TG Universes & Series:
“Yeah,” Agent G answered his phone, still half asleep.
“This is a Code Critical.” The dispassionate voice on the other end announced.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. None of the characters, places, or anything else is meant to be represented by anything in reality. Duh! Fiction, get it? I the author reserve the rights, so please don't go posting this anyplace else without my permission. A very special thanks goes out to Cathy who spent the time to make this story readable. Another round of thanks goes out to all the others out there in BCTS land who have encouraged and inspired me to write and keep writing. Any remaining mistakes are all mine.
Residential dwelling of Agency employee
“Yeah,” Agent G answered his phone, still half asleep.
“This is a Code Critical.” The dispassionate voice on the other end announced.
“Agent M will meet you at the plane which is being prepped.” Without another word the line was disconnected.
Those words ran ice water into his veins. Someone using a MAU had created a clear and present danger to the public and the United States.
Five minutes later, he was half-dressed and dragging his pre-packed bags out the door behind him. This was one of few times he was glad he lived alone. He had no wife, children, or a lover that needed explanations or amends. Thankfully with all the traveling the job required, he kept a set of everything he needed ready to go, a holdover from his military days.
Twenty minutes of driving like a madman had him through the checkpoint and at the plane. He had the pleasure of seeing M just as disheveled as himself. She was a far cry from her usual professional perfection. Her dark brunette hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she was without makeup.
Unfortunately, she had also beat him to the plane. It wasn't that he hadn't expected it given the way she drove. It was that just once he wanted to get here first even if he wasn't surprised.
However, it was all of why their partnership worked so well. He had the military angle covered while she held the civilian point of view. G was comfortable with weapons, and she drove like everyday was the Indy 500. He was intimidating, but she was everyone's confidant. The reasons why they were so effective together just went on and on.
The plane started rolling even as the airman closed the hatch. Seating themselves, he saw M had a red ribbon sealed Top Secret folder under her arm.
G grunted. The courier from the office had probably met her as soon as she arrived. It was truly a pain in the keister that the Agency kept no computer records. It made for a perfect storm of too much information and not having enough eyes to look at it which was compounded by not being able to sort the data by computer.
For about the hundredth time, he cursed Wiki-leaks and all other hackers. In their drive to expose the government's dirty laundry, they were instead putting everyone at risk. If they truly knew, they would be hiding under their beds or worse, even more of a problem.
They barely got their safety belts fastened before the plane leaped into the night sky.
As far as he knew there had never been a Code Critical before. Lesser emergencies came and went, but not this one. At least no one had ever admitted it to him. The Agency was so security crazy the left hand had no idea there even was a right hand, much less what it was doing. They took paranoia to a new level.
However, despite the wacky rules they did do some good. Helping people with the bizarre changes they inflicted on themselves was a challenge and a half. G could see where people could get into trouble. Here they have the power of the gods dropped into their laps, but only for four days and nobody bothered giving them the owner's manual. It was the crash back to Earth that was hard.
The radical changes the Boxes could bestow were unbelievable. Most people simply played with the MAU's and didn't deliberately design a body that was as close to a superman as they could. That was why one of the special fears of the Agency was someone using it for power and personal gain. The Typhoid Mary case had been bad enough, which was why he was almost afraid to see what was in M's folder.
Pulling the privacy curtain, the Air Force sergeant knew the drill. Classified materials were treated seriously. However, he wondered what caused the muted strangled, “What!”
Shrugging, he got to his seat. Reaching into his flight bag he pulled out the latest issue of The Avengers. Sometimes it was better not to know. Besides it was going to be long flight and he'd been looking forward to this issue for a very long time.
Urban Hell Acres
Sleepily he answered the phone.
“Wake up!” Danny excitedly demanded. “They just left in Steven's Jag XK. It's still early enough most everyone is still asleep except for the Sunday schoolers who have already left. You have an hour before anyone else really starts moving around. Now move it!”
Adrenaline poured though him. It was time. Even as stiff and sore as he was from yesterdays jumping practice couldn't dampen his excitement. Using care, he stretched working out the muscle kinks.
