Whisper (Chapters 20-25)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
** Chapter 20 **
Additional Kernel Modules found...Installing
Init Run Level 3
And, I enter hyperspace and a tunnel of laser lights twist around me before snapping into place. I wish it was something cool like that, but no, I just open my eyes and see a ceiling and I’m lying in a bed again. That is as far as I get before all hell breaks loose for me as I sit up with a gasp and then, freeze from information overload for exactly 2.443 seconds.
A lot happens during those 2.443 seconds. During that brief time, I am overwhelmed by more inputs than I have ever experienced. I “hear” every electronic gadget in the room screaming at each other. I feel two different Wi-Fi networks trying to get my attention with login and password requests. In addition to that, I feel five different cell phones within 3 meters of my location. Two of those cell phones have active Internet connections; they must be smart-phones of some kind.
At the 0.592 second mark, all of the different radio and sound frequencies bouncing off the walls and objects in the room combine to show me a ghostly 3D map of the room. Wire-frame models show seven people sized objects in the room. Based upon their shape, two of the seven people objects are female. Additionally, there are two chairs, one rolling cart with computer equipment in a room that measures 6.096 meters wide by 7.3152 long with a partially open doorway on the right wall exactly 6.4008 meters from the wall behind me. The wall to my left has a double paned glass window that is exactly 1.2192 meters long by 0.9144 meters tall. Five of the person objects are on the right hand side of the room and two male person objects are on the left side of the room. One of those two is standing next to the cart object 0.532 meters from me at a ten o’clock vector, while the other is standing 1.12 meters from me at an eleven o’clock vector. The female person object located 0.312 meters from me at a three o’clock vector is rapidly moving towards my current location, while the person object at the eleven o’clock vector is also moving towards my current location. That object’s rate of closure is less than the nearer object’s rate of closure.
At the 1.249 second mark, I somehow ‘see’ a camera facing me that is mounted in the upper corner of the wall and ceiling. It is emitting an Infrared signal that I identify as a range finding signal. Above the door and above the window are active motion sensors. I can see the pattern that they are scanning for and note that there is a gap in their coverage area that someone could easily use to avoid the sensors.
At the 1.54 second mark, my vision rapidly cycles through four different modes. Thermographic, Ultraviolet, Low-Light and finally back to normal as I blink my eyes trying to remove the spots caused by the Low-Light mode getting overwhelmed by the lights in the room.
>Flare Compensation Enabled
>Optimum vision system auto-selected
At the 1.809 second mark, my view of the world expands beyond the room to take in the entire lab. I see the locations of an additional 7 cell phones that display as yellow dots in the center of a small semi-transparent yellow circle overlaid on a map of the lab. Parts of the map look very solid and I notice that those parts are the sections that I visited during the field trip. The parts that are less defined and slightly hazy are the parts that I only saw via the faculty map located in the lobby. The additional cells phones are only showing up in the section of the labs that I visited and in the front office. Most of the cell phones are stationary, but a few of them are in motion.
Two blue dots show up in the lobby. I wonder what they are and a text bubble appears next to the each dot. I see the name, rank and health status indicator of two soldiers who are using the Land Warrior System. I note that they are active nodes on a larger network. I wonder what else is on that network. That somehow causes me to automatically query that larger network and more data begins to flood in. The map of the lab turns solid as every room is filled in on my display. I am surprised to see five additional below ground levels display on the map. A very detailed topographic map that covers a thirty kilometer area surrounding the lab springs to life.
At the 2.129 second mark, my world expands outside the lab and to the entire perimeter of the lab. I now see every soldier’s location in relation to my current location. The guard post at the entrance is displayed on my map along with a Humvee that is parked at the guard post. There are two enlisted soldiers and one officer manning that post. There are two four man patrols riding in Humvees in motion around the perimeter of the lab’s grounds.
At the 2.332 second mark, I can make out at least three different radio conversations. One is a pilot asking for clearance to land, the second is a state trooper asking to run a license check and the third is a ham radio operator talking to someone in Germany.
At the 2.392 second mark, my world expands again. I start to see the entire states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona display on my map with Los Alamos represented via a blinking blue dot in the center. Additional symbols and data begin to flow in and I’m really starting to feel the overload. I need to find a way to turn all this stuff off, right now.
At the 2.444 second mark, I find that mental ‘off’ button. The maps, dots and all the other strange symbols minimize to a single icon that looks like a “C” superimposed with a “3”. I sigh with relief and it is then that I notice that the female person object that was initially located at the eight o’clock vector is now hugging me while saying some words to me. I think that they are important so I focus my attention on the words she is saying to me. She smells familiar. She sounds familiar, too.
“Mom?” I ask.
She hugs me tighter and I feel a drop of water hit my shoulder. “Oh Brian! I was so worried about you. How are you feeling honey?”
I feel my eyes fill with tears, but this time I just don’t care as I return her hug. “Mom, I’m not sure yet. Can I get back to you on that?”
She laughs and hugs me tighter. We hug and cry on each other for 1 minute 23.3 seconds before she lets me go. I think that automatic timer thing is going to get annoying. I look around the room as my mom pulls away. A green bracket forms around her with a name plate floating above her head. “Jennifer Peters” is what it initially tells me, but as I think, “No, that’s my mom”, her name changes to “Mom”. I see a message display in a small box located in the bottom left corner of my vision, kind of tucked away until I need it.
>Friendly Target IFF designator changed
Just behind my mom and on my right, I see Nikki standing there wiping her eyes and with a smile on her face. A green box surrounds her too. I need to remember to call her “Fey” instead of “Nikki”.
>Friendly Target IFF designator changed
And her name plate now reads, “Fey”. Okay, that’s kind of cool. To her left is someone I don’t recognize. He’s wearing a strange British style suit from the 60’s. A red bracket forms around him.
>Unknown Target IFF...Request Identification
I notice that he has a badge on his jacket and another box appears around that. My vision quickly zooms in and scans the badge.
>Friendly Target IFF...designator changed
The red bracket turns yellow and “Sir Wallace Westmont - VISITOR” appears above his head. He must be the Sir Wallace that Fey mentioned. As I think that, his bracket turns green.
Next to him is another man that I don’t recognize, but he’s wearing a modern suit. Unlike Sir Wallace, he has a CAC ID card that contains an embedded RFID chip clipped to his suit and his bracket changes to green as the ID identifies him as:
>DOD/DARPA/DIRO Deputy Director/EX07/Nicholas//Reilly, Sr./xxx-xx-xxxx/B+/FALSE
That’s Nikki’s Dad. As I realize that I can read their IDs via the RFID chip, all of the CAC ID cards return a response to my automatic identification query.
>DOD/DARPA/Senior Research Manager/GP12/Allen//Edmundson, MD/xxx-xx-xxxx/O+/FALSE
>DOD/DARPA/Senior Research Associate/GP10/David//Johannson, MD/xxx-xx-xxxx/B-/PENICILLIN
All of their target brackets turn green. I kind of wish that there were also those cool computer beeping and buzzing sounds that you hear on TV when those fake computer systems are scanning targets, but my system just gives me the facts, boring.
My mom holds my hand while Dr. Edmundson speaks to me. “Brian, I’m sorry about all the people in here, but when Fey told us that you thought that you would be finishing up the re-org process right about now; we all wanted to be here.”
I blink my eyes from the vision test thing and tears that I cried. I am not sure, but all of the colors look brighter and more distinct to me. Dr. Edmundson’s red tie looks discolored. I can see spots and stains on it and I can’t believe that he would wear such a dirty tie. His white lab coat has even more stains. His blue eyes look brighter then I remember from the field trip. I turn my head to look at the rest of the people and all of the color variations captivate me. I can’t believe that I never noticed all of the colors before. I am drawn to Colonel Thompson’s uniform. I notice that his dark green uniform pants and jacket don’t match each other like they should. The jacket is a slightly darker green than his pants and I wonder why he would wear such mismatched uniform. Actually, everyone in the room has mismatched and stained clothing, even my mom and I know that she is a demon in the laundry room when it comes to stains. The colors are so much richer and varied then I can ever remember seeing. I wonder why I can now differentiate the colors so well now and if I can turn it off.
>tetrachromatic vision channels disabled
I blink again and now Colonel Thompson’s pants and jacket are the same color. What the? I turn back to Dr. Edmundson and notice that his tie and lab coat is now stain free, while his eyes are just blue. That’s it. Nothing special and now I think that I liked the colors the way they were.
>tetrachromatic vision channels enabled
Pop go the colors again as I smile at him. “Oh, that’s okay, Dr. Edmundson. I understand. I wanted to be here too.” That gets me a giggle out of Fey and a few chuckles from the rest of the folks.
Dr. Edmundson looks a little uncomfortable with my attempt at humor. “Well, I just want to say how sorry I am that this happened to you, but how glad I am that you are now awake and in good spirits. We were and still are, very worried about you.”
I start to tear up again. Damn tears. “Thank you Dr. Edmundson,” I turn to look at Fey. “And thank you Fey. I don’t think I would be handling things nearly as well if you hadn’t been able to visit me inside here.” I say as I point to my head with my other hand.
Fey brightly smiles at me. “No problem Brian.”
With all the different shades of red now visible to me, her hair looks like it’s on fire. This enhanced color vision thing is going to take some getting used to, but it sure is cool.
I hear Dr. Edmundson clear his throat as if to get my attention. I turn back to look at him. “I know that most of the people in here are strangers to you, so allow me to introduce them to you.”
I casually wave him off. “Oh, that’s okay Dr. Edmundson. I already know who they are.”
His eyes widen with surprise and except for my mom and Fey, I see everyone’s posture stiffen as they mirror Dr. Edmundson’s surprise. “You do? How?”
>Warning: Target Voice Stress Level Moderate
Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that?
Now another semi-transparent window is floating above Dr. Edmundson’s target bracket thing. This window shows me something that looks like a cool graphical equalizer sound display. As Dr. Edmundson speaks, the graphs go up and down. There are three gradient colored areas on the graph. A green zone that merges into a yellow zone that merges into a red zone. Dr. Edmundson’s last words hit into the yellow zone. Hmm, I think I need to downplay my knowledge right now.
“Ummm, I noticed their name badges as I scanned the room?” I didn’t lie to him, but I do feel a twinge of guilt for not telling the complete truth. They all relax when I say that. Me thinks I can tell them about somehow reading the RFID tags in their badges later.
“Oh.” Dr. Edmundson says with one of those ‘light bulb’ expressions a person gets when figuring out the solution to a problem. His voice sound gizmo stays all in the green with that word. One word probably isn’t much to go on, but I will have to pay more attention to that voice stress gauge. It looks like it could come in pretty handy.
His pause gives me a chance to think and notice that I’m feeling more than a little thirsty. I see a blinking Red Cross icon and when I wonder what it is trying to tell me, another window pops up and displays:
>Priority 1 Condition: Dehydration at 5%
>Treatment: Immediate consumption of 1 liter of isotonic fluids followed by an additional 2 liters of fluids over a period to not exceed 3 hours.
Oh, I guess that is why I am thirsty. I decide that now would be a good time for me to ask for some of that isotonic fluid stuff. “Ummm, sorry, but I’m feeling a little thirsty and some medical system thing is telling me that I’m 5% dehydrated and that I need to drink a liter of something called an ‘isotonic fluid’.”
Dr. Edmundson blinks as he takes in that bit of additional news. “I am sorry. In all the excitement, I forgot that we weren’t able to get an IV in you.”
I don’t see how that is a bad thing. IV needles are huge. “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t really like needles anyway.” That earns me a giggle from Fey and a smile from my mom.
Mr. Reilly frowns. “Why couldn’t you get an IV into her?”
“Her body rejected the needle.” Dr. Edmundson says, wincing.
“Rejected?” Mr. Reilly asks, looking confused.
Now I’m curious because I didn’t think needles were something the body could reject.
“Yes. The nanites responded to the IV needle as a foreign invader, ate everything below the epidermis within two minutes and healed the entry wound without a trace. Needless to say, we were all pretty shocked to discover that little trick.”
Mr. Reilly ponders that news for a second. “Hmm, so does she need some water or something then?”
I can tell that this female pronoun thing is going to take some getting used to for me. I’m having trouble identifying myself when they are referring to me as a girl.
“Well, since we couldn’t get an IV in her,” I notice a quick spike in the stress gauge there when he said ‘her’, “an electrolytic sports drink would work best for now. We have a spare case under the front desk. I will call and get someone to run some bottles down.” Dr. Edmundson uses the room’s phone to call the front desk and ask for a few bottles to be brought to my room. After he hangs up the phone, he stops to think for a second. “I would imagine that you might be a little hungry right now too.”
Now that he mentions it, I am pretty darn hungry. “Starving...”
“I’ll get a meal brought over from the cafeteria as soon as you get some fluids into you. I know that it has been a few days since you last ate, but eating while dehydrated wouldn’t be a good thing.”
I smile at him. “Thanks, Dr. Edmundson” Once again, he looks a little uncomfortable and this time it isn’t because of one of my attempts at humor.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Edmundson?” I ask, looking down at myself with confusion. I’ve never had to worry about it before, but maybe I’m flashing him or something. Nope, I am covered up in the front with one of those drafty hospital gown things.
I hear a polite cough of attention before a man begins to speak with a British accent. “Nothing for you to worry about right now lass.”
Me and just about everyone else turns to Sir Wallace for further explanation. He politely coughs. “Yes, well you have a bit of glamour effect going on right now that makes you more attractive to people.”
“Umm, what’s a glamour and can I turn it off?” I ask, embarrassed that I am somehow causing that kind of confusion for Dr. Edmundson.
Sir Wallace pauses before he answers my question. “In essence, a ‘glamour’ is a magical spell or effect.”
I gasp with surprise while I look to Dr. Edmundson and back to Sir Wallace. “But, I haven’t cast any spell. I don’t even know how.” I say, almost whining from a combination of desperation and fear. I don’t know any magic and I certainly wouldn’t want to somehow cast some fireball spell and blow everyone up by accident.
“Yes well, in your case, it is an innate ability that comes with being what you are. It causes people to feel more attracted to you and react more positively towards you.”
Oh, that’s a relief. I’m not casting a spell. Wait...Oh crap, I am in so much trouble. “But, I don’t want people to be attracted to me!” I say, desperate to not have that happen to me. I catch the sight of Fey looking sympathetic to my dilemma.
Sir Wallace recaptures my attention. “Yes, well, it could be worse. Unlike Fey, your glamour appears to be more focused. Currently, your glamour seems to only affects someone that you are focusing your attention upon.”
“Currently?” I ask, worried if that means it could get worse.
“You did just wake up. Your glamour could grow more powerful as you regain your strength.” Sir Wallace says, shrugging apologetically.
“Oh,” I say, simply. ‘Oh crap!’ is what I really wanted to say, but I think my mom would yell at me. I feel a little worried about the glamour thing. Compared to being turned into a girl, changing species and having a computer stuffed into my head, I don’t know why that little thing worries me so much.
Sir Wallace looks to Mr. Reilly and then back to Fey. She nods her head, “Fey and I will be here until tomorrow afternoon. We need to get Fey back to school late Sunday morning. I will see what I can do to assist you before we depart.” Sir Wallace says.
We are interrupted by a knock at the door and when Colonel Thompson opens it, Brenda is standing there with four bottles. She smiles her thanks to Colonel Thompson as she looks to Dr. Edmundson. “Sir, I heard you needed this brought down for Brian. Where do you want me to put them?”
I glance up and at the sight of Brenda, I suddenly feel very self-conscious. I absently tug on my sheets to make sure that I am fully covered. I know that I’m now a girl, but still find her attractive. Nikki is attractive too. More than attractive, she’s drop dead gorgeous, but I don’t feel attracted to her like I still do with Brenda. I know that she was and is too old for me, but there’s just something about her that gets my motor going. If I was still a guy, I’m sure that my junk would be making a tent right now. Instead, I feel a little tingle like I did with Sara.
Dr. Edmundson gestures to the foot of my bed. “Oh, thanks Miss Koshnik, you can just set them on the end of Brian’s bed.” Once again, his voice stress gauge goes up into the yellow zone with my name.
Brenda smiles at me as she sets them down at the end of my bed. “I wasn’t sure what flavor you wanted, so I just grabbed one of each.”
Her smile confuses the crap out of me. I try to distract myself by looking at the drink bottles instead of her. I see a bright orange colored bottle that looks so much more inviting compared to the pastel yellow, neon green and purplish blue colored bottle.
Brenda looks at me expectantly. “Which flavor do you want, Brian?” With my name, her stress gauge thing goes up a bit there too.
“Umm, can I have the orange one, please?” I ask, looking back up to her by reflex. I shyly smile at her before I remember that I have that glamour thing Sir Wallace mentioned.
Brenda surprises me. She doesn’t just hand me the drink. She smiles at me, reaches over, wraps her arms around me and gives me a quick hug. “Oh my god, Brian. I was so worried about you!”
It really is one of those quick, catch and release girl hug things, but my stress gauge goes way up and I feel very confused. I glance at Fey. She’s not much help. She just has a happy smile on her face. I’m very aware when Brenda’s breasts brush against my aliens. I don’t know why, but I kind of expected Fey to look horrified or weirded out by this, but she’s not. Actually, no one else in the room is acting like Brenda hugging me is wrong or unexpected behavior. Her hair smells so nice.
Still smiling, Brenda releases me, takes a step back and hands me my drink. “Here you go!”
She doesn’t seem at all confused or flustered by the hug. I know that girls hug each other all the time and everyone thinks it’s normal, but guys never hug each other. I mean, if I was still a boy and she just hugged me like this, I’d be in heaven, but I’m a girl now. Why do I feel like I just won the lottery, but at the same time, why do I feel, umm, guilty?
My face feels very red, but I manage to mumble. “Thanks.”
She looks at me with alarm. “Oh! I’m sorry, Brian!” She glances around the room real fast. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you in front of everyone.” She looks very sincere, but I don’t think she realizes that I’m, well, not sure what I’m feeling right now.
Then, she turns to Dr. Edmundson. “Do you need anything else, Dr. Edmundson?”
“I think that we will be fine for now Miss Koshnik. Thank you.” Dr. Edmundson says, smiling at Brenda with gratitude as she turns an exits the room. As she is leaving, she glances back and gives me a friendly smile as she closes the door.
I glance to Fey and my mom once more. Fey smiles at me as if to say, “everything is fine. Nothing to worry about.” I somehow feel reassured and my stress levels drop.
My mouth was dry before Brenda walked into the room, so now it feels like a desert in there. I am so thirsty that find my hands are shaking a little as I twist the top off, but the top comes off easier than I expected. The liquid smells so good, I can’t help myself when I start to chug it down.
Dr. Edmundson stops me. “Whoa! Not so fast Brian. You will vomit if you don’t start out slow. Just take a sip or two to start, and then slowly increase your intake.”
“Thanks, Dr. Edmundson.” I say, embarrassed, but grateful for his intervention. With all the first-aid and desert survival briefings that they give us in school, I should have known that. I so would not want to end up tossing my cookies in front of all these people.
Dr. Edmundson studies me critically for a second. “Okay, I think that we should give you a few hours to re-hydrate and get some food in you before we debrief you.” Following that, he turns to Mr. Reilly. “Would you agree with that Director Reilly?”
Mr. Reilly nods his head in agreement. “Yes, as much as I would like to know everything right now, I think that would be best. Let’s see, it’s 0830 now. How about we schedule a debrief with Brian for 1300 hrs? Depending on how she’s feeling.” Mr. Reilly looks around at the rest of the people in the room. I notice that his voice stress meter spiked when he said “she”, but not enough to trip an alert. No one raises any issues, so he nods and everyone except for Dr. Edmundson, Dr. Johannson and my mom begin to file out of the room.
“Can Fey stay?” I ask, feeling desperate for her to stay for some reason. Mr. Reilly looks to Fey and Dr. Edmundson. They both nod in agreement. I smile with relief.
“Okay, Brian. I would like to check your vitals now that you’re awake. I will also get Annie in here to remove your catheter so that you can move around a bit more.” Dr. Edmundson says.
I’m a little surprised about the catheter. “Catheter?” I never noticed anything down there. Well, now that he mentions it, I do feel a tube or something under my leg. I decide to lift the sheets up and peek down there. Yep, there is a clear plastic tube that passes under my left leg before it disappears off the edge the bed.
Dr. Edmundson checks my heart and lungs. He is about to check my reflexes when a polite knock sounds at the door before it opens. A nurse enters, “Did you need help with something, Dr. Edmundson?”
“Yes, please. I know that you’ve seen Brian before, but now that she is awake I thought that it would be good to introduce you.” Again, his voice trips the stress meter when he says ‘she’, “Brian, this is your nurse, Annie.”
I smile self-consciously and do sort of a half wave at her.
Annie returns my smile. “I’m so glad you’re awake, Brian. We were all very worried about you.” She says, without missing a beat or stumbling over my boy name. She turns to Dr. Edmundson. “Was there something you needed, sir?”
“Yes, thanks, would you be so kind as to remove Brian’s catheter?”
Annie nods her acceptance as she walks over to the left side of my bed. “Certainly, Dr. Edmundson.” She pulls the sheets back and looks at me reassuringly. “Now, you might feel a slight tug here when I remove your catheter.”
I feel myself blush as avert my eyes and focus on my mom. Just thinking about were that catheter thing must be is making me feel a little embarrassed. I wince as I feel a bit more than a ‘tug’ from down there.
Annie recaptures my attention. “Okay and all done!” She says brightly as she unhooks the bag from the side of the bed. “Will there be anything else Dr. Edmundson?”
“Thanks Annie, would you mind stopping by the cafeteria and grabbing a plate of food for Brian?” Dr. Edmundson asks.
“No problem sir.” She pauses for a second. “Umm, anything specific sir?”
Dr. Edmundson looks back to me. “Do you have any allergies?”
I shrug my shoulders and glance to my mom who hesitantly shakes her head ‘no’. “Not that I know of.” I say, turning back to address Dr. Edmundson directly.
Fey speaks up. “Brian might not like meat as much as she used to. Maybe light on the meat and extra veggies and a salad. If that is possible?”
That bit of news surprises me.
Annie looks to Dr. Edmundson and he nods affirmatively to her. “That should be fine.”
Once Annie leaves, I watch Dr. Edmundson test my reflexes with the rubber hammer thing on my knee. Everything works and Dr. Edmundson even remarks that my reflexes look good. Better than good actually. He finishes up by logging into the computer next to my bed. “Okay, just typing some notes into your record.” He turns and smiles at us. “As soon as I am done, I will leave you ladies alone while I go fill out some more paper work and prepare for the one o’clock meeting.”
More voice stress when he says ‘ladies’. Mr. Reilly’s voice indicated a little confusion about my gender, but so far, Dr. Edmundson is the one who is the most stressed. Well, other than myself.
I smile at him, causing him to get a little flustered. Crap, I can tell that this glamour thing is going to be a hassle. With the catheter out, I scoot up on the bed and sit up with my legs crossed under the covers. I find that sitting that way is now way easier and more comfortable than it ever used to be. I do feel a little more umm, drafty between my legs, but I can’t get over how smooth my legs feel when I rub them together.
“Yes, well, feel free to get out of bed and walk around if you feel up to it Brian. Oh, there are some urine sample bottles in the rest room here.” Dr. Edmundson says, pointing to the other door in the room, “If you have to use the restroom, please capture your urine so we can analyze it for nanites.”
I so did not want to think about the bathroom right now. I know that I was butt naked inside my head for a day and I did some virtual exploration. That doesn’t mean that I am looking forward to my first bathroom experience as a girl.
With my first bottle empty, I reach for the purple-blue bottle of the sport drink stuff. I realize then that my entire back side is bare to the world when feel the draft up my back from the hospital gown. Embarrassed, no pun intended, I stop myself and sit back with a sigh. “So, umm, mom. I just realized that this hospital gown is a little lacking. Could you get me that purple-blue bottle of stuff, please?”
Fey and my mom look at me a little funny. “Purple blue? Do you mean the light blue stuff?” My mom asks.
>tetrachromatic vision channels disabled
Oh, it is a light blue color. Hmm, I might need to just use normal vision. My mom hands me the blue stuff with a questioning look.
“I have a weird vision thing.” She begins to look concerned. I hastily try to reassure her. “Okay...not weird, just different. I can see using different modes like, low-light, ultraviolet and thermographic. I can also see extra colors. Not just extra colors, but all of the colors look brighter and more ummm, I dunno. Just more. When I tell the extra colors to go away, something called ‘tetrachromatic vision channels’ turns off.”
My mom still looks concerned, but Annie picks that moment to knock on the door. She enters the room and sets a covered plate of food on a small table that is attached to my bed. It rotates around, giving me a breakfast in bed table. I eagerly lift the cover off the plate and discover that the plate is full of food. There are a few small slices of roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes with more gravy, a buttered roll, an extra-large serving of steamed broccoli and a small side salad. The plate of food looks okay to me, but the aroma of the sliced beef isn’t as appealing to me as it should be.
“Thanks, Annie!” I say with a smile.
She returns my smile, “No problem Brian. Eat up. Doctor’s orders.” Before she leaves, she says, “Is there anything else you need?”
“Nope, all good here. Thanks!”
After Annie leaves, Fey turns to me. “How does it look?”
I re-activate the tetrachromatic vision thing and the color of the broccoli and the salad shift to a vibrant green color, the mashed potatoes with gravy look kinda meh. The brown gravy has colors that range from light to dark brown with an oily chromatic color mixed into the gravy. That must be the fats. The roast beef doesn’t look bad, but the smell isn’t making my mouth water like it should.
“Well, everything looked normal until I turned back on the vision thing. Now, the salad and the broccoli is a nice healthy green color while the rest of the food just looks kinda, meh.” I say with a sigh. I sure hope that Fey’s idea that I won’t like meat as much isn’t correct, because not liking Philly-steak and cheese sandwiches would suck big time!
I start with the salad and it tastes good even without any dressing. Next, I tentatively try a small bite of the roast beef and after a hopeful first chew, I decide that while it doesn’t taste bad, it doesn’t taste good either. Maybe it’s just a standard over-cooked piece of cafeteria roast beef?
Next, I cautiously bite into one of the visually appealing green vegetables and next thing I know, I have drained the purple-blue drink and all but one pale green broccoli spear is gone. That lone broccoli spear looks a little over-cooked. I try the potatoes and those are good too, but I decide that the gravy is too salty and scrape off as much of it as I can. I can only eat about half of the roast beef before I decide that I have had enough of the meat.
“This sucks.” I say with a sigh as I push the plate away from me. I’m still hungry, but I can’t bring myself to eat any more of what is left on my plate. I almost feel like crying again, but my anger helps hold back my depression.
“Brian!” My mom exclaims.
“I’m sorry Mom. It’s just that everything is different now.” I motion to myself, “I’m a girl. I have some computer thing in my head and robots in my blood. I can’t eat the foods that I love and to top it all off, I have some attraction spell going.” I feel so frustrated and that makes me start to cry. “And now I’m crying, again! I hate this!”
My mom pulls me into a warm hug as I break down and cry on her shoulder while she rubs my back, telling me things are going to be okay. I don’t just cry. I think the technical term would be ‘sob’. I sob, and end up with a nose full of snot for my troubles.
For some reason, having a nose full of snot makes me realize how pathetic I am being. After all, things could be worse. Up until Fey and Sara showed up in my dream re-org thing, I thought I was dead and would never see my family again. That thought makes me give my mom a squeeze that causes her to gasp for air. Surprised, I quickly let her go and sit back concerned that I might have hurt her.
“Sorry Mom, I didn’t mean to squeeze you so hard.” I say while trying to hold back the sniffles.
