A man is accidentally augmented with an alien technology that drastically changes his body and life.

This is a serial story that was written and posted over several months to my Yahoo group

Part 1

I leaned back in my recliner, watching a movie on TV and feeling annoyed. I'd been looking forward to this movie since I first heard it was coming out yet now that I was seeing it I could only feel disappointed. It starred an actress that I'd once had a crush on back when I'd been a teenager, back before I grew up and before she'd aged rather ungracefully. But then, last year she'd gone through the augmentation process and had made this movie as her return to acting.

"What a pile of crap," I muttered with a grimace, hardly able to believe I'd wasted my time with this.

Thanks to being augmented, the star was young again and far sexier than she'd ever been in her prime. However, that was part of the problem. The entire movie was nothing more than an excuse to show off her new body but was completely lacking in a good script, decent acting, and even the 'girl next door' charm she used to be famous for. It was hard to believe this was made by an actress who'd once been nominated for an Oscar for best actress.

"Another great ruined by perfection," I said with a sigh then shaking my head and turning off the TV.

Sometimes, it seemed ironic that the biggest problem with augmentation was that it created perfection...or at least the appearance of it. The augmented were the new celebrities, the ones normal people idolized and envied. Of course, a lot of augmented started off as celebrities so this was just taking things to the next level.

I shook my head again and mused, "How did we ever get here...?" Of course, I already knew the answer to that.

Fifteen years ago we humans met up with an alien race who called themselves the N'vash. There was only a single N'vash ship which came to Earth and they claimed they were on an exploration mission but suffered an accident that threw them badly off course. They only asked us for the resources to repair and restock their ship as well as a safe harbor while they were doing so, and then in exchange, they gave us some of their technology, most notably, the augmentation process.

The augmentation process was a way to improve a human body, giving anyone the physical abilities of an Olympic athlete and the looks of a super model with the added benefits of never having to exercise or worry about getting sick again. In fact, an augment should be able to live for up to several hundred years and keep their body in perfect condition the entire time. Of course, the augmentation process hasn't been around on Earth long enough to prove that last but the N'vash assured us this was the case.

There was only one major problem with the augmentation process...the cost. It was so expensive that only the very rich could afford to go through it. Becoming augmented was like owning a Ferrari...something that most people dreamed of but only a fortunate few could usually ever afford.

"It looks like half of Hollywood has gone augmented," I grumbled, still disappointed that my onetime favorite actress had traded substance for style. And unfortunately, she wasn't the only one. It seemed that more and more movies were made with absolutely perfect looking people...even by Hollywood standards.

I was of course one of the people who could only imagine being able to become augmented since there was absolutely no way I could afford it short of winning the lottery. My name is Nick Spaulding and I am 35 years old, 6 foot 3, and have a stocky build that is equal parts fat and muscle. My brown hair was starting to thin noticeably so I made up for it with a thick goatee. I am also a plumber, though not the kind who usually comes to your house to fix the sink. I work for a construction company doing new installation though I have occasionally done some moonlighting when I need some extra cash. Plumbing pays well but not nearly enough for augmentation.

I got out of my recliner with a grunt then absently rubbed at my lower back which still had a knot in it. One of the problems with my job was that all the bending over and trying to get into tight spaces sometimes gave me a sore back. I was used to it though so didn't give it much thought as I tried deciding what to do now that the movie had turned out to be a bust.

The next two minutes were spent slowly walking around my small apartment looking for something to do. There were several projects that I'd been meaning to get to for awhile though none that were small enough that I felt like doing them at the moment. I even looked at my leaking sink and smiled faintly at the irony of a plumber having a leaky sink of his own. Of course, the leak wasn't bad and I wasn't being paid to fix this one so it fell like of low on my priority list.

Then I ended up back in my living room where I picked up the half read book that I had sitting next to my recliner. It was a cheap romance novel, a guilty pleasure that I'd never admit to any of my friends or coworkers. I felt a little embarrassed as I looked at the cover and considered where I'd left off in the story but I was also tempted to continue.

"Later," I mused aloud, setting the book back down and deciding that what I really needed right then was some exercise. "I think I'll take a walk..."

A few minutes later I was standing in front of my apartment building, pausing for a moment as I considered which direction to go since I didn't have any destination in mind. I could go north and hit a nice little park in a about half a mile or I could go south and end up near some nice restaurants. Instead, I started walking east towards nowhere in particular.

I was about two blocks away from home and walking past a pizza shop that smelled particularly delicious when I suddenly heard the roaring of a car engine followed by the sound of glass shattering. I quickly looked in the direction of the noise and saw two cars racing each other...or at least that was my first impression before I saw a guy leaning out the window of the front car and shooting at the one behind him. I didn't really hear any noise from the gun but bullet holes appeared in the other car almost as if by magic.

"Oh shit," I exclaimed in shock, hardly able to believe what I was seeing. It was like I was in the middle of some action flick.

The passenger of the rear car returned fire through the now missing windshield though his shots missed the car in front more than they hit. Some guy on the sidewalk suddenly collapsed to the ground just a moment after the entire front of his shirt exploded in red. A store window shattered and nearly everyone on the sidewalk began to either dive for cover or run away.

I immediately dropped for cover behind a hot dog cart, suddenly feeling like I was back in the army. I'd done a tour in Afghanistan a long time ago, just months before the N'vash had arrived. My heart raced and the smarter part of me said I should get even better cover but I couldn't resist watching.

Everything happened so fast that I barely had time to absorb what was happening. The car in front slammed into another car and was brought to a violent dead stop. The car in the rear immediately slammed on the breaks and two men jumped out and ran for the first car, both opening fire with hand guns as they ran. I couldn't help but noticing that these men were twins, both being tall and muscular with short dark hair and identical features.

The driver of the front car looked to have been killed by the gunmen but the passenger staggered out of the car, obviously shot himself though still alive and moving. In one hand he held a metal briefcase while in the other he held a gun which he tried firing back with but not before he got hit again in the shoulder. He was thrown back, dropping the gun and then falling to the ground himself.

"You...won't...get...them," the obviously dying man gasped, reaching into his pocket while glaring at his killers with an evil grin.

Suddenly the crashed car exploded, catching all three men in the powerful blast and leaving no doubt that they were all dead. I dropped down flat, letting out a stream of profanity and thinking that this was just like Afghanistan. My heart raced and I knew that I hadn't been this scared shitless in a very long time.

People were screaming and panicking while debris from the car began to rain down everywhere. Something hit the brick wall of the building near me then dropped to the ground and rolled across the sidewalk until it hit my leg and stopped. I sat up and just stared at the chaos that surrounded me, having flashbacks of several incidents that I'd rather not remember.

"Damn," I exclaimed, clenching my fists and feeling scared, angry, and frustrated all at the same time. It was a dark mix of emotions that I'd thought I'd never have to feel least not in this way.

Then I noticed the piece of debris which had rolled into my leg, seeing that it was a metal sphere about the size of a tennis ball. I picked it up and noticed it was warm to the touch as well as scorched from the blast but seemed otherwise intact. However, I was confused about what it actually was since it sure as hell wasn't any car part that I recognized. I had absolutely no idea what it was.

After a moment I looked back up and stared in horror at the burning car and the charred bodies just a short distance away. I grimaced and clenched the metal ball tightly in my hand before turning away with the feeling of having a lump of lead in my stomach. I was sure the police had already been called about this and there were countless witnesses so I didn't give it much more thought before I started walking away, just wanting to get as far away from this as I could.

Part 2

I held a hot pack to my lower back and winced at how much it ached, thinking that I should probably take some pain killer as well. Between diving for cover yesterday during that strange incident and being bent over all day today for work, I'd really irritated my back.

I sat down in my recliner and picked up my romance novel then paused to look at the metal sphere that had been sitting beside it. After hesitating a moment, I set my book back down and picked up the sphere instead. It had been blackened and scorched yesterday when I'd brought it home though I'd cleaned it up since and it looked a lot nicer, though I still had no idea what it was for.

Now that the sphere had been cleaned I could see that it looked like it was a darkened chrome. It was lighter than I'd guess just by looking at it so it obviously wasn't solid steel or anything of the sort. Instead, I guessed it might be aluminum or some other light metal and was perhaps even hollow. There an indentation in it that reminded me of the window of one of those old magic 8 balls and around this indentation were imprinted the letters 'GF PRO'

After a minute of examining the sphere for what had to be the tenth time, I frowned and thought about the strange scene before the explosion. The news last night had said this was just gang violence though it hadn't looked that way to me. It looked like a scene straight out of an action movie and everyone involved had seemed just a little more profession than I would have expected of gang members.

"And what are you?" I scowled at the sphere. The man who I assumed actually triggered the explosion had said something about not letting the other guys get something right before then. Was this what he didn't want them to get? Again, I had absolutely no idea but I did know someone who just might.

Mike was a friend of mine and one that I'd known since high school though we hadn't really been friends back then, just classmates and acquaintances. After high school I didn't see him again for years and never even thought about him. Then about 8 years ago I was in the middle of a messy divorce and was doing some moonlighting for extra cash when I got a call to go to his place for a plugged toilet. We recognized each other and began talking about old times and catching up on what we'd been doing since. It turned out he'd just gone through a nasty divorce as well so we ended up drowning our mutual sorrows in a half case of beer and have been friends ever since.

The reason I thought about Mike when it came to the sphere wasn't just that he was my friend but because he was always looking up everything he could about every new technology. He was like a Wikipedia full of useless facts when it came any kind of tech device. I figured if anyone would know what this sphere was it would be him.

A short time later I was at Mike's place, describing the shootout I'd seen yesterday and then showing him the sphere that had damn near landed on top of me. Mike wasn't very tall at 5 foot 7 but he made up for it by being over 300lbs, almost none of it muscle. He might not be much physically but he was a pretty sharp guy. And as soon as I held up the sphere for him to look at I could see the gleam of recognition in his eyes.

"No way," Mike suddenly exclaimed, going from calm to excited in the blink of an eye. "No fucking way..." He stared at me for a moment with a suspicious look on his face, "You bastich... You're fucking with me...aren't you?"

"What are talking about?" I demanded in annoyance.

Mike took the sphere from me and very carefully held it in his hands, staring at it with an intense expression. "Do you know what this is...?"

"Of course not," I snapped in annoyance. "That's why I asked you."

"This is an augmentation package," Mike said after a taking a deep breath. "It looks like it's still sealed so everything you need to become augmented should be inside."

"Really?" I asked in surprise, staring at the sphere and scowling. "How does that work?"

"How much do you know about how augmentation works?" Mike asked me, his expression looking just a little distant as he was lost in thought.

I just shrugged, "Not a whole lot."

"It's all about nanocytes," Mike explained, "microscopic robots that they put into your body. They get into your blood stream, your bones, your nervous system, and everything else. They change your entire body however they were programmed to and then keep it that way. That's how you become augmented." He held up the sphere and added, "Of course, you also need the core..."

"The core?" I asked, feeling like I was back in school getting a lecture.

Mike just grinned then went to his computer. It actually had three monitors in front of it which was kind of surprising because most people didn't bother having any monitors. Then he put on a pair of goggles that looked something like swimming goggles. These were display goggles, the technology that had made computer monitors obsolete. With those on, Mike had a virtual 3D monitor that wrapped around him like a bubble that only he could see, letting him place countless windows around him in every direction and move them around as was convenient. I couldn't see any of that though since I wasn't wearing display goggles which was why he still used the old fashion monitors. A moment later, some images of spheres similar to the one I found were presented on the monitors.

"The augmentation core is...," Mike started, then paused as he tried to think of how to explain more clearly. "Well, it's the core of the whole augmentation process...." He showed pictures of a silver metal marble with silvery strings coming from it on the monitor. "It wires into your nervous system and uses it to control all the nanocytes in your body. It's the brain that has all the programming and tells the nanocytes what to do...and it even functions as a factory making new nanocytes."

"This," Mike said, lifting his goggles and pointing at the sphere, "should have the augmentation core, a sh1tload of nanocytes, and even some nutrients inside. Everything you need to become augmented..."

"Holy sh1t," I exclaimed, suddenly feeling a lot more nervous about this metal sphere. I carefully took it back from Mike, my heart racing as I did so. It was like holding a few million dollars.

"Of course," Mike suddenly said with a sigh and a look of disappointment. "I wouldn't risk this one..." At my blank look, he gestured to the indentation. "If this was from one of the Big Three it would have their logo right here... It doesn't so that means its black market..." He shook his head and shuddered and I knew exactly what he meant.

When the N'vash gave humans the augmentation technology they also gave us three small units which could make whatever was needed for the process. Now I realized that meant they made the cores and nanocytes. The people who got control of these units quickly formed their own companies and became the only ones who could augment people. Each of the companies had their own specialties too so that they didn't directly compete against each other.

Advent International was known for doing the high end augmentation that was completely customized for each and every customer, often turning them into idealized versions of themselves. GCA was known as being a little more economical though still outrageously expensive for someone like me. They would create different models and everyone who used the same model would end up looking identical to each other. A group of three women who used the same model might come out looking like identical triplets. Of course, they made a number of different models so there were different looks to choose from. The last of the Big Three was Ares Inc who specialized in military applications, though I didn't really know exactly what that entailed.

And then there were the black markets, illegal groups that could turn people augmented without the direct use of the units the N'vash gave us. I didn't know anything about these people for sure but rumor said that before the three companies formed, the N'vash units had been used to create duplicates of themselves. These duplicates could augment people as well but were flawed copies that sometimes resulted in mistakes in the augmentation process. These were completely illegal but that didn't stop people from using these duplicated units...or duplicates of duplicates anyway. After all, there was a high demand for augmentation and even some desperation. People were often willing to take the risk of being augmented this way since it was much more affordable than what the Big Three could do.

I stared at the sphere with a scowl, realizing that I had absolutely no idea who this augmentation package had been meant for or what was in it. I knew a guy who'd bought a black market augmentation and he ended up looking fantastic but his entire nervous system had been screwed up leaving him virtually paralyzed. And that had been with him at least thinking that he knew what he was getting.

"I guess using this thing is out of the question," I finally said, not having the first idea of how to actually use it anyway.

"But it’s still worth quite a bit," Mike mused, his eyes seeming to nearly gleam with the obvious greed. "I bet I could find a buyer no problem. In fact, I bet those guys you saw were black market dealers..."

I shook my head at that, seeing the wheels turning in Mike's head. Neither of us would risk using this thing but Mike didn't seem to have a problem with selling it to someone who would. There were a lot of desperate people who'd jump at the chance to use this thing no matter what the risks were. However, I didn't think I could just sell it like that. It would be like selling a gun to someone who you knew was only going to play Russian roulette with it.

"I'll think about it," I lied, thinking instead that I might be better off just giving it to the cops. Of course, if I did that I'd have to explain why I took it in the first place and why it had taken me so long to turn it in.

After this, I sat down and had a beer with Mike as we talked about the shootout I'd seen and he offered his theory that it was either a black market augment package deal that had gone bad or were two dealers who were fighting it out over territory. Both ideas seemed possible to me and a bad idea to get mixed up in. The whole time, Mike kept looking at me as though expecting me to give in and agree to sell the sphere just so I could get it out of my hands. He seemed disappointed when I finally left without agreeing to anything though he didn't actually say anything about it.

Since it was getting late and I hadn't had dinner yet, I decided to just pick up something quick on the way home. I ended up stopping at the pizza shop that had smelled so delicious yesterday though this was partly just an excuse to take another look at where the explosion had occurred.

"Like returning to the scene of the crime," I muttered, though I wasn't the one who'd committed the crime...unless you counted walking off with the sphere.

I looked around, noticing that the street had been cleaned up pretty well. The cars and bodies were gone of course but most of the debris and glass had been cleaned up as well. The only immediately visible signs of what had happened were the badly scorched asphalt and what looked like a nasty pot hole. There were other signs as well such as the shop window which had been shot out was now all boarded up instead. I stared at the street again with a scowl then looked over at the spot where I'd gone for cover. The ache in my back increased slightly as I did so.

It was only then that I noticed I was being watched. I looked over and saw a little girl who was about 10 years old leaning back against the wall and looking at me. She had blonde hair that was pulled into pig tails and was chewing bubble gum. When she saw that I was looking back, she gave me a defiant look and blew a bubble with her gum then looked away as though she'd never been watching me at all.

"Kids," I chuckled to myself, grateful I'd never had one with my ex-wife yet oddly regretful as well.

A few minutes later I had my pizza and was about to start for home. I looked at the girl who was still there and saw that she was watching me again, this time with a curious expression. She stuck her tongue out at me then went back to pretending I wasn't there. I just shook my head in amusement and continued on my way.

Part 3

It seemed ironic to me and just my luck that I'd finally land the opportunity of a lifetime...the opportunity of several lifetimes and I didn't dare use it. I'd never been a heavy drinker but the more I thought about this the more it seemed like an appropriate time to just get drunk. I had already finished my pizza and half a six pack, not including the beer I'd had at Mike's. As far as I was concerned, this was just a good start.

I actually had an augmentation package in my possession, something that could augment me and potentially give me the body of an Adonis and fantastic health, taking away all the aches and pains I had and which would only get worse as I got older. There was a reason the augmentation process was often called perfection in a bottle.

Unfortunately, this was a black market augmentation package made not by the first generation units that the N'vash had given us but by second, third...or even higher. Each unit was capable of making a copy of itself and a new generation but the further away you got from the first generation the more unstable and risky the final augmentation product was which was why all but the first generation units were illegal to use. I had no idea which generation this one had been created by. It could have been tenth generation for all I knew.

Of course, black market augmentation was risky not just because of the units they used to create them but also because of the people. The Big Three hired medical professionals and expert programmers while the black market people had somewhat less qualified people making them. That gave black market augments a second major strike against them.

I might not be willing to risk using this myself but I knew that there were a lot of people who would. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if maybe Mike was right. If I couldn't use it myself I should probably sell it to someone with cancer or who was old and dying, someone who had little to lose and everything to gain.

I sat down in my recliner and opened another beer while I considered what to do. While I was sitting there, I began examining the sphere again, the first time I'd really done so since finding out exactly what it really was. Part of me whispered that I should probably just leave it alone but another part reminded me that I'd already examined the thing several times without a problem.

The sphere didn't look any different from the previous times I'd looked it over though the fact that I now knew what it contained gave it a different feel to both my hands and eyes. Before, it had been a mystery but now it was something valuable.

While I was holding the sphere, I suddenly noticed something that I hadn't before. There was a ring around the indentation that actually moved. I grew curious and rotated it further until there was a faint click. Suddenly the bottom of the indentation popped open and there was a hole into the sphere where I could see something silver colored inside.

The practical part of my mind screamed that I should carefully set the sphere down and step back and if I hadn't consumed so much beer already I probably would have done that. Instead, I found a pen and poked it through the opening and into the silvery insides.

Suddenly, a thin strand of silver ran up the pen, looking almost like mercury but going the opposite direction that gravity said it should. Before I realized it, the silver had gone up the entire pen and was touching my hand. I jumped back in surprise, dropping the pen. However, the silver stayed connected to my hand and formed a silver metallic string that led back to the opening of the sphere.

"What the hell?" I gasped in surprise, trying to shake it off to no effect.

I tried dropping the sphere and shaking the silver string off even harder but that didn’t work either. Instead, the sphere just hung there dangling like a yo-yo while more silver ran up the first line making it thicker and then forming several new threads to my hand.

Then a silver metal ball the size of a large marble came up the threads and right into my palm. In the back of my mind I realized that this had to be the augmentation core though I didn't have time to give it any consideration. My palm suddenly burned and before I could try wiping it off, the ball somehow burrowed unto my skin.

I let out a scream of pain and stared in horror as the ball moved under my skin, leaving a strange looking lump under the surface that was quickly moving up my arm. It burned like hell as if moved yet after it passed I felt a powerful cold sensation. My hand felt nearly frozen, as though I'd soaked it in the snow for an hour and the coldness didn't stop there. It spread up my arm right after the ball. I winced in pain, looking to my palm which still had silver strands going back into the sphere but they all seemed to be drawn into my body through the hole the core had made, almost like spaghetti being slurped up.

The strange lump that pushed out from my skin was now in my upper arm and hurt like hell. I suddenly thought that I could cut it out with a knife before it went any further but I was too slow to move and it was gone from my arm entirely, moving into the core of my body. The pain was absolutely immense and I screamed again. Then my scream was cut off as my breath was knocked out of me with a massive chest pain. I clutched at my chest and gasped, sure that I was having a heart attack.

Just then, the strange cold sensation filled my chest and began to spread out so that in just a minute my legs and other arm felt cold and sort of numb too. By this point, I could barely feel most of my body much less move any of it. I lay motionless on the ground where I'd collapsed during my 'heart attack', realizing that it was far too late for me to do anything. All I could do was wait until the darkness claimed me a minute later.

Part 4

I awoke on the hard uncomfortable floor feeling dazed and confused as to how I got there. However, a moment later I suddenly remembered what had happened, how I’d accidentally activated the sphere…the augmentation package.

“Shit,” I gasped, realizing exactly what that meant. I’d been augmented whether I wanted to be or not.

For a moment I just remained where I was, feeling a mixture of dread and relief. Whatever was going to happen, it already had. All I had to do now was find out what the damage was.

I took a deep breath then slowly sat up, realizing as I did so that my entire body felt strange and different. I also felt good…damn good. There were no aches and pains at all, not even in my back regardless of the fact that I’d been laying on the floor for who knows how long. But it was more than just a lack of pain. It was as though my entire body felt fully charged and super healthy.

Then I finally noticed the fact that my clothes were all very loose on me. I paused, feeling a bit confused by that until I noticed two bumps pushing out from the front of my shirt. My eyes widened at the sight and I quickly grabbed them, feeling that they were indeed real and indeed my own flesh.

A cold chill ran up my spine and the only thing I could think to say was, “Oh shit…”

I quickly grabbed at my crotch but couldn’t feel my usual equipment. I winced and tried again, this time slipping my hand down the front of my overlarge and very loose pants. I grabbed at my crotch but my cock and balls were completely gone. Instead, my fingers found a slit though I immediately yanked my hand out with a short stream of muttered profanities.

“Oh no,” I grimaced, closing my eyes and taking several deep breaths, trying to tell myself that I’d known this was a very real possibility. After all, there was probably a fifty percent chance that the augmentation package had been meant for a woman. In fact, the odds of this turning me into a chick were probably a good deal higher than they were for something being wrong with the package.

I certainly wasn’t happy at realizing that I’d been turned into a woman but I was relieved at the fact that I hadn’t noticed anything seriously wrong yet…other than the obvious. I could feel my arms and legs with no problem. My nervous system seemed to be intact which was real good news.

“What the hell was I thinking?” I groaned as I remembered drunkenly playing around with the sphere.

But as I remembered what I’d done, I also hesitated a moment and wondered if maybe it hadn’t been entirely accidental. After all, the temptation to become augmented was a very large one and perhaps my subconscious mind had decided to take the risk.

“No,” I grimaced and shook my head, not wanting to think of that. There was no way I’d do that to myself…even subconsciously. At least that’s what I tried telling myself though I wasn’t sure I believed it.

At this point, I decided that I absolutely had to get a better look at my body. I felt a cold dread along with the curiosity as I climbed out of my clothes and then looked over my naked body.

There was absolutely no doubt that this was a woman’s body and a very attractive one at that which was to be expected. Most augmented women I’d seen on TV were absolutely gorgeous.

The first thing I really noticed beside the sheer feminine nature of my body was that my skin was very soft, smooth and pale. I didn’t seem to have a single hair follicle on my body below the neck and my skin was a creamy white color that looked as though it had rarely seen sunlight.

I ran my hands over my smooth skin, noticing that it was more sensitive than before as well. Then my hands ran over my naked breasts and stopped there. I cupped my new tits in disbelief, guessing that they were C or D cup as well as being nice, round, and firm. I noticed that even the nipples were larger than before. I couldn’t resist giving one of them a gentle pinch and then gasping in surprise at just how much I felt the sensation.

As I continued exploring my body, I noticed just how hard and solid all my muscles were though they didn’t really seem to show it. It was as though my skin and new curves hid a very athletic body underneath. Of course, I realized that I shouldn’t be surprised at that either. After all, most augments were in absolute peak human physical condition even if they were designed not to really show it.

“Incredible,” I whispered, wondering just what kind of shape I was really in now. I felt so light, strong, and supercharged somehow. I definitely wanted to check this out.

With that, I dropped to the floor and tried a few push-ups, doing so with ease. I continued doing this until I’d done more than 40 push-ups and was still barely feeling it.

After this, I decided to check my flexibility. I got back to my feet then reached down and put both of my hands flat on the floor with no effort. I quickly stretched in several other directions, finding that I was now very flexible. I was even able to do the splits, something that would have made me wince at the very thought before.

“Damn,” I muttered with a grimace, feeling a tiny phantom pain as I considered why I could do the splits now.

I hesitantly felt my crotch and took a deep breath, immediately feeling the wrongness in the absence of my old friends. Instead, there was smooth skin and a slit between my legs. I ran my fingers over the folds and felt a tingle of excitement shoot through my body. I was suddenly tempted to explore a bit more thoroughly down there which only caused me to yank my hand away quickly instead.

I shook my head and sighed, “I can’t believe this…”

For several minutes I just stood there, staring down at my transformed body and feeling completely stunned. I had no idea what to think or feel of this new body. On one hand, I was horrified at having turned into a chick but on the other I don’t think I’d ever felt this good in my life. That only made me feel guilty as well, as though I were somehow betraying my manhood and all that was masculine.

Then I realized that I’d looked my body over but still had no idea what I actually looked like. I reached up and felt my face, gulping slightly as I did so.

In what seemed like mere seconds, I was in the bathroom and staring at my reflection in the small mirror above the sink. All I could do was stare and absorb the face that was looking back at me.

The woman in the mirror was very beautiful in that ice queen or vampire sort of way. It wasn’t that I looked cold hearted or evil, just pale and a little exotic. Not only did I have creamy skin but my hair hung down to my shoulder blades and was a platinum blonde. Add to that my crystal blue eyes and I could have perhaps passed as some sort of Nordic ice princess.

“No fucking way,” I whispered, running my fingers over my cheek while still staring into my striking blue eyes.

I suddenly wondered if the pale skin and hair were intentionally part of that augmentation package or if they were some sort of albino thing that was caused by a flaw in making it. At the moment, I wouldn’t really be surprised either way.

I continued staring at my reflection for another few minutes before I was finally able to tear myself away from the mirror and notice some other details. For one thing, my hands were of course feminine and my fingernails were a bit longer and manicured into nice ovals.

“Instant manicure,” I mused, knowing that some female augmentation packages even came with built in permanent makeup. I hadn’t really considered that before, but now that I thought about it I did sort of look as though I had a little on. There was a shadowing around my eyes and my lips looked just a little more full and shiny than they probably should, perhaps as though I had on some gloss.

At the moment, I didn’t give a lot of consideration to whether I was or was not permanently made up since it seemed rather subtle. Instead, I turned my attention to the fact that the sink and my mirror both looked higher. Of course, I shouldn’t have been at all surprised that I’d shrunk since my clothes had been so loose on me. The question was, just how much shorter was I?

It took me almost no time at all to get the tape measure out of my tool box and only a little longer to actually measure myself. According to my tape measure I was now 5 foot 9, 6 inches shorter than I was before.

“It could be worse,” I tried telling myself though at the moment I had a hard time seeing how. Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself, “At least I’m not paralyzed.”

Part 5

I sat on the edge of my couch, holding the metal sphere that I'd found on the floor a short time ago. Of course, it was empty now. Everything that had been inside of it was now inside of me. I felt a little creeped out by the thought of it and couldn't resist feeling my chest, thinking of how the core was now lodged between my heart and spine where it would have wired into both. At least that was one of the things Mike had told me about them back when I'd been talking to him last night.

"Damn," I sighed, setting the now empty sphere down and looking over my body yet again. It had been several hours since I'd woken up like this and it was still something of a shock every time I saw myself. This whole thing felt kind of unreal.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I certainly wasn't the first person to through a sex change while being augmented and I wouldn't be the last. Of course, most of those who changed gender did so intentionally.

Then I chuckled as I remembered a comedian who used to make a lot of wild 'frat boy' type comedies but had then become augmented and turned into a woman so now made romantic comedies. In fact, he...or she had taken full advantage of this in one movie by filming half of it before augmentation and half after in order to play two completely different characters.

The fact that several well known celebrities and politicians had gone through this as well did little good for me, though admittedly I felt a little less like a freak. In fact, I realized with some irony that I had just been unintentionally caught up in the latest augmentation fad.

"What the hell am I going to tell the guys?" I asked myself, wincing at the thought of explaining my transformation at work. First, they'd all give me shit for turning into a chick and then they'd give me even more for using a black market augmentation package when I didn't even have a clue what it was designed for. "Damn..."

At the moment, I had no real idea of what I was going to do though I knew I needed to tell someone and maybe get some help figuring things out. I wasn't very close to what little family I had left and the only friend I could think of at the moment was Mike. He already knew about the augmentation package so would be the perfect one to talk to. Unfortunately, I knew he was going to be p1ssed at me for using the d2mn thing even on accident when he'd really been wanting to sell it.

It would have been easy to just call Mike but something like this required that I show him in person. That meant getting dressed so I could leave the house, though that wasn't going to be a simple matter. I was well aware of the fact that none of my clothes fit me anymore. I briefly remembered that my ex wife had left some clothes behind when she'd left but then I also remembered that I'd thrown all her crap out years ago.

I spent nearly twenty minutes digging around my closet and dresser in order to find some clothes I could wear. All my pants were too long but I did find a pair of gym shorts that I could keep up with a belt and a shirt which I'd outgrown years ago but which was now too big for me. However, it covered me and fit better than any of the other shirts I owned. Last were a pair of boots that a co-worker had given me when he retired because he mistakenly thought they were my size. Normally the boots were half a size too small and really pinched but now I had to wear three pairs of socks in order to keep them from sliding around too much.

"I look like an idiot," I grumbled as I looked over my clothes, knowing that I didn't have much choice. It wasn't like I had a lot of clothes around that fit my new body. Unfortunately, I was well aware of the fact that would have to change. After all, augmentations were permanent and irreversible which was one of the reasons a failed black market augmentation was so frightening. Then I grimaced and reluctantly reminded myself, "I'm gonna have to get used to this."

A few minutes later I was in my truck and adjusting the seat to my new height, grumbling and cursing as I did so. At 5 foot 9 I was certainly no midget but I still hated how short I now felt. I continued muttering a steady stream of profanities under my breath for nearly the entire drive to Mike's place.

I was eager to see Mike so I could at least talk to someone about this but at the same time I was also dreading it. I was more than a little embarrassed by how I looked now and I was absolutely certain that he'd take advantage of the opportunity to rub it in and make fun of me. I also wasn't certain whether he'd be sympathetic or pissed that we couldn't make some money selling the sphere. Either way, I was positive he'd call me a dumbass and I'd deserve it.

When I parked in front of Mike's condo I grew even more nervous and took several deep breaths to brace myself for what was to come. I quickly walked to his front door and then froze as I saw that it was not only wide open but that there was a hole where the handle and lock had been. My heart jumped at the sight of that.

"MIKE?" I called out loudly, stepping through the door and hoping he was all right.

I took one look around the living room and gasped in surprise. The entire living room was trashed with the book shelf being turned upside down, the couch cushions having been cut open and the stuffing yanked out, and everything including his computer laying scattered about the floor. The whole place looked like a disaster and my first thought was that Mike had been robbed...until I realized that his computer and TV hadn't been taken.

"MIKE?" I called out again, this time more frantically.

My mind was full of fear and worry for Mike as I rushed through his condo, calling his name but receiving no answer. One quick look in each room was enough to prove that Mike was not there and that whoever had destroyed his living room hadn't stopped there. The whole place was trashed. And then to make me even more worried, I found several drops of blood on the kitchen floor though fortunately no more than that.

If I was worried before, the blood only made me more so. I hadn't been able to find any sign of Mike actually being here though so told myself that could be a good thing. Maybe Mike hadn't even been here when this was going on. Maybe the blood had come from whoever had destroyed the apartment. Of course, there was also the dark thought that maybe there was another reason I couldn't find Mike.

Whatever was going on, I knew it was very bad news. I gulped, suddenly realizing that if this wasn't a robbery it had to be something else. Then I realized that this had to be my fault. It had to be about the augmentation package I'd found. A high quality augmentation normally cost in the tens of millions while even the low quality black market augmentation sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. With that kind of money at stake something like Mike's TV would be seen as just small change and probably not worth bothering with. And as I reminded myself with a gulp, people had already been killed over that thing.

"Oh shit," I whispered, shaking as I stood there and suddenly feeling very paranoid. "Mike must have tried asking around about it..." That was the only thing I could think of.

I froze for a moment, suddenly worried for myself. I suddenly turned and hurried out of Mike's condo as fast as I could, absently thinking I should call the cops but deciding that could wait until I was back home and safe. I kept glancing behind me, now feeling paranoid as well and I continued doing this the entire trip back to my apartment.

When I finally reached my own apartment door I froze and stared at it with a cold chill running down my spine. It was wide open with the lock being destroyed almost exactly the same way Mike's had been. I would have immediately turned and ran but I could hear voices inside so I hesitated a moment to listen.

There seemed to be two men talking though they sounded almost identical with only a few inflections of their words being different. I quickly peaked around the corner and saw the two men standing in my living room, both looking almost identical to each other with only their clothes and haircuts identifying them as being different. They also looked exactly like the two men I'd seen the other day during that shootout.

One of the men held the metal sphere in his hand and scowled as he told the other, "He must have used it..."

I winced at that and slowly backed away, knowing that I didn't dare stick around and get caught. I had no idea what they'd do to me for using the augmentation and I had no interest in actually finding out. I had barely taken three steps back when I hit something...or someone. I snapped around and saw that I'd backed into a large, muscular, and intimidating man who looked just like the two men in the room. He stared at me for only a moment before suddenly grabbing my shoulder.

"Out here," the man who held me called to those inside my apartment. His grip was so hard that I winced in pain.

I felt a momentarily surge of panic but then clamped down on it, reminding myself of my old army training and how panic would get you killed faster than anything. I couldn't afford to just flail around wildly so tried to think through my fear and focus on what I could do. I grimaced and then hit the man in the solar plexus, only making him grunt slightly. However, I followed that up with a punch to his throat which got him to let me go.

"Bastich," I snarled, giving him a swift kick between the legs before turning and running.

A minute later I was out of the apartment building and hitting the sidewalk when my leg suddenly exploded into pain. I collapsed to the ground, realizing that I'd been shot when I hadn't even heard a gunshot. I quickly looked back and saw all three of the men coming at me, each of them holding a gun in hand.

Suddenly, a girl's voice said, "Hey there... You look like you need help..."

I looked up and was startled to see a blonde haired little girl of about 10 years old standing there, holding a sucker in her hand. She looked familiar and it took me a moment to recognize her as the same girl I'd seen several days I'd seen last night. It just seemed longer than that because of everything that had happened since.

The girl casually put the sucker into her mouth and then reached into her pockets. She suddenly pulled out a pair of hand guns and in a smooth motion began to fire them at the men chasing me. One of them flew backward with his head exploding into red. The second one was shot several times in the chest and staggered back. Still, he raised his gun and fired back at her. The girl jumped to the side though and continued firing several more shots until he went down as well.

"Holy shit," I exclaimed, suddenly noticing that there was no sound of gunfire either from her guns or those of the men, only a strange buzzing.

The third man had been hit in the shoulder but barely seemed to notice it. He took cover behind a car and fired back but suddenly he flew out from cover and hit the ground with half his head missing. The shot that killed him obviously hadn't come from the girl though I had no idea who else might have made it.

My leg was feeling strangely numb where I'd been shot so I began carefully getting back to my feet, making sure to keep my weight on my good leg. I stared at the girl in shock and disbelief not to mention more than a little confusion. What I'd seen her do made absolutely no sense. There was no way a little girl could take down those men that easily.

The girl calmly put one of her guns back into the pocket and then did something to the side of the other gun. She looked at me for a moment before taking the sucker out of her mouth again, saying, "I hate to do this to you but I'm not taking any chances." Then she swiftly pointed the gun at me and fired. There was a burst of pain in my chest and I was sent flying back and hit the ground hard. I could barely breath.

Suddenly there was a man standing over me, looking like yet another clone of the three men the little girl had just killed. He reached down and put something around my neck before saying, "Say night night..." A moment later, unconsciousness claimed me.

Part 6

I awoke in a jail cell which is what I immediately recognized it as the moment I looked around. It was a small concrete room about 15 feet across in each direction and painted white on the walls, floor and ceiling. There was a small cot that was bolted to the floor and wall, a toilet in the corner that was missing a lid as well as any privacy, and even a sink embedded into the wall.

As a plumber I couldn't help but noticing that the exposed pipes on the sink were all welded together, probably to keep anyone from taking them apart and using them as weapons or for an escape attempt. I also knew that would make it a real pain in the as trying to work on the sink if anyone lost a ring or something down it.

Of course, no jail cell is complete without a way to lock people inside. In this case, it was a metal door that had a slide door in the middle where food could probably be slid in as well as a peep hole so that people outside would be able to watch me. Of course, they wouldn't really need the peep hole...not with the cameras.

There were two plastic bubbles on the ceiling, one of them in the corner near the door and the other on the opposite side of the room. I'd seen bubbles like that in banks and casinos so immediately recognized them as containing video cameras. With two cameras that way they'd be able to cover the entire room and leave no blind spots.

When I woke up on the cot I was completely naked not to mention extremely self-conscious and confused. I was also terrified since I had absolutely no idea where I was or what was going on. However, I felt at least a tiny bit of relief when I saw that whoever had locked me up had at least provided something for me to wear. There was a one piece blue jumpsuit folded up on the cot and a pair of shoes that were almost like slippers. I wasted no time in getting dressed.

I was just pulling the zipper up the front when I suddenly remembered being shot. I'd been in such a hurry to get dressed that I'd barely even thought of that. I put a hand on my leg and winced at the memory though at the moment I felt no pain. I hesitated a little then glared at the cameras before pulling the jumpsuit down so I could actually look at my leg. There was a bandage on that spot but when I poked at it there was still no pain just a slight sensitivity. So I took a deep breath and removed the bandage only to find that the injury was almost entirely gone. There was the faint hint of a scar but not much.

"I'm healing," I whispered in amazement, knowing that I probably shouldn't have been too surprised. That was one of the benefits of being augmented. In fact, before long there probably wouldn't be any scar or indication that I'd ever been hurt at all.

Then I remembered being shot in the chest by the little girl though there was no bandage or even the hint of a scar. It was as though I'd never been shot there at all. That was a relief and so was the fact that I could finally get dressed. I was more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of people watching me sit around naked through the peep hole or cameras.

Once I was dressed I took more care in looking around my little cell, trying to see if there was any way I could think of to escape. I knew that was probably a fantasy but at least it gave me hope. The other thing I tried doing was thinking about who had me locked up. I was pretty sure it wasn't the police because I hadn't seen any badges nor had any rights read to me. However, that certainly didn't make me feel any better about my situation.

I sat on the bed and tried hard not to show just how scared I was about what was going on. I was in a strange body, in a strange place, and being held prisoner by strangers for some unknown reason. I had more than enough reason to be both scared and confused but I was also angry and stubborn as hell. I was determined not to let them see how I really felt. I decided that I was going to wait them out. After all, they were probably watching me so knew I was awake. It was only a matter of time before they came.

My determination lasted several hours before my frustration overwhelmed it and I began to yell to whoever was listening. "LET ME OUT OF HERE," I screamed out several times along with, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" and "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" I repeated these and several other demands but there was no indication that anyone was actually listening.

Eventually someone did come though not because of my yelling. I didn't even see who it was only that the slot on the door opened and a tray of food was slid inside. It wasn't until that moment that I realized just how hungry I was. After all, I hadn't eaten a thing since the pizza before I got augmented.

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked over the food, finding that they'd provided me a plate with fresh steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, and baked chicken. There was even bottled water and a slice of cake for dessert. I was just a little confused since this was more like home cooking than jail food. In fact, this was better than I usually ate.

It was several hours after I'd finished eating when someone came to the door again though this time the door actually opened. I got to my feet and gulped, trying to look tough and confident though at the moment I didn't feel either. The man who stood in the doorway with a gun in his hand looked exactly like the ones I'd seen the little girl kill.

"Come with me and don't try anything stupid," he told me.

"Who are you people?" I demanded, not making any move. "What do you want with me?" I stared at his gun nervously, only half sure that he wasn't going to shoot me just yet. If they were just going to kill me they'd already had plenty of chance to do it.

"No questions," the man insisted, gesturing for me to come with him. Then he paused and nodded to the tray my dinner had come on and added, "If we were going to kill you we wouldn't bother giving you a final meal..."

I didn't resist anymore and went with him out of my cell and into a hall. I could see several more metal doors identical to the one I'd just exited, all on one wall. There were two other doors on the opposite side of the hall that looked a little more normal. My guard led me to one of those and had me enter before closing the door behind us.

This room was nearly three times as large as my cell with a table in the middle and a chair on either side. There was also several video cameras on the ceiling and a large dark window on one wall. I'd seen enough cop movies to recognize an interrogation room. My guard directed me to take a seat and I nervously did so, having a very bad feeling about this.

A minute later the door opened again and a woman came in, limping noticeably and using a cane. She was a black woman who appeared to be in her mid to late 40's and who looked as though she might have been very attractive when she was younger. She had shoulder length black hair that was sprinkled with gray, was dressed in a dark professional looking suit and had a black eye patch over one eye. The woman didn't say a word as she took a seat opposite me though she did give me a cold look with her one eye that sent chills up my spine.

"Who are you people?" I asked again, hoping this time I'd get an answer. "What is going on?"

"I am not here to answer your questions," the woman told me calmly before giving me a steady look that made me want to squirm in my seat. "You are here to answer mine. How well you cooperate determines what we do with you." She gave me a few seconds for that to absorb that then asked, "Do you understand?" When I slowly nodded my understanding she continued, "Good. Now what is your name?"

For a brief moment I considered lying, maybe giving her the name of one of my female neighbors. However, I almost immediately realized that would be a bad idea. I was pretty sure these people already knew who I really was since they'd been to my apartment.

"Nick Spaulding," I answered quietly, feeling extremely self-conscious as I did so. The woman didn't blink or look the least bit surprised which only confirmed they already knew my identity. That made me wonder just how much they already knew and how much of this was for show.

The next question was, "And how did you come into contact with the augmentation package?"

I took a deep breath and began telling her about how I'd witnessed the car chase and gunfight, pausing in the middle of my story to glance nervously at the large man who stood guard at the door. I soon finished my story and she began asking more questions as well as making me retell the story several time while she did so. The only thing that seemed to surprise her at all was when I told her how I was drunk and playing around with the sphere and accidentally activated it. She raised an eyebrow slightly at that which was the most emotion she showed during the questioning.

The questioning lasted for about two hours before the woman seemed satisfied that we were through. Once she had enough, she stood up and left the room, saying, "Thank you for your cooperation," as though I'd had any real choice. A minute later, I was escorted back to my cell with no more answers than when I'd first woken up.

I was left in my cell again for a long time though I had a hard time telling how long since there were no windows or clocks. In fact, I had no idea how long it had been between being shot at my apartment and waking up here. The only thing I had to guess time by at all were the meals they brought me. The first meal had been chicken and mashed potatoes and eventually they brought me a tray with pancakes, bacon and orange juice . Finally, they brought me a sandwich with chips and a Coke. This was obviously dinner, breakfast, and lunch but for all I knew they were intentionally trying to keep me confused about the time.

I spent all this time by myself alternately sitting on my cot, pacing my small cell, looking in desperation for some way out, and napping. I also spent some time stretching, doing pushups, and trying out my new body in other ways though the fact that I was being watched kept me from really familiarizing myself with it. My fear slowly faded away, replaced more and more with frustration over the helplessness of my situation and a growing anger.

It was about an hour after the 'lunch' meal and about 24 hours after I'd first awoken in this cell when the door finally opened again. I was actually relieved when this happened because it meant that at least something different was happening. After all this boredom, something different was exactly what I needed.

The now familiar looking man stood at the door though the only reason I was sure this was the same man as the last time was the hair cut. When I stepped out of the cell, I was startled to see the woman who'd interrogated me standing there as well. I was more surprised though when they led me not into the interrogation room again but down the hallway and through several doors that required her to enter a combination in order to open.

After we'd gone up an elevator and through a short maze of hallways I finally asked, "Where are you taking me?"

I wasn't actually expecting an answer but the woman smiled faintly and said, "You're going to see the Judge."

Almost immediately afterwards we stopped at a door and the woman knocked before opening it. She gestured for me to go inside and I did so, pausing for a moment to see that I was in a nice looking office with a large wooden desk in the middle of the room. There was already someone sitting behind the desk as well, a stocky man with white hair who looked to be in his late fifties. He gave me a cool once over with his eyes then nodded to the woman who left the room, leaving me alone with this man who somehow intimidated me even though he didn't actually look very dangerous.

"Nick Spaulding," the man behind the desk said, gesturing to one of the chairs in front of it. "Sit down."

I sat down and stared at the man for as moment guessing that he was the one in charge. I immediately felt a surge of anger though I tried to keep hold of it knowing that it wouldn't do me any good. If anything, it would get me shot...if they weren't going to do that already. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked, "What are you planning to do to me?"

The man smiled so faintly that I almost missed it. "For the moment I plan on answering your questions as much as I can and explaining exactly what it is you've become involved in."

"So who are you?" I asked, emboldened by what he'd just told me though feeling skeptical as well. "Why am I here?"

"My name is Harold Judge," the man told me. "You can call me Director Judge or Sir. I am the head of a small government agency that deals with certain abuses of augmentation technology."

"You're the ARA," I gasped in surprise. "The Augmentation Regulation Agency..." The ARA was the government agency that monitored the Big Three and went after the black market augmentation dealers.

"Not quite," Director Judge explained. "This organization does not officially exist and was created to deal with issues that the ARA are unable to for one reason or another. Their primary role is regulation and public relations, not enforcement." He paused for a moment before adding, "Their hands are too often tied by rules and politics. We do not answer to them but do coordinate with them at the highest levels"

I gasped in surprise and just stared at him, wondering exactly what the hell I'd gotten involved in. I suddenly had the realization that these were the people who could put me into a hole and make me disappear without a trial or anything of the sort. In fact, that was probably what they'd already done with me.

"The situation you have become involved in is far more complicated than some black market augmentation dealers," Director Judge said carefully, giving me an intense look. "You understand that this is all highly classified and I shouldn't tell you any of it. However, there are other organizations involved who already know most of what I'm telling you so I have decided that the best course with you is to be honest."

"I...I appreciate that," I responded carefully, becoming even more confused over where this was going.

Director Judge leaned back and frowned thoughtfully for a moment. "About eight years ago," he started carefully, "it was discovered that the N'vash left a satellite in Earth's orbit...perhaps more than one. It is stealthed and keeps changing orbit so we were lucky to discover it at all. Even now that we know what to look for we can only catch an occasional glimpse of its location."

"It is not public knowledge," Director Judge told me, "but once a person is augmented their core transmits a signal. It is a weak signal and very difficult to detect but we believe this signal is being picked up by the satellite. We also have reason to believe that the signal contains sensory data taken from the augment though no one has been able to decode the signal enough to make any use of this."

I sat there feeling a little confused, wondering what the N'vash had to do with my being locked up here. However, Director Judge looked deadly serious and I understood enough of what he was saying to realize that this was absolutely huge. I felt a cold chill run down my spine.

