Masks 13: Part 5

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Masks Thirteen: Chapter Nine


Rodford Edmiston

"So, have you had your first period, yet?" said Alex, as a freshly-showered (Finally!) Vic got back to their room.

"That's a pretty personal question," said Vic, in an irritated mutter, as she searched in her sock drawer.

She found what she wanted and sat on her bed to pull on the tube socks.

"A) Scientific curiosity, B) I saw you putting your hygiene products away, remember and C) we're rooming together so I qualify for fair warning if I have to help you deal with it."

"Okay," said Vic, wincing. She temporized by pulling on her right shoe and starting to tie the laces. "Yes. It's been over four months, so of _course_ I've had periods."

She glared suspiciously at the younger, smaller girl, as she reached for her other shoe.

"Wait. Didn't you know that, already? You seem to know a lot about me."

Alex struck a stereotypical "Who, me?!" pose, then became more serious.

"I knew you'd been a girl for a while, but not exactly how long," said Alex. "I knew it was a few months, 'cause I knew you missed the last few weeks of your senior year. I also know you apparently age regressed. Given those and other unknowns, you might not be physically capable of menstruation, yet."

"Well, I am," said Vic, unable to avoid a grimace of distaste. "I won't say I'm an expert at dealing with it, but I haven't had any major problems, yet. In fact, I seem to be one of the lucky ones, and have less intense than average symptoms. It's still a messy, smelly embarrassment."

"Welcome to the other half of the human race," said Alex, with a wry laugh.

"Now, tell me something," said Vic.

"About what?"

"Tell me about this school. I've been in such a rush the past week I didn't have time to do much research beyond the minimum needed to decide if I wanted to come here, and then what I needed to know to apply."

"Oh. Okay. It's a young school as colleges go, moderately successful, but hasn't done great. Mainly because it was meant to take advantage of Detroit being so nearby when it was built. Keeps getting bought by this company or that foundation and held for a few years while they try to make it bigger, more profitable, more respected, or whatever. Then they give up and someone else takes it over. Despite all the changes of ownership it hasn't changed much, until now. The latest owner - Dorton Industries - is a small, very diversified corporation which bought the school two years ago and has poured a shitload of money into this place."

"I noticed," said Vic, nodding. "So, is there a Dorton?"

"Maxwell Dorton. Millionaire recluse. Supposedly made a bundle in the Seventies supplying high tech equipment to the government to help fight the Cold War. There are rumors he's a super, himself. Either a gadgeteer or a mastermind of some sort."

"Which would explain his interest in helping supers," said Vic, nodding some more.

"Who says this is to help you?" said Alex, with an impish smirk. "Other rumors say he's studying you folks to build more and better high tech. If only by watching what the gadgeteers like Don do."

"Wait... Don's a super?!"

"I told you that," said Alex, tipping her head to one side a bit and thinking. She nodded. "Yeah."

"No, you didn't."

"Regardless, what's next on your agenda for today?"

"Meeting with my guidance counselor. I'm mainly just trying to complete my high school senior year right now, but even for that he should be able to help me."

"Where's your map? I can show you..."

"Why? I can read it as well as you can."

"I can optimize your path and..."

"I can read a map," said Vic, firmly. "I also have an excellent memory."

* * *

Dr. Edwin Hoskins turned out to be younger than Vic expected, but once the introductions were over he proved competent and businesslike.

"Your grade transcripts show that you were doing well, but not spectacularly so," said Dr. Hoskins. "I'll get with you later to schedule some tests to see if you can skip any of the required high school and freshman courses. I hope you can, because I believe you actually need to add some different things to this semester and the next."

"I can change classes this late?"

"It wouldn't work for the college level classes," said Dr. Hoskins. "However, the remedial classes are under assigned, so there's plenty of room to add students."

They spent over an hour discussing and planning out not only the next year but Vic's entire college syllabus. Naturally, the further in the future they planned, the less detailed they could be. However, both were satisfied they had a strong framework with distinct and realistic goals. Vic left the counselor's office with a heavier starting class load than originally planned, but actually quite pleased. The revisions would result in a much more solid foundation for starting an engineering degree the next year. Even though Vic wasn't sure just yet which type of engineering to pursue.

