Weave of Life
Theo was lying flat on his bed, alternately doing sets of reps with his right hand and his right leg. The physical therapist had deliberately put the remote for the TV out of reach during the times he was supposed to practice, to encourage Theo to follow the regimen. So far the tactic was working, due to sheer boredom. He was out of intensive care, now, and in a private room. No more observation window, no more wiring or plumbing, though he still had to buzz for a nurse to help him to the bathroom. They'd promised to bring a walker by that afternoon. All told, the only person not happy - even enchanted - with his progress was Theo.
He did the last few leg exercises - lift straight up as high as he comfortably could, hold for a bit, slowly bend the knee as far as he could, slowly extend back out, then slowly down - then switched to the hand exerciser.
Theo looked over as the door opened. He kept working, squeezing the gadget slowly and deliberately, when he saw one of the nurses. He looked back, curious, when the nurse sagged against the door with a tired laugh.
"They've got you buttoned up tighter than the US President!" she said, startling Theo by shifting into Sandra. That is, the darker, Mediterranean version which was apparently her default form. She smirked at his startled expression. "Good morning. Had to borrow this outfit and sneak in just to see how you were doing."
"Uh... Good morning," said Theo, who kept doing his reps, not sure whether he should stop. "It's good to see you."
She straightened, smile fading.
"Oh, don't say that just to be polite. I got you hurt bad, and I'm still sorry about that."
She started to say something else, but then stopped and stared at Theo.
Theo was doing some staring of his own, the grip device forgotten. He'd felt an odd tingle, and a sensation of weakness. Now, he felt something which he would later only be able to describe as "change." He stared down as a pair of bulges pushed up beneath his hospital gown, his whole body shifting over several seconds into a duplicate of Sandra's.
"What the fuck?!" said Theo, in Sandra's voice, which rose to end as a shriek. She yanked down the collar of her hospital gown to reveal a pair of healthy breasts.
Sandra was almost knocked over as the door to the room suddenly opened. In rushed Dr. Wessner, the physical therapist, followed by the nurse Sandra had been disguised as.
The newcomers took a moment to parse the situation. Then
Dr. Wessner turned on Sandra.
"Just a moment, Doctor," said Sir Roger, also entering the room, and blocking Sandra with his cane. "If I might conduct a brief experiment... Oh, and Theo, you might want to put those away."
"Very well," said Wessner, as Theo flushed and yanked her top back up. The doctor was obviously not happy, but obeying his boss.
"Sandra, my dear, would you change forms, please?
Still puzzled but willing to go along, she shrugged and changed into the form she wore when Theo first encountered her. Theo yelped as she also changed.
"Yes, I thought as much."
"Sir Roger, what's going on?" said Sandra.
"That's my line!" said Theo, in Sandra's current voice.
Sir Roger turned to Sandra, looking both disappointed and irritated.
"Sandra Nellis, you were given very explicit instructions not to visit him until you were cleared to do so!"
"I... I'm sorry," she said, contritely. She gave a weak smile. "But... I mean, he's just changed form. I do it all the time. No harm, no foul, right?"
"One of the most stupid, specious sayings from a culture notorious for them!" said Sir Roger, actually causing her to cringe a bit. "I appreciate your talent for circumventing the security measures of others, but I would be even more appreciative if you would respect those in place here! If you trust my judgement you should follow the rules I make!"
"I'm sorry," she said, more sincerely. "I did something stupid and I'm just glad it didn't cause any serious harm."
Sir Roger took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. He glanced over at Theo.
"All right. Indeed, no serious harm done. Now, let's get back to Theo."
"It's about time! Look at me! I'm a girl!"
"Yes, but we know what is happening. Sandra, if you will wait down the hall, please. At least fifteen meters away. This should fade in a few minutes."
He also ushered Dr. Wessner and the nurse out, despite their protests. Then Sir Roger pulled a chair over to Theo's bed, hanging his cane on the table beside it. Theo waited in impatient silence for him to settle himself.
"You do not have regeneration, any more than you have shapeshifting. You have, at the very least, an ability to mimic the powers of others. That is why I have been restricting who can see you. Not to keep you from learning this, but to ensure your healing was completed before we did any experimenting which might have interfered with that. Once we realized you were only demonstrating rapid healing when someone with regeneration was present, we made certain at least one person was within range who has regeneration almost constantly during your recuperation. This was not easy, since regeneration is rare and few have that alone. We also minimized the other powers you were exposed to, since we believe that the more focused your own power was on mimicking regeneration the more quickly you would heal."
"Oh..." said Theo, digesting this. "You didn't tell me because...?"
"You would have been tempted to test whether you had any other powers besides mimicry, and doing so could have slowed your recovery."
"Well, I don't like being kept in the dark," said Theo, defiantly folding her arms across her chest. She winced, and settled for folding her hands across her upper belly. "Now, when do I turn back to normal?"
"A few minutes," said Sir Roger. "We weren't able to do any actual tests, but from observation it appears that the time the mimicry lasts depends on both the length of exposure and the proximity. Since Sandra wasn't in here for long and never came very close to you, you should be feeling convex again very shortly."
"Y'ask me, I'm much too convex already in some places," said Theo, glancing sourly down at her chest.
Sir Roger was silent for a moment, contemplating then rejecting a joke. Instead he leaned back in his chair, and waited.
"Okay, what other powers was I exposed to?" said Theo, when it became obvious Sir Roger had nothing to say for the moment. "Why didn't I mimic any of them? I mean, you're right there, and you have super intelligence. Why don't I have that?"
"My intelligence increased by roughly a third, and I was already a genius," said Sir Roger, with a modest smile. "You were barely above normal. Also, you're still on analgesics."
