Inaba 1: Run rabbit, run.
A Whateley Academy Tale
Inaba 1: Run rabbit, run.
Rose Redd, with editorial assistance by Elrod W.
and suggestions from the Cabal Crew.
Warning: This story deals in sensitive subjects, including underage sex, and rape. If these issues are an issue for you, you may not wish to read further.
Sitting on the shore, I listened to the loons calling in the twilight. The mosquitoes were out, but they didn’t bother me. It was almost as if they could sense my sickness. I sighed and breathed in the cool twilight air. My time was remaining was short, I knew that. When I was ten, I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When you are in the custody of the state, and have bounced around from foster home to foster home, you tend to develop a fatalistic approach towards life. Once you learn you are likely dying, and can’t even be placed in a foster home? That’s when you REALLY become a fatalist.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy what time I have left, but I know it’s short. That’s why I ran away. I expect that I’ll be dead before the end of the year. My diagnosis is that the cancer had spread to my lungs, liver, pancreas, and gall bladder. I’m probably down to maybe eighty lbs or so. I’m a little under Five foot four, but I look like a walking skeleton, my ribs and pelvis sticking out under my skin. I had once had beautiful red hair, now it’s almost all gone, and what’s left is brittle and falling out. You could see the specter of death in my face, as my cheeks were hollowed out and eyes sunken.
That’s why I had left the hospital, snuck out really… I was tired of the needles and radiation. At that point I wanted it to all end, and to spend my final days in peace. I took all the money I had stashed away and took a bus up as far as Duluth. I hitchhiked to the Boundary Waters. In a National Park three times the size of Rhode Island, I could get lost, and enjoy my last days in peace and quiet.
I remember it like yesterday.
I was sitting in the bed, watching the IV solution as it dripped. Drip. Drip. DRIP.
The noises were driving me crazy, the beeping of the monitors, shuffling of feet as they approached the door. I lay still, pretending to sleep. The door creaked open, and a small group entered. I knew it was time for rounds, so this was undoubtedly the floor head leading his ducklings through the daily check on which of us had croaked, and which had not. I kept my eyes shut and pretended to still be asleep.
I could tell Doctor Torrez was leading rounds, by his disinterested monotone. “Next patient. Dr. Schmidt, present this case.”
A female voice spoke, high pitched and clearly nervous. “Rose Lindevall, fourteen years of age. Originally under treatment for an inoperable brain tumor. Cancer has metastasized and spread to most of the major internal organs. Given her current condition, and the ineffectiveness of her prior rounds of chemotherapy, the treatment plan has shifted from aggressive treatment to pain management, in effort to increase the quality of the time she has left.”
Dr. Torrez was the next to speak. “Prognosis, Dr. Schmidt?”
The squeaky resident spoke again. “given the severity of her illness and how advanced it has become, at most she...might… see the end of the year, if lucky.”
That was back in January. I remember sitting in my bed after they left, fuming that my treatment plan was changed. I knew that as a ward of the state, I had very little say in my situation, and if it came to a matter of money vs the remote possibility that I could be cured, money would win out. The days passed, and I came to the decision to get out of this hellhole. I received a small amount of money each month from the state, and since I had been in the hospital for quite a while, I hadn’t spent any on ‘personal needs’, and because I had always been thrifty, I had a nice little chunk of change saved up.
I mean... fuck their apathy, right? I even planned my getaway date, Valentine’s Day. I mean what better day to leave than a day where the on-shift doctors and nurses would all be distracted or bitter, either from their missing their special someone, or not having one in the first place?
I had always loved the outdoors, but my fair skin prevented me from really enjoying it. But now I didn’t have to worry. What was there to worry about? That I might get skin cancer? Ha!
Valentine’s day came and the nurses and doctors were in bad moods, just as I had figured. With some difficulty, I managed to get the tubes and electrodes off without sounding any alarms. The most difficult part came next. I crept up to the door to my room and peeked out carefully. The hallway was clear. I needed to find my way to a supply closet, because all I had on was a flimsy hospital robe. Honestly, they couldn’t even bother to give me pajamas or something.
As I crept down the hallway, I occasionally had to evade staff and dodge the security cameras. Fortunately, I lucked upon a supply closet, and I rifled through the assorted linens and towels and scrubs. It was good fortune, I lucked upon a set of scrubs that were about my size. Still lacking footwear, I crept out, a surgical mask covering my face, and I I made my way to the stairwell, and managed to exit out onto the lobby. Making sure nobody was looking, I slipped out the doors to freedom.
I can’t believe that I actually made it out of the hospital. The medical center was on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, which was good for me. Just a few blocks away were stores where I could find clothes that were more suited for blending into the crowd. I got odd looks as I ran through the freezing snow barefoot. I just had to reach a building connected to the skyway system. The wonderful thing about getting around Downtown Minneapolis was that most of the buildings were connected by enclosed walkways that allowed you to pass over streets and navigate pretty much the entire downtown area without needing to go outside. I ducked into an office building and went up to the second floor. From there I could creep from building to building, getting closer to my (literal) target.
I stealthily made my way to the Target department store, to pick up some socks and shoes, and perhaps something less conspicuous.
“I’m sorry girl, but I can’t let you in the store barefoot. Are you okay?” asked a security guard that appeared behind me from seemingly nowhere.
I looked at him. He was a tall man, easily a foot taller than I am. He towered over me, intimidating me.
“I… I’m sorry sir. I was at the hospital, and my little brother got sick all over me. Mom sent me to get some clean clothes and shoes.” I said, as I tried my best to look small and helpless.
“Wait here.” he said before he turned to go into the store. I hesitated, wanting to dash off, but something inside told me to wait. After a couple minutes, he came back with some slippers.
“Here, put these on. I’ll escort you in, and find someone to help you get what you need.” he said with a big grin.
I thanked him, as he led me to the customer service counter, where a perky blonde girl was waiting. She was probably twenty, wearing a polo shirt in Target's customary red, and tan khakis. She pointed me toward the junior’s department, where I grabbed a pair of panties. Some sweatpants, and a tee shirt followed, along with some tube socks. I located some canvas high-tops in the shoe department.
I paid for my purchases, then went to the restrooms at the front of the store, stopping to show my receipt to the guard before going in and changing clothes in an empty stall.
I headed out of the store, and weighed my options. The hospital had most likely discovered I was missing by now, and I was positive that an amber alert or other such message had been sent out. I walked casually through the skyway, but I soon realized that I had a problem. I had intended on going to the downtown library, but I had forgotten that the closest the skyway system got to it was a block and a half away.
I had resisted getting a coat at the retail store, as I had planned to get one for cheap at a surplus store or... perhaps Goodwill? I sucked it up and hurried as best as I was able to the library. I was spent and needed to catch my breath. Fuck those doctors for giving up on me. I drew glances from a couple of guards and librarians, but given that the homeless of the downtown area tended to congregate at the library during the winter, I must have been deemed a low priority. Climbing up to the fourth floor, I sat at a computer near the back of the book stacks and logged onto one of the library’s computers.
I didn’t want to be noticed, as it was still school hours, not that I went to school. When I had gotten sick, I had kept up with my reading and self-studies, but the social workers and doctors had thought it was best to concentrate on treating my cancer, so I was pulled from school and tutoring stopped.
I checked out books on possible places I could go, with what money I had. Planning my final days. I had a couple thousand dollars, and no destination. I had never been camping, and the more I researched, the more appealing that sounded. I decided that I would spend my final days in the wild, just me and nature. Yeah, that had a sort of zen aspect to it. As I thought about it, that appealed to me more and more… but where would I go? I needed to find a place that I could hide out.
Then it struck me. There were all sorts of forests and secluded areas up north. I got out an atlas and looked, and found the perfect destination, the Boundary Waters.
Fortunately it was a warm day for February, and I could go out without too much worry. Hopping a bus, I sat in the back and tried to look unimportant. I got off after a few minutes at a military surplus store in a shady neighborhood, but that might work to my advantage. Slipping through the packed building, I grabbed a thick parka, a water-proof tent, and a sleeping bag. Returning downtown, I went to the bus depot and bought a ticket on a Greyhound headed for Duluth, from there I could catch another bus to the city of Virginia, which was on the border of the forest.
Seating myself at the back of the bus, I almost immediately fell asleep. When I woke a few hours later I realized we were nearly at my first destination. I had things to do still, even though I was exhausted.
I staggered off the bus and collected my meager possessions and pulled the hood of the parka over my head, covering my face as much as possible. I crossed the lot cautiously, trying to not draw attention from the police and guards. I knew there was probably an amber alert out for me by now. I nervously purchased the ticket I needed. There were two trips per day, and I had missed the morning trip. With a few hours to wait, I went over to a near-by convenience store and picked up some food for the evening. The second leg of the trip was uneventful. Taking time to up on essentials at a local grocery store, I paused briefly once again to take a rest. After a few minutes, I gathered up everything and made the hike into the state forest. Other than an occasional trip back into town for food and supplies, I disappeared into the wilderness to spend the last of my days.
That’s the story of how I came to be laying here on this bank. I sat watching the splashes as the fish jumped for the insects that were hovering over the cool, quiet waters. I looked up at the moon, slowly rising over the horizon, and slowly stood, feeling weak and nauseous. I could barely keep anything down, but I wasn’t going to starve to death. I dragged myself back to my camp spot, fighting dizziness as I did. I didn’t have a camping permit, having decided to stay here illegally. I had set up a small green tent that I could easily put up and tear down at need, and I often hid deeper in the woods. With my small cooking set-up, I could make modest meals for myself.
I put out the fire and sat watching the full moon come up over the trees. As I lay on my sleeping bag with head propped against a log, I wondered about fate, and sighed.
“Why, why does it have to be this way? What did I do to deserve this?” I asked the Moon.
I was shocked when the reply came. “There are those that get what they deserve, and those that don’t deserve what fate has laid out for them. None of us in the great mystery can know why fate chooses as it does. It is just our place to make what we can of what we are given.”
I looked around, but there was nobody there. I listened closely, hearing only the small animals rustling through the underbrush.
“Who… who is there?” I asked in fright, “Are you here to kill me? I… I don’t want to die.”
“Don’t worry, I mean you no harm. In fact, I may be able to render you great aid in this time of hardship”, the mysterious voice answered. “As for who I am, I have been called by many names. Inaba, Yutu, Inlé, are but a few of them.”
“Inlé…? I have read the book. The Black Rabbit of Inlé was an aspect of death. Am I dying? And to be visited by death… in the form of a rabbit? I’m not sure how to respond to that”, I stated with resignation.
“While that is one interpretation of my aspect, I come bearing not death… but life, should you choose it”, my mysterious visitor assured me.
“Who are you, and why can’t I see you?” I asked the voice. I was scared, and hearing voices in the darkness was not doing anything to calm my mind.
“I have told you who I am. As for why you can’t see me, I am a spirit. On the physical plane most spirits can’t manifest. We have little influence beyond guiding or suggesting ideas to others. That is why most of us seek out an avatar to bond with.”, my mysterious visitor commented. “Do you know what a ‘hallow’ is?”
“Like in a hallowed item or location?” I was unsure what this new question had to do with anything.
My ‘guest’ replied. “Not exactly no, but sort of yes.” Apparently sensing my confusion, it continued. “A hallow is indeed a sacred space, to humans, it is the space within that the soul resides. Now for an ordinary human, the hallow is big enough to contain their soul, and nothing more, but there are those that have larger hallows, that are capable of containing not only their soul, but also the spirit of another being. These special humans are called avatars, and they are special. Most avatars are either those that have had their hallows expanded by magic, or have large hallows are part of a mutation.”
Swallowing hard, I posed a question to the spirit. “S...so you are saying that… what? I’m a mutant? If so, cancer is the suckiest mutation ever.”
The spirit laughed gently. “No. The illness you call cancer more likely has prevented your physical mutation from activating, but you are an avatar, I can feel your hallow, and it is quite large. What I’m suggesting is that we form a bond. I would join with you and help your other mutant powers activate, while also using my abilities to aid your body in purging the illness.”
I was doubtful of what this voice was selling, but the chance to live was irresistible. “Why would you do this? What’s in it for you?”
“Skepticism, you are truly human. As for what I would gain from such a deal? I would gain presence in the physical world. You would be my aid, providing me an intermediary to act through. Long ago, I was a healer and apothecary. With your guidance and support, I could do good again. And in exchange, you get to be healthy and live. And as an additional bonus, you would have access to my powers”, the spirit added.
“So how do we do this?”, I asked.
“You are agreeing then? There is one more thing I must tell you before you decide for certain. This is dangerous. In your current state, your body is very weak. If we do bond, there is the possibility that my presence in your hallow will cause your body to try to manifest aspects of my being.”
“Meaning?”, I questioned. I had a chance at a life, but I wasn’t stupid. What possible side-effects could this have? Would I be a puppet? That’s no life.
“Some avatars manifest physical traits corresponding to the spirits that inhabit them. You may come out of this looking very different. I want to warn you, and make sure you know the risks”, the spirit said.
“So, what? I could end up a giant bunny?”, I shuddered.
“No, such drastic changes don’t happen with a hallow that has sufficient room. But it is possible you could manifest some lesser physical traits. If that is too much for you, I understand if you would want to say no. I will warn you though. I have asked permission, and offered because I am not evil. There are some spirits that aren’t so beneficent. They will see a hallow and force themselves in. These spirits are often malevolent and will essentially take over. I would never wish that on anyone”, my guest added.
“I sense you are being honest, and I don’t want to die. I will welcome you into my hallow. You have a place with me. I will take you in and we can form this bond. What do I need to do?” I asked.
“By saying this, you have done it. I accept your permission. We are now together. You may call me Inaba”, she said.
