”

“I go by Sara now.”

“You became me when you manifested, although you’re much prettier than me. Are you like Mystique?”

“No. When I manifested I was thinking about what it must be like to be so good looking and respected like you. When I touched you my manifestation replicated your looks. This is the new me now. There’s no going back.”

“Are you fighting bad guys now?”

“I’m not much of a fighter.”

“You’re the…” I shot Kyle a dirty look. “We’re training her.”

“I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble, Stacey.”

“It was no trouble at all. Except since I was on television I think I might have someone following me.”

“Is that Wiener? It is… It’s the wiener that lost his wiener! What’s the matter, Warner? You going to cry?”

Kyle grabbed Clay by the shirt collar. “Lay off, bud.”

Kyle just made me feel all warm inside. “It’s all right Kyle. Clay is all talk.” Kyle let him go and stepped aside.

“You have a boyfriend now, Wiener? Was I all talk when I stuffed you into the locker or when I threw you headfirst into a garbage can?”

Stacey chimed in. “You know, Clay, nobody likes you. Sara went through a traumatic experience and doesn’t need to be bothered by you right now.”

I saw it before it happened. Clay picked up a bowl of pudding and threw it at me. The precognition allowed me to be prepared so when Clay grabbed the chocolate pudding and threw it just as I stepped to the side. The pudding landed on one of the teachers who looked angrily at Clay and hauled him off to the principal’s office.

Stacey was staring at me. “I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. You have more powers than you’re letting on.”

“You mentioned that you thought someone could be following you. If anything happens give me a call. Here’s my number.” She looked confused. “I don’t want anything happening to you because of my manifestation. Its possible people could think you’re me and cause trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“The day I manifested someone tried to kidnap me.”

“All right. I’ll call. But if you’re not a fighter or have any special powers, how can you help me?”

“Luckily I have friends that can.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “We should get going. Where to next?”

“Dad.”

“You really are a glutton for punishment.”

When we left the school and got out of view I created a portal to my dad’s office. Arriving I noted quickly that dad wasn’t there but there was a cup of hot coffee on his desk. I figured he would be right back and wasn’t surprised when the door opened. Dad was surprised though.

“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my office?”

“You didn’t see the video dad? It’s me, Warner.”

“My son no longer exists.”

“That’s somewhat true. I’m now your daughter.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Do I mean so little to you that my loss doesn’t bother you?”

“Don’t lay that guilt trip on me. You’re like all the other mutants. You’re a killer.”

“Do you really think that about me? Have I ever indicated that I’d be a killer?”

“The power will go to your head and you won’t care about anyone. You should leave.”

“Dad, just because I’ve changed doesn’t mean I don’t love you anymore.”

“Leave me!”

I made a portal and we vanished.

“That went well I think.”

“Seriously, Kyle?”

“He recognized he should feel guilty. Where did you port us?”

“I wasn’t really thinking and it looks like this is my old bedroom but everything has been removed. It’s like I never existed.”

“That’s just bad taste. I’m sorry, Sara.”

Frowning I opened the door into the rest of the house hoping that they hadn’t moved. “Mom?”

“Warner? Sara? Is that you?”

I rushed downstairs unable to contain my emotions. I needed this. I needed to know I was still loved. Mom pulled me into a fierce hug. “I’ve missed you so much, mom.”

“I’ve been so worried about you. How are you? Let me take a look at you.” She pulled back but held both of my hands as she looked me over. “You’re so pretty. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m better now seeing you.” Kyle poked his head around the corner.

“Kyle? Is that you?”

“Hello, Mrs. Wallace. It’s been a long time.”

“You’re so grown up now. You look so handsome.”

“I hope you don’t mind. They didn’t want Sara to be offsite alone yet even though she’s more than capable of protecting herself.”

“Always a pleasure having you here.”

“I saw dad. He doesn’t want anything to do with me. My room is empty.”

Mom sighed. “This has been hard on him. He mourns your loss even though he puts on a brave face. He simply won’t acknowledge your still part of the family. I still have your things in a box downstairs.”

“I’d like to take a picture of us back to the school.”

“I’ll have to find one from the boxes and send it to you. Your father… He removed all of our family photos. I managed to save some.”

I sighed feeling at a loss.

“Would you like to visit with my parents, Mrs. Wallace? We were going to see them.”

“That would be lovely. I’ll get the car.”

“No need, mom.” A shimmering portal appeared in the kitchen.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a portal I created to take us to the Stenhold’s house. All we do is walk through it.”

“You did this?”

“A useful talent that Blink gave me. Come on.”

Taking my mom’s hand we walked through the portal to the front steps of the Stenhold’s.

“Oh my!” Mom looked around in amazement. “What else have you learned?”

“Sara can do all sorts of things. She can…”

Kyle was boasting about me again but I thought mom shouldn’t know everything for her own protection. “I can change my hair and clothes.” Just to make the point I made my hair brunette and then back to my natural blonde.

“That’s amazing! You’ve learned so much.”

Kyle opened the door and led us inside. I noticed the door had been fixed and all signs of the fight had been cleaned up. “Hey mom!”

“Kyle! What a pleasant surprise. You should have told me you were coming for a visit. Sara! So good to see you. And Mary too. What a wonderful surprise. Let me call Bruce and tell him to come home.”

After a quick call it was hugs all around. “How are things at Xavier’s, Kyle?”

“Getting better every day. Sara has caused quite the stir there. She’s all the boys can talk about these days.”

“I didn’t know they were talking about me.”

“They all have bets as to who is going to date you first.”

“What?”

Gloria took my arm in hers and led us all to the living room. “That’s something you’ll just have to get used to, Sara. How’s the school? Are you adapting well?”

“It’s rather grueling. I’m constantly learning and training, but it’s fun and exciting and everyone is so nice. It’s nothing like Hamilton High.”

“Nobody would dare pick on Sara there.” I glared at Kyle. “They all know I’d fuse them to the wall.”

“Kyle, maybe you can take Sara downstairs for a bit until dad arrives. I’d like to catch up with Janice for a few minutes.”

“Okay!” Kyle grabbed my hand and pulled me downstairs. “How come you don’t want anyone to know what you can do?”

“I’m still a little scared about the whole kidnapping attempt. What if they tried to get to me through my parents or someone from Hamilton? The more people know the more valuable that information might be to our enemies. It’s also best to make sure that no one knows everything I can do.”

“I never thought about it that way. You’re right. Sorry.”

“It’s all right. Plus, if my dad found out I have all of these skills he’d hate me all the more.”

“Do you want my skill?”

“No.”

Kyle turned away from me. “I know it’s not much.”

“That’s not why I don’t want it. It’s a great skill. I…” Fumbling for words I sat down on a couch. “You’re special, Kyle. Unique. Once I replicate a skill you’re no longer unique. I don’t want to do that to you or anyone. I know I’ve got all these skills, but in many ways I feel I’ve done those that gave them to me a disservice. I don’t want that for you.” There was an awkward silence. “Kyle, do you like me?”

“Who wouldn’t like you?”

“That’s not what I asked. Do you like me?” I emphasized the word you.

“Of course!”

