Suited For Adventure - Book 1 - Part 3 & 4

Things get better and/or worse (depending on your point of view)for our intrepid pretenders.

(sort of)

Parts 3 & 4

By Catherine Linda Michel


I slept that night, secure in the knowledge that, no matter what, my parents did really love me. Now I know that that should be a given. That is to say, that a child's parents SHOULD love that child, regardless of it's behavior or it's direction in life, but I have heard, and read, of parents throwing a child out of the house for any number of supposed things that the parents couldn't or wouldn't deal with. So when mine reassured me of their unconditional love and support, it was a real load off my mind.

Certainly, I'd expected nothing less from them, but it was very nice to have my expectations borne out, especially with the weirdness of the past day or two. I didn't yet know how long Jerry and I would be "stuck" in our exosuits, but at least now I knew that I didn't have to worry about love and support from my parents. I hoped that Jerry's parents were saying the very same things to him.

In fact, the only thing on my mind that next morning as I awoke, was the curious reaction I'd gotten from Jerry's sister, Claire, when she first saw me. Certainly that suit was very attractive and very well built, but I'd have thought that Claire would understand that what she saw was not real, that it was only a suit in which I was presently stuck much the same way that her own brother was. She'd actually seemed jealous or something when she'd looked at me! Well, I'd deal with that little situation when it came up again, if indeed it did. For now, I had to concentrate on getting out of my bed and cleaned up for my third day of captivity.

Well, it SEEMED like captivity to me, being stuck in that damn suit. I mean, I couldn't even get a, well, I couldn't get, um, excited in a male way while I was in that thing! I mean, I could get excited, but it didn't show, if you take my meaning. For example: I could GET excited, but I couldn't grab hold of anything and reach satisfaction like I could before. I could RUB down there and that seemed to do something, but it sure wasn't the same type of feeling. I knew that Dr. Fine, genius that he was, had built much more into these latest designs than Jerry and I were aware of, as yet.

Just looking at the HUD display and the sheer amount of information that seemed to be waiting to be accessed, indicated to me that these latest suits were as far ahead of their immediate predecessors as THEY were from the original first designs. There were things there on that HUD that I didn't even understand. Things like: BA and FA and M&BA. I was going to check them out, but Mom must have heard me waking up and she called up to me.

"Donna! Rise and shine, dear. Get decent and come down for breakfast. Penny has been up for hours and she has already been out to talk with Jim. I think you are going to want to hear what they have decided."

Oh shit! NOW what? My mind went off at about three or four different tangents and my thoughts were as scattered as the pieces of a shredded document, but where Mom was concerned, as I'm sure you all know by now, you didn't argue, you didn't even try to discuss. Once her mind was made up, that was it. So, from feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel for Jerry and me, I went to thinking that the light was the headlight of an onrushing freight train.

I had already begun rehearsing arguments against what Penny has postulated the previous day, that being that Jerry and I take up residence in an apartment, paid for by the lab, and that we would be expected to act as a couple, for security reasons. While I knew that Penny's plan would be maybe the best for all concerned, I was VERY unwilling to act as the female half of a married or even 'going steady' couple. Although I looked, for all the world, like an attractive woman, I was still a teenage boy under it all, and acting like a real woman was not only the farthest thing from my mind, it was the LAST thing I wanted to have to do.

Well, I showered, even I really didn't have to, (I explained that earlier) and got dressed in a very simple set of clothing, basically just a pair of slacks and a conservative top. Feminine of course, but not SO feminine that I would give anyone the idea that I was becoming comfortable with looking the way I did. Of course I wore the proper undergarments. Well, I HAD to wear the bra. If I didn't, my um, breasts would flop all over the place and, while it didn't hurt (well they weren't REAL, you know) it was still very distracting, both to me, and also to anyone looking at me. The panties? Well, they just seemed to fit better than my old Jockeys and they didn't make a bulge or show, under my slacks which fit a lot tighter than any of my old jeans had.

Slipping on a pair of what Mom had called 'flats' I left my room, headed downstairs to the kitchen. When I got there, I saw Mom and Penny seated at the table, involved in a discussion. Dad was nowhere in sight so I assumed that he had already left for work. Mom and Penny both looked up at me when I entered the kitchen and, while Penny sort of smiled at me, Mom gave me a horrified look and jumped up saying.

"My GOODNESS Donna! Your hair is a mess! Didn't you even TRY to fix it up a little bit? It looks like a rat's nest!" Without another word, she left the kitchen, returning moments later with a brush and a spray bottle of something.

"Now you just sit down here at the table young lady." She began. "You are going to have to learn how to do your own hair and I am going to start teaching you how, right now! So pay attention!" Having said that, she began brushing tangles out of my hair, spraying that stuff, whatever it was, all over everywhere it seemed, and all the while, keeping up a steady conversation with herself which went something like this:

"If you expect people to believe you are what you appear to be, you're going to have to take better care of your hair than THIS, young lady! Why, as beautiful as your hair is, I'd think you'd WANT to keep it looking as good as it possibly CAN look. THIS is totally unacceptable!" and so on and so forth.

Well, after about ten or fifteen minutes of that and Mom seemed to be marginally satisfied. I tried to tell her that hair care had never been in my schedule of education and that I was still her SON under all this, but although she seemed to accept those facts, she also seemed to be absolutely set on my acting like what I appeared to be. Never mind that I had no real idea of how to really BE a woman. Sometimes I thought that Mom wasn't that far from being mildly deranged. Certainly when she got an idea in her head, nothing would change her mind. I had learned, at a very early age, that arguing with Mom was a lot like cursing the weather. It might make you feel better, but it wouldn't accomplish anything at all. All anyone could do was go along with her and hope for the best, which is what I did that morning.

I sat there patiently waiting until she was done messing with my hair while Penny just smiled a little smile at me. That smile unsettled me as well. After Mom was done with my hair, she went and fixed a plate of bacon, eggs and toast for me and sat it down in front of me saying,

"Now, young lady, you eat some breakfast. You're going to need your strength. After you're done, Penny and I need to talk with you."

My stomach dropped into somewhere near my heels when Mom said that. How the hell could I eat when I knew what was coming? I knew that Penny was gonna tell me that the apartment idea was a good one and that Jerry and I would be moving to one very soon. I ate really slowly, hoping to put off as long as possible, what seemed to me to be the inevitable, impending doom. I remember thinking, 'Yep. That damned freight train is getting closer and closer, and I'm tied to the friggin' tracks!'

A little while later, after I'd finished my last meal, (well that was how I was thinking of it) Penny hitched her chair closer to mine and took my hand in hers. Looking into my eyes, she began to speak.

"Now Donnie. I know that what I'm going to tell you isn't what you want to hear, but listen to the reasons for it before you panic or get upset, okay?"

My heart seemed to be ready to leap out of my chest and my breathing got a bit ragged. NO! I did NOT wanna hear this!

"Jim and I have been in contact with the lab already this morning. They concurred with my thoughts about you and Jerry. The decision has already been made and preparations are already underway, so there is no way out of this and no way to change it. The two of you are going to be moved into a small condo on the outskirts of town. It will be paid for by the lab, out of a slush fund that Dr. Fine had set up for emergencies, so neither you nor Jerry will be out any money. The two of you will be set up with documentation and a cover story of being a young couple just starting out. It will become known that both of you are what's called 'trust fund babies'. That is to say that people will be told, via rumors, that both of you have considerable trust funds which will mean that neither of you will have to enter the local work force."

She paused then and seemed to consider her next words carefully.

"You will HAVE to appear to be a normal, loving couple, with all that that entails. That means, public displays of affection from BOTH of you and acceptance of those displays by both of you. We all feel that this is the best way to keep you two as anonymous as possible and to protect your families from any possible harm, either from you and Jerry, if you should slip and misuse one of the suits, as well as from others who might find out about you and want the suits for their own uses. Jim and I will also have a condo in the same unit as you and Jerry so we can keep an eye on you. Additionally, both condos will be outfitted with the very latest wireless intercom systems and you will be given prepaid cell phones as well. Whenever either or both of you leave your condo, Jin and I will shadow you. We'll be armed, you won't."

I noticed at that point, that Mom had left the room and Penny and I were completely alone in the kitchen.

"Considering the capabilities of the suits you and Jerry are stuck in, we don't feel that you need any further 'armament'. Certainly nothing short of a LAWS rocket can even make a dent in either of the suits, so we won't have to worry about that aspect of protecting you. In actuality, we will likely be more concerned with protecting the public from you! Donnie, all it will take is ONE incident where you or Jerry forget and utilize ANY of the capabilities in them and there will be more problems than you can shake a stick at! We are going to have to insist that you both keep the suits in the 'powered down' modes and that you pay particular attention to yourselves and your surroundings. You know that, if you bump against something that could bruise of cut anyone else, nothing will happen to either of you, but people will expect you to be hurt by such an occurrence and, if you don't ACT like it hurt, they'll get suspicious."

I interrupted at that point, having heard much more than I ever wanted to hear.

'But Penny!" I began. "Isn't there SOME other way of doing this? I mean, I'd rather be restricted to the LAB than this! I can't act like Jerry's girlfriend or, gulp, wife! I don't even know how to BE either one of those, and I certainly don't WANT to, especially with my best friend in the world! C'mon Penny! There HAS to be another way!" Okay, I was pleading. If I'd thought it would have helped, I'd have been on my knees, begging. I did actually think about doing exactly that, by the way.