"What does this mean?" I asked carefully, trying not to sound as confused as I felt.

"It means that when the N'vash gave us the augmentation process," he answered with a scowl, "they turned every augmented person on Earth into a spy for them." At my gasp he continued. "Most of the wealthiest and most influential people have been augmented. Everything they've seen and heard has been sent to the satellite including things critical to national security like nuclear launch codes."

"Holy shit," I blurted out.

"We don't know what the N'vash really intend," Director Judge admitted with a grimace and a shake of his head. "Perhaps this is just their way to gather anthropological data on the human race in case they ever pass this way again. However, it could very well be setting the stage for an invasion." He gave me a cold stare at that to impress that he wasn't joking.

"It sounds like some science fiction movie," I told him after a moment.

"It gets even worse," he responded. "If the cores are sending signals to the satellite it may be possible for them to receive a signal back, perhaps one ordering them to shut down the body of their host and kill them remotely...or perhaps even take over the nervous system to control them. We don't know enough to even be certain this is possible but there are experts who believe is it."

For a moment I just sat there absorbing what he'd told me. It was quite a blow. The N'vash had been the Earth's first real contact with an alien race and the fact that it had been peaceful and beneficial to both parties had created a lot of hope and optimism about future alien encounters. However, if any of this was true then that put the entire meeting with the N'vash in a new light.

"The augmentation technology is a trojan horse," I whispered in realization.

Director Judge nodded his agreement and told me, "There are agencies around the world working on what to do about the N'vash in case they do return. Of more immediate concern to both my agency and you is the fact that some of the people who know about this are trying to take advantage of it. While our government is looking for a way to take down the satellite and jam the core signal, there are other people trying to decode the signal and figure out how to seize control of the satellite."

This time I immediately realized what he was saying and had a cold chill run down my spine at the sheer scope of it. If someone could read the signal and see everything than an augment saw then they could use some of the most powerful and influential people in the world as unwilling and even unknowing spies. They could even blackmail some of them into doing whatever they wanted. That wasn't even taking into account the potential ability to kill them or control them from the satellite.

"Knowledge is power," I whispered the old adage, knowing that this kind of thing could change the balance of world power. However, I was still confused about several things such as why he was telling me something this big...assuming he was telling me the truth. "What does this have to do with me?"

"I'll get to that in a moment," Director Judge assured me. "In this business, augmented operatives are extremely useful and quite common since they have a vast physical edge over standard agents. However, I can not allow my best operatives to be compromised so began working on my own solution to this problem. I acquired a second generation core unit and one of the worlds leading augmentation experts then put him to work on this solution. After five years, he discovered how to remove some of the hidden programming inside a core and was able to create new cores that were cut off...that were incapable of transmitting or receiving signals. This meant we could create augmented agents that won't be compromised by their cores."

"But isn't a second generation unit too unstable?" I asked in surprise.

Director Judge shook his head. "They aren't quite as risky as the public believes. If you take the right precautions they are only slightly more dangerous. However, those precautions mean that it takes over three times as long for a second generation unit to create a stable augmentation package though it is far quicker and easier for most to bypass those precautions."

Then Director Judge scowled in annoyance at the diversion before he returned to what he'd been saying. "Removing that part of the core also left extra space in the that we were able to fill with programs for extra features." At this point, he looked rather pleased as he told me. "We created five prototypes, each one customized for one of my top operatives in a way that no other augment has ever been before."

I leaned forward and just stared at Director Judge, having lost my fear of this man though he was still intimidating in some way I couldn't quite determine. I was completely fascinated by everything he was saying in no small part to the fact that this went against everything I'd ever heard before. This was like being able get a glimpse behind the curtain for the first time in my life and actually a little of what was really going on. However, I was especially interested in what he'd just told me because I now had a feeling I knew where he was going with this.

"These prototypes were only completed last week," Director Judge told me grimly. "Before they could be implanted into my operatives, Prometheus found out where the lab was and launched an assault."

"Prometheus?" I asked blankly.

"One of our greatest threats," Director Judge said, showing a quick flash of anger which he quickly hid. "An organization that on the surface is dedicated to the proliferation of augmentation technology. On one level they have been pushing to legalize the selling of second generation augmentation packages and make augmentation more affordable. On another level they have been forming alliances with and taking over black market dealers then increasing production." Then he paused for a moment and gave me a flat stare before adding, "Their ultimate goal is to seize control of the satellite."

"The more people who are augmented," I said quietly as I considered what that meant, "the more people there are to control." I felt another cold chill run down my spine feeling even more like I was caught up in some kind of movie. There were actually villains trying to take over the world and almost no one knew about it. "Damn..."

I was just a little confused though as to why a group who wanted to control the augmented would want a type of core that they wouldn't be able to control. Then it dawned on me. Of course, they wouldn't want to be controlled themselves. They'd want to be immune to it and probably keep anyone outside of themselves from getting that immunity.

"Prometheus killed my scientist and destroyed the lab," Director Judge told me grimly. "Three of my operatives had just arrived for their implants and were able to get out with the prototypes and the files on how they were made. One of my people was killed during the escape and you witnessed what happened with the other two."

I was silent for a few seconds before saying, "So I have one of the prototypes..." I'd already guessed that when he mentioned that they existed. Now it suddenly made sense why those guys had gone after Mike and me to get the package. Now it make sense why they'd lock me up.

"Yes," Director Judge said carefully, giving me an appraising look. "You have one of the prototypes. We verified that two of the prototypes were destroyed in the explosion as were the files. Unfortunately, two of the prototypes are unaccounted for. Prometheus may have recovered them, they may have been destroyed as well, or some passerby may have simply picked them up." He raised an eyebrow at that and I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat.

"So what does this mean for me?" I asked quietly. I knew now that I'd gotten involved in something too big to just walk away from. There was no way they'd just let me go with something like that prototype core inside of me. "What are you going to do with me?"

Director Judge stared at me for a moment with an appraising look in his eyes before he finally answered, "I'm going to recruit you."

"What?" I blinked in surprise.

"We have few realistic options for dealing with you," he explained. "We could remove the core from you but that would kill you and render the core useless. We might do that if we needed to reverse engineer it but the truth is we already have older files on its construction and will be able to recreate the prototypes in about a year anyway."

"We can't just let you go," Director Judge told me calmly. "Prometheus is already looking for you and would have no hesitation about killing you in order to get the core. In fact, retrieving the core and reverse engineering it would be one of their primary objectives. I simply can not allow that to happen." Then he paused to admit, "But of course, at the moment they believe you to be dead."

I blinked in surprise, then asked, "What do you mean?"

"We killed their agents before they could confirm you used the prototype or provide them a description of your new appearance," Director Judge explained. "We then made it look as though we killed you for the core. Because of that, they will no longer be looking for you. However, they do have your name and would notice if you tried returning to your old life. I'm afraid that as far as the world is concerned Nick Spaulding is dead and for your own safety and ours it will have to remain that way."

"The core inside you represents a substantial investment," Director Judge told me with a patient expression. "An investment in money, time, and most importantly...human lives. If we let you just leave you become a dangerous liability and there are people who would insist I kill you now to prevent that from happening. However, I hate wasting resources and having you join us is the only way we can still benefit from our investment. If you don't join us you will be kept safe and comfortable in substantially better conditions than you've enjoyed so far. I would prefer that you willingly join us...but if you do it must be with a clear understanding of the situation. That is why I have been so honest with you."

I leaned back in my chair, feeling stunned and a bit overwhelmed with everything he'd told me. I'd come into this room expecting to be told that they were going to kill me but instead he'd asked something completely different. I felt incredibly relieved though also very apprehensive.

"What about Mike?" I abruptly asked, suddenly remembering the friend whom I'd been so worried about before. I felt a deep surge of guilt at how I'd been so concerned about myself and my own situation that I'd nearly forgotten all about him. "Is he locked up in one of the cells below?"

Director Judge slowly shook his head, "No..." He paused for a moment before telling me, "Your friend is how both Prometheus and us found you. He posted online about an unidentified augmentation package he was selling. We tracked the posting to the source but so did Prometheus and they reached him before we could." Then his expression became sympathetic as he added, "Your friend is most likely dead."

I slumped down into my chair feeling deflated. My emotions swirled around in a mass of confusion for a moment though they quickly settled into a state of stunned numbness. Director Judge's statements about Mike only seemed to confirm what I'd already feared. However, after everything else he'd told me it was hard to absorb anything more, even something like that.

"You can take your time and think about my offer," Director Judge said almost kindly. "I'll have you taken to more comfortable quarters..."

"I'll do it," I said abruptly, surprising him a little as well as myself. I looked Director Judge in the eyes and repeated, "I'll join you..."

Director Judge had made it quite clear that I didn't have a lot of choices available to me. I could work for him or be held in some sort of protective custody for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I realized that after what he'd told me...I couldn't just go back to my normal life of installing plumbing even if I did have the opportunity. I'd seen behind the curtain and gotten a glimpse of how things really worked so I couldn't forget that and just go about my life as though it hadn't happened. For good or ill that was no longer an option.

Another thought occurred to me as well, a realization that this was a once in a life time opportunity to be involved in something important. I was well aware of the fact that I was already in well over my head and agreeing would drive me in deeper. In fact, I was scared by that thought as well as strangely excited. This was something that I felt I had to at least try.

Director Judge gave me a steely eyed look that made me feel almost like he was looking right into my soul. I guessed he was trying to judge whether I was serious about this or just trying to play along until I could escape. After some very long seconds, he held out his hand for me to shake and said, "Welcome to my team."

Part 7

The woman who'd interrogated me was named Kiesha Adams...or Ms Adams as I'd been instructed to call her. As I'd just learned, she was second in command here and dealt with most of the day to day running of this place. At the moment, she was leading me down the hallway and seeming only slightly more pleasant than she'd been before.

Ms. Adams was moving at a good pace considering the fact that she was limping and using a cane. I was tempted to comment on it but decided better. I had a feeling that she wasn't the type for small talk and I didn't especially feel like chatting with the woman who'd so recently been treating me like a criminal.

At the moment Ms. Adams was leading me down the hallway away from Director Judge's office. This whole level looked almost like a normal office building with offices and conference rooms though there were also secure looking doors with high tech locks on them.

Then she stopped at one office and I saw a little girl sitting inside at the desk, the very same little girl who'd shot me in the chest. I took an instinctive step backwards while she just glanced at me then gave Ms. Adams a curious look.

"This is Susan," Ms. Adams told me, indicating the little girl. "One of our best operatives." Then she gestured to me and told the little girl...Susan, "She will be joining us so I need you to help her settle in."

Susan stared at me for a moment with a speculative look before asking, "What did the Judge say?"

"That she will be joining us and we should help her settle in," Ms. Adams responded wryly. "She will begin her training tomorrow." Then she turned to me and said, "I will leave you in Susan's care," before she walked off and left me.

I stared at Susan awkwardly for a moment, not sure what to think about being left in the care of a little girl. I remembered clearly just how dangerous she'd been back at my apartment, killing those men in front of me and then shooting me as well.

Then something suddenly dawned on me and I felt stupid for not realizing it earlier. "You're augmented..."

"Obviously," Susan raised an eyebrow and looked at me with an expression that was too serious for someone that young. Then she shook her head faintly and gave an exasperated sigh. "I'm a lot older than I look too... "

"Why would you augment yourself into a kid?" I asked in surprise, still a bit unsure of what to make her. I thought that kind of augmentation was borderline illegal not to mention the fact that I couldn't imagine anyone doing that to themselves intentionally.

"I get this reaction a lot," she explained in obvious annoyance, "so I might as well get this out of the way." She paused to stare up at me for a moment with a scowl. "Several years ago we were going after a very dangerous arms dealer with very good security. None of our people could get near him and several agents had been killed trying. The only weak spot we could find in his security was that he was a pedophile. I volunteered for this augmentation so that I could get close enough to take him out."

I gasped, surprised at the casual ease in which she talked about killing a man. Of course, from what little she'd told me about the man I could easily see that he'd probably deserved it.

"Since then," Susan continued with a cold smile, "I haven't aged a day. But on the plus side, looking like this comes in very useful for undercover work since I'm always overlooked and underestimated."

I just nodded at that since I wasn't sure what I could possibly say. She still made me a bit uncomfortable since I wasn't quite sure whether to think of her as an adult or a kid. Of course, I now knew intellectually that she had an adult mind in a kid's body but that didn't change the impression I got when I looked at her.

"I'm Nick," I said, holding out my hand and feeling extremely self-conscious as I introduced myself.

"I know," Susan responded with a raised eyebrow. She hesitated a moment before accepting my hand. It was strange shaking hands with her since she was so much smaller than me and I had to remind myself again that in spite of her looks she wasn't a kid. In fact, I'd seen what she was capable of and didn't want to ever underestimate her. "You'll want to use a different name though. For one thing, everyone believes you're dead and for certainly don't look like a Nick anymore."

I nodded uncomfortably at that and muttered, "Yeah, I know..." Then I forced a smile and asked, "How about Nicole?"

"Good name," Susan responded, "Bad choice. It's too close to your old name and if Prometheus learns that you survived and were augmented they may be able to use it to help piece together who you are."

That made me wince slightly because I'd already realized I would need a new name and Nicole had seemed like the obvious choice. However, Susan had a point.

“You should also keep your real identity to yourself,” she added. “Only a few people here know who you are and it will be better if no one else finds out.”

“Okay,” I nodded, seeing her point. They’d faked my death for a reason and telling more people who I was would only increase the chance that the truth would come out.

"So the Judge is assigning you to my team," Susan mused, looking at me speculatively. "Normally we'd never get a complete noob but you are a special case... It’s going to take a lot of work and training before you're useful though..."

I just nodded at that, feeling self-conscious again. I had a feeling that becoming 'useful' as she'd put it would not be easy and would require a lot of work. I just hoped that I wasn't as far over my head as I felt and that I could manage.

"You called him THE Judge," I said carefully. "Ms. Adams called him that too. Does everyone here call him that?"

"Pretty much," Susan responded with a grin. "It's an obvious nickname but it stuck. In fact, we all started referring to our headquarters as his courtroom and that name stuck as well. Before anyone realized it we had a whole slew of themed codenames. Our analysts are called the jury and our field agents are called the executioners. Adams is called the Bailiff but we have a Prosecutor and Defense as well."

"Really?" I asked in surprise. It was hard to believe that one person’s nickname could be so infectious. Then again, Director Judge...or THE Judge was the guy in charge.

"We don't officially exist," Susan told me, still looking somewhat amused, "but people who knew of our existence just referred to us as in officially doesn't exist agency number thirty-seven. However, I hear that even the president has referred to us as Court."

I just stared at Susan for a moment in surprise, hardly able to believe how casually she was talking about super classified national security things. I had a feeling that since I'd agreed to join them that I'd be hearing a lot more of it. I also had a cold chill run up my spine over what would probably happen to me if I repeated it to the wrong people.

"Do you have a code name?" I asked curiously.

"Suzie Q," she responded with a shrug. At my look of surprise, she explained, "Only command gets the themed code names." Then she gave me a skeptical look and added, "You'll be given a code name if you're ever ready for field work."

I couldn't help but noticing that she'd said 'if' not 'when'. I tried not to be offended since I was kind of skeptical of that myself. Still, I was determined to do the best I could and hopefully prove her and my own doubts wrong..

"Come on," Susan said as she abruptly left the office, "I'll show you around."

Susan led me down the hallway pointing to several of the secure doors and saying, "This is file room 7," and "This is where the jury works." I just nodded though I was already lost. There were no names on any of the doors and the only real identifiers for what was beyond them were simply room numbers.

Then she took me into another office where a familiar looking man was working on the computer. It was the same man who'd been acting as my guard when I was still locked up. He stood up when we came in and looked down on me, making me feel intimidated again even though he made no threatening move towards me.

"This is our Bob," Susan introduced me to the man. I took a hesitant step back and she asked, "What's wrong?"

"He looks like the guys who came at me in my apartment," I responded, taking a breath and meeting his eyes, trying not to keep showing how nervous he made me.

Susan gave me a blank look for a moment before gasping, "You don't know what a Bob is do you?" Then she shook her head, "Of course, you're a noob..."

I scowled, feeling more annoyed and frustrated now than nervous. "Okay, what am I missing?"

"Ares makes military grade augments," Susan explained. "They focus on enhanced physical traits like strength, stamina, and pain control rather than appearances like Advent or GCA. The series eight oh eight is their main product, mass produced for soldiers. It's very popular among the special forces and mercenary crowd." Then she wrote 808 on a piece of paper and grinned, "Everyone just calls them Bobs."

Bob watched me during this without saying a word but now he scowled and turned to Susan, saying, "I'm assuming the Judge put her on our team?"

"Yes," Susan responded with a shrug. "Her training starts tomorrow."

Bob looked at me a little more closely and his scowl only deepened. "Great," he told Susan, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Two of our team get killed protecting the prototypes and for a replacement they give us a completely untrained rookie..."

"Don't mind him," Susan told me as she ushered me away. "We just lost two friends and to be honest, this is the first time we've ever had to train a complete noob ourselves..." Then she paused a moment before adding, "We usually only recruit people with experience and specialized skills so even our normal rookies are already ready for field work. Like I said before, you are a rather...unique situation."

After this, Susan led me to an elevator, a different one than the one I'd come up on earlier. We went up a little more and were on what she called the training level. This level consisted of a weight room, gym, shooting range, and other features useful for exercise and training. I was given only a brief tour of this area along with the promise that I'd be getting very familiar with it starting tomorrow.

Then we came to the living quarters for those who chose to stay at the Courthouse for one reason or another, oftentimes having to do with operations work or needing to be immediately on hand for a situation

"I stay here because I can't very well live by myself in the outside world anymore," Susan told me with a forced smile. "It would draw too much attention."

This whole section looked more like a hotel than like a stark barracks like I'd been expecting. There was carpet on the floors and walls that were painted a faint yellow color. However, we quickly went to the far side where Susan showed me the small cafeteria that served the entire Courthouse and introduced me to the man who ran this section, saying that he was a combination of housekeeper and cook both.

"He cleans the public area and provides food," Susan told me as we continued on our tour. "You're responsible for your own quarters. And whatever you do, don't piss him off. He may seem harmless but the last guy who pushed him too far ended up with a bad case of salmonella."

We went back towards the quarters and Susan stopped in front of one door saying, "This is yours..." She unlocked the door and gestured for me to enter.

I stepped inside and looked around in pleasant surprise. The outside hallway had definitely given me the impression of a hotel and this just continued the impression. My new quarters looked not just like a nice hotel room but more like a small hotel suite. There was a bedroom with a queen size bed, a living room with furniture and TV, a bathroom with both a shower and tub, and even a small kitchen area.

“There’s a combination lock on the door,” Susan told me, pointing to the console inside the room. “You can set what the combo is here. Don’t put too much faith in that though. There are a lot of people around here who are good at getting past things like that.”

“It’s certainly better than my last room,” I joked weakly.

Susan nodded, “I’d imagine so.” Then she told me, “I’ll let you get settled in then. I’m sure you’ll want a shower and some privacy to absorb everything that’s happened.”

I looked down at myself and winced, realizing that she was right. I probably needed a shower badly though admittedly the thought of taking one in this body was a bit uncomfortable.

“You’re free to go anywhere you want on this level,” Susan told me, “but you’ll need an escort to go to the other levels until your clearance comes through. Make sure you get some rest because tomorrow is going to be a long day.”

With that, Susan turned and went to the door, pausing before leaving to look back and exclaim, “Oh yeah… I guess you’ll need some of the basics. I’ll see if I can get some new clothes for you…”

Once Susan was gone, I slowly walked around my new quarters again, paying careful attention to the ceiling but seeing no sign of any cameras. Of course, people like this could have hidden cameras that I’d never find. That could very well be the case but if I kept thinking like that I’d become so paranoid I’d never be able to relax.

At the moment I was already stressed enough. My mind and emotions were swirling from everything I’d just learned and what I’d just agreed to. My life would never be the same. I could never even look at the world the same way.

I went to the door and hesitated a moment before opening it. To my relief it did open. I peaked down the hallway in both directions but didn’t see any guards. It looked like Susan wasn’t joking when she said I could wander around. However, I held little doubts that I was still a prisoner of sorts just in a much larger and more comfortable cage.

Going back inside, I sat down on the couch and let out a long sigh. I sat there for several minutes before remembering that I needed a shower. I could have easily waited for that but decided that I needed a distraction. I needed to do SOMETHING to keep these emotions at bay.

I stripped out of my jumpsuit and dropped it to the floor then looked over my body. I felt a chill run through me at the sight of my smooth skin and soft feminine curves. Then I ran my hand over the spot where I’d been shot in my leg, noticing that now even the scar had vanished. There was no indication that I’d ever been shot there.

A minute later I was standing in the bathroom, absently thinking that it was actually bigger and more luxurious than the one in my apartment…or the one in my OLD apartment since it was now clear that I couldn’t go back.

“Everything I own,” I said with a wince, realizing that I’d lost absolutely everything. All my worldly possessions were gone just as surely as if they’d burned up in a fire. And it wasn’t just my possessions. It was my friends, job, and very identity. “All gone…”

I stared into the bathroom mirror, carefully examining the beautiful pale skinned woman who looked back. It was a face that still seemed strange to me though one I knew I would eventually have to get used to.

“Don’t think about it,” I told myself, knowing that I had to keep distracted. I had to keep from dwelling on it. Then I laughed and muttered, “Too late…” I’d been thinking about my new body quite a bit while I was locked up in that cell.

It wasn’t long before I was in the shower and slowly washing my new body. My skin felt so soft and smooth especially as I ran my hands over my breasts. However, it didn’t really feel like MY body. This body was mine but it just didn’t feel like ME. Of course, I felt everything but emotionally it didn’t connect. It was almost like I was having a strangely intimate moment with some woman.

When I finished with my shower I felt much cleaner though now I no longer had the distraction to keep my emotions from crashing down on me. I collapsed onto the couch and considered everything that had happened and that I’d lost.

“Mike,” I whispered, feeling a surge of guilt.

What had happened to Mike was my fault. If I hadn’t picked up that metal sphere and taken it home… If I hadn’t taken it to Mike to ask him about it… Of course, I’d told Mike not to sell it and he had posted about it online anyway but that didn’t make me feel any less guilty.

“What the hell have I gotten myself into?” I moaned to myself. Of course, Director Judge and Susan had already explained all of that but I still felt like I was lost in the middle of the ocean. All I could do now was keep treading water.

Part 8

I was woken up early for my training just like I'd expected though I certainly wasn't happy about it. My normal routine was to sleep in as late as I possibly could then slowly wake up the rest of the way with a couple cups of coffee. However, it seemed that being augmented meant I no longer needed the coffee to get up and going since I was wide awake and charged the moment I climbed out of bed. That was fortunate because Susan didn't give me enough time for coffee and only barely gave me enough time to get dressed.

Susan had done what she said she would and came back last night with some clothes that fit my new body as well as a few other things I'd need. As a result, I was able to get dressed in some workout clothes for my training. I had sneakers, a pair of red shorts, a white t-shirt, and an athletic bra that I absolutely hated to put on. I was very resistant to the idea until Susan pointed out that my tits would bounce all over the place without it.

Once I was done getting dressed I looked myself over in the bathroom and mirror and scowled for a moment before pulling my hair back into a pony tail so it wouldn't get in my face. However, my hair wasn't the main reason I was scowling. In spite of just being dressed to go exercise I still looked pretty hot. That just made me feel extremely uncomfortable, especially knowing that guys would be seeing me and would probably stare. I knew that I would have.

It didn't take long though for me to forget all about the discomfort of wearing the athletic bra and about being self-conscious because Susan put me to work running on a treadmill. At first I was distracted by the bouncing of my boobs but soon I was able to tune it out and just focus on the running. I ran and ran while she insisted I keep running even more. I was completely engrossed in this, eventually realizing that my heart rate and breathing increased but that I wasn't getting exhausted or out of breath.

The treadmill said I'd run 20 miles and all I could do was stare at that number in stunned amazement. I couldn't believe that I'd actually done it but I had. And even more unbelievable was the fact that I could keep going. It suddenly dawned on me that this was the reason that augmented were banned from just about every professional sport. Being augmented was the ultimate performance enhancer.

It was at this point that Susan began yelling, "Run faster..." She'd already been yelling encouragements during my 20 mile run but now became much more insistent and pushy. "Move your ass..." I ran faster but it wasn't enough and after a minute she was screaming, "Move it big tits... I don't have all day..."

At this point it struck me that this was like going through basic training all over again. In fact, in a way it was basic training. Susan was acting like a drill sergeant but when I looked at her she was dressed in a pink jogging suit and had her hair in pig tails. The contradicting impressions she gave off nearly made my head explode which I suspect was her intention.

"Okay, you can take a break now," Susan told me a short time later, shifting back into friendly mode and saying, "I'm hungry..."

I stepped off the treadmill with a loud sigh of relief. I was soaked with sweat and breathing hard though not nearly as hard as I would have imagined after all that running. There was no way I would have been able to do anywhere near that before my accident with the augmentation package. And though I was feeling tired now I was also feeling good. I couldn't resist grinning as I grabbed a bottle of water and gulped the whole thing down.

"I'm starving," I exclaimed, relieved to see that Susan had brought some breakfast down here with us so we didn't have to run up to the cafeteria. It wasn't very impressive food and consisted largely of fruit, power bars, and sausage but it filled me up and at the moment it tasted better than I could have hoped. As I wolfed down my food I absently wondered just how many calories I'd burned.

"When we have more time," Susan mused, "we're going to have to find out exactly how far you can go as well as how fast you can sprint..." Then she told me, "Eat up. You're going to need all the energy you can get because this was just the warm up..."

I just groaned at that and continued eating, noticing that I was no longer feeling tired from that run. It was absolutely amazing, not just my stamina while running but just how fast I recovered afterwards. I could imagine the nanocytes busy at work in my blood stream removing the lactic acid and repairing the damage to my muscles. By the time I was done eating I was ready to get going least physically.

Susan shifted back into drill instructor mode but this time had me lifting weights. We went to the weight room where only a couple other people were working out and then began to go through a variety of different exercises. She had me do a bench press until I found the most I could lift, which was an amazing amount for a woman of my size and build, then I went to a different exercise until I found my limit.

My pint sized trainer continued with her drill instructor style motivation though she did tone it down a little while I was actually lifting the weights so that I wouldn't get too distracted and hurt myself. She offered no apology for yelling at me though she did explain, "My life and the life of my team may depend on you being able to pull your own weight." That motivated me to work even harder.

After we'd finished with the weights we took another water break then I got on some mats and began doing stretching and yoga type moves. Susan actually got on the mat and went through these ones with me, mellowing out again much to my relief. I definitely preferred her when she wasn't being a ball busting bitch.

"You need to realize just how flexible you are now and just how much you can move your body in any direction," Susan told me as she had me get into one pose. I was amazed at how easily I could do it, feeling almost as though my body were made of rubber. Rubber and steel both considering how well I'd been doing with the weights.

"Do all the rookies have to do this kind of workout?" I asked with a wince, thinking of the running and the weights. "If anything will get someone into shape fast that has got to be it..."

"No," Susan smirked, "Only newly augmented. You don't need that kind of workout to get into shape. In fact, you're already in peak physical condition and that's not going to change at all. The same thing that makes it so you never have to exercise to stay in top physical condition also makes it so you can lift weights all you want and you won't get any stronger or more muscular."

"What?" I gasped in surprise as well as a little anger considering just how hard I'd been working. "Then what's the damn point?"

"Several points," Susan paused and held up her pointer finger. "One, you have a new body and need to become familiar with it and what it is capable of. You need to learn exactly what your physical abilities are and become confident of them. Two," she held up a second finger. "You need to learn how to maximize those abilities even further. There are tricks that professional athletes use such as proper form, breathing, and leverage which you will learn." Then she held up a third finger, "Three... You need to get used to pushing yourself to your limits. And four..." At this, Susan paused to give me a steady look and added, "You need to remember how to follow orders. You used to be in the army so should know how important that is in an organization."

I just stared at her for a moment before reluctantly nodding. I grimaced, wondering if all this effort would be worth it. I was beginning to have my doubts. Of course, I reminded myself what the alternative was and became even more determined to keep going. Even if I didn't have all the other reasons my pride alone was motivation to not give up.

"So what next?" I asked with a sigh once we'd finished up with the stretching. I'd already done enough exercise this morning to last a week though I doubted she'd see it that way. I envisioned something else nasty next, maybe running some kind of obstacle course.

"Now things get more interesting," Susan told me with an almost evil grin. She gestured to Bob who I now noticed was standing on the side of the room wearing a loose fitting jogging suit and a scowl. At that, Bob came walking towards us. "Bob will be taking over for this part. You see, most of the people you fight will be bigger than you not smaller."

"Fight me," Bob said. "I want to see what you have."

I hesitated a moment, not sure what to do. Bob seemed to take that as an indication he should start things because he suddenly punched me in the face. I stumbled back, gasping in pain then grimacing in anger. He was watching me with a look that indicated he wasn't impressed. I was damn sure going to knock that smug look off his face.

I charged Bob and went to punch him back but he casually blocked my effort then pushed me back. I tried punching him several more times but couldn't lay a hand on him until he obviously chose to let me hit him. It was becoming clear that he was playing with me and that only pissed me off more.

After several minutes of trying to hit Bob and only succeeding when he let me, he stopped holding back. He suddenly punched me so fast and hard that I was thrown back with an explosion of pain in my face. I hit the ground hard and gasped out, noticing that blood was dripping on the mat. I reached up and felt my nose, wincing at how much it hurt and realizing that it was actually moving.

"You broke my nothe," I exclaimed in shock though I wasn't sure how clear the words were.

"Your nanocytes will fix it," Susan called back from the site where she was sitting back watching the fight and munching on jelly beans.

My nose hurt for a few more seconds before my nanocytes did their thing and cut back on my pain receptors. Just as when I'd been shot, the pain quickly receded into more of a numbness. However, that didn't do much for the blood that had already run down my front and was plugging up my sinuses.

Bob only gave me a few seconds to regain my composure before he came after me again. I'd always thought that I knew how to throw a punch and could handle myself well in a fight but he quickly proved how wrong I was. He spent the next five minutes just kicking my ass in nearly every way possible, blocking my attacks and shoving me back. He wasn't hitting me as hard as the last time but every time he punched I would wince in expectation of more pain.

"You have legs as well as fists," Bob told me. "Use them too. They have longer reach." I grimaced and kicked at him though he easily blocked my kick. "Try it like this. You get more power." Then he swung a kick at me, catching me in the side and knocking me to the ground though I quickly got back up. Now my ribs ached as well and felt like they might be bruised.

At this point the nature of the fight changed. Bob began to point out everything I did wrong and then offer ways to correct it. It was so patronizing that I only grew more angry, more determined to finally get through and hurt him. I didn't care how badly outmatched I was. He was going down.

"Control your anger," Bob instructed as he blocked another of my kicks. "Put it aside. It’s a distraction you can't afford in a fight. You need to stay clear headed and focused..."

A few minutes later, Bob suddenly punched me in my gut and knocked the air out of me. I dropped to the ground and gasped for breath while also grimacing in pain. He hadn't held back with that punch and it hurt badly, making me suddenly fear that he'd severely damaged some of my internal organs.

"Get up," Susan called from the side though she made no move to come help me.

Bob stood close beside me and looked as though he was about to give me a swift kick. With a surge of anger I kicked up and got him right between the legs. Normally I'd never do that to a guy and would cringe in sympathy at the very thought. However, these weren’t normal circumstances. Bob grimaced in pain and it took a few seconds for his nanocytes to shut down the pain. That was just enough time though for me to sweep my leg and knock his feet out from underneath him.

"Good one," Susan called out cheerfully.

By this point I was able to breathe a little though it still hurt like hell even with the numbness that was beginning to spread through my insides. I started trying to get to my feet but Bob recovered even faster than I'd imagined and was back on his feet before me. He came to me again though to my surprise he looked...pleased.

"Not bad," Bob said, looking a little more relaxed. Instead of attacking me he bent over and held out a hand to help me up. I hesitated before taking it. To my relief, this wasn't some trick to hit me again. "You fight like crap but you do have some fighting spirit."

"So what do you think?" Susan asked Bob with a thoughtful expression. She ate a jelly bean then offered me one.

"She has potential," Bob responded after a moment. "I'll get a regimen worked up."

"Make sure to add some jujitsu," Susan mused. "It's great for close up."

Then Bob turned to me and said, "Go get cleaned up and get something to eat. I'll meet up with you again in two hours."

At my gasp of horror, Susan laughed then told me, "Don't worry. We're done with the physical stuff for today..." Then after Bob walked away, she told me, "The training is rough but it will save your life some day. Trust me, your enemies aren't going to go easy on you."

I nodded grimly at that, seeing her point but still not liking it. After only 20 minutes or so with Bob I had a broken nose, bruises all over my entire body, and who knew what kind of internal damage he'd done with that last punch. Even with my nanocytes dulling the pain I still hurt all over. I shuddered at the thought of just how much I'd be hurting if it hadn't been for the nanocytes doing that.

A short time later I was in my quarters and stripping off my workout clothes. Everything I had on was soaked through with sweat and my shirt had blood all over the front of it. I tossed it all in the corner for the moment, thinking that if training was this hard every day then I was in serious trouble. In fact, I was a little tempted to just tell Director Judge that I quit and that he should just lock me back up immediately.

“Damn,” I winced as I looked over my naked body, seeing bruises forming over nearly all of it. Of course, I knew that my nanocytes would take care of them in very little time but there was so much damage I feared it might take a bit longer than I’d like. “That fucking bastich…”

I grimaced and went to the bathroom, looking at the damage to my face next. I had an obvious black eye and a nose that was no longer bleeding but was still obviously broken. It wasn’t nearly as swollen as I would have expected but it was at a bad angle.

I turned away from the mirror, not wanting to see myself like that. It only made me feel even more aware of the injuries I’d received. I could hardly believe the beating I’d gotten and all it had really been was a test so Bob could see how well I could fight.

“Damn asshole,” I grumbled as I climbed into the shower.

The hot water over my body didn’t feel nearly as good as it might have normally and I had to be a bit careful as I washed myself. However, at least it felt nice to get clean after the rough morning I’d had.

Once I’d carefully dried myself off, I had to get dressed again. I wasn’t thrilled with that since the clothes would only rub up against my bruises but I sure as hell had no intention of leaving this room naked.

Susan had brought me a variety of clothes last night so I actually had a few things to choose from. I chose a nice pair of dark slacks since there were no jeans to choose from and I got a nice long sleeve blouse that would hide the bruises all over my arms. Then after brushing my hair I was ready to go which was a good thing because I was starving.

I went to the cafeteria, feeling self-conscious as I did so. This was my first time wandering around the Courthouse without an escort and a part of me feared that someone would think I was supposed to still be locked up in the cell. Fortunately, that was not the case or if it was no one called me on it.

A short time after my lunch was over I found myself at the shooting range with Bob. He'd changed out of his workout clothes too and was now dressed in slacks and a black button up shirt. I was a bit hesitant to be here alone with him after how he'd treated me earlier.

"Please don't shoot me," I half joked, really hoping that wasn't part of his firearm training. "I've already been shot by one guy who looks like you."

"Shooting you isn't in the plan," Bob responded distantly. Then he smiled so faintly that I barely caught it before he added, "You've already been through that part of the training." I just stared at him in surprise, not quite sure if he was joking or not.

There was a small table where Bob and I were standing which had two guns on it along with several other items. Off to the side was the actual shooting range which was set up not with standard targets but with several human shaped dummies that were made of ballistics gel. I looked at the dummies then back at Bob who'd picked up one of the guns. It was a hand gun that looked just like the one Susan had used when she'd shot me.

"This is a gel gun," Bob said, holding it up for me to get a better look at.

I stared at the gun in surprise. I'd heard of gel guns but didn't know much about them and certainly hadn't ever seen one in person before. Or at least, I'd never seen one before and known it was a gel gun. "I thought those things were illegal."

"Technically they are," Bob responded. "Nearly everyone in this business uses them anyway. They're far too useful." Then he popped the clip out of the handle and revealed that instead of being a clip full of bullets it was a transparent vial full of a green goo that looked like lime Jello. "The gel is infused with nanocytes." He slapped the clip back into the gun and explained, "The gel is pushed into the chamber where the nanocytes form it into whichever ammunition the gun is set for."

"Wait," I blurted out in surprise. "What do you mean whatever ammunition?"

Bob held the gun sideways and pointed to a small slide lever on the side. "Standard ammunition," he said before moving the slide and saying, "Hollow point." He slid it again and said, "Armor piercing." Then he continued this adding, "Maximum range and beanbag."

"Beanbag?" I asked in confusion.

Bob gave me a faint but evil looking grin as he explained, "The bullet flattens before hitting the target. Short range and almost no penetration but it hits hard and is good for taking down a target without causing serious injury."

I just stared at him as I realized exactly why he was grinning. That had to be what Susan used when she shot me. I felt a little relief at that since now I knew she hadn't shot me with a real bullet...just something that really knocked the air out of me. "Oh," I finally said before shaking my head. "Those hurt."

Bob just turned and fired several shots at one of the dummies and to my surprise it made very little noise. Instead of the usual gunshot sound there was only a faint buzzing. Then Bob lowered the gun and explained, "The rounds are fired by electromagnetic burst instead of chemical reaction. That means gel guns are very quiet to shoot and effectively have built in silencers. Also, since the gel is formed into ammunition and there is no need for chemicals or casing, a single clip is capable of firing dozens of shots before having to reload."

I just stared at the gun in fascination, eager to get my hands on one and try it out. However, Bob wasn't finished and continued saying, "Afterwards, the nanocytes destroy the gel and themselves so no ballistics information can be taken from the bullet. That is the primary reason gel guns are illegal."

"The negatives are that gel guns are illegal and incredibly expensive," Bob told me with a faint smile. "The positives far outweigh the negatives. In fact, this is the second best thing we gained from the N'vash."

"I didn't think the N'vash gave us any weapons," I responded in surprise.

"They didn't," Bob admitted, "At least not directly. These were derived from augmentation technology." Then he gave me a wry smile before adding, "Humans are adept at adapting anything into weaponry." Then he set the gun down and picked up another clip which looked exactly like the one he'd already shown me except that the gel in it was cherry red rather than lime green. "This fires what we call nemesis rounds. Where standard gel guns are illegal in the US...these are actually against the Geneva convention."

"You're kidding me," I gasped, staring the clip full of red gel for a moment before asking. "Why?"

"It works just like normal gel but with one major difference," Bob explained. "Normal gel rounds dissolve themselves after being fired. The nanocytes in nemesis rounds attack and dissolve organic material instead." Then at my blank look, he added, "It's like acid that starts eating away at you after being shot. If the nanocytes get into your blood stream they spread through your body fast and can eat away at everything." He paused a moment before shaking his head. "Even a small injury with one of these will usually kill you."

"Holy sh1t," I exclaimed in horror as I envisioned what he'd described. "And you actually use these?"

"Very rarely," Bob told me. "Any accidents with missed shots, ricochets, and friendly fire would become unnecessarily lethal. More importantly, these remove our options when we're trying to take someone in alive for questioning. There isn't enough control. However, there are people who do prefer using nemesis rounds and you may encounter them in the field. You don't want to get careless about being hit just because you can heal from some other injuries."

After this, Bob put the nemesis clip down again and picked up the gel gun. He fired more shots at one of the dummies demonstrating exactly what the effects of each type of round were. Then he finally handed the weapon to me.

I took my first shot and was surprised that there was no kickback at all. Between that and the buzzing noise instead of a 'bang' it almost felt like I was playing with a toy gun rather than a real one. However, the hole I'd made in the dummy certainly didn't come from a toy.

It had been years since the last time I'd fired a gun so I was pleased that I'd at least been able to hit the dummy at all. It took me a few more shots before I got the hang of it and my accuracy began to improve. I just smiled at that and continued practicing. After all, we'd finally gotten to some training I could enjoy.

Part 9

I woke up to the sounds of my obnoxious alarm going off and dragging me out of the strange dream I'd been having. Even now the dream was quickly fading from my grasp making it difficult to remember many details. What I did remember was that I was at the beach and was a guy again; though in dream logic I somehow knew that I'd never been changed away from being one. I was enjoying the sun, the waves, and the sexy women who were sunbathing when somewhere in the dream I became one of those women.

I sat up in bed and wiped the sleep out of my eyes, amazed at the fact that I already felt wide awake and alert. Being augmented was almost like having a coffee IV drip first thing in the morning. This was yet another thing about my new body that I could really appreciate. My new body had a lot of great things about it though most of them came from being augmented rather than female.

After a minute I went to the bathroom to do my morning business, knowing that I wouldn't have time for a shower and that it would be pointless anyway. My morning training routine was going to get me soaked with sweat and probably even bleeding. It wouldn't make any sense to take a shower until lunch when I was done with the more physical training.

This was my fourth morning of training so I was beginning to get a bit of a routine. I'd go out and Susan would have me do a bunch of exercises that would give me a better understanding of what I could do and how far I could push my limits. After a couple hours of that I'd end up with Bob who would teach me some new moves and have me practice before eventually having a sparring session. Unfortunately, his idea of a sparring session was what most people might consider a fight to the death. He took full advantage of us being augmented and able to heal from our injuries in order to push this as far as he could. In the last three mornings I'd had my nose broken twice. Yesterday he'd knocked out one of my teeth and the replacement still hadn't finished growing in.

"Another day in hell," I muttered, dreading my session with Bob. At least the afternoon was better when I did a few hours of target practice then got tutoring sessions on just about every subject they thought I would need to know. Ironically, I could appreciate the long hours and difficulty of this training because it kept me too distracted to think about Mike or my having lost everything I had and was.

I was just starting to quickly wash my face off in the bathroom sink when I suddenly noticed that my skin was several shades darker. Instead of being pale and creamy I actually had a nice tan. I stared at my arm in shock then at my reflection in the mirror seeing that this tan covered my entire body. I felt a surge of fear, knowing that this was not supposed to happen. When a person was augmented they could go through some drastic changes but they weren't supposed to change any more after that.

"Oh shit," I exclaimed in horror, realizing what the problem was. "My core..."

I had an experimental core that was created on a second generation unit. In spite of what the Judge said, I was still skeptical about second generation units being as safe as first. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong creating my core and now it looks like something had. Of course, just because the core might have become a little unstable that didn't mean anything else would happen. It could just be a small glitch in the program and nothing more.

It only took a minute to dress then I rushed out the door to find Susan. I was already certain there was nothing she could do because a core's programming was hardwired into it when it was created and once it was implanted there was nothing more that could be done. However, I needed to tell someone and she might at least have some idea of what I should do.

When I found Susan she gave me a look of surprise and said, "You're early..."

"Look at my skin," I blurted out, showing her my arm. It dawned on me just how strange it was that I was freaking out because I had a tan but the tan was only a symptom of what could be a fatal problem. "I have a tan."

"It looks good on you," Susan shrugged.

I grimaced and exclaimed, "I think my core is broken..."

Susan just stared at me for a moment before letting out a sigh. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a sucker which she carefully unwrapped and stuck in her mouth to suck on for a moment. Only then did she remove the sucker and say, "Calm down... Your core isn't broken." Then she stared up at me for a moment before groaning, "Damn... The Judge and Adams didn't tell you..."

"Didn't tell me what?" I demanded.

"It’s supposed to do that," Susan shook her head and sighed. "It’s one of the things that make your core unique..." Then she paused to look around before adding, "I'll explain more in a little while."

I nodded, understanding what she meant. So far only a few people in Court knew who I really was and that I had a prototype core. Apparently, the Judge wanted to keep those details a secret from even most of his own people. As far as most of the people here were concerned, I was a newly augmented agent who'd just been recruited and nothing more.

"I have something a little different for you today," Susan told me with a smirk that made me nervous. With that, she put the sucker back her mouth and began to lead me to whatever sadistic training exercise she had planned.

Susan led me up the elevator and to a parking garage where Bob was waiting for us. He was dressed in a nice suit rather than the workout clothes that both Susan and I wore. I looked him over and tried to see if I could notice a bulge from the gel gun I was certain he was carrying.

"I need a driver," Susan explained Bob's present. "I draw a little too much attention when I drive."

I just nodded at that and looked around the parking garage and all the vehicles parked there. It dawned on me that I still didn't even know where the Courthouse was actually located. I half suspected that it was hidden right beneath some city courthouse though a short time later I was proven wrong. It was beneath an office building.

The car we used was a black sedan with tinted windows and a large and very comfortable back seat. It certainly wasn't a limo though it nearly could have been considering how much space Susan had to move around. It was a little less roomy for me though still quite spacious.

"Go faster Jeeves," Susan called out as she bounced in her seat like a little girl. Then she turned to me and her demeanor abruptly changed to that of a serious professional. "It seems we need to talk about your core."

I looked at my tanned arm and nodded. "The Judge said the core couldn't transmit or receive signals."

"Yes," Susan agreed, "But there's more to it than that. Each of the prototype cores were designed with extra features that normal cores don't have the memory for. Yours was custom made for a woman named Vivian who was part of this team." She paused at that and looked sad for a moment before adding, "She was killed protecting the cores from Prometheus."

"I'm sorry," I said quietly.

"You resemble her a little," Susan told me with a faint smile. "Not surprising since your augmentation package was meant for her and was derived from her DNA. You look like you could be her younger, sexier, and paler sister..." She paused for a moment to stare at me for a few seconds before continuing, "You're beautiful but not in quite the same way as most augmented women. Most female augments are obvious and a little too perfect. They stand out. Yours was designed to be a little more subtle. You can walk into a room and be accepted as augmented but you can also add a few subtle imperfections with makeup and easily be taken as a natural beauty instead. You look to be in your late twenties but with the right clothes and makeup you can easily pass as a college student or a forty year old woman."

At this point, Bob said from the front seat, "Vivian specialized in infiltration and undercover work."

"Her code name was the Vixen," Susan said thoughtfully. "The augmentation package that was designed for her was intended to enhance her specialized skills so was code named Ghost Fox."

"So that's what that meant," I whispered to myself, remembering the letters that had been written on the side of the silver sphere. GF Pro. "Ghost Fox Prototype..."

"The Ghost Fox augmentation has several special features," Susan continued to explain. "The most obvious is that you can release extra pigmentation into your skin, hair, and eyes in order to change their color. This should only last a few hours before your body flushes the pigment...unless you keep producing more to replace it. This should be useful for a quick change in appearance." Susan shrugged then added, "The other features are a bit more subtle."

"What do you mean?" I asked curiously.

Susan just grinned at me and said, "You can pass as not being augmented." At my blank look, she explained. "There are scanners that detect if someone is augmented or not but your core is able to spoof them and make them think that you're not augmented. It also fools some other types of scanners including most of the newer lie detectors."

"Really?" I gasped.

"You also have no fingerprints," Susan pointed out as well, "And of course, you don't leave DNA evidence behind. The nanocytes in your body are programmed like those in a gel gun so that any hair, blood, or skin that you lose will dissolve a short time later."

I just stared at Susan for a moment as I absorbed that then joked, "Can I turn invisible too?"

"This isn't some science fiction novel," Bob snorted contemptuously from the front seat.

"You'll have to keep this quiet," Susan told me unnecessarily. She kept reminding me that everything regarding my identity and the prototype augmentation core was need to know. "When you practice with your pigmentation, only do it at night before bed so it will have time to clear out before morning." I just nodded at that and stared at my tanned arm again in fascination and an eagerness to try this out.