I felt a warmth and love radiating out from my core, filling me with happiness and contentment, but at the same time there was a feeling of weariness. I sat there, crying. I had resigned myself to death, but I never thought about what that meant, it was the end of pain but it would be the end of everything. After sobbing and wailing about how unfair life was, I curled into a ball and sat there, not moving. But now I had hope, a hope that I had lost when the chemotherapy had failed. A hope that was shattered when they said they were switching from treatment to pain management. A hope that had been LONG gone by the time I made my plans to come here to die. Exhausted, I looked up at the full moon and thanked Inaba with all my heart. Eventually drifting off to sleep, the tears having finally stopped.
Morning came, and I woke up with the sun. my body was feeling a slight bit better, but my muscles and joints still hurt.
“Good morning!”, Inaba said inside my head. I was startled at first, but the memory of the previous night came to me. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. Also, I fear I made a bad mistake last night. I was so intent on helping, that I never even got your name. I hope you can forgive this silly bunny?”
I laughed out loud and then spoke to her in my mind. “It’s okay. I should have introduced myself. My name is Rose.”
Inaba’s voice echoed through my mind. “You’ve picked up on this quickly. You don’t need to speak out loud to be heard. We have a busy day ahead. As I said last night, your body is indeed trying to adapt to my presence. I can hold it off for a while, but that drains me. I’m concerned that if your other mutant abilities manifest, they will start to demand energy reserves you don’t have to give. We have to pack up your things and seek help.”
I nodded and spoke to Inaba. “That seems like a good idea. If I finish off the last of the smoked fish and blackberries, we should be able to make it to the park entrance by the afternoon. Once we are there, I’m sure they will send for an emergency transport to Duluth or maybe even back down to Minneapolis.”
I sighed and dug into my supplies and finished off the last of the fish. For some reason, the fish wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it had been the day before. I did, however, enjoy the wild blackberries and cranberries. I wonder if that was one of those subtle changes that Inaba had mentioned. Once I finished, I scattered the rest of my food stash for the animals, and then packed up my things. My backpack and bedroll seemed lighter, even with my frail body, no doubt Inaba was lending me some of her strength. I said a quiet “thank you”, and began my hike.
It took me several hours hiking to the nearest ranger station. As the morning progressed, I felt hot and feverish, like I was burning up. It wasn’t just the weather, I felt truly sick. Drenched in sweat, I crept along slowly. At one point I picked up a large stick and leaned on it, using it as a walking stick.
Inaba was quiet. I knew she was using her own energy to keep me going. Stripping off my shirt, I cast it aside and continued forward. As I progressed on my hike, I felt the mid-summer heat bearing down on me. I staggered and stumbled down the trail, not seeing another soul. By the time I reached the Ranger station, I had felt so hot that I was now in only a tank top and my panties. I don’t even remember entering the cabin, because the ground rushed up at me, and the world turned black.
There were indistinguishable sounds in the darkness, I felt like I was floating, and I knew things seemed wrong. My body felt wrong. I tried to open my eyes, but my eyelids were too heavy. There was an uncomfortable feeling at the base of my spine. I could hear people moving around some distance away, with muffled voices and footsteps, possibly outside of where I was? It all sounded as if it were happening over the top of my head. There was a strange tickling sensation on my cheeks, and I could sense the air currents somehow. Shifting in place, I felt a strange moving weight on my chest. My body ached and I moaned quietly.
A doorknob turned, and someone entered. I cringed at the overwhelmingly strong smell of soap. The sound of heels on what seemed to be linoleum tipped me off that it was a woman.
I moaned and turned towards the sound, realizing that my head hadn’t turned, rather my ears had.
“Awake, I see. You gave us all quite the scare.” said the mysterious woman. Her voice was soothing and gentle, it had an almost melodic quality. “I’ll notify the attending physician that you are awake. In the meantime, rest and don’t try to do anything too strenuous.”
I could hear her leave, her heels clicked down the hall until they finally grew too faint to hear. Lying there, I could still feel the wrongness of my body, but I mentally shoved it aside. I had more pressing concerns at that moment.
“Inaba, are you there?” I thought.
“Inaba, are you there?” I repeated, more concerned. She hadn’t made herself known, and I could barely feel her presence.
I felt a tiny jolt of pressure in my hallow, she was there, but weak.
My thoughts were turned from my new partner by steps coming down the hall. They were heavier, and lacked the clicking that the resident’s heels had. Probably wingtips or loafers. The knob turned again, and I could feel the air currents flow in from outside the room.
Besides the doctor, there was someone else in the room. I hadn’t noticed their steps, likely they had on soft soled shoes or sneakers. I could smell two scents though, one smelled faintly of cigars, and the other of disinfectant.
“Nurse, please remove the sleep mask for the patient”, the man said. His voice was low and had a sense of age to it. “My Name is Doctor Stevens. I apologize that we had to cover your eyes, but you seemed very sensitive to light while we were treating you. There are some questions we have for you, as you came in as a ‘Jane Doe’, with no identification.”
I felt the mask gently removed, and I hadn’t even realized it had been there in the first place. I blinked, but everything was fuzzy and impossible to make out. All I could see were dark blobs moving about in the center of my vision.
“Doctor, I can’t see clearly. Is there something wrong with my eyes?” I said in a near panic.
Presumably he took a penlight out of his pocket, because there was a light shone into each eye.
“I might have an idea,” the doctor said. “Nurse Hastings, can you go stand by the door?”
With that, the doctor stepped aside. “Can you see her any clearer?”
“Yes, I can make her out more clearly, though she is still kind of blurry”, I replied.
Doctor Stevens called the nurse back to his side. “As I said, we have some questions. Is there anyone we can contact to come visit you? A parent or guardian?”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t have any family”, I stated somewhat sadly.
The doctor tapped his fingers on the bed rail. It seemed excessively loud to me, and I reached up to cover my ears, discovering two things. First, my ears weren’t where they had always been. Secondly, I ended up scratching the sides of my head with my fingernails.
Inaba had warned me there might be changes, but without being able to see them, I panicked a little. I shifted in the bed, causing extreme pain in my lower spine, causing me to scream loudly, and then things went dark again as I felt the prick of a needle.
I woke up again, this time with a slight headache. Doctor Stevens was there still; I could detect the odor of his cigars.
“I’m sorry about the freak-out, Doctor. The spirit told me that there might be some changes to my body, but they kind of took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting your tapping to be so loud, nor was I ready to not find my ears where they should be”, I said remorsefully. “I’ll try to behave and answer your questions.”
Dr. Stevens began to speak. “Your spirit told you?" His eyebrows went up in surprise. "Hmm, that's odd that you think your spirit communicates with you." He sounded very skeptical of what I'd said.
His comment startled me; I thought I had a normal spirit. What little I had learned about avatar mutants – which on reflection was probably a lot of urban myth – had never mentioned whether spirits could or couldn't talk to their host. "Is that unusual?"
The doctor nodded. "It's actually extremely rare. Spirits are almost never sentient; they're more like a 'feeling' of a presence. Although there have been mentions in professional literature that there has been a reported but unexplained increase in the number of sentient spirits." He frowned, and it was obvious that he didn’t know either.
"Oh." That little tidbit of knowledge stirred a hundred questions I needed to discuss with Inaba.
"So, you know you're an avatar mutant, and that you knew you might have some GSD – er, that's Gross Structural Deformity, which is a fancy way of saying your body changed some. That makes things a lot easier for me. Yes, you have undergone multiple changes since you were brought in a month ago…”
“A month?! Are you positive?” I was totally stunned.
“Yes, you were brought in by emergency airlift on July seventh, it is now August Fifteenth.”
I pondered that information. Over a month had passed and I had been asleep. “Doctor, what all happened to me?”
“I’ll explain, but can I ask your name?”
I nodded. “It’s Rosalie Lindevall, and if you contact Hennepin County Medical Center, they can send my medical history.”
“Thank you, I’ll be right back”, he stated as he turned and exited the room. When he got further away from me, I could see that he was a tall man, but stooped due to age. He had gray hair and a bald spot that reached the back of his head. I hadn’t been able to see any of those details when he had been up close.
After a few minutes he returned. “My apologies, I wanted to request your records as soon as possible. As far as your condition, when you were brought in, you weighed seventy-four pounds, and you had an extremely high fever. At first we thought you were anorexic, but then we discovered your cancers. We noticed your eye color change from brown to pink, which tipped us off to your manifesting as a mutant. We initially thought you were going through an extreme burnout. We administered IV solutions of glucose and fed you through a stomach tube while trying to cool your body, which is standard protocol in the event of a burnout. Instead of your mutation manifesting right away, your body began to actively purge the cancer from your system, as though it had never existed. Our speculation is that your spirit was using its energies to eliminate the cancer, while simultaneously holding back your physical mutation. Once it completed the task of curing your cancer, it allowed your mutation to resume. We think that’s when the other physical changes started. Beyond the eyes, the next noticeable change was when your ears migrated to the top of your head, and became like those of a rabbit.”
I sighed and nodded, knowing that explained a lot. I experimented with twitching them and moving them. That really does feel odd.
“We noticed that your tail bone was elongating, and that your lower spine was changing into what is now your... um… tail.”
I sighed and went to rub my temples, and I felt something sharp scratch the sides of my head again.
“I probably should have warned you. Your fingernails and toenails have grown much thicker and are a good deal stronger than they were before, almost like proper claws. Additionally, there is the issue with your eyesight, I have some suspicions that we can test later.”
I nodded to the doctor. “If you don’t mind, doctor, I think I’d like some time to myself. There’s a lot I have to consider. If that’s okay?”
“Certainly. We’ve covered the major changes, and once I review your medical history, I’ll have a better understanding to work with. Good night, Miss Lindevall”, he said in a friendly tone.
I tried meditating to try to contact Inaba, but I could barely feel her presence. She was still there, but she must have exhausted a lot of power to save me.
Morning came, and I felt like I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I was full of energy and couldn’t wait to get going. I heard Dr. Stevens approaching, his gait etched into my memory. When the doorknob turned I caught a whiff of the ever-present scent of tobacco and stale cigar smoke.
“Good morning, Miss Lindevall. I see you are in good spirits today. That’s good, because we have only a few more tests to run, and then I have to introduce you to someone”, he said.
I looked at the blurry blob in the center of my field of view, and tilted my head. Given a pair of scrubs after my catheter was removed, I was walked to the bathroom, and left alone to change.
I managed fairly well, though the scrubs were not designed for someone who had a tail. Even now, after all this happened, I'm still trying to get used to it, it feels so odd, this section of my spine that I can move around and wiggle… it's just a strange sensation. As I dressed, I took the opportunity to examine myself. I still couldn’t see up close, but from a physical examination of myself, I was floored. My breasts were large and I had a very narrow waist with full hips and a round bottom. Despite being fourteen I had never started puberty, the cancer had made sure of that, eating away at me so aggressively that I hadn't grown at all.. But now I seemed to have shot past puberty entirely into a full-fledged undeniably feminine hourglass body.
After I changed and stepped out of the bathroom, the doctor took me out into the hallway, for the first time out of my room since I had awakened. Looking down the corridor, I found that I was focusing on the hall beyond us. While everything closer than eight to ten feet was an indistinguishable blur, I could see clearly past that point, and even read the print on signs that were quite a distance away. Irony about this revelation was soon apparent, as the doctor explained we were on our way to the optometry clinic. After numerous tests and exams, it was finally discovered that as one of my changes, I had become extremely far-sighted. Dr. Stevens explained to me that he suspected that my eyes now worked more like a rabbit’s did, and that he had done some research on what to look for last night.
I was told that rabbits and other prey animals needed the ability to see predators at a distance, so that they could make their escape before the predator got too near. Additionally, rabbits can see exceptionally distant things overhead, like circling birds of prey. I didn’t realize until we began the tests, that my vision had changed, so that I could see more of the blue and green end of the spectrum, but reds and oranges now appeared as dull browns, so I was partially color-blind. The doctors included the famous eye charts that always start with E on line one, we went out into the hallway with several of those.
The doctor had me reading charts every ten feet or so, finally giving up at about somewhere around two hundred fifty feet, after I decided to show off and read the small copyright disclaimer in the lower corner. That amused Dr. Stevens, and we were both laughing as we went to the optical lab.
My prescription was somewhat complex, which meant the prescription had to be forwarded to a devisor in Cleveland who specialized in unusual optical devises. He would be making my glasses and they would be delivered via a mutant warper. With all the specialized care I was being provided, I was nervous, because I didn’t know how I could pay for any of the medical bills.
I sat in the chair by the window of my room, basking in the sunlight. That had been one of the greatest joys after I had left Minneapolis was the freedom to relax and not worry about things. Knowing that my days had been numbered was oddly relaxing, knowing that the exhaustion and pain would end. But now I was no longer under a death sentence, and I had more energy than I remembered ever having before. I also had a very unsure future. There were very few people that would want to adopt a teenage girl, never mind the fact that I had rabbit-like features, and was a mutant. Forget it. I might as well walk into the MCO office and sit on the reception desk, asking to go ‘in the back’.
I sat there lost in my thoughts, when I heard the knock on the door. With my new ears, it was- and sometimes still is- impossible not to hear things. “Come in,” I said as I got up and groped my way back to the bed.
The familiar cigar smell and blur that was Dr. Stevens entered. “Miss Lindevall, your glasses arrived. I have two pair for you. Though with the durability of the materials used to make them, they are unlikely to break,” he said. He came over and placed a pair in my hands.
“The devisor that made them used a durable micro-polymer that is designed to be highly scratch-resistant,” he added.
I held the glasses up and examined them with my fingers. They seemed ordinary to the touch, save for the fact that at the end of the arms, there were small combs that would hold them in place by clipping into my hair. I put them on, and everything looked the same.
“Doctor… I don’t think they are working,” I said, obviously disappointed.
“Hm..? Oh! Sorry. I was to instruct you on their use. On the left arm of the glasses, you’ll feel a silver diamond shaped decoration. Push that once to turn on the glasses. Push it again to turn them off,” he said apologetically. “It’s raised so you can feel it, even if you can’t see it.”