When Vic returned to her dorm room Alex was gone. Vic felt a small pang of guilt, and hoped she hadn't offended the little genius.

The day had already been a busy one and it was only late afternoon. Vic decided on a nap. Naturally, no sooner did she close her eyes than Alex came buzzing back into the room.

"Oh, hi! You were gone a long time..."

"...and you got bored," Vic finished, grinning.

"Am I that predictable?" said Alex, startled.

"For some things."

"So how'd it go?"

"Pretty good. He certainly sold me on the school wanting to give me a good education. He also scheduled me for some tests and evaluations to investigate my powers in detail, though the first of those won't be for three weeks."

"So you got everything you wanted?"

"All the regular classes. I have to get permission from the head of the PE Department to take martial arts instead of gym."

"You have to take gym?"

"Yeah. There's a PE requirement to graduate high school. If they'll let me take martial arts - even sports instead of self-defense, which is what I'm trained in - that'll meet the requirement and I should do well."

"You'll still have to shower with other girls at the gym," said Alex, slyly.

"Thanks for reminding me," said Vic, in a stage mutter.

"No, seriously. It's fantastic."

"You've been a girl all your life. I've been a girl for four and a bit months."

"You'll get used to it," said Alex, firmly.

* * *

At supper that evening Vic met several more of the super students, including Angel. Vic was startled to see that several of them were wearing costumes. Most appeared to be home-made - and exhibited varying levels of skill - but a few seemed to be professional grade. The costume wearers and a few others also introduced themselves by a mask name, sometimes with their birth name appended but sometimes exclusively.

"Vic, eh?" said one rather muscular and perpetually beaming young man who preferred to be called Objective. He wasn't in an actual costume, but his jeans and t-shirt were tight enough to clearly show his bulging muscles. Vic strongly suspected that was quite deliberate. "That must be short for Victoria. An impressive Mask name. I hope you can live up to it."

"Actually, it's short for Victor."

"Eh?" said Objective.

"She used to be a guy!" said Alex, cheerfully.

Objective stared at Vic for several frozen seconds. Then suddenly looked to his right and stood.

"Oh, there's Teddy. Excuse me, I need to talk to him."

He grabbed his tray and quickly walked off.

"Not the most graceful of exits," said Angel, sliding her tray down the table and dropping into the recently vacated seat. "You really were a guy?"

"Uhm, yeah," said Vic, who had only revealed her full first name to try and get rid of Objective. She tried to look at the other super without staring at her wings, and was mostly successful. "Alex told me you didn't have wings until your powers activated."

"Beautiful, aren't they?" she said, looking over her right shoulder as she carefully spread them. "Too bad they're useless."
"You can't fly?"

"Nope. I can sort-of glide, but just can't pump enough air fast enough to lift off."

"Oh..." said Vic, not sure what else to say.

"Would you believe I got them because I caught an avian virus?"

"After what I went through, I'd believe anything," said Vic, sympathetically.

"My Dad and I are licensed raptor rehabilitators. One of our golden eagles was sick, with a mystery virus. While I was tending him he nipped me. Then I got sick. He got well. I got well, and started growing wings. He stayed an eagle. My hair also turned from brown to blond."

"Weird," said Vic, startled. "Uh, I hope that wasn't offensive."

"No, it's appropriate. _I_ think it's weird."

"Many viruses incorporate DNA from the nuclei of the cells they take over to make more viruses," said Alex. "The one which infected you could have easily had the instructions for making wings and copied that into your cells. If you had the right super genes, the bird genes would have filled in a gap, and guided your change, and even have triggered your powers to develop."

"Yeah, they explained all that," said Angel, nodding.

"What other powers do you have?" said Vic.

"Extremely good senses," said Angel, as she popped the last bite of a roll into her mouth. "Especially vision. A little faster, a little stronger, a little taller and leaner, even. That's it."

"We think the only real power I got was healing," said Vic, commiserating. "That because of that, I have better senses, I'm a little stronger, a little faster... and a little _shorter_."

Angel laughed, which was a rather pleasant sound.

"From what I've been hearing the other supers saying, none of us here really won the jackpot. Objective is a low-level general physical super. Hover can - barely - levitate. Trapper has super accurate aim. Speedy Sue - the only girl I know who can talk faster than Alex - can hit just over a hundred kph without a vehicle. Apparat Chick is a pretty successful gadgeteer, already has some patents. Capacity has some pretty impressive electrical powers, but he needs an external source to charge. Those are the only ones I know of for sure."

