Steel Skinned

Steel Skinned

by:
Enemyoffun


During a mission on the 4th of July, Amy Allen reflects back on how she became who she is today, all the while confronting her past head on in the present.

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Author's Note: I interrupt our previously scheduled Retcon to bring you this special holiday event. Ok so in reality I was thinking about doing a 4th of July story, I wanted to do something patriotic but what I ended up thinking about was Amy Allen aka Bombshell. When I introduced her in Some Kind of Wonderful, I always had a back story for her in mind. So I was writing Ch. 7 of Raven yesterday and stopped halfway through when this idea came to me. Though its not needed, you might want to read Some Kind of Wonderful before reading this story. I'd like to thank DC Comics for their characters, djkauf for the solid steel editing and wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July---well everyone that celebrates it that is :)

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I tried to be interested in the briefing but for some reason my mind kept wandering elsewhere. It was a strange thing to think about because back before the change, I was always so very attentive. I had to blame it all on the hormones, the female hormones. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, my underwire bra chafing something fierce. How women could wear such horrible things is way beyond me but apparently, it was supposed to make my tiny things look bigger. Not that I wanted to make anything look more pronounced on this new body of mine. I just shudder to think about it. Then I can’t help but laugh. Boy would my daughter have a field day seeing her big brave father like he is right now.

“Amy” whispered a voice next to me.

I ignored it for the moment. I knew what my companion was trying to get me to do but I wasn’t going to do it. Right now, I was in bliss being the indignant teenage girl that the speaker thought me to be. It helped that he was one of my least favorite assholes in the whole world. When I first saw him upon entering the room, it took every bit of willpower I had not to ball up my fists and lay into his smug face. That and my partner was standing close by. I might be a powerhouse but she was on a whole different level. I could put on the ass kicking but she could bring down the house---literally. So I remanded calm and walked into the room like the good little girl I was supposed to be. But staring at that man---standing there without a care in the world---royally pissed me off.

Even his name made me grit my teeth. Colonel Wade Eiling, US Air Force. Otherwise known as the biggest scumbag ever to walk this planet. Seeing him with his shaved head and steel gray mustache, I wanted to grab that fuzz on his face and tear it off. Instead, all I could really do was glare at him a great deal and hope it scared him. It would scare him even more if he knew how the two of us were actually acquainted. But as it was I was just some dumb girl---his words in fact---assigned to his detail.

“Amy” my partner hissed again.

I stopped slouching and finally turned to face her. She was sitting just the same way I was but she actually looked like she was paying attention. But even slouching in her chair, she looked as if the whole room was centered around her. I guess it wasn’t that hard. She was as tall as I was but whereas she had long blonde hair that made her stand out, my black cut was short and boyish. Not that I wanted it to be any other way----I still loved my wife with all my heart. Cassie had all the guys lining up to try and court her, not that she was having any of that. She had herself a nice boyfriend, the quarterback in fact. The two of them were kinda cute together.

I shifted in my seat, the bra still digging into my skin. Why I wasn’t allowed to wear my usual sports bra to this meeting was beyond me. Ok, I knew why. Eiling---as much as he was an ass---was also a visiting ass. He was down from Washington, in town for the Fourth. I was sad to see he wasn’t a washout like I hoped. In fact, after our little time together, his career had actually prospered. I’m not sure what pissed me off more. The fact that he got high praise for what he did or the fact that six months later, he ran off and married my wife. It made my blood boil to think of my Sophie cuddling up with that son of a bitch. It pissed me off more when I knew he was in my house, taking care of my children, hell even walking my dog.

“Where’s your head at?”

I shrugged. “I don’t like him.”

She sighed. “I noticed that.”

She was staring at me intently, waiting for my answer. I bit my lip. She and I had been through a lot together since January. Cassie was involved with an incident back in the city, one that was so classified now that not even she and I really knew all the details. Ok so that’s not entirely true but it sometimes felt like it. We took a real crooked drug operation. Some woman was peddling a drug through her health spa, using girls our age as guinea pigs. With help from another classified asset, Cassie and I shut down her op. It should have ended there but it didn’t. My bosses---the wonderful Department of Metahuman Affairs---felt that Cassie was too valuable to let slip through their fingers. So they forced her to work for them. I tried my hardest to fight on her behalf---she was a kid after all, not much older than my sweet Cameron, but they wouldn’t.

In the end, she ended up in the same boat as me. She didn’t have a choice in the matter. She was just too dangerous to be let loose. Whereas with me, I had options, not that they were much better than hers. At least she knew what she was. When I got roped into all of this, I was thirty-five years old, on my way up in the world without a care. I thought I had everything going for me and then I got the rug pulled out from under me as it were.

______________________________

“My name is Colonel Wade Eiling,” said the tall, distinguished looking gentleman standing in front of us. “And you gentlemen have been chosen for a very rare opportunity.”

I looked around the room at the men assembled. I didn’t know a single one amongst them. They were all baby faced and bright-eyed. It was kinda cute actually. I looked at their fatigues; they weren’t all from the Air Force either. I saw a handful of Marines, quite a lot from the Army and a few from the Navy. I think I was the only Air Force jockey amongst them. I’m not sure if that made me proud or scared. Heck, maybe it was a little bit of both. When they pulled me from Afghanistan two days ago, I was a bit on the scared side. It wasn’t often that we got pulled in like this. I still had another year and a half on my tour of duty. The only thing I really wanted to come home to were my girls---my wife Sophie and my daughters---12-year-old Cameron and 6-year-old Mackenzie.

