“Hey Faith, what style should I go with today?” I asked, as I finished braiding my long, coffee brown hair.
“Definitely solids, Estelle,” my roommate said, without looking away from the mirror where she was putting on her makeup.
“Solids?” I pulled out my blazer and slacks which were a pretty sky blue, and the blouse was a creamy off white. A glance out the window at the slate grey November sky decided me. “Yeah, definitely want some colour today.”
“Did you finish your history project last night?”
“Yep. I couldn't sleep because of the cramps, figured I should do something useful.” I grimaced as my stomach started acting up again. It felt weird, like worms were crawling around my guts, sitting down I tried some breathing exercises I'd learned from dancing, Krav Maga, and even regular psychic defence lessons, hoping that they'd help at least ease the pain.
Faith was at my side handing me the garbage can as I threw up. “All right no more waiting, you're going to the clinic,” she ordered.
Spitting, trying to get rid of the foul taste in my mouth, I shook my head. “I'm fine. It's just a weird period or something.” I had to stop as more bile and water came up. “OK, let's go to the clinic.”
With Faith at my side, we told the houseparent what was going on and walked to the school clinic. Dr. Parker was just setting everything up when we arrived. Seeing how I was hunched over and shaking, she came over and helped me into the exam room, leaving Faith outside. “What's wrong, Ms. Young?”
I was usually healthy, so I think I'd actually talked to Dr. Parker maybe six or seven times in two years to visit a sick friend or to get a vaccination and it always impressed me that she could remember my name out of a thousand other girls. Wiping sweat from my brow, I told her the truth. “I'm not feeling good. I missed my period three weeks ago, now my stomach is feeling really strange, I'm throwing up, and I feel weak.”
“Have you been sexually active?” she asked.
“No,” I said, my pale skin turning a brilliant shade of red. Being a student at Joan Everest School for Girls, one of the top five schools in Canada and a boarding school as well, there was very little chance of getting a boyfriend, except when I went home on the weekends. Being thirteen, almost fourteen, I hadn't even hugged a boy, despite wanting a boyfriend.
“Sorry, I have to ask,” Dr. Parker said, apologetically. “Lie back, and pull your shirt up.”
I tried not to shiver when her bare hands touched my skin. It wasn't that I was attracted to her or anything that made me shiver, it was the simple skin to skin contact. With two years of being close friends with girls who like doing makeup and facials with each other, I'd gotten used to people touching my face and hands, but except for those body parts, I always had clothes between me and others. The school counsellor had worried at first that my discomfort was a sign of sexual abuse. It took a lot of talking from me, my parents and my family doctor to get that out of her head. We could have had it settled in about five minutes, but because of certain issues, a lot of what I told people about my life was a pack of lies.
After fifteen minutes of being poked and prodded, Dr. Parker was stumped and my cramps were starting to die down. Not satisfied with my claims that I was feeling fine now, she set up an immediate appointment for me with Dr. Reynolds in Edmonton and emailed all the information she'd gathered. Within ten minutes I was in a school car being driven to the best hospital in the city and my parents had been contacted. Usually we'd have had to set up an appointment at least a week in advance, but when parents are paying 60K a year for their daughters to go to school, and said school teaches the daughters, granddaughters, nieces and god daughters of federal and provincial ministers, business leaders, and the Premier of Alberta who helps decide how much money said hospital will receive, little things like waiting lists are thrown out the window.
Getting out of the car, I saw Dad standing outside waiting for me. “Daddy!” I shouted, running up to give him a light hug, keeping my face pressed against his chest, while he kept his hands on my back, both of us careful to not actually touch anything except coats and gloves.
The driver checked Dad's ID, and after contacting the school to make sure all the i's were dotted and t's crossed, went off to wait until I was ready to go back to school.
I was pretty happy to see Dad, I hadn't really been expecting him. We live in Edmonton, and my parents schedule is very fluid, so there had been a chance that both he and Mom would have been there. But the driver had had the radio on and the news had been blaring about an attack by Buffalo downtown. Apparently he was attacking some gang members and it had gotten out of hand.
Prairie Sun, Edmonton's strongest superheroine , a speedster capable of reaching 200km/h, as well as being a level 5 exemplar, was slowly but steadily beating the nearly invulnerable behemoth into a pulp. The reporter was surprised that her partner, and the second of Edmonton's two full time heroes, Fly By wasn't there. He couldn't do as much damage as the speedster, but his flight and telekinetic blasts would have helped keep the idiot brick off balance.
“Dad shouldn't you be helping Mom, with Buffalo?” I whispered.
“You're more important, sweetie. You're Mom's doing fine and she's enjoying herself, that's why I'm here.” He saw my skeptical look. “You know her, she always likes a challenge. She'll be fine. Ten more minutes and she'll be ready to file paperwork. We're more concerned about you. Do you have a fever? Anything unexpected happen?” he asked, touching my shoulder with his thin gloved hand. It was bitterly cold outside, but the hospital was kept nice and warm so there wasn't any normal need for gloves, at least for most people
His hand felt solid and warm over top of my brand new red kevra parka. When I put my hand on his, there was only his leather glove separating us, and it was like touching wood, almost no warmth, no give, no support. I moved my hand away after a second. “I'm a little sick. But I don't think it's anything important. Probably just some bad eggs or something,” I said, letting him drop the superhero subject as we entered the busy lobby.
Dad got me checked in and we were moved into an examination room, where a nurse took down all the details, asking me the standard list of questions, most of which I'd already told Dr. Parker. She took a few measurements and told us that a doctor would be with us shortly. With her gone, Dad and I could talk freely.
I was turning fourteen at the end of December, I was right at the age when most mutants manifested. For the last few months every time we talked there was an odd mix of anticipation and fear. They loved helping people, and the deals they'd made with companies acting as spokespeople, and security was lucrative. But like everything it came at a cost, some of them very high. I honestly didn't know if they were hoping I would join them as a mutant and superhero, or if I'd stay relatively safe as a baseline. I'd bet they didn't know either.
“Dad you should be helping Mom. I just had some really weird cramps. They're overreacting as usual,” I insisted, thinking about the time Mom had almost been killed in a fight and even with her healing factor it had taken three weeks for her to be able to get out of bed.
“Estelle, you're more important than a slow moving brick who doesn't know how to fight,” Dad said sternly. He lifted my chin to look at my eyes. Because he was a mutant his own eyes were a dull red behind the contacts, if my eyes were changing colour we'd know that I was following in their footsteps. I'd already checked my eyes that morning and hadn't noticed any change from my pretty grayish-blue iris'.
As soon as he was done giving me the once over, I pushed his hand away. To me his fingers felt like cold granite. No one else except Mom had that problem, other people felt his normal skin, could feel how soft and warm his touch was, how it was full of life. Something I'd never get to experience.
“Dad, nothing has happened and I check every time I look in the mirror. Don't worry so much OK. How is Mom doing now, is she really OK?”
He tapped his ear where a devise rested, he and Mom both had one letting them pass on thoughts, feelings and images to each other. The set had cost over three million dollars, with regular six month tune ups at a hundred thousand dollars each time and they were still paying it off, but in their line of business that type of connection was worth the money. “If she needs me she'll let me know. Right now she's just hit Buffalo with a lamp post and is about to pop his kneecap. I give it another minute before he collapses, he's already fighting with a dislocated right shoulder. How did your English test go?”
We talked about school while waiting for the doctor. It wouldn't look like we were very close to observers, he wasn't holding my hand or patting my leg or arm, or even ruffling my hair like I'd seen fathers do to their daughters. But we were used to it, we let our words and looks show that we cared for each other.
Finally Dr. Reynolds arrived, and Dad left. He had me lie down, and lift up my blouse, after a quick physical exam, the doctor decided to do a sonogram. After they put the cold and slimy gel on my belly, and my organs got a massage as the doctor and nurse looked at a monitor that showed some fuzzy black and white images of my guts. A few minutes later he asked me to put on a hospital gown and get in the stirrups for a full pelvic exam.
I was the only girl my age that I knew of who had already had this procedure. When I turned thirteen they had my doctor give me a full physical, which they explained would help detect any possible GSD if I manifested. So I knew what was going to happen and after taking a moment to calm myself I was able to strip down and get into position.
The first time it had taken about five minutes, this time it went on for fifteen. The look of confusion on Dr. Reynolds face wasn't reassuring in the least. I was able to get dressed again and I went with the nurse to get some blood work done and a urine sample. Then it was time for Dad and I to sit and wait while the doctor called some of his colleagues.
The only good part about waiting was knowing that Mom had finished beating up Buffalo, and was helping the police take him away to a secure cell. We ate lunch not really talking, both of us too worried and nervous as we waited to hear more from the doctor.
Finally at about three in the afternoon, Dr. Reynolds called Dad into his office, I followed along. When the doctor saw me he looked questioningly at Dad, but didn't insist that I leave. “Mr. Young, I'm not sure how to explain this, but there are some unusual findings with Estelle's reproductive system and several other organs. This doesn't appear in her file, so I'm assuming they're very recent. Her mother is a mutant correct?”
“Yes she is,” Dad said. “Thank you for your time, Dr. Reynolds. In a short while I'll send you the contact info for a Dr. Sharpe in Vancouver. He will be taking over Estelle's case and will require her files as soon as possible.”
“You suspect your daughter is a mutant I presume?”
Dad nodded. “It's a very good possibility. Our employers Prairie Sun and Fly By recommended seeing Dr. Sharpe if Estelle did manifest and there were any problems.”
They talked a little bit more but I didn't listen. I kept wondering what I'd turn into if I really was a mutant. There was still a small part of me that kept saying the doctor was wrong and I'd just had some bad food or something.
Holding Dad's hand even if it was hard and cold, we walked out to the car and headed home. On the way he called Everest to tell them I'd be out for at least a week but I was capable to doing homework and to have everything, including videos of the lectures emailed to me. Once we got home I headed up to my room to read, playing some jazz music to help shut out the world. It was easier for me to escape to the peace and security of my fantasy books and music than worry about what might be happening to my body.
Mom came in a few hours later, her short, mousy brown hair still damp from a shower, and she moved stiffly, with a black eye that could just be seen under her wrap around sunglasses she wore almost constantly. She was wearing a very thick turtleneck sweater and a thick pair of gloves so we could cuddle. When she sat on my bed, I went over and slipped silently into her arms, she was soft to the touch, except for when her chin touched the top of my head it felt almost like she'd hit me.
“Sorry I couldn't get home sooner sweetie, the paperwork was a killer. Your Dad told me everything. How are you doing?” she asked.
“What's happening to me?” I asked.