I did as told, and everything became clear, startling me a little in the process. The doctor was perhaps a little over 6 foot or so, and balding, as I had suspected. He had blue eyes, that shone with a vibrancy that I had never seen... or was that due to my new color perception? After looking around the room, I suspected it was likely due to my mutation, as the blues of the walls and linens and the greens of the flooring and my garments were especially bright.
He gave me a moment to look around, and then continued. “A small electric current activates the micro-polymer in the glasses when you push the buttons, allowing you to toggle their function, without needing to remove them, depending on if you want to see up close or at a distance. There is an identical button on the right arm, that allows you to turn on or off a tinting function for use as sunglasses.
I was shocked. These glasses must cost thousands of dollars, and I was receiving two pair. “Doctor… I… There is no way I can afford to pay for these, much less all the other care I’ve been getting. I broke down and started to cry. The doctor awkwardly tried to give me a reassuring hug. That’s when I was reminded of another fact of my change that I was still trying to wrap my brain around. I felt my breasts smoosh up against him as I hugged him. I started to blush, and pulled away.
The doctor looked at me and smiled a kind, gentle smile before speaking, “You don’t have to worry about the bill. A charitable foundation took care of all the costs. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have rounds…. And I’m sure you would like some privacy.” After the doctor left the room, I waked over to the bathroom door and stood there, hesitating.
I stood in front of the door for a moment, gathering my courage, I swallowed my hesitation and doubts and walked in to the bathroom. I had been intentionally avoiding looking down since I had put the glasses on, even though I knew my new shape by sensation and touch. First, I looked myself in the face for the first time since my change. It was a face I should have known, and while I saw reminders of myself, this face was flawless. My lips had grown fuller, from thin lines to what would be described as ‘pouty’. I smiled and looked at the dimples that formed. I would need time to get used to the buck teeth, though with my other rabbit features, those didn’t stand out as much as they ordinarily would. My nose had been somewhat wide before, but it was now delicate and slightly upturned, having become very cute. My eyes had always seemed slightly too small for my face, but now they seemed to have a sexy wide open ‘innocent’ look to them that made them appear larger in proportion to the rest of my face. They were a pale color...I’d say cream, but I had been told they were actually pink.
Overall, my face was rounder, and softer. My mutation and transformation had filled in the hollows and gaunt depressions that had formed from my illness. My skin was healthy and radiant, the sickly color was gone, as were the bags and dark circles around the eyes. The strangest part of my new face were the three strange stripes on each cheek. They appeared brown to me, just like the whiskers that sprouted from them. I suspected they were red, like my hair and the fur on my ears… At least I suspected my hair to still be red, though if it were, it was a darker shade than it had been before. My hair was healthy and full once again, though still relatively short. The cancer and chemotherapy had done a number on it, making it brittle and dull, with the majority having fallen out, but now it seemed to be healthy and growing once again.
With my facial examination done, I hesitated and took off my shirt. Wow. I admit it. I had felt my boobs up some, examining them. But due to my far-sightedness, and rough claws, I hadn’t done so very thoroughly. Looking at them though, they were… unbelievable. They were big, but not ridiculous. I would guess I was maybe a C or D cup? My waist was narrow, my hips wide. I looked at my butt in the mirror, wiggling my tail as I slipped off the hospital pajamas. It was round and full, it wasn’t quite what most would call a bubble butt, though it was firm and shapely. For my height… I don’t seem to have gotten any taller… my legs were long and if I had to judge them, I’d say they were sexy. Overall, it seemed that my body was extremely fit, with very generous curves. I was a little puzzled, as I looked more like someone who was perhaps eighteen, maybe even twenty years old. I certainly didn’t look my actual age.
I sighed and faced the mirror again, looking down, focusing on what, to me was the most embarrassing thing. I wouldn’t have to shave or wax my hair… because I had none. Nope. While it was cool not having hair below my head, there was something even more embarrassing. I had a tuft of fur that was growing above my nether region, I quickly resolved that it would get shaved or waxed or whatever it took to get rid of it. Fur on my ears? Fine. Fur on my tail? That’s okay… but I’m not going to be called ‘the girl with the fur muff’.
After a few minutes, I was satisfied with my ‘get to know me time’, and I carefully unclipped my glasses and put them on the sink. Climbing into the shower, I lathered up and very carefully washed up. It was incredibly refreshing not to need sponge baths, never mind the bedpans. As the water gently caressed my body, I felt two things. Firstly, I think I felt kind of aroused. I stopped and shivered. I Didn’t think I was ready for this. I mean the sensations were so new and scary. I sighed and instead of focusing the scary sensations coming from my body, I focused something even scarier... the future. Where would I go? How would I support myself? Going back into state custody was out of the question. That would likely just end up with me getting dumped into Juvenile Hall, to wait out my time until I hit eighteen. It also meant getting bullied by the other kids for being a freak, or worst of all... getting raped because I was a fourteen year old with the body of a twenty year old porn star.
I dragged myself out of the shower and toweled off, enjoying the sensation, maybe a little too much? I had noticed that I was more aware of sensations than I had ever been before. I wanted to ask Inaba about it, but she was still not responding, which worried me. I could feel her presence, but it was like she was in some sort of coma or trance, if even such a thing were possible for a spirit.
I got dressed as best as I could, putting on the plain white panties and navy blue sweatpants the hospital provided, which was an uncomfortable fit because of the lack of a tail hole. They hadn’t provided a bra, so I covered the fact that the blue tee shirt they had provided was tight enough to display my nipples by draping a towel around my neck to cover my chest.
I flipped through the channels on the TV, but nothing appealed to me. After a minute or so, I turned it off and closed my eyes and meditated. I felt Inaba stirring in my hallow slightly, but she didn’t reply to my inquiries.
About a half hour later, there was a knocking on my door, which was accompanied by the familiar scent of cigar smoke. “Come in, Dr. Stevens”, I said with a chuckle.
“Dare I ask?” he inquired.
“The cigars. Surely as a doctor, you should know that they are bad for you.” I responded wryly.
He laughed and replied. “We all have our vices. The reason I’m here is that I invited someone to come and meet you. She should be here shortly.”
“Doctor, I’m confused. I look too old. I’m fourteen, but I look older than I should”, I stated.
The doctor looked at me and nodded. “Our hypothesis is that when your spirit held back your physical changes to allow your regeneration to emerge, that caused something akin to tension. Think of an elastic band, when stretched it will forcibly propel forward when released. So when your spirit released its hold on your manifestation of your exemplar traits, your body template shot forward, past your current physical age. Don’t worry though, exemplars and those with high regenerative powers usually age slower than typical humans, so we believe you will probably physically stay at the same age until your body and actual age synch, then you will likely resume aging, albeit at a greatly reduced speed.”
Almost on cue, the doctor’s phone rang. I had become pretty good at tuning out sound when I didn’t want to listen in, so I mulled over my thoughts and tried to mentally ‘poke’ Inaba again.
I was brought back to the here and now by the clapping sound of the doctor flipping his phone closed. “As I was saying, I invited someone here to meet you. She’s downstairs in the cafeteria. If you’ll put on your sandals, we can go meet her.”
With a nod I put on the flip-flops and followed him to the elevator. After a rousing musak rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, we got off the elevator and walked to the cafeteria. There was the usual hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses, patients and their visitors. I spotted the likely choice to be our visitor. She was perhaps five foot nine or so, not counting her antlers. Yes, she had antlers. Of obvious Native American heritage, her brownish-tan skin looked elegant and exotic. Her hair added to the beauty, as it started a light caramel brown and gradually lightened to a frosted white towards the ends, which hung to her mid-back. I had seen heroes in costume before, so I was able to identify that she was wearing a costume of some sort. A white band ran vertically down the center, complimenting the golden brown color of the rest of her outfit. White furred cuffs extended from the wrists to her elbows, with matching fur on her knee length boots. Her actual gloves and the foot portion of the boots were both a shiny glossy black. The final component of her look was a brown domino mask covering her eyes.
She ushered us to a table, and Doctor Stevens sat down. I nervously followed suit, watching her the whole time.
I tried not to stare, as she was undeniably an exemplar like myself. She had smaller breasts than me, but not by a large amount. While not as curvy as I was, she was too beautiful to ignore. Physically she was quite fit, the tight fabric of her costume clinging to her abs. When she moved, I saw her muscles ripple underneath the tight costume, giving her an impression of power and physical strength, but without the harsh look of a muscle-bound female weightlifter. In my mind, her physique actually complemented her femininity and attractiveness. I was glad that I had grabbed the towel, because I felt a kind of tingling in my chest, and I felt slightly wet between my thighs.
I would deal with this uncomfortable revelation later. She spoke softly, her voice was melodious and soothing. “I’m known as Caribou, I’m a member of the group known as The Duluth Superiors.”
I swallowed hard, and over-compensated on not staring at her chest by staring at her antlers. They were beautiful, at least 2 foot long, maybe closer to three, with two points on the front of each antler. From there they swept up and behind in a crescent shape, ending with 5 finger-like points on the top.
Crossing my legs, I put my hands in my lap, ignoring how turned on I felt. I smiled gently. “Um… my name is Rose, But I’m sure you already knew that. Nice t...to meet you.”
She smiled at me and spoke, a slight hint of amusement in her voice. “I did, but it seemed more polite to ask. Incidentally, have you thought of a codename? When it comes time to issue your MID You will need one.”
I smiled gently. “I… I was thinking I would use the name of my spirit as a code-name. Her name is Inaba.”
Dr. Stevens looked over at me. “After your initial indications of manifesting, I called my old friend here to see if her group would be able to help you out. While you were unconscious I brought her in several times to see you, and she agreed to help.”
Caribou looked at Dr. Stevens and smiled. Were they an item? How did they know each other, I wondered.
She turned back to look at me. “My group has a rather well-off benefactor, as well as holdings in several profitable endeavors. The original founder of the group had been a successful taconite miner. Using his profits from mining, he invested in numerous businesses, enough to cover our salaries, and set up a charitable trust. That’s how your hospital bills and glasses prescriptions were paid for.”
I nodded. “I… see. But why come here and tell me all this? I mean you could have just let it all be an anonymous situation.”
I was feeling nervous and was squirming uncomfortably. I didn’t want to be there. The sudden, overwhelming revelation that I was attracted to girls shook my mental foundation considerably. When I was diagnosed, I was too young to be interested in all that “mooshy kissy-face stuff”, and then when the cancer started ripping me apart, it slammed the brakes on puberty. But now? I had skipped through puberty in a few weeks and was deceptive jailbait. Was I lesbian jailbait? My head hurt from all the mental gymnastics I was performingWhile I wondered if this was Inaba’s fault.
In the back of my head, I heard a faint voice that I had not heard in a very long time “No, it’s all you. I like males.”
“Inaba? I asked, thrilled that she was talking to me again.
“Yes… but I’m so very drained. Need to rest,” she whispered in my head.
With her having spoken, I forgot about my physical and mental discomfort, and just in time, as I realized I was being spoken to.
“Um.. Miss… Inaba? Are you okay?” Caribou asked, as she looked at me uncertainly.
“Oh, sorry. My spirit was talking to me. She’s very weak, after she expended most of her energy to cure me,” I said apologetically. “It’s actually the first time she’s been able to speak since I’ve come out of the coma.”
“That is good news!” Caribou said with a smile. She put her hand on my shoulder, and I must have been blushing like mad.
Dr. Stevens looked over at me. “We were discussing your prognosis, just now. All indications appear that you are completely cancer-free. You show no adverse issues from your mutation and your energy level seems good. We’re thinking of releasing you.”
I felt the panic starting, but Caribou’s hand patted the shoulder gently. “I know you are likely scared. You ran away from the hospital in Minneapolis, and now that you’re going to survive, you’re afraid that you will end up back in the system, right?”
I nodded, looking down solemnly. “Looking like I do now, with my noticeable… changes, it wouldn’t be safe for me. Nobody would want to foster a mutant. And if they did want me, it’d be for... other reasons.”, I said, as I looked at my breasts to emphasize the point. “Plus, Humanity First or some other group could use that as a way to get me. If I didn’t get a foster home, it’d be worse at Juvenile Hall. The other kids would try to bully me, and the boys would all try to get me alone to… to…” I couldn’t even put that thought to words.
I started to cry, but once again Caribou calmed me down with what she said next. “You don’t have to worry. None of those things are going to happen. I had the team’s lawyers petition in family court, and it was decided that you would be placed in our protective custody.”
I looked up at her, wiping the tears from my eyes. They had originally shed out of fear and sorrow, but now were of hope and joy.
Dr. Stevens spoke up. “There are still some questions about your mutation and general health that we will need to monitor. I would suggest that you make an appointment to come back and see a gynecologist sometime in the next month. Additionally, a dental check-up will be warranted, as we haven’t been able to determine if your teeth will continue to grow, as they do in rabbits. We have some forms at the front desk for Caribou to sign, as your acting legal guardian. After that formality, you will be free to go.”
I was ecstatic because, I was free of the hospital! I was healthy, and I had a future! I struggled to keep my emotions in check, managing to refrain from squealing when Caribou signed me out. The orderly wheeled me through the front doors, to an SUV. Dr. Stevens helped me out of the wheelchair and gave me a hand into the passenger seat. Caribou walked around the car, and opened the door, pausing to push a button on the dash, which caused a section of the roof slid open. She climbed in, and I giggled as her antlers stuck up through the sunroof. Soon we were off, driving into the great unknown that is the future, now that I had one.
I looked out at Lake Superior, as we drove away from the hospital. I was free. Free of pain, free of cancer. I felt the best I had ever felt in my entire life. I was going to live. I watched as the lift bridge was raised for a freighter to pass through. On Caribou’s side, I caught glimpses of the bluffs that overlooked the city behind us and the road ahead, and the Great Lake beyond.