“I’m okay, but you’re stronger then you look!” She says, reassuring me that she is fine.
Fey hands me some tissues as I stop sobbing and I blow my nose.
Once I am done being gross in front of them. I smile gratefully at her. “Thanks, Fey.”
“Hey. No problem Brian. I know how hard this is on you.”
That reminds me that I’m not alone. I’ve got her and Sara as super-powered friends and my mom is here. How pathetic am I acting here? I might be a girl, but I’m hot and to top it off, I might even have some kick-ass super powers! Just that idea makes me smile at the irony of it all. Here I have been reading comics and wanting to be a super hero my entire life and now that I might have super powers, I’m upset because I can’t finish some over-cooked roast beef?
The open air on my back and butt reminds me that I’m still wearing a flimsy hospital gown and super heroes to be don’t fight crime wearing something that shows the world their naked butt. “Mom?”
“Yes, Brian?” she asks, patiently.
“You didn’t happen to bring me some clothes, did you? This gown has got to go!” I say, half afraid that she didn’t bring me any clothes and half afraid that they will be all pink and girlie if she did bring clothes.
My mom scares me when she hesitates before replying to my question. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. “Actually, Barb and Lindsay went shopping for you last night and dropped off your suitcase with some new clothes for you this morning.” She reaches for a small suitcase that is sitting on the floor.
Oh great. I can’t wait to see what my sister decided that I should wear as my first girl outfit. She probably picked out a mini-skirt and pink girl shirt with “Princess” on the front.
My mom smiles reassuringly at me when she notices the panicked expression on my face. “Don’t worry honey. Fey and I had a long talk last night about what you should wear. I spoke to both Barb and Lindsay about what was okay and not okay for them to buy you for your first girl clothes.”
I look to Fey. She nods affirmatively and grins at me. “Don’t worry Brian. I’ve checked them all out and while they are girl clothes, they aren’t girl-girl clothes. If you know what I mean.”
I dubiously nod. “Umm, okay?”
Fey’s expression turns a bit more serious. “As a Sidhe, your clothing options are a bit more limited than you might be used too.”
That doesn’t sound good. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you can’t wear anything that isn’t a natural fabric. No polyester, rayon, nylon, lycra, etc... Just wool, cotton, silk, linen, leather and other natural fabrics.”
“Okay, that sounds easy. All my t-shirts are cotton and so are jeans, right?”
“Yeesss.” She hesitantly says. I think she knows why I asked that question. “So! Here are some clothes for you to start out with.” She says as my mom lifts the suitcase onto the end of the bed and unzips it.
First, my mom pulls out and hands me a pair of jeans and a simple white girl style t-shirt. Things are looking okay so far. The t-shirt is a lot smaller and the fabric is thinner than I am used too, but I don’t see any slogans or plastic gems stuck to it.
Next, she pulls out a pair of plain white leather flat soled girls tennis shoes. They look like they could be pretty comfortable. I’m not crazy about the girl style, but at least they aren’t heels or pink. She matches the shoes to a pair of ankle socks. I like my socks to come up to my calves, but I guess I can wear the girlie ankle sock things for now.
My mom and Fey save the best for last, a pair of plain white panties with a matching bra. I guess they match anyway. They are both white, so that counts, right? I gulp when I see those two items in my mom’s hands. “Umm, I’m not so sure about those...can’t I wear my old underwear and do I really need a bra?”
My mom and Fey both look at each other and smile. I know that smile. It’s a smile that says, “He really doesn’t know what he’s talking about, does he?” Ummm...sorry, she. I decide that I’m not going to win this one and sigh. “Fiiinnne, I can tell that you all are going to gang up on me and yes, I’m a girl. I guess I will just have to suffer for now, but don’t think for a second that I’m going to like it!”
Fey flashes a mega-watt smile at me before she turns to my mom with a knowing grin. “See, I told you that she would understand!”
I groan and stick my tongue out to Fey. “Brat! Can one of you help me get out of this bed? I would hate to jump down on my own and fall flat on my face.”
My mom comes over and holds my arm while I gingerly swing my new legs over the side of the bed and hop down. I feel my chest bounce and my bare ass hanging out of the hospital gown. Maybe one of those bra things would be a good thing to at least try? I’m not sure which sensation to be more embarrassed about, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that my legs easily support me. It feels good to be on my feet again. The floor feels a bit cold on my bare feet though.
My mom reaches over and grabs my new clothes. “Here Brian, let’s go into the bathroom and get you changed. I think you will need some help with the bra.” She says as she helps guide me into the room’s attached bathroom.
I can only smile at her while inside I’m horrified by the thought of wearing a bra. I was just beginning to pay attention to all the stories about how to remove a girl’s bra with one hand and now I am going to be learning how to wear one. Oh, joy.
The bathroom is surprisingly roomy, but I guess it has to be in case someone is in a wheelchair. There is even a shower in there. I’m not sure how I feel about taking my first shower as a girl. According to all of those shower gel and soap commercials on TV, a woman’s shower is like some intimate and semi-erotic fantasy full of soft light, smooth skin and seductively hidden curves, while I guy’s shower is all about getting clean, energized and feeling manly. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the girl shower thing, but I am feeling a bit grubby.
Of course, my mom notices me eyeballing the shower. “Why don’t you go ahead and take a shower Brian? We can talk some more while you’re in there.”
“I dunno mom, are you sure we have time?” I ask, torn by what she will say. I really would like a nice hot shower to make me feel more, umm...human or whatever, but I’m kind of feeling a little self-conscious here.
“Oh yeah, we have time and a shower will make you feel better.” She reassures me.
I start the water and while I am waiting for it to get hot, my mom steps out and returns with a bar of smelly soap, a fluffy washcloth, and two travel size bottles of some shampoo and conditioner. The brand looks like it is the same stuff that my mom uses and told me to never use because it costs so much. Not that she ever needed to worry about me using anyway. A simple non-smelly shampoo with conditioner is all I have ever needed.
Once I step into the shower, I really like how the warm water feels on my skin. My mom makes sure that I use the washcloth with the smelly soap to ‘exfoliate’ my skin. “Okay Mom, this exfoliate thing I kinda understand, but umm, why the smelly flower soap?”
“It’s not a smelly flower soap, it smells nice and Fey recommended it. She said that it is an all-natural soap that shouldn’t irritate your skin as much as a regular store bought brands.”
“But, it’s going to make me smell like a...” I stop myself before I complete my thought.
“Like a what, dear?” My mom asks, all sweetness and innocence.
I sigh with defeat. “Oh, never mind. I know, I know.”
The soap does smell nice, but I can’t admit that now. I won’t lie, as I am washing, the hot water with the soft soapy washcloth on my skin feels nice. Way nicer than it ever did before. Now I know why girls take so long in the shower.
“So, Mom, ummm, did you have a name picked out for me if I had been born a girl?” I ask, anxiously over the sound of the running water. Just asking that question makes me feel like I am stepping off a cliff.
She doesn’t respond right away. “Yes, and I am surprised that you are asking me so soon, but your father and I had three names picked out. Your sister got our first choice for a girl name, but we also had Elizabeth Olivia and Brianna Nicole on the list. Why, do you think you should pick a girl name already?” She asks, sounding purposely casual, yet supportive at the same time.
“Ummm, I think so. I noticed how most of the people are having a hard time with my name now that I look like this.” I say as I squeeze out some of the shampoo and give it a sniff. It does smell nice, but not something I would have wanted on my hair as a boy and I’m still not sure I want it in my hair now.
My mom pulls out her trump card. “I don’t know if you need to rush out and change your name dear. Your father and I love you no matter what.”
That brings a lump to my throat. “I know and I love you too Mom, but the sooner I get it over with, the sooner I can start to feel normal. It’s hard to feel normal if everyone jumps when they say my name. I mean, do I really look like a Brian to you?” I ask as I close my eyes and start rinsing out the shampoo.
“Well, no...and don’t forget to use the conditioner too.” She says, helpfully.
“How about ‘Brianna Nicole’ then?” I ask as I’m trying to figure out how much of the conditioner stuff I need to use. “I mean, Brianna is pretty close to Brian, so maybe it will be easier for everyone, right?”
“Hmmm, I like it, but before we make it official, how about if we ask your Dad what he thinks?”
“Okay.” I say as I wash the slimy conditioner stuff out of my hair. It seems to take forever, but my hair does feel silkier. I turn the water off and my mom hands me a towel.
“Here, wrap this around yourself while I take care of your hair.”
I hesitate with the wrap for a second. I was just going to wrap it around my waist like I normally would, but I remember about my new, umm, bits and wrap it around my chest instead. That feels weird and the bottom of the towel touching the tippy tops of my thighs feels strange too. I glance down and I am overcome by the sheer girlness of it all.
My mom grabs a second towel. “Okay, turn around and tilt your head back.” She wraps the second towel around my head, turban style. Now I really feel like a girl, but my skin is still mostly wet. What a hassle.
“Ummm, why can’t I just dry myself off like I always do?” I foolishly ask.
“You mean, just rub your hair a few times with your towel and follow that up with the rest of your body and done?” She asks, completely understanding my unsaid question, yet still managing to sound like I am asking for something silly.
“Well, Brianna, if you try to dry your hair with the towel like you used to, then your hair will end up a tangled mess. Additionally, you may find that your skin is now a bit more sensitive and if you dry yourself off like you are used to, you may not like the feeling. You will probably need to be a bit gentler with your skin.”
I notice that she used my unofficial new name. I guess that she likes it too, so that means that Dad approval is just a formality. “Oh, okay.” I say. I can understand the hair part, but skin is skin, right?
She smiles at me. “Okay, all done with your hair for now. Go ahead and dry yourself off.”
I unwrap my towel and start to dry myself like I normally would, but I can feel the difference almost right away. My skin is more sensitive, especially those nipple things. I quickly change to a gentler pat and light rub drying technique. Once dry, I decide that the wet towel on my head is a little annoying.
I start to reach for it and she slaps my hand. “Not yet. Okay, wrap the towel around your chest to cover yourself up and go sit on your bed. I’ll call your dad and we can see what he thinks about your name while we wait for your hair to dry enough so that we can blow dry it.”
The towel may cover my new chest enhancements, but it just barely covers my butt. I’m not so sure that I will be able to jump onto the bed without flashing Fey or losing the towel completely. I look at the bed, then back to my mom. “Umm, can I just sit in the other chair?”
“Yep, just make sure you keep your knees together dear,” My mom says with a smile as she calls my dad.
I’m not sure, but I think that she has been calling me ‘dear’ and ‘honey’ a lot. I jump up a little as my naked butt hits the cold vinyl seat cushion. The cold butt thing plus somehow ‘hearing’ my mom’s cell phone ringing in my head distract me from the next message.
>Medical Alert: Allergic reaction detected!
Another window opens up and flashes a few times with an alert chime that draws my attention to it. I see my mom’s cell phone number displayed on the top.
>Active CDMA Signal from device: Jennifer Peters <555-123-9909> to David Peters <555-123-0763>
A graphical sound display displays my dad’s voice as he answers his phone. “Hello, Dave here.”
I’m absolutely floored by that. I am somehow intercepting my mom’s call. I start to fidget in my seat as I hear my mom with my ears and inside my head. “Hi honey. Sorry I haven’t called you sooner, but it has been a little crazy here since Brian woke up two hours ago.”
“Oh, he’s awake? I mean, she’s awake? How is she?” I hear the confusion in my dad’s voice and see the little voice stress gauge hitting the mid-yellow range.
I miss what my mom says next because my butt and legs start to itch like crazy. I look around to try and figure out what is making me itch.
Fey glances over at me and jumps up from her chair. “Brian! Get up!”
I absently note that I need to tell her about my new name as I jump out of the chair. I twist around and check the back of my itching legs. I see an ugly red rash. Oh man, if that rash stays, it is going to be hard to sit down later.
“Sorry that I didn’t stop you before you sat down, but the chair is made out of vinyl.” Fey says.
I didn’t realize that vinyl was that bad. I’ve sat in tons of vinyl seats in the past.
Fey walks over with a concerned expression on her face. “Here, let me look at it. I might be able to heal you.”
She wants me to show her my naked butt. I blush and turn to let her look at it. If I could have only had a pretty girl want to look at my naked butt a week sooner!
My mom holds her phone off the side as she comes over to look at my butt with Fey. How embarrassing. Hehe.
“Hold on honey.” My mom says. “Brianna just had an allergic reaction to the vinyl chair.”
Fey looks at it for a second or two and the rash starts to feel better.
“Ahh, thanks Fey. What did you do?” I ask.
“Nothing, your rash started to heal on its own.”
Surprised, I turn to look back there as best I can and the redness is already almost completely gone. I look at Fey and she just shrugs her shoulders. “I have some natural regen, but maybe you have a bit more than me or the nanites are healing you?”
“How did you sit down on the chair?” I ask Fey before I realize that, unlike me, she’s wearing clothes. I think she feels my realization when she just smiles at me. “Oh...”
My mom smiles and restarts her conversation with my dad. “Crisis over. It looks like our ‘daughter’ as some self-healing powers.” She fills him in on how the morning went before she gets to the important question. “Brian and I did some talking while she was in the shower and she wants to ask you something.” She holds the phone out for me with an encouraging smile.
What?! No I don’t. I look at my mom with desperation. She was supposed to be the one to ask him, not me. I can see that she is determined that I be the one to ask my dad about my girl name. I decide to see if I can just talk to him using the cell phone thing in my head.
“Umm, Hi Dad.” I say, hesitantly inside my head without actually saying a word. The sound graph thing moves in time with my words, so maybe it’s working.
“Hi, Brian. I am so glad that you are okay! You had us all worried, even your sister.” He says with a chuckle.
Holy cow! It works! How cool is that? Wait a second; did he just say that even Lindsay was worried?
“Brian, I know you might be nervous, but talk to your father.” My mom says while pushing the phone into my hand.
I point to me head and smile. “I am, Mom.”
She looks confused. “What?”
I point back to her phone “Listen.” She puts her phone back up to her ear.
“Back, sorry, I didn’t mean to make you all worry about me.” I tell him with a slight whine in my mental voice. I’d be surprised if he actually thought I tried to turn myself into a girl, but it just seemed like the right thing to say.
I guess that my mom can hear my ‘voice’ on her phone since eyes widen with surprise. “How are you doing that?” She asks.
I shrug and mouth. “I don’t know?”
“Doing what?” My dad asks.
“I’m kind of talking to you by just thinking about talking to you; if that makes sense, while mom is standing a few feet away from me with the phone in her hand.” I say inside my head.
“You’re wwhhaat!?” My dad asks, surprise and concern evident in his voice as the stress meter thing spikes into the red zone.
“I somehow ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ Mom’s cell phone in my head and I am able to ‘talk’ to you using that connection.” I try to explain.
“Ookkaay...that’s kind of scary, but cool, I think.” My dad says, hesitantly.
“Yeah, I know.” I say while I start to worry as I consider the implications. Intercepting cell phone calls is so James Bond.
“So, Brian, what was it that you wanted to ask me?” My dad asks.
“Umm.” I begin to reply, feeling very nervous and then I remember that I’m standing there with a wet towel that barely covers my butt with another wet towel wrapped around my head. That kind of distracts me for another second or two. Thank god the timer thing didn’t tell me exactly how long this time!
“What is it Brian? It’s okay, you can tell me.” My dad says, sounding more concerned now.
“Well, Mom and I were talking and I’ve kind of noticed that everyone is a little, umm, nervous? When they say my name. So, I was wondering if it okay if I just start using one of the girl names you and Mom had picked out for me if I had been born a girl.” I say in a nervous rush to get it over with.
My dad laughs with relief. “Oh, is that all? Of course, Brian. I don’t remember what the names were...”
“Besides Lindsay, we had Elizabeth Olivia and Brianna Nicole picked out,” My mom helpfully adds.
“Oh yeah, I don’t know. I like them both. What are you thinking Brian?” My dad asks, not being helpful in the decision making process.
“Well, I’m leaning toward Brianna Nicole, just because Brianna is closer to my current name and it might be easier for everyone.” I say.
“Okay, if that is what you want and it is okay with your mom, then Brianna Nicole it is!” My dad says, submitting his official approval stamp on the name.
My mom grins at me. “Yep, it is okay with me, Brianna Nicole.”
Fey jumps a little and smiles. “Brianna Nicole, huh?”
I smile and nod affirmatively to her.
“Well, that’s a nice name. Especially the middle one since that’s my name too.”
Oh yeah, her name is Nikki. I guess that Nikki is a nickname for Nicole. With that thought, I smile back at her. “Well, I need to get dressed still, so I think I will see if I can hang up now.” I say via the phone connection thing.
“Okay, Brianna, Love you!” My dad says, warmly. Hearing him say that to me causes my throat to catch a little.
“Love you too Dad, bye.” I reply, softly. I’m feeling a little more choked up then I expected. I think about the conversation going away and the window disappears.
My mom frowns and looks at her phone. “It looks like you hung us both up dear. Oh well, I was just going to say good-bye too.” She shrugs and puts her phone back in her purse.
Once the phone is put away, she snaps her fingers. “We need to get you dressed Brianna! Come. Let’s get you back into the bathroom so we can dry your hair and get some clothes on you.”
I groan. “Oh joy.” I am so not looking forward to this experience.
“Brianna Nicole Peters!” My mom mock yells at me.
I decide that maybe I should have waited on the name idea.
She stops and horrified, I watch as her patented evil Mom smirk shows up on her face. “I can’t wait to get you to a mall so we can get some real mother and daughter shopping done!”
I look at Fey, expecting some sympathy and support, but she just snickers at me.
“Traitor!” I whisper as she responds by sticking her tongue out at me.
** Chapter 21 **
<Sat Feb 17 12:55:32 MST 2007>
Well, that is the time that my new internal clock displayed when I thought about what the time was, as my mom, Fey and I walked down the hall to get to the 1 PM meeting. The day is proving to be disturbing on so many levels. Instead of fighting my new gender, I just decided to go with it. Well, that is what I keep trying to tell myself. I will be like the reed that bends in the wind versus the tree that snaps trying to resist. Hmmm, I wonder where I have heard that before.
>Sat Jun 25 20:34:02 MST 2005: "I will bend like a reed in the wind" - Paul Atreides while watching the 1984 movie “Dune” with Dad.
>Tue Oct 17 18:20:34 MST 2006: "The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm." - Confucius via Sensei Rogers
Umm, okay. I guess that helps.
I decided to adopt that mindset about the time my mom and Fey had me try on my third pair of pants and they turned out to be those high water pants that girls like to call “Capri’s”. Why can’t girl clothes work like boy clothes? Clothes are clothes, right? Two arms, two legs, waist, everyone has the same basic parts, right. Why can’t girl clothes just fit?
As a boy, one small t-shirt, random color or slogan, underwear, preferably clean, jeans size 28x30 any brand will work, clean white socks and finish that off with one of my two pairs of tennis shoes depending on my mood. Run a comb through my damp hair, brush my teeth and out the door in 10 minutes or less.
As a girl, the only fast and easy part has been the dreaded girl underwear, aka ‘panties’. Without the convenient layered opening in my boy briefs, it took a second or two to figure out which side was the front, but once I puzzled that out; the panties went on pretty easy. I can’t say that they are supportive like my briefs felt on my junk, but I must admit that they are comfortable. However, I am still a little worried about the panty situation. I saw the look my mom and Fey exchanged when the silk panties in the suitcase were uncovered during the great dress-up Brian, I mean Brianna, adventure.
The bra fitting session caused my biggest mental hiccup. I had to try on three different bras before I found my bra. Not three different size bras, three different styles and brands. My mom even apologized for not having enough for me to try on. I discovered that one size does not fit all, even when the bra in question is labeled as the same size, 33B. How crazy is that? From all the fascinating, umm, fashion-art magazines that I found far too disrespectful of women to really read, I know that the ideal is a ‘C’ or god forbid, a ‘D’, but now that I have a pair of my own; I am damn glad that they aren’t any bigger!
Intellectually and structurally, I know that I need to wear a bra. I have had a virtual day or so to get used to the physical sensation of having boobs, but the sensation is still alien for me. They are there, but the fact that they are there still feels strange. I thought that the lack of my junk would be freaking me out more, but my missing bits are easier to ignore since out of sight is out of mind. Every time I look down, bam! There they are. Every time I move, they move and I feel them. I’m kind of stuck in a feedback loop and it’s annoying, but I have found that the feedback loop is reduced with my bra.
My bra and my panties, my brain skips a beat every time I think about those two basic clothing items as belonging to me. Wind, reed, bend…
The bra fitting took ten minutes and my mom still had to dry my hair. That took another ten minutes of drying while brushing mixed with some hair mousse goop. When she turned me around to face the mirror, the sight of the pretty girl wearing only her bra and panties made me smile, until I remembered that she was me. My mom was behind me and she had a pleased smile on her face. I think that she felt my initial confusion and when Fey appeared at my side I almost started to cry, again.
“Hey, it’s okay, Bree.” Fey said as she grabbed and held my hand while my mom hugged me from behind.
I looked at her and her smile reassured me enough to take a deep breath and face the mirror again. I liked what I saw and my hesitant smile made my mom give me a supportive squeeze before she released me.
Fey gently pulled me out the bathroom with a giggle. “Come on Bree, we need to get you dressed. We can’t have you running around in just your bra and panties!”
The rest of the clothes fitting was a whirlwind of try this and try that. I never had time to really think about all of the different styles and cuts when mixed with all of the different colors and how the different combinations highlighted different parts of my body. Like my collar bone, my boobs, my butt, my stomach, my neck, my ankles or all of the above. I never had to worry about that kind of stuff and I can’t say that I really ever wanted to either. Clothes are just clothes. They are supposed to be for protection from the elements. After forty-five minutes of trying on this top with those pants and that shoe, I had my wind/reed epiphany.
It was the Capri pants that finally broke me. While my mom and Fey gushed over how fresh I looked with them on, all I could think about is how they got ripped off when they bought those pants. Why would someone purposely wear high-water pants? The Capri things and the second pair of jeans fit the best, but I think they both felt how uncomfortable I felt about wearing the Capri’s, so the jeans won out.
They matched the jeans with a green long sleeved v-cut top that Fey claimed matched my eyes and hair perfectly. Why I needed to wear something that matched my eyes and hair escaped me and I’m not too fond of the v-cut top thing either. I don’t care how fashionable it might be; having the top part of my chest exposed with what amounts to an arrow pointing to my boobs is...unsettling.
My boobs…more feedback.
Okay, that’s better, but with the v-cut, I have what is effectively an arrow pointing down to to my, umm, you know whats. Okay, that’s getting a little annoying and I need to come up with something better, but I don’t have time for that right now.
I only have one word for my first trip to the bathroom. Awkward and gross. Okay, make that two words. My mom had to hold the urine sample jar for me while I figured out how to let go. That was the awkward part. I’ve done urine samples before and I have to say that it positively sucks to do one with girl plumbing. My mom’s hand got pee on it and the jar was dripping. I’m glad that she was there to deal with that. I probably would’ve just dropped the jar. Then, I was all wet down there and had to wipe. That was the gross part. Well, maybe it wasn’t really gross gross, but it wasn’t right either. I have never gone to the bathroom and felt like I peed on myself as I peed in the toilet.
Wiping and the strange sensations of the toilet paper drying off my girl parts just added to my discomfort. I didn’t even know what part I was touching when I dried myself. I was able to pull up an anatomical diagram from the sex education class I took this year, but the sight of that complex thing just made me not want to know and I blocked it out. I can’t say that the diagram was really all that complex, but compared to what I had before, it was a nightmare. Boy parts are dead simple.
Nuts. Don’t hit.
I don’t even know where to start with the girl parts. I know that I am going to need to know this stuff; I can’t avoid it and I’m sure that there are going to be some surprises, but I hope that I can remember this wind and reed thing when those surprises happen.
The first time out of my room was a real eye-opener for me. My mom, Fey and I were walking down the hall when I noticed two soldiers walking towards us. My HUD automatically tagged them as Corporal Gregory and PFC Killian. I was a little distracted by a nifty little display that showed me their equipment and weapon’s status until I noticed them using the same girl hotness assessment pattern on Fey and me as I did to the girls at school. Even though they kept their heads forward and their faces professional, I could see their eyes moving up and down as they approached and passed us. I know that I did that with the hot girls too, but I never got caught doing it, I think.
After the two soldiers passed, I looked at Fey and her smirk made me smile, especially when I heard a thump and Corporal Gregory try to whisper. “Eye’s front Killer, they’re both jailbait!”
“Oh my gawd, Gregory! Why in the hell weren’t there any girls like that when I was in school?!?!” PFC Killian said, incredulously as he tried to keep it down to a whisper.
I glanced over to my mom and she didn’t seem to notice or hear the soldiers, but Fey’s smile told me that she could hear them just fine. Super robo-elf hearing to the rescue!
Gregory chuckled. “There probably were, but you were just too much of a loser to ever score with one.” I heard him whisper back.
I missed PFC Killian’s reply when they turned the corner of the hall. Oh well, it was kind of funny and I know how he feels. It’s just weird being on the other side of the equation. I guess that I am now one of those hot girls that guys like I used to be would ogle. Yeah, ogle. It’s a technical term and being ogled for the first time feels so weird.
Lunch was a bit different. Last time I walked into the cafeteria here, no one even noticed me. This time, not only did almost everyone notice me and Fey, but my HUD went crazy as my system automatically identified all of the people eating lunch. It made me glad that there weren’t any of those cheesy sound effects. I’m sure that the sound effect would’ve been just one big annoying screeching sound. I had to tone down the HUD thing after that to the basic info just so that I could see the people in the room.
As I was doing that, Fey steered me towards the food line. I was a little confused about why she grabbed some napkins, instead of the food tray first, but once I saw her use the napkins to pick up the tray, the reason became apparent to me. I briefly debated just dealing with the pain and letting my healing power fix things for me. Instead, I decided to copy her technique. Fortunately this cafeteria was old school and used metal utensils and real plates instead of plastic for those items.
The mystery meat looked good, but I decided to follow Fey’s lead on the food selection. It was a lot easier to do that than to try and figure things out for myself. I copied her request for extra veggies and an extra salad. She passed on the pies, but I just couldn’t pass up the apple pie and a nice big glass of milk.
Fey waited for my mom and I before she hunted for a table. Mr. Reilly, Sir Wallace and Dr. Edmundson had a table of their own and I hoped that Fey didn’t want to sit with them. It looked like they were talking business of some kind and I didn’t want to interrupt them. Fey glanced back to me and decided to lead us to an empty table near the three of them. I pretended to not notice all the stares that I got as I made my way to our table. I didn’t see anyone drooling or anything crude like that, but I did see a lot of people’s eyes follow us. Not just the guys either.
Food wise, the only surprise I felt was the fact that I enjoyed the salad more than I expected. My mom did get the mystery meat and she reported that it tasted “okay”, so I didn’t feel too bad for passing up on it. I figured that I could explore my new palate a bit more when I finally got home.
Mr. Reilly, Sir Wallace and Dr. Edmundson stopped by our table on their way out. They just stopped to say “hi”, but they didn’t want to interrupt our lunch; so they quickly excused themselves. The rest of lunch was pretty uneventful, but I did catch a few of the guys sneaking looks at me. Well, I think they were anyway, but maybe I was just being paranoid.
After lunch, my mom, Fey and I made our way to the meeting room. Entering the room, I see that in addition to Mr. Reilly, Dr. Edmundson and Sir Wallace, Brenda, Dr. Johannson and Colonel Thompson are also here. I’m not sure why Brenda is here, but it is still nice to see her again.
