I was crying. I could no longer speak. All I could do was cry my heart out over the loss of my life, my dreams, my friend, everything. All the intrigue, all the danger, all the running, and fighting, and everything else from the last few weeks just came rushing in on me all at once, and all I could do was cry.
“What the hell can I do, Jerry?” I tried to continue through my tears. “I'm so tired of all this. I just wanna go back and be me again!
We got all the prisoners tied up and stuffed them into a couple of the SUVs, with the rest of us taking two more. Two of them were totally wrecked, and we just left them there after searching them thoroughly. All the time we were doing all that, I was thinking about Jerry's tirade and what it might mean, to me, and to the others. Also, if Jerry went rogue, we'd have to hunt him down and that wouldn't go well, I knew.
As if I didn't have enough to worry me! On the way back to town, things were pretty quiet. Everyone had heard Jerry's outburst, and I'm sure they were thinking about what they'd have to do as well. It was pretty grim inside that SUV.
When we got back to town, we found crowds of people everywhere, all talking at the same time, apparently trying to find out what the hell was going on in their, formerly quiet town. What with tornado sirens going off, and cars screeching into and out of town, and cops running all over the place with weapons drawn, well it was a panic scene.
I had radioed in and told the Chief that we were headed his way, and he had a couple of cop cars escort us the rest of the way into the center of town. We took the SUVs into the narrow driveway leading to the back of the police station and, when we parked them, we began unloading people and weapons.
The Chief was appalled by the amount and the numbers of weapons we unloaded.
“Christ on a crutch! There's enough firepower there to start a small war! Who the hell are these people, and how in the hell do they get access to fully automatic arms like these?” He remarked.
“I don't know much more than I did when we left town, Chief.” I replied. “But you can bet your ass I'm gonna have much more info before this day is out! First though, we have to deal with a personal issue that's come up suddenly. Would you and your officers mind taking care of these mercenaries while we handle that?”
“Man! This jail hasn't been this occupied in years, but of course I'll lock them up! I have the entire force on high alert, and anyone who tries to get these guys out, or take us on again, is gonna be in for a big surprise. With all this weaponry, we could hold off that small army I mentioned before! Don;'t you worry Donnie...er, Donna. We'll hold the fort til you and your friends get your issues settled. I hope everything works out for the best.”
“So do I, Chief.” I said, shaking my head. “So do I. Thanks Chief.”
I turned and walked out into the outer offices where Jerry was waiting, somewhat impatiently.
“Okay Jerry.” I said. “Lets go talk.
I was dreading what he'd have to say, but we had to do this and get it settled. My heart was aching, knowing that this could end badly, and I could lose a lifetime friend. Worse than that, I would have to be part of hunting him down, and bringing him to justice, if he went the way I was afraid he might.
We walked a way out of town, and sat down on a creek bank. It was a nice place and Jerry and I had fished for panfish here when we were little kids. When we became teens, we brought our girlfriends here for some quiet, semi-innocent making out.
“Okay, Jerry.” I began. “It seems you've got something on your chest and there will be no better time than right now to let it out. I'm hoping that what you were saying out at the sanitarium was just adrenaline talking?”
“No Donna.” He replied, cutting me off. “What that was, was me coming to my senses. We've been chased and shot at. We've been hidden away and we've had our families taken to some god-forsaken place somewhere out west! We've lost our girlfriends, our families, our lives, damn it, and I'm sick of all of it! Maybe worst of all, we've lost the friendship we had! It's changed, Donna, and you know why! You've been floundering around, trying to ignore the fact that you are a girl now, and there's no escape from that! Look, I just want to get away from here...a long way away from here! I'm sick of trying to be what you want me to be! I'm sick and tired of playing second fiddle to you, Donna! Even now, when you're a girl, you're still dictating to me, telling me what to do and when to do it! It wasn't so bad when we were both guys, but now it's like you think you're a grownup, and you treat me like some kid!”
“Jerry, Jerry!” I broke in. “That's now how it is at all! I'm only trying to get us all out of this and find a way back to normal for all of us!”