“Because I like you too. I know that’s weird and everything and inwardly you’re probably cringing. I understand if you don’t like me in the same way.”

Kyle sat down on the couch next to me. His hand found mine and he leaned in.

My precognition kicked in. “You’re dad’s coming.”

The thump of boots sounded on the stairs and Kyle bolted upright. Bruce entered the room and gave Kyle a big hug. “I came right over. How long do you both have?”

“I’ll have to get mom back home soon. Dad will want his dinner. I can leave Kyle here for a while if you all want to catch up. I can come back later. It actually might do me good to have a few minutes to myself. I’m still sorting a lot of things and…” I looked over at Kyle. “…feelings too.”

Bruce wrapped an arm around Kyle’s shoulder and led us upstairs. “Why don’t you come back in a few hours? We can have dinner together before you both head back. How did you get here?”

Kyle looked at me and I nodded. “Sara can create a portal. Maybe as long as I stay on Sara’s good side we can come back more often.”

I paused in the hallway at the top of the stairs. “Bruce, could you please give us a moment?”

Kyle’s dad looked at Kyle then at me, smiled and headed into the living room.

“That was bad timing and I didn’t want to leave things hanging. I want…” Kyle leaned over and kissed me full on the mouth. It was a little quick and rushed but I’ll never forget the feeling of how my lips tingled and a flush of warmth spread through my body. As Kyle pulled away I searched his eyes. I’ve seen those eyes on boys when they fell headlong for a girl at school. Kyle was waiting for a response as Stacey’s thoughts exclaimed a ‘Yes!’ in my head. Smiling I took Kyle’s hand in mine.

“Don’t get into trouble. If the Professor finds out I left you alone he’ll let the other mutants use me as target practice.”

“I’ll be safe.”

We walked around the corner and into the living room. Bruce gave us a look like he knew what just happened. I blushed slightly.

“Are you ready to go, mom? It’s almost four-thirty and I know you need time to prepare dinner for dad.”

Mom stood and hugged Gloria. “It was so nice to catch up.”

“Sara, will you be coming for dinner tonight?”

I had plans but it could work if it were late enough. “What time?”

“Six-thirty?”

“That should work. Thank you. See you soon!”

Creating a portal home I took mom’s hand and we stepped into our kitchen.

“Kyle seems like a nice young man. Are you two…”

“Maybe… I think so… You know that when I first manifested I replicated more than Stacey’s looks. I also got her like for boys.”

“It’s nice to have someone that can watch out for you.”

“You don’t think it strange that I like Kyle?”

“We live in strange times, Sara. Who am I to question what’s inside you and how you feel? For what it’s worth I would almost say you seem more comfortable as a girl.”

“I’d love to disagree with you, but I can’t. I’m noticed now. I don’t get picked on anymore and I love wearing dresses.”

“I wish we had more time together. You should go before your father gets home. I love you.”

“Love you too, mom.”

After hugging my mom I created a portal to an old tree fort I used to like to go to. It just so happened to have a view of Dr. Simpson’s office building. I sat there and watched the parking lot until everyone had left and locked up. Waiting another fifteen minutes I used a portal to get inside the building.

Standing motionless for a minute I looked around the office. There were motion detectors but they all faced the exterior doors and windows. Carefully moving through the office I found the file cabinets. I was a little surprised they were unlocked but not many people would think of breaking into a mutant’s office space. I ran my fingers over the file folders until I found my name. Warner was crossed off and Sara Wallace was written over it. How did they know I was calling myself Sara now?

Pulling the file I quickly looked over the contents. Of immediate importance were the identification numbers of my blood samples. Closing the file drawer I moved further into the office until I came across a refrigerator for storing samples. The door was locked but with my enhanced strength it was easy to pull the door open. Inside I found my blood sample but also a dozen new samples with my identification number and some series of letters. He’s been experimenting with my blood.

I was about to go when I saw Dr. Simpson’s computer. I didn’t have to worry about fingerprints as my new prints were never taken. I tested out my new cyber skills and was thrilled to hack the logon screen and gain access to the data files with barely any effort at all. What I found were hundreds of folders of data on myself and other mutants. I couldn’t leave it there and Dr. Simpson didn’t need my information. Finding an external hard drive I downloaded all the files and then deleted everything. I even wiped and formatted the computer’s hard drive and send a small lightning bolt into the computer to fry it.

My precognition flared to life. Dr. Simpson was returning any second. In a flash I was back in my room in Xavier’s and placed my blood samples in a small room fridge. My heart was beating fast but as I looked at the clock I realized it was time for me to be at dinner. With a quick change into a slightly more glamourous black dress and styling my hair up I ported back to the Stenhold’s home.

When I knocked on the door Kyle opened it and whistled low. Stepping out onto the front step he closed the door behind him. “We have a little unfinished business.” I nodded as he ran his fingers into my hair and kissed me.

“Mmmm. That’s nice. I chose this outfit just for you. Do you like it?” I spun for him.

“It’s gorgeous.”

He leaned in for another kiss and I gently placed my hand on his chest holding him back. I stared into his eyes and knew I was losing myself. “Let’s go slowly. I want to make sure I’m not just moving to the beat of this new body and female hormones. Don’t get me wrong as my heart and mind want this, but I need to feel sure.”

“I understand.” Even though he said it he sounded forlorn.

I watched him turn to open the door again but I reached out and took his hand. “Slow is not no, Kyle and I’m not remotely interested in anyone else.”

That brought a smile back to his face. He kept my hand in his as he led me inside.

***

Dinner was a pleasant affair and I could tell having those few hours with Kyle’s parents allowed them to catch up. I’ve never seen a family so committed and loving to one another. I was rather enjoying being a part of their family when I received a call from Stacey.

“Sara, you told me to call if I was worried. I’m really worried. My parents are away and I’m hearing voices and sounds outside of the house.”

“We’ll come right away. Where do you live?”

“204 Maple Street.”

“Just stay inside. We can be there in just a few seconds.”

Hanging up the phone I expressed my apologies to the Stenholds. “We should go, Kyle.”

Making a portal we stepped through to Maple Street. “There’s the house. You might want to change into something more battle-worthy, Sara.”

“Good idea.” With a thought I changed into some black spandex. I’m sure Kyle started drooling.

“Do you want to get a better perspective, Sara? I can circle around behind.”

I nodded. “Stay safe.” I flew off the ground and drifted over Stacey’s house. It wasn’t until the back porch that I saw some movement. Stretching out my mind I connected with someone there. I was reading their thoughts and heard their words.

“You think this is Sara?”

“She looks just like her.”

“What’s that sound?”

They turned to spot Kyle on the grass moving towards them. One of the two was a woman and she immediately disappeared into thin air. The other person materialized a ball of fire in his hand. Flying down towards Kyle I tackled him just as a fireball burst where he was standing but a second fireball was coming straight for us.

Creating a portal I rolled us through it narrowly escaping the fireball. We popped back a short distance behind from the flame throwing mutant. Kyle raised his hand and the man’s feet fused to the ground as I applied my diamond skin and ran towards him. Fireball after fireball hit my body but with no effect.

“Kyle, let him go!”

The man’s feet were suddenly free as I created a portal behind him and slammed into him. As soon as I touched him I replicated his skill and threw him through the portal.