It didn't take us much longer to reach our destination though I hadn't been paying much attention to where we were going once Susan began telling me about my core. Bob parked the car in the middle of a large empty area that was well outside of the city and which could have been a rather unused park. I looked around and saw a jungle gym and rope ladder only a short distance away.

"This obstacle course switches back and forth," Bob told me as he pointed to what I'd assumed was playground equipment for some kids. "It runs a total of five miles."

"I'll take this," Susan assured him, looking at me and abruptly asking, "Have you ever heard of parkour?"

"Yeah," I nodded. I remembered watching the parkour races during the last Olympics. It was called freestyle running or extreme running because it was a combination of race and obstacle course but the idea wasn't to avoid the obstacles but to actually use them in your movements. The runners would jump over stairs, fling themselves over fences, and even half run up walls that were in their way.

"You were in the army," Susan told me, "so you know about running obstacle courses. However, what you really want to do is use parkour methods. Think of the obstacles not as something in your way but as tools to help you maneuver. You don't want to always use the obvious way either. This becomes very useful if you're ever trying to catch someone or avoid being caught."

To my surprise, Susan actually joined me in running the obstacle course while Bob remained behind to 'watch the car'. She dove through the maze of metal bars that provided the first obstacle and then scrambled up the robe ladder of the second like a monkey. I followed behind her through the obstacles then caught up to her again in the running part. My longer legs gave me an advantage in speed though she made up for it with her ease with the obstacles.

Susan and I weren't exactly racing but I took advantage of my greater speed to get ahead of her and reach the obstacles first though she would get through them before me, sometimes making me realize that I was doing it the wrong way completely. There was a small pond with a rope bridge that I was trying to cross while she got a running start and jumped over the entire pond, catching me by surprise. Then when she got to a longer pond that only had a long narrow bridge across it that was little more than a 2X4, she actually ran across it.

Then we reached an area where the obstacle course abruptly changed from a traditional obstacle course like what I'd run in the Army to one that was much more urban and was more of a cityscape. We ran up some high steps then had a long bridge to run across with several holes that we needed to maneuver over without falling in. However, by this point I'd learned enough to jump over most of them. Then when we got to the other side I jumped down half the stairs only to notice that Susan had just jumped over the side and bypassed all the stairs entirely.

The course quickly took us down into a made up alley that looked almost like the real thing with brick walls on both sides as well as dumpsters and other clutter scattered around to trip over. However, the far end of the alley was blocked with a chain link fence that was about twice as tall as I was. I reached the end of the alley first and began scrambling up the fence but Susan jumped on top of the dumpster then jumped from there to a fire escape before flipping up and over the fence without even touching it.

"Come on slowpoke," Susan called back with a laugh as she ran ahead.

"Bastich," I muttered as I hurried to catch up.

Susan hopped a car and slid across the hood with a smooth move and continued running, pausing only to look back and stick her tongue out at me. Fortunately, I was able to catch up and overtake her again at least until the next obstacle. After a few more urban style obstacles in this mock city section we went back to some more traditional ones.

We finally came within sight of the end and I could see Bob standing back there with the car right where we'd left him. Susan grinned at me and asked, "How about a race to the end? If you win, we're done with training for today and you can have the rest of the day off."

"And if you win?" I asked suspiciously.

"I get to choose your new name," Susan responded.

I looked ahead and saw that the only obstacle we had left was a long set of monkey bars over a pond. The pond was far too wide for her to jump and there were only the one set of monkey bars. I grinned, sure I could get there first and then there'd be no way she could get past me even if she could somehow move faster on the bars.

"Deal," I exclaimed, charging forward as fast as I could.

I reached the monkey bars first and quickly swung across, suddenly reminded of doing the same thing on the school playground back when I'd been a kid. I was about halfway across when I completely lost my grip on the bars and fell down into the mucky pond. Susan just laughed and went by overhead, using the side rails to grab rather than the actual bars. In just a moment she was on the other side laughing.

"It looks like I win," Susan exclaimed with a smirk.

I stood up in the muck and then noticed that my hands felt slimy. I rubbed them and gasped in realization. "You bastich... You greased the bars..."

"I told you that you can't always use the obvious way," Susan responded smugly.

I grimaced and climbed out of the pond, "But that's cheating..."

"And the bad guys don't ever cheat?" she responded sarcastically.

After glaring at Susan for a moment I turned my attention to Bob who still stood by the car with an expression that would have made a great poker face. I narrowed my eyes, knowing that he was involved in this set up. Someone had to have put the grease on those bars and Susan had been near me the entire time.

"Well, shake it off because you have five minutes before we run it again," Susan told me sticking a piece of bubble gum in her mouth. She chewed it for a moment and blew a bubble. After popping the bubble, she looked at me again and smirked, "You got that...Bianca?"

Part 10

I was in my quarters, sitting back on my couch with my feet on the coffee table. I had a beer in my hand but wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I used to since the nanocytes and my more efficient liver made it very difficult for me to get drunk. There was also a folder open on my lap containing a variety of different paperwork. There was a birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, school records and other such things...all in the name of Bianca St. Croix.

"Bianca," I said my new name aloud, frowning as I did so.

This certainly wasn't a name I would have chosen for myself. In fact, it made me think that it should belong to a sexy woman who was a little exotic. I guess that description did fit me physically but certainly no more than that. It also wasn't a name I could ever imagine thinking of as mine. But of course, I didn't have a choice in the matter. In fact, it turns out that I had even less choice than I'd thought. That name had already been selected for me before we'd even gone to the obstacle course.

When we returned to the Courthouse after a long day of obstacle course training, I'd been surprised to find Ms. Adams waiting with all the paperwork in hand. It seems that other people who had seen me training had asked about who I was so Ms. Adams had started telling them yesterday that my name was Bianca.

"Why the hell did I wait so long to choose a name?" I grumbled, knowing I had only myself to blame. After all, they had to tell the people something and I'd been dragging my heels about deciding on a name.

I looked at the paperwork again and saw that Ms. Adams had even included a biography for the fake me which I knew I would have to memorize. She'd assured me that this was classified information and that only a few agents would have access to it and most of those ones already knew who I really was anyway. Still, she'd also pointed out that as far as most people in Court were concerned, this was who I was so I should know it forward and backward.

"It looks like she went to a few better schools than I did," I shook my head, wondering how the hell I was going to pull this off.

After another minute I set the folder aside and let out a sigh as I considered all the other revelations of the day. Of course there were all the special features which came with my augmentation package but I'd also found out that I'd received a VERY thorough medical exam when I was first brought to the Courthouse, while I was still being kept unconscious. Susan had reluctantly told me about this, saying that they'd verified the special features all worked and were stable. However, this just made me feel a bit violated.

Then I turned my attention to my hands and arms, specifically to my skin which had returned to its usual creamy pale color before I'd even returned from the obstacle course training. It was a little strange to realize that I'd started thinking of that as my normal skin color after only such a short time in this body.

"How do I do this?" I muttered as I considered how to increase my pigmentation. It had happened while I was asleep last time so it couldn't be anything too difficult.

I tried to just will my skin to darken but nothing happened. I tried this for several minutes, being disappointed when it didn't work but not surprised. I'd talked to Susan a little more about this pigmentation thing a short time ago and she said she had no idea how I was supposed to trigger it, only that it did work. Apparently they'd been able to use some sort of external device to trigger it during my examination but it was too large and cumbersome to be very practical for use in the field.

I continued trying for about half an hour before I settled on a slightly different tactic. When I'd increased my pigmentation last night it had been while I was having a dream about being on the beach. Because of that, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that I was on the beach and soaking up the sun. When I opened my eyes and looked at my skin again, I was amazed to see it was slowly darkening before my eyes.

"It's working," I exclaimed in delight. However, my distraction seemed to have stopped the process because I was left with a nice light tan again but was no longer getting darker.

Mere seconds later, I was in the bath room looking over my reflection in the mirror. As with this morning the tan had spread over my entire body and looked completely natural. However, unlike this morning I grinned at the result, feeling rather smug at having figured how to control this.

Next I tried changing my hair color though it took me nearly five minutes before I was able to get a reaction. Once I did, I tried to keep focused and watched intently in the mirror as my hair began to darken. First it changed from its normal platinum blonde to more of a golden blonde and then a dark blonde. Soon it became a light brown, a dark brown, and then finally stopped at raven black.

"Incredible," I whispered, reaching up and feeling my hair. It felt the same as before so only the color seemed to have changed.

Of course, the next step was to try changing my eye color. I stared at my eyes in the mirror and admired their crystal blue color then began willing them to change. Practicing with my skin and hair paid off because my eyes began to darken almost immediately. At first they became a gray color which shifted to brown and then wouldn't change any further. There were several different shades of blue, gray, and brown that I'd gone through but it seemed that my eye color options were a little less versatile.

"Okay," I mused, "It seems I can't be a red head or have green eyes... I must not have the right pigments." However, those limitations didn't seem very big considering what I could do.

I stood back and admired myself in the mirror, hardly recognizing the woman who stared back. The change in skin, hair, and eye color made a drastic difference in my overall appearance. If I hadn't known this was the same person I probably wouldn't have recognized her. Of course, that was the whole point of this customized feature. This would have been perfect for someone like Vivian who used to do a lot of undercover work.

"But I get it instead," I shook my head sadly, not sure whether I was bothered more by her losing her life for that augmentation package or that I'd lost my old one because of it.

I turned my attention back to the mirror and darkened my skin again, stopping just a few shades darker. I looked myself over carefully and decided that with the right makeup and clothes I could probably pass as Hispanic and perhaps even Middle Eastern…at least on the surface. Now I was really beginning to how useful this particular package would have been to someone like Vivian. Instead, it was up to me to try making use of it.

"Just great," I shook my head, knowing that undercover work was probably the thing I'd be worst at. "I'm definitely the wrong person for this..."

After this I decided to see if I could reverse the color changes. I tried lightening my skin and hair colors for the next ten minutes but had no effect whatsoever. It looked like I had no choice but to wait for my body to flush all the extra pigments over the next few hours. Fortunately, it wasn't like I was planning on going anywhere until the morning. And since I wasn't going anywhere, it wouldn't hurt to see just how far I could get my skin to go either. A minute later my skin was a dark brown and I knew I would have been taken as someone of African heritage even though none of my actual features had changed with my skin color.

"Amazing," I mused, thinking about just how much a person's appearance could be changed just by altering their coloration.

Since I'd pushed all my pigmentations as dark as they could go there wasn't much more I could do to experiment with that at the moment. I looked myself over in the mirror some more before sitting back down on my couch and glancing through the paperwork I'd been given again.

"Bianca," I muttered, shaking my head at my new name. I certainly didn't feel like a Bianca. Then I cupped one of my breasts and smiled wryly as I added, "At least I don't feel like a Bianca inside..."

My body might be that of a chick but that was as far as it went. Under the skin, I was still completely and totally all man. With that self-reassurance made, I set the paperwork to the side again and picked up the trashy romance novel I'd found yesterday on the bookshelf that served as a Courthouse recreational library. I was already a third of the way through it and couldn't wait to see what happened next.

Part 11

I was in the middle of my morning sparring session, the same as I'd gone through every day for more than a week. These people didn't believe in days off especially when being augmented meant I didn't need the extra time to recover physically. In fact, being augmented meant that they could push me much harder than they could a normal person such as how Bob never really held back in his lessons. His only limitation seemed to be ‘no broken bones’ since those could take a few days to heal, days that I’d be out of training.

There was one major difference between this morning and every other morning. This time I was sparring against Susan who'd said I needed experience fighting against smaller opponents as well. I was actually enjoying going against her because she didn't hurt me nearly as much as Bob did and she was teaching me moves to use against a larger opponent. I couldn't wait to use some of them against Bob.

I punched Susan who'd managed to block and avoid nearly all of my attacks so far. However, this time she grabbed my arm and used my own momentum to shove herself into me and flip me over her body so I hit the ground hard. Before I could get back up, she jammed a foot into my solar plexus which really hurt.

I quickly rolled to the side, not letting the pain in my stomach slow me down or stop me. I was getting a little better at ignoring pain lately. I was starting to realize that pain was only temporary and that letting it distract me only meant I got hurt more. A moment later I was back on my feet and blocking Susan who was coming at me with a series of kicks.

Susan jumped at me and I grinned, seeing an opportunity to grab her foot and actually catch her in mid-air. I figured a quick move and I'd be able to actually sidestep and slam her into the ground by her own foot. However, she somehow shifted positions and the next thing I knew she was kicking me between the legs. I'd thought that no longer having balls meant I was safe from this kind of attack but the pain that hit me proved I was wrong yet again. It wasn't quite the same pain but it still hurt like hell until my nanocytes kicked in and finally dulled it. This also proved I wasn't able to completely ignore pain yet.

"Distract your opponent with an obvious attack," Susan told me with a smirk, "then hit them somewhere else, preferably a vital point since you probably won't be able to pull off the same trick twice." I nodded then glanced at Bob who was standing off to the side as an observer this time. He had his usual poker face but I was getting good enough at reading him that I could see a subtle smirk.

Susan backed up and positioned herself to continue then abruptly stopped and stared off to the side. I looked where she was and saw Ms. Adams and the Judge standing at the edge of the room watching us intently and both looking grim. I'd talked to Ms. Adams a few times since coming here but the only time I'd talked to the Judge had been when he was recruiting me. I frowned, having a bad feeling about this especially as the Judge gestured for us to come over.

"I have a mission for you," the Judge said without preamble.

"What?" Susan gasped. "But we're short one person and have one that isn't fully trained."

"I know," the Judge responded with a deep scowl. "But I need Bianca on this."

This time it was my time to gasp, "What?"

"She's not ready for a live mission," Susan protested.

"I know," the Judge repeated, staring at me for a moment before adding, "But at the moment we don't have any choice." He paused to look at Susan and then Bob as well before adding, "Go see the Witness." And with that, he turned and walked away.

Ms. Adams frowned and shook her head faintly, "We really don't have much choice. We've waited over a year for this opportunity so we have to take it." Then she turned and walked away as well.

I felt extremely nervous as I watched Ms. Adams and the Judge leave, knowing very well that Susan was right. I wasn't ready for a real mission. However, I couldn't help but feeling excited as well. After all, this was the reason I was here. I wanted to put everything I'd learned already to good use and prove that I could do it.

"Who is this Witness?" I asked after a moment.

"He's our primary intelligence point of contact," Bob answered grimly.

"He's part of the Jury," Susan explained. "The Witness is the only one besides Adams and the Judge who gets to see everything. It’s his job to search our intel for patterns in the big picture and he's also the guy who gives us most of our mission briefings."

"He's...odd," Bob told me. "Brilliant but odd."

"He's a severe agoraphobic," Susan chuckled. "He NEVER leaves the Courthouse. In fact, you usually won't even see him outside of his work area. Oh, and no one knows his real name except Adams and the Judge and they only call him the Witness too."

"Sounds like an interesting guy," I said wryly. Then I asked, "Do you know what this is about? Am I really going on a mission?"

Bob answered, "The Judge doesn't joke and this is probably urgent or he wouldn't have come himself."

We arrived at our destination a few minutes later and waited at the door for a few seconds before it opened automatically. We stepped inside the room that was about 30 feet across with computer equipment against all the walls though the entire middle of the room was empty except for a chair in the middle that looked almost like it could have come out of Star Trek. The lights of the room were dimmed and there was a man sitting in the chair, moving his hands around erratically.

The man in the chair was Hispanic and looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties with the kind of lean and wiry build that marathon runners have. He wore a pair of display goggles over his eyes and it took me a moment to realize that he also wore a pair of thin control gloves. These gloves replaced computer keyboards and mice in the same way that the goggles replaced the monitor.

I was so distracted by the man whom I assumed was the Witness that I almost missed the fact that the Judge was already in the room as well. When he saw us enter he said, "Holo," and abruptly ghostly images appeared in the air. It took me a second to realize that I was seeing holograms of all the virtual computer screens the Witness had up. I was seeing what he could but without actually using the goggles. There were windows and images in every direction around him and being layered four and five deep. I watched in amazement as he quickly shifted between these screens at nearly blinding speed though I had no idea what he was actually doing.

After a minute, the Witness seemed to have finished with what he was doing or had at least found a good stopping point. He did something with his hand and the holographic screens vanished. He stood up and made a few more gestures and a series of new screens appeared around the room on the walls.

"The main target of interest is named August Smart," the Witness said casually, gesturing to an image of a man who looked to be in his forties. “He runs underground fights using augmented fighters, broadcasting them pay-per-view online, selling tickets to a select few, and collecting a small percentage of all the wagering that occurs there. This has made him very wealthy.”

“I remember hearing about him,” Susan said grimly. “He uses brutes in his fights.”

“Brutes?” I asked blankly.

“A type of augmentation that maximizes size, strength, and pain resistance,” the Witness explained. “At the same time, it increases adrenaline, testosterone, and other chemicals that increase aggression.”

“I’ve seen some brutes before,” Susan told me with a look of disgust. “Never good.”

At this point, the Judge added, “Most of his fighters are people who’ve crossed him. He augments them and forces them to fight to the death as an example.”

“Damn,” I gasped. “That’s horrible.”

“Most brutes barely qualify as human anymore,” Susan told me. “They have the augmented equivalent of permanent roid rage.”

“Not all of his enemies are turned into brutes,” the Judge said, looking visibly angry. “He turns some of them into sluts and has them entertain his guests.”

With the way that the Judge said ‘sluts’ I had a good idea of what he meant, especially after talking about the brutes. However, Susan explained anyway, “Sluts are female augments designed to be physically weak but with extremely high sex drives.” She looked angry as well as she said this. “Designer made nymphomaniacs. Disgusting.”

“He caught one of my agents and did that to her last year,” the Judge said grimly, a look of cold fury in his eyes. “It’s a fate worse than death.”

“My God,” I shuddered.

“We have been trying to take down Smart’s operation for several years,” the Witness said. “Unfortunately, he has very good security. And as Director Judge stated, we dispatched a team last year and they were all captured or killed.”

“So we finally get to kill him,” Bob said with a faint smile.

“No,” the Witness told him. “We need Smart alive. If our goal was merely to kill him we could have done so already, albeit with high collateral damage. Smart has connections to Prometheus so we need him for questioning.”

“Ironically,” the Witness said with a faint smile, “Smart is anti-augmentation. He himself is not augmented and does not trust anyone who is. He is highly suspicious of anyone he views as being corrupted by N’vash technology though he is quite willing to profit from it.”

I scowled as I considered what the Witness had just said. There were a lot of people out there who had a severe distrust of augmentation technology, some claiming religious reasons and some for reasons that sounded like paranoid xenophobic conspiracy theories. However, knowing what I did now about the augmentation technology, some of those people now sounded a lot more reasonable.

“Smart has very good security,” the Witness continued. “Normally we can’t get close to him but tomorrow night there will be an opening…”

“You can’t expect Bianca to capture him?” Susan gasped in horror, staring at the Judge as she did so. “She’s not nearly ready enough… It would be a suicide mission.”

The Judge just gave her a flat look and responded, “No… I don’t expect her to capture him. As much as I would love to bring Smart in, this is just an information gathering mission.” His eyes narrowed slightly as he added. “This will pave the way to capturing him.”

“We discovered that Smart will be holding a fight tomorrow night at one of his mansions,” the Witness said. “This is one of the few times we have been able to get a location in time and the first we have had confirmation that he will be there personally. There will be a party for his guests though he himself will most likely not attend long. Smart will be watching the fight from his private area where only a few select guests will be allowed.” At this point, he turned to me and said, “You will get into this private area and plant listening devices so we can gain more intel for when we do move directly against him.”

“Okay,” I said, trying to sound more confident than I felt. “What do I have to do?”

However, Susan turned to the Judge and said, “I’m curious sir… Why use Bianca for this? We have more qualified agents for this kind of mission.”

“Not this time,” the Judge responded.

“Smart only invites a very select few into that area,” the Witness explained. “And he never invites anyone who has been augmented. We have recently acquired leverage on one of Smart’s guests and this gives us an opening.” The Witness stared straight at me though it was hard to tell since he was still wearing the display goggles. “You will go as this man’s date.”

An image of another man appeared on the wall, joining the image of August Smart and the other images of fighters, sluts, and the mansion. This man looked to be in his mid-thirties and fairly average.

“For this mission,” the Judge said, “ we need an attractive woman who has not been augmented…or can pass as not augmented. Vivian would have been ideal for this if she were still here. I have two other experienced agents who fit those requirements but one is in the field and is currently unreachable while the other was recently injured.” He gave Susan a steady look and scowled, “Bianca is our only option.”

“Damn,” Susan muttered with a shake of her head. She turned to me and looked me over with a scowl before exclaiming. “This is not going to be easy…”

I just took a deep breath and nodded, looking at the pictures and thinking about what this meant. The idea of walking into some bad guy’s house as some other guy’s date made me more than a little uncomfortable. However, after hearing about what this guy did I knew he had to be taken down. In fact, I was actually looking forward to being a part of that.

“Tell me what I have to do,” I said again, determined that I was going to do this spy stuff I was damn well going to do it right.

Part 12

I stood in the shower, letting the hot water wash over me and clean the sweat from this morning’s training. However, I wasn’t thinking of the earlier training but was instead remembering the briefing I’d just gotten out of a short time earlier.

I could barely believe I was actually being sent on my first mission and felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement at the prospect. On one hand, I knew that Susan was right and that I wasn’t ready for something like this. But on the other hand, I was looking forward to actually doing something important and proving myself as something more than a glorified prisoner of Court.

This August Smart sounded like a very dangerous guy as well as one who definitely needed to be stopped. If I was going to risk my life and then some, I was glad he was the one I was risking it to take down.

Actually, I reminded myself that my job wasn’t to capture him but to just plant some listening devices so that Court could learn more about him and then arrange to capture him later on. Of course, that wasn’t nearly as glamorous but at least I had a part in it.

I shook my thoughts from the briefing and paid more attention to my shower. The water was running over my breasts and felt good. I ran a wash cloth over them, smiling faintly as I realized that most of the time I didn’t even notice them much anymore. It was strange since I’d only had this body for a week.

“Amazing what you can get used to,” I mused with a shake of my head.

A few minutes later I was out of the shower and had dried myself off. I was completely naked as I stepped out of my bathroom and then paused in surprise at the sight of Susan sitting on my couch and sucking on a lollypop.

I immediately glanced to my door which I knew for a fact I’d left locked. Susan had told me that there were people in Court who could get past the lock though I hadn’t expected her to be one of them.

“I need to get a dead bolt,” I said aloud.

Susan stared at me for a moment with a look of envy though she quickly recovered and grinned, “Good, you’re done. Now we can start with the next part of your training.”

“What?” I asked in surprise. “What training? I thought we had a real mission to get ready for…”

“We do,” Susan responded with a shrug. “But you need a lot of work to get ready for it. To start with, you need to get dressed.” Then she held up something small and black. It took me a moment to realize that she was holding up a pair of lacy black panties.

“Panties?” I blurted out.

“There’s a matching top too,” Susan responded with a chuckle. “Put them on.”

“I’ve already got underwear,” I told her with a shake of my head.

“You have functional underwear,” she pointed out. “These have a different purpose, one that is more relevant to our mission. You see, I was going to start this training next week…giving you a little more time to get comfortable in your new body. But things have changed so I had to move up the schedule.”

I stared at Susan for a moment, realizing that I was still completely naked but not being too concerned about it at the moment. Right now, I was more concerned about what she was up to.

“This is an undercover mission,” Susan pointed out. “You will need to look and act a certain way. Specifically, you will have to be a sexy woman. Since I don’t want you walking in there in a dress and heals but looking completely out of place by being uncomfortable, you will spend every waking minute until the mission getting used to this.”

“Oh shit,” I gulped, suddenly having a very bad feeling about this.

“Time to get dressed,” Susan told me as she tossed me the panties.

I got dressed in the frilly black lingerie, feeling very self-conscious as I did so. I looked myself over, knowing that it looked awesome on me but hating it anyway. The panties kind of went up my ass crack in a way I didn’t like though Susan assured me this was normal.

“This kind of clothing isn’t meant to be comfortable,” she told me with a smirk. “It’s meant to look hot.” Then she teased me, “What’s the matter…I thought you liked women all dolled up like this.”

“Bite me,” I grumbled.

After this were the nylons which felt snug on my legs. Susan assured me that they were much better than older style nylons since they were made of newer materials that didn’t tear very easily at all. Then came the dress. It was a one piece red thing that hugged my body tightly and really accentuated my curves, looking totally hot on me. However, it was also very embarrassing. I was sure I was blushing brightly.

“It looks good on you,” Susan told me though I wasn’t sure just how much she was being sincere and how much she was just teasing me.

Next came the high heels, a pair of black stiletto heeled shoes that looked like they’d be torture to walk in. I winced and put them on then nervously stood up. For a brief moment I thought I’d trip and fall flat on my face though I managed to catch my balance. I took a few cautious steps and then began to walk around the room, getting more comfortable with walking in them as I did so.

“Thank God for an augmented sense of balance,” I muttered, more than glad that being augmented not only increased my sense of balance but made me much more graceful than I ever was as a guy. Without those things, I had a feeling that I would have broken an ankle.

“You look good,” Susan told me thoughtfully. “But you’re definitely going to need the practice walking in those if you want it to look natural…and you do. In fact, I want you to work on your walk and mannerisms. Try being more feminine…”

“Great,” I grimaced, liking this less and less with every minute.

“But you can sit down for now,” Susan told me with an almost evil grin. Then she held up what looked like a tackle box for fishing though when she opened it up it was full of makeup instead of tackle. “It’s makeover time…”

I sat down and grimaced, ready for her to do whatever it was she was going to do but not liking it one bit. I was already feeling extremely awkward in this getup not to mention a little humiliated. Up until now my having been turned into a chick hadn’t seemed to have really mattered. But now, I was having my face rubbed in it. My male pride was totally freaking out though I tried hard not to let it show.

I expected Susan to just go ahead with her makeover but instead she stopped and stared at me with a thoughtful expression. After a few seconds, she said, “You really aren’t comfortable with this...”

“Not in the least,” I admitted.

Susan sighed and sat down beside me. “It really shows.”

“I’m just not comfortable with the idea of dressing up like this,” I told her. “It’s just not me…”

“That’s the point,” she chuckled weakly. “It’s an undercover mission after all.”

“It’s just the whole girl thing I’m having issues with,” I admitted. “No offense…”

“None taken,” Susan sighed, giving me a faintly sympathetic look. “I know it’s not easy for you to adjust to a complete sex change and I tried giving you more time but it’s not meant to be. I know you didn’t choose to become a woman but it happened so now you have to adapt and we don’t have a lot of time.”

I just nodded at that and said, “I know…but I’m just not comfortable with all this girly stuff.”

“You know,” Susan told me, giving me a flat look, “I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like this.” She gestured down at herself and smiled bitterly. “I didn’t want to give up my adult status and be treated like a child, patronized by even the people who know who I really am. This isn’t what I wanted but I had to learn to live with it. It helps if you don’t think about what you lost and instead try focusing on what you gained.”

“Like what?” I asked in surprise.

“In my case,” Susan responded wryly as she unwrapped a fresh sucker, “I can eat all the junk food I want and not have to worry about calories.” Then she sucked on the sucker for a moment before taking it out and pointing at me with it and saying, “And in yours, you’re a beautiful and augmented woman. There is great power and advantage in that.”

I just grunted at that, knowing intellectually that she was right. Being augmented was a great thing and I’d seen just how easily a beautiful woman could twist a man around her finger and get her way. However, feeling grateful for being a beautiful woman was a different thing.

“I’m not saying you need to completely embrace your feminine side within the next day,” Susan told me with an amused look. “But you should at least get on friendly terms with her.”

After this, Susan went to work, giving setting a mirror in front of me so I could see what she was doing while she went to work doing my makeup. She explained what she was doing every step of the way, applying foundation, blush, lipstick, mascara and some other things. She even had me hold my hands out while she applied dark red polish.

Susan also brushed my hair, muttering a little under her breath as she did so. “You’ve got great hair,” she told me casually. “But I think we’ll need to get it styled a bit this afternoon.”

When Susan was finished, I looked myself over in the mirror, hardly believe what I saw. I knew I was beautiful but what she did with the makeup somehow augmented it and made my beauty stand out all the more. I was absolutely gorgeous.

Susan looked me over with a satisfied nod then told me, “Before you go on the mission I’ll make sure to add a few subtle imperfections so they don’t think you look too perfect. Maybe a tiny scar…”

I just nodded at that and walked across the room, trying to be careful in my stiletto heels. It felt strange to walk in heels and a dress and even stranger to know just how sexy I now looked.

“Come on,” Susan told me after a few minutes. “We have a lot more work to do getting you ready and we can’t do it all here.”

A minute later we left my quarters and I felt extremely self-conscious as I walked down the hallway. I stood out not only for the obvious reasons but also for the fact that I was more than a little overdressed. That just seemed to amuse Susan more. I grimaced then forced a smile, determined that I wasn’t going to let her see just how uncomfortable this really made me.

I walked past one man who stared at me with obvious interest, his eyes lingering on my chest until I was past him. Even then, I could feel his eyes staring at my ass.

I knew exactly what that man was thinking of when he looked at me, what every man I passed thought of when he looked at me. Each of them was obviously attracted to me though some were better at hiding it. It made me uncomfortable but I couldn’t blame them since I knew that I’d be thinking the exact same things in their place.

“I feel like such a hypocrite,” I muttered to myself. Then I asked, “So what training are we doing next?”

“You’re going to learn how to not only look like a woman,” Susan told me with an evil smirk. “You’re going to learn how to act like one as well.”

I just groaned at that and muttered, “What did I ever do to earn this trip to male pride hell?”

Part 13

I sat in the back of a limousine feeling impressed by just how spacious and comfortable it was. The limo even had a small bar and an entertainment center though I couldn't really enjoy any of it at the moment. I was far too nervous and doing everything I could to keep from showing that nervousness.

At the moment, I was dressed in a slinky and sexy red dress that revealed a nice bit of cleavage while still remaining tasteful. I had on stiletto heels that made my ass and legs look absolutely awesome if I did say so myself, though they didn’t actually need much help in that department.

On top of that, I had on some nice jewelry and just a little more. I had a small radio receiver that had been placed deep into my ear canal where it couldn't be seen. That worked along with the radio that was built into my earring so I could communicate with my own team. I was thankful for that lifeline since it made me feel a little less alone in this.

My 'date' for the evening was sitting right beside me, dressed up in a very nice suit. Jon Hastings was a tall and slender man who was in his late thirties and obviously not augmented. He was a bit pasty and looked nearly as pale as I usually did, though on me the paleness at least looked healthy.

Hastings was an old friend of August Smart's and apparently a longtime partner in shuffling Smart's money around through various shell companies. In fact, that was how Court got their hands on him, threatening severe jail time and other things unless he cooperated. Of course, Hastings had absolutely no idea who I really was or even why I was really here. As far as he was concerned, he was being forced to testify against Smart and I was here to both watch his back and make sure he didn't say anything to Smart about the 'investigation'.

Just then, I heard Susan's voice in my ear. "We won't be able to communicate much once the full trail starts," she assured me. "But we will be close by. Remember, stay close to the defendant avoid the accused as possible." I smiled faintly as she used the code names that had been assigned to Hastings and Smart. It made me feel like I was in the middle of a movie or something.

"We're here," Hastings said unnecessarily since the limo had stopped half a minute ago.

I just opened my purse and pulled out the lipstick and compact then calmly freshened up my lipstick while watching myself in the tiny mirror. Susan had told me that doing things like this helped to set a cover personality and it would give me a moment to think and calm myself. I felt kind of silly for doing this though was grateful for the extra seconds I needed to gather my nerves.

Seconds later the limo driver opened the door and let us out. I calmly stepped out of the limo and exuded a sense of confidence I didn't really feel. Hastings came out as well, looking just as nervous as I felt. I found that somewhat ironic since he'd actually been invited here by someone he'd been close to for years.

"Relax," I told Hastings with a pleasant smile though the truth was that I was telling myself this as well. Then I tried getting into character by exclaiming, "Wow, this place is impressive..."

The truth was that saying the mansion in front of me was impressive was actually something of an understatement. The parking area had at least half a dozen limos and assorted other expensive vehicles, all of which belonged to the guests. The mansion itself was immense though I didn't really know how it compared to other mansions since this was my first time seeing one in person.

However, in spite of how impressive the place was I couldn't help but absently considering just how many bathrooms it would have. I mentally added up the number of sinks, toilets and the yards of pipe and figured it must have been one hell of a job installing it all.

I shook my head and continued towards the door with Hastings, looking around and noticing the security people. I saw Bob standing off to one side...or at least a bob since it wasn't the Bob I knew. I remembered from an earlier briefing that Smart had three bob's working in his security though he didn't trust them enough to let them too close to him.

When we reached the door, a well dressed man took Hastings' invitation and let us inside. I listened as the man behind us argued briefly about having to turn over his gun before entering.

"Mister Smart doesn't want his guests getting too excited during the competition," the security man at the door told the guest. "Or getting ideas about helping the fighter they bet on..."

I let out a sigh of relief as I considered that I'd come here unarmed. I'd wanted to sneak in a gel gun or something but had been warned that it would be too difficult go get past security and that it would break my cover if anyone realized I was armed. Of course, I would have preferred to have a weapon anyway but at the moment it was nice to not get that kind of attention.

"If everything goes right," I reminded myself quietly, "I won't need a gun..."

I finally looked around the room seeing that it was a large ball room filled with people, nearly all dressed in expensive and nice looking clothes. There were a lot of high end suits and dresses as well as a number of people who were augmented. Some were obvious like a man who was close to seven feet tall, built like a bodybuilder, had handsome square jawed good looks, and a very prominent bulge in his pants that was about a foot long. There was also a woman who looked like an extremely sexy porn star with tits the size of basketballs. Her enormous endowments seemed perfectly shaped and immune to gravity, another sign of her augmentation. Most of the others who were augmented were a little more subtle about it...though not by much.

After looking around the room and realizing that I'd never seen this many augmented before in my life, I reminded myself to pay attention to the important things. I noticed several security people around the corners of the rooms, recognizing them as such mostly because they were in professional looking suits and stood back watching everything with grim and wary expressions. None of these security people looked to be augmented either so I was guessing that the bobs were mostly kept doing the external security.

"Adam," Hastings abruptly exclaimed as he greeted one man who was tall, athletic and good looking. I might have assumed he was augmented except for the fact that he had a small scar on his cheek.

"Good to see you again Jon," Adam responded as the two shook hands. "You already know Samantha," he said, gesturing to the beautiful blonde beside him. "Who's your new companion?"

"This is Tina," Hastings introduced me with the false name he'd been given. For all he knew that was my real name.

Adam gave me a once over with an approving look then went back to talking with Hastings about business. I half listened to what they were saying, knowing that the listening devices in my jewelry would be picking it all up and recording it. I gave the rest of my attention to Samantha, deciding that she'd been augmented surgically rather than with N'vash technology. I dismissed her as just arm candy until I reminded myself that this was exactly what I was pretending to be. I tried staying in cover as such by grabbing hold of Hastings' arm and attempting to look a little possessive.

I looked around the room and made note of the fact that most of the guests had come with arm candy of one form or another. Most of the men had very attractive women with them though some of the women actually seemed to be real partners rather than just being there for looks. There were a few women who seemed to be the dominant ones in the relationship with men as their arm candy. There was even one woman whose arm candy was another woman.

As I looked over the other guests, I saw one man whom I immediately recognized and one who was vaguely familiar. The one I recognized was an actor who was almost as famous for his political activism as for his movies. The identity of the other one came to me a minute later. I remember seeing him on TV as some politician who was always pushing to make augmentation cheaper and available to everyone, a sentiment I'd always agreed with before but was beginning to have doubts about now. The fact that he had come to a human cock fight made me have doubts about him and his real motivations.

After this, Hastings left Adam and began to mingle a little, seeming much more confident and in control than before. I did my best to act my part, hating myself for doing so. Each feminine step I took across the floor in my stiletto heels seemed to leave a small bruise upon my male pride. However, that same pride insisted that if I was going to do this then I was damn well going to do it right.

I did my best to strut across the floor, acting like arm candy and just trying to generally look sexy. I assumed it wouldn't be too difficult considering how I looked at the moment, but even though men kept giving me appreciative looks, they weren't nearly the kind of drawn out stares that I deserved. Then I realized why I wasn't getting the attention I'd been expecting. As gorgeous as I was, there were other women who were even hotter.

"Damn," I muttered in frustration, glaring at one augmented woman who looked almost like some kind of porn star in annoyance and even a bit of jealousy. After going through all the effort I did to look and act like this, I damn well deserved that attention.

Suddenly, a slightly stocky man in his forties came into the room and called for attention. I immediately recognized him as August Smart, AKA the Accused, AKA total douch bag. Most of the crowd quieted down and turned to look at him and it was all I could to keep from showing my disgust.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Smart greeted the room loudly. "Honored guests..."

"I paid enough to be a guest here," one woman muttered sarcastically from behind me.

"Please take your seats at this time," Smart called out, gesturing to a pair of heavy wooden doors on the side which were being opened by one of the security people. "The entertainment will begin shortly."

At this point, most of the people began moving towards the doors and going down the stairs that I could see on the other side. Hastings made no move to go there with the crowd so I stayed where I was beside him, remembering that we were supposed to go to Smart's private area. I carefully looked around to see who else was holding back, seeing that there were a few other people though the only ones I really recognized were Adam and Samantha.

Once most of the people had left, Smart's 'personal guests' were led through another door, the one he'd just come through. We went into a small room that had a guard at the other door and we were let through the other doorway one at a time. I stared at the strange metal frame that surrounded the doorway and realized that this was one of the augmentation detectors I'd heard about, sort of an X ray machine designed specifically to look for an augmentation core. Susan had warned me that Smart would probably have one.

I felt nervous when it was my turn to go through though I tried to hide it. I knew the core that was tucked away behind my heart was designed so that it couldn't be detected by machines like this but I wasn't completely confident that it worked. After I walked through the scanner without a problem, I let out a faint sigh of relief.

A minute later we were all gathered into a large and luxurious room with some very comfortable chairs. One wall was completely open letting us look out and down into a large pit where the fighting obviously occurred. From where we were sitting, I could also see all the other guests who'd been seated around the fighting arena. The room we were all in was sitting a bit higher than the main sitting area letting us see them but keeping anyone down there from seeing us very clearly. This room was also positioned to give us a great view of the arena. Several large TVs were also set up in this room showing us the arena from within. These were the images that were also broadcast online for pay-per-view.

There were eight of us in the room, not including the two guards who stood in the back of the room. Smart and another man were the only two who weren’t here with a date. And as I looked Samantha and the other woman, I couldn't help but feeling just a tiny but smug at the fact that I was sexier than either of them.

"The games will begin in just a couple minutes," Smart said, holding his hand out while one of the guards who was doubling as a waiter provided him with a glass of scotch. Glasses of scotch and wine were handed out while Smart continued, "I have some interesting new fighters this time. One of them used to be a cop..."

"A cop?" Hastings asked in surprise.

Smart just casually responded, "He gave me a parking ticket..."

"I remember the last fight you hosted," Adam mused thoughtfully, taking a casual sip from his scotch. "There was one fighter who really stood out to me...the one you called Troll. After the way he handled himself in the last fight I'm looking forward to seeing what he does today."

"Unfortunately, that won't be possible," Smart told him. "Troll recently developed a problem with his augmentation and became useless. I had to have him put down."

"A rather barbaric event," Samantha whispered to me. "But you can't deny that there is something exciting about these fights."

"This is my first one," I told her honestly, careful not to show what I really thought of them. "I have seen some of the pay-per-views of the last fight though..."

I sipped my wine and politely talked to Samantha and the other woman whose name I learned was Nikki, biding my time until I had the opportunity to make my move. The fight would soon start and then everyone would be distracted. That would be the perfect time to plant the bugs since I'd been told that after the fight Smart would really start talking business with these men.

Smart abruptly turned to the other man who'd arrived without a date and mused, "You look a little lonely there George... How about I provide you with a little company?"

Smart snapped his fingers and one of the guards opened the door and ushered in three gorgeous and somewhat oversexed women. Each of them looked almost like a stereotypical stripper, being very sexy, busty, and dressed in very skimpy clothes. All three of them also looked flushed and horny which was the last clue I needed to be sure that they were sluts. In fact, the only major difference between the three was their hair colors. One was blonde, one brunette, and the third was a red head.

I watched these women with a mixture of attraction and disgust, knowing that they seemed to be a wet dream come true though the truth was actually something horrifying. Each was a person who’d been transformed against their will, forced to be extremely turned on and horny constantly. What would that do to a person? I shuddered at the thought.

"Choose one," Smart told him pleasantly. "Or even all three if you want."

The man looked them over and grinned with a predatory look in his eyes. "I think I'll take you up on that after the match. I don't want to be distracted during the fight though...not when I'll have money riding on the outcomes."

"After the fight then," Smart agreed and the guards let the sluts back out of the room.

At this point, the big event finally began. I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as two large and brutish looking men were pushed into the arena from the cages they'd been held in. They glared at each other then snarled a few profanities proving that in spite of looking almost like cavemen that they could still talk. In almost no time at all, they were fighting as if they'd been life-long enemies.

The announcer said that they were called Ogre and Smasher and that the one called Ogre had won and survived seven previous fights. However, I learned more about them from the conversations going on around me. Smart was talking with the other men, joking about how good Ogre was and how much he was likely to continue winning since he'd actually had training and experience fighting before his augmentation. The one called Smasher on the other hand had actually been a woman who'd turned down Smart's advances and had called him a 'brutish thug' in front of some men he'd wanted to impress.

The fight was brutal as the two 'men' punched each other with the full intent to kill. It was now very obvious why people who'd been augmented like this were called brutes. They every sense of the word. The fight also went much as Smart had predicted with the more experience Ogre knocking Smasher to the ground and then breaking his neck. But even though Smasher could no longer fight back, Ogre continued to savagely beat the other fighter until he was eventually pulled away.

"This was just a warm up," Smart told the room smugly. Then he looked more closely and mused, "It seems that Smasher actually survived that... If he doesn't die from his injuries and is able to heal then I might be able to use him again the next time I hold one of these..."

"I'd imagine you're relieved," Adam told Smart. "Augmenting these fighters must be quite expensive so being able to reuse him should be more economical."

"Yes," Smart responded with a scowl. "But the audience does tend to prefer a death. Still, maybe the next time..."

I absently fingered the charm bracelet around my wrist as I considered what I still had to do. The charms were all made of gold and shaped like animals with tiny jewels for their eyes. However, what was less obvious about the charms was that each one of them had a bug hidden inside, a bug that Susan had assured me was advanced enough that none of Smart's bug sweeping methods would detect them.

I waited until everyone was watching the next match begin and then pulled one of the charms off my bracelet and dropped it down behind the cushion of my chair. At this point, I stood up and made a point to catch my bracelet against the edge of a small table. My bracelet broke apart and hit the floor where most of the charms came off and were scattered.

"My bracelet," I exclaimed in mock horror, dropping to my knees to retrieve the pieces.

I quickly retrieved the charms, making sure that while I was doing so one of them was placed right behind the leg of the table where it wouldn't be seen. And even if someone saw it they wouldn't think it suspicious since everyone here had seen my 'accident' where I'd lost the charms.

"And this was one of my favorite pieces of jewelry too," I told Samantha who gave me a look of sympathy.

Smart gave me a brief look of annoyance at the interruption while Hastings gave me a curious look for a moment. I sat back down and tried to pout a little as I just held the pieces in my hand, considering how I could plant more bugs. After all, I'd bugged this room so we'd be able to catch anything Smart said here but he certainly didn't intend to remain her. In fact, I doubted he'd remain in this particular mansion for long once these fights were over.

I waited a little longer then cheerfully exclaimed to Hastings, "You need a souvenir..." Then I proceeded to pin one of my charms to his suit pocket and stood back to admire my handiwork. He now had a tiny gold bear with diamond eyes that looked almost like it was meant to be there.

"That's so cute," Samantha told me with a look of amusement.

"You need one too," I told Adam, pausing to look at Samantha who nodded her agreement and gave me a sort of permission to touch her man. Seconds later, Adam had a pin of a monkey on his tie and Samantha was cooing all over it which seemed to make him happy.

After this I gave 'souvenirs' to the other male guests, not being sure who they were but guessing that Court might be interested in eavesdropping on them a bit too. Then I went to Smart and pinned a tiger shaped charm to his tie and stood back to admire it.

"You look so dashing with that tiger," I gushed, adding, "I think it suits you..."

"A tiger?" Smart looked at the pin and smiled faintly. "Indeed it does."

I returned to my seat feeling rather smug and pleased with myself. I couldn't believe I'd been able to get away with so brazenly putting the bug on Smart himself. Not only would he take the bug with him but he'd probably wear it proudly. In fact, I was pretty sure Court could track it too which would let us find him and pick him up later. Susan had definitely been right when she told me there was a certain power in being a sexy woman.

I had to keep from smirking as I watched the brutes fighting below us in the arena, knowing that I'd just completed my mission. All I had to do was keep calm and walk on out the door when the fighting and party was over. I could do that, no problem. This whole spy thing was a lot easier than I'd thought.

Then, just as another fighter was brought into the arena, Smart mused, "I am rather curious to see how well Ugly here fares. It's his first fight after all..."

"Oh really?" Hastings responded. "I'm feeling lucky so I'll put ten thousand on Ugly..."

"Did you know," Smart told Hastings. "Just a few weeks ago, Ugly was one of my accountants... Unfortunately for him, I caught him skimming a little off the top."

Hastings paused to stare at Smart and gulp, “Then I guess he was pretty stupid…”

“I’m glad you agree,” Smart responded with an evil grin. “Because I happen to know that you’ve been doing the same thing…”

Smart snapped his fingers and the two guards suddenly grabbed Hastings. Everyone else jumped up and backed away, watching in fear and confusion as Hastings was pulled back.

I jumped up as well and stared at Hastings with a horrible feeling, knowing that the mission had just gone horribly wrong. And even worse, I had a feeling that things were going to get even worse.

Smart glared at Hastings then reached to the side and held up a small wooden box that looked nicely carved. He opened the box and revealed the contents, a silver metal sphere that I immediately recognized. It was an augmentation package.

“It wasn’t me,” Hastings pleaded in terror. “I didn’t do it… Please…”

“How could you do this to me?” Smart demanded of him. “Now you’ve left me no choice but to make an example of you…”

“NO!” Hastings exclaimed. “I don’t want to be a brute…”

“You won’t be a brute,” Smart told him as he held the sphere in his hand. His expression darkened even more if that was possible. “You will join my girls…”

“NO!” Hastings cried out. “NO!” Then he stared at me with an expression of desperation and yelled, “The feds made me do it. She’s with the ARA!”

Suddenly Smart and his guards all turned to stare at me with some very grim expressions. I instinctively took a step back and muttered, “Oh shit...”

Part 14

I was grabbed by two large guards who held my arms tight as they slammed me up against the wall, holding a gun at my head to keep me from fighting back as they did so. Hastings, who had been held by those same guards just a moment before they grabbed me, was now sitting on the floor where they'd shoved him.

"Don't move," Smart told Hastings with a cold glare. "We still have to have a little talk..."

All the guests in the room began to back away and rush out the door, all except Adam who stood there watching with a look of amused interest. He was the only one who didn't seem disturbed by Smart suddenly switching to violence. I had no idea who Adam really was or what he did for a living, but that alone made me realize that he wasn't a very good guy...not that I had time to think about that at the moment.