“You're a mutant. We don't know what's happening to you exactly, but it's probably GSD,” I heard her fighting back tears. “You and I are going to Vancouver tomorrow to see Dr. Sharpe. He works with the Vancouver Heroes Corp and he's one of the best doctors for mutants in Canada. We'll stay with your Uncle Herb while we get a better idea of what's happening.”
Uncle Herb wasn't really my uncle, he was another superhero who worked with my parents on occasion and we would visit him every summer for a few weeks. He didn't get many visitors because of his looks even though he was one of the nicest guys I knew. “Will I look like him?”
“Probably not. But we won't know until we run sometests. It will be OK, your Dad and I knew this was a risk and we're ready for anything,” she assured me. Her kiss on my head should have been tender, instead it was hard and her hair felt like wires.
Wiping away some tears, I tried to look on the bright side. If my parents were anything to go by, I'd look great. And I'd probably be able to do really cool stuff. Mom had made fortune on the stock market just by following the trends before most people realized they were trends, and Dad knew exactly how to market his and Mom's superhero identity for book deals, merchandising, speaking engagements and even security work. But if I looked like a monster the best I could hope for was superhero work, or working behind the scenes so I didn't scare people. And being a superhero was the last thing I wanted.
“Come on Estelle,” Mom said, pulling me up from the bed.
“What?” I muttered.
“Let's go look at some pictures.”
I followed her to the library, where she slid a wall panel out of the way revealing shelves full of photo albums. Slumping down in a chair, I waited for Mom to get whatever she was looking for. She came back with five albums, setting them on the table.
“I know you're scared, but we don't know if you will change, or how you'll change. You could be like Dylan and Tanya,” she said. Opening the top book almost reverently, showing a brother and sister who were obviously twins. Tanya was sitting in wheelchair, courtesy of their parents who had called H1 on their own children when they manifested. “They changed a little, but they were going to do great things. You can to.”
I flipped through the book, smiling a little sadly at my former foster siblings. As I saw the last picture we had of them when they had graduated from Whateley, I had to ask, “What if I'm like that girl who melted?”
Mom pursed her lips knowing instantly who I was talking about. A lot of times they brought me in to talk with newly manifested kids, especially ones with GSD or weird bits, who thought their lives were over, seeing a kid not recoil in horror helped them a lot. Then they'd had me meet a girl who was slowly melting away. They'd had a devisor on hand trying to stabilize her, I was suppose to help keep her calm. Instead I got to watch a girl only three years older than I was melt away into a pool of liquid flesh.
“We'll do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen, and- and she was an extreme case.” She opened another album showing her and Dad as teenagers, they were holding each other laughing with their friends, some of whom would fit right in a Hollywood monster movie. “You should know better than anyone that GSD doesn't mean the end of the world. Everyone in these pictures is leading a happy life. What have I always told you, normal is boring.”
“What has being not normal gotten us?” I demanded. To prove my point, I poked her cheek hard with my finger.
I instantly regretted it as I watched the hopeful and optimistic look on Mom's face crushed like a bug. A tiny bruise appeared on her cheek, disappearing almost as soon as it appeared.
“I'm sorry,” I whispered, knowing I'd gone so far over the line I'd need a telescope to find it again.
Mom patted my back very gently. “It's all right, Estelle,” she said stiffly. “Let's put these things away, and get ready for bed. We have a busy day tomorrow, and we need to get an early start.”
Feeling like I was six inches tall, I helped her get the photo albums organized and safely stored away where casual guests and business partners wouldn't find them. Then I got ready for bed.
After I was in my pyjamas, I walked to Moms' room. I raised my hand to knock on the door, but I stopped at the last second. I could hear her sobbing, Dad was talking to her quietly. In my head I could see them sitting just centimetres apart not touching, not able to touch thanks to a dead supervillains curse.
Knowing I was the worst daughter in the world, I headed off to bed.
We left for the airport at nine, just Mom and I since one of my parents had to be in the city unless they'd made plans with one of the part time heroes. Usually we'd drive to Vancouver even though the ride through the Rockies was kind of scary in places, especially with a driver like my Mom who thought faster was better. But even she didn't like to risk the mountainous roads in the middle of winter.
Since Mom had an MID and I didn't, she went through the mutant checkpoint which was staffed by regular security, not the MCO. Even though they had a decent size office in Edmonton it was still too small to keep the airport manned at all times. I went through the regular check in which was an adventure in itself.
“Where's your guardian?” the security guard with delusions of grandeur asked when he looked at my ticket.
“She's checking in over there,” I said as quietly as possible, motioning very discretely at the other check in station that was just barely visible. I hoped no one would notice, I didn't like the reactions I got when people found out my Mom was a mutant. Seeing people recoil in fear like I was going to burst into flames and rip them apart or that Mom would, was one reason we kept things quiet.
The man just nodded and did his job without another word, earning a small smile from me. The rest of the trip was just as uneventful, since we couldn't talk about anything important I wrote in my diary and Mom read a few novels.
A limo waited for us at the Vancouver airport so we could head straight for Uncle Herbs' place well out in the suburbs. With the privacy screen up and a day to think about everything I could finally start talking.
I thought of my friends, and the mutant kids who had to leave their homes and schools hiding who and what they were, like my parents kind of did. “Can I keep going to school?”
“If your change is only internal or small enough, I promise you'll stay at Joan Everest. Even if it's a larger change, we'll try to let you finish the school year.” She saw my hopeless expression, and stroked my hair with her leather gloves. “I'm sorry Estelle, but you knew this might happen. We have to take things as they come.”
My voice turned whiny. “I like my friends, and my teachers. You know how long it took me to make friends, and now that I've got them I have to leave. It's not fair!”
Mom gave me 'the' look, making me blush. “I know honey. Believe me, I know. But like everything else, we'll survive. If the worst happens you can go to Whateley.”
I'd heard enough about Whateley to be interested in it, but I'd be practically across the continent. I'd never get to see my friends, and being away from my parents for months would suck.
She saw my frown. “They've got a lot of experience dealing with kids in your situation. And it's curriculum is as good, if not better than Everest. You'll learn how to use your powers and keep up with your education. You can even follow in our career if you want.”
I leaned away my back hitting the door. There was no way in hell was I going to be a hero.
Mom sighed at my reaction. “You can try other things to. There are groups for almost all types of interests. I was a member of Venus, the modelling club, and I'm not sure if they still have it but your father was in the equestrian group. There's a great engineering club, they teach dancing in the evening, martial arts league, parkour, their own radio station. You've heard how much fun it is for the other kids. And Theresa will be there, you liked meeting her this summer she's only be a year ahead of you.”
“Sure it sounds cool, but what about my friends?”
“Didn't you say the exact same thing when you first went to Everest? If this gets serious, you will need to go somewhere they can teach you how to handle the changes properly. A regular school can't do that for you.” She sighed, seeing that she wasn't getting through to me. “'El, I promise you, if there is the smallest chance of you staying at Everest we will let you stay there. But you have to face facts you're life is about to change drastically, hiding from it won't help.”
I hated it when she was right, I still wasn't go to give in so easily. Pulling out my diary I started writing. Mom realized I wasn't about to talk or listen until I was good and ready so she did her own stress relief, bending a six inch long, one inch thick metal bar into a knot
“Uncle Herb!” I yelled, running up to the hot pink, grizzly bearlike person who waddled down from the front porch of his ranch style house that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.
“Kitten! I've missed you so much!" he roared, lifting me up in his enormous paws, carefully keeping his claws from scratching me. I buried my face in his fur, enjoying the feeling. He was like a giant stuffed animal, and when he hugged me I always felt safe. Mom came more slowly, carrying our two suitcases.
“Evelyn, I hope you had a nice trip,” he said, taking one of the suitcases in his devil like tail, which was a slightly darker pink then his fur.
She shrugged. “It was first class but it was still a plane, so barely acceptable.”
“Well come in, come in, and put your feet up. I set you up for an appointment with Dr. Sharpe tomorrow at eight, so you have all evening to relax.”
He carried me into his house, my mouth started watering as I smelled baked salmon, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes with sour cream and butter. Uncle Herb boomed with laughter as he saw my nose twitch and my head turned towards the kitchen. “Yes, I cooked all your favourite foods. And there's a devils food cake in the fridge for you. I thought you would like it.”
I grabbed the two curved horns on his head, pulling myself up and gave him a kiss on his big sloping forehead. “Thank you!”
A green, plant like woman with four arms came walked hesitantly into the room. Mom had told me about her, how the woman had to kill some people to save her daughter and was now on the run in the US. So she was laying low with Uncle Herb, because really who would look for a fugitive in the home of a superhero in another country? Mom had picked her up personally and smuggled her across the border after getting a call from a contact in the States.
"Hi Evelyn. So this is Estelle that I've heard so much about?" she asked.
"Yes she is. Estelle this is Amanda Rozic," Mom said.
"Hi Ms. Rozic," I replied, still hugging Uncle Herb.
“Evelyn, your usual rooms are ready for you, we spent the morning getting everything tidied up. Why don't you go and get your things put away and freshen up, Kitten can help me in the kitchen with the salad,” he said, handing the suitcase to Ms. Rozic, who carried it to the guest room.
Mom gave him a thankful look before disappearing down the hall while we went into the spacious kitchen. I went to wash my hands and Herb put on a pair of gloves to keep his fur out of the food. “I've got everything you need for your special mixed salad, so go nuts.”
Getting three types of lettuce, already washed, I began chopping without much rhyme or reason. My uncle checked on the salmon and started buttering some french bread, the crushed garlic already waiting in a bowl beside him.
“How ya holding up?” he asked.
“Cried myself to sleep last night, and almost broke down in tears on the plane,” I told him.
He grunted. “You did better then me. When I started growing fur I tore my bedroom apart. Any idea what your powers might be?”
“No. No tingling, no weird visions, no crushed silverware, for all I know the doctor could be wrong and I'm perfectly fine, or just have some weird disease,” I said halfheartedly.
“Well Sharpe is my doctor and he'll figure it out by the end of the week. For what it's worth I hope it's just a mistake, but if it's GSD it's not the end of the world. Your parents and I will be with you every step of the way.”
“Thanks,” I whispered, wiping my eyes and nose with my sleeve.
He finished buttering the bread and began putting the garlic on top, while I cut up an apple. We worked in comfortable silence, knowing he was close to me and understood what I was going through was better than any hug.
Supper was just about ready, my mixed salad of three types of lettuce, apples, pears, shredded cheddar, chunked mozzarella, carrots, cucumbers, sweet peppers and some left over chicken chunks was sitting on the table, when the doorbell rang. Uncle Herb just pressed a button opening the door, so it was someone who hadn't set off his very cutting edge alarm system and was expected.