"No, Donnie, there is no other way if we want to keep everyone safe from any harm. Look kid, I know that this is going to be really hard on both of you, you more than Jerry, but it's the best solution we can come up with right now. Believe me, if ANYTHING else can be done, it will be, but for the immediate future, this is the way it's going to be. Now I know we can't force either of you to accept this, but we hope that you will both see the sense and logic of doing things this way. Please, Donnie. Don't make this any more difficult than it has to be, okay? You'll only have to be acting in public. When you and Jerry are alone in your condo, you can just be yourselves, and remember, this is only until we can find a way to get you out of that thing."

She stopped talking then and just looked into my eyes. I couldn't find my voice for a few minutes and, when I finally did, it came out scared.

"Oh God, Penny. I'm so sorry for getting us all into this mess. Look, I can see your reasons and I can understand why the lab wants us to do things this way. What I can't see is myself acting like Jerry's significant other. I mean, we ARE both guys and we know each other almost as well as we know ourselves. I don't think Jerry is going to go for this any more than I am, but if he DOES agree with it, I guess I have no choice but to go along with it as well." I sighed. "Maybe we won't have to do this for more than a couple of days anyway, right? I mean, Dr. Fine is gonna come out of the hospital any time now, isn't he? He'll be able to get us out of the suits and our lives can go back to normal, right?"

Penny sighed then, too. She got this really serious look on her face and said,

"Donnie, I have something else to tell you. I was hoping I wouldn't have to, but....well, Dr. Fine is in a coma. Apparently he received much more serious injuries than anyone suspected when the lab collapsed. No one knows when or even IF he will ever come out of his coma, and without his help, the lab equipment can't be properly rebuilt. These latest designs that you and Jerry are stuck in are so advanced that none of the old stuff that could have helped you get free from them, will work. Dr. Fine had designed all new ways of getting you out of the suits and none of the engineers who helped build it, is able to reproduce it without his supervision. His notes are pretty much unintelligible and he only kept handwritten notes, as you know, so, until he comes out of the coma, I'm afraid that you and Jerry are going to be stuck just as you are. It could be tomorrow, or it could be never, when he comes to. I know that this is one more shock on top of another, but you need to know."

Well, CRAP and DAMN! Things had just gone from bad to impossible in one fell swoop. I felt faint, but something kept me from passing out. I did feel a slight constriction in the whole suit, but I was too concentrated on what Penny was telling me to notice it much at the time. Thinking back on it later, I realized that the suit must have somehow actually sensed the temporary loss of blood pressure to my head, and it automatically tightened itself on the rest of me to force blood back into my brain!

Penny didn't have much more to tell me, so we just sat there for a little while longer, discussing the logistics of what was gonna happen. Now this might sound strange, but there WERE a few things in this that struck me as not being totally negative. To begin with, I'd be out of my parent's house and away from their control. Oh, don't get me wrong, I loved them without reservation, but as a teenage guy, there was a singular lack of privacy when it came to my social life. Okay, I would be living as an adult WOMAN, but it would still be away from the restrictions that my parents placed on me, and I saw that as a plus. Neither Jerry nor I would have to be working for a living and that was a plus in my mind as well. Everything we needed or wanted, within reason, would be supplied to us by the lab. Yet another plus.

Okay, on the down side there was the fact that we'd have to act as if we were, (eyuck!) in love with one another while we were in public, but how bad could that really be? A little hand holding, maybe a kiss on the cheek or something like that, but nothing more than that, or so I thought at the time. Then, there was something that, curiously enough, hit me harder than anything else had up til then. That was the fact that I wouldn't be able to drive the 'BEAST!'

It would have to be placed in storage until this whole thing was over! Now you gotta understand. That car was my creation. It was the one thing that I had done all by myself. All the work, all the money, all the time I had put into making that car my 'signature,' as it were, would be the very thing that could give Jerry and me away! It was TOO recognizable as 'Donnie's car', and therefore, a real security risk. I gotta tell you, the thought of not being able to pilot the 'beast' proved to be the final straw and I broke down and actually cried right then.

I mean I blubbered like a friggin' baby! Penny actually took me into her arms and tried to comfort me, but it was as if the floodgates had opened and there was no way to close them. Even Mom was unable to console me, even though she came back into the kitchen when she heard me crying and hugged me as well. I finally had to excuse myself from the table and I ran to my room, slamming the door shut and locking it behind me. I threw myself on the bed and just let it all go. I must have cried for quite awhile and I also must have fallen into a little slumber, because the next thing I knew, Penny and Mom were pounding on my door, begging me to let them in. When I looked at my clock radio, it showed that two hours had passed!

I got off my bed and, on my way to the door, I glanced in a mirror, noticing that my face wasn't all puffy or red like it would have normally been. 'Well', I thought, 'at least there is one good thing about being in this damn suit. When I blubber like a woman, it doesn't show and my makeup doesn't run all over the place. Whoopie'

The rest of the morning is pretty much a blur in my memory. I remember little bits and pieces, but nothing with any real substance. The next thing that I remember clearly is pulling up outside the condos with Penny driving. There was another car already there and I recognized Jerry and Jim, Jerry's 'shadow'. Jerry looked as upset and concerned as I was, but I couldn't even think about that, really. All I could think about was that my life was changing WAY too fast and I couldn't keep up with the changes.

Well, we all got out of the cars and Jim and Penny took us to the condo that would be ours, Jerry's and mine. It was a very nice place, with a lot of open space and plenty of deep, soft carpeting all over the floors. There were two bedrooms I was very glad to see, and they were both of a size. Only the basic furnishings were there though, and Penny explained that it would be better if Jerry and I picked out the rest of them ourselves. I think I was still in some kind of shock and Jerry didn't seem to be in much better shape than I was just then, but shopping we went. Penny and Jim accompanied us of course. Ostensibly to help us pick out appropriate things for our respective rooms, but really to make sure we didn't slip up or give ourselves away.

Suffice it to say that, about 5 hours later, we had pretty much gotten everything we thought we might need to furnish the condo. Penny and Jim had also gotten what they wanted for THEIR condo as well. It was all to be delivered the following day, so instead of going directly back to the condo, we decided to get something to eat.

I think, by that time, most of the initial shock had worn off and Jerry and I were in much better shape than when we had started the day. We actually laughed a few times, like when Penny insisted that I get a vanity for my bedroom. We DID decide that, if we were gonna have to do this, we were gonna set things up the way WE wanted them. We demanded and got top of the line computers with all the bells, whistles and peripherals as well as top of the line stereos and TV/VCR/DVD/CD players all for our respective bedrooms. We also got the biggest, most impressive looking wide screen TV with everything built into it for the living room. We even wangled internet access with DSL! My thoughts through all this were, 'If we're gonna HAVE to do this, I'm gonna get everything out of it that I can.' And I'm certain that Jerry was thinking the same way. We finished off with kitchen stuff, plates, silverware, that sort of thing, and then I remembered one thing more that we had to have.

Three complete gaming systems, one for each of out bedrooms and one for the living room. Yeah, I know. I was thinking like the teenage boy that I was, not as the adult looking woman that I appeared to be, but I was also thinking that we'd be spending a lot of time in those rooms and those X-Boxes would get a real workout. By the time we were done shopping I was certain that we'd spent a LOT of the lab's money, but I didn't feel bad about it. Well, not THAT bad about it anyway. I knew that, once this was all over, all that stuff would either go back to the stores or be sold, with the money going back to the lab, but I was gonna stick it to them for as much as I could while I had the chance. Oh yeah. I had progressed from shocked and dismayed, to angry by that time.

I'll give Penny and Jim some credit. They tried to keep our spending down, but as angry as I was about all this, they had little luck in doing so. Yes, I know I was acting childishly, but hey, I WAS a child, really. Turn ANY not-quite-18 year old loose with a seemingly unlimited credit card and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Anyway, we went out to eat, after the biggest part of the shopping was done. I felt tired, but it didn't show, thanks to the suit. While we ate, we discussed 'the plan' as much as Jerry and I would allow it to be discussed. We were in public after all, so we really couldn't talk about much of anything having to do with the situation or the suits anyway.

Now one thing that hadn't changed in all this was the appetites of two teenagers. Jerry and I loaded up our plates at the buffet we ended up going to, like we hadn't eaten in days. Penny and Jim looked at us askance and Penny even whispered that I, at least, should try to eat like a lady. HAH! Fat chance of that happening. I was hungry and I was gonna eat and I was gonna eat the way I wanted to eat. The hell with the rest of the world. So with plates overflowing with rare roast beef, pork, potatoes and gravy and a small portion of vegetables, Jerry and I made our way to a table. Jim, bless his heart, just chuckled at the amount of food on our plates. I heard him whisper to Penny that this was something she'd just have to let go. She sighed and looked at us, but to her credit, she didn't say anything more. I guess she maybe figured that, if anyone asked, she'd just say that we had high metabolisms or something. I didn't care. I just tucked into that plateful of food.

Okay, I DID try, really hard, to at least eat like a lady. Normally I would have dived in, with knife and fork flying and watch your fingers if you try to reach in for any reason. This time, I sat up straight, took small bites and chewed with my mouth shut. I didn't even try to talk with my mouth full, a major accomplishment from my point of view. I did, however, go back for seconds and dessert. Penny sorta frowned at that, but I didn't care. I think, at one point, I even stuck out my tongue at her!

Once we were done with our dinners, we went back to our respective homes to say goodbye for awhile to our families. We went to Jerry's home first. Entering the house, we were met by Jerry's Dad and Mom, Fred and Ginny, his sister, Claire. Again I got that strange look from Claire and, while Jerry talked with his folks, I determined that I had to try to find out what the heck was up with Claire. I managed to catch her eye long enough to motion to her that I wanted to talk with her alone. She nodded and we excused ourselves from the main group. Penny started to follow us, but I motioned her off. She didn't seem to like it much, but she acceded to my wishes and let us have some time alone.