Vic nodded. She hesitated a moment, then leaned forward a bit to speak confidentially.

"I'm noticing something odd. Many of the super students here are acting like they expect to be trained in how to become masks. That's not what this school is for."

"Yeah, that'd be the Pine Island Academy," said Alex, just as quietly, nodding in agreement, "and they're mostly for middle school and high school kids. Though they've been making noises about a college-level program, maybe in cooperation with an existing college."

"I know," said Angel, barely suppressing a giggle. "You should hear some of them, see some of them, parading around like something out of a bad TV show."

"They're in for a big disillusionment," said Vic.

"Maybe not," said Alex, with a shrug. "They do have criminology courses here. I don't know what you need to go into law enforcement, but those would surely be useful for detectives and such. So, maybe those students can organize their courses to pursue a crime-fighting career."

Chapter Ten

Vic had no trouble getting to sleep that night. Though there was a minor amount of noise from the building around them - mostly from students socializing - both Vic and Alex got to bed at a reasonable hour. Vic was relieved when the hyperactive little genius crashed before she did.

The next morning meant more paperwork, as well as personal meetings with several of the teachers. Vic had long since memorized the map, and used her errands as an opportunity to correlate what was on it with reality.

As it turned out, getting approval from the head of the PE Department to attend karate instead of gym was neither easy nor routine. The person of interest was the same burned-out, gravel voiced man Vic had seen at the bus the day before. His name was Dr. Vince Cargraves. Vic found herself waiting on the edge of one the campus' outdoor basketball courts for the man to finish harassing some freshmen. Several others were also there for the purpose of speaking with Dr. Cargraves. Vic got the distinct impression he was not an easy man to talk to, in any sense of the phrase.

"You're one of the super students, right?" said one young man, to Vic, as they waited. "I'm Melvin Garadino. Call me Mel."

"Vic," she replied, shaking hands a bit awkwardly.

Vic assumed that Cargraves would deal with his petitioners in a first come, first served basis. However, once he turned his attention to those waiting it turned out that the most aggressive were dealt with first. Vic remembered her promise to show restraint, clenched her teeth and waited patiently. Finally, the old man looked at her.

"Now, what do you want?"

"I want to take the martial arts class, in place of gym."

"Who are you, now?"

"Vic Peltior."

He thumbed through the sheaf of papers on his clip board.

"Oh, right. I don't really see any reason to make the change."

He let the papers fall back and started to turn to the next person.

"I want in the class!" said Vic, quickly. "I've been in martial arts for several years and I want to continue."

He scowled, obviously not liking having his decision protested or challenged.

"You sure you want to take the martial arts class?" said Cargraves, pointedly. "Positions are limited, and there are students here who would be far more suitable."

"I want to keep in practice," said Vic, a bit confused by his objections. She _knew_ there were women in the martial arts classes here.

"We really don't want to waste our limited resources on someone who won't make an effort, wouldn't stick with it."

"What makes you think I wouldn't?" said Vic, starting to get angry. "I made black belt last year. How is that not sticking with it and making an effort?"

"I hear you dropped out of your high school," said Cargraves, with a slight sneer. "Did you think your powers meant you didn't need an education?"

"I didn't drop out," said Vic, hotly, "I was expelled for being a super. Won the lawsuit over that, too."

"Did I ask?" yelled the man.

"Yes, you did!" said Vic, irritated. "This isn't boot camp. I'm paying to come here for an education. Not be insulted by some R. Lee Ermey wannabe. I want in the class."

The man's face turned red and his mouth opened and closed several times. Abruptly, he spun around and stomped off. Much to the annoyance or even dismay of the few still wanting to speak with him.

"I think you broke him," said Mel, with a smirk. He gave Vic an odd look. "Listen, you're a super..."

"Yes," said Vic, tiredly.

"Why would you want to be in the regular karate club, when there's a special super martial arts class you can get credit for?"

"There is?" said Vic, startled. "Dr. Hoskins didn't mention that. Neither did Cargraves."

"Well, they may not have known; this has been pretty rushed. It's a college-level course - actually, a series of them, but all taught by the same instructor - so he may have thought it wasn't appropriate."