I heard Mom exclaim, “Eddie!” followed less then a second later by a loud oomph and the sound of kissing.
“Kitten, come over here and make sure the salmon is done,” Herb said, holding a fork out for me.
Forcing my feelings down, I tasted the salmon, savouring the rich taste. He'd put a thin coating of maple syrup on it as a glaze, giving it a wonderful sweetness. The activity and the flavours helped me gain control of myself. Eddie wasn't just Mom's lover, he was also Uncle Herbs' best friend and a friend of the family. They usually weren't open about their relationship, but sometimes when they first met it got a little heated. I couldn't say anything to Dad he had a girlfriend in Calgary.
“Let's get everything on the table Estelle then we can dig in. You have to be hungry, I can hear your stomach growling from across the kitchen,” he teased me.
“It's not that bad,” I said, hiding my blush by ducking my head letting my long coffee brown hair cover my face.
Uncle Herb rolled his eyes. “Sure, sure, I'm just glad I cooked enough to have left overs even with your mother. That might mean I have enough to feed you all tonight.”
“I'm not that big of an eater,” I insisted. I was actually starving, but I wasn't about to admit it. I'd always had a healthy appetite, despite that my figure was perfect thanks to all the dancing I enjoyed, and Krav Maga training my parents insisted on.
Grabbing the food I moved it to the table, which was already set thanks to Ms. Rozic. Steeling myself I walked noisily into the living room. I felt a breeze from the doorway and a chair creaked mightily, Mom was sitting back down as if nothing had been happening and Eddie was smiling innocently, his normally still antenna waving back and forth as if in a wind. “Hi Eddie,” I said, forcing a smile. “Supper's ready.”
We sat down and dug in eagerly, enjoying the wonderful food that Uncle Herb could create as if by magic with just a few of his gadgets.
Eddie looked at me with his insect like eyes. “Your Mom told me you manifested yesterday, what can you do Estelle?”
“I haven't manifested anything,” I explained. It was a struggle to keep the annoyance from my face, Eddie always rubbed me the wrong way and not just because he was with Mom. “I had an upset stomach and they think there's something odd in my body, and now everyone is talking about GSD and stuff like that.”
Ms. Rozic, who'd been shyly eating as if afraid to make a sound, looked up with a sympathetic expression. "My... daughter has GSD. Actually they said it's her bit, but I'm not sure what the difference is."
"What does she look like?" I asked.
"Like she's made entirely out of glass. She's beautiful and she's made some friends at Whateley even though she's only been there for a little over a week," she said trying to encourage me.
"I just wish I knew one way or another," I said grumpily.
Eddie patted my shoulder. “It's frustrating not being sure. But it's nothing to take lightly, kid. I've seen some GSD cases who could have been saved if they'd been caught early enough.”
“I know,” I almost snapped. “I've helped out with some mutants who have GSD to. It's just that a quick exam showed something odd and now everyone is panicking. Tomorrow Dr. Sharpe will probably just say I'm a little sick or it was a false diagnosis. I haven't done anything special and except for the upset stomach yesterday I'm perfectly fine.”
Uncle Herb jumped in. “On Thursday, a few of us from the Heroes Corp, are going to a special assembly for several of the downtown schools, would you two like to come? I'm not sure how interesting you'll find it Estelle, but we'll be giving a couple of speeches, showing a few pictures, maybe videos, and showing off some of our powers.”
“I'd love to go,” Mom said at once. She always liked being in the spotlight, and loved being around kids.
“I'll go to.” I didn't like being in the centre of attention, but seeing Mom do her stuff when there wasn't any danger was always fun.
“Do you have a superhero costume? If we can figure out your powers by then you could be considered a junior hero like they have in New York,” Eddie said with a grin.
Mom and I both gave him a look of death, which was pretty impressive coming from Mom since she still had on her mirrored sunglasses. “Not on your life,” I said. “I'm not a hero.”
He threw his hands up in the air. “OK, OK, it was just an idea. Right now we're still trying to decide who will go. Herb is definitely going, and we're debating between Mermaid and Mo Shu Shi.”
“Why not both of them? Mermaid is cool, and Mo Shu Shi has the mysterious wizard thing going for him,” I said.
Herb shook his shaggy head. “We've heard that there's something brewing in the shadows. We wouldn't even do this, but it was set up a couple of months ago and we don't want to disappoint the kids. So we're doing it with the minimum number of people, and keeping it to no more then two hours. Frankly having you guys show up is really helpful, if you're OK with it Evelyn we'd like you to be on call. With your speed you can relax and enjoy the show, but join in if things get out of hand.”
“Sure,” Mom said without any hesitation. “You've got my spare suit and weapons at your headquarters right?”
“Yeah, we've got your crowbar waiting for you,” Eddie said chuckling.
No one ever said Mom was subtle, when she wanted someone hit she wasn't going to be tricky about it. “Can I take some video for the Edmonton Duo's website?” I asked
That got a blush from Mom. I wasn't the creator of the largest fan website to my parents, or even a big supporter, but an occasional embarrassing story or picture that couldn't be traced to me or give away their identity would sometimes make it to the administrators. I usually only did it when I thought things were getting too boring, or they set up business on my birthday. Occasionally I would threaten them with something REALLY embarrassing being sent in, when I really wanted something. I couldn't do that last one too often, they always made sure to get me back for it, and sometimes they called my bluff.
The two guys started laughing, while Ms. Rozic looked a little confused about what the joke was. “Tell you what, kid, I'll get you some of the official videos with the blessing of the mayor,” Eddie promised.
“Thanks. Now what type of guinea pig am I going to be tomorrow?”
“First, you aren't a guinea pig,” Uncle Herb stated. “Sharpe is a professional devisor who took the time to get a degree as a doctor, and he has never experimented with anything that isn't perfectly safe on people. What he will do is probably have you sit in a bathtub of goo which will scan your entire body, checking your blood, hormone levels, tissue, and everything else you can think of. Don't worry I've been in it a load of times and it's actually pretty relaxing, but if you get too nervous he can give you some regular anaesthetics so you sleep through the whole thing. By the afternoon he'll know exactly what's happening.”
Gulping, I had a sudden concern. “Isn't that going to be expensive?” Devises were super expensive because they were usually one of a kind, this could put a significant bite even into my parents ready funds.
“He has a special deal with hero types so that we only pay for his time and resources. He'll be able to buy a decent car out of this, but it won't be a big problem. And if you do have GSD, he's willing to waive all fees if he can study the progression and has access to all your medical files if you go to another doctor at any time. He really wants to cure GSD.”
Smiling bleakly I tried to look on the bright side. “So I guess I'll have the rest of the week to relax and have some fun.”
Eddie gave a snort. “Only if there is nothing going on. If you have something that catches his eye, he will keep you in his office as long as possible. Don't worry though, he has great food and will remember to feed you.”
I noticed that Mom was looking at me oddly. “What's wrong, Mom?”
“How many pieces of fish have you had?” she asked.
“Not much, I'm still hungry. One or two pieces, I guess.”
Ms. Rozic spoke up. “Eddie's had one, Herb had four, your Mother had six, I've had one, and you've had four, along with a big bowl of salad, eight scoops of potatoes, and three cobs of corn.”
I looked at my plate and realized that it was true. “Dammit!”
After supper Eddie disappeared whispering something in Mom's ear about meeting her later, and Ms. Rozic retreated to her room. Mom and Uncle Herb spent the night keeping me occupied. They told stories of some of the funny things they did, and of course had to embarrass me by pulling out baby pictures. The first one was of me as a two year old sleeping curled up on Uncle Herbs' stomach, which is where I got the nickname Kitten. Then we watched some TV until I was yawning and staggered off to bed.
But I found I couldn't sleep. Even with my five favourite stuffed animals piled around me, I kept staring at my hands wondering what I was going to look like in the morning. With all I'd eaten at supper there was no question about it, I was a mutant.
I didn't know whether to cry or smile.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2007
The next morning Mom and I got up at five, so that we could make our eight o'clock appointment, I was barely awake, even with the timezone change giving me an extra hour of sleep. Not actually getting to sleep until after midnight just made it worse, and left me in a terrible mood. I hadn't even bothered with makeup.
Eating a bowl of homemade granola, Mom kept looking me. “Can you feel anything different?” she asked.
“No,” I replied.
She handed me one of her metal rods. “Try to bend this.”
Putting my spoon down with a sigh, I tried and failed to do anything but hurt my hands. “Can't.”
“Try to catch my hand.” Her hand became a barely noticeable blur as she moved it all around.
I rolled my eyes and started eating again.
Our limo was waiting for us when were done. I took the long drive to this Dr. Sharpe guy, as a chance to catch up on my beauty sleep, hugging my stuffed bear.
When we arrived, Mom gently shook me awake, and I stepped out to see a building that was jointly controlled by the Vancouver Heroes Corp and the R.C.M.P, (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). Like most hero groups in Canada, the team shared a base with the police, for added protection in case of an attack, to share resources, to help the two groups work together, and it helped the more anti-mutant and anti-hero portion of the general public think the big bad super humans were under government control. It was a pretty good deal all around.
We went in a separate entrance that was only for Corp business. I'd been in there a few times, so I headed straight to the front desk which was protected by thick bullet proof glass and signed the e-book for us, while Mom explained who we were to meet and why. Mermaid stepped into the lobby before I'd finished writing Mom's name.
The long limbed, well built woman had dark, almost ebony skin combined with a very Asian face, especially her eyes, even for Vancouver she looked exotic. She had on a dark gray and black wet suit that was padded in key spots all over, along with a cowl that covered just enough of her face to obscure her identity. Her face was way too bright and cheery for the early morning hour, but that was Mermaid, she was always happy unless she dried out, which wasn't likely to happen on the Wet Coast. “Evelyn, Estelle! It's great to see you two. Come on up, Dr. Sharpe is waiting.”
Once we got into the elevator, she knelt down to face me. “How are you doing, hon?”
“Surviving,” I replied.
“After seeing her eat last night and this morning, we're pretty sure she's an energizer of some kind. But she can't seem to do anything with her powers,” Mom filled in, speaking through gritted teeth.
Mermaid hugged Mom. “Evi, it's going to be OK. Sharpe is the best in Canada, he'll be able to see if there's anything wrong with Estelle. And between all of us, I'm certain we can figure out what her powers are. Once we have that, it's just a matter of training her. You and Steve can do that easily enough.”