Claire led me into the kitchen where we sat down at the table.

"Claire," I began. "I'll get right to the point here. What's with the weird looks you've been giving me since this all came down?"

She looked at me really hard and didn't say anything for the longest time. Finally she did speak.

"Okay. First of all, I do know that that's you inside that thing, Donnie. It really freaks me out, I guess, that you look so damn pretty and sexy and all. I've known you for a long time and I'm having a really tough time dealing with the fact that you look, move and even sound like a real woman. I mean, I've been female all my life and you make me look like such a plain Jane and it's just not FAIR! It's not enough that my brother comes home looking like the hunkiest man I've ever seen and nothing like his normal self, but his best friend, GUY friend, comes here looking sexier and more female than I do! You gotta tell me, Donnie, you aren't turning gay or something, are you? I mean that would just freak me out WAY much! I always thought you were a real hunk, and, well, I always hoped that maybe you'd ask me to go out sometime. If you're turning gay on me, that'd just suck, ya know?"

So THAT'S what was on her mind. I had kinda wondered if that wasn't it. Hell, I HAD thought about asking her out sometime when she got a little older. I took her hand in mine and said,

"Let me put your mind at ease about one thing, Claire. I am NOT turning gay! I just happened to be testing this female suit when the accident happened and now I'm stuck in the damn thing for God knows how long. I don't know how much you know about these suits and I don't know how much I can actually tell you without getting us both in trouble, but believe me, I am as male as I ever was. I'm just, um packaged a bit differently for the time being. Now, because of security reasons, your brother and I are gonna have to move into a different place for awhile. It's only until we can figure out how to get out of these damn things and I can't get out too soon, I can tell you that!"

"But Donnie"! She protested. "You and Jerry aren't old enough to have a place of your own yet. Besides, I mean, okay Jerry can be a real pain in the butt sometimes, but he is my brother and I'll miss him, as weird as that sounds. Plus, with you looking like that, I mean, what's gonna happen with the two of you all alone in some apartment or something?"

"Trust me, Claire, NOTHING is gonna happen between me and Jerry! I'm still all guy under this thing and I have NO interest in Jerry other than being best buds with him like we've always been! Look, I know how this must all look to you, but I swear that none of this was planned. I can't tell you more than that, but you gotta believe me, Claire. This" and I indicated my appearance, "is the LAST thing I wanted to have to deal with. Think of how you'd feel if you were trapped inside a guy suit. That'll give you some idea of how I feel right now. I know nothing about actually being a woman and, even though the way this thing is built, it makes me move and sound like one, I still FEEL like my male self, inside my head, ya know?"

Claire just sat there, taking all this in. She seemed to be trying very hard to understand and I hoped that, in time, she would understand. She was very mature for a 15 year old.

"So," she continued. "What you're telling me is that you and Jerry are stuck in these suits, whatever they are, and you're gonna have to share an apartment or something until you can get unstuck. What I don't understand is, why? I mean, you guys could just stay home, couldn't you?"

"No Claire, we can't." I responded. "Because of some security stuff I can't tell you about, it's been deemed, by the people who made these suits and who own them, that all of us will be safer if we aren't associated with our families until after we can get out of them. I'm afraid that I can't tell you any more than that. I'm sorry."

Well, she hemmed and hawed around for a few more minutes, but when she realized that she wasn't gonna get any more information from me, she gave a big sigh and said,

"Okay, Donnie. I guess I sorta know what you're trying to tell me. I guess also that I WAS a bit jealous of how you look and stuff. You say that there's nothing gonna happen between you and Jerry and I guess I believe that as well, but will you promise me something?"

"Sure, Claire. What?"

'When this is all over, will you and Jerry give me the real scoop about all of this? I mean the REAL story, not what they SAY you can tell?"

"Claire, I can promise that I will tell you as much as I can. There might end up being parts of this that Jerry and I won't be able to tell anyone, not even you, as much as we might want to, okay? That's the best I can do. I hope it's enough. I'm afraid it'll have to be for now. One other thing, Claire and this is VERY important. You can't tell ANYONE about any of this! Not your best friends, not anyone. I can't stress too much how important this is. If you DO tell anyone, it could endanger me, Jerry, you, and both of our families! So you gotta promise, your BEST promise, that you'll keep all of this only to yourself and your Mom and Dad, okay? Please Claire, you gotta promise. I would hate myself if anything bad happened to you or to our families because you couldn't keep this secret!"

"Oh man! You really know how to hurt a girl, don't you? You tell me the biggest, deepest secret I've ever heard and then you tell me that I can't share it? You really DON'T know anything about being a girl, do you? I'll tell you what I WILL do. If you can promise me that, when this is all over, you'll give me the straight story, I'll not only keep your secrets, but I'll even help you learn how to be the girl you appear to be. I can teach you LOTS of stuff! Oh, Donnie, it could be FUN!"

Oh boy. NOW what had I gotten myself into? Now the girl I'd maybe wanted to date sometime, wanted to teach me how to become more feminine? YIKES!!! On second thought though, this could be a good thing. Claire was a lot closer to my real age than Penny was and she COULD teach me some stuff that I would need to know. I would still need to learn from Penny, because she was closer to my apparent age, but I'd need to know things that only a teenage girl would know too, at least that's the way I was thinking right then.

Now before you ask, let me clue YOU in. NO! I was not giving in to some hidden 'feminine side' of me. As far as I knew at the time, I had NO feminine side. I was a guy. Macho, tough (or so I believed) and male to my very core. I had never had any desire to try women's clothes nor had I ever wondered what being a girl was like. I just never thought about things like that. It was only an accident that I appeared to be female and that would be rectified as soon as the good Dr. came out of his coma, right? Right.

Well, the most that I could promise Claire was, if Penny, Jim and the rest of the security department would allow it, I would tell her all I could, but only after this was all over. Claire seemed to accept that as well as my warning about possible harm to our families and her last words that night, on the subject, were,

"Okay, Donnie. Or do I call you Donna now? I guess that'd probably be more appropriate, wouldn't it? The only thing is, DAMN you still make me jealous! It just isn't FAIR that you can look that good by accident and I have to work so hard to be pretty! That makes me SO mad, but I guess I can't really blame you. I mean, you didn't get yourself stuck in there on purpose, right?"

"Exactly right, Claire. I'd MUCH rather be stuck inside the suit that Jerry is wearing, if I had to be struck at all! You can't imagine how embarrassing this is for me, you know? Anyway, so we have a deal, right Claire?"

"Yes Donna, we do." And that was the end of our conversation. I found out later that Penny had been eavesdropping at the kitchen door and was prepared to jump in and interrupt if I said too much. Apparently I hadn't, because she left us alone until I was finished talking to Claire.

By the time I was done talking to Claire, Jerry had finished talking to his parents and was ready to leave. He wasn't taking very much of his own stuff with him, though. His own clothes wouldn't fit him, of course, and some of his possessions would be a dead giveaway to anyone who saw them where they didn't belong. He did take some of his programs and games for his computer and for the X-Boxes, and some CDs but that was about all. He said his final goodbyes and we left, headed for my home. Yes there were tears and crying and all that, but everyone knew that this was necessary and wouldn't be forever.

Unfortunately, on the way to my house, something happened. We came across an accident that must have just happened seconds before we came along. There were no people around other than those involved in the accident and one woman was trapped in her car, while the driver of the other car was out of it, but unconscious.

We stopped, of course, and checked out the man outside his car. Penny and Jim said that he was breathing okay and didn't appear to be hurt very badly, but they were concerned about the woman who was trapped. They tried to open her car door to get her out as the car was leaking fuel and could catch fire or even explode, but they couldn't budge that door.

Well, I looked at Jerry and he looked at me, and we both knew what we had to do. I yelled at Penny and Jim to stand away from the car and Jerry and I powered up the suits. The systems came online right away and I could feel the difference in the way I moved. Jerry grabbed the car door and I braced against the car right next to the door. Jerry pulled back on that door and I pushed in the opposite direction and that car door popped off like a cork coming out of a champagne bottle! Then we straightened the bent steering column like it was made of taffy! We sort of stood back then, and let Jim and Penny take over. They, very carefully, eased the woman out of her car and, by that time, she was unconscious.

Now, while Jerry and I had been doing our thing on the car, Penny had called the police and rescue squads and we could already hear sirens coming our way. Penny and Jim made certain that both victims were breathing okay and weren't bleeding too badly and then we piled into our cars and got the heck out of there. We didn't need to be answering any embarrassing or even potentially dangerous questions from the cops or anyone else! I felt kinda bad about leaving those people at the scene of the accident, but I also knew that Penny and Jim were very right. We HAD to get out of there before the cops or ambulance arrived and questions got asked that we couldn't answer.

I can tell you this, though. I felt very proud of myself and of Jerry. We had finally had a chance to use those suits and it felt good to know that we had not only done the right thing, but we had also field tested the suits to boot. What a feeling! I felt like a real superhero! COOL!!!

The rest of that evening was pretty much anti climatic. The scene at Jerry's house was repeated at mine, except that my Mom didn't seem to be able to fully grasp that I would be going away and would be out of contact until this was over. Well, by now you know Mom, right? She did finally accept the facts though and I took pretty much the same sort of stuff from my room, that Jerry had taken from his. Tears, crying, all that. Yeah, I was kinda upset about having to move out like that, but I was also still riding an adrenaline high from what we had done at that accident scene.

We left my house and headed back to the condos. On the way there, we heard on the radio that there had been an accident at such and such an intersection and they were warning people to stay away from the scene until the police and ambulance crews could get things cleaned up. They also said that the police were asking anyone who had any information about some people who had stopped to help, to come forward and help identify them! EEP! Had there been witnessed we hadn't seen?

