Weave of Life
After the excitement of that morning the rest of the day was a letdown: more lying in bed, with intermittent exercise. That evening, however, Theo received his promised walker. After some instruction with that he was allowed to go to the bathroom on his own. The next day, after he demonstrated his capability with the walker, Dr. Wessner let Theo try moving outside the room; he made several very slow trips up and down the short hall beyond his door. Several days of augmented healing and therapy had left Theo able to stand on and even shuffle around with his previously damaged leg. His new right hand was also becoming useful. Both still needed much more work.
"Healing is more than just regrowing damaged tissue," said Dr. Wessner, actually wagging a finger at his patient as Theo sat on the edge of his bed while recovering from his exertions. "Right now you're past the stage where regeneration will help significantly. You now have to exercise in order to build both muscle tone and nerve pathways. However, starting from this sound foundation, you will make much more rapid progress than someone with only normal healing."
"That's nice," said Theo. "I'm bored. In fact, I'm more than just bored. There's only so much entertainment in exercising. The TV is all news and weather and reruns. Oh, and fitness programs. I've read everything available which isn't a medical text, and even some of those."
"I'll see what I can do," said Dr. Wessner, with a laugh.
What he did was issue Theo a series of guides. For the next few days they escorted him - slowly - around areas of the medical compound for two hours a day. The escort was there not only as a guide and potential assistant in case of trouble, but to keep Theo away from other augmented people. There were no ID badges here, no way of telling the players apart unless you already knew who they were.
One particular location quickly became a favorite of Theo. This was the gallery which ran along the top of the wall at one end of the gymnasium where the augments trained. Watching - from a safe distance - the Third Class augments break Olympic records as a routine part of their training was entertaining. Watching the Second Class augments go beyond human limits was amazing. Watching the First Class augments do impossible things was... intimidating.
"Who is that?" said Theo, startled, as he watched a woman with flowing silver hair use pieces of equipment few of the other augments even approached. His guide today was Phil something, a young, very well-built physical therapist who seemed to have a bad case of augment envy. Among other clues, he was both full of trivia about the augmented people here, and eager to share that knowledge. "If I'm reading that right, she's doing a clean and jerk of over twenty tonnes!"
"That," said Phil, smiling, "is Edna Kistiakowsky, aka Spidersilk. The most physically powerful human on the planet. She's also one damn fine woman, if I may be excused for saying so. Wait, you can see that setting from here?!"
"Yeah. The regeneration cleaned up my eyeballs. Dr. Singh says I have twenty-ten vision in both, now."
The augmented equivalent of a nautilus machine was essentially the reverse of a large hydraulic press. It could be equipped with several different attachments for various exercises. Using the thing pumped up a high-pressure hydraulic reservoir. This stored pressure was used to spin a turbine which in turn drove a generator, which actually supplied a small but significant portion of the electrical power used on the island.
"She was a hippie in the late Sixties. A real flower child. Her commune got hold of what they thought was a new type of LSD and tripped out on it. Now she can bench press a tank. Oh, and her physical age is stabilized in the mid-twenties. Even though she was older than that when she triggered."
"Wow..." was all Theo could say.
"She's in our Security division. Usually as a bodyguard."
"Those must be the safest bodies in the world," said Theo, with feeling.
"Well, next to hers," said Phil, with a laugh. "As much as I hate to stop watching her, you need to keep moving. Come on."
"Okay, okay," said Theo, though he repeatedly looked over his shoulder as he shuffled away.
* * *
By the end of the week Theo was able to get around almost normally, and ditched the walker for a cane. Using the walker had strengthened both his leg and his new hand, and using the cane would continue this progress. He still needed to work them, but could now do so as part of a more normal fitness regimen. He would also still be under the guidance of a personal trainer. All field agents were.
Another change was that he moved from a hospital room to a bungalow. This was equipped with the basics, including clothing and some food for the kitchenette. Since he was already on the payroll, he could afford to finish the job of making his new home livable. There were several small shops on the island, and what they didn't have could be ordered.
Living in my own place on a tropical island, thought Theo, as he got settled in. Already the time he had spent mutilated and in hospital bandages was receding from his awareness. Not bad.
Of course, it wasn't all a lazy idyll. Just now he was in his new bathroom changing into arguably the strangest garment he had ever worn.