I stood ramrod still just like those assembled as the Colonel laid out the mission. At first, I was just as surprised as the rest of them. It’s not every day that one gets pulled from the front line, flown thousands of miles just to get a shot. Ok, so it might be a little more complicated than that but I’m not really good with the complicated stuff. I barely passed high school as it was, I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for Sophie. I only really had two options: go work in the tire business with my Daddy or enlist. I was surprised when I got in the Air Force, even more so when they let me fly. I wanted to fly fighters like my uncle did back in Nam but I settled for helicopters. It wasn’t combat but it was better than sitting on my ass all day. I flew supplies back and forth, not the best job but it was better than selling tires back in Austin.

Besides, I had Sophie and the girls to provide for. She and I were high school sweethearts. I was on the wrestling team and she was the cheerleader. We got married straight out of school then I went into the military. She went to college to be a nurse---her Daddy paid her way. We didn’t plan on having children until our lives were more settled but God works in mysterious ways. At the age of 23, we had Cameron. She was the most precious thing in the world to me. Cameron Amelia Adam---the apple of my eye. Mackenzie came six years later, surprised the both of us. Little Mackenzie Allison took after her momma; she’s as smart as a whip. I’m not saying Cameron took after me but her sister always seemed to one=up her. It’s the way I liked it. I didn’t condone competitiveness but it was better than sitting by and letting the others pass you by.

“You, soldier,” said the Colonel, stopping in front of me.

“Yes, sir” I said saluting.

“What is your name and rank?”

“Captain Nathaniel Christopher Adam, United States Air Force.”

The Colonel smiled. “Are you ready to serve your country, Captain?”

“Yes, sir”

“Good man” said the Colonel then he turned to a fresh faced young Ensign beside him. “Ensign Zbeck, would you please escort Captain Adam to the testing area.”

Testing? Did someone say something about a test? I thought I was just getting blood taken.

“Follow me sir,” said the Ensign.

I gave her a curt nod and followed her out of the room. She led me down the hall. I tried to stay preoccupied but it was hard not to think about things. I had no idea what was going on and I didn’t like it one bit. When we got to the room, the first thing I noticed was how much it looked like a doctor’s office. I’m not a big fan of those. I used to do stupid things a kid. Every time I did so, I always ended up in the doctor’s office. When I was ten, I was riding my brother’s ten-speed. I tried to prove to the neighborhood kids that I was braver than I looked. I was trying to jump over this huge dirt mound behind the school but my foot slipped on the peddle at the last second. Me and the bike flipped end over end. I landed on my back; the bike got twisted up in my legs. I must have landed wrong because I broke my leg. Two years later, I re-broke it trying to do the same damn stunt. It was the same with the rest of my childhood. I’d do something stupid, break something and end up in the hospital. You’d think I’d get used to the doctor’s but every time it made me real nervous being in the room.

This time was no different even with the pretty female doctor in the white lab coat. She introduced herself as Dr. Phelps and told me everything was going to be all right. “Sit on the bench, Captain and it will be over before you know it.”

“Yes ma’am” I said, doing as I was told.

She stuck the needle in my arm. She talked to me to distract me, drawing the blood while we talked about my girls. When she was done, she pulled the needle out of my arm without me even noticing. Then she put my blood in one of those test tube thingies and stored it away.

“What’s this test for anyway?”

She smiled. “We’re looking for something special in the blood of our soldiers. We found a very good candidate a few days ago and are looking for more.”

I nodded. I had no idea what she was talking about but it sounded real good. “When will I get the results back?”

She smiled again. She had mighty pretty teeth. “We will contact you only if the results come back positive. If that’s the case then you might hear from us within a few days.”

I nodded, in other words I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. I smiled real big when she told me we were done then I followed the pretty little Ensign out of the room.

____________________________________

The briefing ended.

I turned to Cassie and she looked as bored as I did. I guess that was par for the course with her though. Whereas I was an adult, ---at least mentally---she was still a kid. I kept on forgetting that about her. She was very mature for her age; I guess that comes from practically raising herself. Well living away from her mother anyway. When I first met her, she looked like she had everything all under control. She was this tall girl who was both beautiful and a fantastic athlete. The world seemed to be handed to her on a platter. Who would have thought that she had problems? Her mother had completely abandoned her and she had to deal with this insane destiny of hers. I won’t even get into that one. Regardless she had a lot more on her plate than I thought.

So way more mature beyond her years.

Cassie groaned, pushing herself back from the table. Half the people in the briefing were already filing out of the room. It always took the two of us a few minutes to leave. We didn’t like all the stares for one thing. This wasn’t an official DEO briefing. The only others from the agency in the room were our boss---Cameron Chase and her boss, King Faraday. The rest of the assembled belonged to various agencies, most of them. I only caught half of what the Colonel was talking about. But the gist of it involved a French diplomat and some threats on her life.

“You think they want us to play bodyguards?”

Cassie was already standing. A couple of young suits still lingering in the back stared at her. She stretched, giving them full view of her lithe form. She was blonde but not one of those dumb ones. She knew exactly what she was doing, which only made me smile at the tease. Cassie had a reputation as being a ball breaker---literally sometimes. I pitied what would happen if those guys came over and tried to talk to her.

“Aren’t you off on the Fourth?”

She sighed and nodded. She sounded less than thrilled. But I think it was a front. We worked a lot. When she wasn’t a secret agent for the DMA, she was a high school student. Where my undercover tenure at her school was officially over, Cassie still had a couple of years left. I remember high school being hell the first time around. When they asked me to go there a second time---this time as a girl---I wanted to pull my hair out. Suffice to say any free time the two of us got was very well cherished. We were currently the only two Metas who worked for the agency, at least in this state. Since we started working together six months, we barely got a break.

“You’re getting the week off; you need to take the time while you can. Whatever you do, don’t let them rope you into this.”

She frowned. “But I have to spend it with my mother.”