“That took care of one. He’s in South Africa right now.”

As I walked over to Kyle I saw a woman materialize behind me in my mind. Pulling my blades from my side I thrust backwards just as the woman with stealth abilities appeared with a sword. Kyle shouted but my blades had already gravely wounded the woman. She collapsed onto the ground behind me.

Kyle rushed to my side as I took hold of the woman’s wrist. I replicated her skill, poured healing into her, and put her to sleep.

“That was incredible, Sara! You were awesome!”

“We were awesome, but I worry that the Professor will never let us out again.”

The female mutant was sleeping peacefully on the grass as Stacey ran out of the house towards us. “I was right, there was someone following me. I was also right that you were holding back on me. I’ve never seen any mutant do all that you can do.”

Changing my hair and clothes I wore a dress that I knew Stacey would appreciate. “Stacey, you’re safe now but don’t hesitate to call if you’re ever worried. Please don’t spread rumors about my abilities. It’s very important we keep them quiet.”

“Why?”

“Because there are bad mutants that are trying to capture and use me. It’s a long story but just know I owe you and I’ll always be there to protect you should you ever need help.”

“I won’t tell anyone. Not that they would believe me anyways. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“We should be going.” Turning I picked up the stealth woman, created a portal and went back to Xavier’s.

***

“I thought I gave you the chance to reconcile and find closure, not take on the world.”

Wolverine looked frustrated as the Professor berated me.

“I’m sorry, Professor. Stacey was in trouble and I couldn’t let them hurt her when it’s my fault. If I came here it would take hours to get everyone assembled. It would have been too late.”

Kyle was luckily in his room while I got the tongue lashing. “I’ve watched you train and I wasn’t worried for you, but you also put Kyle at risk. He could have been incinerated.”

Sitting down on the overstuffed chair in the Professor’s office I started to cry. “You’re right. I’ve become overconfident and that put someone I deeply care about at risk. I’m not ready.” Holding out my arm I looked back at the Professor. “Give me the shot.”

The Professor moved his wheelchair close to me and took my hand in his. “I don’t believe you intended harm to Kyle and this is an important lesson for you to learn. It’s not just about you. No, I won’t give you the shot.”

“But I don’t deserve the powers.”

“You very likely saved Stacey, you brought back terabytes of data that we can sift through from Dr. Simpson, we’re studying your bloodwork, and there’s a good chance we can convert the stealth woman you brought to our side. Your healing her had a huge impact on her. No one’s ever helped her before. None of these things could have been accomplished without your powers.”

“I replicated the fireball and stealth skills. It seems when I get into a fight I tend to do that automatically.”

“God help the enemy now if they ever come for you. Promise me you’ll consider your actions and the potential risk it could bring on other people in the future.”

“I promise.”

***

“It’s not right that the Professor got upset with you, Sara.”

“He was right, Kyle. I went off on my own and then got you into a fight with other mutants. I risked my life and yours. He was right.”

“I did fine in the fight and you did the right thing protecting Stacey. At some point we have to be able to stand on our own.”

“And I have to learn my actions impact more than just me. For the past week I’ve been contemplating my actions and I made the wrong choices.”

“Is that why you’ve been training so hard and avoiding me?”

“Training, yes. Avoiding you? I’ve been a girl for only a few weeks and although I feel perfectly natural. I’m fighting my own fears.”

“What fears? I’m not afraid of being with you. Is that what this is about?”

I was silent for a long minute as Kyle got more and more frustrated with me. Finally it all burst out. “I’m afraid I’ll wake up one day as Warner again. I’m afraid if I go too far I’ll never be me again. I’m afraid anyone I love will be at risk.”

“Did you just admit to loving me?”

“Yes…” I created a portal out of shame.

“Don’t you dare poof out on me!”

“You’re not embarrassed by me? You’re not embarrassed by my feelings?”

“How could I be embarrassed when I feel the same way about you?”

His hands came to my face and I felt his lips on mine. It was such a relief. I was about to speak more concerns when Kyle interrupted me.

“I’m in no hurry but it doesn’t help us if you’re absent. I’ll even stop kissing you if that’s what you need right now but I want to be near you.”

“You don’t mind waiting?”

“I don’t want to be thirty before we get past first base, but I’m happy to wait. There’s no one else in this world that’s remotely as wonderful as you.”

Warning lights and sirens went off all around us.

“What’s going on?”

“They’re calling the X-Men together.”

“Let’s go see if they need our help.”

I created a portal and we stepped through to the X-Men assembly area.

“Professor? What’s happening? How can we help?”

“There’s been a major mutant attack in DC. You should stay here.”

“But we can help.”

“You’re powerful but you haven’t been trained to fight together with the X-Men. That takes special skills.”

“But I can replicate that training.”

“Next time, Sara. All right everyone! Let’s go!”

Frowning as I watched everyone get into the plane and fly out from Xavier’s I wondered if one day I would also be called an X-Men. Fifteen minutes later the school was rocked by an explosion. Kyle and I ported outside to see what was going on.

“Is anyone hurt?”

Dozens of Xavier students were streaming from the school. Flames licked at the western side of the building. I was about to head towards the flames when a dozen mutants emerged from the forest. Lightrope, Frenzy, and the fireball man were all in attendance. They began attacking at random as the students ran for their lives.

“Get the students to safety, Kyle!”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to hold them off.”

“You can’t do it alone!”

“I just need to get them close enough together so I can port them away. We can’t let them hurt the students.”

“You’ve never created a portal that large before.”

I didn’t provide a response but disappeared into stealth mode and flew up into the sky. I shot fireballs at the mutants, ported to another location in the air and launched lightning at them. By moving from side to side I was able to keep them corralled. Once they were all close together I created my portal however as soon as it formed behind them I found my energy had depleted badly. My stealth faded and I fell to the ground. Although I was fine, I was weak but I used my remaining energy to create a gust of wind that forced them into the portal. I watched as the last of the mutants disappeared and sighed in relief when a rope of light wrapped around me and pulled me through with them.

I found myself on a beach on a small deserted island. My energy was almost gone. I looked around at a dozen mutants when one I recognized as the Sleeper grabbed my hand and used my magnifying power to put overwhelm my mind blocking ability and put me into a deep sleep.

***

When I woke I found myself strapped to a chair in a mutant dampening field room. None of my mutant powers were working as I struggled against the straps.

“You’ve been a very naughty girl, Sara.”

Turning my head to the side I saw Dr. Simpson walk into the room.

“Turn off the dampening and I’ll show you just how naughty I can be.”

“That wouldn’t benefit either of us. I suspect it was you that robbed my office and destroyed my files.”

“You call it theft and yet you stole my blood to use it for your own gain.”

“Now I can get as much blood as I want from you. I also had backups of my data so the loss was never that great. How have you done it?”

“Done what?”

“Fight against the darkness and power?”

“It’s easy. I just think about not wanting to turn into someone like you.”

“We both know that’s not true. You’re going to assist me.”

“I won’t.”

The Dr. pulled a large syringe from behind his back. “I thought as much. Do you know what this is?”

“Botox? You want to make my lips bigger?”