After several days of discussion, Sir Roger and his consulting board of experts on augmented humans had approved a program for testing Theo's powers. This quickly revealed that once he understood what was happening, Theo could feel the proximity of another augment and choose not to copy them. That meant he was now free to walk anywhere around the island not specifically prohibited. It also meant that his training in the use of his powers was cleared to start. His first lesson was with Sandra, just an hour after breakfast, since he already had experience with her powers. This left Theo experiencing a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
"You ready?" said Sandra, smirking, as Theo finally emerged from his bedroom into his combination dining room and living room.
"Do I really have to wear this?" he said, indicating the skin-tight leotard he had on. That there was nothing under it but him was embarrassingly obvious.
"No," said Sandra, innocently. "We could both be naked."
"That might be just slightly less revealing," said Theo, deliberately muttering loud enough for her to hear.
Sandra laughed. Theo had to admit she had a nice laugh. As well as a nice body. Even though he knew it wasn't her base form, it was how she saw herself... or at least how she wanted others to see her. If her appearance did reflect her inner self, she was indeed a beautiful person inside as well as outside. If a very randy one. Sandra was obviously checking out Theo's package.
That's all right, I guess, thought Theo, with a mental shrug. I'm checking her out, too.
This was easy, since she was wearing an identical outfit. She had arrived in a wrap dress, and startled Theo - while also briefly raising his hopes - when she whipped it off.
"Notice, though, that now that you have it on it doesn't feel nearly as tight," said Sandra, as Theo sat on the floor across from her. "It's a viscoelastic material, and stretches to fit after a second or two. That's important for several reasons. Among them, it not only offers no real concealment, it offers no real support, so I can better judge how well your shapeshifting is doing. But! Since it resists sudden movement it can protect against blows, stabs and even bullets. This material is the basis for what we agents call our action costumes. Which are considerably more substantial than this.
"Okay, if we're both through ogling each other, let's get down to work," she said, sitting and moving into lotus position. "First and foremost, you need to be relaxed. Once you're good at shapeshifting you can do it when nervous, in a hurry, whatever, but until it becomes second nature it just doesn't work if you try to rush or force it."
"That's reassuring, actually," said Theo, sitting across from her in the best approximation of her position he could manage. "Means I won't change when I don't want to."
"First thing, I think we should get you in female form," said Sandra. "If we're both girls that will be less embarrassing for you and less distracting for me. You also need to get used to that for what we plan to have you do."
"Okay, this is going to be personal, but... I thought you were bisexual."
"No. It's just that... When I can be anybody, that means I can screw anybody. Right? I mean, when in Rome..."
"I guess," said Theo, with a sigh. He was actually worried he might feel the same way, when female.
Theo was able to copy Sandra's power with a brief bit of concentration. However, he was able to retain his own, male form. That is, he had her power, but wasn't currently using it.
"Okay, let's try something simple," said Sandra, when informed of this. "I want you to imagine yourself as a female. Just you as you'd have been if you'd been born XX instead of XY."
Theo nodded, closed his eyes and concentrated. He'd never wanted to be a woman, but he'd occasionally wondered what that would be like. He also had a good imagination. After several minutes he had a fairly clear mental image. However, he couldn't "make it real" as he had in the hospital room.
"I don't get it," he fussed, after giving up for the moment.
"I think I do," said Sandra, thoughtfully. "I think that at that time you were also mimicking Sir Roger's intelligence boost; that's why you did so well so quickly, before. Like I said, don't force it. Just keep imagining yourself as a woman until it happens."
Finally, Theo felt the odd sensation of change, and gasped. She didn't need to open her eyes to realize that she was now all woman.
"Wow," said Theo, breathlessly, staring down at her modest cleavage. She giggled. "I can see my nipples."
Theo looked up at his teacher, to see her grinning hugely. Sandra raised her hands and hefted her breasts, then nodded. Theo swallowed nervously, and did likewise.
"Not... all that much to feel," she said. "I mean, they're kinda small. But, wow, are they sensitive. Especially the nipples. They feel like... well, they're throbbing and..."
"Careful," said Sandra, impishly. "You're not wearing a panty shield in that thing. Also - and I hate to disillusion you - those are pretty typical in size."
Theo flushed and jerked her hands away.
"Okay, I need to take a DNA sample," said Sandra, reaching for her bag without rising. "They want me to do this at various stages, to see just how far the changes go for you."
While she fished out the swab, Theo thought of something and pulled her legs into lotus position.
"I can do it, now! Whoa! This position makes it obvious how... flat my crotch is. And wide. And... This suit actually feels like it's trying to get inside me."
"Open your mouth," said Sandra, reaching out with the swab. "Oh, did you notice you didn't stare at my ass when I twisted around?"
"Huh?!" said Theo, as Sandra took advantage of her startled gape to stick the swab in.