I was pressed up against the wall, feeling absolutely scared shitless. With the gun pointing at my head there was absolutely nothing I could do. My actual combat training had all been hand to hand with no weapons involved. Susan and Bob hadn't taught me what to do in situations like this yet.

"Is he right?" Smart demanded of me. "Are you a fed? Are you with the ARA...the Augmentation Regulation Agency?" He said the last part with a sarcastic tone.

"No," I responded honestly, my voice shaking from the fear. "I'm not with the ARA..." Then I pleased, "Please don't hurt me..."

Smart scowled and continued to glare at me, his eyes seeming as hard as steel. Then he demanded, "Who sent you? Who do you work for?"

"I work for Mister Ryans," I lied, not having to fake the fear or the tears that were starting to form. "He said Mister Hastings ordered a companion for some party tonight...and afterwards."

"A working girl," Smart responded suspiciously. "Well, if you are a working girl then you chose the wrong client tonight... And if you really are what you claim to be...then at least your job won't be changing much. You'll just enjoy it a whole lot more."

Suddenly, Smart pulled out a knife and sliced through the front of my dress. He cut through my skin a little though not badly since it was my clothing he was trying to cut at the moment, not me. I was relieved at not being cut, though not much considering my circumstances. Then I saw him holding the metal sphere up again and realized what he was up to. The normal way of implanting an augmentation package was to put it in through the navel...which he'd just revealed by cutting open my dress. However, as I'd learned since coming to Court, the normal procedure also called for anesthesia first and he didn't seem to care about that part.

"NO!" I cried out, trying to struggle, "HELP ME!"

I was hoping...praying that Susan and Bob could hear me through the radio or the bugs. I'd been warned ahead of time that most radio communications in and out of the mansion would be jammed and that I'd be mostly cut off once inside. Of course, the bugs I'd planted had actually been designed to take that into account. They were inspired from the signals that came from augmentation cores and they'd be able to bypass the jamming so my team could probably hear everything that was going on right now. Unfortunately, that communication only went one way since there was no way I could sneak in with a receiver big enough to pick up a similar signal from them.

Smart put the augmentation core against my navel and I felt a cold chill along my skin. I looked down and saw the silver liquid threads spreading from the sphere along my skin for several inches in each, but they kept pulling away. Smart scowled in annoyance, looking just a little confused.

"It's not working boss," one of his guards said in surprise.

I let out a sigh of relief and grinned slightly as I realized exactly what was happening. You couldn't augment someone who was already augmented since the nanocytes that were already there would repel the invaders.

Smart and the guards were completely distracted by the failure of their attempted augmentation and the gun was lowered from my head because of this. I took a deep breath then yanked my arms free with a lot more strength than they'd been expecting from someone who looked like me. I hit the gun with one hand and knocked away from the guard then grabbed the sphere from Smart. He was already reaching into his jacket for what I assumed was his own gun so I slammed the sphere into his neck where the silver threads immediately connected.

"GET THIS OFF ME," Smart screamed in panic as he scrambled to tear the augmentation core away from him. However, it was too late as I could see the marble sized bulge already moving under his skin. He was no longer going for his gun but a good swift kick on my part knocked him to the ground where he was too busy grabbing for his neck to be much of a threat to me.

The guards, on the other hand, were definitely still a threat. One of them punched me in the face while the other grabbed for his own gun. I kneed the one going for his gun and stopped him from doing so then punched the other. In a moment, both of them were punching at me while I was blocking and punching back. This wasn't exactly easy considering the fact that I was still wearing heels.

I was fighting against two opponents who were both bigger than me but for some reason I didn't really feel all that outnumbered. They didn't hit nearly as hard as Bob and thanks to my enhanced reflexes, they were both slow in comparison.

"Fucking bastich," one of the guards snarled at me. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were augmented..."

"Then it's a good thing you do know better," I responded, blocking a punch and spinning aside to kick the other guard.

At this point, Adam decided to get involved by picking up the gun from where the guard had dropped it. I wasn't going to give him a chance to shoot me which was obviously his intention. I shoved one of the guards towards him and used that obstacle between us to get closer, snatching the gun right out of Adam's hand. I kicked his ankle as hard as I could, hearing a crunching sound right before he screamed and dropped to the ground.

I immediately fired a shot at each of the guards, hitting one of them in the middle of the chest and the other in his face. Both went down hard. I stood there for a moment just staring at their bodies, no longer feeling scared or even angry. Instead, I felt cold and determined to do whatever I needed to do in order to survive. I hadn't felt like this in a long time.

This wasn't the first time I'd ever killed anyone though it had been a very long time. I'd gone through a couple fire fights back in Afghanistan and had come out with a confirmed kill from one of them. I was pretty sure that I'd killed two others at the time but there were a lot of bullets flying and no way to verify that mine were the ones to get them.

I looked at Adam who was crawling out of the room and then at Hastings who'd blown my cover and sold me out to try saving his own skin. Of course, I reminded myself that he'd been coerced into helping me in the first place. He was standing back in the corner, looking terrified and I didn't blame him. I was damn well considering the idea of putting a bullet in his head right here and now but the truth was that I understood he was merely trying to save his own life.

"You're a lousy date," I told him grimly. Then I tried reaching Susan and Bob, hoping they could hear me. "Hey Suzie Q, I need to get out of here fast."

I popped the clip on the gun I'd taken, an old fashioned semi-automatic hand gun rather than the newer gel guns. It had been a long time since I'd handled a gun like this and after practicing so much with only a gel gun I suspected that I'd gotten a little spoiled. The clip was nearly full so I put it back in and braced myself because I knew there were more security people between me and the exit and they'd probably heard the shots that had been fired.

I rushed out of the room and back the way I'd come, just reaching the doorway to the ballroom again when I suddenly heard static in my ear. I heard Susan's voice though I couldn't make out much of what she said other than the word 'coming'. I just hoped that what meant was that help was coming.

"Can you repeat that?" I called out, stepping into the ball room.

Just then, I saw two armed guards running towards me, both of them bobs. Almost as one they raised their guns but one of them suddenly turned and shot the other in the side of the head. It took me a moment to realize that this was Bob, a fact I'd almost missed since his head was now shaved, probably in order for him to take the place of one of the guards.

"Bob," I exclaimed in relief.

"Are you all right?" Bob asked, looking around with a wary expression.

"Yeah," I responded with a grimace. "Hastings sold me out..."

"We heard," Bob responded with a grimace.

Just then, there were more gunshots from the direction of the front door. A moment later, the door flew open and Susan rushed into the ballroom dressed as a girl scout and with a gun in each hand. She fired several shots back the way she'd come as she rushed over to us.

"Damn bastich Hastings," Susan spat out. "The whole damn mission is a bust..." Then she looked me over before demanding, "Where's Smart?"

"Back there," I pointed in the direction I'd come from.

Bob scowled even more deeply if that was possible and asked, "Is he still alive?"

"More or less," I responded with a shrug, earning a confused look from both of my teammates.

"If he's alive and we can get him out...we need him," Susan told us. "I'm not going back empty handed..."

A minute later we were back in the observation room that I'd just left though Hastings and Adam were gone, probably having rushed out the hallway in the opposite direction from which I'd gone. The two dead guards were still present as was Smart who was twitching on the floor next to the now empty augmentation core. His very skin seemed to move around from underneath it in a very disconcerting way.

"Holy shit," Susan exclaimed in surprise. "You augmented him..." Then she shook her head and said, "He's going to be hard to handle as a brute..."

"He's not turning into a brute," I told her with a smirk. She stared at me for a moment before looking back at Smart with an almost evil grin.

"Very appropriate," Bob said with a faint smile.

"What do we do now?" I asked. "This isn't what we planned..."

"Even the best plans can get fucked up," Susan told me as she reached into her pocket for a jawbreaker which she then popped into her mouth. "We just have to adjust."

"What about all the guests?" I asked, gesturing to the arena below as well as the people who were watching the last fight finish up, apparently completely unaware of what had been going on up here.

"I've already locked the door and trapped them all down there," Bob said. "It will also slow down the guards that are locked with them."

"I've already notified the chopper we need an evac," Susan told us. "It should be landing in the front yard in just a minute..." Then she grinned almost evilly. "There shouldn't be many guards left there to stop us. It's amazing how you can just walk up to the front door of a secured mansion just by dressing right..." She gestured down at her girl scout uniform then looked at Bob and pointed to Smart on the floor. "I wasn't expecting that we'd actually find an opening to grab him but I'm not complaining. Get Smart."

Bob picked Smart up and slung him over his shoulder, a feat that wasn't easy for even someone as strong as him and especially not when we might still need to fight. Without another word we made our way back towards the front door again. When we reached the ball room, I saw a guard trying to open the door to the entertainment area in order to free the guests and other guards. I fired several shots at him and took him down. Susan just gave me a quick look, seeming a little impressed.

When we left the house, I saw several guards lying dead on the ground where Susan had taken them out. We quickly went past the first two bodies when Bob suddenly dropped to his knees with a gasp. A quick glance revealed that he'd been shot in the leg and was bleeding all over, though I certainly hadn't heard a gunshot.

“I’ve been shot,” Bob exclaimed unnecessarily.

Susan immediately dropped for cover and looked for the source of the attack so I did likewise, quickly spotting our attacker. There was another guard, a bob who was using a decorative boulder as cover while he fired another shot at us. Again, there was no sound so I could only assume he was using a silencer or a gel gun.

"Fuck" Susan exclaimed. Then she turned to me and said, "Cover me..."

I nodded and fired at the guard, knowing that the noise from my gun would keep drawing his attention towards me. Hopefully he wouldn't notice Susan as she ran off to the side. Bob dropped Smart and began firing back as well. Once Susan had come around to the side of the boulder, the guard saw her and was about to fire but suddenly hesitated. Susan had once explained to me that a lot of people hesitated when they saw her since they didn't want to hurt a kid...even if they knew she wasn't really one. She said that even ruthless killers would often hesitate...but Susan didn't. She opened fire with both her guns, taking the guard down quickly. She then hurried back to us while Bob picked Smart up again; no longer seeming to care that he'd been shot.

Just then, the helicopter arrived and began to settle down, landing just a short distance away from us. We ran to our ride, looking back for any other guards who might try ambushing us before we could get away. Fortunately, if there were any more guards around they'd decided not to bother. In almost no time at all we were in the air.

"I would have said this mission was a total screw up," Susan said, patting Smart's still twitching body, "but we actually captured Smart." She shook her head as though she couldn't quite believe it. "If we'd known it would be that easy, we could have done that a long time ago."

"We were all able to get past his security separately," Bob pointed out. "I doubt any other team would have been able to do that."

"We do make a good team," Susan mused. "Unusual but good." Then she looked at me and said, "You did good back there...especially since it was your first time."

"Thanks," I responded with a faint smile. "What now?"

"We call the ARA and have them rush in and arrest any of the guests still there," Susan told me. "They'll get the credit for busting up the illegal fights..."

"And they can deal with the lawsuits and pressure that follows," Bob pointed out with a faint smile. "I recognized several influential people going in."

I nodded at that, knowing that this was the whole point of Court. We could go out and take care of business without having to deal with that kind of nonsense. It might not be strictly legal but we were able to completely shut down Smart's operation. There was no way in hell he was going to be forcibly augmenting anyone like that again.

"I can't wait to get back and get a shower," I sighed, rubbing my stomach where Smart had cut my dress and some of my skin. My injuries had been minor and had already closed up but I did have some blood there as a result.

"What I'm looking forward to," Susan said with a chuckle, "is the look on the Judge's face when we tell him we got Smart."

Part 15

I was at a nice little cafe, sitting at a small table outside the front door where I had a good view of people walking past on the sidewalk. The weather was absolutely perfect for just sitting here, eating lunch, and watching the world go by. It was relaxing and a very nice change from my usual routine of late.

Susan was sitting across from me, having brought me here for lunch as a reward for doing well on my first mission. I was thankful she had since this was the first time I'd actually gotten out of the Courthouse since I'd first been captured...other than for the mission that is and I didn't count that since it was all business. Besides, this was actually my first day off without any training or other responsibilities.

I was well aware of the fact that I was getting a good amount of attention. Men would walk past on the sidewalk, giving me sidelong looks or even staring at me a little as they went past. For most of them, their eyes tended to linker on my tits though they all tried to hide that at least a little. Some women were giving me looks as well though mostly with expressions of hostility or envy. I had mixed emotions about all this attention, feeling a little embarrassed by it yet some strange part of me actually seemed to enjoy it.

After one man was particularly obvious about his attentions, Susan looked at me with an amused smile and said, "That blouse really looks good on you."

I looked down at what I was wearing and blushed self-consciously. I was currently wearing a dark red blouse that revealed a little cleavage though not enough to be indecent, a pair of tight jeans, and some black stiletto high heels.

"I'm just trying to get more practice," I told Susan with a bright blush. "You said I'd need to get more comfortable wearing this kind of clothes future missions..."

"That's a great idea," Susan told me with a faint smile and an amused gleam in her eyes. "Very practical."

I grimaced at that, knowing that the explanation I'd given Susan was only part of the reason I was dressed like this. As strange as it might seem, this was a matter of pride. If I was going to be stuck being a chick for the rest of my life I was damn well going to be a good looking one. However, there was one other reason that I wasn't quite sure I was ready to admit to even myself since I didn't understand it. The truth was, there was a part of me that actually liked how I felt when I was dressed like this.

I tried changing the subject by gesturing to the pack of bubble gum that Susan had just taken out. She'd barely finished eating when she popped a piece of gum into her mouth. "You have quite a sweet tooth," I pointed out.

"Yeah," Susan admitted with a grin. "I have a pack a day habit." She chewed for a minute then blew a large bubble. Once she'd popped it, she joked, "I started eating candy to help break my smoking habit but now I eat so much that I might have to take up smoking again just to break my sugar habit."

At this point, Susan just leaned back in her chair and let out a belch that was surprisingly loud for her size. "How very mature," I told her wryly.

Susan just grinned and responded, "One of the advantages of looking this way is that I can act as immature and uncouth as I want and no one really cares." Then she gave me a mock innocent look and added, "Because I'm just a little girl and don't know any better."

"More like a little midget," I pointed out to which she just grinned again.

Just then, the waitress came by and gave me the bill. Once the waitress was out of hearing, Susan chuckled, "Another advantage is that no one ever expects me to pay."

"Bite me," I responded, reluctantly reaching for my wallet. "A midget con artist is more like it..."

"On the plus side," Susan told me, getting a little more serious and setting a pair of twenties onto the bill. "Since you've completed your first official mission, you've been assigned a code name."

"Really?" I asked, feeling excited. This meant that I really was part of Court now. I'd already noticed subtle differences in the way Bob and Susan have treated me since we got back from the mission. I'd proven myself to them and that made all the difference. Actually getting a code name was an official recognition of that.

"Your new code name is Ghost Fox," she told me.

I just stared at her for a moment, feeling just a little deflated. "So, I'm just being named after my core..." I shook my head and muttered, "Great, I get a recycled code name..."

"We could always call you Kitsune," Susan pointed out with an amused look.

"Kitsune?" I asked blankly.

"It's from Japanese mythology," Susan told me with a grin. "It's a sort of ghost fox..." I just groaned at that. She just laughed, then said, "It could be worse. We could name you Noob. Remember though, it's not like we're super heroes or anything and we don't actually call each other by the code names. They're basically radio call signs. Just be thankful you didn't get named like Bob."

"Why?" I asked. "What's his code name?"

"Bob," Susan responded straight faced.

I just shook my head and asked, "And what is his real name?"

"Bob," she said again, then chuckled. "His real name actually is Robert. Once upon a time, he used to be special forces until he was injured on a mission and put in a wheelchair. The Judge thought we could use his skills so we recruited him and gave him a bob augmentation package we had on hand that fixed him all up."

I just nodded at that, being quite interested since Bob had been a complete mystery to me. Since he had a bob augmentation, I didn't even have a clue as to what his original appearance was like. In fact, for all I knew, he'd started off as a woman before being augmented. Getting a little background on my teammate and the guy who beat the shit out of me on a daily basis was kind of nice.

It was at this point that Susan and I began to get up to go. However, we'd barely gotten to our feet when a woman walking past accidentally bumped into Susan.

"I'm sorry," the woman apologized to Susan. “But you should really watch where you're going."

Susan scowled in annoyance then covered it up with her 'sweet and innocent' look that I thought should probably come with devil horns. She obviously didn't like being patronized and told to watch where she was going when it was the woman who'd walked into her.

"Wow you're big," Susan exclaimed in her little girl voice. "I hope I'm not as big as you when I'm fifty..."

The woman stared at Susan with a look of shock then sputtered, "I'm only thirty-sev...thirty-five..."

"Are you sure?" Susan asked skeptically, earning a look of anger from the woman who quickly hurried away, muttering something under her breath about brats. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. As it was, Susan watched with a smirk as the woman stormed away in a huff.

Our waitress who'd been within earshot during the exchange looked at Susan and then me, saying, "Your daughter certainly is precocious."

I blinked in surprise at having Susan being called my daughter though I knew it was the logical conclusion to make. I forced a smile and responded, "You have no idea..."

Susan decided to get in on it by giving me an innocent look and asking, "What does precocious mean Mommy?"

"It means you're a horrible little brat who needs to spend some time in the closet," I told Susan, earning a gasp of shock and horror from the waitress.

Susan just laughed at that and exclaimed, "Bite me mommy..." The waitress shook her head and then quickly rushed away.

"I guess we won't be eating here again," I told Susan a moment later but Susan just grinned and blew a bubble with her gum without actually saying anything.

After this, Susan and I went to a jewelry shop just a couple doors down, at her insistence. In spite of my female appearance and the fact that I'd started dressing a little more feminine, I hadn't suddenly gained the adoration of jewelry that most women seemed to have. In fact, as I looked over the collection my thoughts were more along the lines of what else I could buy with the money that each piece cost.

"A new TV," I mused as I looked at one necklace. "Some new display goggles..." Then I saw one ring and pointed out to Susan, "I once pulled one just like that out of a drain trap..."

"Shhh," Susan told me with a look of annoyance. "You're spoiling the mood..."

Susan stood back and looked over the jewelry with an appreciative look in her eyes and I could see her almost twitching to try some of it on. However, she just shook her head and sighed.

"Unfortunately," Susan said with a scowl, "I can't really wear this stuff anymore. I end up looking like some kid playing dress-up with her mom's jewelry box and getting more attention than I should." Then she shook her head again and muttered, "But that doesn't mean I can't dream..."

"I'm sorry," I told her, knowing that being permanently trapped as a little girl would have to be a nightmare. I knew I couldn't handle being stuck as a kid for the rest of my life. That just made me realize how lucky I was with my own augmentation.

A few seconds later, Susan asked to see a ruby pendant and earned a patronizing smile from the clerk who told her, "I'm sorry dear but these are for grown-ups only..."

Susan gave her the usual mock innocent smile as she pulled out a stack of cash from her pocket and began counting out fifties and twenties. "I know," Susan told her sweetly. "But it's a present for my mommy..." The clerk's eyes went wide as she saw all the money then she looked at me as if asking my permission. When I didn't say anything, she accepted the money from Susan and rang up her purchase.

Once Susan and I walked out of the store a minute later, we both burst out laughing. "I loved the look on her face when you pulled out the wad of cash..."

"I find that people ask a lot less questions when presented with cash," Susan told me with a grin. "I tried using a credit card when I was first augmented but no one would accept it or believe that my ID was real..." Then she took out the pendant she'd just bought and handed it to me, "This is for you..."

"What?" I asked in surprise as I took the pendant. It had a white gold chain and mount with a large ruby dangling from it. "Really?"

"You need some real jewelry," Susan said casually, as though it wasn't a big deal. "Something that doesn't belong to the company and that you can wear when you're not on missions." She looked me over and said, "I thought it would look good with your normal coloring."

"Um...thanks," I responded, not quite sure what to say. No one had ever given me jewelry before and I wasn't sure what to think of that. I put the pendant on and noticed that the color of the ruby really stood out from my pale skin. I had to admit that it actually did look good on me as well. "Thank you," I told her again.

"Consider it a present to celebrate the success of your first mission," Susan told me with a chuckle. "Hopefully there will be a lot more to come."

Just then, a man stepped in front of me and smiled, "Hello, I'm Franklin..."

"Okay," I responded warily, wondering what he was up to.

Then to my surprise, Franklin blurted out, "I just wanted to tell you how gorgeous you are..."

I blinked at that while Susan snickered slightly. I glared at her then looked back at Franklin. "Um...thanks." I frowned, not quite sure what to think about the compliment or his attentions. On one hand, I knew exactly how I looked and I'd sort of been looking for this kind of attention. On the other hand, actually getting it so personally was a little awkward.

"I hope you're not involved with anyone," he said, glancing to Susan and then smiling at me, giving me the impression that he didn't really care if I was or not.

Susan decided to help me out though by saying, "Mommy...are you going to bail daddy out of jail again?" I was a little surprised by that and then Susan added almost proudly. "Daddy likes to beat people up..."

Franklin gave me a very nervous look before saying, "Excuse me... I really should be going..." Then he turned and hurried off while Susan and I exchanged glances and then burst out laughing again.

"That was funny," I told her with a chuckle, "but I do feel bad for him. I know exactly where he's coming from and what it feels like being cut down that hard..."

"I can always call him back," Susan told me with a look of amusement. "Or we can always find you some other guy to practice flirting with. In fact, that might not be a bad idea... You can definitely use the practice."

I stared at Susan in horror, not sure if she was joking or not. However, I decided not to take the chance and tried changing the subject, "We should probably be heading back now..."

In spite of this, we didn't go back to the Courthouse right away. We made several more stops at clothing stores so I could choose some of my own clothes for a change, and though it was nice having some choice, I soon got bored. In spite of my new body, I still couldn't see how women could spend hours in a store shopping and just trying on things.

We eventually returned to the Courthouse and after a day of being out and about, I had mixed feelings about that. Sure, it was what served as 'home' now but it was still a little less than homey, even in my own quarters. That probably had something to do with the fact that we were in an underground bunker with no windows as well as being surrounded by a lot of dangerous people. Still, it would be nice to kick back and start reading the new romance novel I'd just bought.

Susan and I had just barely returned through the elevator when we were met by Ms. Adams who was not alone. There was a man standing beside her, looking just under 6 feet tall with a lean and wiry athletic build like that of a runner. He had shaggy brown hair and slightly handsome face, though one that could probably disappear into a crowd as it seemed somewhat unmemorable.

"You did well on your mission yesterday," Ms. Adams told me with a faint nod of approval. Then she turned her attention to Susan and said, "I believe you know Agent Morrison."

"Yes," Susan responded with a faint scowl. "Gavin and I go back awhile."

"Susan," the man...Gavin nodded down at her, scowling slightly as well. "You look...young."

"Agent Morrison just returned from a long mission," Ms. Adams told us, not seeming to notice the discomfort between Susan and Gavin which I thought was obvious. "He will be joining your team."

"It will be nice to have a full team again," Susan responded with a forced smile. "It will be nice working with you again."

Gavin nodded as he responded, "Likewise...."

After this, Ms. Adams and Gavin left while I looked at Susan and commented, "I take it you two have a history..."

Susan just scowled for a moment before saying, "We used to date..." At my look of surprise, she snapped, "I didn't always look like this you know..." Then she turned and walked off, leaving me to shake my head and wonder how this was going to change things.

Part 16

I felt a knot in my stomach as the elevator descended and it grew even worse when the door opened. This was my first time back on the detention level since I'd left it as a prisoner two weeks ago. I wasn't a prisoner anymore but I couldn't help but still feeling a bit nervous.

I walked down the hallway with Susan and Gavin, noticing that things were still a little awkward between them. Ever since Gavin had joined us nearly a week ago, he and Susan had been polite and professional towards each other but I could see that the current situation made them both a little uncomfortable, though they both tried not to show it.

Of course, Gavin's presence made things a little more difficult for me as well. Gavin had no idea who I really was though he had seen my 'official' records with my false background. As a result, I had to stay in character whenever he was around...dressing and acting like the woman I seemed to be nearly full time.

Though I was frustrated having to live like this, I knew that in the long run it would probably help me adjust to my new life and self more quickly. If nothing else, it would make it much easier on me when I had to go undercover again. Of course, my male pride didn't exactly see it that way but showing that was a luxury I couldn't afford at the moment, at least not when Gavin was near.

Gavin might make things a little more difficult for both Susan and me, but I had to admit, I kind of liked the guy. He was mostly professional around her, just as she acted more cool and professional near him, but he was also friendly and easy to get along with. And since Bob often acted like he had no personality at all, this was a nice change.

When we reached the room where we were going, Gavin opened the door and gestured for us to enter with a grin and the statement, "Ladies first..."

I rolled my eyes slightly as I went inside and sat down in one of the chairs available. The room was not very large though the three of us could still fit inside comfortably. There were monitors set up around the room, each of them showing a view of the cells or hallways of the detention level. Susan did something at the keyboard and then handed out some display goggles which we all put on.

As soon as I put on my display goggles, several new monitors seemed to spring up around me, each one being larger and clearer than the actual physical monitors. These virtual monitors were currently set so I got a good look into one of the cells from two different cameras. It looked exactly like the cell I'd been in and for all I knew it might very well be the same one.

There was a woman inside the cell dressed in the same kind of jumpsuit that I’d been wearing. She was definitely built with a hot sexy body and big tits. She had long blonde hair and a gorgeous, lust filled face that looked familiar.

The woman was in the middle of feeling herself up, rubbing her breasts and moaning as she did so. I felt like I was a voyeur in some porn movie or something for watching her like this.

Then it suddenly dawned on me who this woman was. This was August Smart, having been augmented into a slut. He now looked just like the sluts that he’d been showing of back at his mansion. The last time I’d seen him, he still hadn’t finished his transformation.

"This is August Smart," Susan said in a cool professional tone for Gavin's benefit. "We captured him a week ago." She gave a faint but evil smile as she added, "He was...accidentally augmented in the process."

"How the hell do you get accidentally augmented?" Gavin exclaimed.

"It's easier than you think," I muttered.

Gavin stared at his virtual monitor for a moment before saying, "That's a slut augment...." He shook his head and mused, "I've heard about Smart but even he doesn't deserve that. No one does..." Then he looked down at Susan and asked, "Who would do that to another human being?"

"That would be Bianca," Susan said, gesturing at me with a smile.

Gavin looked at me in surprise and I just shrugged. "It seemed the right thing to do at the time."

"How in the world did you get close enough to do THAT to him?" Gavin asked thoughtfully.

"Feminine wiles," I responded, trying to keep a face while Susan just snickered. Gavin gave me a wary look then turned his attention back to Smart.

It was at this point that the cell door opened and Bob stood in the doorway, pointing a gun at Smart and telling him to follow. I watched my virtual monitors as Smart was led from his cell to the interrogation room, feeling a little uncomfortable as I did so since this was exactly what had happened with me. I had to remind myself that I shouldn't feel sympathy for Smart but it wasn't easy, due in no small part to the fact that he no longer even looked anything like the Smart I'd met before.

Smart sat in the same chair I had, obviously trying hard to ignore the temptation to play with himself. After a minute, Ms. Adams came into the room and took her seat, looking just as intimidating as she had when she'd been interrogating me. She stared at Smart for a moment with her good eye while he tried to look defiant. However, it was very hard to look defiant when you looked like Smart now did and all the effort merely made him look even hornier.

"Do you know who I am?" Smart finally demanded though it sounded more like a come on with his new voice.

"Do you?" Ms. Adams responded.

Smart became angry and his body shook though it wasn't with anger. He squirmed and gasped, grabbing his breasts as his body was overwhelmed with even more lust.

I watched Smart on the virtual monitors, knowing exactly what was going on, thanks to one of the briefings I'd gotten in preparation for the mission to capture him. Brutes and sluts had their bodies wired all wrong which was one of the things that made them so tragic. In the case of a slut, their bodies were wired to be turned on and horny. Normally, when someone got angry it would trigger certain responses in their bodies. But in the case of a slut, anger or other strong emotions would just trigger the horniness instead…increasing it even more. Of course, Smart knew all this too and was struggling to calm himself and stay in control.

"I have powerful friends," Smart started again, glaring at Ms. Adams or at least trying to since that wasn't the effect it had. "They will come for me..."

"What friends?" Ms. Adams asked him casually. "The ones who believe you are either dead or turned on them? And what would said friends think of your augmentation? After all, I know you have a severe dislike of people who've been augmented and imagine your friends may feel the same..." Then Ms. Adams actually smiled though it was a rather cruel smile. "What is it like being turned into the very thing you hate the most?"

"Ouch," Gavin muttered from beside me.

"It's no more than he deserves," Susan pointed out.

"Of course, many of your guests were arrested during the ARA raid," Ms. Adams told him. "I'm sure most would be completely understanding of that happening at your home. They ARA is also helping the brutes and sluts as best they can...though I imagine letting the brutes have you would do wonders for their sense of closure and psychological wellbeing..."

Then Ms. Adams looked to the camera in the interrogation room and nodded. Susan turned to me and said, "That means you're up."

"Me?" I asked, blinking in confusion. Then Susan told me what she and Ms. Adams had in mind and I grinned.

I took off my display goggles and left the observation room, darkening my skin several shades and then making my hair into a golden blonde so that Smart would more easily recognize me. A minute later I went into the interrogation room and stood beside Ms. Adams.

I looked Smart over, seeing him...her for the very first time in person since her transformation. The monitors had let me get a good look already but it wasn't quite the same thing. I could see from the look on her face that she recognized me as well. There was a spark of instant hatred though she tried hard to keep it under control though her body was obviously responding.

"Oh, she's so lovely," I purred, looking Smart over and then smiling in delight. "Mr. Ryans is looking forward to trying her out... He wants to put her to work as soon as possible..."

"You know the deal," Ms. Adams snapped at me. "Your employer only gets Smart if she isn't useful to us."

"Oh, I get it," Smart scowled though it looked more like a pout. "This is a good cop bad cop thing.”

“Me…a cop?” I burst out laughing. “Hardly. I told you before, I’m just a professional. The only reason I’m here is that Mr. Ryans told me to help these guys get to you...”

“What?” Smart gasped, looking confused.

“You see,” I told Smart with a speculative look. “You augmented someone very close to Mr. Ryan and he didn’t like that one bit. He said you were gonna pay big time and he even made a deal with these guys for their help…”

Smart stared at me in horror then at Ms. Adams who had an amused smile on her face. “It’s true,” Ms. Adams told him. “We made a deal for assistance finding you and getting close to you. Once we’re done with you and no longer have a use for you, her employer takes custody of you.” She gestured at me.

“Mr. Ryans is really going to like you,” I gushed. Then I looked Smart over again and exclaimed, “But you really don’t look like an August anymore… You look more like an April…”

“April is a good name for her,” Ms. Adams mused, playing along with my ad-libbing. Then she glared at me and said, “You know our deal… We aren’t through with Smart…with April. Now get out of here so April and I can talk…”

I made a show of grumbling as I walked out of the room, barely able to contain my laugher until the door was closed and locked behind me. I wasn’t sure how much of that Smart actually believed, but the whole point had been hitting him from several directions at once and leaving him confused and uncertain of what was really planned.

I returned to the observation room and Susan grinned at me, “That was perfect…”

“You have GOT to tell me what happened on that mission,” Gavin said.

I just smiled and put my display goggles back on and sat back to watch the rest of the show. The rest of the interrogation was a little less exciting as Ms. Adams didn’t bother with more threats though she did make a few references to the ones that had already been made. In the end, Smart agreed to cooperate in exchange for protection, more comfortable quarters, and a bunch of sex toys to help her take care of her new urges.

“Give April a few months,” Susan told me after Smart was led back to her cell. “She’ll be begging to work for Mr. Ryans so she can get some action.”

I just nodded at that, remembering that this was the fate Smart had intended for me. “It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.”

Part 17

It had been a very long day so far and it was only half over. First, I'd gotten up early and had a long briefing before my team and I had to hop a private jet to fly halfway across the country. And of course, during the flight we went over more details of the mission, doing so until my head felt as though it was about to burst. If it hadn't been for my augmented stamina, I'd probably be ready to collapse right now. As it was, I had plenty of energy to keep going even though I would have liked an excuse not to. At least we'd finally arrived at our destination.

I looked around me, at the quiet looking street that was lined with houses, most of them looking so similar to each other that I suddenly had the feeling of being in a house farm. Here I was in the middle of the suburbs, probably the last place I would have expected to be when I'd agreed to join Court. This was where our latest mission was.

I looked down at my hand, specifically at the wedding ring which adorned my finger. I scowled slightly at the sight of it then looked at Susan and Gavin who were standing beside me, each of them dressed to fit into this neighborhood...and to pass as a family. Whether I liked it or not, I was going to have to stay in cover and pretend to be Gavin's wife and Susan's mom.

Bob was nearby though I had no idea exactly where. Since anyone who was familiar with what a bob was would be able to recognize what he was, he was staying out of sight while the rest of us were undercover. At the moment, he was watching our backs and keeping an eye out for anyone who paid us too much attention though he'd be joining us once he was sure no one could see him.

"But I don't wanna live here," Susan protested loudly for the benefit of anyone paying attention. "I miss my old friends..."

"Now Becky," I told her, using the cover name she'd chosen while trying to be as motherly as I could. "You know we didn't have a choice. Your daddy has a much better job here."

"I'm sure you'll make new friends in no time at all," Gavin assured her.

I looked at the car we'd just arrived in and then the house in front of us. It looked almost exactly like every other house on the street though the colors were slightly different. I wanted to shake my head and complain about how obnoxious all these cloned houses were but instead I stayed in character and began to gush about how nice the house was.

We continued talking about the house as we went inside and looked around, discussing the carpet, what decorations would look good, and so on. At the same time, we all pulled out the bug detectors we'd come with and began scanning one room after another until we were sure there were no bugs in the entire house. Only then did we relax enough to drop cover.

"It's clean," Susan said, contacting Bob by radio to let him know.

"I can't believe this," I muttered with a scowl, looking at the wedding ring on my finger and shaking my head. "I'm stuck in the suburbs as a housewife and mom. How the hell did I ever end up here?"

Of course, I already knew the answer to that but it didn't make me feel a whole lot happier about the situation. Smart had given us the names of several contacts in Prometheus though so far we hadn't been able to locate where they were. However, he did give us one name that was more immediately useful.

Marcus Trelach was an augmentation designer, a former employee for GCA who created the augmentation programs which were loaded into the cores when they were made. Trelach was fired from GCA for creating several illegal augmentations and is believed to be one of the people who created the first slut augments. Afterwards, he went freelance, designing augmentations on the black market. He was the one who designed the slut and brute augments that Smart used...and according to Smart...he also did work for Prometheus.

Trelach lived here in these nice suburbs along with his eleven year old daughter Sarah, surrounded by neighbors who had absolutely no idea what he did for a living or the horrors he'd helped contribute to. Our mission was to get close and keep an eye on him so we could intercept any communication with Prometheus and follow it to them. Failing that, we were to capture Trelach for interrogation though we were not to do that unless we had no other choice since any move against him could scare off his Prometheus contacts.

So here I was, out in the field again with my training put on hold, just a week after my last mission. At this rate, I doubted that I'd ever be able to complete my training. Then again, there is something to be said for on the job training as well. That was how I learned most of what I knew as a plumber.

"So what do we do now?" I asked Susan. It was an unnecessary question since we’d already gone over what we would do on the plane, but I felt better by asking anyway.

"You two can get the equipment set up in here," Susan told us. "I'm going to go out and see if I can meet Trelach's daughter. If I become friends with her, I can get into his house and plant some bugs."

I scowled and that then said, "I don't like the idea of using a kid like that..."

"Me either," Susan admitted. "But it’s the best way to get close to him without drawing suspicion." She didn't have to point out that her looking the same age as Trelach's daughter was the main reason our team had been selected for this mission.

"What about Bob?" I asked, thinking of our last team member.

"He'll come in once the sun sets," Susan answered. "Until then, he'll stay hidden and keep watch."

After this, Susan left the house to 'go play while her parents unpacked'. Gavin and I began to unpack but it wasn't dishes and decorations that we pulled out. We set up radio equipment in the bedroom where we could listen in on any bugs that Susan planted as well as record everything they heard. We also set up some security equipment that would let us keep an eye around the house and warn us if any intruders tried sneaking up.

"I hope we don't have to do this for too long," I told Gavin as I went into the bathroom to hide a weapon just in case we needed it

I looked in the bathroom mirror and frowned slightly, noting that my brunette hair had lightened just a little. I carefully darkened it just a little more, knowing that I'd have to keep up on it to make sure that it stayed the right shade and didn't lighten too much. Constantly checking my hair was going to be one of the most annoying things about this undercover mission.

At the moment, I was wearing some clothes that were nice but not quite as flattering as what I'd become used to wearing. Even my heels were lower and weren't the stiletto's that I'd developed a strange fondness for wearing. With my clothes and the makeup I currently had on, I looked a few years older than normal...closer to my original age. I also looked more motherly and frumpy, though admittedly, I was definitely a bit of a milf.

It was strange to realize that I missed my sexy clothes and shoes and wasn't happy about making myself intentionally look frumpy. In fact, I was well aware of the irony in that since I'd started out avoiding sexy and feminine clothes or being seen as sexy as much as possible. The things I could get used to still amazed me, though I knew this was probably more a matter of pride than anything else.

I finished hiding a gun under the sink then went back and asked Gavin, "How long do you expect before Trelach makes contact with Prometheus?"

"I have no idea," Gavin told me with a shrug. "Prometheus might want him designing a program for them right away or they not get back to him for months...if ever."

"Months?" I gasped, looking around and dreading the idea of having to stay undercover here for that long.

Gavin just shrugged again and then grinned at me. "If it looks like it might be too long, there's a good chance that the Judge just have us pick Trelach up. That won't lead us directly to Prometheus but it would still get us some information."

"Great," I muttered with a grimace.

"I forget this is your first long term undercover mission," Gavin said with a chuckle, giving me an amused look. "Or at least the first potentially long term... For all we know, it could just be today." Then he told me, "Don't worry about it. Just stick to your role whenever possible and things will be fine."

I just nodded at that, watching Gavin and wondering what he thought about me. He had absolutely no idea that I used to be Nick Spaulding or even a man. As far as he was concerned, I was a new agent who'd been lucky enough to be selected as the recipient of a new type of core which had been commissioned by Ares Inc. In fact, he'd been told that I was one of the prototypes for a female equivalent of a bob unit which was designed for infiltration rather than combat.

"I'm just the new girl," I mused as I continued with the unpacking, feeling slightly amused by just how accurate that statement had been.

Once everything was set up, Gavin and I left the house to walk around the neighborhood, letting us get a good look at the houses and perhaps meet up with some of the neighbors. We met a couple people who were out working on their yards, introducing ourselves as Beth and Charles Jones. It was difficult for me to keep a straight face while we were doing this and while I was pretending to be Gavin's wife, but I did my best and managed all right. After all, this wasn't any worse than pretending to be a working girl for Smart and I was less likely to be killed.

After Gavin and I had gone around most of the neighborhood, we found Susan just several houses down from ours, playing with a little girl around her own age. She saw us and cheerfully exclaimed, "This is my new friend Sarah..."

"Hi Becky's mom," Sarah blurted out with a giggle. "Hi Becky's dad..."

"It's good that you've made a new friend so fast," I told Susan, trying to stay in character while I looked at Sarah.

I felt a surge of guilt for how we were using this girl to get to her dad. I felt even more guilty as I realized that when we were done here, we'd probably have to take her dad away...either for interrogation or for arrest due to his part in some very illegal operations. Trelach might deserve that but this innocent girl certainly didn't.

Just then, a familiar looking man came out of the house and started walking towards us. He was very tall, slender, balding, and was very obviously not augmented. It was a little surprising that Marcus Trelach hadn't been augmented considering what he did for a living, but then again, augmentation was still very expensive and I'd imagine he might not trust any augmentations that came from the people he usually worked for.

"Hello," Trelach said, holding out his hand which Gavin shook. "I'm Marcus..."

"Charles," Gavin responded, gesturing to me and saying, "This is my lovely wife Beth." Then he nodded towards Susan and added, "And our daughter Becky. We just moved in a couple houses down."

"I see you've met my daughter Sarah," Trelach said with a pleasant smile.

"Yes," I told him with a false smile. "She seems like a very sweet girl..."

We stood there and talked with Trelach for several minutes, giving him our cover story about how we had just moved here for Gavin's new job. Trelach was very polite and friendly with us, and if I didn't know better, I probably would have liked the guy. As it was, I had to remind myself that he was the one who'd designed the brute and slut augments for Smart. Who knew what other projects like that he'd been involved in. In fact, that was one of the reasons I was here now.

When Gavin and I continued walking 'home' a few minutes later, I looked back and saw Susan giving me a thumbs up before returning to her playing with Sarah. So far, everything was going according to plan. But if that was the case, then why didn't I feel happier about it?

Part 18

I had the house to myself for the first time in the three days that we’ve been here undercover. Susan was at school, building her cover and making sure to be friends with Sarah. Bob was following Trelach around as he went on his rounds, making sure to keep back and out of site. Gavin had gone out to get supplies while I was left to man the fort and monitor anything picked up from the bugs.

At the moment, I was walking through the house, trying to keep from being bored. This being a suburban housewife was one of the worst things I’d ever done, including going through basic training back in the Army. The real housewives of the neighborhood were friendly in their own ways, though they also made a painful experience into a torturous one.

“Crazy broads,” I muttered, wondering if that statement still counted as being sexist since I was a woman myself now.

I looked down at myself and frowned, wishing I could really show off in front of those women. They all seemed to be competing with each other in one way or another and several had made sure to point out how frumpy I was in comparison to them. Now if I was wearing my stiletto heels and sexier clothing, I could easily outdo any of them.

“Too bad I have to keep frumped up,” I grumbled.

Of course, I told myself, the only real reason I wanted to dress that way and show off was male pride. I wanted to be the best at everything I did. However, I suddenly realized the irony of that thought. I could hardly call wanting to dress in revealing clothes and show off my sexy body the result of male pride. It sounded far too much like female pride.

“Oh shit,” I muttered, looking myself over again and shaking my head.

I knew that my transformation was permanent, that I would physically be a woman for the rest of my life. In spite of that, I’d still been thinking of myself as a man who happened to be trapped in a woman’s body. But now I couldn’t help but wondering just how much I’d changed in the short time since my augmentation. How much of me had truly become female without my even realizing it.

“I have a woman’s body,” I told myself. Everyone else thinks of me as a woman and treats me that way. Even the people who know who I used to be treated me more as a woman than a man. And I have been acting more and more like a woman even when I didn’t really need to. “I really am a woman…”

I shook my head, disgusted to think that I might end up like some of the housewives in this neighborhood. However, I reminded myself that being female didn’t automatically make someone behave like that.

“I haven’t gained a sudden addiction to shoes or shopping,” I chuckled.

However, I couldn’t help but remembering how much I enjoyed the way I felt when I wore stilettos and sexy clothes. It made me feel…different. It made me feel like I was the center of attention. I liked that feeling…the feeling I could now recognize as feeling feminine sexy.

“Damn,” I groaned. “I’m doomed…”

My male sense of self and male pride were both doomed. Even now, I could scarcely think of myself as a male plumber anymore. I had changed and so had my perception of myself. How much longer would it be before I truly thought of myself as female rather than male?

Of course, I already knew that I would adjust to my new body and life and eventually accept it all as normal. There was nothing wrong with being female and a great many good things about it. I had already considered that some time ago and had even accepted it. However, it was all happening a little faster than I’d expected. Though whether that was a good thing or not, I didn’t know.

All these thoughts seemed to have triggered something as my body began to respond. My nipples began to harden and my new equipment began to feel a bit wet and hungry. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d felt turned on in my new body. In fact, there had been a few times when I was alone in my quarters that I’d actually played around and experimented with my new parts.

“Then there’s my toy,” I mused, blushing brightly as I remembered what I’d done. When we were out buying some sex toys for Smart, I’d managed to quietly grab a small vibrator for myself and had even tried it once. “Damn that felt good…”

Unfortunately, I’d left my little toy behind when I’d come on this mission or I’d try it out again now. Just thinking about how good that felt seemed to encourage my body even more.

“Good thing I’m not a slut augment,” I muttered, knowing that I’d probably go insane feeling like this all the time. Of course, slut augments were not only turned on all the time but all the sensations were turned up, making it quite addictive.

It was at this point that the door opened and Gavin came back. I froze, my heart jumping up into my throat. I hadn’t been doing anything but I was still extremely embarrassed to have him walk in on me while I was feeling this way.

“I’m back,” Gavin said unnecessarily as he carried several bags of groceries into the kitchen. Once he’d dropped off the groceries, he came back to me and asked, “So, anything interesting happen while I was gone?”

“Not really,” I responded with a shrug.

“You know,” Gavin told me with an appreciative look. “You’re absolutely gorgeous when you’re bored.”

I blushed slightly at that, not really sure why. Gavin frequently flirted with me when Susan wasn’t around though I usually ignored it, though for some reason it seemed more difficult to do at the moment. Perhaps it was because my hormones seemed to be raging at the moment.

“And is that the only time I’m gorgeous?” I teased, not quite sure myself why I was flirting back. I mentally told myself that I was just doing what Susan had once suggested and was practicing my flirting technique and I think I even half believed that excuse.

Gavin stepped even closer and put a hand on my shoulder, saying, “No, you’re gorgeous all the time.”

I normally would have pulled back but wasn’t quite sure why I hadn’t yet. Instead, I responded, “I bet you say that to all the augmented women…”

At this point, Gavin slowly leaned forward until he gave me a kiss. I still didn’t pull back even though I was startled and confused. I didn’t like guys… In spite of my female body, I was still turned on my chicks. However, it seemed that it was my mind that was turned on by women while my body reacted to Gavin’s presence by getting even more excited. I moaned and began to kiss back, not sure what my hormones were driving me to.

Gavin and I kissed more deeply then he reached for my shirt to begin undoing it. I gulped, knowing full where this was going and weakly protesting, “I can’t…”

“Don’t worry about Susan,” Gavin whispered into my ear. “She and I have been done and over for a long time…before she was augmented.”

Susan had nothing to do with my hesitation though I realized she probably should have. There was also the fact that this was completely and totally wrong. Chick body or not, I might be adjusting to being a woman but there was still a lot of my old male self inside. That male self was protesting this but not nearly as loud as he probably should have.

“She doesn’t need to know,” Gavin whispered, giving me another kiss while massaging my tits and making them feel incredible.

My mind raced for other reasons not to do this since I knew damn well there were some good ones. However, instead my mind kept coming up with other thoughts. Masturbating in this body felt awesome and I’d been curious about what it would feel like for real so now was my chance to find out. Besides, I was augmented which meant that along with not having to deal with periods, I also couldn’t get pregnant and wouldn’t have to worry about STDs.

My attempt to talk myself out of going further with Gavin backfired as I was coming up with fewer reasons not to do this and more as to why I should. I was growing increasingly curious about what sex as a woman would feel like and knew that this would probably help me adjust to this body and being a woman.

Gavin and didn’t bother with the bedroom and instead went for the couch. I felt extremely nervous and awkward in spite of my decision to go through with this…or perhaps because of it.

My body was definitely excited, especially as Gavin pushed all the right buttons. However, my mind had a hard time wrapping itself around the idea of being with a guy at all so I started fantasizing that I was with a gorgeous woman instead. It helped my mental state though created a bit of conflicting thoughts when Gavin entered me.