“I know. It's just so frustrating, with everything we've... We're just worried.” Mom took off her sunglasses, revealing her oversized purple eyes, that looked more like coloured skin than eyes. She wrapped her arm around me, hugging me to her side. I tilted my head so it rested against her shoulder rather than her cheek. I didn't like the cold, but I loved winter, because it gave us excuses to wear heavy clothes without being too hot or looking strange. It made hugs feel a lot better.
We came to our floor, stepping into an anteroom, with three doors. Behind one was an office, the other one was very formal with several comfortable chairs and a couch, the last where we went was a tiled room with several wheelchairs, stretchers and changing rooms.
“Estelle, Dr. Sharpe is getting everything prepped. Go into one of the change rooms and get into the robe, you don't need your underwear,” the superhero told me.
I cringed at the thought of yet another male doctor looking me over. “Do I really need to do this?”
Mom got down on her knee, taking me by the shoulders. “We need to know if there is something wrong, and this is the quickest, safest way, dear. Please do this for me, and remember the faster you do this, the faster its done.”
My hand ran over her arm, gaining strength from her. “OK. Let's get this over with.”
A minute later I was clutching a thin robe around me, pretending the shivering was just because of the cool air. When we went into the examination room Mom walked right beside me, not quite touching me, Mermaid put her hand around my waist, and gave me some advice. “When you get into the goo bath, take the anaesthetics, it's better that way.”
“It's that bad? Uncle Herb said it was comfortable.”
“The first time is the worst. And he's a guy, who's finished changing. The nanites are going to be checking out your insides, and lets just say that its very intimate.” She felt me tensing up. “It's not bad, it's just creepy feeling.”
If I thought I could have made it, I'd have ran for the elevator screaming. A girl who doesn't like skin to skin contact, having something strange crawling all over and inside her, hello nightmares. And then I heard someone start to shout, which just made me feel SO much better.
A gray haired man with a pronounced limp stalked out of a back room, looking angry and muttering something about bad samples and working with incompetents who didn't know how to document their work.
He finally noticed me hiding behind Mom. The redness left his face, and a broad smile replaced his gargoyle like scowl. “Ah, you must be Estelle. I've heard quite a lot about you over the years, but could never find the time to say hello. Hello!”
“Um, hello,” I squeaked, coming out from my hiding spot.
The doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out a red sucker. “Here you are. I know children love lollipops, so I took a few from the pediatrics ward yesterday. If you two would please leave us,” he told the other adults. “This will take several hours, and I have to ask questions that no child should answer in front of her mother.”
I turned to face Mom, quickly handing her the sucker, she blew me a kiss and tried to smile as if that would help. Mermaid hugged me, and whispered in my ear that nothing bad would happen, and to remember the anaesthetics.
When they left, Dr. Sharpe motioned for me to sit on a chair and pulled out an electronic notepad. “Now, I've read the doctors reports but I have a few questions. Have you had any other cramps since Friday?”
“Yeah, off and on. Usually just five or ten minutes, every few hours.”
“Has anything else out of the ordinary happened? Please tell me even the smallest detail.”
“I ate about five times what I usually do last night. And I've been itchy... down there. ”
“In the last year have you had sexual intercourse? That includes oral and anal."
The questions went on like that for a while. Finally it was done and I was taken to a room with a door like a bank vault. Inside was something that looked like a Jacuzzi, but instead of water it was full of florescent orange goo. It moved gently as I watched.
“Estelle, this is a devise that I invented five years ago. It will scan your body more accurately than any other devise I know of. It will take several hours, at the very least you will be in until noon, possibly all day depending on the changes you're undergoing.” He pulled out a controller and pressed a button. Speakers and a TV came out from the walls. “Now if you want to stay awake, you can watch virtually any channel in the world while you wait to finish. I will also have a robot bring you in drinks and refreshments as needed. It's quite comfortable, I often slip in it after a long day to relax. Or you can be put to sleep and wake up as fresh as a daisy when its done.”
He looked a little disappointed at my decision, sighing as he tapped a button to put the TV away. “Very well, please come here.”
We went to the edge of the devise, where he slipped a mask over mouth and nose. “This will supply the gas and when it scans your head will ensure you keep breathing. Don't worry I've used this devise three hundred times, no one has ever been injured. And I'll be checking your vitals the entire time from the next room.”
I nodded, still very unsure about this thing, but not really having any choice if I wanted to know what was happening to me. They say ignorance is bliss, well, I had just enough knowledge to be terrified. “All right.”
“As soon as I'm out, disrobe and get into the pool. Just say you're ready and I'll turn on the anaesthetics remotely and I won't start the devise until you're asleep, which will be about one minute.” He saw me looking at the walls warily. “Don't worry, don't worry, there are no cameras in the room. All the information comes from the devise. Now hurry up, I can't wait to check you out.”
I watched him hurry out of the room. As soon as the door clanged shut, I put my robe on a hook and hesitantly climbed into the goo. It felt like porridge, warm, gritty porridge. Remembering how Mermaid said it was very intimate, I clenched my thighs together as hard as I could. If this didn't work, I was going to kill Mom for making me go through with this. When I was seated as comfortably as possible up to my neck in the stuff, I said, "Ready!"
Nothing seemed to be happening, I was actually starting to get worried. All of a sudden I heard Dr. Sharpe's voice. “Alright Estelle, we're done here. Please step out, have a shower in the alcove and then come out so we can discuss things.”
“Yes, I told you it was quite painless.”
Then I realized my face felt sticky, and my hair was matted together. Taking off the gas mask, I stood up in the goo feeling well rested. The goo fell off of my back into the devise as I stepped out, leaving just a yucky residue. The shower was surprisingly easy, as soon as the water hit my skin the sticky film dissolved. I still washed myself thoroughly.
Thirty minutes later with the help of a heat lamp, I was dry and feeling really good, even though my stomach was growling fiercely, I wondered how long I'd been asleep for. When I stepped out of the change room Mom was waiting for me. Her hair was damp, probably from having a shower, her face was still flushed and she was bouncing on the balls of her feet, I had a good idea what she'd been doing while I was asleep. Biting back a sigh, I tried to joke, “No horns or fur yet.”
That got a weak smile. “Come on, it's almost suppertime. We have supper ready in the doctors office so he can explain everything as we eat.”
We actually ate in the sitting room, the chairs were comfy and the table was loaded down with gourmet pizza. A holographic projector lit up one side of the room. Dr. Sharpe wasn't smiling but he stared at me with great interest. I almost wished it was sexual, I was used to seeing that sometimes when I was back home on the weekends and wandering around town. This was different, it was more like I was a present a five year old was looking at on Christmas morning.
Mom spoke first, I was too busy hiding my discomfort by eating to speak. “Does Estelle have GSD?”
“No, he's changing because of his Bit. It's not my usual area of study but it's a fascinating case, and he will most likely be able to go out in public without any real concern,” Dr. Sharpe said with glee.
The pizza dropped from my hand. “HE?!!!”
The doctor looked really embarrassed. “I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to say it like that. I've just been looking over your scan all day and it slipped out.”
Mom was at my side as quickly as I could blink back the tears, her hands wrapped in her long sweater sleeves holding me as I tried not to vomit. “What do you mean?” she demanded.
He took a breath to regain his composure as I was losing mine. “Her testosterone is through the roof, estrogen is lower then you'd find in most males her age. The scan shows her ovaries and womb have shrank slightly since Friday. I'm not sure what her clitoris was like before, but its well above average in size. It is apparent that Estelle is becoming male, sex change is a growing problem for exemplars, still fairly rare especially female to male changes, but becoming more common. Fortunately it appears relatively stable. So health wise, Estelle has little to worry about physically and won't have the social stigma of many GSD cases."
Through a haze of panic, I heard Mom ask how long it should take.
“From the amount of testosterone and other hormones in her body, the rate of change in her reproductive system, I'd say within a year she'll outwardly look like a male boy of her age, except for the penis which will still be forming, and be fully male in two to four years. I can narrow it down after we do a study of his, er, her rate of change over the next few days.”
I ran for it. Screw being hungry, I needed to get out of there. Running down the stairs as fast as I could, barely able to see, my mind was screaming that I didn't want to be a boy. Sure I liked looking at them, but actually being a boy? They were dirty, covering themselves in aftershave and cheap deodorant rather than taking a decent shower. They only thought about sex. They were violent. Didn't know how to dress properly. Didn't know anything about romance or how to have a conversation that didn't revolve around sports, girls or action movies. And I was going to be one.
I was going to have a penis hanging between my legs! Disgusting!
My foot missed a step and I started going down, the floor rising up to met my face. Screaming I covered my head, trying to stay loose, hoping that I wouldn't break my neck. Something hard grabbed me, twisting me in midair, there was a bone jarring thud and I was being cradled by Mom, plaster dust raining down on us as she sat on the floor.
My tears soaked her sweater.
We drove straight to Uncle Herbs' home after I stopped crying. I knew Mom had been thinking of spending the night at the VHC base if everything went ok so she could spend more time with Eddie. But after how I... possibly overreacted to hearing the news about my unwanted sex change, she decided it was better if I was somewhere I felt safe.
I laid on the seat with my head on Moms lap, while she lightly stroked my hair with her soft leather gloves singing a lullaby she would sing all the time when I was younger. I tried not to think about what my body was doing to me. It simply wasn't fair. Mom got turned into a beautiful woman, not some blonde bimbo, but graceful, strong and actually properly proportioned, the only bad thing was her eyes. Dad went from a skinny, sickly nerd to being handsomer than Brad Pitt, and a heck of a lot stronger.
I manifest and it's all hey sucks to be you. Can't wear makeup anymore, forget about having kids, bye bye fashion sense, wasn't going to be treated like a lady and taken out for a fancy evening. Couldn't cry or giggle anymore. I'd have to learn how to punch my friends, and I'd probably have to use my fighting skills. Going window shopping was right out, unless it was for video games. The list went on and on. I hadn't even had a boyfriend. Now if I did I'd be called gay.
Would I start liking girls?
Hugging my bear as if I'd never get another chance to feel his well worn fur, because I knew guys couldn't be caught dead with stuffed animals, I tried not to start crying again.
Monday, November 24th, 2007
Fly By, more commonly known as Steve Young when at home, sat at his computer struggling to stay awake. He hadn't slept much that night, thinking about his daughter had him too worried. Even his girlfriend sleeping naked in his bed behind him wasn't helping.
He'd thought a lot of things could happen to Estelle, but turning into a boy? That hadn't even been on the radar. There was no way Estelle could stay in her school for more than a few months. She'd have to leave by the end of the spring term at the latest. And she couldn't really stick around Edmonton, not at first anyways. Too many people would know about her change, she'd need time to get used to it, before she could rebuild her life.