“You okay, kiddo?”, Caribou asked suddenly. I nodded and went back to my thoughts. We pulled up to a large iron gate and she pressed a button on the dash. The gates swung slowly open, allowing us to pass through.
I looked up at the mansion as we pulled into view. “Wait, isn’t this Glensheen Manor?”
Caribou nodded. “Yes, the University rents it to us at a very low cost. Out of respect though, we don’t use the room Elisabeth Congdon was murdered in.” After that, I sat in silence.
When the car stopped, I got out and stretched. The ride had been less than comfortable, as I had to sit forward on the edge of the seat to avoid squishing my tail. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that damned thing. I was given a brief tour of the mansion, and shown to a room upstairs. It was pleasantly surprising to see that all my possessions had been recovered from the forest. I’m sure none of the clothing would fit properly anymore, but just the fact they were there still relaxed me.
I tried the bed, but couldn’t get comfortable. With nothing better to do, I decided to head down to the living room. Caribou was sitting there, casually sipping what looked like ice tea as she read the paper. She politely offered to get me a cup,
“Um, Miss Caribou, um… ma’am? Thank you for gathering my things.”
She looked up, and smiled. “You can call me Carrie, and it was no bother, the Park service had gathered them up, I just called to collect them for you.”
I looked at her questioningly, and she seemed to understand my confusion. “No really, it’s not short for Caribou. My actual name is Carrie Running Elk.”
I gave her the look again.
She laughed and said “Honest!”
I smiled. “I’m Rose, but you already knew that.”
She nodded politely. “Of course, we had to get your info for the custody paperwork.” She quickly returned to reading the paper. I glanced at the front page as she sat there. I skimmed a story about the state attorney general suing Gmart and Goodkind International for unfair hiring practices when it came to mutants. I stood there until Carrie looked up from her paper again. “Is there something I can do for you?” she asked.
I looked at her sheepishly, chewing on my lower lip as I did. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but can we go shopping? I only have the one outfit. And with these” I gestured at my breasts, “I need to get a bra as soon as I can.” Because my the nipples were visibly trying to punch holes in the tee, I chewed on my lip out of embarrassment.
Carrie sighed and put down the paper. “I suppose we could pick up a few things. Now ordinarily, I would tell you to never go out in public without an MID card, but I do have the authority to write a temporary waiver for newly manifested mutants to use until they get their MID testing completed.”
Carrie motioned for me to follow her, and we came to a small room that had been re-purposed into a photography studio. I stood in front of a blue background, as Carrie took my picture. She cursed and took several more, apparently unhappy with each one.
“Something wrong?”, I asked.
She grumbled, but then looked up at me and smiled feebly. “Your eyes are reflecting the flash, all the pictures have red eye,” she sighed. “I suppose I’ll have to use a photoshop filter.”
It took 20 minutes, but eventually she gave me a laminated temporary ID stating that I was scheduled for MID testing.
Carrie ran upstairs to change out of her costume. She looked amazing, even in a pair of ordinary jeans and sweatshirt. I felt my heart skip a beat as I gazed at her in the tight jeans. Yup, I was definitely in the ‘liking girls’ camp. After climbing into her SUV, I sat and mulled a question over and over, initially not sure of how to ask. Eventually, I just decided that the straightforward approach was best.
“I couldn’t help but notice that the mansion is empty, except for the two of us. Additionally, Dr. Stevens said you were the only member of the team to come to visit me. Is there something I should know about?”, I asked quietly.
Carrie sighed, watching the road as she spoke. “I guess you could say that. Have you heard of the Twin Cities Overseers?”
“I met them a couple times,” I replied. “They would come to the hospital to visit the children’s ward. Swan Song was my favorite. She had such beautiful long white hair, that milky-white skin and those brilliant blue eyes. I was sooo envious.”
Carrie nodded, looking intensely at the road. As we stopped for a stoplight, she finally spoke again. “About three months ago, there was an incident in Minneapolis. A mage calling herself Hydroica attacked buildings along the riverfront one day, out of the blue. As expected, the Overseers went to fight her, but she revealed a second part to her plan. She had kidnapped a young girl, an avatar just like you…” Carrie stopped to wipe away tears that were forming.
“Please, go on.” I asked. I think she thought that the information would make me think ‘that could have been me’, but it couldn’t have been, because I would still be sick, too sick to be of whatever use that girl had been.
Carrie swallowed hard, and sniffled. Then she continued. “It seemed that Hydroica had thought that she could brainwash this girl and use her to trap the Mississippi River Spirit." She heard my gasp of surprise. "Yeah, most people think that's just a myth, but Native Americans know it to be a true spirit." She paused again. "That spirit would be way too powerful for all but the strongest avatar to handle. And that was the case. When she attempted to force the spirit into the girl’s hallow, it... shredded the girl's consciousness and went out of control. According to eyewitnesses, Hydroica was killed immediately, The Overseers fought hard to contain it, and they eventually managed to free it." She paused again, a crack in her voice caused by bad memories, no doubt. "But... as you can guess, it cost them their lives, and the girl, too.” When we learned of the tragedy, most of the others saw it as an opportunity to move on to a bigger and better locale. Only two of us stayed behind.”
We pulled in at Miller Hill Mall in silence. I wrapped the hoodie Carrie handed me around my shoulders, the arms covering my chest. Mercifully, the first place we headed was to the Secret. I noticed that we were drawing plenty of looks as we walked through the mall, and I subconsciously tucked my ears down and back, not really aware that I'd done that.
Carrie moved closer and put her arm around me. “Don’t be ashamed of who or what you are. You are just you. Nothing more, nothing less," she said, patting my head.
We walked into Victoria’s Secret, and immediately the clerks all practically got whiplash turning their heads to look at us.. “Well, can’t say they didn’t see us enter," I said laughing. A timid woman walked over and nervously looked at us. She was taller than I was but not as tall as Carrie, probably about five foot seven. Thin and petite, she had mousey brown hair, but she was still kind of cute. Damn. Gotta talk to Carrie about this, I think. It was so confusing.
“Can I… help you ladies?”, she asked uncertainly.
Carrie gave her a warm smile that seemed to melt her defenses. Even without her costume and mask, people had to recognize her as Caribou. I mean hello… antlers? She gestured to me, as she spoke to the sales girl. “My friend here has recently gone through some changes and needs to be measured for some new bras, oh, and I’m sure her other measurements need to be taken, as well.”
I nodded, embarrassed, and stood still. She nodded and had me stand up straight, then took a soft tape measure out of her pocket and measured around my chest just under my boobs. I must have turned bright red, because I could see Carrie trying not to laugh. It was even more uncomfortable when she measured over my breasts.
By now Carrie was snickering and trying to keep from breaking into a full-force gigglefit.
Mercifully, the ordeal finally ended. The woman muttered to herself. “Let’s see… thirty-four D should fit. I’ll go get a couple for you to try on.” She walked off and I noticed that Carrie was looking at me, then looking down, and frowning. Given the earlier snickering, I blew her a raspberry.
She put her hands on her hips and in a mock- upset voice said, “Yeah, you have a full cup size on me. Enjoy it now, because gravity is a bitch!”
The salesgirl came back with two different bras, and I was ushered to a dressing rooms to try them on. After some struggling and snaps from the straps, I had to sheepishly ask Carrie for help adjusting them. She left after I had figured it out. I decided to wear a black bra that had a pretty lace pattern around the cups, so I handed the tag to Carrie through the closed curtain so the sales lady could ring it up.
By the time I got my tee back on, the sales-lady was back outside the dressing room.
“Okay, now to get your waist and hip measurements.” She wrapped the tape around my waist and then my hips, and she sounded a little annoyed when she said, “Hmm twenty-two inch waist and thirty-six inch hips."
My eyes went large at that information. I knew I had filled out, but there were supermodels that would kill for those numbers. I looked at the annoyed sales lady and lamely muttered a quick “Sorry?”
Now that I knew what size fit me best, I picked up a couple more bras of different types. I knew we would be heading to JCPenny’s for the bulk of my things, so I took my selections to the register. I really would have liked to indulge myself with more of the lacy bras, but I knew they were very pricey and I could get some less fancy, everyday bras in a department store.
I started to get my money out of my sweatpants, but Carrie put her hand up. “This is on the team. It’s tax deductible as a charitable expense.”
I didn’t argue and as we walked off, I clutched my bag happily. JCPenny’s yielded a few pairs of jeans, some dresses, and more dressy apparel. I asked if we could hit one of the other larger retail department stores to get more casual things. A short time later, I was walking into Target.
Carrie grabbed a cart as I looked around. People were staring at us; I’m sure Carrie had been recognized, but there were glances of interest at me as well. Fortunately the gawkers were well-mannered and didn’t rush us for autographs or anything like that. Still, I tried to ignore them as I walked along beside her. I had almost stopped to nervously bite my nails, but I remembered that they were much tougher now, possibly even tough enough to break a tooth. I turned to look at Carrie. “I need to go get something. Can we meet in the women’s clothing section?”
She warned me to be careful, but allowed me to go. Rejoining her a few minutes later, I dropped a Dremel hand tool into the shopping cart. Carrie tilted her head questioningly, and I responded by holding up my hands, showing her my quarter-inch thick nails. She silently mouthed ‘oh’, and nodded.
It took me a while to get through the clothing section, as I had trouble with the size tags. I had always had a problem with math- it never came easy to me. In the past I had pulled A’s and B’s in every other class, but in math, I just sorta skated by. I suspected that some teachers gave me a pass because they were just going through the motions. It was difficult for me to even recognize numbers, or what they meant. My problems with numbers had not gone away, just because I had manifested as a mutant. I tried on a few items in the dressing room, and learned quickly to eyeball sizes that would fit.
Next came the shoe department. With my new toenails the selection was limited to open-toed shoes, because I had a feeling my toenails would shred through regular shoes. I managed to find a couple pairs of sandals and a pair of nice open-toed heels. After I tossed them into the cart, I turned to Carrie and asked a question I'd put off for too long, what could I do about my tail? She suggested that we get a sewing machine so I could do my own modifications. We found a nice model that was fairly cheap, a book on sewing, and various related accessories. I had the idea that I was going to be very busy that night.
At the checkout once again Carrie whipped out the team’s corporate card and paid for everything. She offered to treat me to a nice dinner out, but I was getting tired of all the looks and the staring that was going on. I just wanted to get home. For the first time in my life I had a home. We pulled into the garage, and Carrie helped me take my things up to my room.
I set the sewing machine up on a table before deciding to go back downstairs. Carrie was rummaging through the fridge, and I poked my head in and looked as well. After grabbing the lettuce and washing it, I stepped aside as she did likewise to various other vegetables. With large bowls of salad in hand, we headed to the main living room to relax and eat.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Carrie commented, breaking the silence. I put down my fork and looked over at her.
“I’ve been thinking a lot, and I have so many things on my mind. Some of it’s kind of embarrassing too. I don’t know…” I timidly stopped and picked my fork back up.
Carrie nodded. “You mean about you checking me out?” she commented non-judgmentally.
I swallowed some radish wrong, and started coughing. “You saw?” I said mortified. I’d never be able to live that down, and I kind of wanted to flee in a panic. Instead, Carrie walked over and hugged me tightly to her.
“Yes, I saw the looks. I’m really flattered, but you know nothing will happen. You are a minor, and I am your guardian. Not to mention the fact that I like men. I can understand how confusing it is for you though. You were sick, and the cancer stopped your body from developing. Then suddenly, you get a spirit and wake up in a body that is closer to an adult’s than a teen’s. From your perspective it must be like you went to sleep a kid and woke up feeling all these adult feelings. Compound that with the fact that you discover that you like girls. That must be a surprise and a half to deal with.”
I nodded. “Yeah, and today I realized that I caught myself looking at some of the cute guys I saw too. I’m so mixed up.” I said with a sigh.
Carrie continued to hug me for a while, then she let go and got her salad, but returned to sit next to me on the couch. We sat in silence for a bit, then I gathered up the courage to speak again. “So, what was it like for you when you manifested? How did you meet your spirit?”
Carrie looked at me and laughed. “I’m not an avatar.” she said, chuckling. “My powers are Exemplar Six and Wizard rating of Two.”
I looked at her puzzled, and pointed to the top of my head. “But… but…” was all I managed to get out.
“The antlers? Legend has it that long ago one of my ancestors was a powerful medicine woman for the Ojibwe tribe. One day she was out for a walk in the woods, when she saw a caribou walking majestically through the forest. She grew envious of its soft fleece, its regal bearing, and the long beautiful antlers sprouting from its head. She thought to herself ‘here is a creature that the gods and the spirits have put on this Earth to shame us with its radiance’. Deciding that the gods were laughing at her, she followed the great elk and slew it when it stopped to drink from a small stream.”
I sat and listened as Carrie continued her tale. “Adik, the guardian spirit of the caribou, heard the blood of one of her favored daughters cry out for vengeance. Arriving at the site of the slaughter, She found the medicine woman trying to conceal the carcass.
‘Behold medicine woman, for what purpose have you killed my favored daughter? The Sun is still high in the sky, and the days are warm. Your people have bountiful crops and the time for hunting is not yet upon you. Why did you seek to waste her life?’ She said in an angry voice that seemed to shake the very Earth.
The woman was now fearful. ‘Oh great Adik, your daughter did taunt me with her soft fur, richer than any wool, her beautiful antlers that dazzle more than any jewels, her great size, larger even than the greatest of our warriors.’
Adik looked upon the woman. ‘You killed my beloved selfishly, not to feed your tribe in times of hardship. You did this out of vanity, and because of this vanity, I curse you that you and all your daughters henceforth shall bare the mark of this selfish envy.’
With this curse pronounced, the woman fell to her knees in pain, as two massive antlers erupted from her scalp. She looked in horror as her arms and legs became covered in soft white fur, and her hair turned from black to a soft brown the shade of the caribou’s fur.”
Carrie stopped, and I looked at her more closely. Somehow I had missed the fact that the long white fur had not been part of her costume, but was growing from her forearms and lower legs.