There is a casually dressed man that I don’t recognize who is looking at me with a curious expression. It’s not a leer, but he still makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
>DOD/DARPA/Paranormal Security Analyst/GS14/Daniel/Alexander/Hoffman/xxx-xx-xxxx/A-/FALSE
Paranormal Security. Hmmm, I guess that explains why he’s not wearing a suit or in a uniform and why he’s looking at me. I wonder what he is seeing?
“Oh. My. God!” Brenda says as her friendly smile distracts me from him. Yep, I still think that she’s pretty. She surprises me when she rushes over and gives us both an enthusiastic hug. “Jennifer and Brian. Oh my god! I am so glad that you’re okay. I wanted to ask you how you were doing when I dropped off the drinks in your room, but it just didn’t seem like a good time with all the people there.”
Her hug and exuberance just makes me feel even more confused because I like it and my body reacts, but I don’t really understand what my mind and body is trying to tell me. I think I’m still attracted to her, but without my penis to embarrass me; I’m not one hundred percent sure. My chest feels tingly and my body feels warm. Especially my junk, but the feeling is more diffused and less certain. Embarrassed by my thoughts and unsure what to do, I instinctively cross my arms over my chest and then, immediately uncross my arms when I realize what I’m doing.
Three new men enter the room and I automatically scan their CAC ID badges.
“Thanks, Brenda.” My mom says as her eyes become a little moist, like she might start crying or something.
I guess that my mom and Brenda spent some time getting to know each other while I was unconscious. I’m still not sure how to handle Brenda hugging me. My mom seems to pick up on my confusion and gives me a quick hug with a reassuring smile. Somehow, that makes me feel a little better.
Brenda gives us both another quick hug before returning to her seat and I carefully inspect my chair before I sit down. I’m not sure what this chair is made out of, but after my previous chair experience, I am not taking any chances. It should help that I am fully clothed this time.
With everyone seated, Mr. Reilly walks up to the front of the table and turns to my mom and I. “Mrs. Peters, I can’t find enough words to express how sorry I am about what you and your family are going through right now.”
My mom squeezes my hand and smiles gratefully at Mr. Reilly. “Thanks Mr. Reilly, but I can’t thank the staff here enough for their support.” She looks around the room at everyone and I can see that she looks like she could cry at any second now. “Because, there is no way that I would’ve been able to handle this without all of you here. I’m sorry-” She stops as her voice gets choked up with emotion. I give her a hug and after a quick glance sideways to Fey for reassurance, I look back at Mr. Reilly.
Mr. Reilly smiles at me after he sneaks a glance at Fey. “Brian, I know that things aren’t exactly normal for you right now, but I will do everything in my power to get you and your family the help you need.”
“Thank you, Mr. Reilly and everyone here. I just feel lucky just to be alive!” I smile gratefully at everyone as I look around the room. I notice a few smiles and nods in return. I decide to go all out and just get the name thing out and in the open. “Umm, I noticed that people were having problems with my name and I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable about that.”
I catch a few people nod unconsciously at my observation. “So, umm, my mom and I talked it over and decided that I should take the name that my parents would’ve named me if I had been born a girl. Umm, If it’s okay with you all, I’d like it if you all just called me Brianna from now on.” I say, as my stomach does flip-flops from how nervous I feel about telling everyone in the room. I feel somewhat reassured when my mom squeezes my hand and proudly smiles at me.
Mr. Reilly smiles at me before he quickly glances at Fey again before returning his gaze to me. “I think that we can manage that, Brianna and I must admit, that I think that is a very nice name for you.”
I’m not sure how to handle that compliment and I’m glad he didn’t say that my name was “pretty”, but I still feel myself blushing as I mumble. “Thanks.”
Mr. Reilly’s expression turns serious again. “The team here has gone above and beyond the call of duty with their handling and investigation of this complex incident. I want to commend everyone here for their role in making the impossible look merely difficult. The results of this investigation are being taken very seriously.” He pauses for a few seconds to gather his thoughts and let that compliment sink in before he points to me with a smile, “Now that we have the star of the show present. I think that it might be beneficial if we have Major Thole give us all quick recap of the investigation’s findings. Brianna, feel free to interrupt when you can fill in any details we may have missed.”
I nod to him while Major Thole gets up from his chair to stand near the head of the table and closest to where the projector starts to display a presentation. He begins the presentation with a simple event timeline that starts from the time I entered the lab during the field trip and ends when I woke up this morning.
Major Thole starts to explain the timeline, but when he gets to “1230hrs - Ms. Koshnik notes eye color…”
Feeling incredibly nervous, I decide to interrupt him. “Sorry to interrupt you sir, but, umm, something happened before Brenda noticed my eyes.”
He pauses and smiles reassuringly at me. “Go ahead. What happened?”
“Well, I first noticed something weird when Bravo Ten inspected the bus.” My new and improved memory allows me to describe everything down to whatever level of detail they want. Dr. Edmundson tests my memory by asking me if I can remember seeing the name tag on the soldier’s uniform when he inspected the bus. I rewind the memory from the bus and pay attention to his uniform as he is walking towards me, “His name tag says ‘KILLIAN’”, I tell them. Wow, that is the same dude who I overheard in the hallway.
While I was talking and Dr. Edmundson asked me his questions, I noticed Dr. Johannson feverishly taking notes.
Major Thole starts back up by jumping forward to my call to Brenda. That causes more questions, so I begin to describe what happened when I started playing GEO that night. Dr. Edmundson and Dr. Johannson are most interested in the ‘system’ messages.
“Excuse me, but could you describe to me how you by-passed the wards in the game?” Sir Wallace asks.
“Umm, well, I just looked at the, umm, magic line and moved it out of my way.” I say as I unconsciously pantomime doing that with my hands.
He looks a little perplexed with my answer.
“Is something wrong, Sir Wallace?” I ask, feeling slightly alarmed by his reaction.
His face relaxes into a patient smile and he glances at Fey before turning back to me. “Oh nothing right now, but I find your descriptions of the wards and how you slipped past them to be simply fascinating. We will have to discuss that during our lesson tomorrow.”
“Good thing that’s only a game…” I hear the paranormal security dude mutter under his breath.
Both Sir Wallace’s and the security dude’s comment concerns me a little, because I think that there might be a lot that Sir Wallace didn’t say with his answer. On the other hand, he did mention the magic lesson. I can’t wait for that, but if doing magic requires that I run around the woods shouting “Magic Missile! Magic Missile!” at people, I think I will skip the learning magic stuff. I saw the videos on the Internet and there is no way that I want to look like that much of a nerd.
I follow that up with an almost blow by blow account of the fight. The military guys look the most interested when I describe the targeting thing. I describe my near-death scene after the fight in Seramis’ room. It hurt and just recalling that memory reminded me just how close I really came to dying for real. My mom lets go of my hand and pulls me into a full hug as I lose my composure from recalling that event.
I hear Mr. Reilly call for a short bathroom break to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs while both Fey and Brenda join my mom comforting me. The sight of their concerned faces almost makes me totally lose it, but I manage to draw on their support and find the strength to not cry. Just a few days ago, I would have given anything to have two hot chicks hugging me, minus my mom, of course. That thought almost makes me laugh.
“What?” Fey asks with a grin.
I think she knows what I was feeling there. “Oh, nothing. I’m just glad that you,” I look at Fey before I turn to an anxious looking Brenda. “And you, are here.” I feel a pinch from my mom. “Oh yeah, and you too Mom. Thanks!” I laugh, but I think that it comes out as one of those giggle things that girls do.
That reminds me about the reason Mr. Reilly gave for giving the meeting a break. I wonder how long we have been in here. I could just look at my own clock, but I find myself reflexively looking at the room’s clock. I am surprised to discover that the meeting has already been going on for a little over an hour.
I perform a bladder diagnostics and I feel relieved, no pun intended that I don’t feel like I have to go to the bathroom right now. The one time just before lunch was enough for me. I am so not looking forward to my second trip to the cold toilet seat room. I do decide to tempt fate and grab a glass of water though. I’m a tad thirsty after all that talking.
Once everyone returns, Major Thole continues with how my family found me inside of something called a METS suit. I get to see the pictures of me inside the suit. Well, of the suit anyway. I can’t really see myself inside the suit, but I have to admit that the suit looks and sounds pretty cool.
I’m not sure when in the timeline it happened, but I interrupt again to describe the part where I saw Whisper on the table. Dr. Edmundson theorizes that memory must have happened sometime after I was enclosed inside the suit, but before Mr. Hoffman checked me for magic before they manually deactivated the suit.
I also learn why Brenda is here when we watch the video that they took when Brenda went online to investigate. The room must be a little dusty or something, because I totally do not start to cry when I watch Lord Vincint talking to Brenda about how awesome I am. I can’t believe that the he said all those nice things about me and he even gave Brenda his phone number in case we had some more questions.
I don’t have anything to add when Brenda talks to Seramis, but even though I know that Nikki is also Aunghadhail; I still find the differences in their personalities surprising to see. I can’t help but wonder how all this is going to play out in game once Brenda and Nikki are able to play again. I don’t ever plan on playing GEO again, but I can’t help myself from wondering what happened to Whisper once Seramis healed me.
That gets us to Mr. Hoffman’s part in the timeline. I’m pretty happy that he was around and able to figure out the magic stuff. I am guessing that the suit deactivation is what “woke” me up inside my head.
I end up telling that part of the story. Of course, I leave out a few of the embarrassing details with the mirror and I leave out meeting Sara too. Since I’m not a good liar, that is a little tricky, but lying by omission isn’t as hard as completely lying. I do blush when I hear a few chuckles when they find out that I thought Fey was an angel there to escort me to heaven. It doesn’t help that even Fey giggles at my admission.
Once again, Dr. Edmundson is amazed by the re-org process and how I was able to speed it up. I get the feeling that he can’t wait to get some time with me as his lab rat. Not that I have anything against helping him out. I’m sure that whatever I can do to help him, will also help me understand all the weird computer stuff inside me.
Mr. Reilly decides that we should take another break and I am happy for that. Well, happy for the break, but not at all happy when my self-diagnostics indicates that I have to go to the bathroom again. I stop Dr. Edmundson on his way out. “Umm, Dr. Edmundson? Do I still need to do more urine samples?” I feel very embarrassed and hoping that he will say no.
“I’m afraid so Brianna. We detected some nanites in your last sample and we need to keep checking to verify that the nanite levels are dropping.” Dr. Edmundson says.
I don’t think he understands how much I dislike the urine sample thing, much less the entire bathroom experience as a girl. I turn to my mom and sigh. “I need to go to the bathroom. Can you help me again?”
“Sure honey. Let’s get to your room and get it over with so we can get back in time for the re-start of the meeting.” My mom says with a reassuring smile.
Once again, urine sample as a girl, bad. Sitting down to go pee, grrr. Needing to wipe every time I go to the bathroom, so not happy with that. I just know that my sister is going to give me crap about all the times I yelled at her for taking so long in the bathroom just to go pee. That makes me think about Fey’s answer about it getting worse. I wonder how it could get any worse.
“Umm, Mom? Am I going to start having a period now too?” I hesitantly ask as I wash my hands. I just know that she is going to tell me yes, but it would be nice to be wrong once and awhile.
“I’m sure you will Brianna, but it’s really not that bad.” She says, predictably.
Has she drunk the kool-aid or something? Not that bad? If it’s not that bad then why are she and Lindsay so crabby and like to pop aspirin during “that time of the month”? That line of thought spawns more thoughts until they all collide and I drop the f-bomb in front of my mom.
“Oh fuck...I can get pregnant!” I say, as the blood drains from my face and my knees buckle. I hold on the sink and barely manage to keep myself from falling to the floor from the shock of what should have been an obvious realization long before now.
>Blood pressure drop detected...
Stop it! The damn Medical thing goes away.
I just want to hide. Maybe if no one could see me everything would go away. I wish that I really was Whisper. If I was, then I could just wrap myself in shadows and disappear. My vision begins to get weird on me again. Maybe it is the blood pressure thing, but I am starting to see glowing black and white lines. How can black glow? I feel like I can just reach for them and if I wrap myself up in them, maybe I could just disappear.
“Brianna Nicole!” I hear my mom yell like she is going to do the full name, you’re in trouble thing, but she stops herself from chewing me out. Instead, she grabs my shoulders, turns me around and wraps me up in a tight hug. Where did all the pretty lines go?
She’s pretty much holding me up as I completely lose it and start crying. Crying isn’t really the right word for the level of water works that I am displaying. Bawling, that is the right word. I just keep whispering over and over, “but I don’t wanna be a girl...” while my mom just holds me, rubs my back and rocks me while saying, “Shhh, it’s going to be okay...I know that it’s hard to understand right now, but it’s going to be okay...”
I don’t know when Nikki got there, but I start to feel a little bit calmer when I feel her join in the hug. I can feel her panting. She must have run the entire way. It takes another minute before I finally get myself under control. I feel like a total wreck and to make matters worse, I start to feel ashamed of myself. I’m sure that I’m holding everyone up with my hysterics.
“Don’t worry about anyone else right now Brianna. Mr. Reilly knows that you’re going through a hard time right now. He will hold the meeting until you’re ready.” Nikki says, as if she can read my mind.
“I’m sorry…” My voice breaks a little. “I need to blow my nose, sorry.” I break the hug and make my way back into the bathroom. When did I leave the bathroom? It is amazing how much better a simple thing like blowing your nose can make a person feel. I wash my hands and splash some cold water on my face to help wipe away the tear tracks. I’m not smiling when I finally exit the bathroom again, but I am feeling a bit more human. Sorry, elvish or sidhe’ish or is it just sidhe? I mean, I wouldn’t say “humanish” would I? Okay, problem solved. I am officially feeling more sidhe. One problem down, 100,000 more to go. Piece of cake!
Somehow, that makes me smile a bit, which causes my mom to give me another hug, which causes me to smile more. It is really an out of control chain reaction that ends with me giggling at the absurdity of it all.
“Feeling a little better now Brianna?” My mom asks, full of concern, while Nikki looks at me with another of those radiant smiles on her face.
These mood swings are killer, but I can’t help myself when I smile back at them both. “Yes. Sorry about that. It all kind of hit me at once.”
“That’s okay honey. I understand, but please don’t use the f-word again or I will have to ground you.” My mom says with a smile that tells me that while she understands why, she still doesn’t like it.
“Sorry, I won’t. I think, but I’m not sure how many more shocks I can handle here. Is it okay if it accidentally sneaks out one more time at a later date?” I ask, feeling a little mischievous, yet still serious because it could happen.
My mom just looks at me skeptically. “Hmmmph, if you’re feeling good enough to try and weasel out of future punishment, then I think you are feeling good enough to head back to the meeting.”
Okay...no free f-bomb passes. Got it. She didn’t say “no” though.
We are only fifteen minutes late and I apologize profusely for the delay. Dr. Edmundson looks concerned when he asks me what was wrong. I just blush and mumble, “Female problems.” I feel a collective “oookkkaaayyy” from the room and everything is forgotten. Hmmm, I might have to remember that one again. It seems to work pretty well.
We start back up with me describing the final boot process as I list all the kernel module things. “...and then, all hell broke loose for exactly 2.43 seconds.” I say as I stop, expecting some questions.
Mr. Reilly looks concerned. “What do you mean?”
My mom tenses and looks nervous. I hesitate before replying. I look to Fey and she nods for me to continue. I feel reassured by her and I get the feeling that I can trust Mr. Reilly. I then proceed to describe exactly what happened. I describe how the room looked, the camera, the motion detectors, the funky vision modes and how the colors look different due to some tetrachromatic vision thing, the cell phones, the soldiers showing up on a map, complete with unit information. Except for Fey, everyone in the room is looking a little stunned by what I am telling them and I am just now getting to the good stuff.
I pause for a second to see if anyone had any questions before I continue with the radio thing, and then with the expansion of that view to the three states bordering New Mexico, all of the weird map symbols and icons, and finally, how all of that minimized down to a single “C3” icon. I’m trying to be as descriptive as can. I also tell them about the targeting brackets around everyone and exactly what my “scan” of their CAC ID badges revealed to me.
“That is what happened in that first 2.43 seconds, until I finally managed to find an ‘off’ button for all that stuff. I’ve found two more things since then though.” I say.
Mr. Reilly, along with the rest of the people in the room, looks a little stunned by my admission. “There’s more?” Mr. Reilly asks.
I exhale a nervous breath. “Yes sir. I discovered that I have a voice stress gauge thing that shows up on my targeting display. I noticed that most people were stressed out by my boy name. That is why I decided to ask my mom about a girl name so soon.”
Dr. Edmundson looks excited by that admission.
“Dr. Edmundson? Do you have any ideas about that feature?” Mr. Reilly asks.
Dr. Edmundson smiles at me before he turns to address Mr. Reilly. “Yes sir, that is part of the C3 system. We thought that it might be useful if a commander could see how stressed his unit commanders sounded while they were giving orders. Maybe it would help them decide priorities, but we weren’t sure if it would work.”
“Well, I guess you can mark that one as working too, Dr. Edmundson.” Mr. Reilly says with a trace of a smile. “What was the second thing?”
I hesitate for a second before I answer. I’m not sure why I feel nervous about admitting this ‘feature’, but here goes nothing. “Well, I accidentally intercepted my mom’s phone call when she called my dad to ask him about my name.” I’m sorta holding my breath, expecting people to freak out, but instead everyone is just looking at me with a calculating look in their eyes.
Mr. Reilly’s eyes narrow as he considers the implications. “What do you mean by ‘intercepted’?”
“Well, when my mom called my dad’s cell phone, I saw a window open up with CDMA connection from my mom’s phone number to my dad’s phone number. I was able to listen to them talk and even reply inside my head while my mom was on the other-side of the room with her phone.” I say.
“Have you been able to intercept any other cell phone since then?” Mr. Reilly asks.
I shake my head back and forth. “No sir. I can see that there are other cell phones in the building, but I haven’t detected any calls.”
“Do you think that you can try intercepting your mom’s cell phone again?” Mr. Reilly asks.
“I don’t know, maybe?” I say.
Mr. Reilly looks around the room. “Hmm, is everyone up for a little experiment right now?”
Everyone looks interested and I hear a few “yes’s” in there. He asks my mom to use the room’s speaker phone to dial her cell phone. I watch her punch in her phone number, and then, exactly 1.21 seconds later, a window opens up with:
>Active CDMA Signal from device: Jennifer Peters <555-123-9909> Incoming call from USADARPA <555-200-0333>
Right after that, her phone begins to ring, but before she can answer it, I answer it for her and inside my head I say, “Hello?”
Everyone looks a little confused when her phone stops ringing, but when they hear me ‘say’ “Hello?” without moving my lips, they all gasp with surprise.
“Can you hear me Brianna?” Dr. Edmundson asks, forgetting that I’m sitting right there in the room with him.
I can’t stop myself from giggling, but I decide to be nice and just look at him. “Yes.” I say, out loud.
He blushes and laughs at himself as he realizes what happened. “Well, that was silly of me. Mrs. Peters, since Brianna hasn’t been able to intercept any other phone calls today, could you try stepping out of the room with your cell phone and walking down the hall. I would like to see if she has a range limit.”
My mom briefly looks at me with concern. “Sure.” She says as she leaves the room. She gets exactly twenty meters down the hall when I get a message that tells me:
>Lost CDMA Signal from device: Jennifer Peters <555-123-9909>
“I lost the signal when she got twenty meters away.” I say.
Dr. Edmundson pokes his head out the door. “Okay, Mrs. Peters, you can come back now.”
As soon as she hits the twenty meter mark the connection is reestablished. “I got it back again.” I say inside my head and hear my voice come over the speaker phone.
I’m about to say something else when another alert pops up with:
>Incoming GSM Signal from device: Nicholas Reilly, Sr. <555-200-0092> from Office of the President <121-000-5555>
Oh crap! I can’t help it, I gasp with surprise. “You should probably get that Mr. Reilly and umm, leave the room?”
He pulls out his vibrating crack-berry and frowns as he looks at the caller ID. “Yes, I think that you are right, Miss Peters.” He stands and heads for the exit. “Nick Reilly.” As he walks out of the room everyone can hear him say, “Yes, Mr. President, we are...”
I don’t even try to listen in on that conversation. The room gets very quiet after Mr. Reilly exits the room.
My mom breaks the silence by turning to me. “You’re not?” She asks, whispering.
I vehemently shake my head “no” to that question.
** Chapter 22 **
Everyone in the room kind of has that deer in the headlights look and I know that I do when I look at my mom. “The President!?” I ask with an incredulous whisper.
She just smiles and nods her head like she knew about it. Since she looks so relieved, I wonder why everyone else looks so nervous. Major Thole, 1st Sergeant Griebler, Dr. Edmundson and Dr. Johansson break off to have a whispered conversation amongst themselves, while Colonel Thompson and Mr. Grier do the same.
Fey and Sir Wallace appear relaxed and unconcerned about the situation. I guess that they knew about it too. I turn to Fey. “Do you think that he is talking to the President about me?” I ask with a whisper.
Fey nods her head and smiles. “Probably, and about me too I imagine.” She says with a conspiratorial whisper.
I am a little confused as to why the President would be asking about her too and I guess it shows on my face.
“Remember, I’m Seramis and I healed you through the game?” Fey asks.
Oh yeah. The light bulb finally flickers on inside my head. Holy crap, Mr. Reilly wasn’t kidding when he said, “this investigation is being taken very seriously,” at the start of this meeting. Fortunately for my nerves and probably everyone else’s, Mr. Reilly’s chat with the President doesn’t take very long.
All of the side conversations come to a halt and everyone is very attentive when Mr. Reilly returns to the room and walks back to the front of the room with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Yes, that was ‘The President’ and yes, he was calling about this investigation.” Mr. Reilly pauses and looks around the room. Everyone looks so serious now. “He and his National Security Advisor have read the reports and once I filled him in on what we just learned from this meeting, he is now very anxious to read the updates. Dr. Edmundson, Major Thole,” he nods to each of them as he singles them out, “the President has congratulated you and your staff here for conducting such a thorough and innovative investigation.” Then, he turns to me. “Brianna, he has also expressed his pleasure in learning that you are in good health and appear to be adapting to your situation. He understands that this wasn’t your fault and he wants to make sure that you and your family is treated ‘right’ as he put it.”
I’m a little shocked by that. I mean, if just a few days ago, someone told me that the President knew my name, I would’ve told them that they, “needed to get off whatever crack pipe they have been smoking.” That thought almost makes me miss what Mr. Reilly says next.
“To that end, the President and his advisors have requested that we get Brianna to the new DOD testing facility at Langley Air Force Base for a more complete medical examination first thing Monday morning.” Mr. Reilly says.
I turn to my mom. “Langley? Where’s that at?” I ask, whispering. She just shrugs her shoulders and looks to Mr. Reilly.
“Sorry, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.” Mr. Reilly says, catching our confused expressions and my whispered question.
My mom looks concerned at first and then, she sighs with resignation. “Oh, I guess that I can buy some plane tickets tonight, but how can I get Brianna on a flight without an ID for her?”
Mr. Reilly smiles at her. “That’s not going to be a problem Mrs. Peters. You and Brianna will fly on-board a private DARPA jet with me. It sounds like Sir Wallace and Fey has made other arrangements, but I will need to talk with my pilot to figure out an exact departure time.”
My mom seems surprised by the news and almost reluctant to accept the help. “That’s certainly a surprise Mr. Reilly, but are you sure that’s necessary?”
Mr. Reilly nods his head. “Positive. The President and his advisers all agree that in light of our findings and Brianna’s experiences, that it would be best if we got Brianna to a facility that could better test your daughter’s abilities while keeping an eye on her health. We are all concerned how her mutant abilities might interact with the nanites and with her magical Sidhe nature.”
“Oh, I guess that makes sense. It just seems to be so sudden. I was hoping that I could get Brianna home for a few days to allow for things to settle down some.” My mom says, sounding a little disappointed.
Mr. Reilly pauses for a second. “Hmm, I guess I didn’t really consider that, but I don’t think that there is a whole lot more that we can get done today. Does anyone here think that there would be a problem if Brianna spent the evening at home with her family?”
Dr. Edmundson looks at Major Thole, and then back to Mr. Reilly. “No sir. I don’t think that we have any problems with that, but I would like to see about turning off Brianna’s command level access to the Land Warrior systems before she departs the facility.”
Oh man, I was kind of hoping that they would forget about that. I really wanted to play around in there. All that stuff looked so interesting to me.
Mr. Reilly looks at Dr. Edmundson. “I also believe that it would be beneficial if you were able to join us at Langley, Dr. Edmundson.”
Dr. Edmundson smiles with relief. “I was just going to make the suggestion that either Dr. Johansson or myself join you sir.” He turns and smiles at me before turning back to address Mr. Reilly. “Brianna is my patient and I would be loath to entrust her care to anyone else.”
I feel slightly relieved to know that he will be there too.
Sir Wallace is the next one who surprises me. “If it is decided that Brianna can go home for the evening, I would recommend that Fey join her, just in case there is something of a magical nature that needs addressing.” He says with that cool British accent that makes him sound so authoritative.
Mr. Reilly looks to his daughter with concern. “Fey? Is that okay with you?”
“I think that it would be nice to not have to spend the night in a hotel.” Fey says with a pleased smile as she grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze. She looks past me to my mom. “Is that okay with you Mrs. Peters?”
My mom looks at me for a second and I give her my best pleading look before she smiles and nods at Fey before turns back to Mr. Reilly. “That sounds like a good idea Mr. Reilly.”
“Okay then, Brianna. While I work out some details with your mother and Fey, why don’t you check with Dr. Edmundson and Major Thole so they can see about your access levels. Once they give the go-ahead, I don’t see why we can’t get you home to see your family this evening.” Mr. Reilly says with a encouraging smile.
I return his smile as I stand up to join Dr. Edmundson. “Sure Mr. Reilly. That sounds great. I can’t wait to get home!”
I follow Dr. Edmundson and Major Thole down to Major Thole’s office. He has a terminal sitting on his desk. He passes his ID card over a built in reader and that opens up his PC to allow him to enter his login information. Once there, he and Dr. Edmundson look over the system a little. “I’m not sure what ID you are using Brianna. Can you access your C3 system and see if you can find out what your user ID might be?” Dr. Edmundson asks.
“Sure Dr. Edmundson. Hold on a sec while I try.” I say while I mentally open up the C3 thing again. Once again a window opens up with the three states bordering New Mexico. Tons of information starts to flood in again as the map starts to expand to over the entire United States. Okay, this is cool and all, but Dr. Edmundson needs to know what user ID I am using to access the system. Hmm, I think there is a ‘who’ command in Unix. I try that and another window opens up and just starts to scroll by with thousands of users until I stop it. TMI...okay, so, who am i?
>DARPA_TST_USER pts/5 Feb 17 15:25 ( node:whisper.darpa.us.mil )
“I think that I am logged in as ‘DARPA_TST_USER’ and there is something about a node whisper.darpa.us.mil in there too” I tell them.
“Okay, thanks Brianna.” Dr. Edmundson says as Major Thole starts to type that into his console. I glance over and can see the screen. It all looks pretty technical to me. There are a lot of acroynmns and check-boxes for tons of stuff on the screen. “Jake, hold on for a sec before we shut everything off. I want to think about it for a second or two.”
“Sure thing Dr. Edmundson. What are you thinking?” Major Thole asks as he turns around to look back at Dr. Edmundson.
“It is interesting that she is showing up as a node on the system, but as I understand it, her current access gives her full command authority in the system. However; I am thinking that while we need to limit her access, we will still need to be able to have her test things. Can you edit her user ID and give her read-only access to the system?”