“Bullshit, Donna!” He hollered at me. “I'm just as old and just as mature as you are, and I'm not gonna take it anymore. Not from you, or Jim, or Penny, or any damn body! I'm gonna go back there and beat the truth out of those guys til I find out the name and location of the sonofabitch who sicced them on us! Then I'm gonna go find him and beat the crap outta him, and show everybody that I'm all done being messed with! You have been fooling around, crying over the fact that you're not a guy anymore, and that's led us into running away instead of standing and fighting! Well, let me tell you something, DONNA! You are a female now! Probably forever, and no one can change that! Accept it and move on, for shit's sake! Quit hiding from it! Unless Dr, Fine, if he ever wakes up, knows how to get you outta that suit, you're gonna be a girl for the rest of your now, very long life!”
I just sat there on the verge of tears, listening to my very best friend holler at me, berate me, and generally try to make me feel like I'd tried to dominate him of something. Finally the dam broke and I lit back into him!
“God DAMN you, Jerry! You think this is easy for me? You think I'm just fooling around? Who came up with most of the plans to save our asses? Who went charging in and initiated the fight it took to capture these sons of bitches? You stood around and acted like some kind of big kid! So impressed by the way you look now, and what you can do! Transformers my ASS, Jerry! Wolverine my ASS, Jerry! We ain't no damn superheroes you idiot! We're just a couple of kids who got caught up in some shit we never should have been any part of! You can go on and have a normal life! I'm stuck being every guy's damned wet dream! I wanted to get married some day, to a nice girl, and settle down with a good job and raise a family! Now what can I do, huh? Go fall in love with some cute guy and have babies with him? I don't even know if I can do that, and I damn sure don't want to have to! I'm a GUY, Jerry, in case you've forgotten that! I'm stuck in this damned thing and I can't get out! You can get out! You can go back and live your dreams! What do I do, Jerry? What the hell do I do?”
All of a sudden, I was crying. I could no longer speak. All I could do was cry my heart out over the loss of my life, my dreams, my friend, everything. All the intrigue, all the danger, all the running, and fighting, and everything else from the last few weeks just came rushing in on me all at once, and all I could do was cry.
“What the hell can I do, Jerry?” I tried to continue through my tears. “I'm so tired of all this. I just wanna go back and be me again! I just want....I want...oh hell! Jerry, I can't even talk about this kinda stuff anymore, without crying, for shit's sake! This damn suit is changing me! It's making me a girl, Jerry, and I..I...I don't want to be a girl!”
“Oh Christ, Donna!” Jerry broke in. “Get the hell over it, willya? There ain't nothing you or I can do about it, except accept it! But you don't have to take it out on me by treating me like a little kid! I hurt for you too, but there's nothing I can do about what's happened to you! I can't change it, I can't make it all go away, I can't even help you with it, because you won't let me! Every time I've tried, you pushed me away like I was some kind of pervert or something! That, along with everything else, has made me very, very angry, Donna, and I can't take this anymore either. I'm getting out of here while I can. Now that I know I can get out of this suit, I can lead a normal life, and maybe, just maybe, find Jerry the normal guy again. I'm sorry for you, but you won't let me help and you won't accept the inevitable, so there's nothing I can do for you. You're just gonna keep on attending your own pity party until you go crazy or something. And I can't stay here and watch you do that to yourself. Best of luck to you, my used-to-be friend. I hope you find some kind of peace. I just can't deal with you and your self pity anymore. If you ever find yourself, and adjust to your situation, post an ad or something in the local paper. Maybe I'll get hold of you.”
He touched me briefly on my shoulder, then he got up and walked away from me, going back into town. I just sat there, lost in tears, and hate, and sorrow, all at the same time. I tried to get up, but I just collapsed on the bank of that pretty little creek, and cried.
I don't know how long I lay there, lost in sorrow. It must have been quite awhile, because the next thing I knew, Penny was holding me in a tight hug.
“Honey, it'll be okay.” She was saying. “We'll talk to Jerry and make things okay. Please don't cry. I know it hurts. I know your whole life has been changed and you hate it, but I'm here for you. Jim, Paul, and Terry are here for you. Your family loves you, no matter what, and they're out there for you as well.”
“B...b...but Penny!” I wailed. “My best friend just walked out on me! He..he...he left me here and walked away, like I was somebody he doesn't know anymore and doesn't care about! I..I...I don't know if I can do this anymore. I just wanna go somewhere and lay down and give up.”
“Oh, Donna.” Penny replied. “I know, honey, I know. I want this thing to be all over too! I want you to get out of that thing and go back to regular old Donnie, and marry your sweetheart, but we have to deal with what is, not with what we want things to be. What is, means getting to the bottom of these mercs and getting that settled, once and for all. What is, is getting Dr. Fine well enough to find out if there still is a way to get you out of that suit. What is, is getting things back to as near normal as possible. Don't you think I miss my family? My life? Don't you think Jim misses his family and life? Sweetheart, I wish none of this had ever happened, but it did, and the only chance we have of putting things right, is by completing what we have to do.”