One quick wipe later and she was putting it back in the sterile container. As she wrote on the label she noticed Theo twisting around to examine her current form.
"Go check yourself out in the bathroom," said Sandra, with a waving motion. "Get it out of your system so we can try other things."
"I just got this thing on," Theo muttered, rising.
"Wow. Center of gravity is off. Hips are off." Something occurred to her. "Hey, my leg and hand are completely healed like this."
"Yeah, but the injuries are still there, underneath," said Sandra. "Trust me, you can use shapeshifting to compensate, but if you're hurt or sick it will eventually show through."
"Oh! It's a good idea to pee while you have the opportunity. Shapeshifting on a full bladder is a really bad idea."
In the bathroom, Theo stared at her reflection in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. At first she wasn't sure she even needed to take the leotard off. It was so conforming she could not only see a cameltoe and her nipples, but also the matt of her pubic hair and her areolas. Theo bounced up and down experimentally, and wondered what that would be like with bigger breasts. She thought about enlarging hers, but decided not to.
Getting out of the leotard bottom was a struggle. The two-piece outfit was so clingy that peeling it off was almost as hard as getting it on had been. Theo realized that she was still the same size as before; her mass had simply been redistributed. That made her a bit tall for a woman.
She got the bottom down, pooling it around her ankles, then stepped out of it. The top was only a bit easier. She then turned again towards the mirror.
Theo looked vaguely like an amalgam of several of her female relatives. She turned, and twisted, then tried a few poses. One of the "sexy" ones actually made her burst out in a fit of giggles. Sighing, she turned back to the leotard. That motion caused her to notice an internal pressure, and she remembered Sandra's advice. Theo lifted the lid and sat on the seat. She winced; it seemed unusually cold. After a few futile moments, she was a bit worried that she'd have to call on Sandra for operating advice, but eventually figured things out. Wiping was an experience in alien sensations. Theo flushed and washed her hands, then closed the lid and sat on it to begin the long process of getting re-dressed.
"About time," said Sandra, turning off the TV.
"I hate this thing," said Theo, indicating the leotard.
"Yeah, but, seriously, they are very useful for this sort of training. They're tough and elastic and change with the form. Now, just stay standing right there and let's try some cosmetic alterations. First, let's get you down to a more typical height."
Given some of the things Theo had heard about her, she had been a bit concerned about being alone with Sandra. However, aside from the occasional ribald remark she kept things strictly business. She didn't even touch Theo except when that was necessary for the instruction or to take another sample. After half an hour of "fine tuning" Theo's new form - frequently with the help of a tape measure - she announced another break. She took one more DNA sample, then called dibs on the bathroom.
Theo waited impatiently outside the door until Sandra was finished, then hurried inside. Once she saw her reflection she gaped. Then immediately opened the door again.
"You turned me into a sexpot!"
"Look again, and imagine yourself dressed in conventional female clothes," said Sandra. "You're a very fit 90 - 75 - 95 centimeters. A body which most men should find very attractive, but which is not extreme."
She smiled, and took in Theo's whole body with a sweeping gesture.
"I've built your first alternate. Something which, depending on clothes, makeup, scents and mannerisms could be barely noticed or a stand out in a crowd. Something I want you to remember, so that you can change into it with little effort or time. Something attractive, but not extraordinary."
"Why a woman?"
"If you do go into the covert part of our operation you'll probably spend most of your time as a man. Hell, there are times when I have to be a man. However, women can get things from people - including other women - which men can't."
"I can see that... I guess."
"Anyway, we're about done, for now. I want you to stay in that form until I come back tomorrow."
"Seriously. This is an important part of your training. You have to get used to an alternate, be comfortable in it."
She leered at Theo.
"Just don't get too comfortable. We don't have you on birth control yet."
Theo flushed and sputtered as Sandra winked, then turned to gather her stuff.
"You... I really have to stay like this until tomorrow morning?"
"Were you planning on going anywhere?"
"My therapeutic walk around the compound," said Theo. She gestured at herself, looking a little desperate. "I feel... helpless like this. I mean, I can't go out wearing this, if something happens..."
Sandra stopped and thought for a moment. Then nodded.
"Okay. I'll bring some clothes back in an hour or so."
"You really want me to walk around like this. I mean, in women's clothes."
"If you want to work covert operations, you have to learn to at least appear comfortable and casual in any reasonable form," said Sandra, sternly.
"All right," said Theo, throwing her arms wide with a sigh. She gave a humorless chuckle. "Just call me Thea."
End Part Four
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