She seemed embarrassed, but I hugged her again, tighter. “So, yeah… when a girl of my bloodline reaches puberty, the curse kicks in and they grow the fur and antlers. If we try to shave the fur off, or cut the antlers... it all eventually regrows. I got the double whammy, I also manifested as a mutant.” She shrugged and stroked my hair.
“You must be getting tired,” she stated. “Tell you what, you get some sleep and after breakfast I’ll trim your hair and style it, okay?”
I went upstairs to the bathroom and grabbed the Dremel tool. Taking a seat on the edge of the bathtub, I sanded down my fingernails and gave them a nice sharp point. I changed to the buffing pad and finished the unusual manicure. I took a moment to admire my work. A quick trimming of my toenails produced similarly satisfactory results. I yawned and took a shower, paying attention to my new body, my hands lingering occasionally as I washed certain areas. With my shower finished and teeth brushed, I put on the pajamas that I had gotten at the hospital. I tossed and turned because I had yet to become accustomed to sleeping on my side. If I rolled over onto my back, I would awaken from the discomfort my tail felt. Likewise, I was still unused to my boobs, and sleeping on my stomach presented a different sort of challenge.
Morning came all too soon, and I woke up feeling stiff and sore, but another shower helped loosen the knots in my muscles. I threw on some baggy sweats and another t-shirt. When I got downstairs, I discovered that Carrie was gone. In the kitchen there was a note on the fridge.
‘Was called in on a situation. I should be back later this afternoon, if all goes well. Do not leave the mansion grounds – C’
Rummaging through the fridge, I realized that I no longer had the same fondness for meat that I once had. I could still eat it, but it had really lost its appeal to me as it used to. Despite that, I fixed a quick chicken Caesar salad, and after eating some, I made sure to put the extra in a container for Carrie to have later.
Returning to my room, I speedily went through my sewing book. I was amazed that I could remember what I had read clearly, after one quick glance. There were a lot of numbers in it, which caused me some confusion. Ignoring the numbers, I still got enough of an idea on how to do what I needed to.
I stripped out of my sweatpants and carried them over to my sewing machine. Starting with the sweats gave me something to practice on. I eyeballed the back and cut a ‘U’ shape out under the waistband. With the sewing machine, I stitched up the seams and hemmed it together. They seemed to fit right, and when I looked in the mirror, they looked acceptable for everyday wear. I decided to do likewise to everything that had a waistband or drawstring, including the panties and sweats. With the jeans and khakis and skirts I got more daring, I cut the ‘U’ shape out at the waist, and sewed in straps and buckles and buttons. It looked fancier and still fit well.
With new clothes that finally fit comfortably, I could do something I was in DESPERATE need to do. I had been wearing the same few items for several days, so they were rather ripe, which meant it was laundry time. I had never perspired or needed deodorant before my change, and that was another thing I needed to ask Carrie to pick up.
I was sitting on the couch folding laundry when she returned. Carrie was a little scratched up, but her exemplar healing had taken care of most of the cuts and scrapes. She did, however, have dried blood on her costume, and one of her antlers had been broken off. I looked at her and rushed over to hug her.
“Are you okay?” I asked frantically. “What happened to your antler?”
Carrie pulled away from the hug and went over to a nearby ottoman and sat down. “I’m okay,” she reassured me as she removed her boots. “I was called in because a Wendigo wandered across the border and was seen near Grand Marais.”
I looked at her dumbstruck. “Wendigos are real?”
She nodded solemnly. “It is said that the great spirit will curse a person for certain sins by trapping them inside a monster made of perma-frost. To defeat the monster… you have to kill the remnant of what was once human.”
I helped her up the stairs and started a bath for her. After taking her uniform and scrubbing the blood out with devisor-made spot remover, I went back downstairs and just sat on the couch. I don’t know how long I had been sitting there, because I was jolted back to attention by Carrie’s presence.
“I saw that you hemmed up all your clothes and did the laundry. The Caesar salad was delicious, too. But I didn’t bring you here to work. You could have just relaxed, maybe done something fun. You're a kid, after all. It's okay to be a kid.”
I sniffled and moved over to the other couch, sitting beside her. I hugged her tight and buried my face in her shoulder. “I… I don’t know how. I’ve never been able to be one. When you shuffle from foster home to foster home, you have to be on your best behavior. If there is another kid in the house, you don’t play with them, because if they get hurt, even accidentally, you are shipped right back to juvie. If it’s another foster kid, forget it. It’s a competition to be the one to keep. When the adults don’t see, they punch you and kick you. They do everything to get on top and stay there.”
She held me tight, and I cried for probably a good half hour. When I started to get aroused again by her proximity, I hurriedly extricated myself from the room and practically ran upstairs. I threw off all my clothes and jumped into the shower and just sat under the cold water, crying.
“Why am I so fucked up?” I thought, as I sat there on the floor of the shower. I felt the vague uneasy stirring of Inaba, and I closed my eyes. Reaching out with my mind, I could feel her trying to reach back but it felt weaker than ever. Was she in danger? I panicked and bolted from the shower, naked and soaking wet.
I looked for Carrie everywhere. I was close to despair when I heard the front door close and she came in, dressed in work-out clothes. I managed to ignore the fact that I was naked as I collapsed into her arms. I don’t know what happened next, because everything went black.
I opened my eyes, and looked around. I was sitting in a clearing that overlooked a large lake. In the distance I could hear loons calling and the sound of frogs and crickets. There was a feeling of tranquility, as a pleasant summer breeze wafted gently over my skin. I sat up and saw that Carrie was a few feet away. She was dressed in a long buckskin robe with elegant bead work. There was a small campfire with an earthenware pot suspended over it. She took the pot and carefully poured the contents into a small cup, then she handed the cup to me. In it was a pale brown liquid that appeared to be tea. I took a hesitant sniff and was met with the most divine scent I had ever smelled.
Carrie sat down behind me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. “Quiet, little one. It’s all right. This is my dream space. It’s a place of rest and relaxation that I come to when I meditate. I brought you here because I could feel that you were struggling. Part of my training is in dream-walking, though I’m nowhere near as accomplished as my mentor, Mr. Lodgeman.”
Tears streamed down my face as I looked at her. “Something’s wrong with Inaba! It feels like she’s in pain!”
Carrie picked me up like a baby, and carried me out into the water. I knew I should feel fear, but instead all I could feel was calm and serenity. When we were in over my head, we turned and walked back out again out. It wasn’t the same lake. This time we were in the Boundary Waters. “This is your dream space, little one. I have led you here, across what some call the astral plane. I’ve brought you here, but in time you will learn how to commune with her here on your own. Reach out with your feelings and search for her.”
Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply and concentrated, reaching out with my mind until I felt something. It was faint, but she was here. In a split second I was running down the trail. Beneath a large stump was a small white rabbit, no bigger than a foot in height. She did not look good, as she was shivering and clearly very tired and weak. Scooping her into my lap, I stroked her head and her eyes opened slowly.
“You came for me” she said weakly.
“You saved me when I was weak and close to death, how could I not do the same for you?” I aid as I held her tight. I turned my gaze to Carrie, who was standing a little ways away.
Carrie reached over and touched Inaba on the forehead, gently. “She is still quite weak, but what we do here can have beneficial effects. We shall make her comfortable. Just as she saved you by lending her strength to you, you can do the same. You are two souls bonded together. When you are strong, you can lend her that strength, and help her recover. She gave so much of herself to heal you that it left her vulnerable. Protect her and care for her. Learn how to visit your dream space. I will teach you some basic techniques that you can use.”
Under Carrie’s guidance, I cleared a space out of the ‘woods’, complete with a representation of my old campsite. Inaba dozed off, and I placed her gently in front of the warm fire. Awakening with my head in Carrie’s lap, I looked up and saw her breasts over my face. Turning beet red, I rolled out of her lap and darted to a seat across from her. “Urm… thanks. I was scared she was going to die.” I stammered.
Carrie laughed, a big hearty laugh, making me feel much better. “Rose, don’t be so skittish. You don’t have to be afraid of your sexuality. We’ve talked about how nothing will happen. But don’t let it make you feel uncomfortable to be around me.”
“I...I… I’m sorry. I’m just so… LOST. I was this girl that wasn’t going to live to see the end of the year, my body so overwhelmed with cancer that it was almost the same as when I was ten. Then I wake up a little over a month later looking like...this.” I waved my hands vaguely in front of my chest, garnering a nod from my guardian. “Not only that, I didn’t have sexual feelings before. Boys were ‘gross’, and girls were just other girls. Now I suddenly find myself attracted to boys AND girls… it's so confusing."
Carrie was about to say something, but I held my hand up to stop her, as having someone mentally yawn inside your head is a very jarring experience. Inaba spoke in a quiet whisper. “That’s my fault. Not the attraction to girls, but the hyper awareness… I am a rabbit, you know. I wish I could have shielded you from that particular trait, but at the end of your healing, I was doing all I could to keep you from burning out. So you got entirely too much of me leaking through... though the ears, tail, and whiskers are very cute.” She yawned again, and I could feel her moving around in my hallow a little, trying to get comfortable.
After filling Carrie in on what Inaba had said, I stood up, smiling. “Okay, enough of the awkwardness. I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry!”
Carrie nodded. “Yeah, magic usually takes a lot out of me, I’m not nearly as good at magic as my mother or grandmother. Then again, neither of them can lift a Buick.”
With a start, we were back in the mansion. As we cooked, Carrie told many stories of how she would walk through the woods with her grandmother, learning about medicinal herbs and fungus. She also spoke of her mother’s work on the Mille Lacs reservation as chief of nursing at their hospital. I could tell though that she was proudest when she spoke of her father. He had been a state trooper that had been decorated many times for valor, including a posthumous citation for rescuing a school bus full of children in a blizzard. I could tell he had been a big influence in her life, and had been a major reason why she had decided to become a hero.
After we finished and I had cleared away the dishes, Carrie cryptically advised me to meet her on the back patio, and to wear my swimsuit.
10 minutes later I was standing in front of Carrie, who was now wearing an emerald green one-piece swimsuit. I chewed on my lip, in an attempt to distract myself.
“Oh good, right on time.” There was a lawn chair beside her that had a cardboard box sitting on it. “I promised to give you a haircut, but first I need a favor of my own. With my antler broken off, I'm kind of unbalanced. There’s a bone saw and Dremel in the box. If you could trim back both antlers on the sharpie lines I drew, I’d really appreciate it.”
I looked at the box hesitantly. “Won’t it hurt?”
Carrie laughed. “It’s like trimming your nails. Normally, I wouldn’t bother, but I just molted not long ago, so these won’t be shedding any time soon.” Reaching into the box, she produced a sheet and wrapped it around herself as a sort of bib. Flipping the switch on the bone saw, I nervously started to trim the jagged parts from the broken antler, and when she didn't react to what I was doing, I found the nerve to start in on the other one.
I stepped back and took a look at the end result. After the trim and a little buffing it was nicely rounded and looked more natural. I handed Carrie a hand mirror to look for herself. “Wow! Good job. It looks great!” She got up and shook the antler dust off the sheet, and motioned to the chair with her head.
My hair was an uneven shaggy mop. It had been a long time since I had needed a haircut, the chemotherapy having taken care of that. But now that I was well, it had grown back thick and luxurious.
After Carrie draped the sheet around me and began to wash my hair with the garden hose, I closed my eyes and trusted her styling skills. I had braced myself with the expectation of cold water, but was pleasantly surprised that it was actually warm. I swear... if she were to retire from the whole superhero thing, she could make millions doing scalp massages. It was that good. Gently rinsing my hair, she inquired as to what I wanted. I thought about it for all of a second, before replying. “Something short and maybe a little sassy but also easy to take care of.”
I grabbed the mirror and eagerly looked. My hair looked thick and full, cut into a sexy diagonal bob that started shorter in the back and ended up longer in the front. I gave Carrie a hug. “It’s perfect!” She smiled, then looked at me, as if she seemed to be lost in thought. Suddenly, she exclaimed “Wait right there!”, before bounding into the house. Some minutes later, she came out carrying a plastic bag full of balloons. “I knew we had some balloons left from Iron Ranger’s retirement party. Your MID test is tomorrow, and I haven’t really seen you do anything, despite the fact we know you are an exemplar of some degree. I have an idea for a workout that might be fun.” she stated as she started filling balloons from the garden hose.
I was curious what she was up to. I was wearing a ringed-front bikini top that gave full exposure to my cleavage, and a v-cut bikini bottom that had matching rings at the hips, surely not the best thing for a work-out… and why water balloons?
Her intent became clearer, as she chanted a spell. She assured me that it was only to prevent the balloons from bursting prematurely, whatever that meant. With a wicked grin, and no warning whatsoever, she threw the first balloon at me. I made the mistake of trying to catch it, but as soon as I tried, one of my nails popped it, drenching me. The next balloon was thrown, and instinctively I back-somersaulted out of the way. Pausing for a moment to take that in, I did a dozen more flips in quick succession. Now I was perhaps twenty yards away and had room to work. Instead of trying to catch them, I worked on evading. By using somersaults, back flips, crouches, and even the splits, I dodged the projectiles. Carrie threw all the balloons she had, at least sixty in all, and not one managed to hit me.
Feeling somewhat giddy at discovering my new abilities, I continued to do flips, somersaults, and basically just contorting my body every way I could think of. My flexibility was AMAZING! Eventually though, I began to get tired.
After dinner, I ended up in the living room stretching. I had found a book on yoga in one of the rooms, and was seeing what all I could do. After a couple hours though, Carrie had advised me to take a shower and get to bed. The following day would be a busy one, with all sorts of tests for my MID. I dutifully did as I was told, smiling like an idiot the whole time.
Somehow I had managed to sleep through the night, despite my excess energy. Still. I was up at the crack of dawn, ready and anxious. I was prepared to dig into a big breakfast, but Carrie advised me to eat light, largely because some people had been known to vomit after the MID tests. That was not exactly reassuring, but whatever... right?