“Sure.” Major Thole says as he clicks the mouse a few times to enable and disable a few check boxes on his screen. “Anything else?” He asks, turning to look back at Dr. Edmundson.
Dr. Edmundson ponders his question for a second. “Hmmm, limit the access times to normal business hours too. Say, 0800 through 1700 hrs and force a password reset.”
“Sounds good, okay, done.” Major Thole says after a few more clicks.
Dr. Edmundson turns to me. “Okay Brianna, can you try logging off and then logging back in?”
I nod my head yes as I think to myself to log off. The C3 window closes down and when I think about it starting again, it opens up, but instead of the map, I now have a login window that is showing me the ‘DARPA_TST_USER’ automatically plugged in for my User ID and a bunch of asterisks for the password. I mentally hit enter to log in, I get a message that asks me to change my password.
“It is asking me to change my password now.” I say with a frown. Darn it. I was hoping that their user ID change thing wouldn’t work for me due to some super-mutant computer hacking power, or something.
“Excellent, try changing it to something that would be hard to guess, but easy for you to remember and make sure it has some numbers in there too.” Dr. Edmundson says.
I just try my usual ‘whisper7734!’ and I can’t stop myself from smiling when the map pops back up for me. 7734 is kind of a nerd thing, but I like it and I figure that the special character at the end will help keep people from using the standard dictionary attack approach to cracking a password. Not that I expect anyone to ever want to try and crack my password. I don’t have anything that anyone would ever consider interesting.
“Okay, Dr. Edmundson. It looks like I am back in, but I don’t notice any differences.”
“I think that Jake, I mean Major Thole here is more familiar with how the system should work than I am. Do you have any ideas on how we can test her access now?” Dr. Edmundson asks.
Major Thole nods and turns to look at me. “Try opening up one of the soldiers here and issuing them an order.”
I grin when I spot PFC Killian on my map of the area. “Okay, I’m going to try and tell PFC Killian to go clean the bathrooms, umm, with a toothbrush.”
Major Thole grins at me. “I think you’ve watched too many movies.”
>User not authorized for Command authority. Please contact your system administrator.
I frown at Major Thole before sighing. “Darn. It won’t let me. It’s telling me that I’m not authorized…”
I’m not really that bummed about the security changes since I never knew that I could have done anything before the changes, but it would have been funny to see PFC Killian scrubbing the toilets. Not that I have anything against him either.
“Excellent! We can always re-enable some command authority later down the road if we need to do further testing” Dr. Edmundson says with a smile. “I know, it is kinda cool Brianna, but I think that some folks we be a tad upset if you accidentally started to fire off some missiles. However, on the plus side for you, I think that means that you can now go home for the evening.”
I bounce out of my chair with excitement and I immediately find myself blushing when I feel myself bounce a little more on top than I am used too. “Th-Thanks Dr. Edmundson and Major Thole.” I say, feeling a little self-conscious all of a sudden. “Is there anything else you need from me before I hunt down my mom?”
“Nothing from me.” Major Thole says, smiling happily. “I’m just glad that you’re doing so well.”
I’m a little surprised by his admission. I didn’t expect that from the Army dude.
“Same here, Brianna. Just remember to grab a few urine sample jars before you leave.” Dr. Edmundson says.
Oh joy. I was kind of hoping that everyone would forget about those things.
I’m a little surprised to find Sir Wallace and Fey talking amongst themselves outside the office.
“Oh, good. You’re done.” Sir Wallace turns his full attention to me. “Since Fey and I need to leave first thing in the AM, we would like to take this opportunity to perform a quick magic test. If that is acceptable to you?” He asks, making it sound like I have a choice. I really need to work on getting a British accent. Everything the man says sounds so bloody reasonable and polite. Hehe.
“Umm, sure? Does my mom know?”
“Yes, she has already been informed and should be waiting for you in the lobby when we are finished.” Sir Wallace glances at his watch. “Shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes.”
The session with Sir Wallace and Nikki is very interesting. He complains that we don’t really have enough time to more than a basic assessment. I’m not convince that I have magical powers because that would be way cool and I’m not that lucky. None the less --I imagine myself saying that phrase with a British accent—they still think I should be tested and if I do have a magical talent, they will be able to recommend some exercises that will help me learn how to control or prevent an accident. I can support that plan because the last thing I want to do is blow up my house with a fireball spell or something.
Sir Wallace leads me into an empty room and once again, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. There must be some pretty strong magic or static electricity inside this room. The sensation makes my eyes feel kind of itchy and my vision starts to swim. I blink, trying to find a way to focus and then, Bam! the magic lines that make up the wards in room spring to life and almost blind me.
“Whoa….” I blink and rub my eyes. Holy cow, it’s magic! Just like Whisper using her mask, I can see freaking magic! The pattern of the lines reminds me of something. I’ve seen this pattern before. It was in GEO, but how could the game –okay, silly question—have real magic? Using GEO as a guide, I see what appears to be a protection ward and a privacy ward woven around the room. I ask him about the wards and his only response is a raised eyebrow as he explains that the protection ward is there to prevent damage to the room in case I lose control.
I don’t think that it’s super funny that he’s more worried about the room than me, but he does ask me to stand in the middle of some chalk circle he has drawn on the floor in the middle of the room. Sir Wallace explains that once he activates the circle, he can use it to help keep an eye on me and dampen any magic that might harm me if it gets out of control.
Oh. Well, that’s better.
Sir Wallace hands me an egg sized, pale green gem of some sort and tells me to just hang on to it. It feels kind of cool in the palm of my hand and doesn’t warm up like a rock would. It’s not a rock, but maybe big gems are supposed to feel strange. I mean, it’s a gem. Maybe it’s a magic gem. I want to ask him, but he decides to distract me by explaining that the circle will also keep me inside until he deactivates it and that I should never allow anyone that I don’t completely trust to put me inside of a circle.
Okaaay, not better and consider me distracted! I am a little uncomfortable with that idea, but I trust Fey and she seems to trust Sir Wallace. At least, she doesn’t scream at me to not go into the magic circle thing.
Once I am in the center of the circle, I anxiously watch as the ward springs to life around me. It is actually very cool to watch, but I am reminded that I need to concentrate on what Sir Wallace is saying. He starts by asking me to try closing my eyes and imagining that instead of a gem, I’m holding an unlit candle in my hand. Breath in and as you breath in, focus your will on gathering energy, but he calls it essence.
My goal is to try and light the imaginary candle in my hand. I don’t really get what he’s trying to have me do. I mean, it’s an imaginary candle for heaven’s sake. Why can’t I just imagine it already lit? Still, it’s magic and cool, so I give it the ol’ college try, for Queen and country, hip hip, cheerio and all that drivel. I think I’m getting better at my British accent.
I’m not 100% sure, but I think his mumbo jumbo is doing something because I think my imaginary candle is getting warmer. I open my eyes a peek and notice that the pale green gem is glowing a little. It’s almost like my imaginary candle flame. Hmm, maybe there’s something to Sir Wallace’s teaching methods.
Am I doing that? Am I making the gem thing glow or is it just reacting to being inside the circle? I glance over to Sir Wallace and he appears to be intently studying the gem while Fey looks more excited and hopeful. Well, if it is me, a weak glow is kind of lame. What would happen if I pictured my wimpy imaginary candle as something a little more cool, like a light saber?
I focus on igniting my light saber, but unlike the wimpy candle; this time I feel a strange, tingly warmth from somewhere inside my body. It’s kind of like that time I was dared to stick my tongue on a nine volt battery, but the sensation isn’t focused on my tongue. Am I touching some sort of magical energy, or essence or am I just imagining things because I want to be able to do something cool?
Sensei Rogers’ meditation exercises spring to mind and I force myself to relax and find my center. Now that I’m focusing on a familiar exercise, the tingly feeling inside of me fades and I feel something else instead. I feel a connection to a source of energy and it feels great. I open my eyes and the magic lines that make up the protective circle feel like they are related and almost connected with the energy inside me.
With that realization, my imaginary light saber hums to brilliant life and the gem in my hand follows suit, singing with power as it goes from a barely flickering light to bursting into a magnesium bright flare.
“Ha! The force is strong in her, it is…” I smile at my glowing gem. It’s so pretty and I can see the tiny lines of magic flowing into the gem and back out, like a simple electrical circuit.
I am rewarded when I hear Sir Wallace. “Oh, my. I may have to revise my estimate for her Wizard rating already.” He says, sounding a little pleased by his observation. “She has accumulated enough Essence on her own to light the Spark in her Well in this short time.”
It takes a lot of my concentration to maintain the circuit with the gem, but it feels like it might be like a muscle. The more I practice and exercise, the easier it might get for me to do. Pleased with myself, I turn my eyes to Sir Wallace and Fey. “Am I doing this right?”
Fey glances to Sir Wallace before she looks back to me and nods. “I’d say, yes. You’re doing far better than I think Sir Wallace expected. ” She smirks with satisfaction.
“Cool!” I think this glowing gem thing means that I can use magic! Color me officially impressed by myself and hopeful for something good as a way to offset being turned into a girl.
I manage to keep the gem glowing for four minutes before I finally lose my concentration and the circuit drops. I might have been able to go for a few more minutes, but I was starting to get bored and making a gem glow isn’t exactly the same as doing something cool, like casting a fireball.
It’s still cool though, but darn it, now I have another item for the “pro” girlhood column.
Sir Wallace studies me once again. “How did you manage to make the attunement crystal glow so brightly?”
“Well, I started with the candle, but that seemed a little, umm, weak.” I grimace apologetically at him. It was his idea to try a candle and I don’t want to make him feel bad. “So, I kinda pictured the candle as a light saber instead and well, the magic lines in the ward just seemed to make sense and that helped me realize I had some sort of energy inside me. It was that energy, or I guess essence as you call it, that was making the gem glow. So, I sorta pushed and activated my light saber.”
He nods as he considers my statement. “So, you are saying that you have a pool of Essence that you can tap into? You have found what we call a mage's Well. It is the place within yourself where Essence is gathered from the world and where your Spark, the ability that allows you to cast spells is established.”
“I guess so?” I say, tentatively since I never considered that “essence” existed outside of GEO.
“It is important that you do not drain your Well dry, such as trying to push for a bright light when any light will serve the test or sustaining your spells longer than necessary. This can extinguish your Spark and it can be very difficult to re-light it.” He pauses for a second, mulling over the test. “It is clear that you have a strong potential for magic.” He gestures to the now dull gem in my hand. “What you may not know is that magic is partially based upon the intent of the caster. Your ‘light saber’ intent helped you to focus your Essence into a useful, if simple, structure creating much more light than the spell in the gem is designed to produce with a default flow of Essence. But either spell still needs to be fueled, by Essence. And only the most powerful Wizard ratings can accumulate Essence so quickly as to not be drained by the continuous use of spells.”
Intent, huh? What if I tried this intent thing on something else? Making a gem glow is cool, but casting a real spell would be even better, right? I’m protected inside the circle. What could go wrong? Okay, silly question, but still…the ward pattern looks a lot like stuff I’ve seen in GEO and the unique pattern for Whisper’s blur spell icon in GEO seems to be suspiciously similar.
“Umm, Sir Wallace, sir?” I hesitantly ask. I’m pretty sure he will say no to my idea, but maybe he will say yes.
“Yes?” His eyebrow lifts inquisitively.
“I have an idea for a spell.” I can see his expression subtly alter into a hint of disbelief mixed with curiosity mixed with wonder. I really need to spend some time in Great Britain because he seems to be able to say so much without saying much at all. Do they teach Brits how to communicate better or something?
“Interesting…” Sir Wallace glances over to Fey, who looks just as cautiously surprised as I’m starting to feel myself. Why did I mention something advanced like casting a spell when I just made a gem glow?
“Umm, well, I want to try something. Is that okay?”
Sir Wallace nods. “I believe so young lady. Just keep this ‘something’ small. More along the lines of a candle flame and not like your light saber idea. You don't have a great deal of Essence stored in your Well, yet. That will take time and training.”
“Well, I was thinking that I might try to cast Whisper’s blur spell. It’s a low level spell in the game and well…” I trail off when I notice his eyes narrow slightly. He looks a little skeptical to me, but Fey nods her head encouragingly.
“Let her try.” Fey touches Sir Wallace’s arm. “There might be something to this line of investigation.”
He sighs and turns back to me. “Did Whisper have any offensive spells?”
“No sir, she only did illusions and I never got those skills to high enough level to learn the Phantom Killer spell.”
“Phantom Killer?” He asks, looking concerned.
“Yes, sir. From what I learned when I looked up the GEO illusionist spells on the Internet, the Phantom Killer spell would create an illusionary creature that would attack the spell’s target.”
He looks even more concerned now. “Ahh, yes. That would be bad. Did you perchance see the icon for that spell during your research?”
“Yes, but like I said, it was too high level for Whisper to cast.”
Sir Wallace bends over and whispers something into Nikki’s ear. She looks back at me before turning to him, “I think that it would be best to defer that line of research until we can get her to Whateley where it will be safer for us to experiment.” I think that Aunt Aung surfaced there for a second.
He nods his head in agreement as he studies me. “Why don’t you try that blur spell you mentioned earlier?”
I’m not sure what it was that he was thinking about, but I guess that it can wait. “Okay, here goes nothing!”
I pull up the GEO pattern for the Blur spell and picture the pattern filling with candle light. The pattern begins to glow, but I feel a draw or a sense of something being pulled through me from somewhere else. Unlike the raw, natural feeling of generating light from my Essence, this has a strangely organized and artificial sense to it. I ignore the sensation and concentrate on filling the pattern with light. Without warning, the pattern flares and I feel a slight pressure settle over my skin.
It doesn’t hurt and unsure if it worked, I glance down at myself.
Whoa, I’m blurry!
I look up and both Sir Wallace and Fey appear to be seeing the same thing I’m seeing because they look a little, dare I say, impressed?
After five minutes of me just standing there all blurry, Sir Wallace clears his throat to get my attention. “Very impressive young lass and that spell looks like it could be helpful in combat. The spell seems to be using an efficiently low amount of Essence, but how long do you think that you could keep it up?”
“Umm, I’m not sure.” I say, frowning with concentration. A small trickle of energy from my Well seems to keep the pattern lit while the majority of the energy fueling the spell flows in from elsewhere. “It doesn’t seem that hard to keep it going. In GEO, the spell duration was an hour, unless I canceled it. ”
“Very interesting. That is a very powerful spell despite its level in your game. And being able to maintain it for an hour seems very unlikely for a young mage.” Sir Wallace confers with Nikki again. “So, what do you think?” He asks her.
Nikki smiles at me. “I think that Bree here will keep the Magical Studies teachers at Whateley on their toes and I can’t wait for her to get there.”
He smirks at that idea. “Yes, I do believe you are correct, but I wonder if you would mind much if I offered to mentor her, too?”
Nikki looks back to Sir Wallace with shock. “Really?! You would be willing to take on another student?”
He tips his head to her and smiles. “Why, yes. I agree with your assessment and I too cannot wait for her to join us at Whateley.” His expression turns serious. “However, I am curious what you think that her Wizard rating might be.”
Nikki looks back to me and it looks like she is weighing things in her head. “Well, I think that it is safe to say that she is at least a three right now, but if she can really keep this sort of spell up for an hour; she would have to be rated quite high. She can't have that much Essence stored up already, so that means she's gathering it this fast to support a spell like this? Maybe even a five?”
He smiles at her with amusement. “Now Nikki, that might be true if she were the one powering this spell. But you've missed something very subtle in being supportive and excited for your new friend. She is showing uncanny control for someone who has never cast a spell before. ” He pauses for a second and glances at his watch before turning back to look at me. “ And the amount of Essence in her Well has barely changed since she began this test. I think that we should stop now and defer further research until we can test my hypothesis in a safer environment.”
Nikki looks back at me again and tilts her head in that way that she does when she's talking with her ancient self. Then her eyes go wide and she looks even closer before looking back at her British mentor. “She isn't powering the spell. It's drawing on some outside supply of Essence? Her actual rating could be much lower?”
I am still inside the protective circle and it sounds like he is going to end the testing. I am very curious about this circle and I want to try something before he cancels it. “Is it safe to touch the magical barrier?”
After nodding solemnly in agreement with Nikki, he blinks with surprise at my request. “Yes, quite safe, lass.”
I touch it and it feels like I am touching a cool pane of glass. I try to push against the barrier and I can see magical energy arcing off where my hand is pressing, but it doesn’t move. I reach for my center again and concentrate on pushing against the barrier. Sir Wallace’s eyes grow wide with surprise, but my hand still does not move. However, the magical energy flares considerably where my hand is pressing and I can see the start of a pattern in the energy flares.
I didn’t think that would work, but I want to test my idea. I crouch down and study the lines on the floor that the magical barrier is using to power it. I think that if I can keep my focus, I might be able to lift the ward like Whisper does in GEO. I know that GEO is just a game and this is real, but so far, GEO mechanics has worked.
I decide to cancel the blur spell. I want to have 100% of my concentration available for what I am thinking about trying.
I clear my mind of all distractions and reach for the source of the barrier. My vision changes again. I lose sight of the floor and everything else in the room. I can only see the magic of the circle. It appears like a complex ever shifting pattern that looks like it could be alive as it weaves its way around me. I look up and I can see the pattern forming an elongated sphere above me. Looking down, the pattern extends below me as well. Without the floor, it looks like I am floating in the middle of a magical soap bubble.
I can see a distinct line that runs completely around the equator of the sphere that contains me. I drop to my knees and bring my face closer to the equator as I focus on that line. I can see three distinct threads that are tightly woven together. The tightly woven threads are what are generating the protective pattern of the sphere. I take another deep breath and focus all of my attention on the magical threads. The threads zoom in and I can see how they are wrapped tightly together to form what looks like an unbreakable steel cable around me.
I reach for that cable with my right hand. My fingertips touch the cable and initially, it feels completely smooth to my touch. I slide my hand from left to right and I feel a bump or scratch on the surface. I look to where my fingers are touching and I don’t see anything that could the imperfection that I felt. I move my fingers back and forth over that spot and yes, I can feel it.
There! An imperfection.
I exhale and look for what my fingers are reporting, and I spot it. There is a small twist in the weave. I dig at the twist with my index finger and I feel it slide into a space between the weave. My finger is expanding the imperfection! I reach over with my other hand and push a finger into the gap. Once I feel like my fingertip has a good enough grip, I pull up with that finger while I pull down with the other. The gap is growing and I can see a small opening to the outside forming.
At first, the opening is only the size of a dime, but as I pull harder, the gap slowly grows until it is the size and shape of a football. It is very hard to pull the threads apart. The dime sized hole was pretty easy, but by the time I have the opening to the football size, I am really feeling the strain. The weave is fighting me and it wants to repair itself. I give it one more heave and manage to pull it open to about the size of a basketball before I feel my arms beginning to shake from the strain. I slowly relax my arms and allow the weave to pull itself back together until it is back to a dime sized opening. I withdraw my fingers and the visible break disappears.
I rock backwards before I collapse onto my back. I’m soaked with sweat and I feel like I just finished a match against Sensei Rogers, but I’m also very satisfied with myself. I know that I didn’t defeat the circle this time, but I think that with a little practice, I might be able to. The magic powering the circle winks out as Sir Wallace deactivates his ward. I’m still panting from the exertion, but I can’t contain my smile as I sit up and look at Sir Wallace and Fey.
Both of their faces are difficult to read. I kind of expected them to congratulate me or at least say something like, “Good job!”, but nope. I look back and forth between the two of them with increasing nervousness as they continue to just silently stare at me.
Sir Wallace is the first to break the silence. “Well, that was certainly unexpected. Fey, what does Aunghadhail think about this demonstration?”
“She believes that Brianna should return to Whateley with the two of us.” She says after a moment’s hesitation.
Now, I’m worried. “Umm, did I do something wrong?” I ask, splitting my gaze between Fey and Sir Wallace.
I feel the magic inside the room surge and briefly flare around Fey. Her features remain the same, yet something about her tells me she’s different; older, no, ancient and powerful beyond belief. Did Fey’s avatar spirit just take over?
“No child, but what you just did could cause many practitioners of magic to be very concerned. Some of those might be more than just “concerned” since they rely on the belief that their circles cannot be breached without a great deal of power.” Aunghadhail stops in thought, absently rubbing the knuckle of her index finger on her lips before she continues, “Which begs the question, exactly how did you do what you just showed us?”
“Umm, I’m not sure ma’am?” I search her eyes for some hint of the answer she is looking for.
“Go ahead child, you can tell us. You’re not in trouble.” Aunghadhail says with a patient smile.
I feel relieved as I exhale a lung full of air. “Well, I saw the magic that made the circle and when I touched the lines, I could feel a small bump.” I look back and forth between the two of them as I sit up and wipe the sweat off my forehead with my sleeve. “So, I just expanded the bump with my fingers and that opened up the threads that made up the magic in the lines.”
Sir Wallace frowns, “Hmm, what do you think, Aunghadhail, The Rule of the Essential Flaw?”
She nods at Sir Wallace with agreement before turning back to me. “You have just shown us that it might actually take very little raw power to breach a circle of protection. If I hadn’t been watching, I doubt that I would have even noticed you breaching the circle.”
I am about to say something when she holds up her hand to stop me. “But once again, this talent of yours is something I would caution you about showing to others. It could alarm the people who depend upon wards and circles functioning as they currently expect them too.”
Oh great! In GEO, it was just a way to get past magical wards and be a better thief/spy. Now I find out that an entire industry of magical protection racket folks would be upset with me. “Okay, so I can’t let anyone know about it, right?” I ask, feeling a little bummed.
Sir Wallace turns back to me with a gentle smile. “Well, I do believe that we have accomplished a bit more than we intended. Perhaps it is time for us to return this young lass to her mother?”
Going home would be smashing and I can’t wait, but I can’t resist having some fun with Sir Wallace’s accent. “Yes, I do believe you are correct young Watson.” I say with my best fake British accent and snob expression. Sir Wallace’s surprised look causes both me and Nikki to break out into giggles.
He huffs in what I assume is mock annoyance before patiently dispelling the wards in the room. Well, I hope it’s mock annoyance because he is going to be my teacher and it never pays to get on the bad side of your teachers. Nope, not all.
It doesn’t take me too long to find my mom. Like, maybe half a second when scan for and spot her cell phone in the lobby. Okay, it was really 0.234 seconds. I am pretty darn happy to be getting out of here. I can’t stop myself from smiling, even after I notice people smiling back at me and giving me second and third looks as I walk down the halls of the lab.
As I turn the corner and enter into the lobby, I see my mom chatting with Brenda. Next to my mom is an unknown, large rolling suitcase, while she has both her and I guess my new girl clothes filled suitcase beside her. I wave to her as we approach.
“How did your magic session with Sir Wallace and Fey go Brianna?” My mom asks, causing Brenda to focus her sparkling green eyes on me.
“Oh, it went pretty well. I even managed to cast a spell!” I’m feeling pretty proud of that and I wonder if it would be okay to show off my blur spell. I turn to Sir Wallace and practice my pleading puppy dog eyes that Lindsay tries to use all the time on my parents. “Would it be okay to show my mom my blur spell real fast, pleeaase?”
I don’t think he falls for it or I need to work on the “look” a bit more, because he just glances around the lobby area with an expression that tells me that he thinks that it would be a bad idea outside the safety of a controlled environment.
I take the hint and sigh with defeat. “Fine, you’re right. It can wait.” I turn back to my mom. “Are we ready to head home?”
She looks at me sympathetically. “That’s okay honey. You can tell me about it and maybe you can show me later, if Sir Wallace thinks it’s safe.” She says with a glance to Sir Wallace.
I look back to Sir Wallace and he surprises me with a grin and a tip of his head. “Patience young Grasshopper, when you can take the pebble from my hand, than it will be time.” He says with a horrible oriental accent.
All I can do is stand there looking and feeling confused. “Grasshopper? Pebble?”
I look to my mom for some support, but all she can do is stare at me with bemusement, Even Brenda seems to find it funny for some reason, but I gain some consolation from Fey. She looks just as lost as I do and that only encourages the “responsible” adults to start laughing.
I really don’t understand what is so funny about this “Grasshopper” thing. I cross my arms over my chest, ignore the weird sensation of my arms pressing against my breasts and adopt the most disdainful look I can manage. “Hmmmpphh! Bloody peasants!” I say with a fake British accent as I spin, march over and grab my suitcase. I guess I will just have to look up that grasshopper thing as soon as I can, but I can’t stop myself from smiling at the sound of snickering behind me.
Brenda reaches out and surprises me with a hug. “I’m so glad you’re safe Brianna! Feel free to call me if you need someone to talk to, okay?” She earnestly gazes into my eyes, filling me with confusion. On one hand, I still think she’s beautiful and can’t help feeling a little, no, a lot enamored by her, but on the other hand, I know I’m too young for her and now that I’m a girl, I don’t stand a chance. Thankfully, she probably misses my confusion when she turns back to my mom. “Oh, Jennifer, I wish that I could go with you to Virginia. I just love the ocean and I hear that there are tons of cool museums and stores to shop.” She says with a wistful expression.
“I wish that you could go with us too, Brenda. I’ll have to give you a call when we get back. I am so looking forward to taking my newest daughter shopping and I would love to have you join us!” My mom says, a little too excitedly in my opinion.
It’s official. I’m doomed and Fey’s smirk lets me know that she is finding the current conversation and my reaction to it to be very amusing. I’m not looking forward to when my mom decides that it is time to include me with her and Lindsay’s regular salon make-over trips.
I decide that reminding Mom that we can go home might be a good way to halt the current conversation’s direction. “Hey Mom! I’m all ready to go!”
Surprisingly, my little hint actually ends up working, but I stumble a bit at the sound of my voice at full girl volume. When I am whispering or talking normally, the sound of my voice almost sounds the same as before. I can hear a pitch difference, but it’s not as noticeable. There is absolutely no getting around the fact that I sound like a girl when I yell. That makes me wonder why I sound like a girl when I ‘talk’ in my head too. Like, when I was on the phone with my dad; why didn’t I sound like my old self? Maybe my virtual time as a girl changed my internal voice to match? All these thoughts are just confusing me and aren’t solving anything. Wind, reed, bend, remember?
“Ooops, looks like it is time for us to get a going. I’ll call you as soon as we get back.” My mom says as she and Brenda exchange a quick hug. “Thanks for all of your help and support the last few days Brenda! I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“No problem Jennifer.” Brenda says as she turns to me with what looks like a mischievous grin. “...and I am so looking forward to going shopping with you when you get back from Virigina, Brianna!” I was wrong. It wasn’t just a ‘mischievous’ grin...it was the grin of the devil.
“Oh yeah, I am so looking forward to my first official visit to the testosterone free zone known as Victoria Secrets.” I say with as much false enthusiasm in my voice as I can manage.
That doesn’t work. She ups the ante by faking a bubbly school girl when she excitedly claps her hands and bounces up and down to help punctuate her masterful performance “Oh my gawd Brianna! VS is my fav! I am like, so excited! I didn’t know that you liked that store too! I can’t wait!” She squeals before she, my mom and even Fey burst into laughter as I just stand there with what I am sure is a shocked expression on my face.
“Mooommm!” I say as pathetically as I can manage, hoping to get a little bit of support and sympathy for my lonely male ego. I get none, but at the same time my male ego gets a boost when I start to imagine Brenda in a Victoria Secrets store. My mom breaks that line of thought.
“Hey, you had it coming when you tried to use sarcasm on her.” My mom says without any sympathy what-so-ever.
Darn it. “Hmmpphh.” I say, admitting defeat and hoping that will end the torture.
Brenda isn’t done with me yet though. “Oh don’t worry Brianna.” She says while surprising me with a quick hug. “I was just playing with you. I wouldn’t take you into any shop that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with.”