* * *

Vic was tired that evening, but the sort of tired where she wanted distraction, rather than rest.

"So, what's happening on campus tonight?" said Vic.

"Nothing organized," said Alex. "However, if someone has their door propped open it's an invitation to come in and introduce yourself."

"I still haven't met even everyone on our floor," said Vic, swinging her legs off the bed. "Let's go!"


* * *

That evening started out as girls-only socializing, but soon turned into an impromptu fashion show. As well as something else for Vic and Alex...

"What do you think?" said Cindy, striking a pose she obviously thought was heroic. "I'm going to call myself Tigerl!"

"Girl, I can give you a gee-wye-en exam from here!" said Candy, not impressed. "Aren't you supposed to at least wear a g-string under that stuff?"

"That's optional, with this Aerocloth."

"It's... very revealing," Vic confirmed, staring. "What's with the waist cape?"

"A brilliant fashion touch!" she said, proudly. "Aerocloth is special! You have to lube your body, get someone to spray the stuff on, then wait for it to cure. _That's_ revealing."

"I don't know if costumes in general are banned," said Vic, "but I'm pretty sure that one will be."

"What are you talking about?"

"It's too revealing."

"No," said Cindy, with a quick shake of her head. "What do you mean about costumes in general? I thought they were required."

"Why would they be?"

"This is supposed to be a superhero school!"

"No, that's the one on that island, near Bermuda," said Alex. "This school is a regular technical college with some extra stuff for supers."

"But... but... but..."

"Why do you think you're the only person here parading around in a costume?" said Vic. "Well, there are a few others, mostly guys, but..."

The girl collapsed onto her bunk, looking devastated.

"My parents lied to me!" she wailed, tears streaming.

There was a long, awkward silence. Then Vic, Alex and the other visitors started sneaking out.

"That was painful," said Candy, in a completely unsympathetic tone.

"I can't believe she's been here three days and only just now..." said Alex, fading to silence.

"I'm tempted to just go back to our room," said Vic.

"No, no, come on down to my and Melanie's room," said Candy, taking them by the arms. "She's a super, and is wanting new victims to show off her powers to!"

The subject room was the last on the right at the end of the hall furthest from the center of the building. As with Vic and Alex, Candy was a non-super rooming with a super. Melanie turned out to be a strikingly tall athletic blond with a deep tan. She might have been a surfer. Vic was instantly in lust.

Introductions were made all around, with Melanie being genuinely interested in Vic's powers.

"...and that's about it," said Vic. "So, uh, what can you do?"

"Watch this," said the girl, her voice almost a purr.

She struck a pose, and her skin changed color and texture.

"What do you think?" she said, proudly.

"You look like a human lobster," said Alex.

"A lobster who can stop bullets!" said Melanie, proudly. "Not to mention lift a delivery truck! Hang on, you're not getting the full effect."

She quickly stripped out of her straining clothes. Vic was startled at first, but figured that with that hard shell on she didn't really need them. However...

"Why do you still have nipples and ripped muscles?" said Vic. She only remembered to blush after she said it.

"The shell follows the shape of my skin," said Melanie.

She grinned and tapped herself in the chest, producing a rather solid sound.

"I haven't done this outside my room since getting here; didn't want to scare people."

"Can you pee like that?" said Alex.

"I can't take you anywhere," said Vic, with a snort.

That brought some laughter.

"Yes, actually."

A newcomer stuck her head in the door.

"Hey, have any of you... Whoah!"

"Welcome!" said Melanie, grinning. "Come on in."

"Melanie? Is that you?"

"Who else would it be?"

"I remember you talking about your powers, but seeing it..."

"Folks, this is Harriet," said Candy. "Yet another super."

More introductions, and again Vic had to explain her powers.

"C'mon," said Melanie, in a daring tone to Harriet, as she struck a pose. "You've seen mine. Show us yours!"

Harriet smirked and matched Melanie's pose. Her skin changed color to roughly match the color of Melanie's and took on a similar smooth texture.

"You're a power mimic!" said Alex, excitedly.

"No, I'm a low-level shapeshifter with lots of experience in makeup, costuming and modeling."

She shifted smoothly into a near duplicate of Candy.