The testing site was a nondescript brick building adjacent to the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus. Apparently the Duluth MCO office was fairly small space leased from the university. I thought it was very unusual because the Superiors also leased space from the school. Despite all of all the stories about mutants disappearing and being killed in ‘accidents’ while in MCO custody, I wasn’t too worried. I trusted Carrie to keep me safe.
Upon entering, we headed straight to the reception desk. Behind it sat a woman dressed like an extra from the Men in Black movies. She was maybe in her forties, and looked very good for her age. She appeared to be very fit, with a runner’s physique. Her black hair had gray creeping in around the temples but it didn’t detract from her beauty. Her dark eyes and her complexion hinted at southwestern or Hispanic roots. She had on make-up, but I could tell she was trying to cover up circles around her eyes, probably from not sleeping very well.
Carrie had come in full costume complete with her domino mask, but she was relaxed. She walked over and greeted the woman with a hug. “Isobel! Good to see you!” she said cheerfully. I relaxed because if Carrie could be friendly towards this woman, surely there was nothing to fear, right?
“Caribou! What brings you here?” she asked cordially. That put me even more at ease since I knew Carrie wouldn’t put on a show for my benefit.
She motioned to me and smiled. “Bringing this one in for MID testing.” The receptionist looked me over, and stared. “Late manifestation? She looks rather old to have just manifested.”
Carrie laughed and tussled my hair. “Yeah, I would have thought that too if I hadn’t seen her go through her manifestation. Believe it or not, she’s fourteen.”
Isobel laughed and shook her head. “Kids these days, always trying to grow up too fast. I would have sworn she was at least eighteen, maybe as old as twenty-one!”
Carrie put her arm around me and continued to speak to the receptionist, “Speaking of kids these days, how’s your daughter doing,‘Bel? I know things were rough at first.”
Isobel sighed and responded. “She’s not been doing that great. We have consulted with specialists and doctors about her depression, it seems to be getting worse. Add to that the fact they haven't been able to stop her powers, besides restraining her movements. If we don’t find a solution, I fear for my little girl.”
Carrie sighed and smiled at her, she released me from her hug, and went over to her friend. “You know ‘Bel, I would be more than happy to sign off on sending her to Whateley with a full scholarship. Also, if memory serves me correctly, I believe the MCO even has provisions for financial aid for this sort of situation.”
Isobel nodded. “I will talk to Salvador and see what he says.” Carrie patted her on the back gently, and returned to my side.
“Remember,” She said. “you have my number, and you know how to reach me.”
Isobel leaned over and pushed a button on her desk, opening a door behind her. I was scared, but Carrie followed me in. Looking at her, I tilted my head questioningly. “I thought that I was supposed to go in alone?” I asked.
Carrie replied with a slight smile. “Typically that’s true, but I often oversee the mage test for the MIDs. Duluth isn’t a large office, so they don’t have someone on staff that is qualified to test potential magic users. I used to split time doing this duty with Borealis, before he left for the Twin Cities.”
I noticed a displeased tone to Carrie’s voice so I didn’t ask anything else about that.
From a pouch on her hip, Carrie pulled a smooth stone, about the size and shape of an egg. It was green with light and dark swirled patterns, like a piece of polished malachite. “Hold this in your palm and close your eyes,” she said as she handed it to me. “Focus your thoughts on it, and try to direct your thoughts to flow into it freely.”
Obediently I did so for about a minute. “Okay, that’s good enough.” Carrie said as she took the stone back from me. “Magic is a zero. The stone would have glowed if you had magical ability, but it seems you do not, at least none that we can detect.”
I had not noticed before that we were not alone. There was a short, balding man in a lab coat in the room as well. As soon as Carrie spoke, he wrote something on a clipboard. He motioned to Carrie, who left the room. I swallowed hard and watched her exit. I glanced around; nothing seemed dangerous, but what did I know? There were what looked like treadmills, a couple workbenches, and a large imposing-looking machine that looked like a weight machine had a love-child with a hydraulic car-crusher.
“My name is Dr. Addler,” said the man. “I will be administering the rest of your testing. I can see that you're nervous. Don’t worry...unlike many other MCO offices that you might have heard stories of, ours tends to be rather indifferent in our attitude towards mutants, I think it's largely because the bad seeds tend to filter their way to the big cities – you know, New York, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, with larger and more active offices, so they can push their agendas. Truthfully, if it weren’t for running the occasional MID test, we’d have almost nothing to do here.”
He handed me a suit of some sort and pointed what looked like a small changing room. “I need you to change into this sensor suit, please. It will monitor your respiration, heart rate, and all other bodily functions during the testing.”
Inside the changing room, I glanced around, and didn't see anything that looked like a camera or any sort of lens. With a sigh, I shed my clothes and put on the suit, which was entirely too snug, clinging to me like a second skin. Someone had hastily cut a tail-hole in it, but it managed to pinch it anyhow. I would have thought they could have designed these suits to hide certain... body features, but no. Not in the slightest bit.
Hesitantly, I walked out. There was a mirror that I assumed was one of those one-way mirrors one sees on all the cop shows. Surely someone was observing me from behind it. Turning my head that direction, I silently mouthed “Fourteen” as I adjusted the wedgie that the entirely-too-tight suit was giving me.
“Okay Miss, if you could please step onto the treadmill?” the doctor requested. I was started at a light jog, but the machine gradually sped up, until I was running all-out. After I reached what appeared to be the fastest I could go, the machine introduced a new trick: a gradually increasing incline. I ran for a half hour or so before I was told I could stop. The doctor went over and glanced at a computer and then returned. “You reached a top speed of almost twenty-five miles per hour. Not bad.”
I smiled at that, and I think that the doctor saw. “To most that would seem impressive but higher level exemplars, like Caribou, can hit seventy or more.” I sighed at that, figuring Carrie was probably giggling behind that mirror.
Next I was led over to the contraption that looked like a bar mounted to gigantic shock absorbers. “Lift this please. The weight will be increased gradually, using these hydraulic controls. Tell me when it gets to be too much.” said the doctor. At first the bar seemed light, but then it gradually got heavier and heavier. After several minutes it was too heavy, and I had to stop. Letting go of the bar, I realized I was sweating profusely.
“Hmm... you maxed out at about five hundred pounds. Combined with information from the treadmill, I think you're in the range of an exemplar three.”
I nodded and grabbed a towel off a nearby bench and I took the opportunity to torment whomever might be behind the glass with a very overly emphatic and entirely too sexual toweling off.
I was led to a workbench, where I was instructed to go through a pile of junk … wires, electronic parts, gears, and other odd and seemingly random stuff - that was laying there. Carrie had informed me what this test was about. Even though really didn’t think I was a devisor or gadgeteer, I had to humor them. I dug through the assorted parts, wondering if they really fit together into anything sane and sensible, and as I did so, I felt a disturbance. I could have called it "A disturbance in the Force", but it felt like something odd in the air circulating through the room. I could even mentally picture where the disturbance was. Instinctively, I turned and caught the rubber dodge ball that had been aimed at the back of my head. The Doctor scribbled on his clipboard. “Danger sense, check.”
“Um, actually,” I said. “I can sometimes feel changes in the airflow around me with my whiskers, that’s how I could tell something was coming at me from behind.” I chuckled as Dr. Addler scratched something off on his clipboard.
After they decided that I clearly wasn’t a devisor or gadgeteer, they ushered me on to other tests. I couldn’t guess what he was thinking, I couldn’t predict the face-down playing cards they placed in front of me, or any of the other assorted tests they ran for psychic powers. Even more tests followed, I was winded and wanted to be done. Eventually, the end seemed at hand.
“Okay, final test,” Dr. Addler said, offering me a seat. “please put your arm on the table. The last test is the test for regeneration.” I watched as he reached onto a cart at table side and picked up a scalpel. At the sight of the medical equipment, I panicked and started to get up, feeling like I had to get out of there. After all my experiences with hospitals and doctors and biopsies, I had something of a fear of scalpels and needles. Before I could get to the door, though, it opened and Carrie rushed in.
She hugged me and patted my head, like one would a scared child… which is fair, because no matter how I might have looked, that’s what I was. She spoke in a soft, soothing voice. “It’s okay, little bunny. They just want to test your regenerative abilities. It’ll be a little cut, and I’ll be right here.”
Swallowing hard, I nodded and obeyed. A small cut, no larger than an inch or two was made on my forearm, which healed up completely in a matter of seconds. “There, all done.” The doctor stated with a large smile. “Based on the information you provided about your spirit, and your recovery from your illness, we can assume you are at least an Avatar four. Based on the tests, you are also an Exemplar three and a Regen three.”
I watched as the doctor walked over to a computer and punched in the results. “You requested the name Inaba, correct?” he asked. “That name is available.”
I waited as he printed out my MID card. It seemed right to honor Inaba by taking her name to be my codename. She had saved my life and was literally a part of me. Still, now that I had the freedom to move about freely, I wondered what I would do with it. I stood there, pondering what might be next for me, until I became aware that Carrie was speaking to me.
I turned to her and hastily responded. “Sorry, I was thinking. What did you say?” I muttered, feeling totally embarrassed.
I think she noticed because the hand on my shoulder turned to a playful tussle of my hair. I blushed and thought about it... yes, she was still hot, but I was starting to feel differently. I was starting to replace those thoughts with something else, a feeling of family. I would push all the indecent little fantasies aside...or at least I would try to.
Carrie laughed. “I said ‘now that we are done with the tests, let’s grab some lunch, and then I’ll show you the team headquarters.’ How’s that sound?”
I was a little confused, since I thought the team headquarters meant the mansion.. I think she noticed my confusion, because she elaborated on that thought. “While we live at the mansion for the most part, the actual operations center is not far from the lift bridge and the port.
“Sure.” I mean what else could I say? A tour of an actual superhero headquarters. I mean… wow.
After leaving the MCO office and turning back towards the lake, we stopped briefly to pick up some food at a Taco John’s. Just a few minutes later we pulled up to a rather non-descript two-story building with a brick facade. There were a few small businesses on the first floor, namely a travel agency, a bakery, and a florist. In the back, just off the alleyway, was a garage door. Carrie pushed a button on her dashboard, and the door opened. The indoor garage was rather small with room for perhaps 8 cars, but at the moment there was just Carrie’s SUV, a hatchback, and a beat-up pick-up truck.
“This is it?” I asked, somewhat disappointed. I was imagining a high tech building with high tech gizmos and lifty things and cool stuff. Okay, maybe not a skyscraper, but something more impressive than a garage and the top floor of a two story retail building.
Carrie obviously could tell what I was thinking. “Yes. This is it. No super-high tech base with lasers and holographic displays... you have to keep in mind that Duluth isn’t the Twin Cities or Chicago, or even Milwaukee. We don’t get arch-villains trying to take over the town or kidnap people for ransom. VERY rarely, we get the odd mystical event like that Wendigo. Our primary jobs are search and rescue and assisting first responders and government agencies. That means the mission could be assisting park rangers to find lost campers, aiding the Coast Guard in lake rescues, or even helping to stop illegal smuggling operations. Of course there are plenty of powered petty criminals that try stuff like bank robberies, and so on... But really grand diabolical evil master plans? Not so much.”
Carrie paused to think for a moment, before continuing.
“I suppose there was the time that Doctor Flintlock tried to hijack that taconite freighter. Nobody could quite figure that one out. What would a person do with eighty-thousand tons of taconite, and how would anyone expect to get away in a thousand-foot long freighter?”
I couldn't help but giggle at the way she told that story. On the second floor, there was a keypad next to a door which also had a slot that appeared to be a card reader. Carrie punched in a code while simultaneously swiping a card. It took a few seconds before I heard a click, signifying that the door had unlocked.
I stepped into a lounge area with very comfy-looking leather couches that circled a glass-topped coffee table. There was a kitchenette off to one side, and several computer screens or televisions on the opposite wall, I couldn't exactly tell which they were. Maybe they were both? In another spot on that same wall were several different maps. I flopped down on the nearest couch and dug into the lunch bag, pulling out a couple burritos and a Taco Bravo.
Carrie called over to me from the kitchenette. “What do you want to drink?”
“Got any Dr. Pepper in there?” The MID testing had put me through the wringer, and I was hungry, thirsty, and tired. I plowed through my food in record time and polished off 2 cans of pop. The leather couch was sooo soft and plush that I could comfortably lie down and not put pressure on my tailbone. I quickly drifted off to sleep.
I opened my eyes and realized I was in the dream space. Looking around the camp site, I saw Inaba near the perimeter of the clearing. She was nibbling some grass, and seemed to be in slightly better shape. I moved over, sat beside the tiny spirit bunny, and stroked her fur. I could feel the psychic connection between us, her contentment was very evident. She tried to hop up into my lap, but couldn’t quite make it on her own. I gently lifted my spirit into my lap. As I sat there in the silence, I pondered what I would do with my second chance. I had freedom now that I was not going to die. I could to go out and live my life. Hmm… living. That was something I had not expected to do, and I had no idea to go about it.
I must have dozed off, because I awoke to a figure towering above me. Instinctively, I flipped up and over the back of the couch, landing in a crouch behind it.
Carrie cleared her throat, in an attempt to get me to notice her presence. She walked over and joined the man that had startled me. Still cautious, I looked at him closely. He was perhaps Six foot for or six foot five, with black hair that was shaved on the sides and slicked into spikes on top, in sharp contrast to the sapphire blue of his eyes. Despite the baggy jumpsuit he wore, it was obvious he was muscular with a chiseled physique. I licked my lips, not even realizing that I did.
“Erm. Sorry to startle you miss. I’m guessing you are Rose?”, he asked.
Carrie turned to me and gestured to the interloper. “Rose, this is Miguel Santino, a.k.a Transistor. He is the team’s resident fix-it expert.”