“Mutant power removal serum.”

“Do it. I’ve asked for it before and it would make my life a lot easier. Once my powers are removed you get nothing. So go ahead.”

Frowning the doctor could see I wasn’t scared of losing my powers. “Fascinating. What if I told you I could turn you back into Warner?”

That made me think. I don’t ever want to be Warner again. I love who I am. But I can’t be selfish. I can’t let them get ahold of my abilities. “How would you do that?”

“I have samples of your DNA from before you mutated and combined with mutant genes from Mystique I can reverse the changes to your physical appearance.”

“I lived as Warner all my life. I can do so again.” I cringed at the thought.

“Fine. You offer me no other choices.” Turning around Dr. Simpson pulled a battery operated saw from a drawer. He turned it on and I heard the shining metal disc whir to life. “Blood is one thing, but flesh is another. I’ll start with your little finger.”

I watched in horror as he moved the blade towards my hand. I jerked and pulled against the straps to no avail. With one hand he held mine down as he lowered the spinning blade to my little finger. I screamed as blood splattered my face and clothes. The pain was excruciating and a wave of nausea washed over me. My world spun and went black.

***

When I came to I noticed my left hand had been bandaged but I also knew immediately my finger was gone as the bandages were bloody and the stump of my little finger throbbed in pain. My emotions got the best of me and I started to cry. How long have I been here? What will they do to me next? My anger burned but I was just a frightened girl. Maybe I should give in to them?

Sitting there for hours I pondered my fate. Clay Overbeck had nothing on these people. Sure he’s a bully but I doubt he would ever dismember someone. I’m not an X-Man that can survive months of torture. While I value my powers less I value my life more. Perhaps I need to give them what they want?

Dr. Simpson came back into the room. He held a large empty syringe. “I need some of your spinal fluid. This will hurt a lot.”

“What if I’m willing to help?”

“My dear, you’re already helping. We’ve moved beyond your cooperating with us. Your power is too great to risk. Sadly we will disassemble you part by part and see about making a clone of some kind. One without the high moral standards you have.”

The doctor moved behind me and I felt his fingers probing my back through a gap in the chair. I felt the needle pinch just as an explosion rocked the building we were in.

“Damn it! What now?”

The doctor rushed out of the room just as the power flickered. I felt my powers momentarily before the power came back on but not long enough to do anything. Another explosion sent debris flying into the room leaving a large hole in the wall next to me. Wolverine dove through the opening. Somehow the power was still on in the room but he passed me by and headed straight for a panel on the far side of the room. Lifting a sledge hammer he slammed it into the panel and the dampening field collapsed. Slowly I felt my powers return to me as I watched his blades extend and slice through the metal straps holding me down. I was free but my powers were still pretty weak and my own energy was depleted from lack of food and water. I found I could barely move.

Wolverine grabbed me and lifted me into his arms as we ran back through the hole in the wall. On the other side the X-Men were levelling the place. Storm was sending down bolts of lightning and Jean Grey was throwing cars into the buildings. Others were battling the mutants fighting back.

Wolverine placed me gently down next to Blink who whisked me away and back to Xavier’s. There I faced the Professor who looked gravely concerned for me as I lapsed into unconsciousness.

***

“I’ll kill him!”

My mind was registering a number of people near me.

“I appreciate your desire, Kyle, but we believe Dr. Simpson is already dead.”

Kyle?

“Then when we find his ashes I’ll fuse them to the back end of a skunk.”

“What’s all the commotion about?”

“Sara! You’re awake!”

My eyes opened with the brush of lips against mine. I stared into Kyle’s worried face. I was in a hospital bed with an IV drip attached to my arm. I felt fine; better than fine. I reached up with my left hand to stroke Kyle’s face and noticed my left hand was completely healed. My finger was restored. I stared at it in amazement as I quickly sat up.

Kyle and the Professor were there. “Do I dare ask what happened and where I am?”

“You’re back at Xavier’s in the nursing area. You’ve been in the power dampening field for almost a week and you were severely dehydrated. When the field was removed your body put all its power into healing you. With some rest and fluids you’re as good as new.”

“Not quite as good as new, Professor.”

“How so?”

“I’ve never come face to face with anything so evil before. It frightens me. It changed me.”

“It frightens us all. I’ll leave you two be. Perhaps you’ll want to change and get some food?”

“I’m starving. Professor?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for rescuing me.”

“Thank you for watching out for the students here and saving our people at great risk to your own.”

We watched him leave and close the door behind him. There was a brief awkward silence.

“I thought I lost you, Sara.”

I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and pulled the IV drip from my arm. I have no idea what to say to Kyle. “I almost gave up. It was horrible and painful. I considered giving into their demands.”

“But you didn’t.” Kyle’s hand snuck into mine. I looked at it with both longing and fear. “What’s wrong, Sara?”

I lied to him. “Nothing. Let’s go get some food. I’m starved.” Using my powers I changed into a very conservative blue dress that extended to the floor. It had long sleeves to cover my skin. The extra length and covering made me feel slightly more protected.

“I’ll never quite get over that power.”

“It’s handy when you need to change from a hospital gown.”

We walked holding hands down to the cafeteria but my heart wasn’t into it. I just needed time to myself but I owed it to Kyle to spend some time with him. I loaded up my plate and we sat down at a table.

“You were incredible, Sara. The way you fought the dozen mutants to protect the students here. I’ve never seen you tax your abilities before.”

“I was fine until I created such a large portal. I had no idea those portals too so much energy. I also haven’t trained much with Blink.”

“What happens now?”

“I wish I had a family like yours. I could use some good fatherly advice right now.”

“I’m sure my dad would be happy to help you. What do you need?”

I looked into Kyle’s eyes. They were so full of concern for me. “Something happened to me, Kyle. At one point I was threatened to be turned back into my old self. I’d still have my powers, but I lied to Dr. Simpson. I told him go ahead. I’d lived my life as Warner and I could continue to do so.”

“You were bluffing?”

“I wanted to deny him the chance to scare me into helping him. The fact was I never want to go back to the way I was. Take away my powers, but leave me as Sara. I recognized something in that moment about being selfish. I never want to go back to being the old me.”

“Of everything he could do, that frightened you the most?”

“Yes. Don’t get me wrong as I was deathly afraid of being cut to pieces but becoming Warner again… As Sara I’m looked upon differently. People respect me. I even think one day my new looks will soften my dad’s heart towards me. I’m lovable as Sara. I wasn’t as Warner. I fear the loss of love and potential love as more horrific than losing my life.”

“So what does that mean for us?”

I saw the hope in his eyes but I could also see some evil mutant cutting Kyle apart bit by bit because of me. “I owe you an answer but I don’t know what it is right now. I need some time alone.”

This was hardly the reunion Kyle wanted to have with me. The light dimmed from his eyes and he stood quickly. He turned away but turned back towards me. “I’m only going to say this once. I love you, Sara. I don’t care who or what you were before. I love you for who you are. Take your time, but I’ll not wait for you to figure out what the most important things are in your life.” With that he turned again and left. I was bereft. Making a portal I stepped through to my old house.

***

My mom found me lying on my old bed crying. I’d been there for at least an hour on the mattress that had no pillow or sheets on it.