The fact that she was an energizer of some kind was another factor. If she was just an exemplar, she could learn from them how to control her strength. But an energizer could explode all too literally. There was only one boarding school he knew where she had a chance of learning about her powers, building herself back up, and finding people who could comprehend at least a little bit of what she was going through.
But first he had to make sure that she'd be safe at Whateley. He had been a senior there when Force-Bolt had killed his girlfriend Paragon, after he discovered Paragon was actually a boy turning into a girl. His little girl hadn't had an easy life, but he would do whatever he had to to make sure she was as safe as reasonably possible.
Going to his email he started writing a letter.
“Come on lazy bones! We've got things to do and you can't spend all day sleeping,” Uncle Herb roared happily.
Falling out of bed, I slowly got onto my knees. “Ow! Why did you do that?” I asked the furry guy, who was dressed in his going out clothes, baggy shorts and a t-shirt that read 'Feed the bear' on it.
“The farmers markets are open, you have the day free, and I feel like cooking tonight. So get dressed, you're going to help me because I hate shopping alone.” As he spoke he dug through my closet, tossing warm leggings, a cute skirt, a tight top and a sweater at me.
I stared at the nice clothes I wouldn't be able to wear in a few months. “I... I don't want to go outside right now.”
“Too bad. You can't spend time moping, take it from my years of experience. You can get dressed and come with me, or I'll carry you kicking and screaming in your nightshirt and take you downtown anyways.”
One look in his eyes convinced me to get dressed. When I was ten I'd been in a snit over something, and hadn't wanted to get out of bed. He'd carried me outside and I'd spent over an hour wandering around Vancouver's' boutiques and markets in my sneakers and barbie pyjamas until he thought I'd learned my lesson and gave me some clothes to put on.
Mom was already waiting for us in the customized SUV that Uncle Herb used. As I headed out the door, Ms. Rozic handed me a hot, homemade BLT. Climbing into the back I let Mom and Uncle Herb talk, staring out the window at nothing, eating my breakfast.
We got to Herb's favourite place, the Winter Farmers Market at Nat Bailey Stadium, which was packed with food vendors, organic and not so organic produce, baked goods, handmade goods, music and more. Some people who were new to Vancouver shouted and even screamed when they saw Uncle Herb, but the vendors knew him very well, they called out greetings, offering him samples, asking what he was going to cook that night, and swearing that their stuff was the best.
A few of them remembered me because they'd see me almost everyday when we visited the summer farmers market. As we wandered through the stalls, I started to loosen up, helping pick out the best salmon, late season berries made sweeter than ever by the chilly temperatures, eating one of the best pulled pork sandwiches ever made, sampling cheeses that you can't find in any supermarket, inhaling the scent of spices, trying to figure out what would be best to cook with. I was even able to sip a little bit of sweet ice wine that was offered to Uncle Herb. It was all I could do not to start eating the apple cobbler we bought, which smelled fresh and buttery, having been made that morning.
It took three hours to work our way through the market, with Uncle Herb talking to almost everyone. He also posed for pictures with people who asked politely, and pointedly turned away from people who didn't ask or were rude about it. A handful of people saw him and glared or walked away with a disgusted look on their face. We ignored them, the bigots were just par for the course and we had to deal with them everywhere. As long as they didn't get in Herbs or Mom's face, we ignored them.
Heading back home, Uncle Herb and I discussed how best to prepare the piles of food that filled the back. Mom stayed out of it, she could cook pretty decent food, but it was never her favourite thing so she and Dad split the job or ate out, and on weekends I'd do a lot of the cooking. I'd learned to cook from Uncle Herb and loved every minute of it, even if I sometimes experimented with things I shouldn't, we'd all agreed to never talk about the chocolate covered rice balls I'd made when I was eleven.
We spent a few hours cooking, Mom and Ms. Rozic talked together and acted as go-for's for Uncle Herb and I. The dishes didn't match each other, there was no style, no overarching theme, and we didn't care, it was just fun, and I needed that. I went to bed early, with a very full stomach. And surrounded by my toys, I managed to fall asleep.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2007
The good mood from the day before died away as I was driven into town for another meeting with Dr. Sharpe. This time Uncle Herb drove us, I felt a little guilty, he was only doing this because he wanted to protect me, even if it was protecting me from myself. I wasn't about to turn him away however, I couldn't tell my regular friends about what was happening to me, and they were hundreds of kilometers away. There was just Mom and Uncle Herb, so I'd lean on them as much as I could.
When we got to the doctors office, Mom stayed with me until it was time to climb into the devise. I opted to go to sleep again. Again there was the strange sensation of not actually feeling myself going to sleep or waking up
This time it only took until lunch time. In the sitting room there were sandwiches from the best deli in town. Doctor Sharpe tried and failed to make small talk while we ate before he told us the important news.
“I have an estimate on how long it will take you to change, Estelle.” He looked away, almost ashamed. “At your current rate of progression, you'll lose your breasts no later than December, next year. By then your waist will be nearly identical to a boys with only a slight curve. You should increase in height by anywhere from 10 to 14 centimetres. Also this summer you should have a penis that is functional for urinating, but will be quite small. At the current rate of growth, it will be a further one to two years before it is of average size and functional for sexual purposes. In that same amount of time, you're pelvis will have become identical to a males, and your shoulders should reach their full width. Within one year of achieving that, your ovaries will have fully transformed into testes, and you'll be a fully functional male.”
“Can we slow it down?” I asked, using a napkin to wipe my eyes.
He shook his head. “Not with anything I'd be willing to risk. If it was a severe health risk, or deadly, there are some new devisor drugs I'd be willing to try. However in your case... it's not deadly. From early trials, you'd have a 60 to 80 percent chance of suffering burn out, resulting in a more severe change, or actually speeding up the process. If you aren't lucky, you'd die painfully.”
Uncle Herb picked me up and placed me on his lap like I was a child, so he could hug me. Mom patted my back telling me not to give up hope. With my face buried in pink fur, I couldn't tell what the doctor was doing, I didn't care, he'd only brought me bad news since I met him.
“Estelle,” Sharpe said timidly. “Estelle, I have a friend who has gone through something similar to you. She's a mutant as well, and she lives in Seattle. If I ask her, she could talk to you. It might help you.”
“That would be appreciated,” Mom answered for me. “Thank you.”
“It's the least I can do.”
We left soon after, Uncle Herb went home so that Mom and I could have a girls day out, we wouldn't be getting many more of them. We went to a spa, got our nails done, a massage, facials, and our hair styled, after supper we saw a chick flick then headed off to bed. If it hadn't felt so much like a last hurrah it might have helped draw me out of my stupor. But as I looked at my purple nails, I couldn't help thinking what I would say if I saw a boy with long coloured nails, and what the bullies would do to him.
The next day went the same way. A day out with Mom, clothes shopping and trying to relax, which I appreciated. I don't get enough days with just Mom and I, so I learned to treasure the moments we could just seem normal. I smiled, laughed and joked, but I knew she saw the sadness and growing desperation building up beneath the surface. I felt like a volcano, rumbling away, apparently peaceful, but waiting to erupt in fury.
Even Uncle Herb couldn't do anything to reach me, and he tried. We went on a hike through the woods that evening, he got me to practice my Krav Maga, and set up his basement so I could work off some energy dancing alone to my favourite music. When I finally went to bed at midnight, I was still too full of angry energy to really sleep.
Thursday, November 27th, 2006
Waking up at seven the next morning, I discovered I'd ripped my stuffed kitten to shreds in my sleep. After a good cry in the shower, I was barely ready to meet the day, which involved going to the school presentation I'd agreed to see along with Mom and Uncle Herb on Saturday when everything had made sense.
I skipped breakfast so I could make my makeup perfect and chose my girliest outfit. If I wasn't going to be able to dress up much longer, I was going to flaunt it while I could.
For some reason I wasn't very hungry as we drove to the assembly. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't using my power, whatever it was, but I seemed to just need one huge meal a day and two normal ones. Whatever it was, at least I didn't have to worry about stuffing my face constantly.
Wait, I was going to a boy soon. I could shovel food into my mouth and no one would care.
So one good thing out of a hundred bad.
Looking at my compact mirror, I tried to smile. The ruby red lipstick was beautiful against my pale skin, a touch of glitter under the eyes helped to further hide the black rings that were already covered by concealer. My dark bangs were low on the left side of my face, giving me a bit of mystery, and the french braid hung over my shoulder. My sparkling dark purple turtleneck sweater hugged the curves I was so proud of developing. Black tights clung to my legs and hips with a tanned faux leather mini-skirt, and knee high, black boots on three inch heels, silver earrings and matching hair clips completed my look.
I'd always thought I'd be beautiful when I got older. I'd picture myself wearing something like this or better, at a dance with everyone watching me as I walked in with the movie star or singer of the month. Now if I was lucky, the girls would be watching me with lust and the boys would be looking at me to see who was top dog. I hated it.
We got to the auditorium, school buses had already arrived dropping off hordes of kids from grade 1 to grade 6. There were going to be over two thousand kids there, listening to special speakers all morning telling them what they could achieve if they tried, how they should be proud of themselves and other uplifting themes. If I was suppose to be there all morning I'd have died of boredom, but since I'd only be there for the cool stuff of watching superheroes, and could wander around backstage it wasn't too bad.
We were met by a police officer when we parked in the place reserved for us. Mom and Uncle Herb were already in costume. Moms' dark red, yellow and gold costume which covered her entire body even her eyes, was eye catching, although if that was from her choice of colours or her figure was up for debate depending on if you were a guy or a girl. The hot pink metal armour Uncle Herb wore was eye catching and had probably made more than one criminal surrender just to escape having to look at it for any longer then necessary.
The officer led us in the back way where Mo Shu Shi was waiting for us. The Chinese-Canadian wizard looked properly mysterious in his long flowing robes, no mask concealed his face, but every time you looked at him his face looked different. “Hi, Estelle,” he said smiling broadly. “I'm glad to see you are doing so well.”
I shrugged. “Thanks, Mo. So what are you planning to do to wow the crowd?”
He waved a hand through the air, creating a small illusion of a supervillain being defeated by the VHC. “I was thinking I would show them how turning to the path of crime was a good way to end up in jail. They'll like seeing the fight and while the message is rather blunt, sometimes the hammer works best.”
“That's what I like about you Mo,” Mom said, her hand resting on the crowbar hanging from her belt. “Unlike most hocus pocus types, you know when to drop the pretenses.”
He gave her a grin. “Sometimes you need to be mysterious, other times you need the crowbar. It's foolish to believe only one method works.”