He turned to me and bowed. I noticed that he had a black leather glove on his right hand, but his left was bare.
“You have a code name? I thought Carrie was the only active member of the Superiors.”
He seemed to slump down slightly, and then Carrie spoke up. “Couple of years ago there was a freighter stuck in a bad storm, taking on water. We responded to the call to aid the Coast Guard. The weather was too severe to take the helicopter out, so the team went out in the Catalina. We managed to get everyone off the ship, but a piece of rigging broke loose and pinned Miguel. He was knocked unconscious, and I had to field amputate his right arm and leg, or he would be pulled under.”
Carrie sighed and walked over and hugged him. He looked over at me. “I’m okay now. I’m dealing with it, I’ve slowly been easing back into field work, and the new toys help.” He smiled and pulled up his sleeve, revealing the shining titanium forearm. “I was outfitted these beauties, but I can only teleport organic materials, meaning I’d rip the neural interface out, and the arm and leg off.”
I shuddered and ran over and likewise gave him a hug. He smelled like old spice and hair gel, and I could feel myself getting a bit flushed. I bit my lip and backed off.
“So… a Catalina? I’d love a ride sometime" I said, changing the subject.
I think Carrie could what I was doing, and she responded. “Perhaps we can do that sometime.”
“I have some work to do in my workshop, I’ll see you lovely ladies later”, he said with a grin as he turned and walked away.
“So, I noticed two other vehicles. Anyone else I should know about?”, I asked.
“Oh, the hatchback. That belongs to our new intern. He just arrived a few days ago from Whateley Academy. Hang on a sec.” Carrie turned in the direction that Miguel had gone. “Hey, Miguel! Is the new kid around?” she yelled.
With my enhanced hearing I was able to hear Miguel say something about the new guy going out to explore the city.
Carrie looked dismayed for a moment, then recovered. “I suppose it can’t be helped. It might do some good for him to familiarize himself with the city, I suppose.”
“I’ve heard you mention ‘Whateley’ a couple times now. First at the MCO, and then just now. What is it?”
Carrie looked over at me, and then sat down on the couch beside me.
“Whateley Academy is a boarding school in New Hampshire that specializes in educating mutants and others with powers. Right now you are still recovering but when you are ready, we will need to talk about your schooling. Sending you there is a distinct possibility. Whateley is full accredited, and they deal in special needs students of all sorts. I’m sure that they can help you with your learning disability.”
“How did you know?” I asked cautiously. When I had been in third grade, I had been diagnosed with dyscalculia. My disability made it nearly impossible to do written math, and I even had to learn special visualization tricks to be able to count out money. Telling time was nearly impossible. Unable to take measurements, I had to rely on estimation. Because of that, my math grades were abysmal. This led more than one prospective family returning me to the foster system.
Carrie chuckled slightly. “When you visualize a math problem in your head, did you know that you shift your eyes left to right when adding up things, and right to left when you subtract? The average person likely wouldn’t notice, but since I’m an exemplar -six, I often notice small details. It’s part of my exemplar mental package.”
I sighed and lowered my head. “Don’t worry” Carrie reassured me “I’ve looked over all your transcripts and you are doing great otherwise. I’m sure you could test out of general studies for eighth grade today, if you wished to.”
I sat up and hugged her, and she hugged me back. I fanned myself and returned to my previous position. Whether Carrie noticed or not, she didn’t say. But it troubled me all the same. Would I have to go through my whole life getting turned on at the drop of a dime?
I hadn’t even noticed that Carrie was speaking. “I’m sorry, what? I was distracted by something”, I sheepishly admitted.
“I said that I’m concerned about you. I know that you didn’t grow up in a good situation. You really didn’t have a childhood. Did you ever have any hobbies, or anything you wanted to do? Taking care of yourself isn’t just about education. You need to relax, and discover who you are, as well”, Carrie repeated. When she said that, I felt a little stirring in my hallow.
“It seems Inaba agrees with you,” I told her. “I’ve never thought about it. To me every day was just something to make it through. But now I don’t have any idea who I want to be, I don’t even know what I like or dislike… though I was having fun with the sewing machine, so maybe I’d like to continue sewing? Maybe try to make my own clothes?”
Carrie smiled. “Good! That’s a start. Tell you what... If I’m free tomorrow, let’s go raid the bookstores and craft stores. How’s that sound?” I smiled and hugged her again.
After getting me the security codes and a set of keys, we headed back to the garage to head home. In the car I asked Carrie a question that had been on my mind. “How come Miguel and the new guy don’t live at the mansion? I mean there is plenty of room.”
Carrie smiled. “Miguel doesn’t want to stay there. He has his own suite at the HQ. He can stay and tinker in the garage, or workshop, and he’s here to monitor the emergency systems, if needed. The intern is staying at the Headquarters, so he can familiarize himself with superhero procedures. I’ve looked over his files from Whateley, and he seems like a good kid.”
After a brief tour of the HQ, we headed home.
I got up early the next morning. After pulling on some very tight shorts and opting for a midriff-baring tank top, I wandered down to the kitchen, where was a note on the refrigerator from Carrie:
Called out on rescue duty, Don’t know if I will be home tonight. If you go out, remember to keep your MID with you at all times.
One grapefruit and a glass of milk later, I was out the door. Now that I had my MID and my health, I had freedom, more than I had in a long time.
I took a nice leisurely run down to the lakefront, enjoying the scenery. Tugs were moving barges through the docks and I stopped to watch an ore freighter pass under the raised lift bridge. After a couple hours I was rather thirsty, and so I swung over to a Caribou Coffee nearby. I chuckled; I had to remember to tease Carrie about that later. I picked up a hot chocolate and continued on my way. I was getting a little bored by now, and thought about heading to the HQ. Perhaps Miguel would be there, and I could stare at him and pretend to listen to what he says. Kidding, kidding. Of course I would pay attention….
I laughed at this internal discussion, then shook my head and jogged off towards the base. I let myself in via the garage. Miguel’s truck wasn’t there, but I did see the rusty hatchback, Maybe the new guy was around? It’d be cool hanging out with someone closer to my age. I headed up the stairs and made my way to the kitchen. Where I found yet another note, this one from Miguel:
Flying search and rescue, might not be back ‘til late. If anything important comes up, contact the radio in the Catalina.
No Miguel either, and I didn’t see or hear anyone else. I guess I could read through some of the manuals and books here, familiarize myself with things.
Sitting down on the couch, I picked the team training manual off the coffee table. After leafing through the first chapter, I heard a noise behind me. There was someone else in the room, a very good looking someone. I wondered where that thought came from, then I realized I was staring. He was perhaps a few years older than I was, but much taller – at least six feet, muscular, with blonde hair and blue eyes. My eyes kept drifting to his abs… oh god, did he have nice abs on display to the world since he was wearing basketball shorts, but no shirt.
I stepped back, and he held his hands up in a non-threatening pose. “Woah! Sorry! I didn’t expect anyone to be here. Who are you?” he asked in a sexy, deep voice.
“I..Inaba. I’m staying at the mansion, And you are...?” I asked nervously.
“They call me Captain Justice, but you can call me Steve”, he said with a smile. Mmm… so handsome. I shouldn’t be feeling like this. I felt Inaba stirring, and she seemed to think the same thing. But he was so cute.
We sat down on the couch, a discreet distance between us. “Tell me about yourself” he asked, looking me in the eye. I noticed his eyes wander down my body on a few occasions, but I just blushed and didn’t protest.
"My name is Rose. I’m from Minneapolis, originally. I just came up here to enjoy nature and contemplate my life. Caribou brought me in and she's helping me get back on my feet after some... difficulties," I wasn’t lying, but I really didn’t want to talk about being sick.
“Rose… that’s a beautiful name for a beautiful lady.” he said, spreading it on a little thick. “I’m here on a work-study program for school. Are you in school?”
I noticed that the gap between us had lessened. Had he inched closer? When? I hadn't noticed him moving! I felt my pulse racing, Was it always this hot in here? Or was it him… me… was it just me?
I didn’t realize it right away, but at some point I had ended up leaning against his arm. I felt flushed because
I was sure I was turned on, and I could feel Inaba stirring uneasily in my hallow.
I felt my head swimming, voices in my head urging me on. He touched my arm and I felt electricity shoot through my body. I shivered and fell back onto the couch. I heard a Inaba's faint voice in my head, but the electric feeling was drowning her out.
Another voice swirled in my mind - his voice.
“You want me. You need me. “Kiss me. You can’t refuse me.”
I was drowning in his voice.
“Don’t resist. You want me. You need me.”
I shook my head, trying to clear it. The buzzing was overwhelming me.
“S-so… tell me… ab-bout yourself”, I struggled to say. I squirmed uncomfortably.
Steve smiled that wonderful, sexy smile. “I grew up in Rhode Island, My father was a prominent business man, but I didn’t care about money or wealth. I just wanted to serve the people. To be a hero. And when I manifested as a mutant, I knew I had found my destiny. I went to a special school for training, and when a work-study opportunity opened up I took the internship here for credit.” He said, perhaps just a bit too pompously. But damn, he was sexy.
I leaned closer, and pressed against his side. “Want to see my room?”, he asked while looking into my eyes. I shivered and felt him as he reached over and stroked my ear. A jolt ran down my spine.
I felt his lips on my neck and moaned. The buzzing was back. I felt Inaba pacing in my hallow. I nodded slightly and a low, breathy “yes” escaped my lips.
I sighed as he scooped me up and carried me to the bedroom.
I awoke with the first light of the Sun peeking through the curtains. Snuggling up against him, I cooed and smiled.
I rolled over and nuzzled my head against his chest and gave Steve a kiss on the cheek. He stirred and rolled over, smiling at me. I licked his cheek and playfully growled at him, giggling when he pulled me even closer.
After more… “playing”, Steve got up and wrapped a towel around himself and headed to take a shower. I laid there in the bed, wrapping the sheet around myself, and smelling it. It smelled of his scent. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. When I opened them, I was in the dream space. I was standing naked before Inaba. She had an expression on her face that seemed to convey sorrow and anger at the same time.
“You shouldn’t have given in to him. You know that he was pushing you mentally. I tried to caution you, but he was somehow drowning me out. I should have talked to you about this sooner. I’m sorry. It’s my fault. With my nature, you will be susceptible to people trying to push you into sex, and if what happened is any indication, I'm afraid that you're probably going to desire it entirely too much. Remember to keep true to yourself, and if you have doubts, listen to me. I will always be here to tell you what I think is best for you.” she said, in an apologetic tone.
She was right. I had allowed him to push me, though I would have gone along with him on my own without his psychic pushing. “Why did I… why? Why can’t I stop myself? Why am I such a slut?” I asked. I started to cry as I wrapped myself in the sheets and curled into a ball.
I could smell eggs and bacon cooking, and I heard someone enter from the outside door.
“I know that look kid.” said the familiar voice of Miguel. “Let me remind you, you're here on a work-study program, not a hook-up festival. Bringing girls to the Headquarters is a security risk, and is unacceptable!” he exclaimed.
I could hear Steve put down the frying pan. “Woah! Calm down! I wasn’t looking for some booty call. And I certainly didn’t violate security. She was already here, man!”
“Rose! If you are here, come out at once!” Miguel yelled out, sounding very startled.
I sheepishly looked around for my underwear, but couldn’t find them. Wrapping myself in the bedsheet, I left the bedroom and proceeded with the walk of shame into the main room.
Miguel was on his phone, and I knew who he was talking to. I looked at Steve and then Miguel’s stern face. Ears back, I slumped down onto the couch, keeping myself wrapped up in the sheet.
Confirmation of who had been on the phone was quick, as the door flew open, revealing Carrie, in full uniform. She marched over and stood glaring at Steve. “Hands behind your back!”, she bellowed angrily at him.
“I’m sorry, what?” Steve asked confused.
“Just do it,” Miguel advised him.
Reluctantly, Steve put his hands behind his back, and Carrie stepped behind him, and slapped on a pair of handcuffs.
“Steven Hedgeworth, you're under arrest for Third degree Sexual Misconduct.”
Steve looked at me and then looked away. “What? Surely…”
Miguel looked at him. “She’s fourteen, you are seventeen. In Minnesota, that’s a crime.”
I spoke up, feeling like I needed to defend him because I knew I'd been partially at fault. “But, it was partially my fault too. Even if he hadn’t been in my head, I still probably would have..." I felt too embarrassed to say more; Carrie and Miguel got the message.
Carrie’s face blanched, and she spoke up, her voice angrier than before. “In addition to that, first degree mental coercion." She proceeded to read him his Miranda rights, surprising both him and me. "Do you understand these rights as I have stated them to you?” she practically demanded.
Steve looked pale as he feebly replied “Y...yes.”
Carrie looked at me, and her face softened. I had begun crying by this point. She handed off Steve to Miguel.
“Can you take him in?” she asked him. "I need to take care of her."
Miguel nodded, his face grim, and he forcibly marched Steve out the door.
She scooped me up in a gentle embrace. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” she said, as she carried me to the garage.
“I’m sorry we have to do this, but will you be okay? We need to take you to the hospital for a test.”
“A.... a test?”, I asked uneasily l. I had seen police shows like Law and Order: SVU before on TV, and knew about evidence collection. She was talking about a rape kit.
“I… I’ll be fine. Let’s get it over with.” I said, choking back tears.
I buckled in, still wrapped only in my sheet. The drive seemed to take forever, but was five minutes at most. Carrie extricated me from my seat once we had arrived, and gently carried me into the emergency room. The sight of a known superhero carrying in an obvious mutant wrapped in a bedsheet definitely causes a scene, and I was taken quickly to a secure exam room. A young doctor came in - fortunately it was a female doctor.
“What seems to be the problem?” the young brunette physician asked.
Carrie stepped forward and spoke in a soft tone. “We need to have a rape kit performed. You need to know that she's she’s a regen three, so any trauma will likely be healing already, possibly even fully healed.”