My adrenaline high vanished almost immediately and was replaced by fear. Would we be identified? Would this whole thing be blown wide open by the press or by well meaning witnesses?

Chapter Four

Arriving back at the condo, we hurriedly debarked from the car and virtually ran inside to turn on the television. Tuning to the local affiliate, we waited for the news to come on, or for a bulletin to pop up. Jerry and I were as nervous as two long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs, but, compared to Penny and Jim, we were the epitomes of calm!

Penny was damn near beside herself with both anger at me and Jerry, and concern for both our immediate, and our long-term futures.

"How COULD the two of you pull a stunt like that?" She began. "What if there WAS a witness to what you did? Holy shit you two dumbbells! Do you have ANY idea of what could happen to all of us?" And on and on like that.

Jim, to his credit, even though he seemed very upset as well, was trying to calm Penny down saying,

"Jeezus, Penny! Will you, for God's sake calm down? I looked around at the accident scene, pretty damned carefully and I didn't see anyone but us there! There were no other vehicles, and no houses for a block in either direction. We got out of there in plenty of time and I'm certain that no one else saw what happened with the kids here, or what they did! You know, Penny, you're beginning to worry me more than THEY are! Would you TRY to remember that these are only two 17 year-old BOYS we're dealing with here, and not two adults?"

He paused for a minute, perhaps to gather his thoughts, and then continued.

"Look, Penny. I know that you're worried as hell about their futures and about our jobs, but there's something bigger to worry about if you must worry at all. Suppose Dr. Fine never comes out of that damned coma? What then? Think about this, Penny. If Dr Fine never wakes up, or if he DOES wake up but is out of his head, what the hell do we do with these two? We can't get them out of those damn suits, and no one at the lab knows enough to be able to rebuild the equipment without his plans, which are mostly in his damn head! Now I don't know about you, but I sure as hell don't wanna spend the rest of MY life babysitting the new "Dynamic Duo" here!" (Yes, yes I know. The term Dynamic Duo is the commonly accepted terminology for Batman and Robin. No hate mail please? Thank you! LOL)

Jim paced around a bit, talking mostly to Penny, but sometimes to himself, mumbling and grumbling. Meanwhile, Jerry and I were PUMPED!

"DUDE!" Jerry hollered. "Did you see me rip that door off that car? Man, I felt like that freakin Iron Man guy or something!"

"Did I SEE you?" I shot back at him. "I was right there next to you, dummy! Remember who was holding the car so you had the leverage to rip off that door? It was majorly cool though, I gotta admit!"

Then.......Jerry did something that I hadn't anticipated. He, well he, okay, he grabbed me and HUGGED me! He even tried to KISS me! I was too shocked to do anything immediately, but, as his lips got closer to mine, I managed to shove him. He flew a few steps backward with a shocked look on his face.

"What'd you do THAT for?" He expostulated. "I was only gonna......oh shit, Don! I'm sorry man. It's just, you look so damn good in that thing I forgot, ya know? I mean it was just, like a spur of the moment thing, dude. Shit! This is getting freaky, ya know? Jeeze man, I'm sorry."

"You're sorry. You're SORRY?" I fired back. "What the shit do you mean, you're SORRY? Christ man, this is DON in here, remember? I ain't your damn GIRLfriend or anything and don't you EVER forget that! Man, I'll break your FACE if you ever try anything like that again, friend or no friend! You kinda "forgot"! My ASS, you forgot!"

I stepped closer to him with my fist raised to swat him a good one. At that precise moment I noticed something. Yeah, I made a fist all right, but my thumb was inside my fingers, the way a GIRL would make a fist! Somehow, that simple thing became very important to me. 'What the fuck?' I remember thinking. 'I can't even make a friggin' FIST like a guy? Well SHIT!'

Okay, okay. I know. I KNEW that the suit made me move like a woman, but I never dreamed that it went THAT far!

Now Penny and Jim had witnessed this little byplay between Jerry and me and they were both staring at us.

"What's going on?" Jim yelled. "What the hell are you two up to now? Jesus, as if we haven't got enough problems, you two are gonna fight about this? GROW THE FUCK UP, BOTH OF YOU! Do you have any idea of what you two could do to this place if you got in a fight? Christ! I'm going outside for a smoke. You two better get your shit together real fast, got it? Penny. Join me outside. We've got talking to do and I don't need the 'kids' overhearing it." He stomped over to the door, obviously furious with Jerry, me, AND Penny.

He turned towards us before he stepped out the door saying,

"Do the two of you think you can at least ACT like adults while Penny and I talk privately? Or should I call around for a friggin' BABY sitter for you?"

Well, I didn't know where the hell he thought he'd get a super powered baby sitter, and the mere thought of it made me start to giggle. Yeah, I giggled, okay? I couldn't help it. That's the way it came out of my damn mouth! Well, the expression on my face when I heard that giggle come out of me, started Jerry chuckling and, before too long, we were both laughing and snorting. Even Penny smiled, I guess the same thought had occurred to her. Jim just looked at us with this disgusted look on his face, beckoned to Penny, and they left the condo, closing the door behind them.

Well, Jerry and I completely lost it at that point. We were both almost rolling on the floor with laughter.

"Who...who-oo-oo does he-he-heeee think could baby-sit US! The Incredible Hulk or somebody?" said Jerry, in between fits of laughter.

"May--maybe SHE Hulk!" I sputtered. "After all, baby-babysitters are supposed to be--be--girls, aren't they?" and off we went into more gales of laughter.

I guess that laughter was just what we needed right then, because after we calmed down a bit, Jerry looked at me and said,

"Look, Don. Please don't get pissed at me if I screw up like that again, willya? I can't help how you look man, and you look Mmmmaahhvelllous dahling!" and off I went into gales of laughter again. His impression of Billy Crystal doing his take off on Fernando Lamas just blew me away. It wasn't good, mind you, just funny as hell just then.

When I finally calmed down enough to talk intelligibly again I said,

"Look man. I can't promise anything, but I'll try to remember how I look and the effect it has on others, especially you, okay? That's the best I can promise dude. Think how YOU'D feel if it was you in here, and I was coming on to you like that! Jer, this is just too friggin' freaky, okay? I mean, at least YOU look like a guy. Nothing like you REALLY look, but still a guy. I look like every guy's wet frickin' DREAM, for Christ's sake, and I'm not used to it yet, okay? I don't think I'll EVER get used to it. You think I haven't noticed guys checking me out while I was shopping with Mom and Penny? How do you think that made me feel?"

He didn't have much to say about that, and I continued.

"I'll tell ya how it made me feel, Jerry. It made me feel dirty, used, like a piece of friggin' meat! I could tell what was on the mind of every damn guy who gave me the once over and more! They all wanted to get my ass in bed and DO me, and it made me feel cheap and scared, okay? Jeeze, I hope the hell I never looked at girls like those guys looked at me! If I did, I'll never do it again, once I get outta this damn thing, I'll tell you that! You have NO idea, Jerry. No CLUE!" and then......oh God, then I actually started to CRY, just like a girl! DAMN you Dr. Fine! What the hell did you DO with this stinking suit?

Jerry just stood there looking at me. Finally he moved closer and kind of put his arm over my shoulder, guy style.

"Look man, I AM really sorry, okay? You're right. I never even considered what it must be like for you to be trapped in that female suit, man. I guess I been too tripped about how I feel in this hunk of a male one, ya know? I mean the chicks have been checking ME out, big time, not like before when they wouldn't even glance at me! I feel like friggin' superstud in here, and I'm lovin' it man! But you're right about me not thinking about how YOU feel in there, and I promise I'll do my best not to forget who's really in there, okay?"

"Oh man, Jerry." I sobbed helplessly. "I don't know what this 'tears' bit is all about man. I don't cry like this, you know that. I'm sorry about this man." And I really lost it at that point, breaking down into big, gulping sobs.

Jerry pulled me in closer, hugging me and saying.

"No man, don't. It's gonna be okay ya know? You go ahead and cry. I know if it was ME in that thing, I'd probably be bawling my eyes out too, so you go ahead. Let it out, and this, this hugging thing going on right now? It's just me comforting my best bud in the world, okay? Don't get freaked out again or nuthin', all right? The last thing I need right now is for you to shove me again. That HURT, man, and I didn't think ANYTHING could hurt us inside these things!"

Well, I did feel a bit silly, standing there being hugged and comforted by this handsome guy, but I also felt.....I dunno. I felt kinda safe, ya know? As a guy, I'd always been told that, 'guys don't show their feelings', and, 'guys don't cry.' Ya know? 'Take it like a MAN', and all that kinda shit. Somehow it felt very nice to just let go for once and to be comforted by someone for a change. I kinda, well, melted into Jerry's hug, returning it slightly and burying my face in his big chest. Then, after a couple of minutes, those ugly, 'HOMO!!!' thoughts burst into my mind again, and I pushed him away from me, a little more gently this time, though.

"Thanks, Jer. I think I kinda needed that, ya know? I dunno what the hell Dr. Fine did in the programming for this damn suit, but, to tell you the truth, it did kinda feel okay to have you hug me while I was crying there. I just couldn't seem to stop, ya know? It was like it was outta my control or something. I'm sorry for doing that to ya, man. I shouldn't be doing shit like that in front of my best friend, right?"

"No, Don! Man, don't be like that! What the hell are friends for if you can't let yourself go, in front of them? Dude, we been buds since I can remember, and that's the first time I felt like we actually made a real connection, person to person! Don't sweat that shit, okay? I'm gonna be right here for ya and you're gonna be right here for me, until this shit is over, right?" and he play slugged me on the arm.