I smiled. “Consider yourself lucky, at least you still have family to spend any time with. I’d give anything to be back with the girls.”

She didn’t say a word to me. Instead, she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around me. Across the room, I saw the deadly looks the staring guys gave me. I wrapped my arms around Cassie, making sure I held on a little longer than necessary. The looks grew extremely deadly. I sometimes loved to fuck with them like that.

Our hug was interrupted by the clearing of someone’s throat. We pulled apart quickly and turned to see Special Agent Cameron Chase and the bane of my existence, Colonel Eiling, standing there. The two of them looked like a right pair---Chase with that stick up her ass and Eiling just being an overall ass. They both were particularly smug today. Chase in her usually three-piece man-like suit and hair bun, Eiling in his crisp Air Force uniform. I gave him a quick once over, wondering what my Sophie could ever see in a scumbag like him.

“Colonel, allow me to introduce our two top agents, Wonder Girl and Bombshell”

I groaned. Only Chase introduced us by our code-names. I think she thought it made her sound more superior.

“Your top agents?” he said, eying us suspiciously. “What are you girls, like fifteen?”

I beat Cassie to the punch. “Thirty five actually.”

Eiling stared at me for a few seconds. Then he burst out laughing. It only lasted for a few moments when he realized he was the only one doing so. “Oh you’re serious?”

I nodded. Cameron spoke. “Agent Sandsmark is an official teenager, still in high school. But Agent Allen was one of the unfortunates to be an adult before the change.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, staring daggers. “I’m just one of the dumb unlucky ones.”

Eiling never picked up on it. Why should he, even though those were his exact words.

Cameron spoke again. “You girls have been requested to be a part of Ambassador Cobert’s security detail while she’s in the city for the Fourth”

Cassie spoke up. “I’m supposed to have leave this week.”

“We can reschedule,” said Cameron, waving her hand like it was a little thing.

I saw the look of anger on Cassie’s face. That was one look you never wanted to see on her. When she got angry, things got broken and people ended up in the hospital.

Eiling defused the situation quickly. “It’s quite all right. We can get by just fine with Agent Allen. Besides the French have brought one of their own as well.”

The way he said “one of their own” made my skin crawl. The bastard sure loved making Metas but as soon as they showed up, he wanted nothing to do with them. It was like blowing your nose on a hundred dollar bill and tossing it away as if it was nothing. I should know because he did the exact same thing with me.

________________________________

I got the call two days after the test.

I was at home with the girls. They were bemoaning the fact that I’d only be here a few days before being shipped back overseas. We were trying to make the most of it by watching some shows on DVD that they bought while I was away. They insisted I watch all of them even though there was no time to get through every single one. When the phone rang in the middle of episode 12, their giddiness at having Daddy home was shattered. Little Mac actually started to cry, she ran out of the room before either Sophie or I could stop her. Cameron got to her feet, sighing.

“I’ll go see if she’s all right,” she said before slowly walking out of the room herself.

She was much more mature than her twelve years of age.

The phone was still ringing when Sophie grabbed my hand. “Will they let you stay longer if the tests are positive?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, baby.”

I went and answered the phone. “Adam residence.”

“Am I speaking to Captain Nathaniel Adam?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

“Yes sir” I said, even though I was pretty sure it was a woman.

The voice on the other end wasn’t annoyed or if she was, she didn’t sound it. “I am calling to inform you that your test has come back positive. You are requested to return to the base immediately for further instructions.”

The person hung up. I sighed. Sophie and I talked a great deal about the tests over the last day or so. She was so happy when I surprised her and the girls by walking through the front door. She flew across the room when I showed up unannounced. The girls were in school at the time but when they saw me sitting on the couch with their Mama, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier pair. Little Mac was attached to my hip the whole time since then. The test was an ample opportunity for us. Like I said, Sophie was real smart and kinda figured what it might be about. She’d been hearing about these Metas on the news and figured that the military might try to get in on it too. I guess it made sense, you know having super powered soldiers on the battlefield.

“I have to go to the base,” I said, setting the phone back on the hook.

Sophie nodded quietly, a tear rolling down her cheek. “You should probably say goodbye to the girls first.”

I walked down the hall with my head held low. Cameron was walking out of her room. When she saw the look on my face, she started to tear up. She tried to fight it because she was tough like that but she failed miserably. To hide the tears she ran down the hall and wrapped her arms around me. I wrapped my arms around her too. I loved her and her sister more than life itself. I would never do anything to jeopardize that. She knew that and understood what my job was like but Mac was going to be a problem. When we finally separated, Cameron was still crying.

“You have to leave again?”

I nodded. “I’m just going to the base right now. They want to run more tests. If things go Ok, I’ll come back.”

“And if the tests are like they want, you’ll leave and come back later. I know the drill; I’m not a little kid anymore.”

I kissed her on the forehead. “Now I just need to explain it to your sister.”

“Good luck” said Cameron as she left me to knock on Mac’s door.

“Go away, no one’s here.”

I smiled. “If no one is there then who just talked to me?”

There was a long moment of silence. Then the door opened a crack. I saw her tiny little face stare up at me. “Are you going away again, Papa?”

“I don’t know, little Bumblebee” I said, bending down so that I was at her level.

She opened the door all the way and threw her arms around me. She bawled into my shoulder. She sobbed aloud how much she wanted me to stay with her, to be with her. I tried to whisper reassuring things to her but she cried through them all. In the end, it took a solemn promise. I took off my dog tags. I pulled one of them off and handed it to her. It was against the rules but rules be damned. I left the other one on my chain.

“Now you have one and Papa has one,” I said, she smiled real big.

I kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be back soon, Bumblebee, I promise.”