I feel confused and a little awkward when she releases me. I am so surprised by her spontaneous hug, that I don’t even try to hug her back. “Umm, thanks and sorry. I’m still getting used to this girl stuff.” I say in an embarrassed mumble as I struggle to contain the blush caused by the tingly feeling caused by my boobs being squished against her body. Well, at least it is only a blush instead of a painful tent in my pants. While I wish that the later was the case, right now, the blush is much easier to explain and handle. My boobs, that identification is causing me some stress though. I don’t know why, but they keep surprising me with their presence. Okay, wind, damn it!
Mr. Reilly stops us before we can leave by telling my mom that he will give her a call as soon as he gets the flight plan worked out with the pilot. He looks a little awkward with Fey. I think that he wants to give her a hug before we go, but instead he just says, “Have fun Fey and thanks for doing this for me. I’ll have to make it up to you later.”
She smiles at him, “That’s okay Mr. Reilly. I understand. It is kind of nice being away from school this weekend and I’m just glad that I could help you and Brianna.”
My mom hands me a heavy, dark green wool sweater. “I’m sorry about not having a warmer jacket for you to wear, but we haven’t had a chance to find one made out of natural fibers.” My mom says as I pull the sweater over my head. “I should’ve gone out and got the car started while we were waiting, but it should warm up fast enough once we get going.”
“That’s okay mom. I’m sure that I’ll be fine.” I tell her, feeling a little over protected. It is just a little cold out. I’m not going to freeze to death from the short walk to the car.
I see her strapping my suitcase to hers. “Mom, I can take my own suitcase. I’m not that much of a girl.”
My mom’s eyes narrow a bit. Oops. I think that I just stepped on my own foot there, but my mom just gives me the “we will talk about this later” look as she snaps the last strap into place a little more forcefully then she needed too. “Come on Brianna, let’s get you home before they change their minds.” She turns to Fey with a concerned expression. “Fey, are you going to be okay with the light jacket that you’re wearing?”
Fey smiles at her. “Oh yes Mrs. Peters, I’ll be fine. If I start to get cold, I can just use a touch of magic to warm myself.”
My mom frowns a little at that. I can see that she has defaulted into the standard parent mode and is worried about Fey catching a cold. As we walk outside, I notice that the sun is just beginning to set, so it will probably be dark in another hour. It just feels so good to smell the fresh air, even if it is a little cold. I can’t help myself when I pause for a second to take in a large breath of air before I slowly release it with a smile as I feel the waning sun-light on my face.
As we approach my mom’s car, she pops her trunk and unlocks the doors using her remote. I ‘see’ the frequency and commands in my head. That’s cool. I wonder if I can mimic the commands. “Hey mom, can you lock the doors? I wanna try something.”
She looks at me a little curiously. “Sure?” She says as she pushes the lock button on her remote.
I ‘see’ that command getting transmitted as her doors re-lock. As soon as that happens, I mentally ‘say’ the unlock command using the same frequency that her remote used and I am rewarded by hearing the doors unlock.
Okay, that was kind of cool. Not like having laser eyeballs, but still cool. “Sweet! Now you never have to worry about accidently locking your keys in the car again.”
“Okay, that is kind of neat Brianna, but can you and Fey get into the car while I get the suitcases into the trunk?” My mom asks patiently.
“Sure mom, but lemme help. It’s my job as the...umm.” I start to say before I remember my new gender.
“Well, Fey’s suitcase looks kinda heavy, can I at least try to help you?” I ask. I know that I could’ve lifted her suitcase before my change. It might have been a little hard, but I have no doubts that I could have handled it. My mom looks torn. I think she can feel my confusion and self-doubt.
She ends up smiling at me while Fey looks on with interest. “Sure honey. Why don’t you give it a try and if you need help, I can jump in.”
I reach for Fey’s suitcase and find that I can easily lift it. Maybe even easier then I could have before my change. I gasp with surprise as I jerk Fey’s suitcase off the ground and almost trip as I over-compensate while my mom jumps forward to grab the suitcase in case I drop it. I don’t.
I turn to the two of them and smile. “Well, that was surprising. I expected it to be heavier. It feels like you have stuff in here, but did you really pack any clothes Fey?” I ask as I grab it with both hands and give it a gentle shake. The shake test confirms that her suitcase has stuff in it. I am confused as to why her suitcase is so much lighter than I expected it to be.
“Oh yeah, it’s full. I packed it even more than I would for a regular trip since I knew that I didn’t have to worry about the fifty pound weight limit.” Fey says with a smirk.
I maneuver her suitcase into the trunk. “Well, it doesn’t feel that heavy. It feels like it only weighs around 15 pounds or so.”
Fey just shakes her head and grins. “Oh, it is and I didn’t even lighten it up with a spell like I normally do. I guess that you are just stronger then you think. Girrrl Power!” She shakes her fist in the air as a mock cheer.
I’m not sure how to handle that. On one hand, being stronger then I look is good, but the “Girrrl Power” thing is a little alarming. “Yeah, girrrl power...” I say, without much enthusiasm as I finish loading the suitcases into the trunk. On the plus side, I did get to do my normal guy duty with the heavy lifting. That thought makes me feel a little better about this “girrrl power” thing.
Since Fey is the guest, I let her have the front seat. That proves to be a wise decision since my mom decides to start talking as soon as we get out of the parking lot. She and Fey pretty much carry the entire conversation. I only have to add a few strategic “yes” and “no’s” to maintain my usual role in the conversation. This is good, because I am a bit distracted by my radio super powers.
I detect so many different frequencies, but most of them appear to be scrambled or just plain boring to listen too. I am surprised when I discover that I can listen to my favorite FM radio station and I am even more shocked when I discover that I can even watch the regular broadcast TV stations, all from within the comfort of my own head.
I briefly stop my channel surfing when I see a news flash about some terrorist attempt to hijack or blow up a plane over the Atlantic. The interesting part was how some unknown superhero was able to stop the terrorists and save the day. I expected them to announce who the superhero was, but they just showed the standard shadow person cutout with a big red question mark over them and claimed that no one knew who the hero was. I find that hard to believe since anyone powerful enough to stop a hijacking had to have been a known hero. They just end the story promising more information with their late night news broadcast. Almost a waste of two minutes, but I guess they need to attract viewers to their late night news show somehow.
I’m able to save my mom from getting a ticket when I detect a police band radio broadcasting on the road ahead. She wasn’t really speeding that much, but still, it is kind of cool. I’m a little curious about what I am using for an antenna. It would be pretty freaky if I grew some insect looking antenna out of my forehead, but if I ended up with those anime girl ear antennas, that might not be so bad.
I can see my super hero job interview now. “Hi, I’m Brianna! Super Radio Girrrrl! I can open locked car doors with a single thought and warn speeding motorists of impending tickets! Oh, and do you need help with your luggage?” Oh yeah, I’m super all right.
My mom decides that she has had enough of my usual conversational habits and interrupts the news broadcast. “Brianna? Are you even paying attention to what Fey and I are talking about?”
Ut oh, now there’s a loaded question. I quickly rewind the last few minutes of conversation and play it back to myself in 5 seconds. “Umm, yeah. You were asking Fey what she wanted for dinner and she said that ‘anything’ was good.”
“Whatever you are playing with inside your head young lady, you need to stop right now and pay attention to the conversation. We have a guest in the car and it is not polite to just sit there and ignore everything like you usually do.” My mom says, angrily.
I wonder why she is yelling at me about that. Like she said, I’m just doing what I normally do when we are in the car.
“That’s okay Mrs. Peters and I completely understand.” Fey says trying to diffuse the situation.
My mom nods at her, but ignores her at the same time. “Thanks Fey, but I think that Brianna would benefit from participating in this conversion.”
“Mrs. Peters, could you do me a favor, well, two?” Fey asks, surprising my mom by changing the conversation topic.
My mom glances at Fey for second before her eyes return to the road. “Sure, what is it Fey?”
“One, hi, I’m Nikki Reilly. Fey is just my codename and it gets a little tiring hearing it all the time.”
I was wondering when my mom would get to find out.
My mom smiles at Nikki. “Okay, pleased to meet you Nikki. My name is Jennifer and I just have to ask...”
Nikki grins and politely interrupts her. “Yes, he’s my dad, but please don’t let anyone from the labs know that.”
My mom nods her agreement. “Okay, what was your second favor?”
Nikki pauses for a few seconds in thought. “Hmmm, can you pull over just ahead? I want you to try something.”
My mom glances at her dubiously, but she slows down while looking for a place to pull over. “Ookkaay.” She brings the car to a stop, turns on her flashers and looks to Nikki.
“Thanks Mrs. Peters. Can you try closing your eyes and ‘feeling’ me with your senses?”
“Okay, I’ll try.” My mom says without much conviction as she closes her eyes and appears to concentrate. I watch as her look of concentration fades. I’m guessing that she is somehow feeling Nikki with her empathy.
“Good job Mrs. Peters! Now, do I feel like a boy or a girl to you?” Nikki asks.
My mom frowns a little. “Well, it is kind of hard to say. I feel a strong feminine identity in you that is very bright, oh wait, it has faded and I think that you feel like a girl to me, but...no, I’m not sure. I think that you feel more like a girl to me. Why?”
“Okay, now try looking the same way at Brianna.” Nikki says.
My mom turns halfway in her seat and I feel a gentle, but loving presence inside my head. That must be my mom.
“Okay, now, does Brianna feel like a boy or a girl Mrs. Peters?” Nikki asks.
“A boy.” My mom says in a whisper without any hesitation.
“Exactly! Brianna may look and sound like a girl, but inside she is still Brian and still thinks like a boy. Why did Brian change her name?”
It doesn’t take my mom too long to put two and two together. “Because of how other people were reacting to her boy name.” She says.
“Yes, not because ‘she’ thought of ‘herself’ as a girl with a boy’s name. Instead, it was because ‘he’ thought of ‘himself’ as a girl with a boy’s name and he could see that everyone else felt uncomfortable every time they used his name.” Nikki explains.
My mom closes her eyes again and I see a tear start to leak out of the corner of her eye.
That makes me feel bad. I don’t want to be the reason that my mom feels bad. “It’s okay mom. I’ll try harder.” I say as I feel my eyes starting to get a little moist. I guess that was the exact wrong thing to say because she really begins to cry. “Mom....please don’t cry. I’ll pay attention the conversation like you want me too.” That makes things even worse, because she completely breaks down. I reach forward and touch her shoulder. “Mom?”
She turns to me with tears streaming down her face and pulls me into a slightly awkward hug due to front seat and back seat geometry. “Oh Brian, I’m so, so sorry for trying to force you into being a girl. I should have known better.”
Oh great, that makes me start to cry now too. “It’s okay Mom.” I say as I start to feel my nose begin clog up from all the tears again. “It’s not your fault. I’m the one who is a freak for playing a girl in that stupid video game.” That works, sort of.
She releases me and I can feel her looking at my face, but I’m too ashamed of myself to look at her. “Brianna Nicole Peters. Look at me!” Crap. How in the heck can she go from crying to pissed so fast?
I look up at her face and I see determination in her eyes, “You are not a freak for playing a girl and it is not your fault that this happened to you. It’s my fault for not looking at you and seeing who you are. I should’ve understood part of what you are going through the moment that you realized that you might be able to be a Mom someday.”
“But Mom...” I say, trying to interrupt her so I can tell her that I shouldn’t have been such a wuss about it.
“No Brianna. It is my fault. Until Fey, sorry.” She glances to Nikki before returning to me. “Nikki, forced me to really look at how you felt, I had no idea how hard it is for you to be a boy trapped in a girl’s body. The things that I take for granted and didn’t give a second thought about, are very much not normal for you. I promise that from this moment on, I will do my best to not try and force you to be someone that you’re not.” She says as she starts to tear up again.
I can’t help myself. “Oh Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t...”
That’s as far as I get with that before she crushes me with another hug and cries. “I don’t ever want to have to worry about losing you again! You are Brian James Peters who is now Brainna Nicole Peters and there is nothing in the world that can ever make me stop loving you for who you are. Don’t you ever forget that!” She fiercely whispers in my ear.
“Not even if I never want to go to the salon with you?” I ask, feeling a bit mischievous and hoping that the humor will help break the tension.
My mom groans while I catch Fey grinning. “Oh Brianna, not even that, but I do hope that you will change your mind.” She says with a fleeting smile as she tries to wipe the tears out of her eyes with her hand.
Nikki chooses that moment to hand us both some tissues from her purse. “Well, I don’t know about you two, but I totally need to get some more emergency tissues now.” She mock complains as she blots her eyes to remove her tears. Just that simple gesture causes us all to look at each other and start giggling.
“Oh god, I am such a wreck!” My mom says as she sits back in her seat with her head pushed up against her head rest. She takes a deep breath. “Okay, I feel better. How about you two?”
“Yep!” Nikki says, giving my mom a thumbs up.
“Yepper and I’m starting to get hungry again.” I say with a laugh. I am beginning to wonder where I’m putting all the food that I’m eating.
“Okay then, let’s get this show on the road again. We got miles to drive and dinner to cook!” My mom says as she turns off her flashers and merges back onto the road.
We spend the rest of the drive planning everything from dinner to what we want to do after dinner and how we are going to handle the sleeping arrangements tonight. Fey gets the choice of sleeping on the sleeper sofa or using an air mattress in my room. I am pleasantly surprised when she chooses the latter. I offer to let her have my bed while I use the air mattress, but she will have nothing to do with kicking me out of my own bed.
It’s kind of funny in a way. I always wanted to have a girl sleep in my bed. I just never thought that I would be the girl. Oh yeah, and just to rub salt in the wound, I would also have a hot girl sleeping in my bedroom, but she would be using an air mattress.
The sun has almost completely set when we finally pull into our house’s attached two car garage. I caught the garage door signal, but being able to open and close the garage door with a thought is not exactly something to brag about. Dad’s car is also in the garage, but there is also a strange car in the driveway. I am guessing that it’s Barb and Barry’s rental car.
My mom stops the engine and pushes the button to close the garage door, but before we get out she turns to me. “Well, we’re home. Are you ready?”
“I think so.” I say with a nod, but not feeling at all ready anymore.
She unlocks the doors and as we all start to get out of the car my mom turns to me. “Don’t worry about the suitcases right now. You or your dad can get them later.”
“Okay mom.” I say, glad that she included me, but feeling a little nervous about seeing Dad and Lindsay. I mean, Mom says that they saw me in the hospital bed earlier this morning when they dropped off my clothes, but that’s not the same thing. I know that Barb and Barry will be there too, but for some reason I’m not as worried about them. Maybe it’s because I hardly know them or something?
What if my dad disowns me or my sister calls me a mutant freak? I know, probably not even close to something I need to worry about, but I’m still more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I would ask where I have heard that saying before, but I so don’t care right now.
My mom is just coming around the front of the car when the door from garage to the house opens. I stop in my tracks and nervously watch as my dad appears at the top of the steps that lead down from the house. He turns and looks behind him. “Wait right there Lindsay. You’ll get your chance soon enough. Remember what we talked about?”
I hear my sister’s voice reply. “Yes Dad, I remember.” She sounds so serious instead of her usual bratty self. What did they talk about?
My dad turns back and takes the three of us in with a glance. He looks a little confused at the sight of Nikki, but Nikki helps him out by grabbing my hand pulling me forward until I hesitantly stop just in front of her.
“Hi Dad.” I say, hesitantly. I catch myself biting my lip as he spends a few seconds just looking at me before he breaks into a big smile.
“Oh my god, Brianna. I, I...just don’t know what to say right now, except that I am so glad that you’re home!” He says as he steps forward and lifts me off the floor with a hug.
I can smell his cologne and the familiar scent makes me feel so safe and protected. I’m really home and everything is going to be okay. It takes a little while, but I start to feel a little embarrassed by all the attention in front of Nikki. “Dad, can you set me down now? You’re starting to crush me here.”
“Oh sure thing, sorry about that.” He says with a grin as he sets me down and follows that up by brushing aside my new bangs and giving me a quick kiss on my forehead. I’m not 100% sure that he would have done that if I was still a boy, but it felt good so I decide to let it go.
My dad looks past me and to Nikki. “Why don’t you introduce me to your friend here?”
“Oh, sorry Dad. Dad, this is Nikki. Nikki, this is my dad.” I say while mentally kicking myself for such a lame introduction.
Fortunately, my dad covers for me by shaking her hand. “Hi Nikki, David Peters, thanks for your help and I am glad that you could join us here tonight. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.” He says as he glances at my mom.
“Thanks Mr. Peters. I’m glad I could help and not have to spend the night in a yucky hotel.” Nikki says with a laugh that seems to brighten the dingy garage with its sound.
I smile as my dad blushes from the combined effects of Nikki’s laugh and his first time being exposed to her glamour.
“Yes, well, we are glad to be of service my lady.” My dad says, stumbling a bit on that last part. “Now where did that come from?” I hear him mumble to himself as Nikki blushes in response. I think that she’s a little embarrassed now too.
He recovers, turns and clears his throat, “Okay, Lindsay you can come in now.”
I have to force myself to not freak out as my targeting system screams at me when my sister rushes into the garage and throws herself at me. She almost knocks me off my feet when she slams into me and wraps me with a hug and starts crying. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! I was so worried about you!”
I’m not sure how to respond to this. I never in a million years expected my sister to react like this. I didn’t think that she cared. I get over my surprise and return her hug. “Sorry Lindsay. I didn’t mean to cause this much of a mess.” I say to her with a slight sniffle as she relaxes into just a hug versus the crushing hug she started out with.
She gets her sniffles under control and steps back to really look at me. I am dismayed to discover that my sister is now taller than me. My ever so helpful computer supplies me with the exact measurement of 165.1 cm. Okay, in English?
Crap! I was 5’ 5”. How tall am I now?
Oh come on! English!
Shit, I lost an inch! My little sister is now officially my bigger sister. She doesn’t even seem to register the fact that she is now taller than I am.
Lindsay finally breaks, no shatters my line of thought. “Oh my god Bri-Brianna, You’re so beautiful!” She says, gushing with excitement.
I think that she almost called me Brian there, but it is the last part that really gets my attention. That was so not what I was expecting, but she has just been a bundle of surprises since she burst into the garage. I can feel myself starting to blush when I feel Nikki touch my arm. That helps to draw Lindsay’s attention away from me and as her eyes are drawn to Nikki, I can see her expression change from a “wow” expression to a “deer caught in the headlights” expression.
“Thank you Nikki!” I think to myself with fervent thanks for her raw beauty and glamour.
Lindsay just gapes at Nikki, until Nikki snaps her out her stupor. “Hi. I’m Nikki. You must be Brianna’s sister, Lindsay.” Nikki says with a warm smile that finally breaks the spell.
Lindsay blushes. “Oh, sorry Nikki. I couldn’t help myself. It is nice to finally meet you.” She says before she looks back to me. “and sorry, umm, Brianna. I didn’t mean to embarrass you like that.”
She surprises me with her empathy.
“Well, let’s get inside where it is more comfortable. There are other people in there who want to say hi to you Brianna.” My dad says with a grin.
“Okay, sure. That sounds good to me. I’m hungry!” I say, patting my belly.
“Well, that is one thing that hasn’t changed.” My mom says, smiling fondly at me as everyone laughs.
Dad leads the way, followed by Mom, me, Nikki and Lindsay. "Okay Barb! I think that we are ready to start serving dinner." My dad yells as we walk down the hall and enter the living room.
"Okay, Barry and I will get started on that as soon as we..." I hear Barb start to say from the general direction of the kitchen. That draws my gaze left and toward the kitchen. I am a little confused when my room scanning thing spots an unidentified male and a female shaped object standing to my right and in the living room when Barb and Barry are in the kitchen. I'm not sure what Barb says after that because the male object in the living room sounds like my friend, John.
My head snaps from left to right and I see John and Lisa standing in the living room. Lisa is nervously holding John’s hand and her face mirrors John’s confusion.
I don’t want my friends to see me like this! They’ll think I’m…well, not good. I have to get away and hide where no one can see me! I freak out and my vision shifts into bizzaro-magic vision mode. Like when Sir Wallace and Fey tested me in the circle, I see what I believe to be magic as glowing floating lines of color and once again, I’m struck by how similar the real magic world is to what I saw in GEO, but I don’t have time to think and sight-see here. I’m desperate to go away and with that thought, the lines begin to form into a familiar looking pattern. I feel a strange resonance begin to build inside me as the shadows in the living room begin to move toward me.
** Chapter 23 **
“Brianna!” I hear my mom scream. She sounds so far away, but I know that she is right next to me.
The pattern is beginning to become better defined while the resonance inside me starts to grow stronger. I tap into my memory and find where I have seen a pattern like that before. It is the GEO icon for Whisper’s invisibility spell. I hear my mom scream my name again, she sounds closer now, but her scream isn’t as important to me as finishing the pattern. If I can just finish the pattern, no one will be able to see me and everything will be better. I feel something pushing the lines away and breaking the pattern into smaller pieces.
“Noooo!” I wail as I struggle to keep the lines, but some outside force keeps pushing them away from me. I push myself to grab them, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t reach them. The room’s shadows snap back to normal as I sag with defeat and feel my knees begin to buckle from exhaustion. Someone grabs me from behind and holds me tight to their body.
“Brianna. Stop. You’re safe here.” Nikki says, gently into my ear.
I am gasping for air as I turn my head to look back at her. “But, I was so close...” I say, whining just a little as I relax into her.
“I know, but now is not the time.” She encouragingly smiles at me. “Your friends are here because they care about you. You can do this. You’re not alone.”
I close my eyes and try to reach my center like Sensei Rogers taught me. I feel myself calm down and my strength return as I concentrate on my inner core and breathing. As Nikki releases me, I open my eyes and look around. Everyone is standing there with concerned expressions on their faces. Nikki holds her hand up signaling everyone to give me some time.
It looks like my mom wants to rush in and grab me, while Lindsay is holding onto my dad with a death grip and looks like she is about to burst into tears. I almost feel sorry for John and Lisa. John’s face is as white as a ghost and Lisa is looking so lost and confused that it is almost comical. With my new ‘radar’ thing, I can see the shapes of Barb and Barry standing in the dining room a meter behind Nikki
“Give her some space right now. She was just a little surprised.” Nikki says, calmly and with a hint of command in her tone.
I slowly exhale and I feel all the fear leave my body. “Sorry about that.” Feeling a little ashamed at myself, I turn my attention to John. He looks so nervous that I can’t stop myself from grinning. “John, I am glad to see you and Lisa, but you scared the crap out of me there dude!”
John smiles and relaxes. “I’m sorry, umm, dude? Lisa...” He glances sideways to Lisa, notices the beginning of a glare and he wisely stops talking.
I’m going to guess that he was going to say that it was her idea. It probably was, but even I would know better than to say something like that with my girlfriend standing right next to me, if I had a girlfriend.
I can’t help but laugh at him for that almost fatal slip. “Dude, Lisa was so ready to kick your butt there.”
Lisa gives me one of her mega-watt smiles before she turns to John and hugs him. “Yeah, but that is why I love him. His butt is so cute and easy to kick!”
Everyone laughs and the tension in the room evaporates.
Lisa walks over to me while dragging John behind her. She lets go of his hand and gives me a hug. “I’m glad you’re safe Brianna, and I love the name!”
I find myself blushing again. “Umm, thanks Lisa. Sorry about my freak-out there. I’m glad you made John come.” I tell her as she studies my new face...
“You are so beautiful, Brianna!” She says, softly with part wonder and part admiration. “I cannot wait until you return to the dojo. I’m so looking forward to seeing what you can do!”
I really don’t know how to handle that, so I default to blushing even more and stammering. “Th-Thanks, I think.”
John is up next as Lisa steps back and gives him the ‘go on, get moving’ look. He looks very nervous all of a sudden. Heck, I’m nervous too. I sure as heck don’t want to hug him, but doing our traditional ‘gimme five and fist to boom’ greeting seems a little out of place now too. Aw, the hell with it. I raise my hand to start the usual high-five and he rushes in and gives me a quick hug instead.
“Welcome back dude, glad you’re okay.” John says as fast as he can. It has got to be the most awkward hug I have ever felt. He’s nervous as all get out and I can’t help it when my entire body tenses up and I gasp with surprise as his arms go around me. I’m guessing that my already large eyes are even larger now.
He lets me go and blushes as he realizes that I was totally not expecting a hug from him. Lisa pulls him back and glares at him. “Way to go! Why did you hug her? Can’t you tell that she’s not ready for a hug from you?” She says with a fierce whisper.
“Sorry, but you hugged her and I didn’t know what else to do!” He whispers back to Lisa before turning back to me. “Sorry Brian, umm, Brianna, I didn’t know what to do.”
I swallow my fear again. “Umm, that’s okay John. I wasn’t sure either, but next time a simple high-five will be fine.” I say, finishing up with a smile that causes him to blush again. Crap, I think my glamour is hitting him now. Talk about confusion.
My mom helps rescue me. “Brianna, why don’t you help Barry get the suitcases out of the car and up to the bedrooms?” She asks. “I need to have a quick chat with everyone before we sit down and eat supper.”
I turn to her and even I can see that she is just trying to get me out of the room so that she can do some explaining without embarrassing me in the process. “Sure mom. I wanted to check out my room anyway.” I say as I head back towards the garage with Barry following me.
I hear the door to the garage close behind us as Barry enters and I decide to show off a little by popping the trunk. “Ta-da! My super power! Pretty awesome, huh?” Okay, I guess I am being a little too sarcastic, but the day has really been an emotional roller-coaster for me. I’m not feeling like myself, literally.
Barry stops and studies me for a second. “You do know that Barb and I help out on a superhero team, right?”
I’m not sure where he’s going with this. “Yeah, I’ve heard that, but isn’t that because you both have really cool super powers?”
Barry shakes his head ‘no’. “Not really. Barb has some good power, but there are tons of people who are stronger than her.”
I don’t know. I’ve seen the occasional video of Barb in action and what I saw looked pretty damn powerful to me. “Yeah, but she can lift a car just by thinking about it! How can that not be cool?”
He frowns a little at me. “Actually, when her power is measured against the other heroes and villains, she is very weak. Most folks with similar powers can literally lift tons more than she can.”
“So? She can still lift a car and that’s a lot!”
“Barely, she struggles to lift even a medium sized car, but that isn’t the point. Her strength isn’t what makes her super.”
I am starting to think that he has a lesson in here for me somewhere. “Okay, then what makes her super?”
“Control and Precision.” He says without further explanations.
“Huh?” I ask, wondering what that means and how it might apply to me.
Now that he has got me thinking, he smiles at me. “She has bested villains who are much stronger than she is, not by over powering them, but by using what she has to maximum effect. The people she beats are used to just bashing their way through anything that gets in their way. They rely on their raw power and never learn how to use what they have.”
“Yeah, but how is being able to copy my mom’s car remote all that great?”
Barry chuckles at me. “It’s not, but that’s only because you’re not using your imagination.”
“What do you mean? It’s just a car door.”
“Yes, yes it is, but what would happen to a high tech armored villain if their fancy armored suit suddenly turned off in the middle of a battle?”
Damn it! He is not helping me feel sorry for myself here. “Oh. Yeah, that would be bad.”
“Yes it would and it would be a very ‘strong’ ability to have, don’t ya think?”
“I guess so.” I say, a little sullenly.
“Plus, based on that little light show you just put on in the living room, I don’t think that you are going to have to worry about being stuck with ‘lame powers’ anytime soon.”
I sigh with frustration. It is so hard to find reasons to be down on myself with all these helpful people around. I feel myself start to smile. I’m sorry, I can’t stop myself. He’s right. I don’t know why I keep forgetting about all the cool stuff I can do now.