“Oh God,” I groaned in both surprise and delight at the feeling of him actually being inside of me like that. If felt good…really good. “More…”

I could barely believe what I was doing or the fact that I was really enjoying it. At this point, I was no longer thinking much about what I was doing or why. My eyes were closed as I just tried to focus on everything that I felt. I even discovered I was a bit of a screamer when I orgasmed and my entire body exploded with the sensations

When we were done a short time later, I lay on the couch trying to make sense of everything I thought and felt. Sex as a woman had been great, much better than as a guy. However, I still wasn’t sure if I was attracted to guys or girls now. I was sure that my mind still preferred girls since that was what I’d been fantasizing about during the sex, though my body seemed to enjoy guys.

It was at this point, I also realized that a large part of my male pride and sense of self had just died. I winced, knowing that a great deal of my old self was being lost and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

“We can’t do that again,” I told Gavin self-consciously. “It’s…”

“It’s not professional,” he agreed reluctantly. “Now when we’re on the same team…” However, that hadn’t quite been what I was going to say but I wasn’t going to argue.

“I don’t want the others to know,” I said with a gulp, imagining what Bob and Susan would think. I blushed horribly at the thought and knew that I couldn’t let them find out.

Gavin and I quickly scrambled to clean up before the others returned, neither of us saying much as we did so. I blushed brightly as I considered what we’d done and just how good my body still felt. I wasn’t sure whether I should be happy about feeling like this or ashamed. I had no idea what to think of having had sex with a man so decided to try not thinking of it at all.

“It never happened,” I told myself firmly, trying to pretend that we hadn’t done this. However, it did happen and I wouldn’t be able to forget no matter how hard I tried.

Part 19

I stood back with a cocktail in my hand, warily watching the people that surrounded me. At the moment, I was at a neighborhood party which Gavin and I had been invited to. It was getting late and the sun had set but the back yard where the party was being held was well lit and the party showed little sign of ending soon, though most of the kids who'd come had already been sent home or put to bed. However, not all of the kids had as evidenced by Susan and Sarah who kept sneaking over to the snack table.

I looked over at Gavin who was in deep conversation with several guys on the local sports teams, though I quickly looked away again with a blush. I couldn't help but remembering what we'd done two days ago though neither of us had talked about it since. After all, we didn't exactly have much privacy with both Susan and Bob being around most of the time.

My mind and emotions swirled at the memory of having sex with a guy. The male part of me, which was admittedly smaller than before, felt horrified and guilty over the sex. However, I couldn’t help but admitting that it had felt pretty damn good and that only made me feel more confused.

Just then, a plump woman named Amanda came up to me and exclaimed, "Why Beth, why are you sitting over here all alone..."

"I was just catching my breath is all," I told her with a forced smile. What I didn't say was that I really needed a break from her and some of the other ladies of the neighborhood. So far, they'd cornered me and tried filling me in on all the local gossip while also trying to become friends. However, I had a feeling that this was less about trying to make friends with me than each of them trying to form an alliance in some sort of political game that I didn't quite understand.

"Well come on then," Amanda told me, half pulling me back towards the cluster of women. "Nicole just found out that Christine is having an affair... I'd keep my husband away from that bitch Christine if I were you but you've got to come get all the juicy details..."

I rolled my eyes and reluctantly went with her, silently cursing the undercover mission that had me playing the role of housewife. It was women like these that really made me dread the prospect of adapting to my new gender too much.

As I was going to join Amanda and the others, I downed my cocktail and glanced over at Trelach. He was standing off to the side talking to a very attractive young black woman whom I hadn't seen before. Gavin was closer to Trelach than I was and was keeping a close eye on him while Susan was nearby, paying more attention to Sarah at the moment. And though Bob wasn't here physically, he was here in spirit...and on the radio. He was back at the house monitoring all the bugs and keeping in radio contact with those of us who were here.

"I bet you're getting bored being cooped up there Bob," I whispered, knowing he'd hear me.

"Don't waste time with unnecessary chatter Ghost Fox," Bob told me through the radio in my ear.

"Yeah Ghost Foxy," Gavin added with a chuckle, having gotten far enough away from the other men where he could join our radio conversation. "You don't want to look like you're talking to yourself."

"Hypocrite," I mumbled, glancing at Trelach and the woman he was with again and asking, "Are you able to pick up what they're saying?"

"The bug Suzie Q planted is picking up everything," Bob responded. "Just flirting."

By this point, I was too close to all the other women to continue the conversation. The only reason I'd been able to get away with what I had was that I was speaking low and had discovered earlier that Amanda was very hard of hearing on that one side.

For the next several minutes, I was completely buried in the kind of inane gossip and conversation that made me clench my teeth and curse the fact that I'd ever become a woman. At least if I'd still been a man they would have left me alone or I would have been able to just walk away. And the most frustrating thing was that these women thought they were being friendly and inclusive.

I kept a watch on Trelach from the corner of my eye though I knew there was no need to since the rest of my team was doing the same. He and the woman he'd been flirting with had gone a little further and were now kissing. I glanced over to see how Sarah reacted to that but the little girl was so caught up in her game with Susan that she didn't seem to even notice. A minute later, the woman winked at Trelach and then walked off, suggesting from her body language that she was planning to meet him again later.

"And who is she?" I asked Amanda, gesturing to the woman who'd just left Trelach. "I don't think I've met her yet..."

"I don't know," Amanda told me with a dismissive wave while the other women echoed her. "His girlfriend I believe..." Then they began to talk about how it was time for Trelach to get remarried since Sarah needed a mother in her life.

After another two minutes of this, I suddenly noticed that Trelach was starting to choke. He grabbed his throat and gasped, staggering for a moment before collapsing to the ground. There were gasps of shock from around him and then everyone quickly turned to stare. One of the women beside me made a snide comment about his being drunk.

Gavin was closest to Trelach so ran to him and check his body, muttering into the radio low enough that no one nearby could hear him but we could. "His pulse is very weak and erratic," Gavin stated. "His lips are turning black... I think he's been poisoned..."

"The woman he was with," Susan exclaimed in my radio though at the same time she was trying to keep Sarah back.

"I already followed her when she left the party," Bob said. "She got into her vehicle and left before I could place a tracker on it."

"I can't give him CPR," Gavin explained then loudly called out to the gathering crowd for someone to call an ambulance. "I might be affected by the poison..."

I didn't say a word as I immediately turned and ran to Trelach and began to give him CPR. Being augmented, I had less to worry about with the poison than Gavin. I had mixed emotions as I did this since I thought he definitely deserved to die for what he'd helped do but I certainly didn't want him dying like this in front of his daughter either. I tried my best to save Trelach but it did no good.

"Damn," I exclaimed when I stepped away from the body. I thought about the woman who must have poisoned him and murdered him right under our notes. "That bastich..."

I looked at Susan who had been trying to comfort Sarah until one of the adult neighbors ushered her away. Susan and Gavin both joined me and we stood back watching as the paramedics loaded Trelach's body into the ambulance.

"We failed," Gavin finally said. He scowled deeply and added, "We couldn't track his connection or even take him into custody... We failed..."

There was a long silence as we all stood there, considering what this meant. My considerations were less on the fact that the mission had failed than on the little girl who'd been forced to watch as her dad had died in front of her. Whatever Trelach had done, Sarah didn't deserve that.

"We may not have failed completely," Susan finally said grimly. Gavin and I both looked down at her while she scowled thoughtfully. After a moment more, she finally explained, "Smart told us that Trelach kept notes on all his deals saved on a data in case his employers ever turned on him. I've been looking for it whenever I've been at Trelach's house but haven't had any luck so far."

"If we can find that," Bob said in my ear, "then we won't go back empty handed."

Gavin scowled for a moment then said, "I don't remember that in the briefing..."

"It wasn't," Susan responded grimly. "Now we have a house to search."

Part 20

I felt uncomfortable as I stood in the doorway of Trelach's house, right beside my teammates. I'd been in here once before when I was coming to pick up Susan the other day but this time was very different. The house was now empty of anyone actually living here, though you couldn't tell that from looking around and seeing the child toys which were still scattered along the floor.

Trelach was dead, having been poisoned and murdered right in front of us without our suspecting a thing. His killer had calmly walked away and disappeared before we could follow. His daughter Sarah had been picked up and taken away by an aunt before Susan even had a chance to say goodbye.

I looked down at a doll which had been left in the middle of the floor and frowned. I felt a surge of pity for little Sarah, knowing that her world had just been destroyed. Trelach might have been human scum, but from what I could see, he'd also been a good father. After looking around the living room for a moment, I looked down at Susan who had a grim expression on her face. Though she wouldn't talk about it, she had liked Sarah and felt bad for her as well.

"Nice sized house," Gavin commented. "Not as big as I would have guessed, considering how much he makes for those programming jobs."

"Most of his money is tied up in investments," Bob responded. "And a generous college fund."

"Time to get to work," Susan said, gesturing around the room.

I nodded at that, knowing what she meant. After Gavin and Bob had flashed false FBI badges to get access to the house, we needed to take advantage of the access to find that data cube with Trelach's files. A moment later, we all began searching the room.

Bob tore the cushions off the couch and checked them to make sure the data cube wasn't hidden inside before throwing them into the middle of the floor. A minute later, the entire couch was sitting upside down on the floor as well, having been checked underneath it and inside the fabric even though it tore up the couch. Gavin was taking things from the bookshelf and leaving them in the middle of the floor as well after checking them. Susan and I were both a bit more careful of the property, putting everything back as we finished checking it. By the time we left the living room, it was a huge mess, reminding me uncomfortably of how Mike's place had looked the last time I’d been there.

Gavin and I bumped into each other as we both went into the kitchen at the same time. I felt awkward as we gave each other a faint smile and continued on. Of course, he was looking at my tits while smiling and leaving little doubt as to what he was thinking.

Ever since we’d had sex, the two of us had been dancing around the topic and pretending it hadn't happened. At least I'd been pretending it hadn't happened as much as I could while Gavin had increased his flirting. However, even he was too much of a professional to hit on me while we were in the middle of the search.

Susan pulled out a fresh sucker and took her time unwrapping it, scowling grimly and then using the sucker to point at Gavin and Bob. "If you two will start checking the bedrooms, we'll look in here."

I watched Susan for a moment, knowing that she was taking this very personally. However, I wasn't quite sure if she was more upset by Trelach being murdered right under our noses or by the fact that Sarah had just gone through a tragedy because of it. Susan might have been friends with Sarah only because of her cover, but there was definitely some real fondness for the girl too.

Sarah then gave me an odd look that made me wonder if maybe she might suspect what had happened between Gavin and me. However, she didn't say anything and the two of us went to work looking through all the draws and cupboards. After I took the dishes out and checked behind them, I put them back, knowing that Bob and Gavin probably would have just tossed them on the floor. That might have been a little easier, but these might be thinks that Sarah or other family members would still want. After all, I'd feel horrible if I destroyed some family heirloom or something that held a lot of memories for her.

In spite of being as careful as possible, I was still able to search at a good pace. I knew exactly what I was looking for, a small metallic cube that was about an inch across on each side. A data cube could store several terabytes of information, such as the one I'd left behind in my apartment and which had contained my entire movie and music collection. That was one of the belongings I'd lost which I missed the most.

We were about halfway done with the kitchen when Sarah casually said, "I know about you and Gavin."

"What?" I gasped in surprise.

I was about to deny it but she continued, "He always had a hard time keeping it in his pants. You were just the last woman I expected to fall for his charms." Then she gave me a wry look and added, "You certainly aren't the first though."

I blushed brightly at that and tried to think of how I could deny that we'd done anything. However, I took a deep breath instead and told her, "It all happened so fast..." I shook my head, feeling as though I was going to die of embarrassment. "I suppose I was curious and just got caught up in the moment..."

Susan gave me a steady look for a moment before shrugging, "I guess this just means that now you really are a woman"

I blinked in surprise at that. "You're not mad?"

"Not really," Susan shrugged again. "Gavin and I have been over for a long time... Like I said, he couldn't keep it in his pants." Then she abruptly grinned and asked me, "So how does it compare sex as a man?"

"It was...different," I responded awkwardly, hardly able to believe I was talking about this to someone who looked like a kid. "Better in a lot of ways"

"I do envy you in a way," Susan admitted, looking just a little embarrassed about that. "I can't exactly have a sex life myself anymore. I'm not really built for it and most men don't have the least bit of interest in me. Of course, there are some who do but I don't have any interest in that type..." Susan shrugged then gave me a grin. "I'll just have to live vicariously through you."

"I don't know if I'll do that again," I smiled weakly, still not sure about whether I now preferred men or women. The whole subject was a bit confusing at the moment.

Just then, there was a loud crashing sound from the back room. "Damn it," Susan exclaimed angrily. "I should have known better than to send those two to search the bedrooms... I don't think Sarah wants everything she owns broken as well..." Then Susan stormed into the back to have a talk to the two @m on our team while I finished searching the kitchen.

Once I was done with the kitchen, I went and searched the laundry room. I went through the cupboards, checked inside the detergent bottle and even looked beneath and behind the washer and dryer. However, the only thing I found in the laundry room was a tool box that looked as though it was brand new. I looked inside and frowned in annoyance that such a nice little tool box was only being used to hold two screwdrivers, a flat head and a phillips, and a pipe wrench.

"Anything in there?" Susan asked me.

"Not unless you count lint," I told her with a frown.

"The main bathroom is clear too," Susan told me. "I was just going to start on the half bath..."

Before long we'd finished searching the entire house and garage with Bob and Gavin leaving a trail of destruction behind them as they efficiently searched through everything as fast as they could. Unfortunately, our efforts and the mess all seemed to be wasted as the only data cube we'd found had been the one containing Trelach's own video and music collection. We'd checked its contents on his computer but were bringing it with us just in case. The data cube we were looking for was still missing though.

"Are you sure he kept the data cube in his home?" Gavin asked. "Or that it even exists?"

"We are sure of nothing," Bob answered with a deep scowl.

"Smart told us that Trelach always showed up with a data cube containing all his programs and work notes," Susan explained. "Then Smart said he'd realized Trelach had a bit more than that saved on the cube. He sent people to follow Trelach and find out where he kept the cube...just in case. And according to Smart, Trelach went straight home and didn't have the cube with him the next time he left. Smart was certain that he kept it hidden in his home."

"And Smart is such a reliable informant," Gavin responded sarcastically.

"We don't have the time or equipment to tear though the walls and do a more thorough search," Bob pointed out with a scowl. "Nor do we have time to go over the house again."

"I don't want to be here if the local cops come by to check the house out," Susan nodded agreement. "We'd have a hard time explaining why two supposed FBI agents tore up the house like this much less explaining why I'm here."

I just stood there while they discussed the next step, wondering if there was anything we'd missed. Then I suddenly realized something and exclaimed, "We didn't check the traps."

"What?" Susan asked in surprise.

"I didn't see any booby traps around here," Gavin said in almost patronizing tone. "I'd think we'd know about any by now..."

I just ignored Gavin and thought about the tool box I'd found earlier. For someone with so few tools, I would have expected them to have a hammer or crescent wrench before a pipe wrench. It was a rather specialized tool and not nearly as useful for most people around the house. It suddenly seemed a little suspicious that Trelach would have a pipe wrench when he barely had anything else at all.

Without another word, I went to the laundry room to retrieve the wrench then returned to the kitchen where I got down to look under the sink. For a moment, I just stared at the trap, the U shaped pipe that was under the sink and which often collected small heavy objects such as rings or coins that would fall down the drain. I'd pulled a few such things out of traps like this in the past and it seemed the perfect place to hide something small, heavy, and waterproof like a data cube.

I quickly removed the trap and poured out some water but nothing else. I wasn't too disappointed though as there were several other sinks in the house and I hadn't checked their traps yet. After a moment of consideration, I went to the half bath at the far end of the house which looked like it was used the least. That would make it the best choice to use as a hiding spot.

A minute later, I'd removed a second trap and turned it upside down, having a metal cube fall out of it and into my waiting palm. I wiped it off on the bathroom towel before handing it to Susan.

"One data cube," I told her with a barely contained smirk.

"If I didn't know better," Susan told me with a look of amusement, "I'd almost think you were a plumber."

"Good work Bianca," Bob said, giving a faint smile and an approving nod. "Now let's get out of here."

"Amen to that," Gavin exclaimed, echoing my sentiments. "I am so over the burbs."

Part 21

I walked down the hallway of the Courthouse, feeling pleased with myself for the way I'd helped find where Trelach's data cube had been hidden. I was also feeling pleased because I no longer had to look and dress frumpy and was free to dress a bit sexier again. I absently considered that I just might be overcompensating a little, but didn't really care.

At the moment, I was wearing a short black skirt, a red blouse that revealed a little cleavage, and a pair of stiletto heeled shoes that made my legs and ass look their best. It was nice being able to show off my body again rather than hiding it.

I smiled faintly at the tap tap which came from my heels at every step, announcing my presence to the world as I walked through it. I was well aware of the attention I received and had come to enjoy. There was something about this all that made me feel sexy and feminine, things I once would have shuddered in horror at but had found a strange enjoyment of.

A minute later I arrived at my destination, the briefing room which was already nearly full. There were nearly two dozen chairs set up and only a few of them were still empty. The Witness stood at the front, wearing display goggles and seemingly unaware that anyone else was there yet. I took a seat next to Susan who was already there with the rest of our team.

"Have I missed anything?" I asked quietly.

"Not yet," Susan told me. "We're still waiting for a few more people before they begin."

I nodded and looked around, noting that both the Judge and Ms. Adams were already here as well, though I was sure they were both already fully briefed. Most of the people here were the executioners who were not currently out on mission. The jury would receive their briefing separately, though they were probably the ones who'd organized the information we were going to be briefed on.

There were two people in the room though who surprised me a little. One was a tall and muscular black man who was obviously augmented while the other was a petite woman of Puerto Rican descent who looked more natural. I didn't remember the man's real name though he was also called Defense and was in charge of Courthouse security. The woman was the Prosecutor and among other things, acted as a quartermaster, providing any equipment or tools that the executioners might need.

As I looked around the room, I noticed that maybe only a third of the people here were augmented, which wasn't really any kind of surprise. Not only was it expensive to augment agents, even for Court, but there were a lot of times when not being augmented was an advantage. Agents who hadn't been augmented tended to blend into the scenery without being noticed much more easily. Of course, there was also the fact that the Judge was a little paranoid about having too many of his agents compromised if anyone ever figured out how to hijack that satellite or the core signals.

"So what's this all about?" I asked Susan quietly.

"It's just a general briefing," Susan told me, taking a bite out of the strand of red licorice she held in her hand. She offered the box to me and I took a strand of licorice while she continued, "I think this one is for some of the new things we've learned about Prometheus from Smart and Trelach."

Once a couple more people arrived, the Witness decided to begin the briefing. Several monitors came to life around the room as well as a couple holograms. About half the people in the briefing put on display goggles so they could see the information more clearly and in a more convenient fashion, though the only one from my team who did this was Susan.

"We recently acquired a valuable informant," the Witness said, briefly glancing over at me so I realized that he was referring to Smart. However, he didn't name Smart or identify him in any way as he continued, "This informant has given us leads into the operations of several black market augmentation dealers and even into Prometheus itself. Some of his leads have already led to more information and the arrest of the largest black market dealer in the Southeastern United States."

The briefing continued on, covering much of what Court had learned lately as well as several more active advancements. However, it was obvious that a lot of information was being held back, probably only to be given to people on an as needed basis. Susan had definitely been right when she called this a general briefing since it only gave general information but didn't go into a lot of specifics.

I listened to the briefing with mixed emotions, knowing that most of this was classified information, the kind of thing that I never would have heard about before I'd joined Court. That alone should have made this extremely fascinating and exciting, though unfortunately, it was still boring and I had to work at it to stay focused.

"Interesting how we don't get credit for bringing in Smart," Susan whispered to me. Then she added, "Of course, that's usual and anyone who needs to know that already does."

"I wonder how much of this came from that data cube we got from Trelach," Gavin added quietly.

When the briefing was finally ending, the Judge stood up and announced, "Further details will be provided as mission requirements dictate."

A minute later, nearly everyone began filtering out of the briefing room. However, Susan and a few other team leaders were held back to talk to the Judge and the Witness, probably go get special briefings on information that the rest of us didn't need to know just yet. I absently thought that I should feel a little jealous about being left out of that information, but the truth was, I was just glad to get out of the briefing room.

"I'd imagine it's pretty easy to get information out of that April girl downstairs anymore," Gavin chuckled. "I hear that she's gotten to the point that she's telling everything she knows in exchange for a little sex."

"Why?" I asked with a raised eyebrow as I teased Gavin. "Are you volunteering?"

"Certainly not," he responded with a look of disgust. "I admit, it might be interesting to do it with a slut but she used to be a man."

I frowned at that, wondering what Gavin would say if he knew that I used to be a guy too. For a brief moment, I was half tempted to tell him just to see the look on his face. However, I quickly thought better and turned to walk away.

Just then, Bob stepped in front of me and said, "Bianca... We're getting behind in your training." Then he looked me over for a moment before saying, "I'd like to see how well you fight in those heels..."

"I did already in them back at Smart's mansion," I pointed out.

"And you did quite well," Bob admitted with a look of amusement. "But I do think you need some more practice fighting in those things."

I wanted to argue with Bob about that but I could see his point. I'd been spending a lot of time wearing stilettos lately and knew that I'd probably be doing so on a number of missions. It only made sense that I practice fighting in them since I couldn't count on wearing tennis shoes every time I got into a fight.

"Okay," I reluctantly agreed. Then I quickly added, "But if my shoes get broken, you have to replace them."

Bob stared at me for a moment before nodding and saying, "Deal."

Part 22

It had been a very long day of training so I was glad to finally be done with it and free to go back to my quarters. I shook my head faintly as I considered my day, starting with the morning which had included sparring in stilettos and a dress and then going through the obstacle course with all that on as well as a backpack full of rocks. Susan and Bob said it was to help me practice my ability to move and maneuver while dressed that way, though I personally thought they were just having fun at my expense.

"At least I'm about done with that," I mused, thankful that even Bob had admitted my abilities to fight had improved greatly. I would still need to keep practicing and improving, but my basic fighting training was pretty much over.

Of course, most of the afternoon training had actually been pretty fun. Bob had me out practicing with a variety of different firearms and then once we were done there, I got some lessons in working a computer. I already knew as much about working a computer as the common person but now I was learning a little more. It was interesting, but I suspected that if their goal was to turn me into a hacker, they'd be sorely disappointed.

When I reached my quarters, I stepped inside with a sigh of relief and then looked around. I'd decorated my quarters a bit so it now felt more like 'home' rather than a hotel room. Admittedly, the decorations were a little more feminine than my old apartment had been. For one thing, I had some scented candles that Susan had given me, and for another, I had a book shelf with a few trashy romance novels on it. I never would have left those out so openly before, but being a woman now meant that I could get away with it.

I did a quick look around my quarters to make sure I was really alone since I didn't want to be surprised by someone sneaking in on me the way Susan once had. Once I was sure there were no surprise intruders, I jammed the door shut and began to undress. I'd already showered and changed after this morning’s physical training, though now that I was done for the day I decided that I needed to do it again. If nothing else, it was a great way to wash away the stress of the day.

Once I was finished washing up, I stood in front of my closet trying to decide what to wear. It was strange, realizing that I'd once teased women about how hard it was for them to decide something as simple as what they wanted to wear yet here I was doing the same thing myself. I felt a little like a hypocrite so sped up my decision, feeling better about it as I did so.

"At least I don't have a huge wardrobe," I muttered, glad that I didn't fit that stereotype. However, I had to admit that my collection of clothes was growing fast and before long I probably would be there. “Imagine me with a whole closet full of shoes.” I shook my head at that.

I got dressed as quickly as I could, putting on a pair of frilly black lingerie and then a slinky black dress that wasn’t as fancy as the dress I’d worn at Smart’s party but was still very sexy. Then I put on the stockings and a pair of black stiletto heels. Finally, I finished it off with some jewelry which included the ruby pendant Susan had bought me.

“Not quite done yet,” I mused.

With that, I sat down and began to apply makeup, carefully remembering everything Susan had taught me and all the practice I’d done. Against my pale skin and hair, any makeup stood out more noticeably so I didn’t want to overdo it. Of course, I could have darkened my skin a bit to make it easier but that wasn’t what I was aiming for.

Once I was done with the makeup and nail polish, I admired myself in the mirror and smiled as I did so. I looked very sexy, exactly as I wanted to look.

“Who could have ever imagined I’d want to look this way?” I thought aloud, shaking my head. It amazed me how much I’ve changed in such a short time and not just physically. But as hard as it was to believe that I wanted to look sexy and feminine, it was even harder believing what I intended next.

I took a deep breath and left my quarters, feeling extremely nervous as well as a little scared. What I was doing, going out like this when I didn’t have a mission to blame it on struck at the heart of my male self. That part of me was slowly fading away and I thought that this might end up killing it entirely. I wasn’t even sure if that was a good thing or not.

A few minutes later, I was out of the Courthouse with only a few odd looks from those who’d seen me. The people who did see me probably assumed that I was going on a mission though some might guess I was going out for a night on the town.

“And those ones would be correct,” I mused.

After I’d taken the elevator to the surface and left the Courthouse, I made my way out of the parking garage entrance and to an upper scale bar that was less than a block away. I knew exactly where I was going and even who I was going to meet there.

As soon as I stepped into the bar, I looked around, immediately spotting Gavin sitting at the bar and having a drink. I’d known he was going to be here since he mentioned going to here to relax after his shift a bit earlier, though he certainly wasn’t expecting me.

I had to take a deep breath and gather my courage before going and sitting beside Gavin. It took him a moment to realize who it was sitting beside him and he stared at me with a look of surprise and appreciation.

“Jack and Coke,” I told the bartender, pretending that I didn’t see Gavin for a moment as well.

I felt extremely nervous and could barely believe I was doing this. After I’d had sex with Gavin, I’d told myself that it was all in the heat of the moment…that he just happened to catch me at the right time. However, I couldn’t help but remembering how much I’d enjoyed it and had felt confused about that ever since.

Deep inside, I still thought of myself as a guy even though I no longer looked or even acted like it. The idea of having sex with a guy had always been anathema to me yet I’d enjoyed it completely. I’d been thinking about it ever since and now I just had to know… Was it a one time thing or had I really changed that much?

“Hey Gavin,” I said with a pleasant smile.

I felt ridiculous, knowing that not only was I planning on having sex with a guy again, but that I was actively planning on seducing him. Of course, I didn’t exactly have much practice in the arts of seduction. It would have been too awkward getting advice on it from Susan since she looked like a kid so I was mostly on my own. I had to go with what I would have liked a woman to do for me and with all the things I’d learned from those trashy romance novels I liked.

“Wow Bianca,” Gavin told me, giving me exactly the reaction I’d been hoping for. “You look absolutely fantastic…”

I just smiled faintly at that as I took a sip of my drink. I just wished I could get drunk as easily as I used to since I could use a little of the old liquid courage.

I sat there beside Gavin for awhile, practicing my flirting and seduction techniques and feeling horribly self-conscious as I did so. However, it was also very obvious that it was working which gave me the confidence to continue.

“So, what are you really up to besides trying to give me blue balls?” Gavin finally asked me.

“I was thinking about what we did back in the suburbs,” I told him with a smile. “I was thinking that I wanted to do it again…”

Gavin didn’t need any more encouragement after that and slapped enough money on the counter to cover my drink as well as his own tab. Without another word we both got up to leave. However, instead of heading back to the Courthouse, Gavin led me to an out of the way bathroom and then locked the door behind us.

Back when I’d been a guy, I’d always fantasized about having sex in a public place like a bathroom though I’d also known the odds of getting caught would have kept me from ever doing it. Now, things were even more awkward but there was something exciting about this as well.

Before long we were both half undressed and I was up on the counter with my dress pulled up while Gavin entered me. I gasped at the sensation, hoping that this would be as good as last time yet also hoping that it wouldn’t be so I could just consider the last time as a freak incident and reclaim some of my sense of male self-identity. I wasn’t really sure which I was hoping for more.

The sex wasn’t quite as good as the last time since the surroundings were a little less comfortable, but it still felt really good. I fantasized about women as he was going in and out of me, but not as much as the last time. This time I was able to just enjoy how good it felt without distracting myself from the source of the pleasure.

Once we were done, Gavin gave me a long kiss that sparked my body’s attentions and the pleasure that still hummed through me. Then he quickly cleaned himself off, pulled up his pants and left.

“Damn,” I gasped, now feeling even more confused than before. “I liked it… I really liked it…”

I closed my eyes for a minute, feeling a mixture of emotions swirling through me. I felt embarrassed and a little ashamed for what I’d just done, yet at the same time, I also felt a little smug and satisfied. It was as though my male self and female self each had their own ideas of what I should be feeling though admittedly, the more I savored the afterglow, the easier it was to ignore the cries of my male pride.

“What am I becoming?” I asked, looking at my reflection in the mirror and thinking that I really had that ‘just fucked’ look. “What have I already become?”

The truth was, I didn’t fully understand everything about the person I was becoming and at the moment, I didn’t particularly care. I just sort of wished it was already over so at least I wouldn’t have to feel so confused.

Part 23

I sat in the back of a van with six other people, feeling nervous as we drove to our new mission. This was my third mission with Court, though it was a bit different from the previous two. The two prior missions had been going undercover to gather intelligence. This time, however, there was no undercover work involved. We were going in with guns blazing.

My team had been chosen for my first mission because of my own unique abilities and for my second mission because of Susan's ability to get close to Trelach's daughter. This time, my team had been chosen for the mission because of Bob's special forces background and for Gavin's prior experience with some of the people involved.

Our mission was simple, to take down a black market augmentation operation by hitting their manufacturing plant and seizing their core production unit. It was a second generation unit which meant that the Judge wanted it as a replacement for the one Prometheus had destroyed during their raid. I wasn't sure whether getting the unit or taking down the dealers was the most important part of our mission, though I suppose it doesn't really matter since we're killing two birds with one stone.

I looked over at Gavin, knowing that this mission had to have some personal meaning for him. Before he'd been assigned to our team, his previous team had been investigating this very same organization. He'd been undercover with them for months, getting out only when his cover had been blown and half his previous team had been killed. This was his chance to take care of that unfinished business.

Then I smiled faintly, knowing that Gavin had to already be feeling vindicated. After all, he'd gained some useful information about these guys while he was undercover but he hadn't been able to find out where their production facility was. But then, it turns out that Trelach had done some work for these guys and the notes in his data cube had filled in a few holes and told us right where they were located.

At this point, I took a deep breath and reminded myself to get my head in the game. I checked the assault rifle that I carried as well as the gel gun strapped to my hip. My clothes were a dark gray urban camouflage pattern and included a lightweight flack vest. Of course, everyone else was dressed exactly the same, including Susan. Somehow though, I didn't think they made these kinds of assault uniforms in child sizes normally.

I slowly looked over the van again, taking careful note of each of us in here. There were six of us in the back of the van and two more in the front. My team wasn't the only one going on this mission so I was getting a chance to work with a whole other team and see how they operated. Their team was selected for this mission for a similar reason to my own. One of their members had been part of Gavin's previous team and was the only other survivor.

"It's kind of strange working with you again Mongo," Susan said to one member of the other team.

I didn't know the real name of the man who both Gavin and Susan referred to as Mongo though I knew he was the other survivor of Gavin's previous team. He was a large and muscular man, nearly six and a half feet tall and very powerful looking. He was the only augmented member of the other team and probably could have passed as a brute if he didn't look just a little too handsome.

Mongo just grunted, reminding me a bit of Bob with the way he acted. That didn't seem to faze Susan though as she mused, "In fact, the last time we worked together on an op, I was still an adult." Mongo just grunted again.

A minute later, someone called out, "We're here."

We all rushed out of the van and looked around, seeing that 'here' wasn't exactly our final destination. We were in an area of the city that had once been quite prosperous but had fallen on hard times when the economy took a major hit a couple decades ago. The economy improved but this area hadn't. What had once been an area of expensive condos had instead become the home of drug addicts and gangs.

The guy in charge of this particular mission was actually the team leader of the other team. His name was Morgan Andrews and he slender, dark skinned man of indeterminate ethnicity. He looked at each of us and said, "Don't worry about the locals. I'm sure they won't bother us." He put a reassuring hand on his rifle then gestured for us all to follow him.

We quickly split up as we approached our target, a brownstone type building that had once contained some very nice business offices but which now housed the production facilities of these particular black market dealers. I knew from the briefing that they'd probably be aware of us before we entered due to spotters and the local gang's who'd been paid to give them any warnings. Because of that, we were told not to give them a chance to think.

As we rushed the side door, I opened fire with my gel gun hitting the two guards with beanbag shots that would take them down without killing them. Killing them probably would have been faster and safer but we wanted as many people for interrogation as possible. Somehow though, I doubted that the grunts guarding the doors would know much.

"I doubt we'll get close enough to hit many others with beanbags," Gavin told me, gripping his rifle firmly.

I nodded and followed behind him, switching back to my rifle as well. One man saw us coming down the hallway and turned to fire at us with an older model machine gun but we opened fire first and took him down. There was nothing non-lethal about that one. It suddenly struck me that out of everything I'd done with Court so far, this was the closest to my experience in the army. Of course, this was a bit more hardcore and the training I'd gotten from Bob put my previous experience to shame.

"MOVE," Bob exclaimed from another hallway as he and his partner broke in through a different entrance and met us in the corridor. He nodded briefly at me before continuing on his way.

Susan followed right behind Bob, having forgone the assault rifle in favor if her preferred weapons, pair of gel guns. "Be careful," Susan told me in passing.

The rest of the assault went even faster than I'd expected, and though I heard gunfire elsewhere, I didn't see any more hostiles myself. Morgan's voice came over the radio in my ear, "We've secured the office and captured some prisoners."

"We found the main unit and secured it," Susan's voice quickly followed.

"That was easier than I thought it would be," I told Gavin as the two of us went to meet up with the others.

I found Morgan and Mongo in central office along with the other two members of their team. One of them was a rather rough looking woman named Miranda who had a bad scar across one cheek and the other was a Hispanic man named Rico who was watching everything with a very intense and focused expression. As I looked over their team, I suspected that they didn't do a lot of undercover work. Most of them stood out a bit too much for that in one way or another.

Then I turned my attention to their prisoners, three people who stood back with their hands up. To my surprise, I actually recognized two of them. The first man whom I didn't recognize was tall and muscular, obviously augmented, and smelled of cigars. However, standing beside him and wearing a nice suit was a man I recognized from August Smart's party.

"Adam," I said as I looked at the man who'd been invited to Smart's private room and who had actually tried to shoot me. "Your ankle seems to have healed well."

"YOU?" he gasped as he now recognized me as too. I knew it must have been a little more difficult since my hair and skin were both their normal pale color rather than how they'd looked when he'd seen me before. He glared at me with a look of hate before glancing at Rico who was pointing a gun at him and realizing it would be stupid to make a move.

"You're in luck," I said, unable to resist teasing him. "We might let you share a cell with April..." At his blank look, I reminded him, "You do remember what kind of augmentation I gave Smart, don't you? I think her new name suits her." He gulped, now looking afraid as he was probably considering the possibility that he might receive a similar treatment.

"You'll be just fine as long as you cooperate," Morgan said, glaring at me briefly. I wondered if he knew about Smart and what I'd done to him during his capture.

I nodded faintly and looked at the last of the prisoners, the same woman who'd been with Trelach right before his death. She was an attractive black woman in her late twenties who looked to be augmented, though like me, her augmentation was subtle enough that with the right makeup she could easily pass as not being augmented. Then I glanced at Gavin, who stared at her with a scowl, obviously recognizing her as well.

The woman didn't say a word as she looked at us all, apparently not recognizing Gavin or me. I glanced at Gavin again and then Morgan, deciding not to let on that I'd seen her least not yet. However, there was no doubt that she was going back to the Courthouse for a real interrogation. After her part in Trelach's death, there were definitely questions that the Judge and Ms. Adams would want to ask her.

"Move it," Morgan gestured for his prisoners to leave.

The three prisoners began to move but the woman suddenly lashed out with her nails and scratched Rico right across the face, leaving deep gouges. Rico screamed and grabbed his face and the woman was in motion, using him as a shield while she pulled a gel gun out from underneath the desk she'd been walking past and fired two shots in rapid succession, one which hit Adam in the chest and one which caught the unknown man in the face.

"Get her," Morgan exclaimed as the woman ran to the exit while we couldn't get a clear shot without hitting Rico. She fired one more shot back at us and caught Miranda in the forearm right before she was out of the room completely.

“Bastich,” I exclaimed, chasing after the woman since I was the closest to her. Gavin and Mongo were both right behind me while.

The woman was fired back at me and I was hit in the chest which was enough to not only stop me but to knock me back a bit. I silently thanked my vest which blocked the bullet then looked down and saw that it was splattered with red goo that wasn't blood. My first impulse was to wipe it away until I suddenly realized what it was.

"She's using nemesis rounds," I exclaimed, careful not to touch the red goo on my vest as I ran after the woman again, tearing off my vest and dropping it behind me as I did so since I didn't want to accidentally get my hand in it.

"Damn," Gavin cursed. "Now we really have to be careful not to get hit... Then again, I hadn't planned on getting shot anyway."

"Less talking," Mongo growled, "More shooting."

I nodded and picked up my pace, knowing that shooting would be almost pointless at the moment. The woman we were chasing had the lead and there were a lot of corridors and turns so we couldn't keep her in sight. We came to one split and couldn't tell which way she'd gone so Mongo broke off to go one direction while Gavin and I continued in the other. A few seconds later, we had to split off again with me running up some stairs to the next floor while Gavin continued to check this floor.

I was halfway up the stairs when something hit the wall beside me. I jumped to the side and avoided several more shots, calling out, "SHE'S HERE," hoping that the others would pick it up on the radio. Then I opened fire with my rifle and chased her up the stairs and through the door.

When I reached the top of the stairs and went through the door, my target tried ambushing me by jumping out and firing the gel gun right into my face. I saw her moving though and blocked her arm so the fun fired off to the side and missed me. We struggled for a moment and she knocked my rifle away but I hit her arm and caused her to drop the gel gun. She kneed me in the stomach and broke free then began running again.

"Damn," I snarled in anger, pulling my gel gun from the holster and chasing after her again. At least this time I was the only one who was armed.

I followed the woman up to the roof entrance, not having to be quite as careful now that she was no longer armed and trying to shoot me. Once on the roof, she paused for a moment to glare at me before jumping all the way to the roof of the next building, which was actually separated by only a small alley. I grimaced and chased after her, hitting the edge of the roof and taking a leap, landing on the other building's roof and then rolling, only to have the other woman run right at me, kicking at my arm and knocking the gel gun from my hand before I was even back to my feet.

"Now I've got you," the woman spat at me as she dove for my gel gun. However, I kicked her and knocked her away from it. Before I could grab for my gun again she was jumping at me. "You're dead."

"You and what army," I taunted her, blocking several of her punches and then hitting her in the gut. She bent over and began to collapse. "I thought so..."

However, a moment later she suddenly jumped at me again, revealing that she'd been playing possum. She lashed out at me, scratching me along my cheek and digging in deep enough that it would have left nasty scars for a normal woman. For me, it would be healed in no time at all.

"You're already dead and don't even know it," my opponent told me with a smirk.

I wondered what she was talking about then realized that my cheek felt strangely cold where she'd scratched me. Then it dawned on me...her nails must have been poisoned. That was why Rico had been so incapacitated just by being scratched in the face. I gulped, feeling nervous but reminding myself that my nanocytes would take care of it. Right now, I had to focus on taking down this bastich or I was dead anyway.

My opponent seemed even more confident now that I was both unarmed and poisoned. We fought briefly, throwing a few punches and kicks. It was obvious that I was better than she was, thanks to all those hours sparring with Bob. She was obviously frustrated by the realization as well as by the fact that I was still fighting rather than dying. I just smirked, realizing that she either didn't know I was augmented or had never tried that poison against someone who was.

After just a minute, she turned and started running again. I chased her to the edge of the building and watched her jump off the edge ahead of me. I braced myself to follow after her but just as I was about to leap I suddenly felt a burst of pain through my back and through my torso. Instead of jumping as I had been about to, I lost my balance and fell all the way to the ground where I felt intense pain and then nothing.

Part 24
I woke up in a lot of pain which really said something since my nanocytes would normally lock up my pain receptors and dull any pain I felt. The fact that my entire body ached immensely was a good indication that I was seriously messed up. Then I opened my eyes and found that I was lying in a hospital bed in the Courthouse infirmary. I couldn't move very much since most of my body seemed covered in bandages but I could make out enough to tell me that my suspicions about the severity of my injuries seemed correct.

"What the hell happened?" I moaned, trying to remember exactly what had happened. I remembered chasing after the woman, the sudden burst of pain through my back, and then falling. "I fell..."

Just then, Susan approached and smiled weakly, "'re awake."

Then Susan reached over to the night stand and held something up for me to see. It was a small metal collar which I recognized as a neural inhibitor. If you slapped one of those around someone's neck, you could knock them out cold and keep them that way for a long time. I was well aware of what they did since that was how they'd kept me out long enough to do all their exams on me when I was first brought to the Courthouse.

"We had to keep you out for awhile," Susan told me, setting the neural inhibitor back down. "We only took it off a few hours ago after the doctor said you were completely stable again."

"What happened?" I asked, gulping as I feared the worst.

Susan scowled as she carefully said, "You nearly died." Then she abruptly asked, "What do you remember?"

"I was chasing that bastich who tried escaping," I told Susan carefully. "We were on the roof and I was just about to jump after her when..." I paused at that and winced before continuing. "I don't know what happened but I fell..."

"You were shot from behind," Susan told me grimly. "It looks like we missed one of their guards and he shot you."

"Damn," I whispered, thinking about the bad timing of being shot just as I was about to jump. Of course, whoever shot me may have done it right then intentionally.

"The shot punctured one of your lungs," Susan told, scowling deeply as she did so. "You fell four stories and broke multiple bones. In fact, your left arm and shoulder were practically shattered. On top of that, the doctors found poison in your system as well." She looked me straight in the eye as she said, "Any normal person would have died from the injuries you received and you just barely made it. You overloaded your nanocytes ability to heal you..." She shook her head at that. "You've been in critical condition for most of the last four days with your nanocytes doing everything they could just to keep you alive."

"So Doc," I forced a smile, trying not to think about how messed up I must still be. "Am I going to live?"

"Yeah," Susan chuckled, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a sucker. "You're past the critical stage and now your nanocytes can focus on fixing everything else." She stuck the sucker in her mouth and sucked on it for a moment before grinning, "You'll be back to normal within a week or so."

"Normal," I said with a faint chuckle, feeling vaguely amused as I considered how different my new normal was from my old. Just a few months ago, there was absolutely no way in the world that I'd consider being a 2sz f as normal, yet now, it was slowly becoming more difficult to think of myself being any other way.

Then I paused and remembered that I had other important questions. I sat up as much as I could, wincing at the aches and asking, "What about that the woman...?"

"She got away," Susan reluctantly admitted. Then she quickly added, "But Gavin got the guard who shot you..."

I stared at Susan for a moment and saw that there was something else she wasn't saying just yet. I took a deep breath and asked, "What else?"

Susan stared back at me for several seconds before nodding. "We lost two people." At my gasp, she continued, "Miranda was hit with a nemesis round..." Susan shuddered visibly at that and added, "It wasn't pretty." Then she added, "And Rico was poisoned with some kind of nerve agent. The same kind she got you with."

"Damn," grimaced in anger. "And I let her get away..."

"No one blames you," Susan quickly assured me. "Trust me on that. We will find her can count on it. But for now, just stay here and rest. Let your nanocytes do their work and you'll be back on your feet in no time."

Susan left the room and I was left to consider what she'd said for about half an hour before Bob came to see me. He came and sat beside me without saying a word, looking faintly relieved, probably that I was no longer critical would recover. Thanks to my nanocytes, my full recovery was now a given.

"Good thing I didn't get killed and make all your training for nothing," I joked weakly.

"Next time," Bob said gruffly, "don't get shot."

"I'll try not to," I assured him, knowing that I really didn't want to go through this again. Even being augmented, it was nearly a miracle that I'd survived.

Bob nodded and got up again, putting a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Get back on your feet soon. We have more training to catch up on." Then he smiled faintly before leaving.

I remained in the hospital bed, growing more and more bored with my situation. Eventually, the doctor came and brought me dinner...a glass of some sort of thick protein shake which contained all the nutrition my nanocytes would need to fix me but which tasted like a cross between sour milk and chalk. Since the doctor said that was the only food I'd be getting for the next couple days, I was even more eager to get out of here.

Shortly after I was finished with my so called dinner, Gavin showed up to visit me as well. "Hey Foxy," Gavin said as he gave me a nervous smile.

"Hey," I responded, wincing slightly at the pain as I tried sitting up more.

"I'm sorry," he blurted out with a guilty expression. "This is my fault..."

"Your fault?" I asked him blankly.

"I heard you on the radio," Gavin told me quietly. "I didn't come right away though... I was checking out a room I'd found...and instead of coming immediately I stayed to finish looking through it... If I'd come sooner then maybe..." He shook his head sadly and admitted, "I arrived just in time to take out the guy who shot at you... If I'd been there only five seconds earlier this never would have happened..."

"It's not your fault," I told Gavin weakly. I fought back a yawn, realizing that I hadn't felt this weak and tired since being augmented. "At least you came..."

"Just not fast enough," Gavin said with a grimace. Then he stared me in the eyes and said, "I promise I won't fail you like that again..."

After Gavin left a minute later, I took the opportunity to take a nice long nap. In fact, I spent the next two days doing little more than laying in bed, napping when I could and being bored and frustrated when I couldn't. I hated being stuck in this bed, barely able to even move. Fortunately, I was healing fast and by the second day I was able to sit up in bed and even had full use of my right arm.

I did have several visitors, most notably being Susan who came back several more times, even bringing me a romance novel to keep me occupied on one of them, for which I was quite thankful. Morgan came by as well, though he didn't say much other than to tell me he was glad I was all right and that he hoped I would be better soon.

On the third day after having awoken in the infirmary, I was growing so bored and frustrated that I was nearly ready to jump out of bed and drag myself across the floor in order to get away and get some real food. I'd just finished the book Susan brought me and my only hope was that I could get her or someone else to bring me another.

"They should at least give me a damn TV," I grumbled to myself, feeling much better now though I obviously still had a way to go. My left arm in particular was still hurting.

Just then, Susan came in again and to my delight, she was pushing a wheel chair. "The doctor says you're good to get out of here," she told me with a grin. "Just as long as you're careful."

"About time," I exclaimed in relief.

I was eager to get out of the bed and into the wheelchair but quickly discovered this wasn't very easy. Both of my legs still had tight bandages wrapped around them that kept them almost as still as a cast would have. I'd shattered the kneecap on one leg during my fault while breaking the other in two places. My left arm was bandaged similarly and held in a sling so overall, I couldn't maneuver well enough to move myself. Susan was very strong for someone of her size but still couldn't lift and maneuver me by herself. We had to get the doctor to come in and help.

Once I was finally firmly settled into the wheelchair, I told Susan, "I want to go to the cafeteria... I'm dying for some real food..."

"I'm afraid that's not in the cards just yet," Susan told me apologetically. "Unfortunately, the reason I came and broke you out early is for business."

"Business?" I asked with a scowl.

"There's a briefing scheduled in twenty minutes," Susan told me grimly. "The Judge specifically asked for you to be there if possible."