I carried her back into her room, putting her in bed. I stayed with her until she fell asleep. The woman on the phone never said when I was supposed to be back on the base. When Mac was asleep, I went back into the living room to comfort my crying wife. I held her for a while, trying to reassure her that everything was going to be all right. Truthfully, I was just as scared as she was. But I didn’t let it show and left the house with a smile on my face.

Little did I know that that was the last time any of them were ever going to see me.

________________________________

I was in my apartment, sorting through my things. I didn’t have a real big place; it was a small one bedroom on the far side of the city. It wasn’t in the best part of it either but not too many people fucked with me. I could have moved anywhere but there was something about this part of town that I liked. I’m not sure what it was but it had character. It helped that there was very little crime anymore. When I first came to the city almost six months ago, the place was a total mess. But over the last few months, crime had been completely cleaned up thanks to a certain man in black that stalked the streets at night. I had to hand it to him or her; whoever they were, they definitely had a lot more guts than I did. You definitely wouldn’t catch me out there doing stuff like that.

Not that I had much of a choice in the matter. I belonged to the government from the first day Amy Allen was born.

I was in the bedroom, sorting through some of the clothes on the floor, when someone knocked on the front door. I didn’t even get a chance to say come in when whoever it was opened the door and let themselves in. I heard a few heavy sighs followed by someone shuffling their way through my crap. I turned just as whoever it was got to my bedroom. Kate Spencer was standing in my bedroom door, looking about like she wanted to hurl. Kate got like that whenever she came over. Her place was the complete opposite, all clean and proper. But to be fair, Kate barely ever spent time there. She worked more than Cassie and I combined. She was with the DEO too but they overworked her. She was one of their top field agents, going all around the world.

Cassie and I worked with her more than once. In fact, she was one of the ones involved with the health spa. She and Cassie became particularly close then, like sisters in fact. To see the two of them together you’d never be able to tell that Cassie was ever a teenage boy the way the two of them shopped and giggled.
“Jesus, Capt.” She said, shaking her head. “You can definitely tell you were once a guy.”

Kate and her sometimes partner Jay were the only ones who jokingly called me “Captain Atom”. It was a play on my former name. The two of them thought it was pretty funny.

“I clean” I said then looked around at all the clothes and empty pizza boxes. I shrugged. “Some of the time anyway.”

Kate shook her head. “For someone who works as much as I do you sure know how to make a mess when you’re home.”

“My wife used to be a neat freak. I guess it didn’t rub off.”

Kate glanced around sighing. “That’s what you need, a man.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not everyone can be a man hunter like you, Katie.”

This time she rolled her eyes. Then we both laughed.

After our laugh fest, I got down to business. “You my driver for the evening?”

“Well, when you say it that way it makes me sound insignificant.”

I smiled. Then I pulled a duffel out from underneath my bed and started stuffing it with clothes. I packed sensible clothes this time, no underwire bras and things like that. At the briefing, I had to dress like a presentable lady---i.e. skirt and blouse. But I was definitely a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal, more style bordering on the butch side of things. It helped that I cut my hair so short and still drank like a fish. I guess old habits die hard. I’m just glad that I wasn’t one of those guys who turned into a girl and suddenly fell in love with every guy they saw. I was proud and damn happy that I kept my sexual orientation. I loved girls and wasn’t afraid to admit it.

I finished stuffing my duffel, Kate lingered by the door. “Let’s go, driver.”

She frowned as I followed her out the door. There was a little Saab parked out in front of the building. It wasn’t Kate’s so I’m guessing it belonged to whoever it was that sent her to get me---probably something the DEO got her. We got inside and didn’t say much the whole ride. Kate was like that. She talked a lot but never during the drive. When we got to wherever we were going, you could sometimes never shut her up. She reminded me of my kid sister that way. It helped that both of them were the same age. Sophie was a year younger than me and the only woman I ever truly loved but I knew that being with her was no longer possible. Kate was the closest thing to her that I’ve found; too bad, she only liked men. It was a shame too because Kate was a real cutie.

We finally pulled up in front of a fancy hotel. It was one of those high-end places, very ritzy. I’d been in a place like this once. It was after the attempted Obama assassination actually. Cassie and I were a part of the crew they brought in to clean up. Not that there was much to clean up. The Meta shape shifter---the man known only as Chiller---had his brains blown all over the place. By the time we got there, the mess was even cleaned up. I guess the boss wanted us to make sure the area was secure. It was a waste of our talents. But we did get to briefly meet the President but of course, he didn’t know who we were or why we were there---at the time we were posing as two hotel maids.

Kate led the way through the lobby. When we got into the elevator, I turned to her and asked the big nagging question. “So what’s the deal with this French diplomat anyway?”

Kate sighed. “Someone was sleeping through the briefing I see,” she teased.

I rolled my eyes. “I got parts of it.”

She nodded. “She’s been getting death threats but refused to cancel this visit to the states. She wanted to show whoever it was that she wasn’t afraid of them.”

I nodded. “And why Chicago?”

Kate smiled. “She wanted to spend her first Fourth of July in the hometown of the President. Don’t ask me why but she thought it would make her relate to him better when she meets him later this week.”

“And do we know anything on the guy who’s been threatening her?”

Kate sighed. “Only some. He claims that he’s going to make an attempt on her life during the fireworks tomorrow. Colonel Stick Up His Ass thinks the threat is very real. He’s been brought in to help coordinate the protection detail on our end of things. I’m not sure why we need some military dick sticking his nose in things but Chase thinks he’s valuable.”

I nodded. I wonder if Kate knew of my past relationship with Eiling.

“And the guy making the threats. Tell me we at least know who he is?”