The doctor looked at me and nodded. Carrie held my hand as I cried. I felt so stupid, and I felt vulnerable. I hadn’t thought about anything but momentary gratification, and based on the way they'd treated Steve, I felt like I had ruined his life because I couldn't control my supercharged libido. The guilt of that thought made me almost vomit. Hell, I had probably ruined my own life as well.
When the invasive poking and prodding and… ugh… picture taking… had ceased, Carrie stayed with me, holding me and hugging me close. At that moment, I didn’t feel any arousal, just disgust with myself, and anger at what I had become. People would look at me and see a slut. Because I was one.
Through the haze of my thoughts, I heard someone calling me, and I realized it was the doctor. She smiled at me, though it was one of those half-hearted smiles that show you are presenting a good face for someone.
“I’m going to need you to take this, okay?”, she said gently while offering me a pill in a small paper cup. In her other hand was a plastic cup filled with water.
“What is it?”, I asked.
The doctor sighed before she responded. “Levonorgestrel, more commonly it’s called the ‘morning after pill’, It’s best to be safe than sorry.”
I nodded feebly.
“I’m going to recommend that you come in in three weeks for an examination. I'd also strongly suggest you speak with a therapist. I’ll see if there is one on call.”,," she stated.
I turned to Carrie, who was still standing there next to me. “Can I have a minute alone with the doctor? Please?”, I insisted.
Carrie said nothing, just smiled and walked out of the exam room.
I nodded and motioned for the doctor to come closer. “Doctor, can you put me on birth control? I’m scared. I don’t want to be like this, but I can’t help it. My spirit told me that she passed some of her hypersexuality to me when I manifested. I didn’t want to say anything in front of my guardian. I… I was supposed to come in for more testing. I… I haven’t ever had a period." I was probably babbling – half frightened of being perceived as a slut and half afraid of what was to come. "I... had terminal cancer... before I manifested. It kept me from maturing physically, but when I manifested I shot right through puberty. I don't know... how this all works, or how I'm supposed to feel... but I do know that I don’t want to get pregnant!” I was practically crying from expressing my fears for the first time. I hadn't even told Carrie everything I was afraid of.
The doctor smiled gently. “I’ve been reviewing your case, and the notes from your previous doctor. He theorized that since you hadn’t begun your menstrual cycle while you were unconscious after your change that it was possible you might not begin until you became sexually active. In his research, he noted that rabbits are what are referred to as ‘post-coital ovulators’, meaning they don’t release an egg until after sex. I’ll write up a prescription, but keep in mind that for the pill to be effective, you have to be on it continuously for a month. If you have concerns or doubts, we can look into alternatives when you come in for your next exam. One thing you need to know is that since you have a regeneration trait, this prescription may not work for long. That's a problem with regeneration – you might have to keep changing prescriptions to keep ahead of your body adjusting to and offsetting any medications. I’ll go get started on these prescriptions, and I’ll have Caribou come back in.”
With a nod to me, the doctor left, and Carrie came back in. I suspect that she was outside the door, but I knew I could trust her to not be listening in. I had come to trust her a lot in such a short time, and if it weren’t for the annoying fact that I still physically attracted to her, I could almost think of her as if she were my mother.
It was several hours until I was allowed to leave, during which I spoke with a psychiatric resident. I felt better, but an appointment was made for a more thorough session with one of the senior therapists.
In the car, I just drown out everything. I didn’t hear Carrie, the sound of the road, nothing.
We arrived back to the mansion in quiet, and I was helped from the SUV. I had once again been given scrubs at the hospital, so at least I didn’t have to enter in the shame that was that bed sheet. I went up to my room, stripped naked, and sat on the floor of the shower, water cascading over me and washing away my tears as fast as they formed.
Eventually, I put on my plainest undergarments and some baggy sweats. I slowly walked down the stairs and slumped down on the couch. Sitting beside me, Carrie took my hand. “You know, if there’s ever anything you want to talk about, I'm here for you. I feel like I failed you, in a way. I should have sat you down and had ‘the talk’ with you, but... I took it for granted that you knew everything already.”
I looked up at her and sighed. “Yeah, they don’t really give terminally ill kids the sex talk, because with how my body was ravaged by the disease, it wasn’t needed. I was going to die.” I sighed and wrapped my arms around my knees as I sat there. “I feel so stupid. All I’m good for is sex, and apparently I’m really good at that. I feel like a slut.”
Carrie embraced me in a hug. “That’s not true. You've had a difficult life, and you're finally free. You no longer need to worry about bouncing from foster home to foster home, because you'll always be wanted here. You no longer need to worry about being sick, because now that you’ve manifested, you’ll likely never be sick again a day in your life. You're finally free of the uncertainty. You can finally find yourself,” she said as she continued to hold me.
I broke the hug and scooted away from her. “You say all that, and intellectually I should know it, but I’m still trash. I fucking got turned on just now, just by you hugging me. I know in my head what he did was wrong, using his telepathy to push me into sex, but he didn’t even need to. I was willing to go down on him all on my own. When you were out of the room, I asked the doctor about birth control because I know I’m not going to be able to fight this. I’m just gonna be that bunny whore that’s an easy lay. And worst part of it all is that inside, I want to be just that. I want to feel that amazing sensation over and over. It’s like if the only thing you have had to eat your entire life was saltine crackers, and then someone suddenly gave you a piece of chocolate cake.”
I started to cry, and Carrie went over to a desk across the room, and got a box of tissues. “Oh kiddo, I don’t know exactly the perfect thing to say. I don’t even know what to say… but I’ll be here for you, and I’m sure Miguel will too. You know that he’s been at the police station this entire time making sure that everything is done by the book so that that weasel won’t get off. We’ve contacted Whateley about him and informed them of the situation. Although he passed himself off as a perfect gentleman his whole time there, it might help them with insight into unsolved issues around campus.”
I looked up, grabbed a tissue, and wiped the tears off my glasses. Taking them off, I put them on the end table. “If I take these off, maybe I’ll stop getting turned on by you, and I’ll have dry panties for once," I said as I pouted.
Patting my head, Carrie spoke gently to me. “You amaze me, with your fortitude and inner strength. I mean for a teenage girl to survive all those months in the wilderness in Northern Minnesota, especially during the winter and spring snows… that shows an amazing level of resolve.”
I blushed and spoke softly, “To be honest, I have no idea how I did it. I only knew that I didn’t want to die. I got some ideas from nature documentaries, and some books I had borrowed from the library. That reminds me, there are some books among my possessions that are horribly overdue to be returned to the Hennepin County Library.”
Carrie laughed and shook her head. “We returned those for you quite a while ago”
I couldn’t see what Carrie did next, but she had moved across the room. “I’ll run to the store for you, get you some essentials, if that’s okay with you?”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me,” I said.
“I’ve come to care about you. I’ll always worry about you. Be right back,” she said. I heard the jingle of her keys, and the door opened and then closed. I closed my eyes and sat there.
Perhaps an hour or two had passed, and I heard the sound of Carrie’s SUV driving up. She had parked out front, and was approaching the house. When she came in, I heard her call to me. “Rose, I picked up some stuff. Come help me unload!”
Reaching over, I grabbed my glasses and put them on, and then followed her out to her car.. We removed several packages from the vehicle, and I was naturally curious. I tried to peek in, but she shook her head and scolded me.
When we reached the living room, Carrie instructed me to put the packages down. She took one package towards the kitchen area, and a few minutes later came back with a serving platter. I laughed at that, because on it were two pieces of chocolate cake and two glasses of milk.
She handed me mine, and then took her own. Reaching over to the platter on the coffee table, I grabbed the fork. “Is this metaphorical cake?” I asked.
She looked at me and laughed. “No, it’s black forest cake.”
I rolled my eyes and pulled a cherry off the top of my piece, licking the whipped frosting off it before slowly biting it.
“You know, if that was an attempt to seduce me, it didn’t work”, she stated with a chuckle. “But seriously, you know that sex isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It can be enjoyable, and if you find the right person, it can be special. Don’t let society dictate your opinions. Be yourself. You are who you are. The only thing I'll tell you is to be careful and don’t do anything illegal. You're a good person, and good people are allowed to have sex.”
I looked at her, in shock; I certainly hadn’t expected her to say that. She continued. “Of course, I expect you to learn and obey the laws. You're still fourteen. You have to be careful and responsible. This situation wasn’t fully your fault, but he was too old for you. I know it’s hard to fight what is a compulsion, but try your hardest.”
I nodded and ate a forkful of my metaphor. “I will,” I replied in all earnestness. “What was in all the bags?”
Carrie smiled. “I was thinking. You need to be you, but you don’t know who that is. You said you liked using the sewing machine, so I went out and got you a heavier duty machine with all the bells and whistles. It can sew tough materials like leather, denim, and so forth. Also a dress-maker’s dummy, more books on sewing, some designs for a few test patterns. I also got a radio and a laptop. You need to broaden your horizons, find out what you like for music, what other interests you have, what you need to do to become a well-rounded individual.”
I laughed and almost had milk go down the wrong way. “So I’m getting homework now?”
Carrie kissed me on the top of the head. “I’ll tell you one of the great secrets of life. You never stop having homework.”
We sat around for a while, laughing and talking casually. Carrie helped me carry all my new goodies up to my room. When the team had entered the agreement with the University over occupation of the mansion, there were stipulations that since there were no more tours, rooms could be redecorated, as long as no major renovation was done. Even so, I looked around my room. It was drab and barren. Not much at all for personality or individuality. Nothing to tell anyone that a fourteen-year old girl lived here. I would have to change that… once I knew myself enough to know what to change.
I was determined that this creep wasn’t going to destroy me. Losing my virginity to a tool like him wasn't going to get me down. Getting off the bed, I started opening up shopping bags and boxes and putting things away. I reached the last bag, a small bag from Target. Opening it up, I laughed. Inside was a box of pantyliners with a note on the box.:
These should help. Remember being a sexual being is not a bad thing. If we weren’t, we would have gone extinct. All the same, no need to be uncomfortable.
- Love, Carrie.
I laughed out loud, and put the box in my bathroom. It was late, and I thought about going to bed, but after all that had gone on, and all that Carrie said to me... I knew there was something I had to do first.
A little while later, I got up off the bed, and stretched… feeling VERY satisfied. I sauntered into the bathroom and took a nice, long hot shower before calling it a night.
I woke up invigorated. Throwing on a tee shirt and shorts, I raced down to the kitchen. There was a note on the door of the fridge from Carrie. Apparently she had been called out on some important matter but would be back later in the afternoon. I fixed myself some cereal and contemplated my day.
After some deliberation, I thought a run might be good. I know that as an exemplar, I don’t have to do anything to maintain my figure, but I was starting to enjoy being active. After a while, I arrived at the lake. Sitting and watching the gulls, I thought about what Carrie had said. Getting up, I went to the Headquarters.
Slipping in through the garage, I was relieved to see that the hatchback was gone. The beat up truck was there, meaning Miguel was, too. Inside, he was sitting on one of the couches, head down. As soon as he noticed me, he bolted upright and came over and hugged me.
I looked up at him from the embrace, and cracked a joke. “You know, it might not be the best idea to get me all hot and bothered.” I smiled, but the look on his face was serious and sad. He sat me down on the couch and plopped down beside me.
“Don’t kick yourself over what happened. It was nothing that you could have predicted. And I was just as at fault as he was. He may have pushed into my head and tried to convince me, but he really needn’t have bothered. I have to learn to control myself. These hormones and thoughts and feelings are a part of me, and like it or not, I have to adjust and cope,” I stated matter of factually.
He looked over at me. “You sure?”, he asked pointedly.
“I’m fine, really.” I smiled, and I meant it. I would be okay. “If I could ask a favor though…”
While Miguel worked on my favor, I sat and communed with Inaba in the dream space. She was feeling better, and I think the proximity to the lake had something to do with that.
“I am so sorry. I can’t say it often enough. I should have better prepared you. I was so weak that I didn’t even think about what it’d be like for you. Now you have to shoulder this problem because of me.” Inaba hopped up into my lap and nuzzled my arm apologetically.
I looked at the little white puffball that sat in my lap. “There is nothing to forgive. I owe you so much. I love you little bunny. I love being alive!”
Waking up from the nap, I saw that Miguel was standing nearby. “I finished it for you. Wasn’t hard at all.” With a smile, Miguel handed me a wristband made of leather. The watch mounted securely to it had two screens. One screen displayed the hour by showing me 3 vertical lines. The other face showed 22 dots, representing the minutes. I leapt up and hugged him, blushing a little as I did. Carrie had been right about the pantyliners being a good idea.
After a while, Miguel went back into his lab, and I decided to go home. Home… so strange that I already thought of that huge, empty mansion as my home.
I arrived home to find Carrie waiting for me. She had that serious face. “I spent some time in my dream space, and I had a moment of clarity. I’ll be okay.”
She came over and hugged me. “If you're sure. I mean we can get you an appointment to talk to someone…”, she cautiously said.
I held up my hand. “Really, I’m okay. I’ve had worse to deal with.” I smiled, and she seemed to believe me, because she stepped back from the hug.
“I see you got him to make you a watch. That's very nice. Solves one problem for you. Now there is another thing we need to do…,” she said, making me nervous.
“What’s that?” I asked… fearing the answer.
“Why go get you a phone, of course!” came the reply.
After we go back from another shopping trip, I sat in my room sorting through the things we had purchased. Besides a top of the line smartphone, there was a huge supply of materials. Leather, silk, bolts of fabric in all sorts of colors.
I picked up the leather, and flipped through my patterns, settling on a sexy little corset. I can run from my sexuality, or I can embrace it. Better to embrace it and make it my own. Tomorrow would be another day, and it’d be a day that I wouldn’t have had before everything that happened. I had a life now, and I was intent on living it to my fullest. Whatever came next would be okay, because I had the greatest gift of all. A future.
* The End *