“I'm up.” He said, putting on his Blue-Tooth headset and getting dressed. Instead of the black clothes he'd planned on wearing last night, Griffin decided on dark gray sweats. He knew from all the hunting with Grandpa Joe that should stand out less and blend in better than the black.
A long minute of listening at the door, assured him that Chris and his Mom was still abed. Putting on his ski styled hunting mask and his gloves, he crossed the room to the window. It soundlessly rose thanks to him using it so often to sneak onto the roof. Soon he was outside, keeping low to prevent the early risers from seeing him as he reached the edge.
Griffin looked at the six feet separating his step-father's house from their neighbor, 'The Perv.' From his practice yesterday he knew he could clear almost a foot more than that. Hell, he could almost step across it.
However, right now, it looked as wide as the Grand Canyon.
“Okay Oracle.” He breathed out heavily. “I'm at the edge.”
It was do or die time. All of his and his friend's dreams were on the other side of that divide.
“Good.” Danny's voice replied over the headset. “Just remember what you practiced yesterday and you'll be fine. However, be sure to give me an update after you jump, just in case.”
“I'm overwhelmed by your confidence and compassion.” Griffin muttered as he couched low, swinging his arms preparing to leap.
A second later he was flying across the void.
As soon as his feet touched, he leaned forward to compensate for the roof's slope. That was a little too much as he fell forward. His feet slipping out from under him, Griffin slid feet first towards the edge.
Panic had his hands grabbing wildly for purchase on the roofing tiles. Relief flooded him as the gripper pads on his biking gloves stopped his movement.
“Griff!” Danny insistently asked, “Are you alright? Speak to me!”
“I'm fine.” Griffin sighed. “It wasn't a good landing, but I'm on the roof.”
“Well,” His friend reported. “The coast is still clear, but the clock is ticking.”
“I hear you.” He replied, standing up. “I'm moving now.”
It took him a little longer than he liked, but he was still shaky from his near fall. Getting to the tree that was his way down, Griffin grinned under his mask. Maybe he wasn't much of a jumper, but he was a champion tree climber. He was down on the ground in nothing flat.
The barking of a dog signaled the next challenge.
“Hey Puddles!” The Dalmatian Brian had gotten from the rescue shelter was a little confused when she tried to lick his face, but ran into trouble from the mask. Slipping her a doggie treat, Griffin smiled as she happily ran off to enjoy her bribe.
“Nice trick with the dog.” Danny congratulated.
“Yeah.” Griffin said, “But it could come around to bite us. There's only a handful of people that Puddles reacts well to, and I'm one of them. However, there is just so far I'm willing to go in this deception. I won't abuse an animal much less poor Puddles. She was treated bad enough by her previous owner, a real ass.”
“Just remember that when the Terminator comes gunning for you and there's no Kyle Reese to bail you out.” Danny half-joked.
“Who needs a time-traveling soldier when I got the Oracle backing me up?” He rejoined.
Griffin breathed relieved. The MAU was still there and appeared to still be active. Reaching into his bag he placed the makeshift cut up garbage bag privacy screen up to prevent anyone from doing what he did and seeing the display screen and his real face while he used the Box. Next he got out his cheat sheet, listing in order everything he and Danny had thought of to request.
From the bones out he reminded himself. Placing his hand on the red crystal, his image appeared. The first change was a biggie. Himself into a metamorph. Griffin had read a story about a plausible biological basis for a human shape-shifter. Shapers were what the book called them. They had an organ that released a hormone mixture that signaled parts of the body to return to a primal, stem cell state. Usually, it was adaptive like rapid changes to the environment such as tanning to prevent sunburn or growing tougher skin to resist scratches, but the Shapers in the book learned how to use it for a lot of other things. He, however, needed more control of the talent and for it to be more natural because he just might not have time to deal with a learning curve.