She shook her head. “Nope. But he signs his threats with a little saying.” She cleared her throat. “I’m a major force to be dealt with. Our guys have dubbed him Major Force for the time being, I think it’s kinda catchy.”

I nodded. The elevator stopped just then and we got out. There were two French suits standing there. They had metal detector rods that they used on us, going over every inch of our bodies real slowly. When the rod went off on Kate’s hip, she opened her coat to show her Sig Sauer. Luckily, my Glock was in the duffel. They gave her a deadly look before she flashed them her badge. She was one of the few of us that actually carried one. Cassie was too young and I just never really bothered bringing mine along. Usually I was undercover anyway so I didn’t need it.

After looking at her badge, they let us pass.

The room beyond the two of them was a very big and swanky penthouse. I’m not real good at describing things so I’ll just leave it at that. Besides most of my attention was on the beautiful red head sitting on the couch. She was intoxicatingly beautiful with the longest legs I’d ever seen and lips like Angelina. She was sitting with those legs of hers crossed, wearing a white tank top and tight red leather pants. They were so tight they practically looked like they were painted on. I caught myself staring a little longer than I should have been.

The girl---she couldn’t have been much older than 18 or 19 unfolded her legs and slowly got to her feet. She looked from me to Kate and back to me again. If I wasn’t mistaken, her eyes lingered on me a little longer than they should have. Maybe it was wishful thinking but I hope not.

“You are the American agents?” she asked. She had the cutest French accent. It wasn’t like bad movie accent either, barely noticeable but still there.

Kate nodded. “Agents Spencer and Allen.”

The girl smiled. “My name is Vivian D’Aramis, I work for French Consulate. It is a pleasure to meet you both.”

Her eyes were definitely on me when she said that. I blushed furiously.

“You are Metas?” she asked a second later.

Kate shook her head. “I’m not but Little Miss Blush over here is.”

Leave it to Kate to notice something and then rub it in. She only made me blush more.

Vivian smiled brightly at me. She walked over and took both my hands. “You were a guy before this right?” She asked, a look of longing in her eyes. I nodded through my overwhelming blush. She sighed heavily. “Mon dieu, I thought I was the only one.”

As soon as those words came out of her mouth, my heart sank.

She seemed to notice how unhappy I looked. She leaned forward and whispered in my ear. “Don’t worry, I still like girls, too.”
She gave my butt a gently squeeze as she did so. I think I might have made an eep sound.

Vivian giggled and sashayed back over to the couch. “Come you must tell me about how you came to be like this.”

Vivian patted the spot next to her.

As we walked over to the couch, I grabbed Kate gently by the arm, pulling her close. “Don’t leave my side the whole night, that girl is a barracuda.”
Kate smiled and winked. “I think the two of you look cute together.”

I walked over and sat next to Vivian. I tried to sit a little further away but she patted the spot closer so I had no choice but to slide on over. She smiled and placed her hand gently on my knee, sending shivers up my body.

“Now you tell me your story.”

________________________________

Congratulations Captain, your blood test came back positive”, said the pretty doctor with the nice teeth.

I was sitting back in that doctor’s office, hearing the words that I didn’t really want to hear. My wife and I had talked a great deal about this. She wanted me to make sure that if the tests were positive, that I got out of there immediately. I think I might have mentioned about not being too smart. But I was smart enough to know what a positive test might mean for me. I’d read all about that girl Terra, I knew how she used to be a boy first but became a girl after her Meta thing started. If there was a chance that something like that might happen to me then I definitely didn’t want to take it.

“You don’t look too happy Captain,” said the doctor. “This is great news. It means you’re a viable candidate for the Quantum Project.”

“The what now?”

“The Quantum Project” said a new voice from the doorway.

I turned and Colonel Eiling was standing there.

The Colonel walked into the room. “You’re very fortunate Captain because only one other person on the base tested positive; you and she will be the cutting edge soldier”

I nodded. “That’s fine and dandy sir but I talked about this with my wife and we both agreed that if I were to test positive that I would respectful decline the offer.”

The Colonel smiled. Then his eyes narrowed. “I’m sad to hear that son, truly I am.”

“Why is that sir?”

He sat down in a chair. “Because if you are to refuse then I’m afraid I’m going to have to let the MPs come in here and arrest you for your crime.”

“My crime?” I asked, confused. “And what crime is that?”

The Colonel sighed. “You see, it seems that you’ve been transporting illegal substances back and forth into enemy territory for quite a few months now, Captain. The military frowns upon one of their own dealing cocaine like you’ve been doing for the past several months now.”

“Drugs? Well I ain’t no drug dealer.”

The Colonel smiled wickedly. “There in lies the problem, son. Because you see, it appears you are.”

I think it might have dawned on me right there. They weren’t giving me a choice in the matter. It was either let them do what they were going to do or go to jail for this crime they said I committed. I guess that’s what you call being up the creak without a paddle.

I shook my head. “My family, I can’t leave my family.”

“Your family will be well taken care of, trust me.”

I shook my head again, getting angry. I pushed myself up from the bench. “I’m going to tell anyone who listens. You won’t get away with this, you bastard.”

The Colonel sighed. “Doctor, will you please take care of this.”

Before I knew what was happening there was a sharp prick in the back of my neck. Whatever she did to me, it happened real fast. I stumbled forward. I tried to make my way to that bastard Eiling. I wanted to strangle him. I got my hands on his shoulders before my whole body went numb. He punched me hard in the gut. I fell to my knees at his feet; I looked up at him, my vision blurry.

“Why” I managed to get out.

He smirked. “You’re just one of the dumb unlucky ones.”

Those were the last words I heard before I blacked out.

_______________________________

“Mon dieu” said Vivian, pulling me into a hug. “You poor thing.”