A weedy looking man came over, eyeing the heroes nervously. “Excuse me,” he said in a nasally voice, “I'm suppose to show someone their reserved seat.”
“That would be me. Knock em dead guys,” I said, smiling at each of them equally so that no one would be able to say that I cared more about one then another.
While we wandered back stage, the guy looked at me oddly. “How come you came with the capes?”
“Can you keep a secret?” I asked, looking around nervously.
“Of course, no problem! I swear!”
“One of them is my mother,” I whispered.
His eyes went wide. “Really!”
“Yeah, Super Bear is my Mom. We like to keep it on the down low for obvious reasons. It's a little embarrassing and involves cloning, mad science and a really messed up devisor.” I almost fell over from laughing, as he looked at me with disgust, followed by anger. As if I'd tell him the truth.
He quickened his pace, and showed me to a chair just off the stage, placed so I could see a fair bit, and hear everything. At the moment, some hockey player from the Vancouver Canucks was talking about perseverance and giving it your all. I followed hockey sometimes, mostly with Dad, but I was a Oilers girl, the Canucks could go jump in the Pacific for all I cared. So I watched what the stage crew was doing, it was a lot more interesting.
People were rushing around, making sure their costumes were in place, shouting orders about who was going to be up next, asking what was going on with certain cameras, and double checking that everything was ready. And of course there were the police. With the mayor, several celebrities and of course so many kids, it was a tempting target for supervillains, which was why they had the heroes already there, along with so many police officers. Sure Mom and the other two weren't going to talk for long, but they weren't going to leave once they were done their hour. They'd just wait behind the scenes while others did their thing.
After half an hour of listening to the hockey player, followed by a music video about hope and dreams, it was time for the good stuff. Mo Shu Shi, appeared on the stage in a flash of light, his robes blew in a wind that only affected him. Uncle Herb, jumped down from the rafters with a roar, an anti-grav pack stopped him from breaking the stage at the last second, he shook his head, letting everyone get a look at his sharp horns. Mom came last, running so fast it was impossible to focus on her properly. She stopped at one person, saying hi to the shocked boy, became a blur and was giving a little girl a hug on the other side of the auditorium, she did that five times, signing hats and other things as she did, before getting on stage.
I clapped as loudly as anyone when the kids got over their shock.
Mom spoke first, giving a short speech about believing in yourself, and how love, friends and family could help you overcome any problems. It was a good speech, even if I didn't believe it. Maybe it was the fact that I still couldn't touch my parents properly after they struggled to find a cure for fourteen years and was changing into a freak, but I wasn't exactly on board the look on the bright side of life train.
Then Mo Shu Shi did his speech, which was a lot more interesting. Seeing a superhero group fighting a supervillain in 3D, while in the safety of a comfortable seat is cool. However halfway through the show, Mom tilted her head covering her ear to listen to her ear bud. Five seconds later she was gone leaving only a gust of wind behind her. Whatever the heroes were worried about must have been going down.
The light show ended, and then Mo did a vanishing act leaving Super Bear to pass on the message before giving his own speech. He was doing well, no one who didn't know him well would have known he was agitated. I however knew him very well, and saw how rigidly he held his devil tail to keep it from waving around like an angry cat. Nervously I left my seat and went to find the bathroom.
I was leaving the ladies room, wiping my hands when I heard some shouting. Walking down the wide hall, I saw three police men facing a group of people wearing dark black clothes with red symbols stitched into the cloth, each one had a white porcelain mask. One of the police officers was speaking into his radio when the masked men raised raised their staves, electricity shot out hitting the three officers, flinging them back filling the hall with the smell of cooked meat.
My parents and various Krav Maga instructors had made sure that I would react quickly when facing threats. I turned and bolted down the hallway yelling for help as loudly as I could. My hair stood on end as they shot their electricity at me, but since they didn't hit me and I could still run I just put on more speed. This was not easy since I was wearing high heeled boots, but somehow I stayed on my feet.
Even with my shouting, I heard the sound of gunshots and what sounded like thunder. Kids were screaming, so were a lot of adults but those deeper screams more often ended with frightening finality. I saw the stage in front of me, it was absolute chaos. Uncle Herb had pulled out his laser rifle, sniping at dozens of attackers who were trying to get close to the stage by hiding among the audience. Electricity and energy flared against his personal forcefield.
He saw me and turned, firing as he did so. I couldn't see the beam of light, but it was so close, it actually burned my cheek. There was a scream of agony behind me, then the world turned electric blue. My body spasmed and my nerves burned, I hit the floor flopping around like a fish. I could still see a little at least so I knew I wasn't dead.
There was an animalistic cry, Uncle Herb dropped his laser gun, and pulled out his plasma pistol. Energy roared and it felt like I was in an oven. He moved out of my sight, a man screamed in agony, and blood hit my face. People were yelling for everyone to stop moving, while others screamed for reinforcements.
My muscles stopped spasming, I looked up to see a woman and man in white robes slit the throat of the mayor, letting his blood pour over a crystal and onto a thick mat that looked like ancient leather. Super Bear was being shot at from all sides, his horns were covered in blood, and the hand that wasn't firing the pistol was dripping with gore. The demon tail circled around an attackers throat, crushing it in a single smooth motion.
A few police officers were still fighting, but they were being surrounded and cut down. Crawling, I tried to find somewhere to hide. My body felt hot, crackling with every move, sparks appeared in my eyes, I was shivering and shaking uncontrollably. Even as I saw the bloodshed around me, I panicked at the thought of burning out, there was no other reason for what was happening to me.
Someone grabbed me, dragging me towards the stage where Uncle Herbs' forcefield was faltering, letting the magical energy finally start hitting him. His fur burned, and his firing became erratic. I screeched as he fell with a boneless thud.
“-the first sacrifices quickly. The shield is holding, but the newcomer is already outside trying to get in,” the woman in white said to someone I couldn't see. “Make sure the hero is secure, we'll need him later.”
I was carried over to an enormous silk sheet covered in runes and symbols that made my sore eyes water. Thrown carelessly to the ground, my body kept jerking uncontrollably. Fifty kids walked onto the stage, looking dazed, moving like zombies. They were directed onto the silk sheet and stood their patiently, a few were crying, more looked scared, but none of them seemed able to do anything.
Ten people in black began chanting, I crawled towards edge of the sheet, which took me towards the back of the group. I probably, definitely couldn't do anything to the cultists, but if I could damage the runes on the sheet, it might spoil the ceremony. I'd probably die, but it was better then letting them sacrifice me without a fight.
Crawling on hands and knees, my body burned. I wondered why the silk wasn't burning under my hands. Finally I reached one of the runes, the cultists were too busy chanting, finishing off the last of the opposition, and doing whatever they were doing keeping the kids in line, to pay attention to me. Feebly my hands clutched the fabric, trying to rip it, damage it, scratch the ink off, something. Nothing happened, the material was too strong, and the dark red dye wasn't about to be wiped away. I shoved my finger down my throat, maybe covering it in vomit would do something.
My stomach heaved, but nothing came out. I hadn't had breakfast, so there was nothing to bring up except some water. The chanting was getting louder, and I was feeling worse. My skin was too tight, my hands shook so much I thought I could hear them humming, more sparks danced in front of me. Staggering to my feet, I lurched forward, if I couldn't damage the thing, I could at least try to distract them. Moving towards the nearest cultist, I slammed into a wall. Energy flowed around me, pouring into my body. My skin began to split, every atom in my body was buzzing. I opened my mouth to scream, it felt as if I was in the heart of a star.
Energy poured out of my mouth. I saw the cultists in front of me turn to shadows and fade away. There were screams and the sound of walls collapsing. Seconds seemed to be hours as the energy escaped, cooling my body, leaving me weak and exhausted but feeling alive.
The wave of energy turned into a trickle, through the spots that danced in my vision, a blur appeared. Cultists fell, their limbs and chests crushed before they could blink. A cultist flew through the air with a cry of fear, followed by the sound of shattering metal. A bear roared in fury.
The leaders tried to rally their followers. They didn't get very far when they were surrounded by smoke, Mo Shu Shi floated in the air chanting and throwing rice paper into the cloud. Dark energy flew back at him, forcing the hero to dodge and weave, breaking his concentration. Uncle Herb ended the stand off by throwing several grenades into the cloud, seconds later there was a brilliant flash and a wave of heat. The cloud vanished revealing charred bones and a charred, smoking floor.
Mom finished breaking the last of the cultists and then she was holding me in her arms.
Feeling her hard body, I realized I was pretty much naked.
Mo floated over to me, seeing that I was less than dressed, he took off his long outer robe, draping it over my body. Uncle Herb limped over, the metal shackles on his wrists and ankles clanking noisily, his body was covered in burns and gashes. His big brown eyes looked me over making sure I was alive, then he sat down with a groan, the pistol falling from his hand.
Police and paramedics came running in, which was fortunate, whatever had kept the kids under control was wearing off, their cries and screams steadily getting louder.
Clinging to Mom, she carried me out of the growing chaos. “Burnout. Was... so hot,” I gasped, shivering with cold now.
She cursed, ignoring the police and paramedics who were coming towards us and began to run. Mom shouted something into her radio as I passed out.
Friday, November 28th, 2007
When I woke up in a hospital bed, groaning with pain, I realized that the nightmare had been all too real. A whimper rose in my throat as my mind replayed what had happened for me, I had really wanted everything the fighting be a some kind of bit induced dream or something.
My skin felt raw and itchy, like I had a whole body sunburn. Moving my arm I knew there was an IV in me. Lifting the light blanket and my gown, revealed a series of suction cups covering my upper body. They weren't connected to anything, but from the little lights on top of them they were probably sending the information to some computers close by. Mom was sleeping in a chair beside the bed.
“Mom,” I rasped.
She woke up instantly, clutching my hand through the blanket. “Thank God! I was so worried. I'm sorry I brought you there. I'm sorry I didn't get back sooner!” she cried.
I let her talk for a few minutes, as she kissed my hand through the blanket. When she got excited or upset it took a while for her to stop talking and listen to others. Finally she was calm enough to listen. “Water.”
She poured me the fastest cup of water in history, holding the straw to my mouth. The lukewarm liquid was sweeter, cooler and greater than any drink I'd ever had. The second glass full was almost as good. Feeling like I could talk without ripping open my throat I asked the most important question I could think of. “What happened?”
“The people who attacked are, were, a cult. They wanted to summon their god to earth, not just temporally and spiritually, but physically and in a way that would keep it from being banished again. That's why they needed all those kids, they planned for it perfectly, even finding a way to use the mayors soul, as the ruler of the city, to set up a nearly unbreakable magical shield.” She beamed at me. “But they weren't counting on you.”