Penny just held me and talked, softly, to me for a long time. It was just us there. The rest stayed away, giving Penny her chance at getting me back on my feet and back into the game. The trouble was, I didn't know if I wanted to play the damned game anymore. I didn't want to have to be a girl any more, and yet, the suit was making me more female with each day that passed. I felt things I'd never felt before. I cried much more easily. I was coming to depend on the others instead of on myself. I was so much more emotional than I'd ever been, that it scared me, but the suit was trying to take care of that as well, pumping hormones into me, and changing the way I thought, the way I felt. I knew that was happening, but I couldn't stop it, and now Jerry, my best friend, was walking out on me and on everything else....and I couldn't quit crying! Penny picked me up and began to carry me back to town, murmuring things to me all the way. She kept up a patter of meaningless conversation all the way back, where she put me into a bed at the police station and covered me with a blanket.
“Sleep, honey.” She whispered to me, while softly, gently stroking my hair. “We'll try to get things straightened out when you wake up. In the meantime, Jim and I, along with Paul and Terry. Will try to get what information we can out of these mercs, while Doc Jamison works on Dr. Fine. Close your eyes and try to sleep. Right now, I think you need sleep more than anything else. Let the rest of us handle things for awhile. Shhh now. Don't talk, Just sleep. Shh, honey. It'll be all right, you'll see. Sleep, Donna.”
She kept that kind of talk up until I actually did fall asleep! What happened while I was asleep, has been told to me by the others.
Jim and Paul took on the interrogation of the prisoners, and apparently weren't too gentle about it. Several of them were wearing bandages they weren't wearing when I'd last seen them, when I did wake up. Penny and Terry began searching the internet for anything on this mysterious scientist who hated Dr. Fine, and who was behind all our troubles. They made phone calls. They searched files. They managed to get access, somehow, to stuff that the ordinary citizen had no business finding out.
Meanwhile, Doc Jamison was making some headway in getting Dr. Fine conscious. It seemed that he had been drugged nearly all the time since the lab accident, by others hired by his enemy. They were planning on shipping him out when we had showed up back in town, so we spoiled that plan.
Even The Chief was busy, getting things back in order in town, and lending whatever help he could give. He had some connections in the law enforcement community, and he used them to try to help in the information gathering.
They even got a name for this mysterious scientist. Dr. Charles had worked with Dr. Fine from the first finding of the power/battlesuits were found aboard that crashed UFO in the Nevada desert. They had disagreed on how to reverse engineer the suits and on how to best use them. Dr. Fine was determined to turn the research and the suits, over to the government, but Dr Charles got greedy and tried to steal the prototypes. He got caught and was expelled from the program, and from employment by the agency in charge. He plotted against Dr. Fine and spent a great deal of his personal fortune, trying to get the suits, only to be thwarted, first by security forces, and then by us. He sent team after team after us and the suits, hoping to take them by force if he couldn't get them any other way.
Apparently he was monitoring every test of the suits, somehow. When the accident at the lab happened, he saw a chance to take the suits, not knowing we still had the two we were wearing. When we stopped them, he got more and more angry, swearing to take the suits, even if he had to kill us all to do it. I guess he didn't think we could do much to stop him, but he found out differently after our first run-in.
Anyway, according to the prisoners, he was located somewhere in upstate New York, in a secret lab under his mansion. That's right, his mansion. Jim and Paul; actually got pretty explicit instructions on how to get there and where this 'mansion' was located. I guess they were very persuasive when it came to getting information from people who didn't want to give it.
I slept for most of the evening and into the night. My dreams...well, my dreams all centered around being trapped and changed against my will, and people leaving me, along with some really strange stuff I don't really remember. People who claim to know how to interpret dreams would probably have a field day with what I dreamed, but all I got out of it was sadness and helplessness.
I awoke at around 6AM the following morning, and for just a second, I looked for Jerry. Then, what happened the day before came rushing back into my mind and I started to cry again. Just a little bit of sniffling that slowly increased to a full sobbing cry......or at least it tried to. After just a few seconds, I noticed that, even though I wanted to cry, something was preventing me from doing so! Before too long at all, I stopped crying altogether, and began to think again, but what I was thinking was, 'What the hell happened there?'