It felt good to be in her arms, safe. When I pulled back, she used a handkerchief to wipe away my tears. I didn’t even know I was crying. I sighed heavily. It felt good to get the whole thing off my chest though. I told them everything, well everything that I consciously remembered. It was kinda strange really because the only other people who knew that story were Faraday and Chase. When I told my story to Cassie, it was a fabricated one, one of Chase’s design so that Cassie would trust me. If she ever knew the truth, I’m sure she’d think I betrayed her. I made her think that I willingly signed up to be like her and that besides the gender change, I knew what I was getting in to. But the truth was much scarier than that.
“What happened after that?” asked Kate, sitting on the edge of her seat.

I took a deep breath, trying to remember. “I don’t really remember much of whatever they did to me. I was in and out of consciousness a lot of time. The first true vivid memory I have is waking up on the side of the road, half naked and shivering. I had no idea where I was or how I got there. Hell at the time I didn’t even know who I was really. My memory didn’t truly come back until a few days later. When I found out who I had once been, I tried finding out what happened but it was horrible.”

I was crying again. “They told Sophie all about my illegal activities. I’m not if she believed them or not. But it didn’t really matter because as far as she knew I was dead. Apparently, I “died” while trying to avoid capture. I drove a Humvee off a cliff; my body was mangled and charred in the crash. I was buried in a closed casket, about a week before I even woke up. As far as my family knew, I was a criminal and I was now dead. I tried to get back home but I didn’t get very far. I fell in with some bikers. They tried to rape me and that’s when my powers first manifested. I didn’t even know what I was doing until I incinerated all of them.”

I scoffed. “I let the police arrest me. I figured they’d lock someone like me up for a long time. Cameron came then. She offered me a job. At first, I refused but then she promised to give me everything she knew about Project Quantum. It was the carrot on the end of the stick. She gave me the files but told me there was nothing I could do about it. Colonel Eiling was too well connected. So I was given a new identity and a new life. I was told if I ever attempted to contact my family again that I’d be thrown in a deep hole somewhere. So I threw myself into my work. It paid off because a week after being picked up, they sent me to Chicago. They inserted me into Cassie’s school, made up a false life for me and used some psychic nudges from you know who and that’s that. Here I am Amy Allen aka the Bombshell.”

I smiled through my tears. Vivian hugged me again. She held me a long time while I cried. When I was finally down, she gave me her handkerchief again.

“I thought I had it bad,” she said sighing. She looked from Kate to me then sighed. “I was a thief, I got caught and I changed in the police holding cell. I escaped and the government caught me a few months later. They gave me a choice, death or servitude. I chose servitude and here I am.” She brushed her hand across my cheek gently. “Not that much different from you actually.”

I smiled. It felt nice that there was someone out that was in a similar boat as me.

Kate had one question to ask. “What about the other person?”

“What other person?”

She sighed. “You said there were two people in the Quantum Project. What happened to the second person?”

I shrugged. “Cameron’s files didn’t say. They were kinda light on info. actually. I’m not even sure what they did to me to tell you the truth. I know what I can do but I’m not sure if that is my Meta gift or if it’s something, they actually did to me. A lot of the stuff in the files was all blacked out; only pieces of it were left for me to read. There was nothing on what actually happened or the second person involved.”

We sat around in silence for a while. Finally, Vivian broke the silence as she looked at her watch. She said “Mon Dieu” again which made me smile. It was kinda cute when she said it. But apparently our meet and greet was now officially over. When she followed us to the door, she gave me a kiss on the cheek before I left. I wasn’t usually a fan of forward women but I kinda liked it. It was rare to meet someone who knew what they wanted and just went for it. I smiled the whole way down the hall to our rooms. I was a bit surprised with how big mine was, it was larger than two of my apartments. When I got to the bed, I smiled enormously as I flopped down on it.

I closed my eyes shortly thereafter and fell right to sleep.

__________________________________

“Why am I the ditzy girl in the crowd?” I asked softly into my throat mike as I moved among the crowd at the park.
I fought back the urge to reach up and scratch the wig on the top of my head. It was long and blonde, supposedly to fit in with the persona that Kate talked me into portraying. I’m just glad I was able to talk her into not making me wear the skirt. I got double teamed on that one, Vivian wanting to see how sexy my legs looked in it. But I was able to stand my crowd. Not that the skintight jeans and spaghetti strap black top were much of a compromise. Add those to over abundant amount of makeup Vivian slathered all over me and I definitely looked like a typical bimbo. It pissed me off. It pissed me off even more when I got to see what the two of them were wearing. Kate went simple: jeans and tee. But Vivian went a little overboard, dressed in red leather once again. This time it was the pants with a black shirt and red leather jacket.

She even had a motorcycle. She was stationed close to the podium, near where the Ambassador was set to speak. I met Catherine Cobert earlier this morning. She was just as beautiful as her bodyguard. She had that sexy French accent too and long black hair that flowed around her face. She had already done her speech and was now waiting like everyone else for the fireworks to start.

I could see the podium through the crowd of hundreds. I was trying to be like every other dumb blonde around me, pushing to get close to the front. The light was slowly dwindling around us, growing closer to the time of set off. So far, the day had gone off without a hitch. The three of us followed the Ambassador around in secret, always there but never noticed. First, it was her luncheon at the hotel; then it was her tour of the city. Finally, it was coming here to the park where she made her speech, accepted a key to the city from the Mayor and Governor and even walked amongst the crowd shaking hands. That was the scariest part of the day; it was the only real time where the three of us couldn’t get close to her. There were a couple of close calls but nothing life threatening.

It was clear that this guy was just a lot of hot air after all.

“You’re not using the code names,” teased Kate as I continued pushing my way toward the front.