“Sara? What are you doing here? What’s wrong?”

“I… I’m in love with Kyle.”

“Then why are you crying? Did he hurt you?”

“There are really bad people in this world mom; people that would stop at nothing to get to me. People that would kill or torture those that I love.”

“But why? You don’t have destructive powers.”

“That’s the thing, mom. I do. I’m possibly the most powerful mutant alive.”

“But you weren’t. I don’t understand.”

“I can replicate powers and skills. I can throw fireballs and cast lightning, cause storms, and wrap people in ropes of light. I can move huge objects with my mind and vanish in the blink of an eye. I can replicate any power and because of that those that I love will always be in danger.”

“But if you have all those powers you could kill anyone that threatened you.”

“That’s my problem. In my mind I might want to kill someone for what they’ve done, but in my heart, I can’t. I’m not sure I could ever do it. If I’m not capable of truly defending those I love and my presence only puts them at risk, then I need to leave.”

“What are you saying?”

“That I’m going away, mom. I’m leaving Xavier’s, you, dad, and Kyle behind.”

“But when…”

“Never, mom. I’m never coming back.”

“That’s not a way to live, Sara. I accept the risk and I’m sure all of those that love you will as well.”

“I couldn’t forgive myself if anything ever happened to you. Even dad, who has never truly loved me.”

“That’s not true, Sara! He’s afraid. You’re more like him than you realize. He’s been afraid all of his life to give of his heart since losing his mother. Her death tore him apart.”

“I’ve made up my mind, mom. Tell dad I love him. I love you. Please don’t forget about me.”

I made the portal, and stepped through with the words of my mother yelling behind me. “Sara!”

***

Kyle sat sulking and angry in the office chair in the Professor’s office. The X-Men were all around me.

“So that’s your final decision?”

Looking at Kyle hurt so badly. I kept my eyes down. “My presence risks the students. I’ve already put Kyle’s and Stacey’s life at risk. No more. I can’t live with the burden that someone might get hurt or killed because of me.”

“Where will you go? How will you earn money?”

“I don’t know.”

“This isn’t the answer, Sara.”

“What is the answer? I’m dying to know.”

“I’ve had many loved ones perish because of me, but I don’t have an answer for you. I wish I did. I just know this isn’t the right thing to do.”

“When you figure it out, call me.” I turned to Kyle and watched as he turned away from me. “You’re all wonderful, amazing people. I love you all.”

“Goodbye, Sara.”

***

Three months had passed and as I walked down the streets of Hyderabad, India no one could tell I wasn’t a native. With my hair long and dark and my skin a darker color I blended in. All it took was a touch of a hand for me to learn the language, foods, culture, and clothes were never a problem. Being young wasn’t a problem here. While they had laws, they valued my cyber experience more. I found enough work in a cyber company to provide shelter and food for myself.

Most of the time I could work from my apartment and didn’t have to bother with disguising my looks. I was surviving but I wasn’t happy. I’d walked away from everything I cared about. I suspect the Professor was somehow keeping track of me with his mutant mind enhancement machine. Have I made a mistake?

Arriving back at my apartment I sat back in front of my computer and stared out over the orange hazy sky of the city. While not an entirely peaceful place to be I found the constant sounds somewhat soothing. I’d tried Alaska but the silence drove me nearly insane as I continuously talked to myself and questioned my decisions. Here the noise made it hard to fully concentrate.

Still I couldn’t shake the look in my mom’s eyes or the chillingly cold response from Kyle. The longer I was away the more I knew I loved him. In brief moments of clarity I started to picture me in Kyle’s shoes. How would I have felt if the love of my life left me under the auspices of protecting them? I would have wanted to go with my love no matter what the risk. Hopefully he’s been able to move on even though the thought breaks my heart.

Turning back to my computer I brought up the code I’d been working on when suddenly a face appeared on the screen.

“Hello Sara!”

The man’s voice sounded Irish. I immediately pushed away from the computer but I saw that the camera was on.

“No need to worry about me, Sara. I’m rather harmless. I can’t pass through the wires and show up on your doorstep. That would be kind of cool wouldn’t it?”

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“How rude of me. I’m Byte. I can find anyone or anything on the Internet. As to what I want, I’m here at my masters bidding.”

The screen flickered and I was watching the fight at Xavier’s when I was captured from the perspective of one of the mutants. “My master is very impressed by you.”

“How did you get this footage?”

“You’ve never heard of The Eye before? He’ll be disappointed. His power is recording everything he sees. He escaped Dr. Simpson’s lab when the X-Men came and destroyed it while trying to rescue you. When he came to us he told us about this new all-powerful mutant. My master was excited for the first time in a very long time.”

“So he’s excited. I’m happy for him.”

“He wants you to visit. No expense spared.”

“I’m flattered, but no thank you.”

“He said you’d decline.”

The screen flickered into four camera views. Kyle was in a dampening field room. Mom, dad, and Stacey were tied to chairs in separate rooms.

“Would you like to reconsider your visit?”

“Damn you all! Let them go!”

“My master has two great powers. The ability to make people do whatever he wants, and the ability to take over someone else’s body. You should be honored. He wants yours with all its unique powers.”

“Where? Where does he want me to meet him?”

“I’m sending the coordinates now.” A Google map appeared on the screen.

“Iceland?”

“It’s a very beautiful place. You have four hours to prepare yourself and get here. Oh, if you come with others, or don’t show up, we’ll start with your mom and slowly drop her into a boiling water pool. That’s how we generate energy here. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Go to Hell!”

“Temper, temper.”

The screen flickered and went blank. I seethed, screamed, and then ported to Xavier’s.

***

I sat with the Professor and all the X-Men. They’d been looking for Kyle for days and assumed he’d left to try and find me. Apparently he hadn’t moved on.

“Sara, the records you took from Dr. Simpson have an extensive inventory on mutants around the world. We’ve heard of Byte and by reviewing the information in the database we’ve cross-referenced him with several other mutants that he is known to associate with. We believe the mutant that’s holding everyone calls himself PhaseLock. He’s very powerful. His psychic ability of persuasion can extend thousands of feet in all directions. I’ve come across him once and I barely escaped even with my mind blocking ability which you now share.”

“So I can withstand his persuasion?”

“Most likely. However, he has a large number of mutants with him that are controlled to do his bidding. If I were him I’d attack you with mutants right away distracting you allowing him to get close enough to take over your body. All he needs to do is get within twenty feet of you.”

“What happens to those taken over?”

“As far as we know, they die. He has the ability to move himself from one body into another and when he leaves a body that body dies. We’re not sure if the person remains alive while he is in the body but is suppressed, or just dies in the process.”

“Either option sounds horrible. If he takes over my body then there would be no need to keep those he has alive.”

“Kyle would become his minion and Stacey and your parents would be eliminated.”

“What can I do?”

“It’s not what you can do alone, Sara. It’s what we can do together. I think I have a plan that might just work.”

There was a knock on the door and Vanish, the woman I healed in my fight at Stacey’s home walked in. “You called for me Professor?” She smiled warmly at meand hugged me. “Thank you for saving my life when I was fully prepared to take yours.”