I sat there, trying to figure out what had just happened, but just then, the door opened and Penny looked in.
“Oh! You're awake. How do you feel honey?”
“I feel kinda okay, but I just got freaked out a couple of seconds ago.” I replied.
“Why? What happened, Donna?” She asked.
I explained, as best I could, what had happened, and I saw a look of concern come over Penny's face. She came in and sat on the bed, taking my hand in hers.
“Donna,” she began, “I'm not going to sit here and tell you that things aren't going to be very different, for and for all of us. I know how disoriented and confused you must be right now. You feel as if your entire life and future have been taken from you and you're angry, frightened at the prospect of having to live your life a whole different way from what you had always planned. I'm not going to harp about the fact that half of the world is female and we do just fine, thank you. I'm sure I'd be just as scared and confused if I suddenly became a guy, against my will or want. What I will say to you is, what's happened, happened, and we can't change it. Maybe, maybe, Dr. Fine will know of a way to get you out of that suit, but I wouldn't count on it.”
She paused for a minute or two to gather her thoughts and then continued.
What I do know, for a fact, is that you and Jerry are great kids. You two have handled this weirdness better than anyone I know could have. Of course there are going to be 'freakouts' from both of you. I expected them, and so did Jim. What's amazed both of us is how well both of you have been doing, dealing with all your changes. We both expected to end up being a combination of babysitters, and prison guards. Instead, we ended up becoming your friends!”
“Penny,” I interrupted. “I feel the same way about you, Jim, and Paul, but what about Jerry? He's basically told me to get lost! We've been buds forever and now he just walks out on me, on us, on everything? This has been tough enough on me, but I dealt with it by knowing that, whatever happened, Jerry was gonna be there for me! Now he's gone! I..I...I don't know if I can do this anymore if he's not gonna be right there with me!”
Penny started to answer that, when a commotion outside the room interrupted her.
“You people have no right to hold us! We ain't done nothin'! I want a lawyer! And how about some food you small town hick sheriff? None of us have eaten since yesterday!” is what I heard one of the prisoners protesting at the top of his lungs.
Then I heard the Chief answer, saying
“Shut the hell up you piece of crap! We've got all of you on so many charges, I can't even count them all! You'll eat when I say you eat, and not one damn minute before! As for a lawyer, I called several yesterday. There ain't one in this town that wants anything to do with any of you. You don't get it, do you? You jerks tried to kill kids from this town! You interfered with their lives, their families, their businesses, and everything! You'll be lucky if you get outta here alive! Now shut up! One more word outta any of you and I'll tie and gag the bunch of you!!!”
'Way to go, Chief.' I thought to myself. That cheered me up just a little, and I made a move to get out of bed, but Penny stopped me, gently pushing on my chest.
“You just stay right there, honey. I'll go get you something to eat and drink. You still need to rest and get your thoughts together. Remember, you aren't alone. You've got me, Jim, Paul, Terry, your folks, and a lot of others on your side, and we'll all help you as much as we can. Now just relax. I'll be back in a few minutes with some breakfast for you.”
Well, I took her advice. I really did have a lot to think over, and I still had a mystery to solve, as well as trying to get us all out of the situation Jerry and I had put us all into.
I decided to try to find out more about the suit by accessing the HUD displays. Maybe there was something in there that would help me, or everyone. I concentrated and pulled up the initial displays, which were just basic operating instructions for the suits. Nothing there. I started going into the sub-programs, looking for anything that might tell me something, anything! I kept searching until I found a file that was closed to me! I played around with it, trying to find a password, or key phrase, or something that would let me see what was in there, but all I got was some weird story about some guy who saw a spacecraft crash in the Nevada desert and who was supposedly on the run from everything and everyone, taking along some strange technology he found on the ship, picking up some new friends along the way, trying to get to Los Angeles! It seemed really goofy, and incomplete, and sort of perverted until I thought of my own situation, and then it began to make more sense.
What if this was a log of some kind that was inserted into the suits? What if it wasn't just a story? What if the ship in the story was the same one the suits had been found in? All of a sudden, the door opened and in came Penny, with a tray of food. I jumped up, almost dumping the tray right out of her hands! I had to talk to Dr. Fine right away!
Stay tuned. More to come. I need your comments, folks. How'm I doing? Want more? Don't like where it seems to be headed? TELL me!
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