"You got that shit right, duder." And I play slugged him back. "We're in this together and we gotta watch each others backs. Well," and here I kinda gave a little laugh, "at least there is ONE good thing about this damn suit."

What's that, man?"

"Well, my makeup doesn't run when I cry!" and that set the both of us laughing again.

About that time, Jim and Penny came in from outside and stood there looking at both of us like we'd lost what was left of our minds or something.

"What the hell's been goin' on in here? Jim asked.

Jerry looked at me and I looked at him, and we cracked up all over again.

"' man." I managed to choke out between fits of giggles. We..we..we were expecting Sh..Sh..She Hulk coming through that door is all!" At that point, all sense left my mind, and I fell to the floor, laughing my ass off, followed quickly by Jerry. We rolled on that floor, laughing like a couple of madmen.....well okay, like one madman and one madWoman, okay?

When Jerry and finally recovered enough to get up off the floor, Jim and Penny were still standing there, staring at us like we HAD lost our minds. Penny said,

"Okay, here's what Jim and I have decided. First of all, no matter WHAT, you two do NOT use any of the abilities of those suits unless we tell you to do so, right? Second of all, I think we all need some sleep. This has been a really long day and I'm tired as hell. I'm sure you two are as well. So let's get some sleep and we'll talk more about this in the morning, over breakfast. Besides, both of you need to recharge, don't you? So let's get ready for bed. Jim and I will be just across the hall if you need us."

Jerry and I looked at each other.

"Dude! She's right!" Jerry said. "We gotta power up!" and off we both went again, laughing helplessly on the couch. I guess everything just seemed funny to us at that point.

Jim and Penny just looked at us disgustedly and Jim said, as they left,

"Kids! What the hell are we gonna do with 'em, Penny?"

I didn't hear her answer because she closed the door as she said it. Jerry and I laughed ourselves out in a few more minutes and then we went to our respective rooms (Yes! We had SEPARATE rooms! Sheesh!) to get ready for bed. There wasn't a lot to do, as I've told you before. Just a quick wipedown with a damp washcloth was all it took. I have no clue as to how the suits handled the sweat and stuff inside them. All I do know is that I never felt uncomfortable or sticky or unclean while I wore it. Oh yeah, I DID have to wash my 'hair', but only to clean the extraneous, outside dirt from it, not to clean perspiration or dead skin cells from it. Amazing, amazing technology, those suits were. I didn't know whether I was gonna HUG Dr. Fine when he got back, or crush him in my bare (well, SORTA bare) hands!

Well, Jerry and I managed to get ourselves cleaned up and plugged in for recharge. We really didn't need to recharge, having had the suits on stand-by mode for most of the day, with the exception of the time spent getting the people out of that wrecked car, but we talked it over and decided that fully charged suits would be better to have IF anything came down and we had to really use the suits again at full power.

Y'know, it occurs to me that you, reading this journal, must think that Jerry and I were some kind of flaky teenage troublemakers. I gotta tell you, we weren't. I'm not saying we were angels or like that, but we didn't cause any real trouble, ever. Of course, we did the typical teenage stunts, but nothing that would have ever gotten us into REAL trouble, ya know what I mean?

I can also see where you might think that those damn suits had driven us both bonkers, with wild mood swings and shit like that, and I can't say for sure that you're wrong. I know that I was definitely feeling higher highs and lower lows than I had ever done before, but a lot of that was due, I think, to the fact that, to the world, I wasn't who I had always been, anymore. Okay, neither was Jerry, but at least HE was still male and appeared that way to the world. I, who had also been male, now appeared to the rest of the world, as a sexy, mature looking woman, and the suit made sure that I ACTED and sounded like one as well, and THAT was at the base of my mood problems, I think.

I mean, think if it was you out there. Trapped in some kinda "supersuit' and of the opposite sex. How would YOU feel? Confused? Uncertain of your future? Scared? I know that I damn sure was all of that and more. Well, anyway, back to the journal.

The suits had a built in "overcharge" feature that allowed them to shut off the charging when they were fully up to snuff, so Jerry and I didn't have to worry about overcharging them. All we had to do in the morning was unplug and get dressed. Well, after normal morning tasks like, well, you know.

Jerry was already up and puttering around in the kitchen when I finally made it out there. He was peering into the fridge and the cupboards. He must have heard me coming in because he turned to me and said,

"Shit man! This sucks. There isn't a damn thing to eat in here!" and he slammed a cupboard door in anger or whatever, breaking the door in the process.

"Okay, Jer. Just cool it!" I responded. "So we'll have to out to buy food and for breakfast, is all. It's no big deal! Now look what you did. You busted the damn door. You're supposed to have the suit on standby, remember? Jeeze you can be dumb sometimes, ya know?"

"Oh, and who are you now, My Mother or something? I know we're supposed to have the damn suits on standby, but who's gonna make me? You? I LIKE the feeling of power I get when I use this thing the way it's MEANT to be used, and I'm gonna use it, no matter what Penny or Jim say! C'mon, Don, you can't tell me that the feeling like you can do anything you want to, doesn't get to you too?"

Sighing, I sat down at the kitchen table.

"Okay, Jerry, look. Yes, the power of these things IS tempting and, Yes, I have been tempted to use it, but can't you see that that would only lead to more trouble than we already have? You can't tell ME that you think these suits have the power to withstand all the forces that the government could bring to bear on us, can you? I dunno about you, but I don't plan to be arrested and spend however long in some government "dungeon." All I wanna do is get outta this thing as quick as possible and, failing that, I wanna be as inconspicuous as I possibly can!"

Now you don't know somebody like Jerry for your whole life, without getting able to read their moods, and even under the suit, I could tell that Jerry was getting close to doing something we'd both regret. He'd never been a really strong willed kinda guy, always taking the easy way out of most things, and I was worried that he'd try to do the same thing now. I knew I hadda talk him down or we'd all be in the shit, WAY deep, so I said,

"Jerry, man, I know you. You know me too, and that's our ace in the hole in all of this. Penny and Jim, all they know about us is what was in our applications and what they've learned about us in the time we worked at the lab. You and me, we gotta stick together in this. These suits can only lead us into WAY more trouble than either of us wants, and you know that, man. Also, we gotta think about our families, duder. What do you think'll happen to them if we screw up? They'd be in just as much crap aw WE would, and you know that too, don't ya?"

Jerry kinda stood there, shaking his head a little bit from side to side and he finally said,

"Yeah. Yeah. Shit man. I DO know all that shit. It's just that, man, think about it, Donnie! We're real, legitimate superheroes, man! We can do stuff that nobody in the whole rest of the world can do! Hell, if we WANTED to, we could TAKE what we want! Who's gonna stop us?"

Oh damn. This was something I'd been worried a little bit about, but I hadn't let myself think about it at all.

"Jerry, are you tellin' me that you wanna be some kinda super criminal or something?" Man, I don't EVEN wanna hear THAT shit! Not comin' outta YOUR mouth! Damn, man, we've been through too much together! We're buds, for God's sake! I damn sure don't wanna go against the law, and I won't, no matter what you do. If you try to go that way, my friend, friend or not, I WILL try to stop you and you know that! Tell me that ain't what you're thinking, man. Please?"

"Donnie, man, just THINK about it, dude. All those guys who picked on us, all the teachers who dissed us, all the girls who wouldn't date us, we could get back at ALL of 'em man!"

"Yeah, right. Maybe YOU could get back at some of them, but the girls who wouldn't date us? I don't think I'm gonna be too successful at getting mine back at them, looking like THIS, do you? Besides, you're talking crazy, man! This isn't you, I know it isn't. You're letting this get to you too much, kinda like I did last night. You gotta fight it Jerry. C'mon, man. Don't do this to me, to us, to our folks!"

He looked me straight in the eyes for the longest time. Then, he sat down at the table with me, reached out and took my HAND in his! He let out a big sad sounding sigh and said,

"Yeah, Don man, you're right. I dunno where my head was going just them. I guess maybe this shit is getting to me more than it should. It's so damn freaky to have all this power, ya know, and speaking of freaky, seeing you looking like that, is SUPER freaky, man. I have a really hard time remembering who's inside that thing, man. Shit! Man, you gotta stick with me through this, Donnie. I don't know if I could do this alone, ya know? I don't know what the hell got into me a minute ago, but thinking back on it, it scares the crap outta me, man. Look, don't let me get outta control, okay?"

I held his hand in mine for a long time, finally saying,

"Jerry, you are my best bud in this world. I'm sure as hell not gonna let you go freaky-deaky on us, okay? Hey, it won't be that long til ol' Doc Fine is gonna be outta that hospital and back in the lab. Then we can crawl outta these friggin' things, and stuff will be right back to normal, okay? Hang in there, m'man. We'll come through this just fine if we stick together and don't give in to "The Dark Side", right?" (Okay, big deal. Jerry and I are both Star Wars fans. There are worse things to be fans of, you know. Country music? Need I say more? I thought not. Heh.)

"Hey! Right you are, Luke! We can't go over to 'The Dark Side'. That'd be TOTALLY uncool. Okay, Don. You and me, right? Jedi knights to the end."

"You got it, man."

Now it never occurred to me that through this whole thing, we were holding hands. It seemed kinda.....well, right, ya know? I dunno if it was the suit working some kinda voodoo on me or what, but when I DID notice it, I didn't snatch my hand outta his. I just kinda let it stay there until we both felt it was the right time to let go. Weird, right?

Well, we sat there for quite awhile, just looking at one another, not saying much of anything at all. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. We finally ungrasped hands and Jerry got up to see who was at the door. Huh. Imagine that. It was Penny and Jim. Surprise, surprise. Not!