Closing my eyes, half remembered pain along with visions of blood, tears, runes written in red and ugly writhing energy came to me. “What did I do?”
“From the video cameras that survived, Herb, and some of the students you helped save, were able to confirm what happened. You absorbed the energy from not only the electrical weapons they used, but the magical ward that should have kept you inside the circle. When it built up too much, your body released it, shattering the shield that was blocking us.” She hugged me tightly. “If you hadn't done that, at least the first fifty students would have died, probably two or three hundred before we could have gotten through.”
“And my burnout?”
The smile turned to a look of relief. “If you had one it was extremely minor. Dr. Sharpe believes your body became overcharged, and you didn't know how to release it. You'll have to practice to learn to control it, because once you activated the wards defences it nearly killed you. But we know what your power is now, so we can give you the training you need and it won't happen again.”
I thought about it for a few minutes, taking another drink of water as well. “So, I have to be shot with energy to use my power?”
Mom nodded, looking quite proud of my power.
I thought about it some more, not liking where my thoughts were going. “I know what my code name is going to be.”
“Target. I have to get shot to do any good,” I said with disgust.
Mom started laughing thinking that I had made a joke. I guess I had, but it didn't feel like one. I didn't want to be a hero, but what possible good could my power do for getting a job in the future? For helping me with school? For being of ANY goddamn use in my daily life?
I was turning into a boy and the only consolation prize I was getting, was only good for the very last thing I wanted to do. If I'd had any moisture left in my body I would have started crying. I settled for saying I needed to go back to sleep and pulling the blanket over my head.
It was well after lunch when we started testing my power. I still felt like an overcooked lobster, and my bright red skin was sticky with ointments to help the healing process, but Dr. Sharpe said everything would be fine as long as I didn't push myself too hard.
Uncle Herb sat beside the control panel in the VHC powers range. He looked like he'd gotten sprayed with gas and lit on fire. I wasn't sure if I should hug him or not, he settled that by hobbling over and giving me a gentle hug, kissing my cheek at the same time. “You did good, Kitten.”
“Thanks, you did good to. If there hadn't been so many of them you'd have kicked their butts.”
He scowled, which was actually pretty scary with his large teeth that I'd so recently seen in action. “Next time I go to an assembly, I'm bringing my missile launcher.”
Mom came over, wearing her more comfortable leisure costume, which was an over sized domino mask, and a fedora to hide her face, with a light cotton body suit. She still had her crowbar strapped to her waist, but this one had a noticeable bend in the middle. “Come on, Target, time to start testing your powers,” she said.
“Ok, Sun,” I replied. We were being recorded for our own personal records, so it was code names only, and I was wearing a full face mask with my hair done up in a tight bun hidden by the fabric. It was tight and itchy, how Mom and Dad put up with it everyday I had no idea.
Mom attached a thick metal cord to a high voltage outlet. “Beginning test on newly manifested mutant, code named... Target. Energizer with apparent energy absorption and expulsion powers. First test, energy absorption using lowest electrical setting.” We weren't saying the exact voltage, because if the recordings fell into the wrong hands the less information they could get the better.
I walked over to the machine, which according to the red warning lights, was on, Mom was standing well back on a rubber mat. As I'd been instructed earlier, I touched it with both hands, nothing happened. “Is this thing on?” I asked.
Uncle Herb looked up from his computer. “Everything is functioning normally, subject is absorbing one hundred percent of the power.”
“Increasing setting to level 5,” Mom said.
Now I felt something. It was a tingling along my arms, it actually felt kind of nice, like how a good shampoo or moisturizer tingles on the skin. I felt stronger, more alive. “This feels great.”
“Increasing to level 10.”
My whole body was tingling, I found I was bouncing on my toes wanting to move, to dance, to do something. I didn't know what was happening to me but it felt great. “Can you give me more?”
“Increasing to level 15.”
I started to get hot, not uncomfortably hot, but definitely a hot day at the beach feeling. My feet started tapping, my skin was feeling too tight again. As I practically jumped in place, I heard crackling sounds around me. “This is getting a bit hot, I can handle more though. Hit me!”
“Subject is complaining of feeling hot. Sparks are appearing from her fingers, hands, mouth and eyes. Showing signs of hyper activity, and giddiness. Stopping energy absorption tests.”
“Aw come on! This feels nice, I think I could outrun you Sun,” I whined, flexing my fingers to see sparks shooting out through my clothes.
Mom looked over to Uncle Herb, a smile came to her lips. “Let's find out. Target, lets go to the treadmill.”
Practically jumping on the thing I started running, sparks flew all around me like a little fireworks display. The treadmill sped up slowly and steadily. I didn't have any trouble running for about five minutes, then it was going just a bit too fast for me, and I started to stumble. It cut off before I fell, but it was a a close call. Hopping off, barely breathing hard, I walked over to where they were looking at the computer. “So how fast was I going?”
“You topped out at 50km/h, that's 6km faster then then the world record speed for sprinting. How do you feel?” Herb asked.
“Pretty good, I could do that for at least another five or ten minutes.”
Mom looked me over, “You're not bouncing or sparking anymore. Let's do some more running.”
Back on the treadmill I was able to run for another twenty minutes. But after the first three minutes, they had to start slowing it down, until I was running at my regular much slower speed. I still wasn't having any real trouble breathing, but it was becoming a challenge. Calling a stop, Mom looked over the results with Uncle Herb.
“Target, is capable of storing energy and using it to enhance her speed and endurance for a limited period of time. We will recharge her to the previous level, and proceed to weight lifting,” Mom said, she sounded impressed.
With a charged battery, I could bench press almost three hundred kilograms. I could also jump five meters with a short run, and three meters straight up.
Mom let me take a short break and then I was recharged. “Next test energy expulsion. In the field, Target channelled an unknown amount of energy into a blast that destroyed several walls of cement and wood, including a magical force field of unknown strength, reaching a range of 500 meters, a full report will be added later after analyzing the damaged structures. This left her dangerously dehydrated and unconscious for almost twenty-four hours, as well as suffering very mild burns, similar to a first degree sunburn, over one hundred percent of her skin, and possibly suffering a minor burnout. We will not test her at that estimated level.”
I had to admit I was enjoying the testing. The electricity wasn't fantastic, but the feeling was nice, almost like guilt free chocolate. When I was recharged, I skipped to the firing range, faced the metal target that was 50 meters away, and stopped.
I had no idea how to release the energy.
“Um, how do I shoot? I just screamed yesterday and it came out of me, kind of like throwing up.”
“You can feel the energy inside of you right?” Mom asked. I nodded. “Alright try to concentrate it in one spot. Since it came from your mouth the first time, it might be easier to move it there.”
With the power humming inside of me, I tried to picture it moving to my mouth. My feet and hands stopped tingling, my arms and legs became almost painfully hot. I kept picturing the energy moving through my body. When it reached my chest, my heart started to beat a mile a minute. Each beat pushed it further until it was in my head. My skull was too tight, it was going to burst like a rotten tomato. Sweat poured down my face. I opened my mouth and pushed it out.
The 40cm slab of metal shattered, fragments embedded themselves into the walls, and a few actually bounced and whizzed past us.
“Ow,” I moaned, smoke coming from my mouth. “I need a nap.”
Mom caught me as I fell.
I woke up to Mom yelling. “You WILL NOT see Target, until she has recovered. She was placed under extreme stress yesterday and is still resting.”
Someone said something I couldn't make out in a gruff voice, and another person, I thought it was Mermaid, spoke more soothingly. “She is not a suspect in the attack, and the police agreed that there is enough evidence that they do not need to question her immediately.”
Someone with a very deep voice spoke, and there was a murmured conversation. A few minutes later the door opened, Mermaid came in and saw that I was awake. “The MCO is here, and wants to question you. You aren't in any trouble and Prairie Sun is going to be in her the whole time. Can you handle it?”
I nodded. We had heard horror stories from the US, and a few places in Canada about the MCO. Some of the agents seemed to have fun making themselves into annoyances, but Mom and Dad were popular heroes and Vancouver was as mutant friendly as they came. If we were in Winnipeg or Quebec things might be different, but I didn't really worry about them.
“Put this on, and remember not to use names,” she told me, handing me the mask I'd worn earlier.
After I put it on, Mermaid stepped out. A minute later, Mom, a man in a dark suit, and the leader of the Vancouver Heroes Corp, Cloud Master, came inside. Only Cloud Master was smiling in his light blue and white costume.
“Hello Target,” Mom said. “The MCO was called in by the RCMP, Agent Glenn would like to ask you some questions. I will be listening in, so just tell the truth and don't worry about anything you are not in any trouble.”
Agent Glenn scowled at Mom. “I will write a formal protest about your interference Prairie Sun. You should have allowed the paramedics to take care of her, and you should not be in the same room while I am getting her testimony.”
“Go ahead,” Mom challenged him. “The RCMP have a written statement from her mother stating I am the girls temporary caregiver while she is in Vancouver and in any matter that pertains to the MCO. If you want to continue arguing the point, we can go downstairs and talk to the Chief Superintendent. I'm sure he'd love to deal with a dispute between the VHC and the MCO, concerning a child who all the news stations are saying saved the day yesterday.”
The scowl got worse. “Fine, stay here.” Agent Glenn came to sit beside me. “Hello, Target. I would like to ask you a few questions. First, what were you doing at the presentation yesterday?”
“I was invited by Super Bear and Carapace.” Using Uncle Herbs' and Eddies' codenames was second nature to me.
“Why would they invite you?”
“Because they are helping me find out about my mutant powers after I manifested last week.”
He eyed me carefully. “When you manifested was anyone hurt?”
“You don't need to answer that question, Target,” Mom said, her expression unreadable behind her mask but her tone dangerously sharp.
“Excuse me Sun, I thought we had agreed I would be conducting this interview?” Glenn said, his own voice very flat and full of menace.
“You agreed to keep it on topic. And the VHC made the deal, I'm going along with it because I'm a guest. But if you keep up this line of questioning, I will take the girl and go back home.”
Cloud Master cleared his throat. “I believe that Prairie Sun has a point, Agent Glenn. Please keep your questions to the matter at hand.”
“Fine,” the MCO agent said. “Where were you when the mayor was killed?”
I struggled to remember even though I really didn't want to, a shiver ran through me as images of the blood and dead bodies rose up in my mind. “I think I was being dragged to the circle.”
“And you didn't try to stop it?”
My eyes went wide, what was I supposed to have done? “I could barely move, I couldn't do anything.”