What do you say to something like that? “You’re very welcome.”

“Vanish, you’ve been asking for a chance to prove your worth. I think we have a situation that might prove beneficial to have your unique powers.”

***

The air was cool and the summer Icelandic winds raced from west to east. I nervously stood on the end of a tarmac at an old airbase. My skirt flapped lightly in the wind. Over the previous few months I had perfected what I thought was the perfect outfit. I wore a deep purple spandex top, knee-high black leather boots, a matching purple skirt just long enough to hide my adamantine blades, and a wide black leather belt. The outfit offered flexibility and comfort yet was both sexy and empowering. Even with it on I shivered not so much because of the cool breeze but rather what I was about to face.

PhaseLock walked out onto the tarmac with fifteen mutants in tow. I immediately felt his power as he tried to persuade me to simply give up without a fight. It was incredibly strong but had no effect on me.

“Stop right there PhaseLock. Your power of persuasion has no effect on me.”

“Impressive.”

He took another step forward and I send a lightning bolt in front of him. “I’m here willingly but I need assurance my parents, Stacey, and Kyle are alive and well.”

PhaseLock waved his hand and a large semi-tractor trailer pulled up but off to the side of the tarmac. The side dropped to the ground and I could see my parents, Stacey, and Kyle inside. The cage was dampened so Kyle’s powers were negated.

Kyle yelled out. “Sara! Don’t give in to him! I’d rather die.”

My dad held onto mom and a very frightened Stacey that spoke next. “Warren… Sara… I was wrong. Fight them or run. Don’t let him take you!”

PhaseLock took another step forward. He was a good hundred feet away. “Let them go and let me port them to safety. Then I’m all yours.”

“Sara, no!” Kyle was beside himself.

With a wave of his hand PhaseLock sent three mutants over towards the truck. “Their orders are to kill them if you don’t let me take your body right now.”

“That’s not the answer I want to hear.” The entire truck lifted from the ground moving rapidly away from the three mutants and well behind us. A lightning storm like none other was launched against the mutants effectively blocking their ability to press forward and a massive fireball was hurled at PhaseLock. PhaseLock managed to find protection behind one of his mutant shields but moments later the man generating the shield flew to the far side of the tarmac.

“How are you doing this?”

Out of thin air a dampening cage fell around PhaseLock blocking all of his mutant powers.

“Now…” Vanish, who had been standing behind me with her hand on my shoulder released her stealth power hiding all of the X-Men. The Professor touched my right arm, and Jean Grey and Storm were touching my left arm. Wolverine and the rest of the team stood across the tarmac. The Professor had used my power to shield the team’s minds from PhaseLock’s persuasion power and Storm and Jean Grey used my magnification power to create the lightning storm and move the trailer.

The X-Men ran forward and the mutants that had now been freed of PhaseLock’s control turned and ran for the hills.

“We’ll take care of PhaseLock, Sara. Why don’t you go and see to your family?”

Running over to the trailer I drew my blades and cut through the power source keeping the dampening field running. Grabbing the lock on the caged door I ripped it off like it was made of lead. Kyle jumped out and hugged me tightly then helped my parents and Stacey out of the trailer.

“Kyle, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’m sure they can use your help rounding up the mutants. I’m hoping we can talk later?” He nodded and squeezed my hand before running off to join the fight. Mom and Stacey wrapped their arms around me and held me tightly. “You’re safe now. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Did they hurt you?”

Stacey seemed very composed. “They didn’t dare hurt us. PhaseLock needed us to get to you. His orders were clear that no one was to touch us. Kyle told us all about your abilities. He said he knew you would come for us. He said you’d sacrifice yourself for us.”

“I’d do anything for any of you.”

Dad had held himself back. He looked at me appraisingly. “With all that power you could have killed them all.”

“No, I couldn’t. It’s not me, dad. I hate what they do but I’m not a killer. I crave justice yet inside me I can’t kill.”

“We had two days that we were locked up with Kyle. He told us how you protected his family and then Stacey. How you fought single-handedly against a dozen mutants to protect the students at Xavier’s and how when you were captured you were tortured. Even today you would have done anything to save us. I saw it in your eyes.”

“Of course, dad. Don’t you know how much I love you?”

“How can you love me so much when I’ve been a horrible father? I never treated you well. I disowned you when you manifested.”

“You’re the only father I have. Do I yearn for your love and respect? Absolutely. Every day I wish you would approve of me. But I never stopped loving you.”

Tears formed in his eyes. “I don’t deserve your love.”

“That’s where your wrong, dad. Everyone deserves to be loved.”

Stacey interrupted us. “Even Clay Overbeck?”

I laughed. “Yes, even Clay Overbeck.”

Looking over my shoulder I could see the battle still raging. “Let me get you all to safety.”

“Not before I give my daughter a hug.” Strong arms wrapped around me and warm drops fell on my shoulder. “I love you, Sara. I hope one day you’ll grow tired of me saying that.”

“Never.”

Creating a portal I stepped aside. “I need to help wrap things up here. Stepping through the portal will take you home. Can I count on you to bring Stacey home?”

Mom took charge. She’d gone through portals before. “We will, Sara. Will we see you soon?”

“Probably in a day or two. I’ve got lots of things I need to wrap up and settle.” I looked back towards Kyle and watched him fuse one of the mutants to the ground.

“He loves you very much.”

I nodded hoping he loved me enough to forgive me. “I’ll see you all soon.”

With more hugs they stepped through the portal. Knowing they were safe was a relief. I flew up into the air and headed into the thick of the battle.

***

The fight had been short-lived and Blink used my power to create a portal large enough for us all to return. PhaseLock was to be removed of his powers and sent to prison. Of all the dangers and all the fighting I can safely say the scariest part of the day was now before me.

Knocking on Kyle’s door I waited nervously. I’d dressed in a light pink dress that fell just below my knees and a pink ribbon in my hair. I picked the outfit because it made me look contrite, which I was. The door opened slowly at first but when Kyle saw me he threw it open wide. “Sara!” His hand took hold of mine and pulled me inside.

I burst out in a babble of words. “Kyle… I’m so sorry. I thought by leaving I would protect everyone I loved. I was wrong and never…”

“Are you back for good?”

“As long as you and the Professor want me.”

“Your mom told me why you left. I tried to put myself in your shoes and I can understand. I’d never want you to be hurt because of me.”

“But I was wrong to make that choice for you and everyone.”

“Yes. You were. Because I would gladly risk my life knowing I could be with you. All of us would.”

“Did you find someone else? Did you move on?”

“Is that what you wanted me to do?”

“At first. I wanted you to be happy. I understand if you found someone else. You’re a wonderful person.”

“How could I move on from you, Sara? How could I be happy with anyone else? It’s just not possible.”

“Kyle I love you. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

I turned to go but Kyle put his hand on my arm. “You’ve never thought very highly of yourself have you?”

“Why would I? I’ve never been much of anything. Even my father might just now be starting to accept who I am.”

“Well you need to get over it because you’re very highly thought of around here. I, for one, am completely enamored by you. I love you, Sara. I want to be with you. I want us to be together.”