Okay, so they wanted to go out for breakfast and some talking and Jerry and I thought that sounded like a plan. We went and got dressed while they went down to warm up the car. Where did we go to eat? Where would you think? Anyplace that had a breakfast buffet, that's where! Hey, Jerry and I were STILL two growing boys, ya know? I won't bore you with what we had or how much of it Jerry and I ate. Suffice it to say that Penny and Jim acted like they didn't even wanna know us, by the time we were done eating. Heh.

Our next stop was one of those new cell phone places where we got that "family" plan thing. You know, where four members of the same family can get their calls to one another, free? We also got a cool plan that gave us 1000 free minutes every month, each! Neat, huh? Now, okay. There WAS a serious reason for all this. Along with everything else, these new phones acted like walkie-talkies to boot, so we could always get in almost immediate touch with one another. Better for security reasons, right? Well, Jim and Penny thought so anyway. Me? I just thought the phones were cool. Hey! Quit laughing! I was a kid! Sue me for wanting to be cool.

From the phone place, we went to the park where we figured we would have plenty of space and privacy for talking. We found a good spot by the lake and Jim and Penny began things.

"Okay, now here's the final plan. Dr. Fine, from the look of things, is going to be anything BUT fine. The last word we had from the hospital, when we called this morning, was that Dr. Fine has suffered some kind of mental 'lapse'. He's out of his coma, but fruitier than a nutcake, so to speak. Right now, they have NO idea when he'll come out of this 'fugue' state, if ever, so we had to come up with a plan B.

Plan B? Hell, I didn't even know we were in Plan A! Oh well. Jim continued.

"We will maintain our pretense at the condos, only for a much longer space of time then we originally planned for. Donnie, you and Jerry are going to have to get 'into your parts' more deeply than we thought would ever be necessary. You're going to HAVE to convince everyone you may meet, that you two are newly married and deeply in love. I know how hard that's going to be for both of you, but there's no other way to do this if we want to remain here in this city and close to the lab, in case something happens."

I stopped Jim right there, saying,

"Whoa, whoa, WHOA! In LOVE? You gotta be kidding me! There's no freakin' way I can pretend to be in LOVE with Jerry here! Jeeze! What the hell are you trying to make me do? Jimbo, in case you didn't know, I'm a friggin' GUY under all this suit crap, remember? How the hell am I supposed to act like I'm in love with another guy, let alone with my best guy friend?"

"Donnie, you are going to HAVE to make this work. It's the only way that we can keep the lid on things and keep you two safe. You know that if word gets out about you two, all hell will break loose and that would NOT be good for you, for us, or for your families. That's not a threat, Donnie. It's the unpleasant, unvarnished truth and you know it."

Penny broke in then saying,

"Donnie, Donnie, believe me, I know how difficult this is going to be, on both of you. I know it isn't fair and I know that neither of you want things to be this way, but we have no other option. You two HAVE to make this work and it's going to take every bit of guts and determination and sacrifice that you possess! I know that this is going to be SO much tougher on you, Donnie, than it will be on Jerry here. You are going to have to learn a whole new way of relating to the world around you and you'll have to UNlearn 17 years of ingrained male behavior. How well you do this, will be how well we pull this whole thing off. You two will have to.........what was that?"

I heard a scream coming from the lake and apparently, Penny had heard it as well. Jerry and I looked at one another and then at Jim and Penny. They were looking in the direction that the scream had seemed to emanate from. I, meanwhile, had gone off standby mode and had accessed the vision portion of the suit's capabilities. Diagonally across the small lake (a large pond, really) I could see a man and a woman, seemingly being attacked by four punks. The man was already down and the punks seemed to be intent on doing something besides merely robbing the woman.

I was primed and ready to go and I could tell that Jerry was, as well, but we both looked to Jim and Penny for a sorta go-ahead. As far as I could tell, that section of the park was pretty deserted and, when Jim nodded his head, Jerry and I shifted into high gear and went!

I went one way around the pond and Jerry went the other way. I figured that I'd probably arrive on the scene about two minutes ahead of Jerry who had more distance to cover, and I tried to keep that timing as I ran very quickly in the direction of the punks. When I got a bit closer I started yelling at them, hoping to interrupt them and get their attention on me, and off the couple in trouble. They began to yell back at me,

"Hey bitch! You better get your ass the hell outta our business unless you want some of the same! Matter of fact, you one fine lookin' ho! Frankie, Tim, GET her ass and drag it over here. Looks like we get a double shot today!"

Two of the punks broke off and headed in my direction. I'm sure they must have thought I was crazy to keep on running towards them instead of turning to run away, but they kept on running toward me. I guess they figured that even a crazy, good looking woman was better than no woman at all. I could see Jerry, getting closer to the other two punks and I yelled again, to keep all their attention on me.

The two coming at me, reached out to grab hold of me and I let them get a good hold. Then I reached out with both hands, grabbed their clothing and wrenched hard! The result? Well, it was even more than I had hoped it would be. They both went sailing over my head, losing their grips on me as they went! One landed in the pond, but the other one slammed face first into a tree. He went down and didn't even wiggle! The one in the pond was yelling frantically and the two still over by the couple in trouble looked up to see what was going on. I headed for the one in the pond because I could see that Jerry was closing rapidly on the remaining two. I didn't see exactly what happened, but by the time I got the jerk out of the pond the other two were down and not moving.

The idiot I dragged out of the pond tried to pull a knife on me and pissed me off even more. I let him try to stab me in the stomach, knowing he couldn't penetrate the suit with that little blade. As his knife hand hit me, I grabbed hold and twisted his arm. I heard a *snap* and then another. He screamed in agony and let go of the knife, trying to hit me with his other hand balled up into a fist. I'd had all I was going to take by that time and I stopped his fist before it ever reached me. Again I heard a couple of snapping sounds and the jerk screamed in pain and lost consciousness. I took off both the moron's belts and pulled the shoelaces out of their shoes, tying them up securely, and then I headed toward Jerry's position, but he saw me coming and motioned me to stay where I was and to turn my back to him. I wondered what he was up to, but I complied with what he wanted me to do. I made sure that both the punks that I had taken out were still unconscious and then I looked back toward Jim and Penny who were up and running in my direction. I heard Jerry coming up behind me and, as he reached me, he said,

"C'mon, man, let's SPLIT!"

He grabbed my arm and got me moving back toward Jim and Penny who had stopped and were moving away from us. We caught up with them very quickly and then we headed the hell out of the park. Jim told us that he had already called the cops and that they were on the way so we hadda move fast, which we did. We hit the car and piled in, and Jim drove off, but slowly, not fast like I'd thought he might do. He told me,

"If I took off out of here like a bandit, we'd leave tire marks on the pavement and we'd probably draw attention to ourselves. This way, we just look like we're out for a pleasant morning drive, see?"

"Cool!" I said. "You musta done this kinda stuff before, right?"

"No, Kid. I learned it from some movie I saw once!"

Wow! Who knew?

As we drove off, I was having trouble getting my adrenaline levels to come back to somewhere near normal. I was actually trembling! Jerry saw this and he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in close in a hug saying,

"DAMN Donnie! We done GOOD! Those four assholes are not gonna be bothering anybody for a long, long time. I dunno what you did with your two, but the two I took on are probably not gonna be able to walk for a long time too! I hit 'em so fast and so hard that I know their legs must be broken in several places, and I don't think they really even SAW me! The guy over there was busy trying to get to his girlfriend or whatever she is, and I don't think they saw me clearly either! MAN, WHATTA RUSH!!!" Yeah, Jerry was bubbling. Well, so was I!

We'd had the chance to use the suits again and had stopped a crime, all in one swell foop! AWESOME! However, I had a feeling that Penny and Jim were gonna have a slightly different view of things. Damn! Sometimes I HATE it when I'm right!

Now Jim seemed pretty cool about the whole thing. He actually congratulated me and Jerry on our teamwork and speed. Penny, on the other hand, was less than enthused about the whole schmear. Wow. Another big surprise. NOT! I was beginning to think that this Penny "situation" would have to be settled before Jerry and I ended up confined somewhere in some lab, just because Penny was so worried about her damn job!
Nobody said much of anything on the way back to the condos, but Jerry and I were, once again, high on adrenaline. Whatever else those suits might have been, they WERE intoxicating to use. Imagine yourself being able to do things only comic book superheroes can do, and you'll get an idea of how we felt just then. Jim and Penny were giving each other a lot of strange looks, in the front seat of the car, but we hardly noticed that, at the time.

By the time we arrived home, Jerry and I were a little more subdued, but still excited. We charged up the stairs and into the condo like a couple of wild Indians or something, whooping and hollering. Jim and Penny just followed along behind us at a more normal pace and, by the time they reached our condo, Jerry and I were already chugging down a couple of "victory" Pepsis. I offered one to Jim and Penny, but they refused.

I could feel one of those "motivational" speeches coming on, particularly from Penny, so I did my best to head her off at the pass.

"Okay, Penny." I said, with a great deal of sarcasm. "Let's hear the latest episode in the 'I'm SO scared of losing my JOB' soap opera, that you are becoming so good at delivering!

Surprisingly, at least to me it was, Jim got in my face!

"Okay, okay!" He yelled right in my face. "We might have gotten away with you two clowns using those suits again, but our luck can't hold! Sooner of later, one of you is going to screw up and THEN what? Someone is going to HAVE to see one of you do something 'super' and then the whole jig is gonna be up! Maybe you two don't thing that's such a big deal, and maybe you don't even CARE about our jobs! Well let me tell you BOTH a few things. First of all, we both have FAMILIES that we have to think about supporting! Did you ever consider that? Secondly, both of YOU have families to think about. Sure YOU might be pretty much safe from any harm, but what about THEM?"