I stared at Susan for a moment, hoping that this wasn't a good sign. I'd been there when that woman grabbed the hidden gun and opened fire, killing our two other major captives as well as two of our own agents. I'd been the one to chase after her and I'd lost her, ending up in the hospital instead. I was sure that this made me look like a complete failure and strongly suspected that I was due for a good ass chewing now that I was better.

"Well," I joked weakly, "There's still time to stop by the cafeteria on the way for a quick bite..."

Susan just laughed at that and responded, "Sure, why not..."

Susan and I arrived in the briefing room a short time later and I looked around at the others, suddenly feeling extremely self-conscious since I was in my hospital gown and bandages. Fortunately, the only ones present were the Judge, Ms. Adams, the Witness, and the rest of my team. It would have been very embarrassing if this had been one of the general briefings where everyone was present.

The Witness gave me a sympathetic look and said, "I'm glad to hear you're healing." I was a little startled at that as this was probably the most personal he'd ever gotten near me.

I was even more surprised when the Judge put a gentle hand on my shoulder and said, "Welcome back."

Even Ms. Adams gave me a wry smile and faint nod, saying, "There's no shame in being injured in the line of duty." I thought of her eye patch and limp and guessed that she must know a lot about that.

It was at this point that the Judge got serious and turned to ask me, "Can you verify that this is indeed the woman who killed Trelach?"

Suddenly, an image appeared on one of the monitors showing the woman whom I'd chased. I stared at it for a moment before nodding. "How did you get a picture of her?"

"Our team leaders each had a video camera on their vests so we could record such evidence," the Witness said.

"It's very fortunate they did," Adams said with a deep scowl and a look of contained anger. "If we didn't have a good picture of her we may not have realized..."

"Realized what?" I asked after she left it unsaid.

"Perhaps we should fill you in on what you missed first," the Witness suggested. "I am uncertain as to how much your team leader briefed you so please be patient if I repeat what you already know."

"I didn't want you to worry about some of this," Susan said with a shrug.

Then pictures came up on one of the monitor of Adam and the bald man who'd been with him. "Adam Greppler and his partner Keru Sharukti were the leaders of this organization and were both executed...most likely to keep us from questioning them. The second generation N'vash core generation unit has been safely recovered. With the leadership now dead and the unit recovered, the mission is technically a success but leaves us with many questions."

"We found the bodies of five people stored in a cold room," Ms. Adams stated grimly. "All five were augmented and none had any marks indicating the cause of death. It is possible that these are all failed augmentations but they were each opened up after death and their cores were removed."

"We were aware that Prometheus was interested in making connections with this organization," the Judge said with a scowl. "However, now it appears that they were further ahead in making those connections than we'd believed. The woman whom you chased appears to have been a liaison from Prometheus. The guards we questioned say that she's been there several times during the last week but they couldn't provide a name."

"This woman concerns us a great deal," the Witness said while Ms. Adams stared at the picture and scowled intently. "Thank to this picture and the toxin she used to kill one of our agents, we were able to identify...not her but her core."

I frowned in confusion at that. "You identified her core?"

"This woman was augmented with a prototype core that was stolen from one of our facilities," the Witness said, giving me a meaningful look. "I believe you are quite aware of these prototypes."

I gasped in surprise at that while the rest of my team looked surprised as well. It was obvious that we were now getting to some new information that even Susan hadn't been told yet. It was no wonder they pulled me out of the hospital bed to hear this.

"Five prototypes were initially created," the Witness stated. "Two of the prototypes are confirmed as destroyed. Only one prototype core was recovered and it was implanted in agent St-Croix." He looked at me as he used my name.

Gavin turned to stare at me for a moment with a look of surprise before he covered it up. He'd been lead to believe that my ability to change my skin and hair color came from a prototype augmentation designed by Ares Inc, so he quickly adjusted to the new information. He continued staring at me for a moment longer though, probably considering the other differences my augmentation might have that he wasn't aware of. After all, there were still a few of those.

"You do understand that her possession of that prototype is not to be shared," the Judge told Gavin who just responded, "Yes sir."

"Two of the prototype cores were unaccounted for," the Witness continued. "We suspected that Prometheus might have recovered them and this seems to confirm it."

"This particular augmentation was code named Fiddleback," Ms. Adams said with an intense look in her good eye. "The augmentation includes heightened immunity to most toxins beyond what even standard augmentation provides. It also includes the ability to generate a toxin under the fingernails and in the saliva. This is how Trelach was killed."

"What Ms. Adams has not said," the Witness said with a frown, nodding to Ms. Adams, "Is that this particular augmentation was custom designed for her."

I gasped at that then stared at Ms. Adams then the picture of the assassin and realized that there was a similarity to their looks. The assassin looked sort of like a younger and more attractive version of Ms. Adams, almost as though she could be her little sister. I hadn't really noticed it before, but now that I knew they were connected I could see the resemblance.

"My code name when I was a field agent used to be Recluse," Ms. Adams stated grimly. "Hence the Fiddleback code name for the augmentation."

"Damn," I exclaimed, shaking my head as I considered what this meant. The woman I'd been fighting with was augmented with a prototype core the same as I'd been.

"Your team has already had contact with this woman twice," the Judge said with a deep scowl. "If you should run into her again, her capture has become a high priority."

"We now know that Prometheus has one of the two missing augmentation cores," the Witness said. "This makes it likely that they have the second as well. That last core is code named Spartan..."

"And it was custom made for me," the Judge stated coldly though I could see the anger in his eyes. "I will not abide it being in the hands of Prometheus. Is that understood?"

We all nodded at that and I gulped at the thought that there were probably two Prometheus agents who'd been augmented with these experimental cores. I'd gained some fantastic, though subtle abilities due to my core and I'd seen first-hand that the woman with the Fiddleback augmentation could kill with just a scratch or kiss. I could only imagine the kind of abilities the Judge would have designed into a core he intended for himself and suspected that this would be a lot of trouble in the hands of a bad guy.

"Oh shit," I muttered to myself, having a very bad feeling about this.

Part 25

I walked swiftly down the hallway, smiling faintly at the click click of my heels against the floor. I was very happy to be healed and free to walk around again, though of course, I still had a little healing left to do. My left arm was still in a sling though the doctor assured me that it would be fully healed in about two more days.

"I can't wait to get this damn thing off," I muttered as I touched the sling with my good hand.

Having my arm still being almost useless was very annoying though I was also very well aware that if it wasn't for the fact I was augmented, it would have been either amputated or hanging useless for the rest of my life. Then again, if I hadn't been augmented I probably wouldn't even have survived being shot then falling.

I was up and about again which meant that I was back to work, even though all the physical training was still on hold. Unfortunately, that meant I had even more time for paperwork. I've spent most of the day so far reading through various reports on Prometheus and their suspected agents. Ms. Adams told me that since we keep closer to them, that I needed to be as informed as possible about them and their operations.

At the moment though, thinking about Prometheus was about the last thing I wanted to do. I felt a certain personal grudge against them...a grudge which had become even stronger after what had happened on that last mission. But at the moment, I was tired of reading about Prometheus and just wanted to focus on my lunch.

I stepped into the cafeteria and looked around to see if anyone I knew was here. A moment later, I went and got a tray full of food, giving myself two desserts and earning a look of annoyance from the woman beside me.

"It must be great to be augmented," the woman said with an expression of envy. "You don't have to worry about calories at all..."

I looked at her for a moment, recognizing her as one of the jury though I didn't know her name. I decided to make her feel better by saying, "Oh yeah... Before my augmentation I was a total blimp..."

The other woman walked way, looking a little smug as she pictured me being massively overweight. I chuckled as I watched her then I went and found a place to sit down and eat.

I was about halfway through with my lunch when Susan arrived, quickly grabbing her own tray and sitting down at the table next to me. She didn't say a word at first though she did reach over for one of my desserts.

"Hey," I snapped, blocking her reach. "No touchy."

"You don't need it," Susan told me with a look of mock innocence. "You don't want to get you?"

"Look who's talking," I snorted, giving her a glare. I'd been practicing my best scathing glare lately, deciding that since I was a woman now, I should add it to my arsenal of weapons. Heaven knows, I'd been on the receiving end often enough. "I don't think I've ever seen you eat anything but junk food."

Susan just grinned and responded, "I'm a growing girl you know..."

"You're just lucky you're augmented or you'd be growing out," I pointed out with a chuckle.

Susan stuck her tongue out at me then began to poke at my injured arm. "Take that," she exclaimed.

"Watch it," I told her. "If I could still use that arm I'd smack you..."

"I know," Susan responded with a shrug. "That's why I sat on your left."

"Brat," I muttered to which she just grinned.

When I was just finishing up my second dessert and Susan was halfway done with her lunch, she said, "I was talking to Ms. Adams and it looks like we have another mission coming up in a few days..."

"Yeah?" I asked curiously.

Susan nodded at that then told me, "We got some leads about a meeting between a few high ranking Prometheus members..."

"That's great," I grinned. "About time..."

"We can't just go and do a smash and grab on this one," Susan told me. "But I think you'll like this..."

"Oh?" I responded with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh yeah," she said with a chuckle. "It's another undercover mission at a party. But this time, you get to go as an augmented rich woman."

"That could be fun," I mused thoughtfully. "I always wanted to see what it was like being rich..."

Susan rolled her eyes and teased, "You just like showing off... I never would have guessed you'd turn into such an attention whore..." Then she grinned, showing that she was joking.

I stared at her for a moment before shrugging. "Okay," I admitted, "so I'm a bit of an attention whore. At least I'm not a brat..."

Then Susan stuck her tongue out at me and we both started laughing. I finished eating the last few bites of my lunch, wondering about this new mission and looking forward to the official briefing so I could find out more. I had a feeling that this was going to be interesting indeed.

Part 26

I stood in the middle of a large and expensive ballroom, surrounded by all the other guests at the party, doing my best to look beautiful, confident, and sophisticated. In fact, I reveled in my vanity and smugness since at the moment, those two traits helped me fit into my surroundings and establish my cover.

At the moment, my hair was solid black and my skin was darkened just enough so that my ethnicity was a little indeterminate. I kept my eyes a dark blue though so that I would stand out as exotic and look more augmented. For once, my makeup wasn't hiding my perfect skin or adding false blemishes but was highlighting it in order to make me look my best. It worked because at the moment, I looked absolutely fantastic.

Of course, my current look also required the right clothes and accessories. My hair was up and braided in a somewhat sophisticated style, I wore a slinky black dress and stiletto heels, and then there was the jewelry. The jewelry I wore looked like it would probably cost more than everything I'd made in my entire career as a plumber. I wore a gorgeous diamond necklace which had a small camera hidden in it, several nice bracelets, including one that contained bugs like what I'd used at Smart's party, and there were the earrings which contained my radio equipment.

I was undercover as Catharyn DuMorn, a wealthy woman who'd been a bit reclusive but had recently undergone augmentation and was eager to show off her new body. She was originally coming to this party for that very purpose, to use it as a coming out. However, we'd intercepted her in route and left her and her date unconscious but safe while we took their invitations and identities.

My 'date' at the moment was Gavin, passing himself off as Elliot Roffchester, Catharyn's romantic interest. The real Elliot Roffchester was neither excessively rich nor well known so would not be expected to be either augmented or recognizable. I just hoped that I didn't run into anyone who knew the real Catharyn as that could prove troublesome.

The rest of my team was close by along with my expanded team. Since Morgan and Mongo's team had been half destroyed during our last mission, they’d been temporarily assigned to us in order to augment our resources during this mission

Morgan was on the other side of the room, dressed as one of the wait staff and passing out champagne. Mongo was playing the part of my chauffeur and body guard which gave him access to the servants section of the mansion where other such people were allowed to wait. Bob had once again replaced one of the bobs on the security detail so was close by and Susan was waiting far as I knew. I half expected her to come knocking on the door wearing a girl scout costume or something and claiming to be lost.

I took a sip of my champagne and smiled as I looked around the room. My eyes scanned over all of the nicely dressed people and I picked out the ones that I was most interested in. There were several people present who our sources indicated were upper ranks of Prometheus, though unfortunately, we didn't have any solid proof yet and they were influential enough that we didn't dare go after them without something solid.

Over to one side was a US senator, Malcolm Jones who was a well known proponent of making second generation augmentation units legal for use. He was always pushing ways to make augmentation more affordable and accessible to those who weren't rich. I'd always supported that idea before but that was before finding out about the N'vash satellite and the hidden signals. And of course, it was before finding out that he was actually part of Prometheus...probably even a high ranking member.

I was careful not to stare at the senator as I looked around at the other suspects, a CEO of a very powerful company and a billionaire who usually kept a low profile. According to our sources, sometime tonight they were going to break out of the party for a bit to have a private meeting with a few others who were either members or prospective members of Prometheus. Our job was to find out who they all met with and to listen in if at all possible. That meant planting a few bugs in likely meeting spots before this happened.

"Are you about ready?" Gavin asked me to which I nodded.

“The door is clear,” Morgan’s voice said in my ear. He was keeping an eye on the doorway out of the ballroom for us.

At this, Gavin and I slowly made our way to the doorway without trying to make it look like we were. A minute later we were out of the ballroom and looking through the less public areas of the mansion. Gavin and I quickly looked around, trying to determine where members of Prometheus might meet and finding several good possibilities. I quickly hid some bugs from my bracelet in each of the rooms, hoping that one of them would be the right one and that the bugs could pick up everything.

One of the servants came down the hall and saw us so I quickly grabbed Gavin’s arm and said, “I’m sure we can find a place for a little privacy…” The servant gave a faint but knowing smile before continuing on his way.

“Let’s check this way,” Gavin suggested, gesturing to a hallway off to the side.

Just then, Susan’s came over the radio. “I’ve lost contact with Bob. Mongo, go check on him if you can. The rest of you keep your eyes open.”

“Will do Suzie Q,” I responded.

“Affirmative,” Mongo half grunted over the link.

Gavin looked at me and said, “I wouldn’t be worried about him. Bob can take care of himself and if he ran into any trouble he’d have said something over the radio.” Then Gavin shrugged, “His radio probably just went out on him.”

“You’re probably right,” I agreed, turning my attention back to our mission. Bob could take care of himself and these bugs wouldn’t plant themselves. “I’d feel better though if we knew for sure which room they were going to meet him…”

We quickly continued for another couple minutes when I noticed someone come out of a door and start towards us. She’d only taken a few steps before I froze and stared at her in recognition. She was the assassin who’d killed Trelach and damn near killed me during my last mission. She froze a half second later with a look of recognition on her face too, though she was staring at Gavin, probably remembering him from being there during her escape. I don’t think she recognized me since I looked quite different at the moment, though she did immediately dive back into the room she’d just come out of.

“We’ve got Fiddleback,” I called over the radio while reaching for my well hidden gun. “I repeat…Fiddleback is on location.”

"Shit," Gavin exclaimed. "We've got to stop her... She'll give us away for sure."

Gavin pulled out his gun and charged ahead while I felt a little jealous. He had a gel gun while I was stuck using something a lot smaller, lighter...and easier to conceal against my thigh while wearing a dress. Unfortunately, it didn't have the range, firepower, or versatility of a gel gun but I had to make do with what I had.

Gunfire came from the doorway and I could see holes appearing almost as if by magic in the door and wall. Since I didn't hear gunfire, I knew she was using a gel gun. I suspected that the assassin was using nemesis rounds as well so would have to be extra careful not to get hit. Gavin charged into the room with his own gun firing while I went in right behind him. I got into the room just in time to see the assassin firing at the large window of the room while running at it...then jumping through the opening she'd created.

"She jumped out a window on the south side of the building," I said, knowing the rest of my team would hear it through the radio. "I'm going after her."

"I'll try catching up," Susan exclaimed in my ear.

"I'm near there now," Mongo added.

I nodded as I jumped out the window, hitting the ground and rolling to the side, not just because I'd just come from the second floor but because the assassin might very well be waiting for me. My hunch was correct as more gunfire hit the side of the mansion. However, I fired back and she ran off.

"Piece of shit," I exclaimed, cursing my gun. If I had a gel gun I'd have a much better chance of getting her from this distance. I grimaced and ran after her, calling out to my team, "She's running away from the house..."

"And away from all the security," Susan said. "There's something wrong..."

I grunted at that but continued to follow the assassin, determined that this time I was going to get her. This time was going to be different...very different.

I was faster and more agile than Gavin so had managed to outpace him in the chase, regardless of the fact that I was wearing heels. I chased the assassin over a large lawn and then to the cluster of trees which surrounded much of the property. It was then that I found her stopped and just standing there with a smug look on her face.

"I think you should stop right there," the woman said with a smirk, gesturing to where there was a man tied up to the tree beside her. Her gun was pointed right at his head.

The man was not only tied up so he couldn't move but had a gag over his mouth. His clothes were bloody and it was obvious that he'd been shot but was still alive. It took me a few seconds to actually recognize him.

"Bob," I exclaimed, feeling afraid for Bob and angry at the same time.

"What's going on?" Susan demanded in my ear.

"She has Bob," I responded quietly, trying to think of what I could do. I had a gun pointed at the woman but she had one pointed at Bob's head.

"Drop your weapon and your friend lives," the woman told me. When I hesitated, she snapped, "Do it or he dies." She pressed the barrel against his temple to make her point.

"If you shoot," I warned her grimly, "I'll kill you... You drop your gun.”

The woman stared at me for a moment before smirking again. "With that little thing? I'm augmented which means I'll likely survive it." Then she nodded to Bob, "He won't."

I grimaced, knowing that she was right. If nothing else, she'd be able to shoot at me after getting Bob and her gun was probably filled with nemesis rounds. I was less likely to survive this encounter than she was.

"If I drop this," I pointed out, stalling for time until Gavin could catch up, "then you'll just kill him anyway and then shoot me..."

“Good point,” the woman responded with a smirk.

Then without warning, she pulled the trigger and a burst of blood and brains burst out the other side of Bob’s head. I gasped in horror and pulled my trigger, hitting her in the chest. She staggered back for a moment then began to laugh.

“Bullet proof lining in my clothes,” the woman exclaimed as she fired a couple shots at me then ran off.

“Bob’s dead,” I exclaimed in horror.

“WHAT?” Susan demanded from the radio. “What happened? Where? I’m on my way…”

“Oh God,” Gavin blurted out as he finally caught up to me. He rushed over to Bob’s body and checked it, shaking his head before spitting out, “He’s dead. That bastich killed him…”

I stared at Bob’s body and then the direction the woman had run off. “She’s not getting away,” I snarled, knowing that no matter what happened she was going to go down. “Not this time…

Part 27

I stared at Bob’s body for a moment with a cold anger building inside of me. A second later, I turned and began running after the assassin, quickly leaving Gavin behind. I grimaced in determination, knowing that this time there was absolutely no way I was going to let that bastich get away. Not after what she’d done to Bob.

I saw the assassin ahead of me but she opened fire, though fortunately, all the trees in the area made it difficult for her to hit me. I quickly fired several shots back, though unfortunately, they protected her just as well as they protected me.

Just then, Morgan announced over the radio, “The targets are beginning to leave the main party.”

That was immediately followed by Susan’s voice saying, “The security is moving around the yard… I have to hold my position for the moment.”

I didn't pay much attention to them as I was more focused on my target. After a minute, Morgan said, "They've gone into one of the bugged rooms..."

However, just moments later, Susan responded with, "Damn... We lost the signal from that bug... Either they found it or figured out how to jam our signal..."

"I'm getting closer to see if I can hear anything," Morgan stated.

Susan's voice immediately followed, "Be careful..."

Just then, I was hit from the side and knocked to the ground, dropping my gun in the process. I was immediately rolling, grabbing a rock and throwing it at my attacker. She'd hidden and ambushed me but hadn't expected me to recover so fast. The rock hit her arm before she could fire her gun and caused it to be knocked back, though not hard enough to make her drop the gun, unfortunately.

I didn't give her a chance to recover and immediately jumped at her, hitting her hard enough that the gun flew from her hand. I then followed it up with a punch to her jaw, realizing absently that once upon a time I never would have dreamed of hitting a woman like that. However, those days were long gone. Bob and Susan had impressed on me that I couldn't hesitate to hit an enemy because of what they looked like, not if I wanted to live.

The assassin kicked me in the stomach and then jumped back, pulling something from a small pouch at her waist. For a brief second, I thought she was pulling out another gun but instead it looked more like a remote control.

"What's going on?" Susan demanded in my ear.

Suddenly, the signal in my ear went dead while the assassin just grinned. "What did you do?" I demanded.

"I jammed your communications," she said, holding up the device. "This is how I captured your teammate without his alerting you..." Then she laughed, "And you just walked out here and into my trap..."

She might have jammed my radio, but I didn't see anyone but her or anything to indicate a bigger trap than this. However, I wasn't about to give her any more time to summon her own reinforcements. I charged her again, knocking the device from her hand and then hitting her. She blocked and hit back and we were then caught a frantic series of punches, kicks, and blocks on each side.

"Die," she screamed, getting past my defenses enough to scratch my face with her nails. I felt the cold numbness on the scratches which indicated that I'd been poisoned again. However, I knew my nanocytes would take care of it so didn't let it distract me.

I reached for my cheek, knowing that she'd expect me to and intentionally creating an opening that I knew she couldn't resist. She saw the opening and attacked, just as I'd intended. I immediately shifted myself, grabbed her arm and leaned to the side, throwing her down while still holding her arm. There was a satisfying snap as her arm broke under the pressure.

"That's for killing Bob," I exclaimed, kicking her hard enough that I probably bruised her ribs and perhaps did even more to them.

While my opponent was down, I went for her gun, grabbing it and pointing it at her before she could fully get back to her feet. I had the gun pointed straight at her face and was more than a little tempted to just pull the trigger...the same way she'd done to Bob. However, I knew that we needed for her alive...for now. She probably knew quite a bit that would be useful for us in going after Prometheus.

I stared at the women, surprised to note that instead of looking afraid, she looked almost smug. "What are you smirking about?" I demanded.

"My backup is here," she responded with an even bigger smirk.

I heard something behind me and immediately began to turn. Then I heard the familiar buzzing sound of a gel gun being fired followed instantly by a massive burst of pain over my back and side. I was thrown to the ground from the force and probably would have screamed if my breath hadn't been knocked out of me.

Before I could recover, someone had kicked the gun out of my hand and then kicked me in the side. I rolled over with a gasp of pain and saw that someone was standing over me with a gun pointed right at my head. It took a second for me realize who it was pointing the gun at me.

"Gavin?" I gasped in shock and confusion.

"You know," Gavin said with a grim expression. "This is the second time I've had to shoot you in the back. If you would have died the first time, you would have saved me the trouble of having to shoot you again..." Then he paused for a moment and added, "But this time it was only a bean bag..."

"'re a traitor," I blurted out in realization. "You're with Prometheus..."

Gavin just shrugged and mused, "I suppose it's a good thing you didn't die the first time. If you had, I never would have found out you have a prototype core..." Then he paused again for a moment to stare down at me. "Once Prometheus found out you have that core, they decided that they really wanted you...alive. In fact, that's why we set this whole trap up..."

"Trap?" I asked, trying to stall him in the hopes of someone else would come. I heard no voices in my ear so was pretty sure that jammer was still working.

"We set out the bait to get you here," the assassin said, holding her broken arm but still managing to gesture in the direction of the mansion while smirking down at me. "Then I got you out here...away from witnesses and the rest of your team."

"Why?" I demanded, glaring up at Gavin, trying to ignore the swirling mass of emotions that threatened to explode from me. I was a little afraid but the anger and sense of betrayal were much stronger. However, I knew I couldn't give into my emotions at the moment. I had to stay focused and keep Gavin and the assassin talking as long as I could. The more time I had, the greater the chance that help would arrive or that I'd find a way to escape. "Why betray us?"

Gavin frowned for a moment before answering, "They have my sister and said they'd kill her if I didn't cooperate..."

I felt a surge of sympathy and pity join the anger until I remembered something. "I thought you didn't have any siblings," I pointed out suspiciously.

"I don't?" Gavin responded with a look of mock surprise. "I guess that means I did it for the pile of money they gave me..."

"You bastich," I snarled angrily, about to try jumping him in spite of the gun but he suddenly stick it closer to my face.

"You know," Gavin grinned almost pleasantly as he knelt down beside me, still keeping the gun in my face, "I'm getting a nice bonus for bringing you in alive." He paused dramatically before adding, "They promised me the Spartan core."

"They haven't used it yet?" I asked carefully, trying to keep the conversation going as long as I could as well as getting as much information as possible.

"They had no idea what the specifications or abilities of that core were until I told them," Gavin grinned. Then he gestured at the assassin. "They only tested one of them on her because they were curious to see if the prototypes actually even worked."

Just then, a large figure stepped out of the trees with a gun in his hand. Mongo paused to look at us all with a deep scowl on his face. "Gavin's a traitor," I yelled out, thankful that the cavalry had finally arrived.

However, instead of attacking Gavin and the assassin or even looking surprised, Mongo said, "I see that the time for our charade is over."

I just stared at Mongo in horror, realizing that Gavin wasn't the only traitor. I suddenly had a very bad feeling about my situation, worse than before. One of my team was dead and two others were actually the enemy. That only left Morgan and Susan left and I was no longer even certain of Morgan's loyalties.

"Good," Mongo said, giving me only a brief glance and then ignoring me. He holstered his gun and mused, "I was tired of speaking in monosyllables and grunts. This role certainly does not suit my naturally verbose nature."

"So you're a traitor too," I spat at Mongo. "How many more are there?"

"I am certainly no traitor," Mongo responded, giving me an almost amused look. "The word traitor suggests that my loyalties have changed from one organization to the other. In truth, I have always been a member of Prometheus."

"We killed the real Mongo months ago," Gavin told me. "Since he was augmented, it was relatively easy to augment a Prometheus agent to look just like him..." Then he shrugged before adding, "Unfortunately, the rest of my team started getting suspicious so we had to kill them."

"I don't think we have time for you guys to stand around and gloat," the assassin said with a look of annoyance. "Let's just grab her and go already before anyone else shows up."

"She presents a legitimate concern," Mongo said with a nod of agreement.

"We have another one too," Gavin pointed out. "We left too many fingerprints setting up this operation and placing the bait. It won't take long before they realize we have an agent on the inside. It's better if they think we only have the one..."

Mongo scowled thoughtfully for a few seconds before nodding. "I understand. You are situated more advantageously than I, so it falls upon me to play the role of traitor." Then he shrugged and added, "Fortunately, I have tired of impersonating Montgomery Goveritz and look forward to resuming my own identity, at least as much as feasible considering my augmentation."

Gavin nodded at that before saying, "Then I'll tell them she killed Bianca before I got here," he looked at the assassin, "And then you surprised me and helped her escape...taking Bianca's body with you for her core."

I listened to what they said with intense interest though I never really took my eyes off the gun that was pointed at my face. However, they were getting distracted so I knew that now was when I had to make my move. I quickly lashed out with my hand to knock the gun away but before I'd barely even moved, Gavin and Mongo both kicked me.

"None of that," Gavin said as Mongo grabbed me and picked me up, holding me tight.

"Fuck you," I snarled, spitting in his face.

"You've already done that," Gavin responded with a grin.

I struggled against Mongo harder but he had too good a grip on me and Gavin once again had the gun pointing in my face. Then Gavin held something up with his other hand, a neural inhibitor collar. The very sight of it make me gulp since I knew that once I had one of those on, I'd be completely and totally helpless with no chance of escape.

"If it makes you feel any better," Gavin told me, “Fucking you was never part of my mission." He paused to stare at me for a moment before saying, "Goodnight Foxy."

With that, Gavin went to put the neural inhibitor around my neck. I struggled frantically but it did no good as the collar was locked in place anyway and everything suddenly went black.

Part 28

I awoke on the floor of a small prison cell with concrete walls, a cot that was bolted to the wall, and a rather dirty looking toilet. And of course, I was completely naked. I took a look at the heavy metal door which locked me in and felt a strong sense of déjá -vu.

"Not this shit again," I grumbled, knowing that I should be grateful to just still be alive.

I slowly stood up and took a closer look around my new prison, discovering it was far too much like the last one for my comfort. Of course, any prison would have been too much like this for my comfort. However, one thing that was different from the last time was that this time there were no clothes waiting for me.

"Perfect," I muttered, wondering if this was an intentional way of trying to break me or if they just didn't care enough to think about it.

Then I looked down at myself and realized that they could have done nearly anything to me while I was out and I would have no idea. Several nasty possibilities ran through my mind though I tried hard to push those thoughts aside. They wouldn't help but and would only make me more afraid than I already was. My best chance at the moment was to stay calm and try looking for a way out.

As I looked around the room again, I noticed that there were no cameras in the ceiling as there had been at Court. I allowed myself to smile faintly as I felt a stirring of hope. No cameras meant that I at least had a small amount of privacy, though obviously not much. Hopefully, it might be enough to work with.

I thought about calling out and demanding to know who it was that held me prisoner, but I already knew it was Prometheus. Which specific agent of Prometheus was standing outside the door was a little less relevant than that. So instead of yelling, I sat down on the cot and tried to remain patient though it certainly wasn't easy.

"After all that training," I muttered. "Here I am again." I felt a little disgusted with myself for how easily they'd led me into their trap. Of course, I reminded myself that two of the people I trusted to be on my side had actually been helping them.

Since I had nothing else to do while I sat there and waited, I just thought about my situation and what led to it. I thought about Gavin and Mongo, feeling pissed off as I considered what they'd done. Of course, what I felt about Gavin was much MUCH worse. His betrayal had been so much more personal, especially after what I'd done with him.

One of the things had frustrated me the most was that in hindsight, I could see several hints about Gavin's true nature. When we were going after Trelach, someone had to have told Prometheus what we were up to because the assassin’s arrival had been just a little too coincidental. Gavin had been angry when he learned Susan had been keeping the existence of the data cube a secret. After all, Prometheus certainly would have wanted to keep that out of our hands. Then while going after the black market dealers, he'd been almost right behind me but still hadn't been able to catch up until it was too late.

Then I thought about the prototype cores and Prometheus' attack on the facility. How had Prometheus known about the cores or where the facility was located? I had a feeling that Gavin and Mongo had probably tipped them off with that information as well.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," I told myself, looking forward to my revenge. I was certain that sooner or later I would get out of here and I would have my chance. I would make Gavin pay in ways that he couldn't even imagine. But first, I had to get out of here.

I remained where I was for hours, feeling proud that my self-control had improved so much since the last time I'd been locked up like this. Finally, the door began to open. However, I remained sitting on the cot and made no move towards it...not yet.

When the door opened, the assassin stood there with a gel gun in hand and pointed into my cell. She looked as though she'd expected me to try something and was almost disappointed that I hadn't. I felt a little smug at that though I was careful not to show it or to even look worried. I did my best to just look calm and as though I wasn't bothered by the fact that I was naked and locked up.

The other woman glared at me for a moment and then reached to the side where she pulled out a tray of food. It wasn't until that moment that I realized there were no slots or openings in the door. If they wanted to feed me, they'd have to actually open the whole door. That was definitely worth noting. She took a step forward and set the tray on the floor of my cell, keeping a wary eye on me. Then she stepped back and began to close the door only to pause and give me a curious look.

"Gavin says your name is Bianca," she said carefully, still giving me a suspicious look. "And he said you're like me...that you have an experimental core that gives you powers."

I stared back at her for a moment before responding, "I guess that depends on how you define powers."

She smirked as she said, "I heard you have chameleon skin..." She held up her hands and admired her fingernails with a smug expression. "Not really a very useful power... Me, I can kill people with little more than a touch...but you already know that."

"Very impressive," I told her with a wry smile, thinking that I could probably do the same thing with a little poison painted onto my nails.

I frowned slightly, wondering why she was here gloating about my capture when it dawned on me. She was curious about me...or more likely...about my augmentation. After all, if they hadn't used the Spartan core yet like Gavin said, then I was the only other person she'd met with a core like hers. I could certainly understand that curiosity as I felt it too, though unlike me, she didn't have the briefing that told her what my abilities were.

"I'm surprised they have someone like you bringing food to the prisoners," I said carefully.

The other woman scowled at that and I knew I'd hit a nerve. "I'm still new to the organization," she admitted after a moment. Then she quickly added, "But that doesn't make me any less dangerous."

I nodded at that and responded, "Of course not..." I took a deep breath, deciding that since I'd gotten her into a talkative mood that I should take advantage of it and learn as much as I could. "So what about me? What are you going to do to me?"

Her eyes lit up at that and she grinned, "We're just waiting on an expert to arrive. Once he does, I think they're going to remove your core so they can study it."

I gulped at that and she was watching me even more intently, not letting the gun waver. She realized that this news would probably make me more desperate to escape. It did, though I knew that now wasn't the right time.

"But you guys already have two of the prototypes," I pointed out. "Why haven't they studied those?"

"They have," the assassin responded with a grim expression, wincing slightly. "They tested one on me because they wanted to see it in action and had no idea what it was programmed for." Then her eyes narrowed and as she continued, "They scanned me and tested me nearly every way they could, short of killing me. I'm too valuable...too useful for them to go any further. You aren't."

"But what about the other one?" I urged her to continue. "You still have one that hasn't been implanted..."

"They...we don't want to risk damaging it," she answered. "We've been saving that one until we found out more...and had an experienced agent to use it."

For a moment, I just stared at her with growing understanding. I knew first-hand that she was a lethal assassin, but now I realized there was more. She'd been a guinea pig to test the prototype core. They had no idea at all of who it was created for or what the specifications were much less if it would even they tested it on her...risking her life and who knows what else just to find out. I felt a growing sympathy for this woman but quickly reminded myself that she didn't deserve it, not after what she'd done to Trelach, Rico, and Miranda...not to mention Trelach's daughter Sarah.

"You know my name," I said carefully, trying not to show any of the emotions I felt. "I still don't know yours."

"Michelle," she responded after a few seconds of hesitation. "Michelle Zubrecki."

"Zubrecki?" I repeated in surprise and recognition since it was an uncommon last name that had also belonged to an old friend. Then I gasped in shock as I was slammed with sudden realization. "MIKE?"

She suddenly glared at me with a strong look of suspicion and raised the gun so it was pointing right into my face, demanding, "How the hell do you know that name?"

Part 29

The assassin stood in front me with a gun pointed straight at my face, glaring at me with an expression of deep suspicion. I just stared back at her in shock and disbelief, hardly able to believe what I'd just realized. It wasn't possible.

"Why did you call me Mike?" the assassin demanded. "How did you know?"

I just continued to stare back at her, gulping at that confirmation. The assassin who'd murdered Bob in cold blood was actually my old friend Mike, someone I'd believed had been killed by Prometheus. Now my emotions swirled in confusion. On one hand, I was relieved that Mike was still alive somehow and thankful that I'd found him, but on the other, I still hated this bastich who'd murdered Bob.

"I'm...I WAS Nick," I said after taking a deep breath. I didn't take my eyes away from hers as I added, "Nick Spaulding."

"Nick?" the assassin...Michelle gasped in surprise and lowered her gun. She stared at me in stunned amazement then quickly raised the gun at me and gave me another suspicious glare. "I hate to tell you this bastich, but Nick Spaulding is dead. Court killed him while recovering something."

"I'm not dead," I responded with a snort. "I got drunk and was fucking around with the core when I accidentally augmented myself." I gestured down at myself. "Court didn't kill me though Prometheus certainly tried to."

"I don't believe you," Michelle said, narrowing her eyes and looking as though she was seriously considering the idea of just shooting me.

I rolled my eyes at that and decided that I had to bring out the big guns. “One time when we were drunk,” I said with a frown as I tried remembering everything that had happened that night. “You told me that before your ex-wife left you…you found out she was cheating on you with a woman. With an overweight woman from her work…”

" are Nick?" Michelle gasped, lowering the gun and staring at me in surprise. Then she grimaced, looking at the cell I stood in and seeming a little uncertain. "Well...this is certainly awkward."

"You think?" I responded with a raised eyebrow. "I thought you were dead too. I thought Prometheus killed you..."

Michelle stared at me then glanced down at herself self-consciously. "They took me for questioning," she finally said. "When they were done, they decided to test one of the experimental cores on me." Then she shrugged and added, "Once they realized how useful my augmentation was, they recruited me."

I blinked in surprise. "Why the hell would you join them after they kidnapped you and used you as a guinea pig?"

"Because they augmented me," Michelle answered with a grin and a gleam of excitement in her eyes.

I stared at her for a moment, remembering now that nearly everyone wanted to be augmented. Almost everyone wanted an athletic and attractive body that was in perfect shape and would stay that way for the rest of their lives. I'd been hanging around so many augmented people lately that I'd almost forgotten how much normal people wanted it. I'd been starting to take it all for granted. There were a great many people who would be willing to give anything for that dream, Mike included.

"I have access to the most cutting edge technology," Michelle continued with a smirk. "I can see things that the public doesn't even know about yet." Then she paused for a moment to give me a level look before adding, "And I can help improve the world."

"Improve the world?" I gasped in surprise, wondering how she could possibly think that Prometheus had any such goals in mind.

"We're going to make sure that everyone has access to augmentation," Michelle insisted, giving me an accusatory glare, "not just the rich."

"The N'vash booby trapped their technology," I exclaimed. "Every core except ours sends a signal to some N'vash satellite so they can track everything we see and do... Hell, they might even be able to control anyone who's augmented if they wanted. Prometheus is just trying to turn everyone in the world into their own personal spies and puppets..."

"That's insane," Michelle snapped at me. "That's nothing more than paranoid xenophobic propaganda..."

"What's insane is you running around murdering people for them," I responded vehemently. "How many innocent people have you murdered?"

Michelle's eyes hardened at that and she told me, "No one I killed was innocent..."

Then she raised her gun and pointed it back at me again, her expression turning cold and grim. For a brief moment, we'd been Nick and Mike again but that had quickly passed. Now we were back to being Bianca and Michelle, agents for two opposing agencies and deadly enemies.

"It would have been better if you'd stayed dead," Michelle told me grimly.

Then she stepped back again and reached to close the door. I grimaced and charged her, gambling that our old friendship would keep her from shooting. It was a good thing I didn't wager any money because she pulled the trigger and I was thrown back with a burst of pain over my chest.

"Shit," I muttered with a grimace as I forced myself to sit up. I had a large and painful bruise on my chest but no holes. She'd used the bean bag setting. "I am really getting sick of those damn things."

I got back to me feet after a minute and stared at the door which was once again locked. For a moment, I was tempted to kick at it and try knocking it open but I knew it would do no good. I'd gotten a good look at the door when Michelle had it open and it looked solid. Still, I couldn't resist trying to open it anyway, proving Michelle hadn't accidentally left it unlocked.

"Damn," I whispered. I'd been hoping that maybe some of her act had been fake, that maybe she'd intentionally leave it unlocked so I could escape. However, it seemed that was not the case. "That bastich."

Then I looked down at my lunch on the floor, noticing that it had been stepped on while we were distracted though I didn't know if it was Michelle or myself who'd done so. I shook my head and sighed then sat back down on my cot to consider the situation.

My emotions were even more confused than ever now. I was royally pissed off at Gavin and to a lesser extent Mongo. Mongo may have betrayed me and all of Court, but I barely knew him so it wasn't nearly as personal as Gavin's betrayal. Then there was Michelle, the psychotic bastich who'd murdered Bob in cold blood right in front of me. I really hated her, which made the discovery of her real identity all the more horrifying. After all, what Prometheus did to Mike...or at least what I THOUGHT they did was part of what motivated me to join Court in the first place.

I remained where I was for hours, lost in my thoughts and emotions. When the door began to open again, I felt my heart momentarily stop. I quickly wondered if it was Michelle, maybe having come back to talk again. I couldn't help but hope that I could talk sense to her and bring her around to my side. However, when the door opened, it was Mongo standing there instead, though like Michelle, he also had a gun pointed at me.

"Please be so kind as to accompany me," Mongo said with a clear note of sarcasm in his voice. "However, if you choose to decline the invitation, I will be forced to remind you of your lack of other options."

I scowled and stepped out the door without offering any resistance. I saw that Mongo wasn't alone and that there was another man standing there with a gun as well. I felt another surge of emotions since he was a bob but I quickly shoved those down. It didn't look as though they wanted to take too much risk with me.

Once again, I was struck with a strong sense of déjá -vu which only grew stronger as they led me down a concrete hall to another door. My first thought was that the expert Michelle had warned me about had arrived early but when I stepped inside I realized that wasn't the case. There was a metal chair bolted to the floor with straps on the arms and feet. I scowled even more deeply as I realized that I was about to be interrogated.

They must have noticed my hesitation because Mongo suddenly pistol whipped me in the back of my head. It hurt like hell and knocked me to my knees. Before I could regain my balance, Mongo and the other guard grabbed me and pulled me to the chair. I was unceremoniously thrown into it then had a gun pointed at my face while my hands and feet were strapped down.

After I was completely secured, the guard with Mongo left the room while a petite Asian woman came in and began to attach a lie detector to me. She didn't say a word as she did so though neither did I. Instead, I looked at the machine and carefully kept from smiling. The fact that they were using this meant that they still didn't know everything about my augmentation, such as the fact that most lie detectors wouldn't work on me...including this model.

I looked around the room, carefully taking in every detail in case anything would help my situation. It was a concrete room with gray walls that had never been touched by paint though there were a few dark stains in places that gave me a bad feeling. I didn't see any cameras or even one of those mirror glass windows so it looked like anyone who wanted to observe would actually have to be in the room with me.

Just then, the door opened again and the largest woman I'd ever seen before in my life stepped through. She was about seven feet tall and actually had to duck to get through the doorway. She was not just tall but was massive as well, with thick powerful muscles over her entire body and breasts that were nearly the size of beach balls. One look at this woman left absolutely no doubt that she was augmented.

I stared at the woman in amazement, first taking only the sheer size she presented and then being able to actually make out the details. She had long black hair, a face that looked beautiful in a sort of cold way, and in spite of her massive size and thick muscles, there was something very feminine about her body as well, largely due to her enormous breasts. That alone would have screamed that she was augmented because there was absolutely no way a natural woman could pull off that feminine a look with muscles like that.

"Ms. Divine," the Asian woman greeted the amazon. "I was unaware you would attend the questioning personally."

"This one has me curious," the amazon...Ms. Divine responded, giving me a cold look that made me feel like she didn't even consider me human. "According to our agents, Court was only able to recover a single prototype core intact. If they only had a single one, why was this agent selected over all other candidates?"

"And who are you supposed to be?" I asked Ms. Divine, making sure to fill my voice with as much sarcasm as I could muster. I had a feeling that this was not going to be pleasant no matter what I did, so at least getting a few licks in this way would be helpful for my self-respect.

Ms. Divine finally looked at me more intently though it was more like the look someone would give a bug that they were seriously thinking of squashing. "I am the one in charge of this operation," she finally said, her voice oozing with contempt. "I am also the one who decides if you live or die. Make no mistake though, that decision has already been made and there is no changing it. The experimental core you possess is far too valuable to leave where it is. However, it would be a waste not to question you while we still have the opportunity which is the only reason you are not still wearing a neural inhibitor."

"Oh lucky me," I responded with a forced smile and false confidence.

"Have no illusion," Ms. Divine continued as though I hadn't said anything. "You will die very soon. The only question is, how much agony will you endure before then. That decision is in your hands."

Ms. Divine then turned away from me and went to the stand by the wall. The Asian woman then stepped in front of me and held up a syringe full of clear liquid, making sure I got a clear look at.

"I'm going to ask you some questions," she said in an almost pleasant tone. "Unfortunately, we can't trust you to be as helpful as we'd like which is why I am going to help you."

"If you could help me scratch my back, that would be nice," I told her with another forced smile. "I have this itch back there I just can't reach."

My interrogator just gave me a faint smile though it didn't actually reach her eyes. Those remained cold and impassive. "This is so we can know when you're telling us the truth," she said after a moment, setting her hand on the lie detector. "Unfortunately, since you're augmented our normal methods of motivation won't work very well."

"That's too bad to hear," I responded wryly.

"That's okay," she told me pleasantly. "We're nothing if not inventive." She held up the syringe again and continued, "This lovely little thing is full of a weak acid that won't really do too much damage but will set off nearly every pain receptor it comes in contact with as it circulates through your blood stream. Your own blood stream will spread it through your body and keep it ahead of your nanocytes pain suppression abilities. Of course, your nanocytes will eventually purge it from your system and reactivate your pain which point we can repeat the process as many times as necessary. I understand this is quite excruciating."

"Shouldn't you be an old guy with a thick German accent?" I asked, trying to hide my growing fear.

The interrogator just reached out to pat me on my head as though I was a small child she was humoring. Then she said, "Before we really begin, I think you need a small sample in order to understand what awaits you if you aren't cooperative."

Then the woman stuck the needle into my arm and I began struggling...or at least tried to since I was strapped in too firmly for it to do any good. A moment later, my arm began to hurt like hell. Suddenly it felt as though my arm was on fire and burning from the inside out. I screamed in agony as the burning sensation spread up and down my arm until the whole thing was consumed. Then the cooling numbness began to appear where I'd first been injected and spread a swell though couldn't take away all the pain or even keep up with the spreading agony.

I had no idea how long I screamed from the burning that ran through my body, first my arm and then through my chest. Even my heart felt like it was on fire and I thought I was either having a heart attack or the worst case of heartburn in all history. Of course, the cold numbness spread over my body as well but only after I'd already felt myself burning. Eventually, my entire body felt the cold numbness though there was still some pain as well and then even that all faded away.

Once I was finally recovered, I no longer felt any pain but I did feel drained and exhausted. My throat felt dry and a little tender from all the screaming as well. The interrogator simply smiled and gave me a little water which I was actually thankful for.

"That was just a small sample of the motivation we can offer," the interrogator said pleasantly, almost as though she was talking about the weather. "Larger doses will result from any uncooperative behavior."

I wanted to tell her to fuck off, but I didn't quite have the energy at the moment and I wasn't eager for another shot of that stuff. I shuddered at the very thought of going through that again and knew that she wouldn't hesitate to do so which only made it worse.

"Let's start with something easy," the psychotic bastich from hell said with the pleasant smile that almost seemed a permanent fixture. "Tell me your name."

I hesitated a moment before quietly answering, "Bianca St-Croix."

"Good," the interrogator said when the lie detector didn't sense me lying.

It was then that I noticed Michelle was in the room, having come in when I'd been out of it in pain. She was staring at me with a look of absolute hatred and it took me a moment to realize why. She'd just seen me give my name while attached to a lie detector and it hadn't been Nick Spaulding. Now she thought I'd lied to her earlier...that I'd tried manipulating her. It was no wonder she was looking at me like that and I certainly couldn't protest or explain myself at the moment.

The sadistic bastich asked me more questions, a lot more questions. I answered the questions about me with details from my fake biography, ones that Gavin had access to and would be able to 'confirm' with them. When she asked other questions about Court and the prototype cores, I had to be a little more careful. I answered truthfully when Gavin or Mongo already had the information and would be able to verify my answers, but other than that, I lied as much as I could while making my answers believable. The lie detector didn't go off even once.

Eventually the questions ended and the interrogator actually looked a little disappointed. "That was easier than I would have expected," she mused almost to herself.

Mongo responded, "Gavin Morrison told me she was a recent recruit to the organization and had yet to complete her training."

"Her lack of training is to our advantage," Ms. Divine said, speaking for the first time since the actual interrogation had begun. "This is time we did not have to waste. It is only disappointing though that she didn't have access to more useful information. Fortunately, the experimental core implanted inside of her will still be of great use."

Then Ms. Divine turned and left the room while Mongo held the door open. Michelle gave me a cold look before leaving as well.