“I’m sorry Barry, you’re right. I guess I’d think it was cooler if I didn’t get turned into a girl, but being a girl isn’t the end of the world and I probably shouldn’t view it as such. It’s just, well, not at all what I expected.”
“Hey, don’t be so down on yourself. You’ve only been a super powered person for what? 12 hours now?”
“Umm, 11 hours, 23 minutes and 38 seconds, but who’s counting?” I say with a grin.
He laughs and his eyes sparkle with mischief. “See, there ya go kid. What do you expect from a baby?”
Oh, he is so going to get it, but I can’t help it. It’s funny; I laugh and it feels good. “You are so going to get it when I stop laughing!” I mock threaten him.
“Ha! Now you know the true strength of my super power! I’m not known as Captain Comic for nothing!” Barry says as he strikes an exaggerated heroic pose.
“Fine, you win!” I say while struggling to contain even more laughter before I adopt the angry and defeated villain pose. “Curse you, Captain Comic! You have defeated me this time, but I’ll be back!”
“Hehe, looks like you’re feeling better now. Should we get these suitcases into the house now?”
“Sure, sounds like a plan. Thanks Barry.” I say as I fight off the urge to give him a hug. Ha! I defeated the Huggy Girl Monster once again! I reach into the trunk and hand Barry the two small suitcases, and then, I pull out Nikki’s monster suitcase before he can jump in and be all chivalrous on me.
Once I set Nikki’s suitcase on the floor and slam the trunk closed, Barry grabs Nikki’s suitcase and starts to lift it. He stops after only getting it an inch or two off the floor. “Wow, this is heavier than it looked when you took it out!”
“Here, lemme get that for you, Grandpa Barry. I wouldn’t want Barb to get mad at me if you throw your back out.” I tease him as I easily take the suitcase from his hand.
“Hmmph! You young whipper snappers think you’re so tough! Back in the day when I worked in the train yard, I had to carry 50 gallon barrels of water on my back to fill the steam engines, uphill, both ways! I’ll show you...Ouch, Ouch, my back!” Barry says with mock pain as he lifts the two small suitcases while doing a pretty good grumpy old man impression.
I can’t stop myself from smiling all the way from the garage and upstairs into my room. Nikki’s suitcase isn’t all fun and games to get up the stairs though. It’s not all that heavy for me, but it is still rather bulky. Her suitcase seems like it is almost as big as I am. I could probably fit inside her suitcase pretty easily if I tried.
My bed looks freshly made with new sheets and a down comforter contained inside of a plain white linen cover of some kind. I think it looks like a giant pillow or maybe a soft and fluffy cloud. I plop myself down on it and lay back to rest for a few seconds. Wow, it really is soft and comfy. I sink so deep into it, that if someone tossed another blanket over me, I would probably be hidden pretty well. Okay, I don’t care if it might be a little girlie. I like my cloud and I want to keep it.
I decide to get up before I get too comfortable. I want to inspect the rest of my room. It looks way too clean and organized for my tastes. I discover that the carpet where my computer desk stood is a little ragged. There is a basketball sized hole that goes all the way down to the floor boards. Crap, which reminds me that my killer rig is now just a memory. What in the heck am I going to use to do my homework or play GEO on now? Okay, scratch the GEO thing. I am afraid to even be in the same room with someone playing GEO. Well, I guess I can always use my parent’s PC down in their office to do my homework and if I don’t need a good rig for GEO, then maybe I can save my money and not even build another.
There are a few new throw rugs in the room that look like they might be made from natural fibers of some kind. I never even thought about how I would handle the carpet on bare feet, but I guess that Mom and Dad did. All I have to do is figure out how to best arrange the rugs.
I can’t stop myself from sighing and feeling a little sad when I find out that my closet and dresser drawers are empty of all my old clothes. Well, not all of them. There are a few of my old t-shirts left, but only the 100% cotton ones that I had out-grown last year and forgot to get rid of. I guess they will probably fit me again now. I wonder if my old “I see fragged people…” t-shirt will fit me now. I peel off the heavy duty sweater and then, I pull off v-neck top. It drags across my boobs as I try to lift it over my head.
I think that I am beginning to dislike that term. Boobs. Seeing and talking about a girl’s “boobs” seemed so exciting and naughty before today. Not so much now though. I think that I will use a different term for my breasts. Even that just sounds so wrong to me. Hmm, how about I use the same term that my mom used? Girls. Okay, I think that will work. It’s not as in your face as any of the other words I could use. I mean, someone yelling out, “Nice girls!” just doesn’t seem to carry as much impact as “Nice boobs!” Well, not to me anyway.
That reminds me, this is the first bit of alone time I have had since I woke up this morning. I can’t stop myself from staring at the pretty, no stunning, black haired girl that is standing there wearing nothing but a bra and jeans in my dresser mirror. I know that girls have a different name for black hair. I know blond, then brown and red hair. Do they call brown something else too?
>Brown hair = Auburn
Oookay...What about black Mr. Smarty pants?
>Black hair = Brunette
Oh. Well, I guess now I know, that I knew. I’m officially a brunette in the world of girl hair color.
I still can’t get over the fact that the hot brunette in the mirror is me. I wouldn’t have even given myself a second look three days ago and I’d have been completely topless, but then again, three days ago I didn’t have all the features that just drew my eyes and screamed “hubba hubba!” Seriously, now I have perfect skin, nice gentle curves, tight tummy, expressive eyes and lips that just beg to be kissed. Everything about my body draws my eyes to my reflection. I touch my naked stomach and I see the girl in the mirror touching her perfect, I mean, I see my hand touching my tummy. I feel my hand slide across my perfectly smooth and soft skin as I trace a line up from my belly button. She looks so, I mean; I look so innocent standing there with a sort of surprised expression on my face. Oh, this is so confusing!
“Brianna! It’s time for dinner!” My mom yells from the bottom of the stairs and interrupts my less than pure thoughts.
Oh crap! I need to put my shirt, um, blouse top thing back on. I can’t walk downstairs wearing just a bra up top, but I don’t want to put that v-cut blouse top thing back on due the cleavage exposure. I poke my head out the door “Coming!” I yell down stairs to my mom before I race back to my closet and grab my old t-shirt and quickly put it on. It’s dark blue and it fits a little snug up top. I can definitely see my girls pushing against the front and that is making the lower half of my shirt hang like a tent on me. It is making me look a little dumpy. Please tell me that I’m not thinking what I think I’m thinking.
Yep, I am. Key-rap!
I do something that I’ve never done before while wearing just a t-shirt and jeans. I unbutton my jeans and tuck my t-shirt in as I head out of my room. I hope this works. Oh, it works alright. Now I have the “I see fragged people…” going right across the girls and acting like a sign that says, “Hey! She’s got words on her boobs and it’s okay to stare because I’m only trying to read her shirt!” I growl with frustration, but I am not, I repeat, I am not going to change my shirt again.
I am almost out my door when I look back and see my new sweater and top laying on the floor. Damn it. Now that my room is clean, I can’t just leave them on the floor. Frustrated, I sigh and yell. “I’ll be right there!”
“Do you need any help?”
“Noooo, I got it!”
“Okay just hurry up. Everyone’s waiting on you!” My mom yells back.
Grrr. I pick up the errant clothing, smooth them out and set them neatly on my cloud so that I can deal with them later. I take a second to straighten the cloud out too. Then, I rush out of my room and by the time I make it down the stairs, I am surprisingly relaxed and even smiling when I enter the dining room. Everyone is already seated, but I am pleased to see that my regular seat is still open. No one says a word about my old boy t-shirt as I sit down.
There is a ton of food on the table, something for everyone. I can’t wait to dig in, but my dad stops me from grabbing a dinner roll with a glance. “Oops, sorry.” I say, embarrassed to be the only one reaching for food.
He smiles fondly at me. “I know that we don’t normally do this, but we felt it might be appropriate considering the circumstances. So, hold hands everyone. I would like to say a quick prayer.” I quickly glance to my left and grab my dad’s hand. Instead of her normal spot across from me, Lindsay is sitting to the right of me to make room at the table for all the extra place settings. I hold her hand as we all bow our heads as my dad begins to speak.
“Heavenly Father, we know that although we may not always understand your plan for us, we are grateful that you have brought us here together this evening. We thank you for the safe return of our child, Brianna. We also cannot find enough words to adequately thank the rest of our family, friends, Nikki and the rest of the people at the lab for all of their support and understanding. Amen.”
“Amen.” I whisper softly as I look up and let go of my dad’s and Lindsay’s hands. Everyone is still a little hesitant to be the first one to start grabbing food. “Thank you everyone, but I’m starving. Can we eat now?” I ask, impatiently.
That pops the cork and causes a few giggles as everyone begins to start serving themselves and passing the dishes around. We have little bit of everything. There is turkey, pork chops, lots of broccoli, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, dinner rolls, salad and even some orange jello with pineapple inside.
I am a little worried about the meat, but I still pile it on like I normally would. I refuse to give in to this vegetarian thing. The broccoli tastes great, but it looks like the roast beef at the lab wasn’t just over cooked, because while I eat all the turkey and pork on my plate; I really don’t enjoy the taste. The meats aren’t bad, but compared to the veggies, they tasted very blah.
Once I finish my first plate, I feel like I could eat a little bit more. This time, I decide to skip the pork chops entirely and cut back on my second serving of turkey. I also skip the gravy and opt for the cranberry relish instead. That helps make the turkey taste better, but I can’t stop myself from sighing with frustration.
“What’s a matter, Brianna?” My mom asks, looking at me with concern.
“Nikki was right. I really don’t care for the meat.” I say, feeling despondent again.
I close my eyes when I notice that everyone is watching me with a mixture of concern and surprise. I am guessing that Nikki is the only person at the table that might understand my frustration. I never realized just how much enjoyment I got out of eating certain foods. The fond memory of chowing down a juicy hamburger or fat steak, fresh off the backyard grill is just that now, a memory. I am afraid that the next time I try to eat a burger or steak, I will end up hating it or making myself sick trying to force it down. Sharing chili dogs at the ball park with dad, gone. Corn dogs or kabobs at the fair with the family, nyet! Oh look, it’s a veggie burger or it’s a tofu steak on the grill! Hold me back!
Oh great, now I’m going to start crying...again. There is no way that I am going to break down in front of everyone. “Umm, I gotta go to the bathroom.” I say as I push my chair back and race to the bathroom before anyone can see my tears.
I manage to hold it all in, until I reach the small half-bath that is just down the hall from the dining room. I turn on the light, close the door and look at myself in the mirror over the sink. My eyes are red and tears are pouring down my face. I feel so pissed at what I see looking back at me. I see a whiny and sniveling little girl who can’t keep herself together to save her life.
I hear a polite knock at the door.
“Go away…” I plead to whoever it is out there.
“Brianna, it’s me.” Nikki says softly through the door. “Can I come in?”
Oh man, I don’t see how I can say no. “Yeah, hold on.” I say as I grab some tissues and quickly try to clean up some of the damage before I open the door for her. Once the worst is under control, I open the door and Nikki slides herself into the small space with me. She looks so compassionate and understanding.
“Oh Bree.” She says softly with as she opens her arms and I find myself melting into a hug. I am glad that I still have my tissues in hand. I would hate to make a mess of her clothes.
“I know how you feel. I felt the same way and even now, I sometimes find myself watching a juicy steak commercial and feeling bummed out.” Nikki says with a sad smile.
Once she tells me that, I feel my tears dry up in no time. Maybe I’m getting a bit better with the crying stuff now? “Y-You do?” I ask with a slight sniffle.
“Yes. I have some very fond memories of enjoying a backyard barbeque steak with my family, but it’s not all bad. I have noticed that since I stopped eating meat, my body feels healthier and I have more energy to do things than ever before.” Nikki says with an encouraging smile.
I’m not sure if that helps a lot, but just knowing that she still misses meat is a good thing to know. I don’t know if I can believe in the health claims, but maybe it can’t hurt. “Okay, I’m not sold on that idea, but I guess I can give it a try.” I say with the start of a smile. “What’s with this ‘Bree’ thing?”
“Do you like it? It is the nick-name for Brianna.” She says with a slight tilt of her head and an impish smirk.
“Weeelll, I’m not sure. I’m still kind of getting used to ‘Brianna’, but ‘Bree’ is a bit easier to say, so I guess it’s okay.” I say, not sure if I am really sold on the nickname idea or not. Spelling-wise, ‘Brianna’ was still very close to ‘Brian’, but ‘Bree’ just feels so different, so girlie.
She smiles and gives me a giddy little clap. “Great! Now, how about if we splash a bit of cold water on your face to help with the puffy eyes and get you back into the battle?” Nikki asks using a funny mock drill sergeant voice there at the end.
I can’t stop myself from giggling. “Sir, yes sir!” I salute her with my best mock salute.
We both break down into giggles and that causes a few more seconds of delay before we get back to the dining room. I notice the look of gratitude that my mom gives Nikki as we both sit back down at the table to eat. I feel much better and I am so glad that Nikki is here. I am really going to miss her when she goes back to her school tomorrow.
“So, umm, Brianna?” John asks just as I start to work on my veggies.
I pause with my fork of broccoli half-way to my mouth. “Ya?” I ask as I focus my attention on him.
John suddenly looks a little nervous. “What was that thing you did in the living room?” All the other conversation stops.
“Umm, I’m not sure exactly.” I say just before I pop the fork full of broccoli into my mouth and start to chew to give myself time to think of an answer. I have to admit, the broccoli does taste pretty good. It’s not a steak, but it is satisfying, just in a different way.
I think that my glamour is hitting John a little bit because he shyly glances down to his plate for a second. “Well, it almost looked like you were disappearing there for a second. Were you doing something like teleporting? ‘Cause that would be so cool!” John says, looking back at me excitedly.
“I don’t think that I was going to teleport.” I say just before I pop another bite of broccoli into my mouth.
“Well, what was it then?”
I quickly chew and swallow. “Umm, did you all see the shadows?” I ask, glancing around the table. I see a few nods. “Well, I’m not sure, but I think that was Whisper’s, I mean, maybe my Hide in Shadows ability. In the game, when I activated the ability, the graphic effect caused the shadows in a room to get a little bigger or darker and even sometimes shift around so I could hide in them easier.”
“Oh, well that looked pretty cool, but what about the fading thing?”
“Umm, well, I think it might have been an invisibility spell.” I say as I reach for my drink and take a few swigs. Ahhh.
“Really?! Cool!” John’s expression changes from excited to calculating. “Hmmm, that could come in handy the next time we play paintball.”
I can see the gears turning inside his head at the idea and as I think about it, going inviso could make the capture the flag game a bit easier. That makes me a little worried. “Yeah, it might, but I’m not sure if I can use it or even how it works. Plus, wouldn’t that kind of be like cheating?” I ask.
“Hey, you know what they say about l-, umm, just war?” He asks, hastily correcting himself and leaving off love.
“All is fair?” I ask, smiling because I know that he has a different answer and it’s a good thing he excluded love from the quote. Lisa would kill him and she still might since she knows what he was going to say.
John laughs. “No, if you ain’t cheating, then you ain’t trying hard enough!”
“Maybe, but I’ll have to think about it. I don’t think it would be fair unless the other team could do it too. You know, kind of how they made it against the rules for mutants to compete in sports?” I say, reminding him about that little rule. There is nothing like being a wet blanket.
“Hmm, you might be right bro. I didn’t think of it like that.” John says.
I’m a little surprised that he might also view it as ‘cheating’ and that he called me ‘bro’. That little slip makes me smile at him, which makes him blush and Lisa poke him in his ribs possessively. Oh man, this glamour thing is going to get me into so much trouble.
The rest of the dinner conversation is pretty normal and I am a little sad when we run out of the double chocolate fudge cake after I only eat two pieces. I liked chocolate before, but now? It just tastes so damn, I mean, darn good!
After dinner, the adults decide that they need to do the adult thing and talk to each other over some wine. That gives us ‘kids’ the perfect excuse to head to the den to watch TV or play some Xbox. I kind of want to just play some Halo with John, but with Lindsay, Nikki and Lisa there, I don’t want to be that much of a dork.
“Umm, what do you guys wanna do?” I ask fearful of the answer with all the girls there. I’m not so worried about what Nikki might suggest, but just thinking about all the normal “girl” things that Lindsay or Lisa would find fun gives me goose bumps. John is here, so that might prevent them from trying to do a “girls” night thing with me.
“I dunno Brianna. Both John and I brought a movie in case you just wanted to hang out. But, it’s only seven o’clock. We could get a ride to the mall.” Lisa says casually, like she is trying to suggest the mall without really suggesting it.
I notice Lindsay’s eyes light up with that mall idea. John is definitely not looking excited about the idea and Nikki appears kind of neutral to the idea. “I don’t know. Based on my, umm, reaction to seeing you two.” I look at John and Lisa. “I don’t think that I’m ready to go to the mall just yet. I’d kinda like to just stay here with you guys and chill.” They all nod with understanding, even Lindsay, but she still looks a little disappointed. “So, umm, what movies did you bring?” I ask, attempting to get the fun back on track.
Lisa smiles at me. “Well, I brought the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ and John brought ‘Underworld: Evolution’.” She says, stressing her movie choice and using a mono-tone for the cool movie. It’s clear what the girls want to see, but I really want to see Kate Beckinsale kicking some vampire butt. She was awesome in the first movie and just the thought of seeing her in action while wearing that skin tight black leather combat outfit is making me tingle in places that shouldn’t be tingling. I do not want to blush right now. La la la la...fashion, clothes, mean bosses, no guns or explosions. Phew. Tingling stopped. I think I’m safe now.
“How about ‘Devil Wears Prada’?” I ask. John looks a little disappointed in me. I smile apologetically at him. “Sorry dude, but I could tell that the girls wanted to watch ‘Devil’. It is a weekend night. Maybe we will have time to watch ‘Underworld’ after ‘Devil’?”
“Maybe.” John replies somewhat dubiously as Lisa triumphantly hands me her DVD.
I grab the universal remote to turn on the entertainment system and as I do, I feel a slight tingle. Oh, wow. I can ‘feel’ every command and function of the remote. It is a pretty simple chip that controls the thing and it has the standard control codes for over two hundred different devices. The problem with the remote, as I see it, is that it takes six button presses to turn on all the devices needed to watch a DVD using the surround sound system. It’s just too cumbersome and I wish that my dad would get one of those fancy remotes that you can program to do all that with a single button push.
Hmmm, I wonder...
“Bree? Is something wrong?” Nikki asks, concerned.
“No…” I say, distracted by my discovery. “I think that I can reprogram the remote.”
Without really thinking about how many laws I might be breaking, I change how the remote works. I leave the programming alone that tells it to turn on the TV when someone pushes the “TV Power” button, but I change the programming and add a simple script to the device by removing some of the extra codes from memory. Now, what should happen when I push the DVD button is that the TV, stereo and DVD player should all turn on and the stereo switch to ‘Video’ mode and the TV switch to Video In mode. I also script the same type of logical functions for the Stereo button under the assumption that the user just wants to play music.
“Okay, I think that I just made the remote better.” I say after a few seconds. Well, 2.36 seconds to be exact. Everyone is just looking at me with curious expressions.
“Watch this!” I say as I press the DVD button and I am rewarded by watching everything work exactly like I programmed it to work. I can’t stop myself from smiling at my handy-work.
“Umm, okay.” Lindsay says, not looking or sounding very impressed.
“I just programmed the remote to turn everything on with one button instead of six.” I say, defensively as I hand her the remote. “Here, push the Stereo button.”
She dubiously pushes the Stereo button and as I smugly look on, the stereo turns off and the CD player turns on while everything else stays on. Crap. Looks like I need to make it a bit smarter, but everyone is starting to look a little impatient to get the movie started.
“I guess I can fix it later.” I say with a sigh as I walk over and manually turn the stereo back on, followed by loading the DVD and pushing the play button.
Since this movie is a chick-flick, I don’t bother grabbing my preferred center/center spot for the prime surround sound effects. Dad and I once spent an entire Saturday afternoon setting up the surround sound system and tuning it for the room. Much to Mom’s disgust, we just had to watch two big budget explosion movies just to make sure, purely in the name of science.
So, being the polite host, ummm, -ess, I offer Nikki the comfy “sweet spot” seat that has the built in recliner. I sit beside her, but on the next seat cushion to give her plenty of room while Lindsay worms her way in next to me on our L shaped leather sectional. Thank god my parents sprang for the leather, especially now that I have problems with synthetic fibers. Lisa and John claim the corner section so that they can snuggle up together. I am a little surprised that Lindsay wants to sit so close to me. Normally, she sits as far away from me as possible, like I have cooties or something.
As the opening title screens are playing, I glance to Lindsay and catch her staring at me. “What?” I whisper to her.
She shocks the shit out of me, pardon my French. “I’m sorry that I’ve been such a bitch to you the last couple of years.” Lindsay whispers back before she leans over and hugs me. “I missed you so much and I don’t know what I would do if you were really gone.” And then, she starts to gently sob into my t-shirt.
I’m not sure what has happened to my sister. Maybe I’m still me, but she’s the one who switched bodies or something Twilight Zone’ish. “I love you too Liddy.” I whisper as I hug her back. I end up resting my check against the top of her head as my eyes start to leak a little too. Damn chick-flicks. The movie hasn’t even started and I’m crying. Maybe I should have gone with Underworld?
I refuse to admit that the movie was good. A chick-flick is against the ‘dude code’ for me to even admit that I may have liked it. However, I can’t help but notice how just a few simple change of clothes and a make-over changed Anne Hathaway’s appearance. I thought she looked pretty in the clothes she wore on her first day, but holy cow! She’s absolutely gorgeous when she starts wearing all the fashionable clothes. I suspect that Lisa is being sneaky with her movie choice.
By the end of the movie, I’m leaning against Nikki while Lindsay is snuggling against me. It kinda reminds me of when we were littler, like maybe seven or eight years old. It feels good. I do cry once near the end, but with my low-light vision, I can see that John’s eyes got a little wet there too. So, I don’t feel too bad.
“Okay, it’s only nine and it’s a Saturday night. What do you guys wanna do now? Do you two have to be home by a certain time?” I ask John and Lisa.
“My dad said I can stay out as late as I needed too, but to call if it was going to be later then eleven.” John says.
“My dad wants me home by 2300 hours.” Lisa says before switching over to her mock stern dad voice. “And not a second later or it’s the Captain’s Mast for you, little lady!”
Everyone laughs at her Dad impression and I check out the Underworld DVD case for the run-time. “Well, the DVD says that it is an hour and forty-five minutes, but I think we could cut five to ten minutes by just skipping the title scenes. If we started it now, we might be done by 2230 hours. Will that give you enough time to get home if we watched that now?” I ask. I’m starting to use military time more and more now. I have to actively think about translating the time from military to civilian.
Lisa looks at me a little funny for a micro second. “Yeah, thirty minutes should be plenty.” She says before turning to John. “You will be able to walk me home, right?”
“Of course my delicate little blossom! I am here but to...ooof!” John says using his paladin voice just before Lisa lightly punches him in his stomach.
“You saw that?! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” John mock yells with a falsetto British accent.
“Oh, I’ll show you repression! Bloody peasant!” Lisa says as she expertly puts John into an arm lock for a second before she releases him and rewards him with a kiss.
“Oh, gross! Run away, Sir John! Run away!” I say using my fake British accent.
“I think I can face just a little bit of peril!” John says with a muffled British accent as Nikki starts to giggle. That causes Lisa to start giggling, which caused Lindsay to start too. I am so not joining in on the giggle fest!
I decide that I should just get Underworld started. Oh man, does Selene kick some butt! I wish that I could do some of that and look as good as she does while doing it. Umm, rewind...delete, delete, delete. Okay, all better.
With skipping the opening titles and stopping right at the start of the ending credits, we get John and Lisa out the door at 2237 hours. Since Lisa’s house is only a few blocks away, that should be plenty of time for Lisa to get home.
“Nice ‘meeting’ you, Bree and I can’t wait until you get back from Virginia. You and I are going to have some serious fun in the dojo!” Lisa says, bouncing with excitement just before she hugs me good night.
Geez! It would’ve been nice to get all these hugs from her before I turned. Yeah...turned. As in, “turned to the dark side” or maybe even “turn undead” if I’m feeling particularly sour. Well, at least she said “dojo” instead of the “mall”.
Thankfully, John learned his lesson. He gives me our standard high-five and knuckle-boom hand shake and as he turns to join Lisa for her walk home, he casually looks back over his shoulder. “Later, dude. See ya when you get back.”
“Later, bro.” I say with a quick wave just before I shut and lock the door with a smile. I feel pretty good and I even pretend to be a little surprised when I turn and see my mom and dad standing quietly behind in the hallway. They look pretty happy too.
“So, how was your first night home?” My mom asks.
“It was great, Mom! Sorry about freaking out there in the beginning.” I say as I look down to the floor, feeling ashamed of myself.
“No problem, Brianna. Everyone understands what happened and why.” My mom says.
“What did you end up saying to everyone while I was, umm, helping Barry with the luggage?” I ask.
My mom glances at my dad for a second before looking back to me. “Oh, I just explained to them how inside you’re still Brian and that they should try to treat you the same. Also, for them not to try and push you into the girl stuff, but instead just let you be who you are and to be gentle with you if you ever do express an interest in learning more about girl stuff.”
“Oh.” I say.
“Yes, they know that it isn’t easy for you and that it won’t be easy for them either, but they are willing to try and that is all we can ask, isn’t it?” My mom asks with a gentle smile.
“Yeah, thanks Mom and Dad.” I say as I give them both a hug and they hug me. We just stand there in the hallway and enjoy each other’s presence for what feels like an eternity, but it was really just 56 seconds.
“Well, I guess I should get upstairs and help out with Nikki’s bed.” I say as I disentangle myself from the hug.
“Barry has it setup already and I believe that Nikki is up there talking with Lindsay in her room. Why don’t you go up and check on them?” My mom asks.
I’m not sure how I feel about invading Lindsay’s room. It’s normally an out-of-bounds zone. “Umm, sure.” I say as I head for the stairs. I so want to try going all Selene and seeing if I can just jump up the stairs, but I don’t want to make an idiot of myself. I do skip the first three steps. I know, that’s nothing to write home about, but it was pretty easy. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?
I knock on Lindsay’s door. “Is it okay if I come in?” I ask, hesitantly
“Come on in sis! It’s just Nikki and me doing some girl talk.” Lindsay says through the door. Sis huh? I hesitate for a second before I decide to push open her door.
I spot Nikki sitting next to Lindsay on her bed. “Umm, hey. I was just thinking about heading to bed.” I say, feeling nervous for some reason.
“Oh, good. Lindsay and I were just finishing up.” Nikki says as she stands.
I’m not really ready for Nikki to come into my room. “No rush, it can wait. I need to find something to wear to bed and get changed. You two keep talking.” I say in a rush to get it all out. I feel a bit embarrassed. I never thought about how I would change my clothes with Nikki in my room. I guess I could use the bathroom to change.
“Oh no, that’s fine. I’ll lend you hand. Night, Lindsay.” Nikki says as she makes her way past me and enters my room.
“Night, Nikki! See you in the morning and I hope that Bree doesn’t still snore.” Lindsay says with a laugh as she walks over to me standing transfixed in her doorway.
I don’t know what to do. Do I follow Nikki into my room now? What if she is already changing her clothes?
While I’m stuck in a loop, Lindsay gives me hug. “Night little big sister!” she says with a grin.
Crap! She did notice that she’s taller than me now. “Umm, night Lindsay and don’t think that just because you might be a little taller than me now that I will go soft on ya!”