“But when you personally were in danger, you suddenly learned how to use your powers?” he asked, getting in my face.
“I felt like I was dying. I couldn't even walk!” Tears started to fall as the horror came back to me in full force. “I tried to throw up on the damn thing, I was so helpless.”
There was no mercy in his eyes. “You come from Edmonton?”
“Yes,” I said without thinking, just a split second before Mom got between us.
“Agent Glenn there is no need for the MCO to know where she came from!” she snapped.
“Prairie Sun, we know that you came to Vancouver by airplane, but there are no records of Target. If she came from Edmonton with you, that is a criminal activity, and the MCO needs to know about. If you continue to block this investigation I will call in my superiors,” the MCO goon said, reaching for his phone.
Mom got in his face, “How can the girl have an MID before we even know what her powers are? Dr. Sharpe, can confirm that until yesterday we had no idea what her powers could be, and the only reason we suspected anything was because a routine medical exam picked up a possible case of GSD.”
“According to the MID Act of 1994, all mutants must have an MID if they travel by airline, unless they are specifically flying to get an MID. Edmonton has a very good powers testing facility, so Target has broken the law and I may expand the investigation on my prerogative. This is inarguable. The MCO is being courteous to the VHC because of their work, but due to her infractions I am legally entitled to arrest Target immediately if she refuses to answer my questions.” He turned away from Mom and focused his attention on me. “Now Target, did you hurt anyone when you manifested?”
Mom pushed her way between my bed and the agent, her body was practically vibrating with tension. “You will stop this line of questioning or I will remove you.”
“You are interfering with an active MCO investigation, Prairie Sun. I will now contact my superiors and they can deal with you,” Agent Glenn said, almost gleefully.
Cloud Master put a hand on Moms' shoulder before she could do something drastic. Mermaid stepped inside, she was holding a phone. “Agent Glenn, your supervisor Mrs. Watson would like to talk to you.”
He took the phone as if it was radioactive, gingerly holding it to his ear. “Hello, ma'am, this is Agent Glenn.”
We couldn't hear the other end of the conversation, but from the way he was getting whiter it wasn't going well for him. Two minutes later he was simply handed the phone back to Mermaid and walked out very stiffly without a backward glance. When he was gone, Mermaid handed the phone to me.
“Hello?” I said hesitantly.
“Hello Target. I am Mrs. Watson, I'm in charge of the Vancouver branch of the MCO,” an older sounding woman said very formally.
“Ok, did I do something wrong?” I asked, looking at Mom a little desperately.
She gave a little chuckle. “No, you haven't. I would actually like apologize for Agent Glenn, you won't be seeing him again.”
“Oh, thank you,” I said, having no idea what else to say.
“Before you leave Vancouver, I will need you to come to our office to give a statement about what happened and to get an MID. I've already discussed the details with Prairie Sun and she will come with you,” Mrs. Watson said.
“Very good. I hope you feel better soon, and please stay out of trouble. Have a nice day.”
“You to,” I said, still stunned at what had happened.
The woman hung up and I handed the phone back to Mermaid. “What happened?” I asked.
Mom half sat on the bed, letting her fingers brush against my side. “Sorry about that honey. Agent Glenn has been a thorn in the side of the VHC and the older MCO agents here for the last few months. When he saw the report about you yesterday, he went on a rant about how you needed to be dragged in for questioning, and that you were a dangerous mutant. He did some digging, found out you were under my protection and put two and two together, he started filing a formal charge for travelling without an MID that was caught by Mrs. Watson at the last minute.”
“So why did you let him even come here?”
Cloud Master didn't try to hide his delight. “Mrs. Watson called and told us the situation. We explained why you didn't have an MID, and we all agreed to do a bit of a sting. Agent Glenn was told in writing what to talk about and ordered not to go on side topics like your lack of an MID. If he followed instructions, there would be no harm done to anyone. Since he went off on his own vendetta, on top of his other infractions, she has enough to suspend him with cause, when he comes back he'll be pushing papers and not coming near any mutants.”
“Oh. I'm glad I could help.” I still wasn't sure exactly what had happened. I knew the MCO wasn't evil with a capital E, but having the MCO boss in Vancouver working with mutants to punish one of her own agents seemed to be pushing things.
My confusion had to be pretty obvious, at least to Cloud Master. “We work very closely with the MCO here, so they don't have any reason to distrust us. And we do enough public events that the public loves us, which makes it hard for certain groups to discredit out good name. It wasn't always this good. When I started here ten years ago we were at each others throats more often then not. It took a lot of work from the former mayor of Vancouver, who happens to be my uncle, to force a change in the MCO leadership. We saw that Mrs. Watson was putting in the effort to clean house, so we started working more closely with her. Now when a bad agent is forced onto her, she passes on the warning to us, and does what she can to tone them down, get rid of them or push them so far under they don't see the light of day ever again.”
“OK, that makes sense,” I told him, laying my head back down on the pillow. I was still pretty exhausted from blowing up the metal.
Mom shooed everyone out of the room, locked the door and took of her mask. “How are you feeling?”
“Go to sleep I'll be waiting here when you wake up,” she said, stroking my cheek, with the blanket and her glove.
I didn't need to be told twice.
Saturday, November 29th, 2007
MCO Head Office for British Columbia
Mom and I walked into the MCO office. I felt pretty noticeable, my sunburn hadn't gone away, only fading a little, emphasis on little. My normally pale skin was now red, a human shade at least, but I looked like I had a permanent blush. None of my clothes or make up would match my skin tone, not that it mattered much I was going to have to change my entire wardrobe soon anyways.
At least they couldn't see much of my skin. I was wearing a hastily made costume, pure white spandex, with a red bulls eye on my chest. Mom was less than happy about that, but I'd been adamant it was either that or a string bikini and a domino mask. Only the fact that I needed to get an MID had let me win that one. When we stepped out of the VHC car, we got quite a few odd looks.
One good thing to look forward to was that I knew everything I had to do, and I wouldn't need a nap afterwards. When they'd checked out the results of my shooting, I'd put out more energy then I'd taken in. I couldn't do anything without being charged up, but I was creating my own energy which could be added to it. When I shot my mouth off, I put everything I had into it, leaving nothing for minor things like staying conscious. Fortunately after some more testing last night and that morning, we found out I could fire energy from my hands which used less power, it just took some practice. Trying to control how much I shot off was a problem, but unless I went all out I never went beyond my limits.
To keep from passing out at the MCO, Mom had talked to Mrs. Watson and they agreed to accept the tests we'd done earlier for when I shot off at my mouth. But I had to try everything else. It was going to be a long day, especially because I'd do something once normally, then they'd charge me up and then I'd do it again.
The front lobby of the MCO office was fairly spacious, but there was nothing that could be used for cover, the benches were very cheap plastic and had lots of holes in them, as well as being bolted to the floor. Looking around, I saw several tiles in the roof that looked like they were hinged, probably for weapons, and the only way past the lobby was through an oversized door that looked like a mini bank vault. Cozy.
I followed Mom to the check in, where a uniformed woman sat behind ten inch thick protective glass. There was a sealed slot for passing paper and forms through, and a microphone for talking. I knew for a fact they didn't have this much security in the Canadian Parliament, my class had visited it last year and gotten a personal tour from an Edmonton federal minister.
“Hello, I'm Prairie Sun, I'm escorting Target for an interview and powers testing,” Mom said, not waiting for the woman to greet her. My parents work with the MCO, that doesn't mean they like them.
The woman didn't seem to care about the abruptness. “We've been expecting you. Please wait by the door, and you will be met by an escort.”
Mom tapped her foot impatiently, while I fidgeted trying to see everything. It was my second time in an MCO office, the first time was a class trip when I was twelve to the Edmonton branch and I was nervous. I looked down at my body which wasn't completely on display in the costume, but showed off my body better than any clothes I'd ever owned. I was suddenly very glad for all the exercise I did, if I had any real body image problems, this would have been humiliating. At least I wasn't exposing any skin. How some of the superheroines could go out and fight in a one piece swimsuit that had to be held on by two sided tape I had no idea. Of course I couldn't figure out how some girls could wear a string bikini either, so I guess I couldn't say too much.
It was a short wait before the door opened with a whine that sounded like a machine was opening it. Two MCO agents in plain black suits greeted us, and we were escorted to an interview room. They asked me about a lot of the details, where was I when the cultists attacked, what types of weapons they had used, what I had done to try to stop them. They acted a little weirded out when I told them about trying to throw up on the runes, but what were they expecting? At the time I was getting more than a little desperate.
The two agents kept everything on topic, and there were no questions about why I couldn't save someone, or why I got onto a plane without an MID. This was probably a good thing because Mom was standing by the door and even without her crowbar, she can look REALLY intimidating just by tapping her fingers. When she wants to freak people out she'll tap her fingers hard enough to leave her fingerprints in metal, fortunately she didn't need to do that, thank god.
The interview took half an hour, and then it was off to the fun, fun, fun job of powers testing. It was long, tiring, frustrating and a little painful. The strategy game they had me play gave me a headache, I had to do the dodge ball test twice, which gave me bruises, and I was only a little bit better then normal the second time when I was charged up. Playing with the crystals and magical stuff had me thinking how much prettier the stones would look done up as jewellery.
After a very long day and a cheap lunch of Chinese food, I was given an MID which listed my powers as Energizer 3, Exemplar 1. I really wanted to rip up that exemplar trait. I wasn't going to be great at anything with that, just a handsome boy, it was as if some malevolent god was mocking me by giving me a stupid power that was low enough to be nearly useless, but could completely screw my life up. I bit back a scream.
When we got back to the VHC headquarters to change into our civilian clothes, there was a special surprise waiting for us.
“DADDY!” I shouted, running over to him to give him a quick hug. He was wearing a thick sweater so I spent a few more seconds squeezing him extra hard.
“Hey princess,” he said, returning the embrace. “I'm sorry I couldn't come sooner, there was a lot of trouble with some idiot kid who somehow found a power stone that I had to deal with. How are you doing?”
I wasn't sure how to answer that. I was still turning into a boy, which I hated, I had a stupid power I never wanted to use, and I'd nearly been killed. But I'd saved a lot of kids and I was being declared a hero in the newspapers which was pretty cool even if I couldn't enjoy it. The bad outweighed the good by a good measure, but it wasn't one hundred percent bad, and I didn't want to start crying, again. “I think I'll be ok.”
Dad gave me a big smile. “I know you will. You're a brave girl, and I'm so proud of how you stopped those cultists. I couldn't have done it better myself.”
“Now who's up for supper? Herb is already waiting in the car for us.”
I was racing downstairs before he had finished speaking.