At this point, the interrogator held up a syringe of the nasty pain juice that she'd already used on me once and mused, "I suppose that I'll have to dispose of this now..." Then she turned to me and smiled cheerfully before sticking the needle in my arm and injecting me with about four times as much as she'd used the last time. The excruciating agony quickly seared through my body and I screamed long and loud before darkness claimed me.

Part 30

I sat on the cot of my cell feeling weak and exhausted. Whatever that stuff they'd injected me was, it had hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt before in my life...worse than I'd ever thought anything could. I could only imagine the kind of damage it had done to my insides as my blood stream had carried it through my body. My nanocytes must have been using up nearly all my recourses in order to repair it all. Even now, I still ached a bit though how much of that was residual damage that had yet to be repaired and how much was due to my imagination, I didn't know.

The guards had left me with food...if you could call a bowl of mush food. Still, I was hungry and knew my body needed energy, especially after my nanocytes had been so hard at work. I felt some of the aches fade after eating, but again, whether that was because my nanocytes were able to go back to work or if it was psychosomatic, I didn't know.

I scowled as I considered my situation and the fact that they were planning to kill me before long in order to get out my core and study it. I only had one thing going for me at the moment, the fact that they hadn't put a neural inhibitor back on me when they were done with the interrogation. As long as I was awake and able to move, there would still be hope. I just had to be careful not to give them reason to collar me again.

Eventually the door opened again and a bob stood there with a gun, holding up an inhibitor collar in his other hand. "You going to come without a fight or do I have to do this the hard way?"

"I'll to it the easy way," I said quietly, having recovered my strength a bit though trying to look as though I hadn't.

I staggered a little as I got up and came out of the cell, looking as though I might fall down at any moment. The bob scowled and apparently decided that I wasn't going to be a problem and that having me stagger my way to where we were going would be easier for him than having to carry me.

A minute later we arrived at another room, one that wasn't the interrogation room though it looked even more intimidating when I considered what was there. The room looked like it belonged in a hospital with several large pieces of equipment that looked like X ray or MRI machines. However, the thing that made me most nervous was the fact that there was an operating table and some surgical equipment on a stand beside it.

There were two people already standing in the room, one a middle-aged man wearing doctors scrubs. I assumed that this was the expert who was going to remove my core and study it. The other person in the room was the interrogator who'd tortured me while keeping a calm and polite demeanor. The very sight of her sent a cold chill down my spine.

My eyes went to the operating table and the straps that were on it to hold people down and then to the interrogator. There was no way in hell I was going to let myself get tied up and helpless for her again. And since there was only the one guard, now was my last chance to escape so I took it.

I suddenly whipped around and hit the bob's elbow, forcing his gun to aim well away from me while I elbowed his stomach. He let out a grunt as he dropped the neural inhibitor to the ground then a burst of profanity as I took the gun away from him. Before I could get a good grip on the gun, I suddenly felt a massive burst hit my back and I was knocked to the ground, dropping the gun.

"Damn," I cursed, wincing as I realized that I'd been shot again. It felt like a beanbag round. I rolled over enough to see Michelle standing there with a gel gun in hand, having just come through the door in time to interfere. If she'd been just a couple seconds later...

"Don't give her another chance," Michelle said with a cold voice.

Michelle kicked me in the side, keeping the gun pointed right at my chest. A moment later, the bob had grabbed the neural inhibitor and slapped it around my neck. Suddenly, I couldn't move or feel my body anymore. However, unlike the other times I'd worn one of those collars, I remained fully aware and awake.

"That should take care of her," Michelle spat out. "This bastich won't be causing us any more trouble."

I couldn't feel my body at all but knew that my heart had to be racing from the terror I was feeling. I was completely helpless to do anything yet would still be wide awake as they cut me open and removed my core. I wanted to scream and fight back but I couldn't. That only made me more frantic at the situation.

Michelle and the bob threw me onto the operating table but didn't bother strapping me in. There was no need to when the neural inhibitor kept me secured far more than those straps could. Then the apparent doctor began to examine me, running his hands over my body and in places that were far too private for stranger to touch. I growled to myself in anger and further frustration though none of that made it to the surface. Still, I was startled to realize that I could feel his touch. My sense of feeling was starting to return.

After this, the doctor moved one of the large pieces of equipment over my body so it could scan me. He muttered to himself though I couldn't quite make out what he was saying. Then he used another device on me, a much smaller one which he waved over me just a few inches from my skin. This one, I recognized as being an augmentation detector.

"What manner of joke is this?" the doctor demanded of the others.

"What do you mean?" Michelle asked.

"This woman isn't augmented," the doctor exclaimed with a deep scowl.

"Of course she is," Michelle snapped back in annoyance.

"Bah," the doctor snorted. "My scans say otherwise. I've run two tests and they both say the same augmentation core."

"Impossible," Michelle argued. "I know for a fact she's augmented."

At this point, the interrogator pointed out in a pleasant tone, "I have to agree. After all, anyone who isn't augmented would have died during my interview."

The three of them began to argue while the bob stood back by the door looking bored. He and Michelle had both put away their guns since I was helpless and no longer any kind of a threat. However, while they were all distracted, I began to move my fingers and wiggle my toes. My control over my body was starting to come back though it still had a long way to go before I could do much. When they turned their attention back to me, I was careful not to move at all. I didn't want them realizing that the neural inhibitor was failing.

"I suppose there is only one certain way to resolve this," the doctor said after a minute, reaching over and picking up a very nasty sharp looking blade from the table beside me. "A pity really... I had intended to do more tests as to how the prototype core interacts with the host but it seems that isn't going to work."

The doctor was about to slice me open and I couldn't hold back any more. I reached up and grabbed his hand just as the blade was starting to cut into my skin. He gasped in shock and it took everyone a second to realize what was happening. However, I took full advantage of those seconds, keeping hold of the doctor's arm while taking the blade out of it. I threw the blade at the bob who instinctively dropped his gun and tried to block the blade. Michelle had her gun out and opened fire, though she hit the doctor rather than me. I used him as a shield while I grabbed more of the instruments from the table and threw some at her.

"How'd she get loose?" Michelle demanded as she fired several more shots.

"Stop her," the interrogator screamed, finally showing something other than that calm and pleasant demeanor.

I let go of the doctor and dove to where the bob had dropped his gun, snatching it up and opening fire. My first shot got Michelle in the arm, causing her to drop her own gun. My next few shots were at the bob who was much closer to me and now more of an immediate threat.

"You can put the gun down," the interrogator said, trying to look calm and pleasant again though failing miserably. "I'm not going to hurt you..."

"No you aren't," I said coldly, glaring at her and thinking about how much I wanted to hurt her. I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. The interrogator fell to the floor with a large hole in her chest. At least now that stupid fake smile of hers was gone for good. Then I turned and pointed the gun at Michelle, ordering, "Don't move," before she could retrieve her own gun.

"How...?" Michelle demanded, glaring at me with a look of hatred.

"I guess this thing broke," I said grimly, reaching up with my free hand to remove the neural inhibitor from around my neck and then I unceremoniously dropped it to the floor.

Then I stared at Michelle, trying to decide what I was going to do with her. She'd stood by and let me be tortured...was just going to let me be cut up and my core removed while I was still alive. She was just going to stand there and watch the doctor kill me. And of course, I reminded myself, she had murdered Bob in cold blood. No matter who she was before, she was certainly not my friend anymore. She was a murdering bastich who deserved to die.

Michelle stared at me coldly, her expression defiant almost as though daring me to shoot. I was damn tempted to do so but something held me back. No matter how much I hated her now, she used to be someone I called a friend. I wasn't going to kill her if I didn't absolutely have to. Then I saw an extra neural inhibitor handing from the wall. It made sense that they'd keep spares around in a place like this. Fortunately for me, they used the one that had fallen on the floor and was damaged rather than getting a fresh one.

"You didn't show up as being augmented," she said almost as an accusation.

I took the other neural inhibitor from where it hung and smirked at her. "Your augmentation makes you immune to most toxins," I told her. "Even more than other augmented. Mine makes me immune to augmentation scanners....and lie detectors." I glared at her while her eyes widened in realization that I'd probably been telling her the truth about who I really was.

"And what are you going to do?" she demanded, her eyes going to the gun in my hand and then the neural inhibitor.

"Either shoot you or put this on you," I told her, holding up the collar. "Your choice."

She glared at me for a moment before reluctantly spitting out, "The collar."

Michelle didn't resist as I snapped the neural inhibitor around her neck, though of course I had a gun pointed in her face at the same time. Once I was done snapping it in place, she collapsed to the floor completely unconscious.

I stared down at her body for a moment, trying to decide what I was going to do next. I was trapped inside some sort of enemy base, the location of which was a complete and total mystery to me. Susan and Court probably thought I was dead, if Gavin was successful in fooling them like he'd planned. I was the only one who knew we still had a spy in our midst and who knew when he might do something completely disastrous...more than he already had. And of course, I was still completely naked.

I felt a strange mixture of fear and excitement as I considered my situation, knowing that I was probably in way over my head. Right now, there would be no rescue party coming for me. There would be no one who could help me. For now, I was on my own and needed a plan if I wanted to survive much less escape.

"The first thing I need," I mused as I looked down at myself. "Clothes."

Then I looked at Michelle again and smiled, realizing that we were close to the same size. A minute later, I had her completely stripped of clothing and was getting dressed. It felt nice to be wearing clothes again even if it was a little creeping to be wearing someone else's like this. There was blood all over the sleeve of her shirt from where I'd shot her, but I took care of that by using the doctor's knife to cut the arms off and make them look like they were supposed to be short sleeves.

While I was doing this, I found that Michelle had an omni clipped to her belt. An omni was a combination cell phone, video camera, computer console, and several other things all in one. Michelle even had a pair of sunglasses in her pocket which doubled as display goggles for the thing.

An omni could be an extremely useful and versatile device though most Court agents didn't have one because they were banned from the Courthouse as well as missions. Omnis had GPS units inside them, and as a security measure in case they were lost and stolen, the owner could log into them remotely to get the GPS coordinates to find where they were at. Hackers could get into omnis as well, letting them track the owner and sometimes even listen in on their conversation, turning a useful item into a dangerous liability which didn't go well with our kind of business.

"It figures you'd have one of these," I muttered as I looked it over. "Mike always did love his gadgets."

I grinned as I examined the omni because it was exactly what I needed. With this, I could call for help. However, I immediately found that I had absolutely no signal. This was disappointing but not too surprising since we couldn't get any kind of phone signal in the Courthouse either. Either I was underground, was behind some other kind of shielded walls, or was just too far from a cell tower, though one other option came to me as well. Prometheus might very well be jamming all signals in this area since that would kill any bugs we might have snuck in. Regardless of the reason, I couldn't call for help now.

"Damn," I muttered in annoyance.

After a moment, I turned and stared at Michelle again and smiled faintly as I had an idea. I darkened my skin and hair to match hers so that from a distance, I'd probably be mistaken as her. That and the fact that they didn't know of my escape yet were the only advantages I had at the moment, though I knew I'd have to act fast before anyone found out. With that, I picked up the gun Michelle had been carrying and doubled my firepower before leaving the room.

Part 31

Susan once told me that the best way to get away with being somewhere you weren't supposed to be was to act as though you belonged there and knew exactly what you were doing. She also said it helped to look like you were busy on some important task so people would hesitate to question you. That lesson served me well as I walked through the concrete hallway, trying to appear as though I was delivering an important message.

I walked past two people who barely gave me a first look much less a second. Either my strategy was working or they thought I was Michelle. Of course, I might be wearing her clothes, have a similar build, and have the same hair and skin coloring, but anyone who knew her and actually paid attention wouldn't be fooled. Either these people didn't really know her or were really just not paying attention. Either way, I was thankful.

I hadn't gone very far down the hall from the scene of my would be murder when I heard something strange coming from one of the doors. I carefully opened enough to peek inside and saw that it was a large room set up almost like a firing range except that instead of targets there were three people chained to the far wall instead. Two of them were slumping, held up only by the chains and looking dead though I could see no sign of blood or injury while the last one looked like a brute augment and was struggling against his chains.

"What the hell?" I muttered.

There were two other people in the room as well, fairly close to the door I was looking through. They were both standing there though one held some sort of device in his hand that resembled a strange Marvin the Martian type weapon. Both of these men were laughing.

"The last one," the man with the device said to his companion.

I didn't know what was going on here but I had a feeling it was important. I took Michelle's omni and turned it to video recorder mode and held it up to record what was happening inside this room. Maybe the jury could make something out of it.

At this point, he pointed the device down the range at the man chained at the wall and there was a strange humming sound which came from the device. Suddenly, the brute began to shake and spasm as though he was having some kind of seizure. The man with the device lowered it but the brute continued to shake and cough up blood. After just a minute, he completely collapsed, looking dead from where I could see.

"Holy shit," I whispered, realizing that he'd died and didn't have a single injury on his body. That device hadn't fired any bullets but had still been able to kill him...and probably the other two who were still chained to the wall.

"I like this thing," the man with the device exclaimed. "One shot can kill any augmented guaranteed. Hell, this damn thing is even better against an augmented than nemesis rounds."

"Maybe," the second man agreed. "But a normal lead bullet to the head will still kill them faster."

The two men began to argue about the effectiveness of that device as a weapon while I backed away and hurried down the hallway. My mind was racing as I considered what I'd seen and then I suddenly remembered something else that might be related. When we were raiding that black market core facility where I'd been shot, they found several bodies of augmented people who had no indications of their cause of death and whose cores had been removed afterwards.

"Maybe they were guinea pigs for that device," I thought aloud. I had a feeling that the Judge would really want to hear about this. But first, I needed get out of this place.

A minute later I came to some stairs going up and it looked like a good exit to me. I passed a bob who was acting as a guard at the top of the stairs but he barely paid me any attention as I went past. I let out a sigh of relief once I was out of sight and able to look around. I quickly found that I was inside some sort of mansion and that the windowless rooms and hallways I had been looking through had all been in the basement.

While I looked around, I noticed that much of the furniture was a little too large to use comfortably for a normal person. However, it would be just the right size for someone like Ms. Divine. That suggested that this was actually her home, though I didn't know if that would be of any use.

Another thing that caught my attention were the number of people I saw who were augmented. I was trying to avoid being seen or noticed myself but had a good view of others. I saw several bob's who were standing at the entrance acting as security. I noticed several other people who seemed to be servants and who were augmented as well, which as very strange when I considered just how much augmentation normally cost. I imagined that augmenting the people who worked for you might be a good way to buy their loyalty.

There was one sexy and busty woman who seemed to be a maid while another similar looking woman went by but with a large bulge in the front of her skirt which suggested she might have a little something extra . There were others who were obviously augmented as well though I tried not to pay too much attention to them. After all, the focus of my attention had to be on how I could get out of here before they discovered what I'd done. Somehow, I doubted that I could just casually walk out the front door past those guards.

I was heading to the back of the mansion to look for a less guarded way out when I heard something from one of the rooms. I paused, remembering what I'd seen at the last door I'd snooped at and was encouraged to spy again. The door was already cracked open a little so I didn't need to move it much to get a look inside. It was a large room with some oversized chairs and three people sitting in them talking.

I immediately recognized one of the three as Ms. Divine, who actually looked the right size compared to her chair. Her two companions were complete unknowns to me though I looked carefully while trying to recognize them. One was a gray haired man in an expensive suit who looked to be in his fifties and the other was a very attractive blonde woman who was obviously augmented and who radiated an aura of confidence and sophistication.

Without a word, I pulled out Michelle's omni and began recording this situation, having a feeling that if nothing else, a good picture of Ms. Divine and the others would be very useful. I was stuck in the middle of enemy territory so I was going to grab as much information as I could while getting out.

As I listened in, I heard Ms. Divine call the blonde woman Erika and she referred to the man as Richardson. They were talking about budget issue at first that didn't seem very important though I did notice the three of them were acting like equals which suggested they were not her subordinates. It took several minutes before things really became interesting though.

I was getting very nervous about staying here any longer since every second made it riskier. However, Ms. Divine said, "Now about that subject we were talking about earlier."

"You know we can't vote on it now," Erika responded calmly. "Our rules are very clear on this. We can't vote unless at least five of the six members of the Prometheus leadership council are present...not just the three of us."

I gulped at that, suddenly realizing that this was even bigger than I'd realized. I stared at the three people with renewed interest, realizing that they weren't just high ranking members of Prometheus...they were some of the people who ran it. In fact, from what that Erika woman had just said, this was actually half of their leadership. I was suddenly very tempted to barge into the room and open fire, taking them all down while I had the chance. However, I knew I'd never make it out of the mansion if I did that.

"So we withhold any votes for the time being," Richardson commented. "We can still discuss other business...such as our new Lancer device. So far it has been one hundred percent successful during the tests. It completely shuts down any augmentation core and kills the host within a minute or two. This device can be a powerful assassination tool, allowing us to eliminate augmented targets in public places while making it look as though it is the result of a core failure."

"True," Erika agreed. "However, using the Lancer at this juncture would prove harmful to our own agenda. If the public starts to believe that any augmentation is dangerous and can fail without warning, then it harms our overall goals."

"Agreed," Ms. Divine said. "For now, tactical use of the Lancer should be reserved for special circumstances. Once a much larger portion of the population are augmented, it will prove to be a more effective weapon. While we wait though, we can continue development of a larger version that can cover a much larger area."

"An aerial platform would be nice," Richardson mused. "Or even our own satellite."

I gulped at that, realizing that Prometheus hadn't hijacked the N'vash satellite but they'd done something close. They were in the middle of creating a weapon of mass destruction of their own that would be capable to targeting only the augmented. And of course, they wanted to make just about everyone augmented.

I knew that as interesting as this was, I'd been standing at the door for too long and could get caught at any moment. I was just turning to leave when they said something else that caught my attention.

"And what shall we do with our Court prisoner?" Erika asked, sounding almost as if she was just thinking aloud.

"Another test subject for the Lancer," Ms. Divine responded with a dismissive wave.

I blinked at that, wondering why they were going to test the Lancer on me when they were already planning on cutting out my core and killing me that way. It made no sense.

Then, Ms. Divine continued, "He has outlived his purposes..."

"HIS?" I gasped, suddenly fearing that Michelle had revealed my real identity. However, I quickly realized that this could mean something else as well...that I wasn't their only prisoner.

I stepped away from the door, making my way to the back of the mansion though I still thought about what I'd heard and recorded. Then I paused, seeing an exit in the back that wasn't quite as heavily guarded in the front. That was my best exit from this place. In fact, a side window just a short distance away might be even better. There would be no guards to catch me slipping out though I'd still have to get past any guards in the yard.

I looked at the omni again and noticed that it was receiving a signal. That meant that I was out of range of whatever had been blocking the signal. I grinned at that, knowing that this was my chance. I quickly called Susan but there was no answer.

"Pick up you brat," I muttered impatiently.

When Susan still didn't pick up, I had another idea. I used the omni to record myself as I looked into the camera and said, "It's me...Bianca. I'm alive...obviously. I've been captured by Prometheus and they've been holding me..." I gave the GPS coordinates from the omni and added, "I'm in the process of trying to escape but I could REALLY use some help..." I looked down the halls nervously, afraid that someone would come on me at any moment. "Oh, and Gavin is working for Prometheus." Then I quickly sent this video to Susan's email address along with the other videos I'd taken. If I didn't make it out, at least they'd have that information.

Then I paused to stare at my exit for a moment, knowing that I should take it and go. Once Susan and the others came for me, we could rescue the other prisoner they said they had. However, I couldn't help but thinking of what might happen to him in the meantime. I knew that I'd never forgive myself if I just walked away and they killed him because of that.

"Damn," I cursed, knowing that every second I waited was an increased risk to me. As it was, I'd already taken far too long. Still, I couldn't just walk away.

I grimaced and turned to make my way back the direction I'd come from, hoping that no one would find the bodies I'd left in that room. I took a deep breath and forced myself to look calm and in control.

When I reached the top of the stairs, the bob who was guarding the way took one look at me and exclaimed, "You're not...," as he reached for his gun

"Damn," blurted out as I fired several shots in his chest. Now I would have to hurry even faster because a body laying in the middle of the stairs wouldn't be ignored for long.

I ran down the hallway with gun in hand, making no move to be stealthy now. My only hope was to get in and out as fast as possible. I quickly arrived back to the cell where I'd been kept locked up and noticed that there were only two other thick metal doors of the same kind. I opened one of the ones I hadn't been in and saw that it was empty.

"This had better be worth it," I grumbled as I unlocked the second door and pulled it open.

This cell was exactly like mine except for there being dried blood on the floor with a man in the middle of it. Like me, he'd been kept naked, though unlike me his interrogation motivation had been a little more straight forward since he was covered with dried blood. Then again, maybe they'd just done this to him for fun since I didn't see any injuries.

The man moaned and sat up, looking weak and exhausted. I could immediately sympathize, knowing how drained I'd been after my torture session. It had taken a lot of energy and resources from my body for my nanocytes to heal me and there was no telling just how much worse this man may have gotten it.

Then the man sat up with what took obvious effort and stared at me blankly for a moment before gasping, "Bianca..."

I just stared at him in shocked recognition before finally gasping, "Bob?"

Part 32

For several seconds, I just stood in the doorway of the cell and stared at the man in front of me. He was covered with dried blood and some was still wet, though he'd mostly healed from the injuries had caused the blood. I could now see a few closed up and scabbed cuts in his chest which had been difficult to make out through the dried blood. However, what had me completely stunned was the fact that this man was actually my own teammate Bob whom I'd seen murdered in front of me.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that I'd seen a bob killed...and it may not have been him. He'd been tied up and gagged at the time so there'd been no confirmation from him as to his identity and every bob looked identical. For all I knew, Michelle might just have killed one of their own security guards instead. Then again, by that same logic, this might not actually be my bob either.

"Caesar," Bob said, apparently guessing what I was thinking. My eyes widened at that and I let out a sigh of relief. Since all bobs looked alike and we knew there might be some identification problems due to this, we had a password for Bob to use to identify himself. Caesar was that password.

"It is you," I gasped in amazement, reaching for Bob's shoulder and helping support him since he was obviously exhausted. "I thought you were dead..."

"No," Bob responded with a shake of his head, seeming to regain his strength as I watched. Maybe he'd just been conserving what he had left until there was a chance to use it. "I got ambushed..." Then he scowled deeply and a flash of anger lit his eyes. "It was Mongo... He's a traitor."

"He's not the only one," I told Bob with a deep scowl of my own. "Gavin is too."

"Gavin?" Bob repeated in surprise. "Are you sure?"

I just nodded at that. "Yeah."

"Damn," Bob exclaimed. Then he abruptly asked, "Where's the rest of the rescue team?"

I hesitated a moment before admitting, "There isn't one. They caught me too and I was just escaping when I found you..."

Bob grimaced at that and said, "Then we'd better go."

I nodded agreement and handed him my spare gun. "We don't have much time..." Then I looked at him since he was still naked and added, "That might be a problem."

We left the cell and were going down the hall back towards the stairs when I heard someone yelling from that direction. They'd obviously found the body of the bob I killed there and were now on the lookout for my escape. Of course, considering that I'd killed the guard at the top of the stairs, they'd probably assume I was already out of the basement.

"I think this is the armory," Bob said, pointing to one door. "I saw them bringing weapons into it while I was being taken for interrogation."

A moment later, we'd opened the door and went inside and I saw that Bob was correct in this being an armory. This was another concrete walled room with shelves full of weapons all over. I grinned at the sight, knowing that since it was too late to sneak out, our best bet was to shoot our way out. This would definitely help with that.

Just then, the door opened and a bob started to walk in. I quickly turned and shot him in the head then pulled the body all the way inside and closed the door again. "You have clothes," I told Bob, who'd already begun work on removing them from the body.

While Bob was doing that, I looked around the room, picking up a small lightweight assault rifle and then looking at some grenades. There were some black metal spheres stored next to the grenades that looked a little like augmentation packages but which I realized where actually gel grenades. I'd never seen one before but Bob had told me about them.

"No way," I muttered as I picked one up.

Gel grenades were made from the same technology that was used to make gel guns. They worked much like a regular grenades except that when they detonated, the gel inside would harden into some nasty shrapnel that would go further and pierce more than normal grenade shrapnel. However, they were extremely expensive to make, especially considering that you could use them only once, and they weren't much more effective than a normal grenade. There was only one way to make them more cost effective...use nemesis gel. The red mark at the top of the grenade confirmed that this was indeed a nemesis grenade.

"It looks like they got a little messy with you during your interrogation," I told Bob while I grabbed a satchel and began loading it with extra ammo for the assault rifle as well as a few grenades.

"This isn't from the interrogation," Bob responded grimly. "At least not most of it. They used...something else."

"Pain juice?" I asked with a scowl to which he nodded agreement. I shuddered at the memory of the intense agony. "Was your interrogator a petite Asian woman with nice manners?"

"Yes," Bob answered with an even deeper scowl and a cold furious look in his eyes that I could easily understand.

"I took care of her," I told him with a faint smile. Bob just stared at me for a moment before nodding approval.

"Mongo did this afterwards," Bob told me with a look of black hate in his eyes. "For fun."

"He told me he wasn't the real Mongo," I told Bob. "He said that they killed the real Mongo months ago and Prometheus augmented one of their agents to take his place."

Bob frowned thoughtfully before responding, "That makes sense. The real Mongo was fiercely loyal...and not a talker."

As soon as Bob was relatively cleaned off and dressed, he quickly looked around the room as well. “This could be useful,” he said, picking up a black plastic box. At my blank look, he explained, “Plastic explosive in a protective coating.” Then he reached for a small device that looked like a stop watch and said, “Detonator.”

“And what are we going to do with that?” I asked.

Bob stuck the detonator into the package and messed with it for a moment. He held it up for me to see that it had fifteen minutes set on it. Then he casually tucked it back on the shelf right next to the other plastic explosive boxes.

Seconds later, we left the armory and made our way to the stairs. Bob went up first and as soon as he reached the top of the stairs, another bob began approaching. Bob immediately demanded, "Did you see where they went?"

"No," the other bob responded. "I think she's still in the house though..." Just then, he noticed me further down the stairs and blinked in surprise. However, before he could call out, Bob put a gel gun to his head and fired, then pushed the body further down the steps where it would be a little less noticeable.

“About fourteen minutes to get out of here,” I reminded Bob.

We began running down the hall towards the front entrance. Since we’d blown any chance of quietly sneaking out the back, we might as well go out the front door.

The guards were still at the door and they were alert and expecting trouble. They saw us coming and opened fire. Bob and I dove for cover and returned fire with the assault rifles.

“How the hell does Prometheus get so many bobs?” I demanded in annoyance. “They must get a bulk discount from Ares.”

“Perhaps,” Bob responded as he fired another burst at them. “I specifically recruit augmented mercenaries and bobs are the most common kind…”

I grunted at that, growing more nervous as the gunfire was drawing the attention of other guards. They were coming from outside and joining these guards at the door. I glanced down the hall, knowing that sooner or later we’d be facing enemies from behind us as well.

“Did I mention that three of the people who run Prometheus are in the building?” I commented.

Bob paused to stare at me in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“I overheard them talking,” I responded grimly. “They said that they are part of some sort of leadership council and mentioned that there are six of them on the council…”

“We have to tell the Judge,” Bob exclaimed.

“Already taken care of,” I told him. “But we’d better get past these guys fast or we’re going boom…”

Then I reached for the satchel I’d brought with me and grinned, wondering why I hadn’t thought of this already, I pulled out a nemesis grenade and hesitated a moment. The very thought of using something like this nearly made me sick to my stomach but it was the best tool at the moment. I muttered a quick profanity and activated the grenade before throwing it through the doorway.

There was an explosion and then screaming from all of the guards. I winced, knowing that being hit by even one of those nemesis shrapnel shards would probably be lethal and that it would not be a pleasant way to die. However, we didn’t have much choice if we wanted to avoid being blown sky high.

“Let’s go,” Bob exclaimed, getting up and running through the door.

I ran right behind Bob and spared a few bullets to put the guards out of their misery. Now we just had to get out of here.

“We need transportation,” Bob said, looking around frantically.

“There are cars over there,” I told him as I saw a few vehicles parked a short distance away.

We rushed to the and were just going past a van when a large figure stepped out from behind it and hit us, knocking the rifle from Bob’s hands and then swatting his gel gun away as well. He grabbed my own rifle and aimed it away from him as he kicked me in the stomach, sending me flying back while he continued holding my rifle.

“You don’t need this,” Mongo said, tossing my rifle to the side. I reached for my gel gun but he kicked me again, knocking that away from me as well. “Nor will you require that firearm.”

“Mongo,” Bob snarled, punching him.

Mongo just grinned and punched back. Then he said, “It’s a pity that you were less forthcoming during your interrogation. We went through so much effort to ensure Court believed you were dead so any security information we retrieved from you would still be valid. Unfortunately, it seems that I will be forced to execute you for real this time.”

I got back to my feet and reached for my gel gun. Mongo and Bob fought hand to hand for several minutes, punching and blocking. Mongo was bigger than Bob and probably stronger but Bob was normally faster and more skilled. However, at the moment, Bob was near exhaustion and had used up most of the adrenaline fueled second wind which had brought him this far.

After just a minute, Mongo was able to slam Bob’s face into the side of the van and then knee him in to the stomach, dropping Bob to the ground. Then Mongo turned his attention to me.

“I don’t think so,” I said, firing at him with the gel gun.

Mongo staggered back as he was hit in the stomach, then he suddenly jumped forward and slammed his fist into my face. Before I was able to recover, he’d knocked the gel gun from my hand again and grabbed me tightly.

“Our intention was to kill you and remove your augmentation core,” Mongo commented casually. “I sincerely doubt that Ms. Divine will be upset by my killing you and removing it myself.”

Suddenly, there was a massive explosion from the mansion and a large section of it was destroyed in the blast. The rest of it erupting in flame and would probably be destroyed soon. I’d been expecting this but Mongo hadn’t. This gave me a moment to act while Mongo was distracted.

I pulled one of the grenades from my satchel and shoved it down the front of Mongo’s pants, exclaiming, “Candygram for Mongo!”

“What the…?” Mongo gasped in shock, trying to reach down the front of his pants while I jumped back away from him.

The grenade went off and half of Mongo’s body was thrown away from the rest, leaving blood, bone and entrails scattered all over. I winced in disgust yet felt relieved that he was dead.

“Come on,” I told Bob, helping him to his feet. “That bastich is gone. Now let’s get our asses out of here.”

“Agreed,” Bob responded.

Less than a minute later, we were in a car and driving away as fast as we could. The explosion and fire would keep any of their security people who were left too busy to worry about us. Now we just had to get back to Court.

But as I looked through the rear view mirror, I saw a naked black woman standing there and watching us. It looked like Michelle had escaped the explosion. I just wasn’t sure whether to be relieved at that or not.

Part 33

Bob and I drove our car into the parking garage which concealed the Courthouse entrance though neither of us was excited at finally being home. Instead, we were both worried and aware that there was something very wrong. After we'd escaped yesterday, we'd tried contacting Court several times but hadn't been able to reach anyone at all. We'd rushed back as fast as we could to find out what the problem was.

After we went through the hidden doorway, Bob looked at the armed guard and asked, "What's going on? We've been trying to reach someone since yesterday."

"We just came out of lock down," the guard responded grimly. "No access in our out. No communication in or out." Then he looked at me and said, "I was told to expect you." He paused to give Bob a suspicious look, but since Bob had entered the correct access code and was with me, he nodded and let us into the elevator.

When we reached the main floor, I was surprised to be met at the elevator door by Ms. Adams who was leaning on her cane and staring at me intently with her good eye. Then she looked at Bob in surprise as well as suspicion. I saw her hand twitch as though she was about to go for her gun.

"We received your message," Ms. Adams told me grimly. "Unfortunately, agent Morrison overheard your accusation. He shot Susan and Director Judge then caused a lock down while he escaped so we couldn't chase after him."

"Gavin," I gasped, "That fucking bastich..." Then I realized what else she'd. "Susan...?"

"Alive and recovering," Ms. Adams assured me. "Director Judge just came out of critical condition."

"Damn," I gasped.

Ms. Adam's then turned her full attention on Bob and stated, "I was under the impression you were dead."

"My death was faked by Prometheus," Bob explained calmly, "so that you would not realize I'd been captured for interrogation." He looked down at me and smiled faintly as he continued, "Bianca found me during her own escape."

Ms. Adams stared at him for a moment more before nodding. "Prometheus has much to answer for," she finally said. "Come... You two need to be debriefed immediately."

Ms. Adams led us down the hall towards the briefing room but before we'd gone very far, I heard a voice call out my name, "Bianca..."

I looked and saw Susan coming down the hallway, using a cane for support as one of her legs was bound up. One of her arms was also bound in bandages and was held up in a sling much as my own had been such a short time ago. She looked rough, like she'd taken more damage that I didn't know about yet...but she was grinning broadly.

"You're alive," Susan exclaimed, giving me a tight hug. Then she paused to stare at Bob, her eyes going wide, "Bob? You're dead... We have your body..."

"One of their own security guards," Bob explained, looking annoyed. I had a feeling that we would both be tired of explaining this before things were through. "The problem with all bobs looking alike..."

"But how?" Susan blurted out.

"Gavin and Mongo," I told her. "And Michelle."

"Michelle?" Susan repeated blankly.

Ms. Adams coughed to get our attention then said, "This will be better dealt with in the briefing room." Then she continued heading in that direction and the rest of us followed, even Susan. Ms. Adams didn't seem to object to her coming in to the debriefing as well.

Once we were in the briefing room, the Witness came in and sat down too though he sat back out of the way and didn't say a word, acting more like a silent witness to the debriefing than an actual participant. It started with Ms. Adams asking Bob and me several questions which I assumed were merely to help confirm our identities. I didn't blame her for being careful considering the circumstances.

After Ms. Adam's had finished confirming our identities, we began with the real debriefing. Bob started first, describing how he'd been on our last mission when his communication had been jammed and then how Mongo had ambushed him and put the neural inhibitor around his neck. He told about how he'd been interrogated and was given several more doses of that pain juice than I had. I shuddered as I listened, remembering very well what it had felt like and knowing that his questioning had been much longer and more brutal. Bob ended his story by describing how I'd found him and how we'd fought our way out, destroying the mansion in the process.

As soon as Bob was done, it was my turn to describe what had happened to me. I took a deep breath, looked at Susan and then told of how the assassin had lured me away from the mansion and into the trap. I was careful not to look at Bob as I told them how I'd watched him...or at least a man I'd thought was him get killed right in front of me. His expression didn't seem to change during this recount though I knew him well enough to see a faint increase of his scowl.

Then I hesitated, feeling nervous as I considered what else I had to tell them. "I found out Michelle's real identity," I said grimly. At the blank looks, I remembered that I hadn't told them the name the assassin was using yet. "The assassin with the Fiddleback core is calling herself Michelle Zubrecki." I paused for a moment before explaining, "She used to be my friend Mike...the one we thought Prometheus had killed."

"What?" Susan gasped in surprise.

Ms. Adams gave me a curious look and asked, "How did this happen?"

"They used Mike as a guinea pig to see if the prototype cores would even work," I explained. "Once they'd proven it did and saw the advantage of her augmentation, they recruited her."

"Can she be turned?" Ms. Adams asked, almost as though she was thinking aloud.

"I don't think so," I reluctantly admitted. "I tried but..." I shook my head and told her, "I think she's really bought into their propaganda. Maybe if we had enough time to convince her..."

"It doesn't matter who she used to be," Susan said grimly, giving me an apologetic look. "If I get my hands on her, I'm killing her."

I just nodded at that since I'd already come to the same conclusion. I didn't know if I could bring myself to kill her unless I absolutely had to, but after seeing her actions I had no doubt that she was indeed my enemy now. I held little hope of getting through to her and convincing her to change sides. My old friend Mike was gone and all that seemed to be left was that bastich Michelle.

"She knows who I used to be too," I said carefully, "though I don't know if she really believes it." Then I grimaced and added, "I probably gave away more than I should have about what my augmentation is capable of as well."

After this, I described my own torture session and subsequent escape. Much of what I told them after that was just a repeat of what Bob had already said though no one asked me to stop or looked bored, especially when I was describing what I'd overheard.

"So Mongo is dead and Prometheus took quite a hit," Ms. Adams mused once I was finished.

It was at this point that the Witness spoke for the first time, commenting, "We don't yet have any confirmation that the people she saw were really the heads of Prometheus or that they were killed in the explosion. Nor do we have confirmation that this Lancer device was destroyed."

"Very good points," Ms. Adams responded grimly. "But this is a very good start."

"Now, what exactly happened here while we were gone?" Bob asked.

"We thought you were both dead," Susan answered with a scowl, then look at us both and shook her head as though she was still having a hard time believing we weren't. "We thought we had your body," she said, looking at Bob, then she looked at me and continued, "And Gavin said that he'd witnessed Mongo killing you and throwing your body into the river."

Susan looked pissed off as she paused and I remembered that she'd had a history with Gavin before I'd ever met either of them. They'd been dating until she caught him cheating on her with another woman. Until now, she'd put that past aside for the good of the team but now that he'd betrayed us all, it was all coming back.

"I received your e-mail and was looking at the first video," Susan said with a faint choking in her voice. "Gavin was there and saw it...and your accusation. He shot me several times than left..."

"He attempted to kill Director Judge," Ms. Adams stated grimly. "Fortunately, he was in too much of a hurry to escape and didn't make sure..."

"He also left before he saw the other videos you sent," Susan added with a forced chuckle. "He doesn't know just how much you learned."

I nodded at that, thankful that after what I'd been through I'd at least been able to bring back some valuable information. And at the moment, Prometheus probably doesn't even realize how much I'd learned. I smiled faintly at that, hoping it was worth the cost.

"Is the Judge going to be all right?" I asked carefully.

"He's going to be just fine," Susan responded with a faint smirk as she used her good hand to unwrap a sucker and put it in her mouth. After sucking on it for a moment, she added, "He just won't be very happy."

"What do you mean?" Bob demanded with a scowl.

Ms. Adams shook her head and sighed. "We were in lock down and didn't have access to better medical facilities…so the only way to save him was to augment him." She hesitated for a moment before adding, "Unfortunately, we only had one core available..."

Part 34

The woman in front of me looked to be in her early twenties, was about two inches shorter than me, and was absolutely gorgeous. She had long, golden blond hair and a killer figure with large and perfectly shaped breasts that seemed to defy gravity. She wasn't a slut augmentation though there were definite similarities. It was just hard to believe that this was actually the Judge.

As I'd learned, the Judge's augmentation core had been the first one created from the second generation augmentation unit that we’d 'confiscated' from the black market dealers. It had been created for a female agent who was going undercover, though unfortunately, it had been the only core available when the Judge had been injured.

It had been two days since the Judge had awoken from his...her augmentation induced coma to find just how much she'd changed. Most people probably would have freaked out but she was acting as though this was just a common happening. No one else really questioned her about it though I could see it bothered her more than she showed.

The Judge looked awkward and uncomfortable though she was trying to look as though that wasn't the case. I watched her as she took her seat, feeling sympathetic since I knew exactly how she felt. I'd gone through it myself such a short time ago, though oddly enough, it almost felt like a lifetime ago. So much had happened to me since then and I'd changed a great deal inside as well as out.

"You know," Susan whispered to me with a snicker, "the Judge is going to need a new name. Maybe we should call her Judy..."

"Somehow," I whispered back with a faint chuckle, "I don't think she'd like that."

I turned my attention from the Judge to everyone else. We were in the briefing room while more agents continued filing in and taking their seats. Every active agent currently available was here. Once everyone had arrived, the Witness stood up and began the briefing.

"We have recently suffered several difficulties," the Witness announced to the room. "We were infiltrated by two Prometheus agents and two of our own were captured and tortured." I squirmed uncomfortably at that as I was aware several people were giving me sidelong glances. He paused for a moment and then continued, "Fortunately, our agents were able to not only escape but to bring back valuable intelligence." Now I was getting even more attention, though that wasn't surprising. Once the story of our escape had spread, Bob and I had developed a bit of a reputation.

At this point, the Witness turned on the monitors and showed the video that I'd sent Susan about them testing the device. Several people sat back with display goggles on, watching the same video a little more closely and even pausing it to look at more details. Of course, I didn't need to pay much attention to it since I was there.

"This Lancer device that Prometheus has developed is extremely lethal to anyone who is augmented," the Witness said once the video was over. "From what we can tell, it attacks the augmentation core and shuts it down. This in turn shuts down every nanocyte in the host body and results in death within minutes. We do not know if this device was destroyed or not during the explosion or if they have other copies. What we do know is that if they can create a larger version of this which seems to be their goal, they can eliminate every augmented in a large area."

"I don't see Prometheus doing that," someone else called out. "It goes counter to their goals."

"True," the Witness responded with a faint nod. "But the threat of it does give them leverage. For example, what if they threatened to unleash this on say all of Washington DC unless a certain bill is passed..."

I nodded at that, realizing that Prometheus could indeed use that as a threat since so many of the wealthy and powerful were augmented. Of course, they had already pointed out themselves that this was something they weren't intending to use just yet, but things could change.

"There is another consideration as well," the Witness added. "As this device can destroy augmentation cores, it is very likely that it can neutralize gel guns just as effectively. Consider what the impact would be if they activate a wide area effect of this device while we were in the middle of an operation. They could neutralize all of our gel guns with ease and force us to rely only on less efficient weapons…which we may not have available at the time." However, it was obvious from the way he spoke that this was almost an afterthought and that he was merely pointing out that there might be other dangers from the Lancer than the obvious ones.

"More importantly," Susan commented thoughtfully. "If they aim at the courthouse, they'd be able to kill all of us who are augmented with one shot."

"I'm certain they know where we are," Bob pointed out with a faint grimace. "They had two agents here."

"That is certainly true," the Witness agreed with a scowl.

When the Witness was finished talking about the Lancer, he played the other video that I'd sent Susan, the one with Ms. Divine and the others talking. I watched this one just as intently as I'd watched it happening live, trying to pick up any details I might have missed then. Of course, by now the entire jury had gone over it with a microscope to pick out every last grain of information.

"These people appear to be among the leadership of Prometheus," the Witness said. "Our research supports this as extremely likely. We have been working on identifying them and their associates with various levels of success."

A picture of Ms. Divine appeared in front of us and Susan muttered, "Damn she's a big one."

"The woman who calls herself Ms. Divine remains a mystery," the Witness stated grimly. "She first appeared six years ago with a great deal of wealth and apparently having been recently augmented. We have been unable to identify who she was before her augmentation as she has managed to erase all ties to her previous identity. She has successfully avoided most public attention but there are indications that she may have played a very large role in the formation of Prometheus."

"But didn't you guys kill her?" Susan mused, looking at me and Bob.

The Witness heard her and responded loudly, "She was sighted shortly after the explosion, looking burned and injured at that time but very much alive."

Bob scowled at that and glared at her picture with a gleam of hatred in his eyes. I took a deep breath, knowing exactly how he felt. Ms. Divine had not only been there while I'd been tortured but had actually been the one to order it. My hatred of her wasn't quite as strong as it had been for the woman who'd done the dirty work, though it was close.

Then the Witness changed the picture to that of the woman Erika who had also been at that meeting. "We have identified this woman as Erika Giovani, wife of Nicholas Giovani. Some of you may recall that Nicolas Giovani is the CEO of Ares Inc."

"Holy shit," Susan exclaimed, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a piece of bubble gum. "That explains how Prometheus seems to have an unlimited number of bobs. They get them from the source."

"She may have merely given a copy of the bob program to Prometheus in order for them to manufacture their own," the Witness pointed out. Then he told us, "We also found indications that she is the actual power behind her husband, letting him be the figurehead while she makes the real decisions. However, she has not been seen since the explosion at the mansion and her husband does not appear to have heard from her either. It is likely that she was killed in the explosion."

Then the picture was changed again, this time zooming in on Richardson. To my surprise, there were a couple people in the briefing who actually recognized him and seemed to know exactly who he was.

"This is Maxwell Richardson," the Witness started. "He is a billionaire philanthropist who is known for supporting the move to legalize second generation augmentations and to a lesser extent, for pushing the idea that being augmented is a right and that the government should do everything possible to allow augmentation of every citizen. However, he usually does this through financial support rather than more direct involvement."

"We have suspected that he was involved with Prometheus for some time," the Judge added.

"He has been confirmed dead," the Witness said. "His people are announcing that it was a helicopter accident."

The rest of the briefing was a little less interesting as the Witness described efforts that were being taken to discover the identities of the remaining Prometheus leadership. However, most of it all came down to 'we don't know yet'.

Once the briefing was over, everyone started to get up and leave. To my surprise, the Judge came up to me and said, "I'd like a word with you in private."

"I'll catch up with you later," Susan told me, blowing a bubble with her gum and then adding, "We still have to celebrate your miraculous return."

A minute later I was in the Judge's office with her, finding it a little strange to think of this busty woman as the same Judge who'd recruited me and who normally presented a figure of respect. Of course, I wasn't the only one as I'd seen a number of other agents being a little awkward around her, unsure of how to act now.

The Judge sat down and let out a faint sigh before giving me a strange look. After a moment, she gave me a wry smile and said, "This new body is a little difficult getting used to..."

I just nodded at that. "I know how it is," I told her.

"I know you do," the Judge responded, suddenly looking self-conscious. I don't think I'd ever seen the judge lacking such self-control before. "In fact, you're the only one in Court who can really understand what it’s like." With that, she turned and stared at the wall for a moment before commenting, "I have always been a very proud man so this is not easy for me to suddenly look like this." She gestured down at herself and grimaced. "However, I am a realist and know that I must adapt to my changed circumstances."

"It isn't easy," I agreed, knowing that the hardest part of my own change had been fighting my own sense of self-identity.

"There are things I will be expected to know," the Judge commented carefully. "Things I will need to know if I am to adjust." She looked at me intently as she finished, "As you have done so well, I was hoping that you would help me."

"Of course," I responded in surprise, though I immediately realized that I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, she'd said it herself...I was the only one around here who knew what she was going through. "I'd be happy to help."

"Thank you," the Judge responded with a look of relief.

It was strange to realize that such a short time ago I had been a student of all things feminine, yet now, I was about to become the teacher. Oddly though, it felt sort of right, as though I was reaffirming my new femininity. I smiled faintly as I remembered my own lessons and considered where to start.

Part 35

I clutched my assault rifle with nervous determination, taking several deep breaths to remain calm and steady. At the moment, I was sitting in the back of a van with several other agents, all of us heavily armed and wearing full assault gear. I felt a strong sense of déjá -vu as I remembered a similar ride to the black market manufacturing facility where I'd ended up badly injured.

I glanced over at Susan and then at Morgan who was also with us. His entire previous team had been wiped out on that mission, or at least all the real members since Mongo no longer counted. He was the last one standing from his previous team so had been assigned to ours as a replacement for Gavin.

Then I turned my thoughts back to the mission which brought us here. Ever since I'd sent that video of those Prometheus leaders talking, the jury had been very busy trying to track down everything they could about them. And once they'd discovered Ms. Divine had survived the explosion, they went to work finding every piece of information they could about her, including her financial records and properties. That was how they were able to locate where she now was. It was our job to go in and capture her...alive if at all possible.

The Judge wanted Ms. Divine badly and had assigned not only four full teams but some support personnel as well. That was about all the resources we had at the Courthouse available for this at the moment. I suspected that the idea of capturing and interrogating one of the Prometheus leaders gave him a hard-on...made her wet.