I sighed. We came up with code names. Well Kate and I just used “Man-hunter” and “Bombshell”---the names that the DEO so nicely gave us. We both spent some time trying to come up with a good name for Vivian but she already had us there. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones clever enough to call our operatives by field names. She had one too. They called her “La Dame Pourpre” which translates as “the crimson lady”. But Kate wanted to one up that so she opted for something a little more sexy---dubbing Vivian the “Crimson Fox” for the remainder of her time with us. I think Kate was getting a few digs in---especially considering how Vivian clung to me the whole night.

“I’m not calling you Man-hunter in the middle of a crowd”

Kate huffed. “You’re no fun.”

Vivian laughed. “You Americans are fantastic. I think when this is over; I might ask to be transferred to the Embassy here in the city full time. I think I would love hanging out with you two.”

I blushed. I didn’t say it but I think I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her too.

We tried not to talk much after that. Instead, I continued to push my way through the crowd. I finally did get to the front of the group. I wasn’t exactly at the podium but I was close enough. The Ambassador was sitting in-between the Governor and his wife. She looked happy, smiling and waving at the ground. According to Vivian, this was a giant PR stunt. Catherine Cobert was practicing for her run at the presidency. She was a nice enough woman and if I was French, I’d definitely vote for her. Vivian didn’t really give me an opinion on the matter but she seemed to like Catherine a lot, too.

Finally at a quarter after nine, the fireworks finally started. Things were going pretty good until something happened. I’m not really sure what that thing was but one minute there was a loud scream and a lot of pushing. I turned to see a burst of flame and a flash of light behind me. The crowd pushed into me after that. I tried to fight back but my back was slammed into the podium. There was a mad rush in all directions as people panicked. It took me a moment or two to realize that a firework must have misfired and hit the crowd. There was a lot of screaming and pushing. I bit my lip, wondering if this was part of Major Force’s display of chaos.

I pushed back at the people shoving me, fighting back the urge to unleash my full force on them. I scanned the crowd, looking for anyone who loOked suspicious. At first, I didn’t notice anything out of place. In all the panic there was people running to and fro. The police and firemen there were trying to retain order. I looked at all of them and it was only then that I noticed one of them wasn’t looking at the crowd. He was looking at the podium, looking right at Catherine Cobert. I looked from him to her but there was something off about his gaze. I couldn’t figure it out until he wasn’t looking directly at her. I couldn’t figure it out until I saw the man sitting behind her: it was Colonel Eiling.

Eiling and the man locked eyes. It wasn’t the look of strangers. It was the look of two men who knew one another. It was also a look one might give someone else for screwing something up. I’d been as dumb as rocks when I was Nathaniel but after the change, I gained a great deal of clarity. I’m not sure where it came from but I never wanted it to go away again. But as I looked at Eiling, I realized that I’d been stupid enough not to see what was right in front of me.

“Kate” I shouted in my mike, trying to make myself heard over the crowd. I pulled the wig off as I stared intently at the bastard. “Its Eiling, he’s in on this. I don’t know but he’s after Cobert for some reason.”

A few seconds later, she shouted back. “Are you sure?”

“There’s a fireman he was looking intently at, it was the way they stared at one another. The plan didn’t go off as they planned it and Eiling looked pissed.”

Kate sighed. “I’m on it; you go after the bad guy.”

“Not alone” said another voice.

I looked around, wondering where Vivian was. Then I saw her, walking across the crowd. She was like a nimble cat, gracefully walking across the heads of the running people. It was the craziest and most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She stopped in front of me then pointed.

“Your man is going that way, toward one of those buildings.”

I nodded as she dropped down next to me. “C’mon” I said, taking her by the hand and pulling her along with me.

This time I didn’t care who I hurt. I had a job to do. I put on the push, practically shoving people out of the way, as I went. I didn’t like to show off how strong I was now but I couldn’t help it. Vivian squeezed my hand gently. We pushed our way through the crowd until we got to where we last saw him. All that was there now was his yellow fireman jacket. I sighed. Vivian, on the other hand, picked it up and pressed it against her face, taking a great big smell. It would have looked ridiculous if not for the next words out of her mouth.

“He went that way,” she said, pointing off to the left.

“How do you know that?”

She smiled. “I have enhanced senses” she said, then licked my hand.

“For instance, you taste like strawberries.”

I shivered and blushed.

Vivian took my hand this time and led. I let her drag me along. Hell I’d let her drag me anywhere. We followed the trail. She stopped every few feet or so to sniff the air, sometimes changing direction as she did so. His trail never went cold. We followed him right toward the building that she pointed out earlier. It was one of the newer skyscrapers they were building, it was still under construction. Vivian let go of my hand. She ran over to the scaffolding and climbed it like a cat, it was awesome. When she got to the top, she looked down at me and laughed.

“You take the stairs, I’ll go this way.”

I smiled and rushed for the front of the building. I only looked up to see her as she went along; climbing like it was the easier thing in the world for her. Then I went for the door. I grabbed it, twisting the knob and yanking it from its hinges. I tossed it aside and rushed into the building. It was an emergency exit. There were a lot of stairs. As I ran, I came onto sectors that were unfinished. Every few stairs or so, Vivian would talk to me on the radio, telling me I was going in the right direction. When I’d been running for what felt like hours, she told me to stop.

“He’s on this floor,” she said, panting.

“You Ok?”

She huffed. “A bit winded, I need more exercise.”

“You rest; I’ll take it from here.”

“Did you bring your gun to the display?”

I laughed. “I don’t need a gun.”