This time it wasn’t Kyle that kissed me but me that kissed Kyle. “You really want me?”

“More than anything!”

“Then I promise not to run away again.”

I felt my back press up against the wall as Kyle gently and lovingly kissed me long and passionately. A knock sounded at the door interrupting us. “Kyle, the Professor wants to see you. Have you seen Sara around? He wants to debrief with the X-Men team.”

“If I see her I’ll let her know.”

I giggled and held onto Kyle’s hands. “Shall we make an entrance?”

***

We ported into the Professor’s office hand in hand. I wasn’t letting go of Kyle’s hand for anything.

The Professor looked us over and smiled. “I see you must have worked things out.”

“You were right, Professor. While there’s no easy answer being away from those we love is not going to solve the problem. If anything it made me realize how easy it could be to fall into depression. I’d like to return to Xavier’s as long as you feel I wouldn’t be putting others at risk.”

“I’m afraid I can’t have you return to Xavier’s…”

I was so disheartened. “I… I understand. I can see how dangerous it…”

“What I was about to say was that I can’t have you return to Xavier’s as a student. We’re here today to invite you both as full-fledged X-Men. You could continue living here, but no longer as students. Of course that means you would become mentors and also be available anytime day or night for missions.”

“I’m honored and I gratefully accept.”

“I do as well. Someone has to watch out for Sara.”

“As X-Men you also need to work publicly to promote the cause that not all mutants are bad people.”

“What would we have to do?”

“Hamilton High School and your home town media would like to invite you back to your school for a public relations event. Stacey called me and suggested you could share a little about your experiences and reach out to those that need a little love. I’m hoping you know what she’s talking about.”

“Clay Overbeck.”

“I don’t recognize the name.”

“He’s like PhaseLock and Dr. Simpson only instead of dismembering and killing people he shoves them into lockers and garbage cans.”

The Professor raised his eyebrow. “I think it will help you find more closure. Just don’t run off and get into any fights. You’re part of a team now.”

“And I can’t be happier about it. Kyle can come with me, right?”

“Certainly. Someone has to keep you in line and out of trouble.” He extended his hand. “Welcome to the X-Men.”

***

It had been several weeks since Kyle and I had joined the X-Men. During that time I went home and for the first time in years we actually had a family dinner. Dad still struggled with my becoming a girl and now having a boyfriend but our relationship was mending fast.

Kyle and I were both in the news a lot lately. Some major battles had taken place and the news media caught us both in action. They loved to report on the young and handsome Kyle and people clamored to hear about me.

Being a week before our public relations roadshow starting with Hamilton High School I traveled on my own to the school to see Stacey as she was planning our trip there. As we walked down the hallways I chatted with Stacey.

“How are you holding up, Stacey? You’ve been targeted twice now because of me.”

“I keep my door locked at night and I admit to being a little skittish at times, but knowing you can be at my side in a moment’s notice I’m getting stronger and recovering. My popularity has greatly increased. Having seen two mutant battles first-hand makes me the envy of many. I’ve even been approached by several news agencies hoping I would agree to be their mutant news anchor. I’m seriously thinking of that.”

Hearing a thumping sound I turned towards a locker. “Help!”

Yanking the locker open I looked at someone that reminded me a lot of myself. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, thank you! You’re Sara? You’re the one that went to school here as Warner?”

“Yes. Let me guess. Clay did this to you?”

“I called him a fat loser because he said you were the wimpiest of all the X-Men.”

I smiled. “Thanks for defending me.”

“It’s amazing to meet you in person, Sara! You made my day!” Turning he ran down the hall.

Stacey smiled at me. “Even Clay needs love, right?”

Unclenching my fist my anger at Clay dissipated. “Excuse me, Stacey. I think I need to have a talk with Clay.”

“You’re not going to…”

“No. I won’t hurt him. It’s time he and I had a chat though.”

Hugging Stacey I moved quickly through the school until I found Clay and his friends in the school yard harassing another student.

“Clay Overbeck. I understand you’ve been dissing me to other students.” His wide-eyed friends scattered leaving him alone and looking rather frightened. Pointing to a low section of cement wall I sat down and carefully adjusted my dress. “Sit, please.”

Reluctantly he sat down next to me. “Why do you continue to hassle other students, Clay?”

“You ruined my life.”

“How did I ruin your life?”

“Because everyone loves you. They keep touting how great and awesome you are when I know the real you. You were a cowardly loser before all of this happened.”

I sighed. “You’re right. I was and I still am.” He frowned. Obviously my answer wasn’t fulfilling for him. “I haven’t shared much of this with anyone. Not long after I manifested I found myself at Xavier’s school. There was a big mutant battle and I was captured. They put me in a dampening field so I couldn’t use my powers. All that I was had been stripped down to this body, this shell I now wear. At first I was threatened to have my powers removed but that didn’t bother me. I never wanted powers, I just wanted to be recognized for who I am and not what I could do. Then they threatened to turn me back into Warner. I almost gave into them, Clay. As Sara I was no longer looked upon as the ugly nerdy kid from Hamilton High School. I was a coward. I was afraid of becoming nobody again.”

“Clearly they didn’t do that to you. So what happened?”

“It took everything inside me to tell them to go ahead. Turn me back. I bluffed them but inside I was scared to death. That’s when they cut off my finger and began to dissect me piece by piece.”

Clay looked shocked. “But you’re whole.”

“I’ve been given Wolverine’s regeneration ability. So when the X-Men rescued me and I was removed from the dampening field my powers repaired the damage that was done. At least the damage that was done to me physically. Emotional scars take a long time to heal. That’s why I’m still a coward.”

“But you’re not a coward. I’ve seen the fights you’ve been in on the news.”

“There’s not a day that goes by that deep inside I’m not afraid. Before all of this I worried about you. I hated coming to school. Now, after my manifestation, I’ve run into people that are so much worse. These people take those I care deeply for and hurt them and can hurt me far more than you ever did.” We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes. “How have I ruined your life?”

“Because I hate you everyone hates me.”

“Do you really hate me or is it something else you hate? If you stopped hating me would everyone suddenly like you?” His face flushed in anger. He was done talking. I stood and extended a hand to him. “Take my hand, Clay. I’m offering my friendship to you and, for what it’s worth, I forgive you. I chose to blame you for my cowardice but the reality was I had to look inside to find where the true blame lies.” He hesitantly took my hand in his. “If you ever need me, I’ll come.”

Turning away I made a portal and headed home to Xavier’s.

***

It was finally time for our public relations tour at Hamilton High School and I had donned my purple X-Men outfit. I even designed one for Kyle to look complimentary to me. His outfit was black with purple highlights.

We ported to the front of the school. “Why am I so nervous? I could level this place and yet I’m afraid of what people will think of me.”

“The media can’t get enough of you. You’re immensely popular. Certainly there is not a guy on the planet that doesn’t envy me.”

“And there’s not a girl on the planet that doesn’t envy me.”

Walking through the front door Stacey Upton greeted us with hugs. “We’re all set for you. I even have a surprise for you. Follow me to the stage.”

“Please welcome two of our very own, Kyle and Sara! They are the two newest members of the X-Men.”