It was still a good thing that they could also accelerate their ability to learn, as well as changing their appearance. Slow changes were better, particularly when bone was involved, because transforming that hurt, even when you took it nice and easy. Soft tissue was much easier, but rapid changes there could be painful too. Additionally, they could heal very quickly. Maybe not as fast as Wolverine from the comic books, but fast. To put the icing on the cake it was suggested they could be very long lived as well as healthy, given the Shaper organ reset the cell's telomere chain, which was thought to be a part of aging.
However, the best part was they were still human and only a MRI or perhaps a X-ray could tell they were different. The machine seemingly paused for a pair of breaths, as the image adjusted itself. If they were right about how this thing worked, that was a good thing.
His face mostly looked the same, but his body was much more slender and androgynous. Griffin actually looked sixteen, not twenty.
Next came his clothes. He stole parts of Danny's Symbiont idea and embellished it based on yet another story he'd read. Normally it appeared to be just underwear, however it could also alter itself into any kind of clothing and accessories, like wigs and such, since Shapers couldn’t spontaneously grow hair. Additionally, it provided protection like the very best bulletproof armor, as well as the environment and was even able to function as a spacesuit for a short time-period. But of course he also made certain it could enhance his physical characteristics such as strength and speed plus some nifty tricks like Spider Man's wall-crawling thing.
Griffin adjusted the clothes in the display to disguise his new slimness, as well as replacing the ski mask. Outwardly, he would still look exactly the same as before he entered the booth.
The image didn't even flicker this time. Next came the headset and glasses combo. These would change form too, going from normal looking glasses to a hi-tech visor that put Cat-Woman's from the movie to shame, letting him see across the spectrum as well as function like a Heads-Up-Display for tactical purposes. Functioning as the primary interface between the other gadgets he was designing, they were the visual display, camera, headset, and could even read his brainwaves and sub-vocalizations to help determine his desires. That, in theory, would let the user direct and make selections without having to talk or making any visible gestures.
Then came his phone which he greatly upgraded. In all practical aspects it would become a Next Generation Star Trek tricorder, but with even more extras, although it still looked like his old phone. He added a few hundred magnitudes of more number crunching power with a Quantum computer along with a JARVIS, 'Just A Rather Very Intelligent System,' as an assistant and helper. It also had some of the functions of the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, like an universal translator and other nifty stuff. Carefully he made certain that it could interface with everything else, like his glasses and the other components to come.
Next was the other half of the Sonic Screwdriver, the tool component, but without the sonic stuff. He preferred his tools to be noiseless. Looking like a fountain, or slightly oversized, pen, he called it a Servo like out of many rip-offs of the Doctor's famous instrument. This one was an all purpose tool too, as it projected a small tractor beam that could work as any conceivable tool from a hammer, to a ratchet wench and everything in-between. It could even weld. Just to push the envelope, it could form the most basic of all man's useful implements, a knife or in this case a force-blade. The science-fiction device used that tractor beam of force, but turned it on its side, so to speak, making a cutting surface that put plasma cutters and the like to shame. To make it perfect, Griffin made certain the blade would be visible for safety purposes or change in spectrum where only he could see it with his visor.
Of course he couldn't forget to add a flashlight to it too!
Checking his list, Griffin visualized the next gadget, also from a SF story. The Universal Survival Kit. In reality it was a miniaturized nanotechnology factory. As part of an alien pilot's emergency supplies, it would let them live darn near anywhere. From a vacuum safe shelter, to a one or two man transportation, it was the last word in versatility. In a pinch, it could repair or recreate all his other gadgets, as well as serve as the power recharge unit for them all.
That part was like a Mr. Fusion from the 'Back to the Future' movie, needing only some form of liquid with hydrogen in it to produce a enough energy to power a small town or a Flux Capacitor. Additionally, since the whole unit was very dense and compact, it was able to expand to quickly form shapes, as well as make things from local materials, it was quite heavy. To solve that, inside was a pair of anti-gravity generators to make the unit easy to tote and provide the 'engines' for the vehicles it could form. Yes, you'll believe a teen can fly!
Also like everything else, it could change its appearance to blend in and fit into his daily life without anyone noticing.