"Oh..." Theo frowned, chewing her lower lip. She appeared to be thinking about whether to say something.
"While we are waiting, is there anything else you'd like to ask me about, since it's just us?" said Sir Roger, encouragingly. "I know you are curious about many of the events which have happened in the past several days."
"Just what was Sandra carrying which was so important? What could justify men shooting and throwing grenades at her and me?"
Sir Roger's whole manner grew serious. He leaned in and spoke in a low voice.
"What I'm about to tell you, you never heard. Even I'm not supposed to know this. Understand?"
"Yes," said Theo, actually a bit frightened.
"The package Sandra carried contained the plans for what is known as The Basement Nuke," said Sir Roger.
"What?!" said Theo, suddenly alarmed. "You mean a nuclear weapon?!"
"Back in the early Eighties a US Department of Defense group was tasked with evaluating the feasibility of terrorists - given enough plutonium or uranium - building a bomb in a city they wanted to destroy. They discovered two things. Even with skilled people working from detailed plans, the best they could do even with a very sophisticated - though mundane - machine shop was a weapon with a yield of roughly eight kilotonnes. More likely the yield would be under five. However, with plans tailored to a very good machine shop - instead of a weapons lab - they could top twenty. Creating such plans required sophisticated computer modeling and detailed data - something which only major nuclear powers would have - but once the plans were made they could be followed by any competent mechanic."
"So they went ahead and drew up the plans," said Theo, feeling sick.
"They had to confirm their findings. That also meant testing the two classes of devices. They had two teams, with identical starting resources and skills, do the work. One had the custom plans and the other used standard deployable weapon plans. Their devices were tested - underground, of course, concealed as part of a standard weapon development series - and they functioned as expected. Then they exchanged which group had which plans and had them start over. This time the group which didn't have the custom basement plans actually did worse than the other team previously had, because they were trying to rebuild the device they had the first time without the details; the result was a squib. The group with the basement plans this time built a device with the expected yield. As a safeguard, after the test was completed the working copies of the the basement nuke plans were destroyed. Microfiche copies of the originals were made, then the originals were destroyed and the microfiche cards carefully filed away in a secure archive. They needed them as reference, you see, in case someone else had the same idea."
"Somehow, someone got these plans."
"Someone - for a great deal of money - pulled the microfiche cards and simply mailed them to a confederate. It was only by a stroke of luck that a random inventory check discovered the gap this left before the inside man could go on a planned vacation, during which his death would have been faked. Or perhaps he would have actually been killed; the people hiring him are both ruthless and thorough. Fortunately, he was caught. Through him the outside man was caught. Unfortunately, he had already passed the cards along. We were called in and immediately put our best covert people on the case. Skipping many details, Sandra substituted plans for something innocuous on the same type of card and left. Unfortunately, someone twigged, and they chased after her. She was almost to her pickup point when she was ambushed. Which is where you entered the story."
Theo was silent for a long while, contemplating all this. Then she looked startled.
"It just hit me. I can copy other people's powers!"
"Yes, but it bothers me that you haven't reverted, yet," said Sir Roger. "Hang on..."
Not bothering with his cane - it was an affectation, after all, not actually needed for walking - he stepped to the door, opened it, and called Sandra back in. She had resumed her Mediterranean form. Oddly, Theo didn't change into that as she approached, but remained blond.
"I want you to stand by the bed and turn your power off," said Sir Roger. "Don't shapeshift. Turn it off."
She looked reluctant, but nodded. Her form changed only a bit, becoming bit shorter, a bit dumpier, a bit less buxom. In his hospital bed Theo actually cheered as he was also back to normal.
"Interesting..." said Sir Roger, rubbing his chin. "Yes. We'll have to do further testing, of course, but... interesting."
He smiled at Theo.
"Now, remembering that form you just left, I want you to change back into it."
"Do I have to?" said Theo.
"Would you like a job?"
"I'm effectively 'missing, presumed dead' at this point," he said, his recent joyous mood fading. "So, yes. Oooh, I can't wait to copy someone with super strength!"
"I have ten brutes for every person whose powers make them superhumanly capable at infiltration," said Sir Roger, sternly. He glanced at Sandra, who was waiting impatiently to be told she could resume looking the way she preferred. "Which is one reason I put up with her."
"Oh, come on," she muttered, her voice also a bit different; flatter and less alluring.
"So, yes, Theo. Please, just try it."
"It's not that hard," said Sandra, encouragingly. "It helps if you close your eyes. Just think about what it felt like, then imagine feeling it again."
Theo obediently closed his eyes, and frowned in concentration. Several seconds went by. Then, abruptly, the form in the bed flowed and shifted, into the blond Sandra form.
"I did it!" said Theo, astounded.
"Kind of a rush, isn't it?" said the actual Sandra, a huge grin on her face.
"All right, Sandra, you may resume your preferred appearance."
She did so with a happy sigh.
"I felt that! Like I was trying to change again!"
"Now, turn the power off," said Sir Roger, looking at Theo.
"It's actually pretty much like he says," said Sandra, shrugging. "Just... turn it off."
Again, several seconds - and presumably several tries - were required. Eventually, Theo succeeded, returning to normal.
"Excellent. I believe, once you practice some, that you'll be able to easily resist changing when she does. Yes, this is most promising. There are many tasks where two shapeshifters would be very useful, and for a few even essential."
"Welcome to the club," said Sandra, smirking. "I can't wait to introduce you to all the joys of womanhood. Including multiple orgasms."
"Wait, what?!" said Theo.
"Sandra, I'm afraid, is noted for her libido," said Sir Roger, dryly. "Try not to copy that aspect of her, please. We are a proper institution."
End Part Three
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:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.