"My former boyfriend is an artist," said Harriet, her voice still the same. "We entered a body painting competition at a local night club."

She laughed.

"Boy, did my parents freak! Anyway, we won! That started a career. Only, he got kind'a intoxicated with the fame. A half a year later we broke up and I started modeling for a company that does a lot of fun stuff, including body painting. During one show we were 'way behind, and I kept getting shuttled from one airbrush station to another. Only, they noticed that I was already mostly done, so they sent me to the next station after just a touchup. I wound up being the first one to go on stage, and was a big hit. Later, backstage, I relaxed... and found myself mostly naked, with just a few dabs of paint! That's when I realized I was a mutant."

"Powers are hereditary," said Alex, absently.

"Yeah, I had a great-aunt who could change her hair color at will."

"So stop calling yourself a mutant."


"Mutation is the opposite of heredity," said Vic. "So, you can change your skin color and texture?"

"More than that! Watch!"

She began peeling off her t-shirt.

"Whoa!" said Vic, scandalized.

"Hey, we're all girls, here," said Harriet, smirking. "Otherwise I'd have to charge you."

"Yeah, but my roomie and I like girls," said Alex, leering.

"Well, who doesn't?" said Harriet, a bit puzzled. By now she had stripped as naked as Melanie. Or perhaps moreso. "Okay, watch."

"Hey!" said Vic, startled. "You have no nipples."

"Oh! Silly me. I get rid of 'em so I don't have to wear a bra."

Her nipples and areolas suddenly appeared.

"So you can change your shape, too?" said Alex, fascinated on multiple levels.

"Well, mostly the texture. Though you better believe these babies," she indicated her large, unnaturally perky breasts, "are augmented with my mutant powers!"

"Not a mutant," said Alex. No-one paid attention.

Harriet struck a pose, and her skin turned deep blue and her hair red. Then her skin took on an odd texture.

"Oooh, I love those movies!" said Alex. "Do Nightcrawler next!"

"Okay, but I can't change my fingers or toes."

Her imitation of that character was less perfect, but still passable at a distance.

"Yeah, yeah, you're a shapeshifter and an exhibitionist," said Melanie, in a good natured ribbing. "Can you lift a truck, though?"

"You're like one of those mimic octopi," said Alex, getting up and walking slowly around Harriet. She frowned. "Octopuses?"

"Just, please, don't call yourself Octopus or anything like that," said Vic, rolling her eyes. She laughed. "People might expect your powers to include squirting ink."

"Eeww..." said Harriet, grimacing and reflexively turning back to her base state.

"Do... do you shave, or is your bare look due to your shifting?" said Alex, obviously excited.

"Well, I can shift my hair in a pinch," said Harriet, briefly turning herself bald, "but I normally shave."

She smirked.

"All over."

"I think I better go," said Vic, standing with some difficulty.

"What's wrong?" said Harriet, suddenly concerned.

"She used to be a guy," said Alex, smirking.

"Huh? Oh! That's what you meant by liking girls!"

Vic nodded and headed for the door. Harriet grabbed her arm as she went by.

"Don't go. I don't mind." She laughed. "I was joking about having to pay."

"So why are you here?" said Vic, trying to get her mind off the naked woman. Women, actually, though Melanie looked more like someone in a modern, fiberglass, movie superhero costume.

"Oh, I plan to cash in on my powers," said Harriet, with a shrug, as she gathered her clothes, "but I can earn even more money with better control. I figure folks here can teach me how to use them better."

"Can you grow fur?" said Alex, eagerly.

"Fur..." said Harriet, blankly. She suddenly took on an astounded look.

"You know, this is Candy and Melanie's room," said Vic. "We should pay some attention to our hosts. Socialize and stuff."

"Hey, I'm straight, but I'm just as fascinated as you are," said Melanie. "I mean, yeah, I can do things she can't, but being able to be whoever you want... That's fantastic!"

* * *

"My panties are soaked," said Vic, with a groan, later, back in her and Alex's room.

"You're not the only one," said the younger girl, her voice sounding strained. "The worst part is, she doesn't even know she's doing it."

"Don't you believe it," said Vic, flatly. "That innocent act is just that. She enjoys the feeling of power she gets knowing she's an object of arousal. Even from other women."

"Do Jung next!" said Alex, with a laugh.

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