The alien machine actually had to work at that one, the longest yet, taking about five seconds, but it seemed to work, showing a backpack appearing on his image.
Next came Danny's Dr. McCoy pill. Concentrating on the zip-lock baggie, and its DNA, he was happy to see a pill bottle with a tablet inside appear on the display. His friend’s symbiont came after that. Again with care he went over each and every feature, as well as how it should work.
The last item was sorta like the survival kit, but instead was a nanotech mini-hospital. Griffin couldn't keep himself, from adding some additional functions. Being organic oriented it could do everything from repairing any kind of injury, to providing food and breathable air. Of course it had the JARVIS-like Doctor for the interface with its patients. Just for the heck of it, the unit could plug into the survival kit which could make a set of powered exoskeleton which, in kind, connected to the symbionts and the other gadgets he'd envisioned.
“Hey!” Danny interrupted his train of thought. “How are you doing? It's getting close to 45 minutes. The going-to-church people are going to be out and about soon.”
“Coming along fine.” Griffin reassured his friend. “Just give me a few more moments to fine tune this, and run a double check. Don't worry we're doing just great.”
“Aren't we girl?” He rubbed Puddles' ears as she sat next to him, watching what he was doing.
Danny reminded him of something else he had to make dead certain of. None of the methods they had of healing his friend could conflict with each other.. Although any of the three could do the job alone, if any of them worked, they would seamlessly complement each other.
Then he smiled as his image gained another backpack while he created another set of his gadgets for his friend.
“Okay. It's crunch time.” Griffin announced as he pressed the purple crystal that opened the door.
“Fingers crossed at this end.” Danny nervously acknowledged.
“Me too.” Griffin stepped inside. “There are two more crystals inside. Another purple one is on the wall and a larger amber one, which is about a foot across, is on the ceiling. I'm guessing that the purple one shuts the door and starts everything. Probably going to lose the connection so don't freak alright?”
“Yeah.” Danny's voice wavered, “Lose contract, don't freak. It's still clear out, but some people are starting to move about. I've seen one car leave so far, so there will be more soon.”
“Engaging.” Griffin pressed the crystal.
The door vanished as the yellow crystal turned red bathing him in its intense light. Once again it didn't look right, as if he could only see part of the real colors.
Just as unexpectedly, the red color was gone and the door had returned.
Checking his back, he smiled seeing that both backpacks were there and attached together by their snaps and loops. His smile got broader as he saw they were dead matches for their existing packs.
“I'm finished.” Griffin let his joy show. “I think it worked, but now I'm headed out.”
“Good!” Danny rejoiced. “Still no sign of the Dynamic Duo, but people are moving. Your neighbor across from you, is walking to his mailbox for the morning paper.”
Griffin took down and packed his privacy screen away while carefully looking for signs that could reveal he'd been there. Then he walked to the back of the yard where Brian had the thickest of his roses and other bushes. Once mostly out of sight in the foliage, he used his visor.
“JARVIS, I need an reactive camouflage poncho.” He asked, not knowing what would happen.
“Yes sir.” His computerized assistant acknowledged, forming the distorting material.
Despite wanting to, he kept from jumping up and down in excitement as his smart clothes did as he asked. After giving Puddles a friendly good bye pat as she sniffed him to see what he was doing in the rose bushes, it was time to go. Placing a hand on the top of the seven foot fence, he vaulted it as lightly as if it was a third of that height.
Using that as his strategy, he hopped the other fences separating the tightly spaced houses, hoping to confuse anyone trying to track him as he went back and forth, working his way back to his house. Being able to boost himself as needed was a blast and a half. Before, he'd always felt like a lumbering elephant, but not now. Getting back to his room was a little more difficult, but he made it just in time.
A knocking at the door, had him hurriedly sliding the packs under his bed.
“JARVIS,” He sub-vocalized. “Activate jammie mode.” Quickly, he slipped his visor off as they changed into the likeness of a pair of sunglasses.