She just giggles at me as she closes her door.
I don’t think that my warning has quite the effect I was looking for.
I decide to follow Nikki into my room and close my door. I spot a set of white silk pajama pants with a button-up top lying on my bed. There is even a pair of white bath slippers sitting on the throw rug next to my bed. I guess that my mom has already been in here and taken care of everything for me.
Nikki is rooting through her suitcase. I can’t stop myself from gasping with surprise when she pulls out a delicate looking light purple silk night gown.
“Umm, I’ll just grab my PJs and change in the bathroom so you can get ready in here.” I say, blushing with embarrassment from catching her with what looks like sexy lingerie to me.
Nikki pauses in thought for a second. “How about if I trade with you? I need to wash off my makeup.”
“Okay...” I timidly agree, but I can’t see any makeup on her face. Does she even need it?
“Great!” Nikki smiles at me as she digs out a small bag of toiletries to take with her to the bathroom. I gently close my door once she’s safely out of my room and lean up against it with a sigh of relief. I’m so glad that she didn’t say. “Oh, it’s okay. We’re both girls.”
While I stand on one of the strategically placed throw rugs, I quickly strip down to my bra and panties and slip into my new pajamas. I have never worn silk pajamas before. Never worn silk anything, but I must admit that the it does feel so nice against my skin. I decide to just sit on my bed and veg while I wait for Nikki to get done in the bathroom. I still need to brush my teeth and collect another urine sample. I’m starting to get good at it now though. The last time I had to go was during ‘Devil’. I managed to do it all by myself and not make a mess all over my hand. After this one, I will be all out of sample jars, so I hope that Dr. E will decide that he has enough of my pee on hand to test when we return to the lab tomorrow morning. Pee on hand...oh I kill myself sometimes.
I feel pretty relaxed until Nikki casually walks back into my room wearing her night gown and carrying her clothes. I gulp when I realize that her gown is held on the top with what look like strings, and it only comes down to mid-thigh. The only part that is not see-through is the top part that covers her boobs, sorry, her girls. Everything else is semi-transparent and I can see her panties underneath.
“Umm, Umm...” Is all that I can get out of my mouth right now.
Nikki just smiles at me like nothing is out of the ordinary for her. “All done, Bree! The bathroom is all yours.”
“...okay, thanks.” I quickly jump out of bed and forgetting to put on my slippers in my rush to avoid thinking about her. I quickly brush my teeth and when my hair gets in the way, I am forced to drink from a cup to rinse instead of leaning over and drinking directly from the faucet like I normally do. I quickly forget that little hair problem when I start to try and wash my face. Damn hair! What in the heck does Lindsay or my mom do? Oh yeah, they tie their hair back into a pony tail or use a hair clip to keep it up. Hmmm, I spot a hair clip, but it takes me two frustrating minutes just to get my hair to stay up. My hair is not that long. How do they make it look so easy?
The urine sample is positively easy in comparison.
I lightly tap on my own door a few seconds before I slowly open it a crack. Just in cast Nikki isn’t decent or something. I hope that she’s already under her covers. I knew it couldn’t be that easy. She is just casually sitting on the end of my bed and reading through one of my comic books. The sight of a scantily clad babe casually reading a comic book while sitting on my bed proves to me that life isn’t fair. I’d have given anything to witness the same thing last week, but now, I have no clue what to do.
Nikki looks up from her reading and smiles at the sight of me standing like a poleaxed idiot next to my door. “Bree, what are you so nervous about?” She asks, like she doesn’t know.
I nervously laugh. “Oh nothing, I guess. I’m just not used to having a girl in my room. Especially one as pretty as you and well, I’m...” I say before I just run out of steam. What more can I say?
Her smile lights up the room and instead of turning my legs to jelly, somehow puts me at ease. She sets the comic aside and pats the top of the bed next to her. “Come here and sit while I get a brush. Your hair is all tangled and if you go to bed with it looking like that, you will never get the tangles out.”
If having a girl like Nikki brush my hair is one of the benefits, no wait, can’t think like that. Must remain anti-girl. Must fight, but can’t help it. I feel myself start to relax in less than a minute as she brushes my hair while engaging me in casual conversation. It feels nice and if I was a cat, I’d be purring up a storm right now.
After a few minutes she stops and has me face her. “Are you still wearing your bra?”
“Umm, yeah. Why?” I ask feeling worried all of a sudden.
“You need to take it off when you sleep. Trust me, you do not want to accidentally fall asleep with it on or you will be hating life by the morning.” She explains with a grin.
“O-Okay,” I say as I try and figure out how I’m going to go about taking my bra off without flashing her in the process. I try to play it cool and just act casual about it as I stand and unbutton my top while turning away from her. I end up ruining that image by fumbling with the bra when I try to remove the thing. I swear, the hooks in the back are impossible to reach! This is just wrong on so many levels. I am not the one who is supposed to be struggling to remove my own bra. I am supposed to be struggling to remove someone else’s bra.
Nikki ends up giggling at me. “You’ll get the hang of it eventually, but for now, just slip your shoulders out of the straps, and then, spin the back to the front to unhook it. You can do the same to put it on.”
Doh! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so simple. “Thanks.” I say as I use her instructions to finally remove the device from my chest. It feels good when the girls pop free of their restraints. The only downside is that my nipples decide to spring to attention when the colder room air hits them. Thank god Nikki can’t see them! I quickly put my pajama shirt back on and button it up before I turn back to face her. The silk rubbing against my firm and sensitive nipples are not helping. I use every relaxation technique I can think of to help me pretend that nothing is wrong. I’m sure that Nikki has had the same problem, right?
“Better?” Nikki asks.
“Oh yeah. I guess I just got used to it, but now I feel much better, sort of.” I say. I can’t stop myself from blushing and feeling the need to hide my chest by crossing my arms. I feel like I’m trying to hide a tent in my pants, but now it’s on my chest where everyone can see.
Nikki giggles at me, but instead of making me feel worse, her giggle somehow becomes infectious and I find myself giggling at the absurdity of the situation. I plop myself down on my bed and fall back into my cloud. “What am I going to do?” I ask with a sigh.
She falls back into my cloud and turns her head to look at me. “Whatever feels right for you. You can try to fight it, but if you just try to do what feels right for you without worrying about what other people think, then it will all end up working out.”
“How did you get to be so wise, Nikki-wan?” I say with a smirk as I turn my head to look at her. Even without any makeup, she is just so damn beautiful laying there with her gorgeous red hair in semi-disarray around her face.
“Nikki-wan?!?! Why you!” She squeals as she grabs my pillow and hits me with it. That breaks me out of my un-pure thoughts.
“Hey! No fair! I’m unarmed!” I whine to her as I roll off the bed to avoid another blow. I spot her bed and quickly grab her pillow to use against her. “Ha! Your normal pillow is no match for my plus three Pillow of Jedi Slaying!” I say with a laugh as I move to engage her in battle. After a few minutes of vicious attack and counter attack, we both stop in mid-swing when someone knocks on my door.
“Girls, it’s time for bed. No more horsing around in there.” My mom says through the door with a bemused note in her voice.
We both collapse onto my bed with a fit of the giggles. Oh, that felt so good and wonders of all wonders; I don’t even notice her revealing sleep wear any more.
“Thanks, that felt good. Are all pillow fights that therapeutic?” I ask with a smile.
Nikki giggles. “Yep, pretty much, but some of my girlfriends can wield a mean pillow. We better get to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
“Yeah, not sure if I am really looking forward to it now, but oh well. The sooner I get it done, the sooner I can get back to normal.” I say, frowning at the thought of all the unknowns I will have to face.
Nikki rolls out of my bed and looks at me with a grin. “Night, little cuz.”
I’m shocked when she calls me that. I’m not ‘that’ little damn it. Wait, what is that ‘cuz’ thing?
“Cousin?” I ask.
She just points to her ears. “Well, we are kind of related now. Ya know?”
“Oh, yeah, but I’m not ‘that’ little!” I say with a pout.
“No, but you are still younger than me. So, nanny nanny boo boo!” She says, sticking her tongue out at me.
“Why you ‘bigger’ brat! Don’t make me hit you with your pillow again!” I mock threaten her before I ruin my fierce expression with another fit of giggles. And here I thought that Sara was the evil one.
Nikki retreats to her bed. At least, that is how I decide to interpret her walking over to her bed. I manage to get the last pillow attack when I throw her pillow at her instead of being nice and walking it over to her.
“Hey! No fair!” She fiercely whispers at me before we both break down into another fit of the giggles. My mom chooses that moment to enter my room with a stern glare.
“Okay girls, it’s time to turn off the lights and get to sleep now.” She says as she walks over to the side of my bed followed by my dad. I quickly get under the covers. The silk pajamas feel a little weird at first, but they are so soft and silky feeling that I just decide to enjoy the feeling.
It has been awhile since my dad has joined my mom in the good night ritual. Well, not long long, but he usually only pokes his head in the door and says, “Night sport!” before he heads off to bed while mom does the hugging and tucking in work.
As my dad watches, mom tucks me in and then leans over and gives me a kiss good night. “Night, Brianna. Try and get to sleep now. We have a long day tomorrow. Mr. Reilly called. We need to be at the labs by nine am and the flight leaves at one pm. So we will be very busy first thing in the morning with packing.”
That sounds like a busy day and I don’t think that I am looking forward to it. “Yes Mom.” I say with a resigned tone of voice.
Her eyes tear up just a little as I tell her that. She gently brushes aside my bangs and gives me another kiss. “Well, night sweetie. Love you.”
“I love you too Mom.” I say as my dad bends over and gives me kiss on my forehead.
“Night sport and I know that I don’t say it enough, but I love ya too.” He says with a fond expression.
Damn leaking eye syndrome! I can’t help it. “Thanks, I love you too Dad.” I say as I bring my sheet up to dab away the very small amount of tears that are trying to build up.
My mom then walks over to Nikki and looks at her fondly. She pauses for a second before she bends down and tucks Nikki into bed too. Then, she gives her a kiss on her forehead too. “Thanks Nikki. I’m glad that you came and are Brianna’s friend. She needs all the friends she can get right now.” She says, softly.
My dad looks over to Nikki. “Yes, thanks Nikki.”
“No problem Mr. and Mrs. Peters. I’m glad I could help and like I just told Bree, I mean Brianna; she’s kind of my cousin now.” Nikki says with a smile.
My mom looks back at me and smiles before looking back to Nikki, “Yes, I can kind of see that now. Thanks.” My mom says as she stands, and giving the room one final look as she appears to ignore the ‘Bree’ thing. My dad and her join hands as they walk out of the room and turn off the lights before the door softly closes.
My low-light vision automatically kicks in and I can see Nikki’s eyes softly glowing on the other side of my room. “Do you have low-light vision too?” I whisper.
“Yeah, it can make getting to sleep a pain sometimes, but it sort of goes away a few seconds after I close my eyes.” Nikki says.
I lean back and close my eyes. “Oh, okay. Thanks.”
I wake up exactly one hour, fifty-six minutes and twenty-three seconds later.
** Chapter 24 **
It’s only 0107 hours and I’m feeling all bright eyed and bushy tailed, which kind of makes me glad that I don’t really have a tail. I don’t understand why, but I feel like I just got a perfect eight hours of sleep. I try to go back to sleep. I really do. I should need more sleep, damn it, but I just can’t get back to sleep. I wonder if that brain stuff has reduced my need for sleep. That would suck, because without needing to sleep for eight or more hours per day, I will get bored and my mom might expect me to do more chores around the house or something. Now what am I going to do until everyone else wakes up?
I look over and just watch Nikki for a few minutes as she peacefully sleeps. Even with my colorless low-light vision, she looks beautiful. I feel something tugging at my heart and I can’t stop myself from smiling. It really does feel like we are related. Technically, I guess she can’t be my “cousin”, but if that is what she wants to call me, than who am I to complain?
I slide out of bed and slip into my new slippers before I sneak out of my room and down the stairs. I’m not used to wearing slippers, but my vision, coupled with my improved hearing and new body makes sneaking easy. Normally, my mom’s bionic hearing would catch me trying to sneak down the stairs. Not tonight though. It’s almost like I really am Whisper.
I am a little hungry, so I open the fridge and try to find something to eat. I see a plastic baggy full of left-over turkey. Intellectually, I know that the turkey would make a perfect sandwich, but I just can’t dredge up the energy to fight the feeling of general disinterest. I sigh when the left-over salad grabs my attention. That, plus some dinner rolls with butter to munch on with a tall glass of milk. Ahh, milk, it does the body good!
Okay, it’s not morning yet. Now what? I sneak into the den and grab the remote. I doubt that I would’ve had time to fix it before I left in the morning, but now, I have nothing but time to make it right before everyone else wakes up.
I add some smarts to the remote’s programming this time. I have it set a flag so it will remember what function the user last selected. That way, when they want to switch from watching a DVD to just listening to the Stereo, the remote will know that it has to turn off the DVD player and TV, but leave the Stereo on and change it to CD. I do the same kind of programming for the Cable/DVR button and when I test it out with every combination I can think of and it works.
I can’t help feeling good about that so I grab the DVR remote next. As I hold the remote in my hand, I just somehow know exactly how it works and how to make it do more than it should. I find all the secret control codes and remap the crappy thirty second skip button to use the undocumented “Commercial Skip” code. There is even a comment in the code that makes it sound like the programmer was pissed about having to cut that feature out of the product. I think about just reprogramming the DVR remote to work like the Universal remote. That would cut down the number of remotes needed just to watch TV, but I’m pretty sure that if I did that, only I would be able to figure out how to use the thing.
Oh, what the heck. I copy over all the programming, but tuck it behind a function layer so that if I enter 666 on the number pad, it will activate the universal remote functions and remap the buttons to work like that remote. I use 777 to turn it back. Maybe I will let my dad know about that little feature when I get back.
Well, that only took twenty minutes. Now what? I decide to check my email and get caught up with my favorite websites on my parent’s PC. I can easily waste an hour or more just surfing the web.
I sit down in front of the PC and the monitor snaps to life as soon as I move the mouse. It is asking me for the screen saver password, but it has been ages since I last needed to use this PC for anything. I try typing in the old password, but that doesn’t work. What am I going to do now? I could try rebooting it. Maybe it will bypass the screen saver password that way. I reach over to hit the power button and as soon as my hand touches the case, I feel that tingle again and the PC just opens itself to me. Not physically, but somehow, I just know how it works from the BIOS, to the drivers and including the operating system.
It feels amazing and I feel so energized! I can somehow ‘see’ everything like I am in some kind of virtual reality game. It kind of makes me feel like I am in the movie “TRON”, but the programs don’t look like people at all and there are no evil tanks running around zapping innocent programs. I tell the program controlling the screen-saver password that the correct password has been entered. I can’t help feel a little surprised when it works.
Wow! This is cool. I’m just zipping along and playing with all of the programs until I notice that some of the programs aren’t working like they should. They appear to be running other programs, bad programs. I think that they are viruses. Once I know what to look for, I spot a ton of virus infected programs clogging up the system and making it slow. Why in the heck hasn’t the anti-virus program seen these?
Hmmm. Okay, since my parent’s anti-virus program sucks so bad, I need to fix these infected programs. I lose track of time as I hunt down every last virus, trojan and malware app trying to hide on my parent’s PC. Once I am done with that, I decide to look at the anti-virus program and I find out why the anti-virus program sucks so badly. It has been infected and changed to ignore a specific named virus. Whoever did this is one sneaky bastard. I fix the anti-virus program too.
Once the cleanup is all done, I sit back to admire my handy-work. That is when I notice that I am not alone in the office! I panic and spin around in the chair. Oh, it’s Nikki. My breathing calms down, but she just stands there quietly. I kind of notice that she is only wearing her flimsy nightie, but her worried expression is making that observation less important to me.
That starts to make me worried. “Umm, Nikki? Is something wrong?”
“Maybe. What were you doing?” She asks, softly.
“Oh, I was just fixing my parent’s computer. It had a few viruses that were slowing it down.” I say, smiling with satisfaction.
Nikki frowns. “I didn’t see you using the keyboard and the screen looking like it was going crazy there. Exactly how were you fixing it?”
In addition to feeling worried that maybe I was doing something wrong, now I am starting to feel a little confused. “Ummm, I’m not sure. I needed to get past the screen saver password, so just touched the computer and I could somehow see inside of it. I just knew how it worked and how it should work, so I made it work how it is supposed to work. Kind of like the remote control earlier. Oh yeah, I fixed that now too…” I say, trying to explain it to her. I’m kind of rambling right now, so I’m not really sure myself.
Nikki holds up her hand to stop me. “Okay Brianna. Turn it off please. We need to talk.” She says in a serious tone.
Uh oh, she is using my full first name again instead of the ‘Bree’ nickname. I think that I’m in trouble. I spin back around and hit the Windows-L key combo to lock it. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck start to tingle and when I spin back around, I see Nikki doing something that feels like magic to me. I wonder what she is doing and my vision changes to reveal a tightly woven magical barrier springing to life around us.
It pulses with green and white strands that are woven together in a familiar looking geometric pattern. I suddenly realize that I have seen something like this before. It was in GEO and it was a privacy ward that I, I mean, Whisper needed to sneak through to spy on one of the evil commanders during the big battle last year. It was a real P.I.T.A. to get through that ward undetected.
Nikki nervously bites her lip as she looks at me. She looks so worried and serious. My observation of her ward doesn’t seem to go undetected.
“What? Is something wrong Nikki? Did I do something bad?” I ask. I am starting to feel like I should be feeling guilty about something.
Nikki sighs. “No, you didn’t do anything ‘bad’, but there are people out there who won’t like what you can do. Very. Bad. People.”
“What? All I did was sorta hack my parent’s computer and as crappy as the security on it was, anyone could have done that! Well, almost...” I say.
Nikki glares at me before softening her expression. “No Brianna, not anyone can do that. I’m worried that you might be able to completely own a computer and bypass all the security in the process.”
I watch with concern as she goes silent and taps her lip in thought. I don’t understand what she is so worried about. Anyone could do the same to a PC just by sticking a bootable CD in the drive and rebooting the computer. I start to try and explain that to her.
Nikki holds up her hand. “Hold on.” She says as she begins to cast another spell.
I try to see what she is doing with my magic vision again, but it doesn’t want to just instantly turn on. I’m still trying when I feel a sudden pressure just before the magic feeling fades. I give up completely when Nikki points to the desk behind me. Sitting on the desk is a laptop. She reaches over, opens it up and hits the power button.
“Now, that is a neat trick. Is that your laptop?” I ask.
“Yep, I didn’t feel like walking back upstairs. I want to test something. Can you make it go?” She asks.
“Are you sure?” I ask, hesitantly. Didn’t she just get done telling me that this is a bad thing?
Nikki nods and smiles at me. “I’m sure, go ahead.”
“Oookay.” I say as I touch her laptop’s keyboard. The feel the tingle again and I somehow just know stuff about her laptop. For a laptop, it is pretty darn powerful. It has a very fast quad core CPU, tons of RAM, a huge hard drive and a very good 3D gaming quality video card. I think that her laptop is actually faster than my prized gaming rig was.
As soon as the BIOS testing is complete, her laptop stops booting at a password screen. I’ve never seen this kind of password screen. This one is not only asking for a password, but it is also asking that something called a ‘Passkey Lock Device’ be inserted. Wow, her laptop looks like it has some pretty good security on it. I look back at her to ask her if it is really okay and she just nods her head yes.
I see how this ‘lock device’ thing is supposed to pass a key of some sort. The key will complete another bigger key inside the program that is running on the hard drive’s controller board. Oh, she has one of those hardware encrypted hard-drives. I’ve read about those. They do all the encryption and decryption at the hardware level instead of the operating system level to allow the data to be read almost as fast as if it wasn’t encrypted at all. I can’t just tell the hard drive that it has the key because the data itself needs the key to be unencrypted.
Hmmm, I look at the hard-drive’s controller program and find the sub-routine that generates and decodes the encryption key. The equation is pretty complicated, but as I think about it, everything seems to slow down as the math starts to unravel and make sense. I understand how the equation works when it decodes and generates the keys needed for the data encryption. I plug the key stored on the hard drive into the formula and after 0.249 seconds, a long string of characters and numbers show up. I plug that string into the part that needs the ‘lock device’ and I am rewarded a few seconds later when I hear the speakers sing the opening song as the operating system finishes the boot process.
I can’t help it; I smile with satisfaction as I look back at Nikki. “Okay, that was a little tricky, but now what?”
Seriously, this isn’t that hard. If I can do it, anyone should. Okay, maybe they would have some problems with that encrypted hard-drive thing, but I’m sure that there are programs on the web that will tell someone how to bypass that thing.
Nikki looks surprised. “You do realize that hard drive was encrypted with a 256-bit key, right?”
I shrug my shoulders like it wasn’t a big deal. “Yeah, but I just found the equation that created the key and figured it out, why?”
“Okay, I think that is enough. Can you shut it down for me again?” She asks.
I tell her laptop to shut down and as I turn back to face her again, I hear the good-bye song as her laptop turns itself off.
Nikki grabs my hands, pulls me up from the chair and looks me in the eyes. She looks so serious. “Okay, Brianna. I want you to promise me that you will never ever show or tell anyone what you just did with my laptop.”
I finally discovered that I have a cool super power and now I’m being told that I can use it? “But, it’s just a computer...” I say before she cuts me off with a glare.
“You can’t let anyone know what you can do with a computer! It’s important. If they knew what you could do, your life and your family could be in danger!” Nikki looks and sounds so serious.
For the first time, I start to get really scared. How could I put my family in danger? “I don’t understand...” I tell her with an almost whiny voice. It is right on the edge of whine and not whine.
She sighs and softens her expression as she lets go of my hands to gently push be back down into the chair. “Is what you just did to ‘help’ me get into my laptop a good or bad thing?”
“Well, good. I think. You didn’t really need my help, but why?” I ask, confused by where she is going with this.
“What if that wasn’t my laptop?”
“I’m not sure? Maybe bad, but why wouldn’t that be your laptop?”
“Okay. You’re in school and one of your friends brings you his laptop and tells you that he forgot his password, but he is desperate because he really needs you to break into it so he can get his homework. What do you do?”
“Well, it sounds like he needs my help, so I help him.”
“Okay, good. You break into it and he’s able to get back into his laptop. Two days later, everyone in the AP Physics class gets a perfect score on their midterm exam. They must have cheated, but no one can figure out how because the answers were only on the teacher’s password protected laptop, and there is only one person in the school who could’ve hacked into a teacher’s laptop.”
“Oh, but he said it was his laptop. How was I supposed to know?”
“You can’t, and that is just one example of the most basic and effective hacking techniques. It’s called ‘Social Engineering’”.
I’ve heard of that, but never really paid too much attention to what it really was. Nikki sounds like she knows a lot about computers and hacking. “How did you learn about all this hacking stuff?”
“Two ways. First, Whateley has a class on computer security. Secondly, and this is the main reason that I am so worried about you now. A few months ago, Sara was brought in by ARC to help a patient.” She says before I interrupt her.
“ARC?” I ask.
“Arkham Research Consortium. Anyway, Sara knows the story better than I do and I would call her, but it’s kinda late right now. Anyway, this person, this girl was being kept isolated in a secure vault a mile underground. She tried to escape and almost did a couple of times. She was really good with computers, like you might be. Until Sara was called in, everyone there thought she was nuttier than a fruitcake and I guess in a technical sense, she was crazy. She only had four different personalities and one of those was an AI.”
“An AI?” I ask. Wow, that sounds pretty bad. No wonder why this ARC place had her locked up.
“Yep. Needless to say, some people, namely the government and the CIA were freaked out by her. She could blow through any security system and read any file on any computer system that she wanted too. Anytime and anywhere. If the computer was hooked up to a network and accessible, then she could get to it.”
That sounds pretty darn cool to me. “Umm, but why would the CIA be freaked out. I would think that they would love to have someone like that working for them?”
Nikki nods her head and smiles. “Oh, yeah. They would, but only if that person couldn’t also find their secrets.”
The 50,000 watt halogen light bulb finally turns on inside my head. All the spy movies and how important secrets are in those movies race through my head. I’m glad I’m sitting down, ‘cause if not, I might have fallen on my ass. Suddenly, this cool power doesn’t seem so cool anymore. It’s actually kind of scary and that makes me start to wonder what else I could do with it. ATM’s are computers. Video game machines at the mall. Almost everything has a computer in it these days, even the TV remote.
Now, I’m really starting to get scared. “What do I do?” I ask. I’d like to say my tone of voice is calm and reasonable, but it is really more of a panicked whine. I think that it is a good thing that Nikki put up that privacy ward.
“The government is going to want you to get tested, but if they ask you to test your powers with a computer, pretend that you can’t do anything with it. Play dumb and whatever you do, do not mess with any computer device when you’re in Langley. Even if they tell you that it is some kind of emergency. That girl I was telling you about was at a CIA testing facility when she got in trouble. I know that you’re not going to the same place, but I’m still worried about you.” Nikki says. She actually looks a little pissed off there at the end, like she is remembering something about this hacker girl that makes her upset.
“What happened to her?” I ask with a whisper as I stare at the floor.
“The child that they feared and tortured for so long, is no more, my daughter.” Nikki says as her voice changes.
She sounds so different, ancient, deeply sad, and commanding. I feel a pressure of some kind. It feels magical and powerful. My eyes snap up to her face as I feel myself unconsciously sitting up straighter instead of slouching in the chair. I want to address her, but I don’t know what to say. Do I say “Her Majesty” or “Queen Aunghadhail” or what? I settle for honesty.
“I’m sorry, but how should I, umm, properly address you?” I ask, feeling like I am two inches tall for not knowing.
She surprises me by grabbing my hand and pulling me up from the chair with a gentle laugh. “Oh you are a treasure, Brianna. It has been so many years since I have witnessed the birth of a new daughter.”
“But...” I say, before she stops me with a glance. I was about to say that I wasn’t really a girl.
“Hush child, I know and I understand, but that does not make you any less in our eyes. We have high hopes for you and we will be most displeased if your potential is put into peril by the greed and fear of man.”
I start to feel a little more relaxed in her presence. Wait a minute! Now I’m confused again. “Daughter? I am supposed to call you ‘Mom’ or something?”
Her laughter fills the space with sound. I start to feel very embarrassed about the situation. “Oh child, I’m sorry. I am not laughing at you.” She says as she looks at me with an earnest expression. “I just can’t help but feel protective towards you and what you might represent for our race.”
“Umm, okay?” I say, but I still don’t know how to address her.
“I’d like it if you considered me to be more like an ‘aunt’.” She says.
“So, I should call you Aunt Aunghadhail?”
She nods her acceptance. “If you wish, yes, but only when we are in private or informal settings.”
I can’t stop a slight grin from showing up. “How about Auntie Aung?” I ask.
“Don’t make me spank you.” She says with a gentle smile.
She is smiling so maybe I will be able to get away with it once and awhile.
Aunt Aunghadhail continues. “But, back to your original protocol inquiry. In formal situations, ‘your Majesty’ would be correct. Our people have been stagnant for far too long and I can foresee a time where your ‘birth’ might help to shake up some things with our more hide-bound people. That is why we are so concerned about your potential power over these modern devices.”
“Okay Aunt Aunghadhail, I will do everything I can to not let anyone know about it.” I say. It still feels weird calling her that, but I guess it is better than feeling weirder for not knowing how to address her.
Aunt Aunghadhail smiles at me with genuine warmth. “Thank you, child, that is all that we can ask and we are certain that now that you are aware of the danger, you will be more likely to make the appropriate decisions when action is required.”