Bob had gone in ahead of us, infiltrating as one of their bob security guards. It still amused me how easily he was able to do that and how they never seemed to catch on that they weren't the only ones who used bobs. So far, he'd been able to give us a good picture of their security as well as set a few things up for our arrival.

Just then, I heard a voice through the radio in my ear. "We are in position and awaiting the signal," the chopper pilot stated.

"I'm awaiting the signal," Bob said over the radio next.

"We're almost there," the driver of the van called back. Then we heard the order, "Go."

Suddenly I heard explosions from a short distance away, and though I couldn't see anything from the back of the van I knew what was going on. Bob had just detonated the explosives that he'd planted at the front gate, taking out the gate and the security guards there. He also would have set off the other explosives he'd planted in various places to remove more security and cause all around chaos. And finally, he would have neutralized the helicopter in back so that Ms. Divine couldn't use it to escape.

"Good thing all bobs look alike," I told Susan, knowing that there was no way we would have been able to get in and set up that kind of damage without Bob.

"You know it," she responded with a grin.

I heard gunshots from outside as well as the sound of the gunfire bouncing off the armored sides of the van. I braced myself as we drove through the yard to the door of the mansion which was only half the size of the last one.

"Why fight our way through when we get front door service," Susan asked with a grin.

At this point, we opened the doors and jumped out of the van. Almost two full teams emerged with guns blazing. Susan spat out a piece of gum she'd been chewing and opened fire with a pair of gel guns. I saw one of the guards coming towards us and opened fire with my assault rifle. The guard dove for cover behind some statuary so I reached into my satchel and pulled out a grenade. It was an old fashioned one rather than one of those high tech and extremely expensive gel grenades but it did the job.

I quickly looked up and saw the chopper providing air support while another team rappelled down onto the roof in order to enter the mansion through the top floor. I knew that another team had already snuck around and was breaching the property from the back side as well.

It took less than a minute after leaving the van before we were inside the mansion and splitting up into two separate groups. My team and I went down one hallway while the other team that had been riding with us went down another. Susan and Morgan were beside me, watching for more guards and dealing with them as we encountered them. We ran into one of the servants, a very busty woman who was obviously augmented and who was also lucky we didn't just shoot her first since we were all a little jumpy at the moment.

"I'm heading towards where Ms. Divine was last seen," Bob said over the radio. A moment later, he told us where.

"This way," Susan exclaimed, going down one corridor.

I started following after Susan but froze as I heard a voice coming from another hall. There was an angry muttering of profanity from a very familiar voice. I immediately stepped into that hall with my gun pointing down it and seeing Gavin coming towards me. He had a small metal briefcase in one hand while his other held a gel gun.

"Gavin," I blurted out, realizing too late that I should have just shot him without saying anything.

"Foxxy," Gavin gasped as he saw me standing there, firing a shot at me then jumping back the way he'd come and ducking around a corner.

I started to follow but his hand came from around the corner and fired several shots at me, barely missing. I jumped back and used my own corner as cover while firing back though I couldn't get him any more than he could get me. Still, we each fired several more shots at each other.

"You bastich," Gavin yelled. "I was just about to get augmented when you interrupted..."

"Too bad," I called back, suddenly realizing what Gavin was up to. There was a trick he showed me once during training and I knew he was getting my position so he could use it on me.

I immediately dropped flat to the floor, releasing my assault rifle and pulling out my gel gun instead. Holes suddenly appeared in the wall right where my torso had been as Gavin was shooting at me with armor piercing rounds and going through the wall itself. With nearly a single move, I switched my own ammo setting and fired back with armored piercing rounds of my own, aiming lower than he was and hearing a scream of pain which immediately followed.

Morgan and Susan had been covering the other hall and quickly came back during this exchange. I called back to them, "its Gavin."

A moment later, I was back on my feet and running down the hall towards Gavin, thankful when there were no more shots fired back. I turned the corner he'd been hiding behind and found him on the floor in a pool of blood with what looked like two bullet holes through his legs. He was grimacing in pain and tried to raise his gun to shoot me but I kicked it from his hand, probably breaking a bone or two in the process.

"I bet you wish you were augmented now," I told him grimly, knowing that without nanocytes to dull the pain, he would have to really be hurting.

"I would have been if you'd been just a little later," Gavin spat out at me, giving me a defiant look that was filled with rage.

Just then, I noticed that the briefcase he'd been holding had been hit as well, right near where the lock was and had sprung open, revealing the contents. There was a metallic sphere that I immediately recognized as an augmentation package. I kept my gun pointed at him as I reached over and picked up the sphere, reading the identification code off the side. Sp PRO.

"The Spartan prototype," I said with a faint grin before putting it into my satchel for safekeeping. "Thanks for returning it."

"Bite me," Gavin responded through gritted teeth.

Susan came up and glared at Gavin with a deep look of anger and betrayal in her eyes. She pointed her gun right at his face and for a moment I thought she was just going to shoot. But instead, she settled for kicking his leg right where I'd shot it.

"The Judge is going to want to talk to you," Susan told Gavin with an almost evil grin. "She REALLY isn't happy with you..."

"She?" Gavin responded with a look of confusion.

I glared at Gavin with my own feelings of anger and betrayal, remembering that I'd had sex with him but also how he'd turned me over to Prometheus. It would have been so easy to pull the trigger again but I knew that killing him would be a lot more merciful than bringing him in alive. And at the moment, I wasn't feeling very merciful.

"You know," I told Gavin with an evil grin of my own, "I've been saving a slut augmentation package just for you..."

Gavin stared at me with a look of horror, obviously remembering what I'd done to August Smart. In fact, April had become something of a legend around the Courthouse and what I'd done to her had given me something of a reputation. From the look on Gavin's face, he must have believed I'd do the same thing to him too.

"NO!" Gavin screamed as Morgan pulled out a neural inhibitor collar and bent over to put it on him. He tried fighting but Susan kicked him in the stomach while Morgan locked the collar in place.

"I'll take him back out for evac," Morgan told us grimly as he picked Gavin up and slung him over his shoulder.

Susan and I both nodded at that. Our primary mission at the moment was to capture Ms. Divine but Gavin was a high priority target that we couldn't just ignore. This was too good an opportunity to waste.

"We’ll go meet up with Bob," Susan agreed.

A moment later, I watched Morgan hauling Gavin back the way we'd come and frowned, wondering at my chances of convincing the Judge to let me follow through with my threat. Considering what Gavin had done to the Judge, I suspected my chances weren't bad.

Part 36

Susan and I ran up the stairs to the second level where Bob had told us to meet him. We easily skipped several steps at a time as we raced, guns drawn and ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The gunfire we could hear ahead of us was a clear indication that our other teams were already engaged.

A bob security guard jumped out and opened fire on us from the top of the stairs. Susan and I both jumped to the side and returned fire. She was using her pair of gel guns while I'd switched back to the assault rifle after dealing with Gavin. The bob was taken out in just a moment.

As we passed the dead bob, Susan said, "It's a good thing for us that Prometheus thinks augmentation is an acceptable substitute for training." She shook her head in disgust. "And to think, the bob augmentation was originally created for special forces...not these dumb asses."

"Just be thankful," I told her with a faint grin. "I'd rather fight some half trained guy with an augmentation than some highly trained special forces guy without."

"We have the target in sight," one of the other teams said over the radio. "She has guards."

A minute later, we came upon the scene of the battle with two dead guards in the hallway as well as one badly injured member of the other Court team. Bob and another agent were using the doorway of a room as cover while firing inside. Shots were being fired back and were peppering the wall past them.

"She's inside," Bob said when he saw us.

I peeked through the door frame and saw Ms. Divine in the back of the room, crouching down behind a desk that had been pushed over to use as a shield. Two guards were with her though only one of them was a bob. The other one didn't look to be augmented at all. Then I saw the body of another agent on the floor inside, his neck obviously broken as his head was bent at an impossible angle.

"How dare you invade my home?" Ms. Divine bellowed angrily while her guards continued opening fire on us.

"Easily," Susan called back with a grin. "You shouldn't have fucked with my friends."

Then Susan adjusted one of her guns to armor piercing rounds and fired several shots, right through the desk. Both of the guards went down though the augmented one was still alive. She frowned and fired several more shots taking care of him and leaving only Ms. Divine.

"We've got you now you overgrown bastich," Susan exclaimed, opening fire with some bean bag rounds that dropped Ms. Divine to the ground.

"I've got her," the last agent from the other team said, pulling out a neural inhibitor and rushing to our large opponent. He bent over her body and hesitated, "I'm not sure it will go around her neck..."

Suddenly, Ms. Divine grabbed the agent by the throat and knocked the collar out of his hand. She got back to her feet, still holding him up with one hand. Then as we opened fire with more bean bag rounds, she held him up in front of her as a shield.

"Cease struggling," Ms. Divine ordered the agent she was holding and then snapped his neck with a casual ease that revealed just how much physical power she possessed.

"We need her alive," Susan reminded us grimly though it was obvious she didn't like that fact.

Bob scowled, even less happy about that since he had a very personal grudge against her. I felt exactly the same way but tried telling myself that keeping her alive but imprisoned for the rest of her life would make her suffer too. I wasn't quite sure I believed it.

A moment later, we all went into the room and began to spread out so we could get her without her being able to block us all with her human shield. Bob started straight towards her but she suddenly threw the dead agent at him, hitting him and knocking him to the ground. Susan and I immediately opened fire with bean bag rounds though they did little except piss her off. Her thick muscles seemed to protect her from the worst of the impact. I guessed that when she went down earlier it was just because she was playing opossum until someone got close.

"She's mine," Bob exclaimed, getting back up and charging her bare handed.

Ms. Divine hit Bob with what looked like a very powerful hit which caused him to stagger backwards. However, Bob quickly recovered and went at her with a series of punches and kicks. She was much larger than him, much stronger, and had longer reach, but in spite of that, it was obvious that Bob was winning the fight. She might be strong but she didn't seem to have a lot of actual fighting skills or experience and Bob did.

After a minute of this fighting, Ms. Divine could see that she was outmatched as well because she snarled in anger and grabbed Bob, throwing him straight at Susan. "Children should know better than to get in the way of adults," Ms. Divine said as she rushed past us and out the door.

I ran after Ms. Divine and watched as she quickly picked up one of her own dead guards and slammed his body through one of the windows. She barely hesitated a second before she jumped out the window. I grimaced and jumped after her, hitting the ground two stories below and rolling. Just seconds later, Susan and Bob followed.

Ms. Divine had recovered first so took advantage of that brief opportunity to charge at me just as I had gotten back to my feet. She swung her arm at me with a punch that might have broken bones of if it hit, though I was used to fighting larger opponents and instead grabbed her wrist and used her own momentum to fling her over my body and slam her into the ground.

Seconds later, Ms. Divine was lashing out with her leg to kick Bob and then she climbed back to her own feet. "How dare you?" she demanded. "Don't you know who I am?"

"Some overgrown bastich with an ego just as overblown," Susan responded.

I just scowled, deciding that I'd had enough of this. I stepped back and pulled out my gel gun again and fired one shot at Ms. Divine. She snapped around to stare at me, looking pissed but barely seeming to notice the hole through her arm. She was either very good at dealing with pain or her nanocytes were even better at pain suppression than mine.

"You die for that little girl," Ms. Divine stated as she came at me.

"I resemble that remark," Susan responded with a weak grin.

I just switched over to hollow point ammunition and fired several more shots at her, putting nice sized holes through her legs until she dropped to the ground. Then I put the barrel against her forehead and grinned evilly.

"Do you really want me to shoot again?" I asked her. Then I noticed Susan glaring at me and I responded with my best mock innocent tone, "What? She's alive isn't she?"

"Yeah," Susan responded with a scowl. "But now we have to carry her." Then she reached into her pocked and pulled out a fresh sucker which she put into her mouth and sucked on for a moment. Then she finally gave me her best innocent look, one which was a bit more practiced than mine and said, "I'm too small and weak to do something like that though..."

Just as I backed up and lowered my gun, Ms. Divine suddenly lunged at Susan, perhaps with the intention of using her as a hostage. However, Bob just as quickly kicked her in the face and there was a loud crack as her nose broke and spurted with blood. She finally collapsed back, realizing that it was too late to fight. We had her. Bob just gave me a faint smile which might not have seemed like much, but for him, it was the equivalent of jumping up and down while cheering.

"We've got the target," Susan said over the radio. "Let's finish up here and go home."

Part 37

I let out a sigh of relief, thankful that this mission was nearly over. We'd successfully assaulted the mansion, neutralized all of the security, and had captured Ms. Divine, one of the leaders of Prometheus. Now all we had to do was get our prisoners back to base and then search the mansion for any files or information we could use. There was a good chance that we'd find something we could use against Prometheus.

I watched as Ms. Divine was being led to the helicopter by three Court guards, two of which were augmented and all three of whom were well armed. Unfortunately, we hadn't taken into account that our prisoner's neck was just a little too big for a standard neural inhibitor which meant that we had to keep a very close eye on her. She might be badly injured at the moment thanks to turning her legs into swiss cheese, but she was still very strong and dangerous. That only made the fact that our own people had to help left her because of her injuries all the more dangerous for them.

"Well, we've got that overgrown bastich," Susan said as she sucked on her sucker. She grinned faintly as she added, "Once we get her to talk, we can take down the rest of their leadership too."

"Amen to that," I responded.

Suddenly, Ms. Divine and two of the guards next to her collapsed to the ground and began to shake as though they were having seizures. It took me a moment to realize that it was the two augmented agents who were being affected and the agent who wasn't augmented wasn't affected but was looking around in stunned surprise. I'd seen people acting like this before and knew exactly what it was.

"The Lancer," I yelled, looking around for who was using it. "Someone is using the Lancer..."

Bob immediately ran to Ms. Divine and our agents while I frantically looked around for the source of the attack. Then I saw her...Michelle was standing a distance away with the Lancer device in her hands. But since she'd hit both Ms. Divine and our own people, I wasn't sure if she was trying to free Ms. Divine or merely keep us from being able to interrogate her. Then again, I'd seen her kill her own people before in order to keep them from being questioned.

"Damn," I exclaimed, charging straight at Michelle with Susan immediately behind me. Two more of our agents joined us in the chase, though since they weren't augmented they had a harder time keeping up.

Susan opened fire on Michelle who dropped the Lancer and turned to run. However, since the Lancer had a strap slung over her shoulder, she didn't lose it like I'd hoped. Michelle pulled out her own gel gun and began firing back at us, hitting one of the other agents.

"It burns," the man screamed, tearing back his sleeve to reveal his forearm where he'd been hit. There were dark lines around the wound and his arm was already starting to look blistered.

"Nemesis rounds," Susan responded grimly after taking one look. "Don't get hit."

I felt bad as we abandoned the other agent but knew that we didn't have much choice. We had to stop Michelle once and for all. She fired several more shots back at us though we returned fire. She continued running away from the mansion and nice landscaped lawn and towards the edge of the property which was very rocky and uneven ground.

"She's gonna try losing us," I gasped in realization.

"We can't let her get away with that device," Susan told me.

Michelle reached the uneven ground first and disappeared from sight. I realized that she could use one of those rocks as cover and open fire on us but we were able to reach the cover of one rock before she could. We scrambled after her as fast as we could and I found that my practice on the obstacle course came in handy yet again. Susan and I were gaining on Michelle, and though we kept catching glimpses of her to let us know, we couldn't keep a steady eye on her and kept losing track of her exact location.

"We lost our partner," I told Susan, looking back towards the other Court agent who hadn't been able to keep up with our pace.

"She's hell bent on getting away," Susan muttered with a faint nod as a way of saying that we couldn't just wait for him to catch up. Then she called out loudly, "You're a lousy shot... You killed your own boss..."

"I couldn't let her compromise out goals," Michelle called back, letting me get a better idea of her location, which I suspected had been Susan's intention. "She would have understood."

Susan and I nodded to each other then began making our way to Michelle. We had only gone a little further when I suddenly heard a humming sound that I'd only heard once before in person. I snapped around and saw Michelle stepping out from behind a large rock where she'd been waiting in ambush for us, probably having used our voices to locate us the same way we had her. To my horror, she had the Lancer in hand and pointed right at us.

An instant later, Susan let out a loud gasp and just collapsed to the ground where her whole body began to spasm and shake. I stared at her with a cold hard lump in my gut, horrified as blood began to come from her mouth. Whether it was from biting her tongue during the seizure or something else I didn't know. It took me a few seconds more to realize that I wasn't affected.

"And to think," Michelle commented with an evil smirk, "at one point I would have killed to have cutting edge technology like this. Wait...I guess I am."

"Susan," I gasped weakly.

Then I glared at Michelle who was now staring at me with a look of surprise, probably wondering why I wasn't on the ground dying, though I was actually wondering that myself. I raised my gun but hesitated for just a second as I remembered that this used to be Mike. For a split second, I clearly remembered the two of us commiserating with each other over our bad divorces or sitting back with a couple beers and reminiscing about our high school days.

My hesitation was enough for Michelle to shoot me with her gel gun. A second later, my shoulder exploded in pain and I gasped in agony, realizing that I'd just been shot with a nemesis round. The light body armor I'd been wearing had done little except slow the bullet down enough that it didn't even go out the other side. And with a nemesis round, that made the wound far nastier.

"The Lancer should kill anyone with a core," Michelle exclaimed with a suspicious glare. "And the detector said you didn't have one... Are you augmented or not?" Then she looked as though she was about to shoot me again.

In an instant, my thoughts of Mike vanished and were replaced with the memories of this woman who had replaced him. This was the woman who'd killed Trelach and left his daughter an orphan. This was the woman who'd killed Rico and Miranda, who'd cold bloodedly shot the man I thought was Bob at the time, and who'd stood by and watched while I was tortured. And of course, this was the same damn woman who'd just killed Susan and myself.

All my hesitation vanished at once and I opened fire, shooting her several times in the chest and blowing large holes through her. My gel gun had still been set for hollow point rounds from when I'd shot Ms. Divine and the results were definitely fatal. Not even someone who was augmented could survive that.

A faint thought of surprise occurred to me at the fact that my gel gun was still working. I'd used it without even remembering the Witness' warning that the Lancer would probably be able to wipe out gel guns just as easily as augmented. It seemed unbelievably unfair that my gun and I had somehow been immune while Susan wasn't.

Then my eyes settled on the Lancer device which had fallen to the ground and with a furious scowl I opened fire on it, blowing it to pieces. The sight of the gun being completely destroyed gave me a slight feeling of satisfaction but not much.

My shoulder hurt like hell, even with the nanocytes dampening the pain. My left arm hung uselessly as I could barely twitch the fingers at the moment. I could also feel a burning sensation spreading through my body and towards my heart, reminding me far too much of the pain juice I'd been tortured with.

I dropped to my knees beside Susan and winced at the agony. "Susan," I whispered, my voice shaking not just from the pain I felt but from the horror of realizing that I was losing my best friend. She was best friend I'd ever had in my life and she was dying in front of me. She'd be dead in several minutes at most and I'd follow a short time after.

When someone was augmented, nanocytes bond with their nervous system and become integral to it. So when the Lancer device killed Susan's core, all of her nanocytes went dead as well and left her nervous system to collapse. All I could do was watch the horrific results, knowing that at least I could be here for her at the end.

just then, I had a sudden idea. It was crazy and desperate...but it was my only chance to save Susan. I frantically reached for my satchel, wincing at the agony that continued to spread through my body. My entire chest hurt and I was having a harder time breathing. I wasn't going to last much longer so had to hurry. I only hoped it wasn't too late to even try this.

I pulled out the augmentation package that I'd recovered from Gavin and stared at it for a moment, feeling a surge of hope. Susan was dying because her core was dead and her nanocytes had all been shut down. I only hoped that a new core and fresh nanocytes could save her. As unlikely as this was to work, it was still her only hope.

"Please work," I gasped out, barely able to speak.

My hand shook as I unlocked the seal and moved Susan's clothes back so I could reach her navel. She was still shaking but it was getting weaker. I gave another silent prayer and placed the metal sphere against her stomach.

To my relief, silvery threats came from the sphere and began to sink into her flesh. Her own nanocytes were inactive and no longer able to fight off these intruders. A moment later, the small core entered into her body as well and began making its way to her chest.

I collapsed back, no longer having the strength to keep watching. I closed my eyes and forced myself to take several deep breaths, giving one more silent prayer for Susan before everything went dark.

Part 38
I awoke in a hospital bed with a throbbing ache in my shoulder and an uncomfortably itchy feeling all through my chest. There was a sort of numbness as well which told me that my nanocytes were protecting me from the worst of the pain. My shoulder was wrapped with heavy bandages and I could barely move or even feel my left arm at all.

"Deja-vu," I muttered, hoping that this wasn't going to become some sort of pattern.

I closed my eyes for a minute and tried to remember how I got here this time and then it began to come back to me. I remembered the mission, chasing after Michelle, the Lancer device...and being shot. As I thought about how I'd been shot with a nemesis round, I was more than a little surprised at still being alive.

Then I remembered Susan and the condition I'd left her in. I felt a surge of worry rush through me as well as a tiny bit of hope. I'd left her on the edge of death and the odds of my desperate attempt to save her had been extremely small. She was probably dead right now but I didn't know and that not knowing sort of knotted up inside of me.

I remained in bed for about half an hour before someone finally came to check on me. A man I didn't recognize came in and stood there for a moment at the door, staring at me. He looked to be in his early to mid-thirties, stood about six feet tall though it was difficult to be certain from my position and he was athletic looking with muscles that looked lean and solid rather than bulky.

The man stepped further into the room and I could get a better look at him. He had dark blonde hair that was very unkempt and definitely not combed. His face was handsome but in a sort of nondescript way so he wouldn't really stand out much in a crowd. I also noticed that he wore a jogging suit that was a bit too big for him and added to his disheveled appearance.

"Bianca," the man exclaimed with a look of intense relief. "You're awake..."

"Who are you?" I asked suspiciously.

The man hesitated a moment and looked down self-consciously, not meeting my eyes as he slowly answered, "Susan."

"What?" I asked, blinking in surprise.

He looked at me and met my eyes, grimacing faintly before he repeated, "I'm Susan." Then he shook his head faintly before adding, "I woke up like this a couple hours ago..."

I just stared at this man in surprise, hardly able to even imagine that this man could possibly be the child-like Susan. Then it struck me that my desperate attempt to save her at worked. She'd been augmented again but with the Spartan core.

"You're alive," I exclaimed, my voice filled with all the relief I felt. "I thought..."

"They said that you did this to me," the man...Susan said almost accusingly. Then he gave a nervous smile and added, "They said you saved my life doing it...that I'd definitely be dead if you hadn't. Hell, they told me that it's a damn miracle that I'm not." He looked down at himself and chuckled weakly, "It looks like I'm the only person on the entire planet to ever be augmented twice."

I tried sitting up more and winced at the pain in my shoulder. "You look...different," I finally said a few seconds later. It sounded stupid to me but I wasn't sure what else to say.

"I feel different," Susan responded with a forced smile. He looked down at himself and then at me. "Of course, I don't need to tell you..."

I just nodded at that, remembering how awkward I'd felt when I was first augmented. It had taken me awhile to get used to what I'd become and even longer to really accept it. Fighting your own sense of self-identity was a real bastich and whichever part of you won, a part of you still lost.

"But thank you," Susan told me quietly, coming over and giving me a careful hug. It was very strange being hugged by someone who looked like a complete stranger though he was obviously very aware of this as well. "You saved my life. I'd rather be a guy than dead."

"And look on the bright side," I joked weakly. "You're an adult again."

"That is true," Susan admitted with a faint chuckle.

Then I looked up and sighed, "They grow up so fast these days..." Susan smacked me on my arm in response which sent a shiver of pain through my arm and shoulder.

It was at this point that Bob stepped into the room and gave Susan an odd look and then gave me one of relief. "I'm glad to see you're up," he said with a bit of a grunt. "For awhile we weren't sure."

"I'm kind of surprised I'm still here," I admitted, closing my eyes for a moment and remembering the certainty that I was going to die. "I got hit with a nemesis round..."

Bob nodded at that. He stared at me for a moment longer, looking as though he was trying to decide what to say. He finally said, "The nanocytes in nemesis gel only function for a minute or two after leaving the gun. Your nanocytes tried to fight them and managed to reduce the spread and rate of infection, but there was too great a concentration so they were able to do a large amount of damage before they deactivated. Some of the nanocytes got into your heart and lungs. The doctor informed me that you were probably only seconds away from having them damaged enough to kill you before the gel broke down."

"I didn't realize it was that close," Susan said quietly, giving me an odd look.

"They also said that you're damn lucky none of the nemesis nanocytes got into your brain," Bob told me with a grimace. "They said that if that alone didn't kill you, it could have left you with permanent brain damage or memory loss."

I stared at Bob and shuddered at that, realizing just how close I'd come. It sounded like my survival here was even more miraculous than when I'd survived being shot in the back by Gavin. I REALLY didn't want to have to go through this again. These close calls were really taking a toll.

"Dawson saw what happened," Bob said, looking at me and then Susan.

"Dawson?" I asked, then remembered that was the name of the agent that Susan and I had outrun while chasing Michelle.

"He caught up in time to see you shoot their agent and the Lancer," Bob told me. "And he saw you augment Susan...though he couldn't reach you until you'd both collapsed."

"So that's how you know what happened," Susan mused thoughtfully.

Susan and Bob stayed with me for about half an hour with Bob filling us both in on what we'd missed. Ms. Divine had died, as I'd expected. Unfortunately, we lost a number of good agents on that mission as well and there didn't seem to be much useful information in the mansion. Apparently, it had been a summer home for Ms. Divine rather than a main base of operations.

Then the doctor arrived and told my visitors that they had to leave so I could rest. Susan gave me another awkward hug before leaving with Bob. As I watched her leave through the door, I couldn't help but thinking that he had a nice ass.

I remained in bed and rested for several hours though I quickly grew bored and frustrated. After spending so much time in the hospital bed before, I was sure that I'd already used up my hospital allotment for quite a while. So I eventually climbed out of bed, wincing at the ache in my shoulder and being thankful that this time my legs were perfectly fine.

"It's not like I need this arm to walk out of here," I chuckled to myself.

Once I was out of the bed, I stood there for a minute taking several deep breaths and making sure I felt up to this. My internal organs seemed to have made a full recovery so it was just my shoulder that still needed to heal. That meant there was no reason for me to remain here any longer.

I left the hospital room and began making my way back towards my own quarters. I hadn't gone very far though before I saw Susan coming towards me, though I barely recognized him at first in spite of the fact that he was wearing the same sweat suit as before.

"You're up," Susan exclaimed with an expression that would have been one of cute excitement on a little girl but seemed just a little strange from a grown man. "I didn't think the doctor would release you quite this soon."

"Things change," I responded, trying to shrug until my shoulder reminded me that it wasn't a good idea.

"I was just coming to see you again," Susan told me as he stopped right in front of me. Then he paused and stared at me with a strange expression. "Damn this is weird..." At my questioning look, he explained, "You look kind of short to me...." He shook his head and gave me a self-conscious smile. "I'm so used to looking up at you...and everyone else. It’s almost like I've become a giant or something."

"I'd imagine," I responded with a chuckle, imagining what it would be like to suddenly gain nearly two feet of height.

I continued walking to my room while Susan walked beside me. Neither of us really said much though we were both very aware of the other and just how much things had changed due to Susan's new augmentation. I noticed that he was a little clumsy, bumping into things and not seeming to be fully aware of just how large he now was. He suddenly reminded me of a teenage boy who'd just gone through a major growth spurt and wasn't used to his own proportions. Of course, that was very true in a way since he had just gone through the mother of all growth spurts...much faster than any teenage boy I'd ever seen.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that after going through such a drastic change, Susan would have to get used to his body all over again. That meant he would have to go through a lot of the training I had when I'd first joined Court. He'd need to learn what his new body was capable of, how to fight with it, and how to use it to its maximum potential. And this time, I would be the one playing drill instructor and yelling at him to move it.

"Payback is a bastich," I chuckled to myself.

"What's so funny?" Susan asked me with a frown.

"You'll find out," I told him with a grin, actually looking forward to the training. I had a feeling that was going to be fun.

Part 39

It had been several hours since I'd checked myself out of the hospital and the doctor had not been pleased. But after some argument he decided that if I was well enough to walk out and then be a pain in his ass about it afterwards, I was well enough to be discharged. However, I doubted that anyone who wasn't augmented would have been given the same consideration.

At the moment, I was dressed in normal clothes again, having stopped at my room long enough to shower and change. However, I was with Susan in the cafeteria and he was still wearing the same sweat suit as before, borrowed I found out from Bob. Of course, he'd just woken up to his new body a few hours ago and hadn't yet been able to go shopping for some clothes of his own.

"This is really going to take some getting used to," Susan told me as he took a bite from the apple pie he'd grabbed for dessert. Of course, his entire meal had consisted of a slice of chocolate cake, a bowl of ice cream, and the pie so it was hard to really classify the entire meal as anything but dessert. "It took me long enough to get used to being a kid and I have a feeling that it's not going to be any easier adjusting this time..."

"It does have different complications," I agreed.

Susan shook his head and muttered, "I can't believe I've got a dick." Then he gave me a wry smile before admitting, "I'm kind of afraid to check it all out."

"You mean you haven't yet?" I asked, a little surprised since I'd been extremely curious about my new body right after my change. Of course, I'd been pretty nervous and freaked out about it as well.

"Not really," Susan responded with a sigh. "I haven't had much privacy yet...if you know what I mean."

I just nodded at that, "Yeah." Then to change the subject a little, I said, "I'm amazed you were able to grow so much so fast... I mean, you got so much bigger..."

"Tell me about it," Susan replied with a roll of his eyes. Then he added, "Bob told me that they had to stick me with an IV to give me all the nutrients and protein my nanocytes needed to add this extra mass." He scowled and began to pat his stomach which was quite flat and firm even after eating all that sugar. "I never imagined I could put on so much weight so fast." Then he added, "Apparently, if they hadn't done that...I would have burned out from the augmentation and died anyway."

"Wow," I gasped, suddenly imagining her nanocytes tearing apart her body for all the material and energy they'd need for the augmentation...only to burn out when there wasn't enough there.

Susan just grinned at me and said, "As it is, they said that the only reason the new augmentation took fast enough to save me was because of my core's...special features."

I stared at him blankly for a moment until I remembered that I'd given him the Spartan core...the experimental prototype which had been custom designed for the Judge. Since we'd expected to encounter a Prometheus agent with the Spartan augmentation, I'd been fully briefed on what it was capable though it still took me a second to remember what that was. Where my Ghost Fox core had been designed with infiltration in mind, the Spartan core had been created for endurance, stamina and survivability.

The Spartan augmentation was basically a military grade augmentation like a bob unit but taken a level further. The strength and pain control abilities were stronger than that for a normal augmentation but about the same level as for a bob. However, the endurance was much greater, due in part to the body being able to store extra nutrients and energy more efficiently and this also helped with the healing abilities. According to what I'd been told in briefings, Susan's nanocytes should be able to repair injuries fifty percent faster than any other augmented. Of course, Susan should also have a greater resistance to nemesis gel and be completely immune to neural inhibitors.

I wondered what Susan thought of his new capabilities...or if he'd even given them much thought yet. I had a feeling that a lot of this still hadn't fully sunken in yet. Of course, there was a possibility that the Spartan capabilities wouldn't live up to what was expected, but after seeing how well my prototype augmentation worked, I didn't think that would be the case.

We both finished eating and were leaving the cafeteria when Bob came in and walked straight towards us. "Ms. Adams would like to speak with you both," he told us.

"What for?" I asked, suddenly afraid that I was going to get a chewing out for using the Spartan core on Susan rather than recovering it intact. However, it wasn't like the Judge could use it anymore and if they wanted to give me shit for saving Susan's life, I'd gladly take it.

"I'm not sure," Bob admitted. "Probably a debriefing now that you're both up."

"That makes sense," Susan responded with a scowl.

Susan and I went to the briefing room and were both surprised to see that Ms. Adams was there by herself. She gave Susan an odd look with her one good eye then gestured for us both to sit.

"Where's the Witness?" Susan asked, looking around the room. "He's usually here for these briefings."

"He's busy with other things right now," Ms. Adams responded, giving a faint smile that I almost missed. "For now it’s only us."

For several seconds, Ms. Adams just stared at Susan then she began asking us what happened on the mission from our perspectives, though it was clear she already knew everything we told her from other people who were there. She nodded several times but looked especially interested when I talked about Michelle and how I'd finally killed her. My voice choked a little when I told that part, though I tried hard not to think of her as having been Mike but as having been that psychotic bastich who deserved death.

After Susan and I told our parts, Ms. Adams told us what we'd missed though for the most part this was information that Bob had already given us. She told us about how Ms. Divine died, about which of our agents had been killed, and about how Gavin had been taken away for interrogation.

Then Ms. Adams gave an evil smile and told me, "I heard about your threats to give him a slut augmentation and have been using that. We've been suggesting that we just might allow you to do so. He's been very cooperative as long as we promise to keep you away from him."

"Damn," I responded with a grimace. "I'd kind of been hoping to see him again." I clenched my fists angrily as I thought of that lying bastich and what I'd like to do to him. A slut core was only the start of it.

"Oh, I think we can allow you to watch some of the interrogations from the observation room," Ms. Adams told me with a faint chuckle. "However, we'll reserve your physical presence until we think he might be holding back. Trust me, I don't think you'll have to wait long for another chance at him."

Susan and I just looked at each other and then both grinned evilly. Then Susan mused, "I wouldn't mind seeing him myself."

"I can just imagine," I joked. "Let him see how you've changed and then tell him that you get to be first after his slut augmentation."

"That is just evil," Susan responded with a laugh while even Ms. Adams seemed amused, though she tried unsuccessfully to hide it. "I like it."

After a minute, Ms. Adams told me, "I know of your past with this Michelle Zubrecki, so be assured that she will be given a proper burial." Then the scowled more deeply and added, "The Fiddleback core was removed and sent to our researchers to assist them in recreating the prototypes."

I stared at Ms. Adams, realizing that this part wasn't easy on her. After all, the Fiddleback Core which had been implanted in Michelle had originally been custom designed for her. Unfortunately, she couldn't just take that core and use it herself now. Cores couldn't be recycled and once they were used to augment someone, they became completely useless to anyone else. In fact, once Michelle had died, her core had effectively died as well. The only thing it was good for was to tear apart in order to help figure out how it worked.

"What about the Lancer?" Susan asked with a deep scowl. He winced very slightly, probably remembering what it felt like being hit with the device and nearly dying as a result.

"Destroyed beyond repair," Ms. Adams responded with a grim look, giving me a faint look of accusation. "It would have been useful to recover it intact. We have researchers looking at the remains and they said that it didn't work quite how we thought."

"Oh?" Susan asked with a raised eyebrow in a way that probably would have looked cute in her old body though not so much now.

"From what they could determine," Ms. Adams explained carefully, "the Lancer was basically just a transmitter... We thought it attacked the victims nanocytes, but what it does instead is send a powerful signal to the core...a signal that they believe may mimic the one we've suspected the N'vash satellites could generate."

Susan and I were both silent for a moment as we absorbed that. After a few seconds, I responded, "That explains why it didn't work on me..."

My prototype core had been one of the ones designed for the very purpose of being immune from those kind of signals. That also explained why my gel gun hadn't been affected either when the Witness had warned us they probably would be. Gel guns were based off of augmentation technology but were much more basic and simple, such as not including anything that could receive a signal.

Just then, a woman's voice said, "I just got off the phone with the president."

I looked and saw the Judge had come through the door without my noticing. I didn't know how long she'd been standing there, listening to our briefing. She stared at Susan for a moment with an odd expression on her face, reminding me that Susan was implanted with the augmentation which had been custom designed for the Judge. Susan now looked exactly the way the Judge was supposed to have looked. There was a moment of awkward silence as the two of them looked at each other though they quickly looked away and pretended this wasn't strange for them.

"The president and I were talking about this very thing," the Judge said with a deep scowl that looked a bit like a pout on her sexy face. "She isn't any happier about this than I am."

"Well I for one am glad that she destroyed that damn thing," Susan muttered.

The Judge nodded faintly at that before saying, "The problem is what the existence of the Lancer means."

"What do you mean?" Susan asked thoughtfully. "We already know it’s dangerous for anyone whose augmented."

"There has long been suspicions that the N'vash satellites could influence anyone who has been augmented," the Judge said grimly, his eyes settling on me and then Susan. "That is the very reason we originally created the prototypes. The fact that the Lancer works in that particular fashion is confirmation of our fears. The N'vash could kill every augmented..." Then she paused to look at Susan and I again before correcting herself, "The N'vash could kill NEARLY every augmented with the push of a button."

"We still don't know what their intentions are," Ms. Adams said with a thoughtful scowl. "But this does suggest they have some sort of long term plans for us."

The Judge nodded at that then told us, "Fortunately, dealing with the N'vash is not our responsibility. There are other agencies who have been given that task. Our primary mission is the same as it always has been...dealing with abuses of this technology within our own species."

"Like Prometheus," Susan said with a shake of his head. "At least they don't have the Lancer anymore."

"We don't know for certain that this was the only one," the Judge pointed out. "And considering their hesitancy to use it in the open just yet, if they do have more, by the time we found out it might be too late. That's why we need our people working on precautions immediately."

"And it would be easier to built defenses if we had a working Lancer to test them again," Susan finished for him.

I grimaced, suddenly feeling a little bad for destroying the Lancer...though not much. It had definitely seemed the right thing to do at the time and I wasn't going to question it. Still, I could see the point in keeping something like that around even if I didn't like the idea.

"Who needs to worry about Prometheus getting control of the satellite," Susan muttered, "They just might have their own."

"There's no need for you to worry about that at the moment," the Judge responded. "We don't know for sure that they do still have the technology and even if they do, it would take some time to expand the technology to a large level and their normal goals would prevent them from using it for the near future. In fact, from what we know of their organization, such a large use would prove even more devastating to them than to us. No, this isn't something you need to worry about just yet and there are other people who are looking into it."

"If we take out Prometheus," Ms. Adams mused, "Then we can neutralize the potential threat before they are in a position to utilize it...assuming they still even have the technology."

"Then we'd better get back to work," Susan said grimly.

"Not just yet," the Judge told him with a faint smile. "You and your team have done an admirable job. In fact, you've been critical in damaging them as much as we have." She looked at me for a moment then continued in a gentle voice, "But your team has suffered in the process. Rest up, deal with your situation, and rebuild. We'll need you again soon enough, but for now, just focus on getting your team back to strength."

Then the Judge just looked at Susan for a few seconds and then me without saying a word. We both looked back and there was a moment of understanding between us. All three of us had something very important in common, something that few other people could truly understand. We had each gone through an unexpected sex change and were having to deal with what it meant, not just physically or socially, but what it meant for our very self-identities. After a few more seconds, the Judge nodded slightly before turning to leave the room.

Once the Judge was gone, Ms. Adams returned to the briefing though all the interesting parts had already been covered so all that was left were boring details. As I listened, I absently considered that maybe I should have stayed in my hospital bed a bit longer so I could have avoided this.

When we were finally finished with the briefing, Susan and I got up to leave. I slapped my arm around his shoulder, once again thinking of how strange it was having him be taller than me. "You heard what the Judge said," I told him with a grin. "We have to rest and adjust..."

"Easy for you to say," Susan responded with a snort.

"Yes it is," I agreed cheerfully. "I've already done the adjusting part... But REALLY need a new wardrobe."

"Tell me about it," he responded, looking down at his borrowed sweat suit and frowning. "I can't wear a single thing I own..."

"Then a shopping trip is just the thing," I told him with a chuckle. "It should be relaxation and helping you adapt at the same time..."

"I don't know," Susan protested weakly. "I don't think I'm ready to go out in public like this..."

"Don't be such a little girl about it," I teased him, getting even more into the spirit of this. "It will be fun..."

"Maybe," Susan responded hesitantly. "And I definitely need new clothes..."

"That's the spirit," I said. "There's something else you're gonna need too...a new name."

Susan paused with a look of realization, probably not even having considered that yet. "You're right again..."

"Of course I am," I teased him. "You can't very well keep using your old name... I mean, who ever heard of a boy named Susan?" Then as he was about to protest, I decided to rub it in just a little more. "And since you got to choose my new name, I think it’s only fair that I get to choose yours..."

Susan gave me a look of near horror and sighed, "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"

"Because you're smart," I responded with an evil grin.

Susan just shook his head and continued along with me, muttering, "Damn, I need more sugar to deal with this..."

Part 40

I stood in front of the mirror as I carefully touched up my lipstick, smiling faintly when I was finished. At the moment, I had a slight tan and I'd darkened my hair into a golden blonde. I was also wearing black capri pants, a nice red blouse which showed off my cleavage, not to mention a few pieces of jewelry including the ruby pendant that Susan had once bought for me.

"I look damn hot if I do say so myself," I mused with no false modesty.

After admiring my reflection for a few more seconds, I turned and walked away. My stiletto heels clicked on the floor with each step, announcing my femininity and heralding my presence in a way that amused me.

There was a handsome man standing in the middle of the next room, wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt and unwrapping a sucker. Susan...or Steven as he'd renamed himself might be an adult again, but that didn't stop him from acting as immature as he thought he could get away with. He'd been patiently waiting for me to finish getting ready, probably aware of the irony that at one point he'd been the one to make his dates wait.

"Hey Kojak," I greeted him with a smile, using his new code name. He'd chosen his own new name though I had managed to choose his new code name for him. However, I'd been teasing him that he would have to shave his head so it would be even more fitting. "How do I look?"

"Very nice," he responded with an appreciative look before he came up and gave me a kiss.

It had been four months since Susan had nearly died and had been reborn as Steven. It had been rough on him at first but Bob and I both helped him adjust to his new situation and he'd done so very well. Eventually, he even started to notice women so I took advantage of the opportunity and seduced him. It hadn’t really been very difficult.

Steven and I had been lovers now as well as best friends for nearly three weeks, and they were three very enjoyable weeks. Since we were both augmented, that meant we were capable of going for much longer than normal people, especially since Steven had an augmentation specifically designed for stamina and endurance, features which carried over to other things besides just fighting.

And as I gave Steven another long kiss, I could feel the prominent bulge in pants which reminded me that some parts of his body had been augmented even more than others. He'd been very self-conscious about his size downstairs at first, but he'd definitely come to appreciate it. A small part of me felt a little jealous since he was much bigger than I used to be, but that was a small part and overshadowed by the much larger part which fully enjoyed it.

Of course, the last four months had been busy with much more than just Steven and I adjusting and becoming lovers. Work has been very busy as well, though not quite as exciting or ground breaking as the events prior to that. We had done some serious damage to Prometheus but we hadn't killed them off entirely. In fact, it would probably take several more years to do that, though we have made more progress in gathering information about them...including the identities of two people we strongly suspect to be on their leadership council.

Dorian Harrison is a high ranking executive of GCA, a relatively powerful position in the augmentation business. However, our sources suggest that he might not actually be Dorian Harrison at all...but his own wife who’d given him a slut augmentation and then augmented herself to steal his identity.

The other suspected Prometheus leader was an influential U.S. senator. Between the two of them, they were well placed and had a lot of powerful friends so we couldn't make any obvious moves on them until we had a little more than just suspicion. Of course, that didn't keep us from watching them very closely or from more subtle activities.

While the jury had been investigating the Prometheus leadership, they also found the real identity of the now departed Ms. Divine...or at least the Witness believed it was her real identity. Claire Devonshire had been a mid-level employee of Advent International, a woman with a brilliant mind and a lot of ambition, but also very plain looking, petite, and often overlooked.

Devonshire used their N'vash augmentation unit to create a second generation unit and then manipulated the paperwork and records to hide this fact. She began creating and selling third generation units on the side, creating many of the black market dealers that we've had to deal with since. Then she got even greedier and began siphoning money from Advent directly, hiding her theft the same way she'd hidden her other dealings, though less successfully. When Devonshire was found out, she conveniently died in a car crash before being apprehended...and none of her stolen assets had been found. Advent had been embarrassed by the thefts and tried protecting their reputation by covering it all up and pretending it never happened.

The Witness believed that Devonshire faked her own death in order get away and then created her own augmentation, one designed to overcompensate for her previously plain body and having always been overlooked. There was enough evidence to suggest that this was the case but not quite enough to actually confirm it.

The Witness had also recently told us that there was no evidence yet of Prometheus having another Lancer, though that didn't necessarily mean anything. Regardless of whether Prometheus had another Lancer or not, our own researchers were still working on the technology.

One of the things our researchers were working on was being able to use the Lancer technology as a way of removing unwanted augmentations. This could be invaluable for helping victims of slut or brute augmentations.

The premise was simple, hit someone with a Lancer pulse under controlled conditions and immediately implant them with a new core. This was an application that the Judge was particularly interested in...for obvious reasons.

The Judge had adjusted to her new body quite well, though I suspected she would change back to a man as soon as the opportunity was available. I on the other hand, had absolutely no intention of ever going back...even if that technology would work on me...which it won’t. But of course, this whole procedure still had a long way to go before it was usable and by then the Judge may decide to stay female as well.

Our researchers, in coordination with researchers from another agency that doesn't exist, are also working on ways to deal with the Lancer technology...and N'vash signals. I don't know much about the research other than that they are working on ways to shield from the signals as well as ways to jam them.

Of course, our researchers were extremely busy lately since they'd also been working on recreating the prototype core technology. They were only a couple months away and then we'd be able to augment more agents who would be immune to N'vash and Lancer signals as well as had a few extra tricks up their sleeves. In a way, I was looking forward to it because Court would become even more effective, yet at the same time, I couldn't help but feeling disappointed that Steven and I would no longer be quite so unique.

They Judge had mentioned the idea of one day sharing some of the prototype core technology with the big three augmentation companies as a way to make sure that anyone they augmented was immune from N'vash or Lancer influence. Of course, she also pointed out that this wouldn't happen until they could also make sure some of the extra features of those prototypes would be kept secure at the same time. As the Judge said, there was absolutely no way she wanted some spoiled Hollywood star to walk around with the power to kill people with just a kiss.

Just then, Steven kissed me again and distracted me from my thoughts. I could feel equipment hardening in his pants as he pressed up against me. My own body immediately responded, growing very excited and wet.

"We should probably get going," I pulled myself away from Steven with some effort, wishing we had time to satisfy our desires. "The others are waiting on us..."

"You're right," Steven responded, stepping back and then sticking his tongue out at me as though he were still a little kid. "Party pooper..." Then he put his sucker in his mouth and gave me a look that very much did NOT belong on a kid.

I shook my head and tried to contain my smile as we left to go meet up with the rest of our team, Bob and Morgan who were also getting ready for our latest mission. Of course, this mission was a little different. Bob and Morgan would be playing security for Dorian Harrison while Steven and I played the part of a married couple who just became neighbors at his vacation home where he was going to be staying for the next few weeks.

“Two weeks of us being mostly alone as husband and wife,” Steven whispered in my ear. “I can’t imagine a better mission.”

“Me either,” I responded with a smile.

Then Steven broke the romantic mood by muttering, “This time I won’t have to wear a girl scout uniform.”

I chuckled at that, remembering that in spite of how he looked, inside of Steven was still the same mischievious little girl who’d been my best friend. However, I couldn’t resist teasing him, “Not unless you want to get really kinky.”

Steven just laughed and told me, “Maybe this time I’ll make you wear it…’

I just smiled as we continued on our way while Steven listed other outfits he thought might be fun to have me wear. I couldn’t help but thinking of how much I loved my job, my body, and my life. I wouldn’t give any of this up for the world.

The End

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