I pulled open the door. My body turning into steel as I did so. It wasn’t really steel. In fact, the guys at STAR Labs had no idea what it really was. They said it was some unknown alloy of unknown property. It was harder than titanium and couldn’t even be cut by a diamond bit. They ran a lot of tests, even going so far as shooting me a few times---I was apparently bulletproof too.

As soon as I stepped out of the stairwell, a roaring wall of fire came at me. It was a bright flash of light followed by heat. But it was unlike any fire I’d ever seen. It was much too bright and hot to be normal fire. I shielded my torso with my arms. The flames didn’t burn; they didn’t even singe my clothes. I took a step forward, walking through them. Another fireball came at me, coming from above. It slammed into the ground in front of me, melting right through the floor. I took a step back and looked up. He was up there, on one of the metal girders. He was crouched, staring down at me like a cat looking into a fish bowl. He still wearing the yellow fire pants, the suspenders dropped around the red shirt he was wearing. His hair was cut military style so it was clear that he wasn’t the run of the mill nut we took him for.

“Major Force I assume,” I said.

He smiled. “I like that; it has a nice ring to it. You mind if I keep it after I’m done killing you and that little bouncing bitch of yours.”

I smiled. “I’ll make sure they put it on your tombstone.”

He laughed and threw another one of his fireballs at me. This time he wasn’t playing around. It slammed right into me. I threw up my arms again, this time guarding my face. The fire roared around me, burning my unprotected shirt clean off my body. I coughed and looked down, frowning at the sight of my metallic boobs. So he could control the intensity of his heat, which was very interesting. Also very familiar. There was something about all his technique that was familiar, actually. He didn’t have the steel skin but his powers were nearly identical to my own. Which made me wonder if he was immune to my blasts as well.

I took a chance, charging my own first. I made a ball of blue light the size of a basketball and threw it. I sent it right for his head. It took him by surprise. It hit him full on in the face and he dropped backwards. He fell hard into the floor, cracking the concrete where he landed. When I got closer, I got a true look at him. The light from the moon was streaming in from his side of the building, which was unfinished. What I thought at first was a red shirt was actually red metal. His body was like mine but different too. Underneath that, I saw his legs were actually yellow under the pants. The fireman suit wasn’t just a disguise; it looked like he couldn’t walk around like I could.

He sat up, coughing. He looked at me and narrowed his eyes. “It’s you?”

He pushed himself shakily to his feet. He leaned against one of girdles for support. It was clear that he wasn’t made of the same stuff as me. I could have taken that ball to the face and the fall. It would have felt like nothing. But it was clear that he wasn’t as durable as me. He coughed again, stepped away from me.

“He said you were dead”

I took a step toward him. When he coughed again, there was blood.

“Are you all right?”

He shook his head. “I’m not complete. You were perfect but I wasn’t. My body rejected the process but you; you were his pride and joy.”

“You mean Eiling?” He nodded. I frowned. “Then why did he dump me on the side of the street?”

Major Force laughed. “He’s a sexist pig. He only wanted male soldiers. When you came out female, he thought you were faulty. It was only after he tossed you away that he made a mistake.”

It dawned on me then. Eiling knew me, he knew me the whole time. I felt like an idiot. “Then why all this? Why the attempt on the Ambassador?”

Force smirked. “He was testing you. He wanted to see which one of us was truly the more superior. He figured that there was no way I could stand up to even one of your blasts of energy.”

“What is it?” I asked, looking at my metal hands. “What is the Quantum project?”

Force coughed again. “You’ll have to ask Eiling about that. I’m done.”

He staggered backward. Then he smiled. “I’m sorry what we did to you. It was wrong. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret my hand in it.”

Then he took a step backwards and threw himself over the side. I rushed forward to grab him but it was already too late. His size and the weight of his metal body made him plummet like a stone. He was nearly out of sight by the time I got to the edge. When he finally hit the ground about a minute or two later, I heard the thud.

There was a commotion behind me. I turned around and saw Vivian, being supported by Kate. When the two of them stepped out of the stairwell, three armed men with guns rushed forward. I pointed to the side and then made the gesture of something falling. They nodded and holstered their guns. Then I walked over to Kate and Vivian. Vivian looked up at me shocked. I looked down and covered my bare metal chest.

I turned to one of nearby men. “Give me your jacket.”

He looked sheepishly at the hands over my metal breasts then handed over the garment. I didn’t turn back into normal until I had myself covered.

“Mon dieu” said Vivian softly. “I was enjoying the view.”

I blushed crimson. Then smiled wickedly. “If you’re nice, I’ll show them to you later.”

Her eyebrow rose. “Is that a promise?”

I smiled and took her hand, licking it. “You taste like cinnamon.”

This time she blushed, almost as red as her outfit.

Kate shook her head. “You two are way messed up.”
Vivian and I laughed.

I looked at Kate. “So, what about Eiling?”

She sighed. “He was after you apparently. He wanted to see how you handled this situation. When it was over, he was going to grab you. He didn’t count on his buddy getting premature.”

I nodded. “So Force sent the fire into the crowd.”

Kate nodded. “I guess so. It was never a part of the plan. He was supposed to go after the Ambassador and the two of you were supposed to duke it out. Eiling would slip away after witnessing the fight and get you later. It loOks like our baddie had a change of heart.”
I shook my head. “He was a tool. Eiling was just using him. He was the second man in the Quantum project.”

“Woman you mean” said Kate and I realized what that meant. Then she smiled. “He called him Ensign more than once if that means anything.”

I sighed. It did. She was there the whole time. No wonder she felt bad about what had happened. She must not have been as pure as I was. She was the perfect male specimen in the end but flawed too. I felt bad for her in the way. It looked like in the end she tried to stand up to him but didn’t have the full courage to do it. She was like me in so many ways but she definitely wasn’t as steel skinned as I was.

Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF



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