He looked at Jerry and me pretty intently for a few seconds, but neither of us spoke, so he continued.

"Jesus! When is it going to dawn on the two of you that this isn't some kind of game? This is as serious as it gets! You two just injured, maybe even crippled four people back there in that park! Now they may have been punks. They might have even been gang members, but they are still human beings, no matter how horrible their behavior was! What do you think THEY are going to tell the rescue medics, or maybe even the cops? And what about that couple you saved? Sure they are probably very grateful that they aren't dead and that the woman wasn't raped by those morons, but don't you think THEY are gonna wonder just who the hell you are?"

"Hey, Jim!" I interjected. "C'mon man! Lighten up a bit, willya? What were we SUPPOSED to do? Let them rob and hurt those people? We HADDA do something! Nobody else saw us and, as far as I am concerned, we removed four menaces from the streets of this city! Who CARES what those four jerks think or say? Nobody will believe them anyway! They got what they deserved!"

"Oh, so that's the way you see this, is it?" Jim responded. He stood there, glaring in my face for a few more seconds and then, he sighed and, turning to Penny he said: "Maybe you WERE right after all, Penny. These kids are just that, kids. They have NO clue and probably couldn't BUY one if someone GAVE them a dollar! I give up. I'm calling the lab right now and telling them that we can't handle this situation alone."

He turned back to me and said,

"Hear that, kid? I'm calling in backup. They'll be with you 24/7, even when you go to the frigging bathroom! I hope that's what you wanted, because that's what you're getting!"

Jim turned away from me and Jerry and started to leave the room with Penny following him. We just let them go. I guess we were still too high from what we had done in the park, and feeling proud of ourselves. They closed the door behind them and Jerry and I gave each other a high five.

"Yeah, dude!" Jerry said, excitedly. 'That's telling them! Maybe now they'll cut us a little slack."

I wasn't quite as sure of that. Now that Jim and Penny had left the condo, I was beginning to second think what I'd said to Jim. I mean yeah, okay. It was a real kick to be able to do this kind of stuff, but it was kinda overshadowed by my worries about how long I was going to be stuck in that suit. Furthermore, I started to think about what Jim had said. COULD this cause problems for our families? All of a sudden, a couple of horrific scenarios began to play in my mind.

Things like my Mom and Dad being kidnapped by someone who found out who we were and wanted the suits! My mood changed from jubilant to scared, in about three seconds flat.

"Yo, Jerry. Maybe Jim had a point there, ya know? I mean it WAS cool to be able to handle those gang bangers like that, but what if he's right? What if someone DOES find out about us? What about our Moms and Dads and your sister? What about Cindy and Debbie, man? Shit, Jer! I gotta go try to stop Jim from calling the reinforcements!" and I damn near yanked the door off its hinges getting out of that condo.

I raced across the hall and hammered on their condo, hoping I was in time to stop Jim. Penny answered the door, looking a bit sad.

"Yes Donna? What do you want?" She inquired.

"Look, Penny, I wanted to try to stop Jim if I still can. Maybe he's right about me and Jerry and maybe he isn't, but we GOTTA be able to talk about all this shit, you know? There's gotta be a way where we don't have to have 'spy' types intruding on every part of our lives, doesn't there?"

"Who is it, Penny?" I heard Jim say.

It's Donna, Jim. She wants to talk to us."

"Well, I'm in the middle of a phone call, but let her in. At this point it won't matter much what she has to say, but we can at least pass the time til the troops arrive."

"No, Jim!" I pleaded. "Don't make that call! We can work something out so that isn't necessary, can't we?"

With phone in hand, Jim turned to face me.

'Well, I don't know about that, Donna. I think Penny and I have just about reached the limits of what we can do or say, to influence the two of you."

About that time, Jerry wandered into the room, not saying anything, just watching and listening.

"Look, Jim." I said. "Maybe Jerry and I have been more than a small handful for you and Penny, but you gotta try to see things from OUR perspective! This whole thing has just been WAY too weird, especially for ME! Look, don't think that I haven't noticed that the both of you are calling me 'Donna' now. Jerry? Close the door, willya? Now Jim, what do you think that name does to me? I'll TELL ya what it does. It gives me the CREEPS! That's a GIRL'S name for God's sake!"

Jim just stood there with the phone in his hand, but Penny broke in saying,

"Yes it is Donna, and why do you think we're using it now? Look kid. The whole world SEES you as female right now and for who knows how much longer. You'd better start getting used to that fact, because it just might be weeks, months, or more before you ever get out of that thing! You think this is weird for you and Jerry? You should try it from MY side of things. I've had to practically desert my damn family to baby sit you two, and what have I gotten for it? Nothing but typical, selfish teenage bullshit from you both! Oh, just forget it. Jim? Make the call. You're right. I've had it all the way up to here!"

Jim started dialing, but I rushed toward him and pleaded with him to stop. Jerry wasn't far behind me.

'Okay! Okay! Jim, please don't make that call! Lets try to talk this out, okay? There's gotta be a way that'll work for everybody? C'mon Jim. Give us a break here!"

He stood there looking at us for what seemed to be an HOUR, but was actually only a few seconds. Funny how time seems to screw up at times of stress, ain't it? Finally he put down the phone and said.

"You've got five minutes to convince me that I shouldn't just give up on the both of you and wash my hands of this whole damn deal! Make them count." And he sat down on the couch, motioning Penny to join him.

Well, a lot went on in that room in the next half hour or more. I won't bore you with a play by play of it, but we did reach an understanding, and Jim didn't make the call. We called a sort of truce with Jerry and I promising to take things more seriously and NOT to use the suits unless it was a matter of life or death and THEN only if it was reasonably certain that we wouldn't be seen by anyone. We even talked about getting some sort of disguises for Jerry and me so that, if we HAD to use the suits abilities, it would make it that much harder to give an accurate description of us to any authorities.

We parted company that night with a new sense of purpose and the realization that, for the next weeks or months or whatever, Jim and Penny were gonna be a big part of our lives and our surrogate Mom and Dad. It was either that or we'd have to give up our freedom and take up residence in some government lock up of some kind. Oh, I know that they would have had a hell of a time capturing Jerry and me if we didn't want to be captured, but I also knew that any fight would injure a lot of people and I didn't necessarily want that on my conscience. We went to bed that night with a lot of thoughts churning in our minds and I don't know about Jim and Penny, but I know that Jerry and I didn't sleep very well at all.

The next morning over breakfast, Jerry brought up something that I'd touched on the night before, but hadn't thought much about. Our girlfriends, Cindy and Debbie!

"You know, duder." Jerry began. "We haven't seen or talked to them since this thing started, and they gotta be worried or something about us, don't ya think? Just what the hell are we gonna tell them? We CAN'T call them, because our voices, especially YOURS, don't sound anything like our old ones, ya know?"

"Shit man! I don't know! What ARE we gonna tell them? Are we gonna tell them anything at all? I mean, our families could make up some story about where you and I went to see sick relatives or something, or went to visit a summer camp or something, right?"

"How do I know, man? We ain't even talked to our folks about this. Damn, we better call them, don't ya think?"

"Damn! Yeah, we better call our folks and let them know that they're gonna have to tell Debs and Cindy SOMETHING! Crap man! This really sucks! Not only do I haveta look like a damn woman, but I don't even get to see my girlfriend! I can't WAIT to get outta this friggin' thing!" I complained loudly. "Maybe we better wait and run this past Jim and Penny. There might be a problem about us calling home or something."

"Hey, duder. No problemo! I'll just run across the hall and wake them up if they ain't up already, okay?"

"Yeah, go ahead. I'll clean up the dishes and stuff while you do that, Jer."

He went across the hall and I cleared the table and rinsed the dishes off, placing them in the dishwasher. Jeeze! I felt like a freakin' housewife or something! Next thing you know I was gonna be vacuuming, or cleaning the damn bathroom!

Jerry was back in a very few minutes. He said,

"Jim and Penny said that they'd take care of Cindy and Debs. Said we shouldn't worry about them. Cool?"

"Yeah, I guess it'll have to be, Jer. I don't like the fact that I won't be able to go out with or even see Debbie, but I guess we gotta what we gotta do. DAMN IT! This just gets worse and worse!"

Well, for the next few days, nothing exciting happened. There was no news about Dr. Fine at all, although Jim did tell us that the girlfriend issue had been taken care of. He also told us that our families missed us but they knew that things had to be done the way Jim and Penny wanted them to be done. It was the safest way for everyone concerned. Jerry and I didn't like it much, but we really didn't have any better ideas, so we just went along with it and tried to be as small a pain in the ass as possible.

We practiced being that 'loving couple' that Penny said we'd have to look like. MAN! Was THAT embarrassing. I found that the only way I could 'fake it' even halfway convincingly, was to pretend that Jerry was my girlfriend, Debbie. Talk about confusing. I'd be trying my best to pretend that it was Debbie I was cuddling with, I'd open my eyes and there'd be this MALE face, close to mine! YUCK!

Well, I put my mind to the task after a long talk with Jerry and, after a week, we had things pretty much down pat. We were able to hold hands, even do a little light kissing in public without either breaking up laughing or being crippled with embarrassment. We practiced until I was almost sick of it, and then we practiced some more. Meanwhile, Penny was coaching me on how to act like a lady. You know, how to sit, how to deal with guys, how to use and read body language, stuff like that. I didn't have to worry much about moving like a woman. The suit took care of that for me.