“Mommmm!” He complained jumping into bed just in time, as the door opened. “I'm up. I'm up”
“Up all night gaming?” She accused gently, but he could hear her humor. Dressed for church, she looked as high society as Chris could desire in his bid to appear perfect because of his political ambitions.
“It wasn't that late.” Griffin defended himself. “Danny and I had a life or death mission we had to complete. It had a time limit and we only got one chance at it.”
“Did you get any of that studying done?” She asked, crossing her arms skeptically.
“Yes,” He said honestly. It was the truth because in his cramming session he'd reviewed several subjects that he didn't know that much about. Danny should be a doctor with all the knowledge he'd absorbed, not only about his 'burden' as he called it, but the medical field in general.
“That was the reason I was up late.” He bent the truth more than a little. “We got a late start on the gaming because of the studying.”
She gave him an unfathomable expression. “You're not Little Griffin any more are you?”
“No Mom, I'm not.” Again he answered her truthfully. “But I'll always love you.” He hugged her.
“We'll come up with some way for you go to college.” She said, softly. “I know Chris is being unreasonable, but you're too smart not to have your chance to shine.”
“It's alright, Mom, really.” Griffin replied just as quietly. He understood that this was for just his and her ears. “Once I can work full time, that and the scholarships should take care of everything.”
“It's not alright.” She replied, with a sad sigh. “I should be stronger.”
“Things are what they are.” He held his Mom. “I'll survive and so will you.”
“Chris isn’t that bad.” She defended her husband.
“Like I said, Mom.” Griffin told her again. “It's alright. It's only two years and besides, I have a chance to take classes that I would've missed other wise.”
He had a very reliable feeling that Chris had wrapped up his Mom in the prenuptial agreement from hell. In all reality she really was trapped, but she had also chosen this life.
“Such as?” She asked, as if not believing him.
“Well,” Griffin smiled, “French, to go along with the Spanish from my old school and the Latin Grandpa Joe taught me. I'm looking forward to reading the untranslated works of Andre' Dumas this summer.”
Okay he was fibbing a little. It was Grandma May who had taught him French. She'd been a translator and linguist with the State Department in Vietnam. That was where she'd met Grandpa Joe. He still found the French class useful, since it helped refine his skill.
She pulled away, returning his smile, “My son, the scholar. Your Father would've been so proud of you. “
“Grandpa Joe,” Griffin blushed slightly. “Used to say the same thing.”
“You look so much like him, but you're not him.” His Mom's eyes were far away lost in memories. “He never could sit still, your Father. In a lot of ways you're more like your Grandfather; always, so curious about any and every thing.”
“Grandpa Joe, “ Griffin said, trying to ignore the stinging in his eyes. “Always said he was a real Renaissance Man, but Grandma May would just smack him and say Old Fool.”
“That too,” She said, hugging him. “You miss them don't you?”
“Yeah,” he admitted a tear tickling down his cheek. “But it was their time to go. Grandpa Joe would've hated being bed ridden, and Grandma May just couldn't live without him. Like you, she told me she just wasn't strong enough for me, but I knew her heart was telling her to go.”
“That's how I felt when your Father died.” His Mom began her own tears. “I felt as if all my anchors were cut and I was adrift in a storm. I can see now that my marrying Chris wasn't the best thing for you.” She sadly explained, “But he gave me something I could hold onto. While we were dating, he never seemed to object to you, but after we were married everything changed. I should've known better.”
He simply held her. Going over old family dirty laundry never helped anyone or anything. Griffin had told her he didn't like her new boyfriend and had objected to the marriage, as had his Grandparents. They could tell there was something not right about the man.
She looked up at him as she wiped her tears away. “Let me go repair my face, but promise me you won't spend all day inside gaming.“
“Today will be the first day of the rest of my life.” Griffin felt as if the entire future was laid out before him running over with limitless possibilities.
Playfully she hit him on the shoulder as her eyes narrowed. “Just make sure you do, Mister smarty-pants.”
“I promise.” Griffin's smile was as bright as the morning sun.
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