The student body cheered and members of the community had packed the auditorium as well. Media from miles away had cameras streaming the broadcast live. Kyle and I walked on stage as Stacey pointed to two chairs for us to sit in while she went to the podium. A third chair sat off to one side.

“As student body president I’m so honored and pleased to introduce to you my friends Sara and Kyle. Also please welcome our distinguished moderator today, one of our own students, Clay Overbeck.”

I almost threw up as I saw Clay walking on stage with his torn jeans and t-shirt. He flopped down in the chair across from us. Stacey handed him a microphone.

Clay leaned back and smiled. “Roll video clip one.”

On a large screen behind us the moment of my transformation was played out. I hung my head even as Kyle smiled for the cameras and squeezed my hand.

“Sara, what was it like? You were a male student here and suddenly you were thrust into instant popularity as a girl mutant. How have you coped?”

“It was really hard. I wasn’t happy as me before the change. I guess I wonder if everyone thinks that way to some degree.”

“And what were you thinking when you manifested?”

“I thought we would talk about other things.”

“Bear with me, Sara.” Clay was acting a little strange but not totally out of character. Is this his opportunity for ultimate revenge?

“My mutant power is replicating other powers and skills. I’d just watched Stacey receive her math award when I was called. I was thinking to myself how wonderful it would be to be like Stacey. She is so well respected and loved. She genuinely cares for people. She’s incredibly beautiful. How awesome would it be to be everything I wasn’t? Those were my thoughts when I tripped and touched her. My manifestation replicated Stacey’s looks. I actually became Stacey in more ways than looks, hence my handsome boyfriend here.” Kyle grinned knowing for the first time I recognized our relationship before the public.

“I heard that story from Stacey the other day and it got me thinking. I thought about how I used to bully you and others. Do you know why I bullied you, Sara?”

“I have no idea.”

“I bullied you because you had something I didn’t. You were smart. Way smart. I wished every day I could be like you. Not your looks, but to be smart.” That caused the crowd to laugh. “Do you still think you’re not good enough?”

“All the time.” That caused a stir through the crowd.

“And yet you’re gorgeous, smart, and possibly the most powerful mutant on the planet. Why is that? Why is it you never seem to recognize all the good about yourself?”

“I think I recently came to an understanding about that, Clay. I never felt truly loved for who I was. I expected people to love me and care for me even when I didn’t love myself. The funny thing is sometimes we don’t see the love we are given because we don’t know how to love ourselves.” I looked at Kyle who smiled back at me.

There was silence across the room. Clay leaned forward towards me. “I’ll tell you a secret. My hatred for what you were and what you had become turned the entire school against me.”

“I’m so sorry, Clay. Truly I am.”

“Last week you and I met in the school yard. You asked me if I stopped hating you would people suddenly like me. For days I couldn’t get our conversation out of my head. For all that I’d done to you, you could have turned me to ashes and yet you extended your hand to me in friendship. I’ve realized I blamed you for people not liking me. Before all of these mutants started showing up, I could have been somebody. I felt the only way of elevating myself in the world was to push others down.”

There was a moment where he paused thoughtfully and then continued. “What makes you special, Sara, is that even though you could rule the world you choose to make it a better place for everyone, including myself. On behalf of the students of Hamilton High School we applaud both of your recent acceptances to the X-Men and the work you are doing for the betterment of all mankind.”

Everyone stood and applauded. Kyle shook Clay’s hand and I hugged Clay. Stacey came back on stage and stood with us a moment.

“One more thing, Sara. Could you demonstrate for us the power you enjoy the most?”

“I’d be happy to, Clay.” Taking Stacey’s hand I changed her hair style and put her in a designer evening gown that made her look stunning. I then took Clay’s hand and gave him a dashing haircut and put him in a tuxedo. Clay looked down at himself and smiled. He looked very handsome. “You two look good together. Maybe you should go to prom as a couple?”

That got a chuckle from everyone but proved to be rather prophetic as several months later they did go to prom together.

With the media event over we thanked Clay and Stacey and walked out of the school. I changed into a modest but flattering white dress and with Kyle’s permission I changed his clothes to a sleek suit and tie.

“Where are we going?”

“I was hoping we could go see my dad.”

“I’m game.”

We caught dad on the phone as we ported into his office. He held up a finger and smiled. “Yes, sir. I’m very proud of her also. I’ve got some very important people that just showed up. Can I call you back?”

Dad came around his desk and hugged me tightly and shook Kyle’s hand. “That was the CEO of the company. He just finished watching the live broadcast from Hamilton High School. He wanted to tell me what a refreshing and remarkable young woman you are.”

“And what do you think, dad?”

“I’ll show you what I think.”

He led us into the common office space. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce to you Kyle Stenhold and Sara Wallace, my beloved daughter.”

Everyone was excited to meet us. Dad took us back to his office. “I want you to know I restored your room even though it seems a little masculine for you now. You’re welcome to come home anytime but I understand you have new responsibilities now. I’m very proud of you, Sara.”

“I’m sure you can donate my old clothes. I hope we can get some new family photos soon.”

“We’re having a BBQ this weekend with the Stenholds. It wouldn’t be right without you both there. Maybe you can spend the night…” He winked at us. “…in separate rooms of course.”

I looked at Kyle and he nodded. “We’d love to and don’t worry, dad. We’re waiting for marriage.”

He smiled and we said our goodbyes.

***

The day of the BBQ came and Kyle and I ported straight into my backyard. Bruce and Gloria were there as well as my parents. It was a joyous and festive occasion with hugs and kisses all around. Dad seemed to fully accept me now for who I am even though he couldn’t stop apologizing for not being a good father before.

“Sara, it’s been almost six months since your manifestation. How are you doing?”

“It’s been challenging, Gloria. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned to appreciate my powers but I’m grateful they don’t control me.”

“Do you miss being a boy?”

“Not in the least. I never knew what I was missing not wearing dresses.”

“It’s a secret we women will never give up.”

Bruce put his arm around my shoulders. “And what about your fighting skills? Are you still training?”

Kyle smiled. “She trains six hours a day even though she doesn’t need it. Even Wolverine can’t land a hit on her anymore.”

“Oh hush, Kyle. You land one on me several times a day,”

“Yeah, but those are kisses.”

Gloria smiled. “I knew you two would hit it off from the very beginning. I heard the public relations footage from Hamilton High School really struck a chord with a lot of people.”

“We’re getting lots of invites for more events.”

Kyle slipped his arm around my waist. “What Sara’s not telling you is that she’s getting a thousand letters a day. Half are proposals for marriage.”

“Lucky for me I’m off the market. What’s really heartwarming are the stories of people from around the world that really took to heart the message of loving yourself first. We live in a world where ordinary people aren’t recognized anymore. It’s a shame and perhaps if there’s any blessing in all of this I might get a chance to remind people just how important and valuable they are regardless of who they are, how smart they are, or how they look.”

My phone rang. “We’re on our way.”

Changing our clothes to our X-Men outfits I quickly hugged everyone. “We’re off to Mexico City to save the world. Love you all!”

With that we stepped through my portal with full hearts and smiles on our faces.

***

Please take a moment to review this story. I always appreciate feedback.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
118 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 24465 words long.