No matter how hard I tried, that thing wouldn't let me walk like a guy. The hips would swivel, the arms were held slightly out to the sides of my hips, held slightly bent at the elbows and slightly limp at the wrists. Also, makeup wasn't much of a big deal for me either. The suit had permanent subdued makeup already on it, so all I had to learn was how to make it more dramatic if we were going out somewhere at night, and how to refresh it after eating or.....well, after kissing.

We were also going by our new names and only by those names. I was now Donna and Jerry was Harry or Harold. We tried to come up with names that were similar enough to our real names that we wouldn't hesitate to answer to them. So those new names were the ONLY ones we answered to and, after that week, it almost felt odd when someone slipped and called me Donnie!

We did go out and were seen around town as the couple we were supposed to be, always with Jim and Penny in the background somewhere, and we never had another chance to use the suits in that whole week. The publicity from the incident in the park sorta died down because no one had really gotten a good enough look at us to describe us to the cops. Having no choice in the matter, I threw myself into acting like a girl, and Penny helped a lot with that. She never laughed at me, so I never felt TOO embarrassed by acting what I considered, 'femmy'. Actually, it kinda got to be fun, believe it or not.

Well, after a rather boring week, punctuated by a few nights out and some dancing and stuff, we had settled into a kind of routine. We were to be allowed one call a week to our families and no more than ten minutes on the line. I was beginning to feel like a prisoner of war, or a hostage or something, but it was necessary to be very careful, so we were. But MAN was I bored! That is I WAS bored, until the lab called on a Sunday night! They said they might have some news for us and we were to come out to the lab as soon as possible!

Well, you can bet your ass we burned rubber getting out there! When we arrived, we were told to report directly to the lab that had been wrecked, so we made our way down there and were greeted by the chief engineer. He said that they thought they had worked out the problem with the equipment needed to get us out of the suites and they wanted to try it to see if it would work.

I jumped almost out of my skin, which would have rendered the equipment pretty much redundant, and volunteered. I t took about a half hour to get everything hooked up and tested, but when they were finally ready, the chief asked me if I was ready. I said,

"You bet your ASS I'm ready! Get me OUT of this damn girl suit!"

Man! I was excited. As they readied everything I thought back to the last week or so. I was thinking that I'd almost miss looking as sexy as I did, but I really wanted to get back to looking like myself again. I heard someone call out,

"Okay! Begin the extraction process!"

I tensed for a second and then forced myself to relax. I knew that, after over a week in the suit, that it was gonna stick to me just a little bit and I was ready for that. What I wasn't ready for was the searing pain that began in the area of my neck and then moved rapidly down my spine to encompass my whole torso! I must've passed out at some point, because the next thing I remember is hearing a voice, Harry's voice.

"Donna! Are you okay? Speak to me, dudette! C'mon, come out of it!"

Donna? DONNA? Oh shit. I had a bad feeling about this. I slowly opened my eyes and saw Harry leaning over me with an anxious expression on his face.

"Hey!" He yelled. "She's awake! Oh man, thank God! I thought you were a goner for sure! Man, I never SAW so many sparks and shit! You shoulda seen it, Donna! It was awesome! Hey, you okay? C'mon, speak to me."

I didn't want to speak. I was afraid of what I'd hear. Somehow I knew that something had gone terribly wrong and I was still stuck in the power suit. I looked up at Harry with a pleading look in my eyes and he noticed it, and nodded.

"Yeah, Donna. I'm sorry, dudette, but you are still in the suit. Only it gets worse. You sure you wanna hear this?"

Well, no I didn't WANT to hear it, but I was certain I was gonna HAVE to hear it, so I nodded to Harry who began telling me what had happened.

"Well, it was really scary, but cool, ya know? I mean, there were sparks and screeching noises and one of the machines actually blew up, man! I mean it was AWESOME!"

Seeing my look become angry, Harry quickly summed it up for me.

"Okay, well, what happened was a couple of fuses blew, shorting out one of the machines which, in turn, caused two more to overload. They tried to shut things down, but there was so much electricity flashing around that no one could get neat the shut offs! Eventually, the Chief got to the emergency shutoff and yanked the breaker down, shutting off all power to the lab. Um, Donna, I don't know quite how to tell you this, but, well, instead of getting you out of that suit, what they managed to do was seal you into it, maybe forever! I'm sorry, man, I really am!"

I came up off the bed, or cot, or whatever it was, screaming!

FOREVER? What the fuck do you mean by forever? You mean that I'm stuck in this fucking thing until I DIE or what? You fucking ASSHOLES! I'll kill ALL of you!" And, I'm sorry to say, I activated the suit. I mean I powered it ALL the way up! I came off that bed like an avenging angel, bent on destruction and mayhem! I flat out lost it!

Fortunately for all of us, Harry had figured that I'd do just that and he had already powered up. He grabbed hold of me as I came to a standing position, and he held onto me, tightly. So tightly that I could barely move. Oh I tried all right. I wanted to tear that place and the people in it, apart, brick by brick, but I couldn't move enough to do any damage. I couldn't even do any real damage to Harry. All I could do was rage and scream at the fates, and the techs, and God and everybody I could think of!

Now all the time I was going berserker, Harry held me tight, not allowing me to move much at all. He was talking in my ear, all the time. I couldn't make sense out of what he was saying, but he didn't stop. Eventually, my anger turned into self pity and I began to cry. Harry just held me, although the holding was different then. It sorta turned into holding for comfort and compassion as opposed to holding to keep me from turning the lab into a smoking crater in the ground.

He kept talking into my ear and, eventually, I was able to understand what he was saying.

"Don't worry, Donna. I'm never gonna leave ya, man. You're my best bud in the world and I ain't gonna let ya down. It's gonna be okay, man. We'll figure something out. I'll get ya outta that thing if it's the last thing I ever do. I love ya, man, and I won't let you go through this all alone!" If I had thought about it at all, the dichotomy of him saying 'Donna' interspersed with 'man', would have been funny in a sick sort of way. I didn't think about it though. I just kind of melted into his comforting arms and let him hold me up. I buried my head in his shoulder and just cried my heart out. I'm not ashamed to admit that.

I was well and truly STUCK! Maybe forever! Never to hold Debbie in my arms again. Never to live with my Mom and Dad again. Never to be a MAN again, but to always look, sound and move like a woman! I guess I must've passed out again, because I don't remember much after that for, what turned out to be, a long time.

When I regained consciousness this time, I was in some sort of restraints, I could tell. The room looked to be the clinic at the lab and as soon as I opened my eyes, I saw Harry standing over me. He yelled,

'Hey! HEY! She's awake again!" Then, to me, more quietly, he said, "Listen, Donna, don't try to move, okay? We gotta convince these people that you are totally in control. If you freak out again, they'll never let us outta here. I know how much of a shock this has gotta be for you, but you gotta hold it together, for both of us, okay? Just be cool. I know you can do it."

I pulled lightly at the restraints and looked at Harry. He looked around and then bent over and whispered in my ear.

"They know that those restraints won't hold you there if you WANT to get up, but they felt better with them on you. We deactivated the suit when you passed out the second time, but you can re-activate it by just turning it on again, you know that, right?"

I nodded, but I didn't say anything. I didn't trust my voice just then. I was afraid I'd lose it all over again and blow the deal for Harry and for myself. I knew that these people would TRY to keep us here if they thought I wasn't in control of myself so, with a supreme effort, I swallowed my anger and despair and forced myself to be calm, or at least to SOUND calm.

"Where am I, Harry?" I finally said. This looks like the clinic. Is it?" hoping that Harry would pick up on what I was trying to do.

Harry, bless his heart, caught on immediately and answered me.

"Yes, it is the clinic, Donna. You fainted and I carried you here. I know this is a real horrible shock to you and all that, but how are you feeling, my friend? Are you gonna be okay?" and he winked at me. Somehow, that made me feel a little better and I responded with,

"Yeah, I think I am. At least I'm feeling about as good as I CAN feel, under the circumstances. Do I remember you telling me that I was 'sealed' in this damn suit? Can that be right?"

"Yeah, I'm afraid it is right, Donna. Something went wrong with one of the machines and it sealed you into the suit. I'm sorry to have to tell you that. The only good news about all this is that they managed to modify the suit slightly so that you should suffer no ill effects from staying in it for a lot longer than was ever planned. They did the same for me, although I'm not 'sealed' into this one. I'll tell ya, pal. As long as you have to stay sealed up in there? That's how long I'm gonna stay in mine too. I know you'd do the same for me, and I am not gonna let you suffer through this being the only one who's stuck. If they can't get YOU out, I won't let 'em get ME out. We're in this together, got it?"

I guess our little 'passion play' had the desired effect on the techs and medicos, because they came over and released the restraints. They told me how to re-activate the suit, but I told them that I already knew how to do that and, in fact, already had. To prove it, I grabbed one of the restraint straps and tore it like tissue paper.

"Don't worry guys." I said. "I 'm not gonna lose it again. It was just the shock and disappointment that made me go bonkers back there, but I'm fine now. Well, as fine as I can be, considering that you've managed to screw me worse than before! Oh, I'm still angry, but not angry enough to want to tear things up or kill someone. Not anymore. All I wanna do right now is go home and sleep in my bed, after I get some serious food."

It took a lot of talking and a LOT of acting to convince Jim and Penny that I was under control and even then, they made Harry promise that he'd keep a real close eye on me and make certain that I didn't go nutso again. He promised that he would and, finally, they gave me some clothes and I got dressed and got outta that place.

Jim and Penny tried to explain exactly what had happened, but it was so damn technical that it didn't make a lot of sense to me. All I managed to get out of what they said was that, when the fuses went and the shorts started sparking, something happened and the suit somehow managed to bond with my skin, becoming for all intents and purposes, my REAL skin. The techs didn't know anything about how to reverse it and they weren't even sure it COULD be reversed.

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