Oh yeah, her name is a real mouthful. Maybe I should work on her about using a shorter version? Aunt Aung? I wonder if she would go for that and what is it with the “we” stuff? Is she talking about her and Nikki? That must be it.
Aunt Aung seems to fade as the power that I felt is drawn inside of Nikki’s body. Her face relaxes into the Nikki that I know.
“Phew, she really likes ya Bree.” Nikki says as she stifles a yawn. “But I’m still tired. We should both go back to bed and get some sleep.”
“Umm, I would, but I’m not tired. At all.” I say.
“Really?” She asks, inquisitively tilting her head to the side.
“Yeah. I woke up after only 2 hours and I felt like I had a full night’s sleep. I’m wide awake.” I shrug trying to explain while feeling just as mystified as she looks.
“Oh, well.” Nikki says as she fights back a second yawn. “I’m going to go back to bed. You be good now.” She finishes by doing something that causes the ward to fade away and disappear.
It is only 0200 hours now...okay, 2am. Geez. It will be at least three hours before anyone starts to wake up. I could take a shower before everyone else, but I don’t want to wake my parents with the shower sounds.
“Umm, Nikki?” I ask.
“Yeah?” She asks sleepily as she turns back around at the doorway.
Due to the light coming in from the doorway, I notice her skimpy nightie thing as it reveals her body underneath. “Ummm, do you think that you could cast that privacy thing you did down here and put it in the bathroom? I wanna take a shower before the big rush, but don’t want to wake up my mom and dad with the noise.” I say.
“Oh, that’s a good idea. I kinda forgot about how fast the hot water goes away in a house. I’m used to the dorm’s unlimited supply.” Nikki says with a thoughtful expression. “How did you know that I cast a privacy ward?”
“Oh, well. I’m not sure, exactly, but I felt something and I could see the magic that surrounded the office. I wasn’t sure what it was until I recognized the pattern from a similar looking ward that I had to sneak past in GEO.” I say.
“Oh, now that is somehow disturbing, but not something I wanna think about right now.” She says with a frown before smiling at me. “No problem with the ward. I’ll cast it as soon as I get back upstairs.”
“Thanks!” I say, smiling back at her as I force myself to ignore her body by reminding myself that she is my cousin. Umm, that sort of works. Maybe I should take a cold shower, but how would that work for me now? Do girls work the same way? I never really had to take a cold shower as a guy either, so maybe that saying is just a myth. Hmmm, in that case, it might be nice to have a good and long hot shower without worrying about anyone else needing the hot water or waiting on me. Based on my sister, I’m sure that it will take me ten times longer just to wash up now.
I wait until Nikki is completely up the stairs before I decide to sneak back into my room. While I start rooting through my drawers for some clean panties, err, I mean underwear, Nikki walks out of the bathroom and back into my room.
“Done.” She whispers as she lies back down on her air mattress.
I look over to her and whisper. “Thanks.” As I turn back to rooting through my drawers for clothes, I feel her casting something again. I look back and see that she has made a small privacy bubble around herself. She smiles at me as she snuggles back under her covers and closes her eyes.
Even though I can only see colors grey-scale when I use my low-light vision, it is really helping with the stealth stuff. The noise from creaking floors is one thing, but not needing to turn the lights on to see stuff is the cat’s meow. I can probably just light a candle in the bathroom when I take my shower. That, plus the privacy ward should make it easier to not accidentally wake everyone up.
I end up finding my underwear right where I should have, except it is neatly folded up and put away in my old underwear drawer. How weird is that? The silk panties are in there too. I can’t resist. I have to look and I’m not being a perv if they are mine, right? Oh, they are soft and, umm, silky. OMG, they are so tiny. They have maybe half of the fabric of my cotton underwear. I wonder what they would feel like if I wore them? With that thought, I drop them back in the drawer like they are on fire.
There are a couple more bras in there, too. I wonder where my mom put my socks now. I used to have them in the same drawer as my underwear. I open up the next drawer down and find four times more socks than I ever had. Instead of just a dozen white tube socks, there are a large assortment of different color and types of socks. There are those ankle socks and some regular looking socks, but even those socks look somehow girlie. I don’t think that they are pink, but they just look more delicate and shorter than my old boy socks. There is also a pair of funny looking sweat pants and leggings of some kind neatly folded next to my jeans. I check the last dresser drawer and find it empty now. My old t-shirts were in here before dinner. Where did they go? Could they be in the closet? Why would you need to hang up t-shirts?
Sure enough, I check my closet and find a couple of my older and smaller t-shirts, plus the new girl shirts are hanging up all neatly in my closet now. There are also a couple of dresses hanging up. Those will be in there for a long time. I hope they kept the receipts. I also find five pairs of shoes in there too. I see one dark-colored and one light-colored pair of tennis shoes, a pair of dark colored boots with a small heel, a pair of sandals and a pair of dark colored pointy toe shoes with a small heel. What in the heck am I going to do with so many shoes? The tennis shoes I wore today should last me a year before I maybe grow out of them or wear them out. I can see why a spare pair of those would be good to have, but why do I need all the other shoes when tennis shoes go with everything that I would wear?
Something else hanging in the closet catches my eye. It’s a small dark-colored leather purse. I’m afraid to even touch it, but I am betting that I will need to use it tomorrow. The pockets in my jeans are pretty much just there for decoration. Stupid girl clothes designers!
I tip-toe back to my dresser and grab a clean pair of underwear. Yeah, I know that they are panties, but if I don’t call them that, I can ignore that fact. Besides, I wore briefs as a boy and never called them by that term. I called them underwear, so it’s not like I’m doing anything different now.
It’s now 0220 or 2:20 AM in normal people time. It will be at least another two and a half hours before anyone else starts to get up. I can take a nice and long hot shower without worrying about taking all the hot water. After that, I guess I can try reading all the books in my library that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. If that isn’t enough, I can try the books in my parent’s office too. Most of them are pretty dull, but who knows, maybe I’ll learn something new.
I tip-toe into the bathroom and gently close the door. The night light in there is providing more than enough light for me to see by, so I decide to not even bother with the candle. I take off my pajamas and underwear. Then, I stand back a little so that I can see more of myself in the mirror. The cold air hitting my nipples surprises and distracts me. I’m not used to having such a strong reaction from those parts of my anatomy. My, umm, old nipples reacted to the cold, but the sensation was completely different and barely even noticeable. Heck, just thinking of my male nipples as nipples seems wrong somehow.
With the low-light vision only showing me black and white, I find the sight of my naked-self extremely alluring. Judging my appearance, I decide that I’m not as curvy as Nikki. Instead, I think that I have more of a gymnast's body. I can’t help it, I just find myself so damn hot. I wonder if that makes me stuck up or if it is just normal for someone who just woke up in the body of a hot girl? I am guessing that isn’t a question that very many psychologists ever have to think about answering, but whatever it is, I hope this fascination wears off fast.
As I admire the girl, I mean myself, in the mirror, I feel my, ummm, girl parts start to feel a little warm down there and I feel an overall sense of warmth. Is that what girl arousal feels like? As a guy, I knew without a shadow of a doubt when I was aroused. There was no hiding the fact that my penis was at attention.
I reach up and absently touch my breast, not really expecting anything, but I’ve heard stories about how girls are more sensitive up there. I never had the chance to feel a girl’s breast before. I almost got to that stage with Mary Anderson in the seventh grade, but she decided I was too much of a dork and went out with Joe Miller.
The thought of touching my own breasts is confusing to say the least. On one hand, hehe, they look so perfect and desirable, everything I ever wanted to touch and feel on a girl. On the other hand, they are mine and not some tantalizing object of desire. Well, I still think they are desirable, but, geez, I’m so confused. I don’t know what to think. I involuntarily jump a little as I feel my fingers touching my breast. It feels so soft and different. I feel a tingle as my hand brushes against my erect nipple. Curious, I decide to try squeezing it.
I don’t know how else to describe it, but a warm, almost electric, surge tingles through my entire body. It felt good and it reminds me that the girl in the mirror is really me. She’s not just some wet-dream fantasy of mine. I better get in the shower before I embarrass myself and really need to try out that cold shower thing. Flush with confusion and embarrassment, I grab a fresh towel out of the bathroom closet; I spot my special soap and shampoo in there too. My mom was such a busy beaver tonight. I wonder why she un-packed all my stuff. We are just going to have to repack it in the morning.
I start the water and get it up to temp. As I reach to turn the shower on, I remember that I need a wash cloth now too. Grrrr. I’m really missing the simple boy life. Girl clothes are complicated. Girl movies are complicated and now even something simple as a shower is complicated too. If someone tells me that I need to shave my legs and armpits now too, I think I’ll scream. That makes me check my armpits and I am pleased to discover that I only have some very fine and practically microscopic hairs there. Same deal for my legs. Maybe I won’t have to worry about that female ritual?
Oh my, the hot spray on my skin feels so good and relaxing. The hot water causes my nipples to relax, which is kind of a relief. If cold air makes my nipples sensitive, then a cold shower probably wouldn’t help if I needed to calm down. That means that girls should have a hot shower, which almost sounds like a positive in the girl column. Without my mom standing in the bathroom and talking to me, I waste five minutes just standing under the water as it massages my back, neck and shoulders.
I start to feel guilty about wasting the hot water, so I decide that I should start washing myself. I begin with the easy stuff, my arms and that goes pretty fast, but the sight of my breasts and the sensation of the washcloth against my nipples start to get me tingling again.
Focus Bree, Focus!
I force my hands further south and the sight of my narrow waist added to my new rounded hips covered with soap bubbles cause me even more confusion. I feel so smooth and I unconsciously slow down as I wash my legs. The open sensation between my legs added to the visual stimulation caused by my wonderfully smooth and definitely all girl legs makes my insides start to feel warm and tingle, a lot. Is this what female arousal feels like? Because, if this is what it is going to feel like every time I take a shower, our hot water bill is going to go way up.
I save my va, umm, va-girl parts for last. I’m not sure how to tackle that mystery part. Okay, it’s not a total mystery. I did take sex education in school, so I know the parts. I just never really paid too much attention and they never covered hygiene with the boys there. It was much more clinical and well, embarrassing. All the guys who claimed to be experts just said, “It’s like this for you virgin wimps. Clit. That’s it. Find a girl’s clit and you can make any girl happy!” The so-called-experts said with smug authority.
Needless to say, I am pretty hesitant to touch myself down there, especially now that it’s feeling all warm and tingly. It didn’t feel that way when I took my first shower, but then again, my mom was sitting right there with me and I didn’t really have the time to think about those things.
Okay. Enough with being such a wimp, I have to wash, ummm, it. I get my wash cloth freshly soaped up and hesitantly begin to wash myself. Okay, without my boy parts, I look so different and alien down there. I’m so smooth and streamlined, but I’m also nervous that I’m going to do something wrong. I catch myself biting my lip as I gingerly clean around and just inside of my new opening. My hand enclosed wash cloth dips just inside.
“Ah!” I involuntarily inhale with surprise. That felt, umm, disturbingly good. I must have brushed up against something in there. Maybe it is that clit thing the guys told me about? That thought makes me freeze with panic and I force myself to stop before I do something wrong. I really need to talk to my mom about this the first chance I get. I have the feeling that is going to be one super embarrassing conversation.
Still, I am kind of curious. What would it feel like? I think that I still have a few, umm, masturbation sessions left on the “more than ninety-nine and it will fall off” counter. Oh crap! Maybe that is why I turned into a girl? How many times did I masturbate?
That many? I didn’t think that I was that bad, but I think that I can consider that counter as reset now that I’m a girl. It’s not like that old wife’s tale is true anyway. I never did grow hair on my palms like they said I would, so why would that ninety-nine times punishment be true either? I wonder what horrible afflictions the old-wives have about girls? Blindness? Oh, I guess “hair on your chest” instead of your palms could be a bad one to fear as a girl.
I want to explore myself, but I force myself to quickly rinse the soap off instead. I direct some water down there with my hand before I start my new beauty routine by scrubbing my face raw. Oh sorry, I guess the correct term is exfoliating. I can no longer just wash myself with a simple bar of soap. Instead, I must exfoliate. Additionally, I can no longer just wash my hair with whatever shampoo happens to be the least smelly. I must now use some all natural herbal flower smelly stuff followed by a generous application of some matching all natural herbal flower smelly conditioner goop.
Once that is done, I nudge the water temp up a bit and just stand under the water with my eyes closed and relax. After another five minutes, the water begins to cool down, so I decide that I should get out. Wow, I just took a thirty minute shower. Okay, thirty-one minutes and twenty-five point five six seconds, but does that extra minute and twenty five seconds really matter?
I gently pat my skin dry and follow that by patting my hair with my towel to get the worst of the moisture out of my hair. I should just get my hair cut back into a boy style. All this patting and squeegeeing and brushing and blow drying and hair goop is a royal P.I.T.A! Yeah, that is a lot of “ands”, but it is a lot of stuff just for some hair.
This is so damn frustrating! “Ahhhhh!” I softly scream at my new reflection in the mirror. I’m glad the privacy ward is up. I wasn’t that loud, but I’m sure that even my soft scream or more of a loud exclamation would have for sure awakened my mom. On the plus-side, now that I got that out, I do feel a little better now.
I take a deep breath and tentatively run my fingers through my hair to brush it back from my face. I know my hair is still mostly wet, but it feels so soft and silky. I play back my mom’s hair drying and styling instructions from yesterday while I pull out Lindsay’s hair dryer and get to work on trying to duplicate the feat. I am concentrating so hard on styling my hair that I completely lose sight of the fact that I forgot to put on my underwear when Lindsay sleepily walks into the bathroom a minute later. It’s only 0313 in the morning, what is she even doing up?
Lindsay’s eyes snap open with surprise as she steps through the privacy ward and the sound of the hairdryer hits her. “Eeek!” She jumps back with shock and reflexively hits the light switch.
That causes my vision to instantly switch back to normal. With the low-light vision, I kind of expected to be blinded, but I guess that flare compensation thing is working. “Lindsay! Close the door!” I hiss at her after turning off the dryer. I probably should be worried about the fact that she’s in there while I am still naked, but right now, I’m more worried about the light waking up Mom and Dad.
Startled, Lindsay responds to my command and closes the door without slamming it. It looks like Nikki’s privacy ward extends just a little bit outside the door, so maybe it will keep the sound of the door closing from escaping too.
She leans against the door and looks at me with wonder until I get her attention. “Hello?! You can stop staring at me now.” I snap at her with a fierce whisper. I’m not sure why I am whispering at all. If the sound of the hairdryer can’t escape, than my voice shouldn’t either, but I’m trying to be sneaky and you just don’t talk with a normal tone of voice when you are sneaking. It’s against the rules.
Lindsay surprises me by actually looking contrite. “I’m sorry Bree. I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t see you and the sound of the dryer scared me.”
That takes the wind out of my sails. It’s hard to be mad at someone when they are being so reasonable. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” I say with an apologetic smile. “Umm, this is so weird.”
Lindsay nods in agreement and grins at me. “Yeah it is. I can’t believe that we both just apologized to each other and that you are standing there completely naked and you’re not having a cow about it.”
Oh yeah, I’m naked. That realization causes me to blush from head to toe while Lindsay giggles at me. I sniff with mild annoyance, I decide to grab my underwear and put them on. This is only the second time in my entire life that I have put on my pa-, umm, underwear. Even though I am under surveillance by my sister, I can’t help but notice how different it feels to have my underwear just slide up my smooth legs and hug my new curves.
“Well, you are doing a good job with your hair.” Lindsay says with a gentle smile after she controls her giggles from watching me scramble to put on my underwear.
“Umm, thanks?” I say, feeling confused by her compliment.
“But, I really need to go pee right now. Do you mind if I go while you finish drying your hair?” Lindsay asks with a grimace as she performs the pee-pee dance.
“Oh, sure? I guess I don’t mind if you don’t mind, but it’s still weird somehow.” I say while I struggle to not giggle at the absurdity of the situation as she races past me and sits herself on the toilet.
“Yeah, I know. Isn’t it?” Lindsay asks, bemused as she looks at me still standing there looking confused.
I’m not sure what to do now that she’s distracting me with her presence. This new dynamic is confusing me. My sister is not supposed to go to the bathroom with me in the room with her and she is treating it like it is no big deal, when just a few days ago, it would’ve been the start of World War Three if I had dared to walk into the bathroom while she was using it.
Lindsay snaps me out of my confusion. “Umm, Bree? Why didn’t I hear the hair dryer until I walked into the bathroom?”
“Oh, I got Nikki to cast a privacy ward around the bathroom so that I could take a shower without waking everyone up.” I say, trying to explain, but I can see that she doesn’t understand something.
“Ummm, what is a privacy ward and why did you need to take a shower so early for?” Lindsay asks as she finishes up, flushes the toilet and motions for me to move so that she can reach the sink.
“Well, a privacy ward is how wizards keep people from hearing their secret meetings. I woke up at one AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided that I should take a shower before the morning rush.” I say while she washes her hands.
Once she is done, Lindsay decides to make herself comfortable in the bathroom by sitting on the closed toilet lid. “Oh, so no one can hear us outside of the bathroom right now?”
“Yep.” I say.
“Cool! How long does it last?” She asks, visibly excited.
“I’m not sure, but I kind of need to finish my hair before it completely dries, I think.” I say in an attempt to remind her that she’s in the bathroom with me.
“Okay.” Lindsay says, simply and without making any sign that she’s going to leave.
“Aren’t you going to go back to bed?” I ask feeling confused as to why it looks like she’s here to stay and wondering if I should put my pajamas on now too. I’m not sure if it matters anymore though.
“No. I think that I will just watch you and see if you need any help.” Lindsay says with a smile.
“Okay. Who are you and what have you done with my sister?” I ask with a serious expression. Really, Lindsay would have never done this before I accidentally turned myself into a girl.
I turn the dryer back on and as I glance back to Lindsay, I am a little shocked when I see her eyes well up with tears as she pulls her knees up and hugs them to her chest. I quickly turn the dryer off and wonder what I should do. Did my joke hurt her feelings somehow?
Lindsay’s eyes begin to well up with emotion. “Oh, Brian...The night that you were in that suit thing. I sat in your room with Mom and Dad, and all I could think about was what I would do without you. I remembered how I got you beat up when I wore that short skirt to school last year and how much I hated you for ratting me out to Mom.” She begins to rock slowly back and forth as she cries into her arms.
I want to go over and hug her and tell her that it’s okay, but I realize that my boobs, I mean, my girls are exposed and girls aren’t supposed to do that. At the same time, I kind of have an excuse so I’m not sure what to do. I decide to quickly toss on my pajama top, but don’t bother buttoning it and wrap her up in my arms. “I’m sorry that I scared you, but I’m sure that we will be both back to normal and hating each other in a week or two.”
“No we won’t.” Lindsay says with conviction as she tries to stifle her sniffles as she keeps her head down and talks into her arms.
“Oh yeah we will. Just think, I can wear your clothes now.” I say with a grin that gets her to look up at me. That causes her to break into a weak smile. I peel off some toilet paper for her eyes and hand it to her.
“Well then, I will just have to make sure all my clothes are spandex and lycra!” Lindsay says with the start of her normal mischievous grin as she dabs the tears from her eyes.
“See? Back to normal already!” I say with mock authority. I begin to feel a bit apprehensive her face takes on “the look” that precedes any truly evil plan of hers.
“Oh yeah, and don’t even think about stealing my boyfriends you green-eyed hussy!” Lindsay says with a finger wag and stern expression.
I think that my shocked and panicked expression snaps her completely out of her funk. I am speechless at the idea and now I know that she’s just as evil as Nikki and Sara. I am in so much trouble. Wait a minute. Where did she learn to use the word “hussy”?
Lindsay just giggles and gives me a quick hug. “You should get back to work on your hair, sis.”
“Yeah, sure…” I say in a daze before walk back over to the sink and get back to work on my hair with the dryer.
It only takes another 15 seconds before she gets up and stops me. “Here, you’re doing pretty well, but lemme help you. I can show you some more tricks.” She holds out her hands expectantly.
I’m still off balance from her boyfriend joke. It was a joke, right? I don’t know what to do, so I decide that it might be easier to just go with the flow as I hand her the hair weapons.
Lindsay happily smiles at me as she gets to work. She stops after a minute, grabs some hair gunk and begins to expertly apply it to my hair as she shapes and molds my hair with the dryer. After just another minute, she turns off the dryer and runs her fingers through my hair to make some final adjustments. “Wow, your hair is so soft and silky! I wish I had hair like yours.” She says, sounding a little jealous.
“Umm, thanks. Are we done now?” I ask.
Lindsay gives me a quick nod and a happy grin. “Yep! All done and you’re looking awesome if I do say so myself.”
“Oh great, because I’m starting to feel weird about you catching me naked.” I say as a nervous giggle escapes me.
“Oh. Just now? I kind of expected you to scream at me and scramble to put on all of your clothes as soon as I walked in on you. I know I would’ve.” Lindsay says with confused expression on her face. “So, why do you seem so comfortable in the nude?”
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable. I think it is more that when I see myself, it takes me a few seconds to remember that the girl I see is me. I mean, I feel like I’m just wearing a really good Halloween costume.” I say.
Lindsay takes a second to digest my answer. “Hmmm, I guess that kind of makes sense, but I’m actually a little jealous of you sis.”
“Jealous!? Why would you be jealous of me? You’re beautiful.” I say, shocked that she could be jealous of me. I really do think she is pretty and judging by the number of questions about her that I got last year when we were still in the same school, so do a lot of other boys.
“Are you sure no one can hear us in here?” Lindsay asks.
Uh oh, this is beginning to sound like it could turn into a serious conversation. I decide that now might be a good time to put on my pajama bottoms. “Well, did you hear the dryer before you walked in here and is Mom still asleep?” I ask as I quickly step into my pajama bottoms.
“Good point. Okay, well, for starters, you have some cool super powers.” She begins by counting points off using her fingers while I finish dressing by buttoning up my pajama top. “Two, you’re friends with someone cool like Nikki. Three, your eyes and hair are absolutely gorgeous and four, you’re just so pretty. I’d kill to have a figure like yours!”
That last point kind of makes me nervous. I can’t believe that Lindsay thinks that I have a better body than she does. Actually, I just find the idea that she would compare her body to mine a little unsettling. “Umm, I really don’t know what to think. I’m a little new to this girl stuff and I don’t know how to handle a compliment like that from anyone, let alone another girl, especially, when that girl is my sister.” I say as I feel myself starting to blush.
Lindsay giggles at me. “Oh, that’s easy. You just say thanks, deny it and tell me that you think I’m way better looking than you are.”
“Oh. Well, thanks, not true, you’re so much better looking than I am and that’s so not what I, ever in a million years, would have ever expected to tell anyone.” I say, finishing with a nervous laugh.
“Why?” Lindsay asks, tilting her head to the side, confused.
I don’t understand why she would be surprised or confused about that. “Well, because if I had ever said something like that to another guy; they would’ve thought that I was gay and kicked my ass.”
“What?!? No way. That’s crazy. You mean guys never compliment their friends on how they look?” Lindsay asks, incredulously.
“Ummm, not really, no. We, I mean, they...” I find myself blushing at the mix-up. “…might sometimes say that they like their cool t-shirt, or that they are ‘looking good’ just before a hot date, but another guy would never say that their friend’s eyes or any other part of their body are ‘gorgeous’ or ‘pretty’. It’s just not done!”
Lindsay shakes her head slow back forth looking both confused and amazed at the same time. “Well, that’s just weeiiaard.” Lindsay says while attempting to stop a yawn.
“Lindsay, It’s 3:30 in the morning.” I say, automatically translating the time for her. “You should get back to bed.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Lindsay pauses as another yawn escapes. “I am still pretty tired, but I’m glad that I had to go to the bathroom. It was nice to have some time to just chat with you and help you with your hair.” She smiles at me fondly and touches my hair.
I reach over and turn off the light before I open the door. My low-light vision snaps on and I look back and spot Lindsay trying to find her way without bumping into anything. I reach for her hand. “Lemme help you.” I say.
“You can see in the dark?” Lindsay whispers.
“Yep. It’s all black and white, but I can see everything perfectly.” I whisper even though we are still inside the privacy ward, but I guess it is a natural reaction when someone else is whispering.
“Oh cool. One more reason to be jealous of my older little sister.” She whispers with a smirk.
“Hey, watch it there. I might accidentally lead you off the end of the stairs.” I whisper as I start to guide her out of the bathroom. Lindsay just puts her other hand over her mouth to keep herself from laughing at me. I get her safely into her room and even tuck her back into her bed.
As I finish getting her tucked in, Lindsay looks up at me. “Bree?” She softly asks.
“Yeah?” I ask.
“Can you stay with me until I fall back asleep?” Lindsay asks with another yawn.
“Umm, sure.” I say, hesitantly. This clingy side of my sister is a little hard to get used to, but I guess I scared her a little. I must admit that it makes me feel good to have my pain in the butt sister back instead of the bratty know-it-all that she had turned into at the start of the 7th grade.
Lindsay smiles as she closes her eyes. “Thanks sis. Love ya.” She says through another yawn.
“I love ya too, Liddy.” I say as I am overcome by the moment. I brush her hair off her face, lean over and give her impulsive kiss on her forehead. Her contented smile slowly fades as she begins to fall back asleep. Three minutes and some change later, her breathing evens out and she begins to gently snore. Well, not really snore, but I will tell her that she snores later. That should be good for a laugh or two.
I give her covers one last tuck before I sneak out of her room and back into my room. Nikki is still asleep so I carefully tip-toe over to my book shelf before I remember that she put a privacy ward around herself. I guess that I don’t need to worry about accidentally waking her up. Unfortunately, I’ve already read almost all of the books here. I grab the few that I haven’t read, walk back and sit down on my bed. 10 minutes and 37 seconds later, I’ve read all three of the books. I would’ve read them faster, but I had to turn the pages. I sigh. Somehow, this new reading power just isn’t as enjoyable. It’s just data. The plot and characters are just there and don’t really mean anything to me.
Hmmm, I wonder?
I re-read some books while I was doing that fsck thing. That seemed to take the same amount of time to read a book as before and it felt relaxing. With that thought, I sit on my bed, lean my back against the headboard and pull my cloud up to cover my legs. After I finish making myself comfortable, I concentrate on finding my virtual living room again and my real bed and room fades to black. As soon as that happens, a room begins to materialize around me and once again, I find myself standing in the middle of my virtual living room.
Okay, but how will I know what is going on outside my virtual room and in the real world? I would hate to be stuck in here again. I imagine the TV displaying the outside world and a 3D picture of what my real eyes are viewing shows up on the screen. Well, since I don’t need those blue and red glasses, it’s really more like looking out of a window. Now, that is pretty cool, but how do I know that it’s really my real room that I am seeing?
I need to be able to look around or change my viewpoint to look at the door so I can see when my mom comes in to wake Nikki and me up in the morning. I walk over to the TV and concentrate on changing my view. Maybe I can move my head and look at something else from inside here. Kind of like a TV camera.
It works! I watch as my field of vision slowly changes as my real head looks around my real bed room from inside my virtual living room. That’s actually a little disturbing when I think about it. I see Nikki and I once again find myself sighing with contentment as I watch her sleeping.
“Sweet dreams cuz,” I whisper before I turn my real head a bit more until I can see both Nikki and the door to my room. Satisfied with my adjustments, I sit down on the couch and get myself comfortable as I open one of the new books and begin reading it.
I stop after a minute. Something is missing. Ah, yes. I need my new cloud blanket to snuggle under while I read my book. I summon my blanket and open my book again; I barely even register the fact that I felt the need to “snuggle”.
Should I be worried?
** Chapter 25 **
1.5 hours, one 357 page novel later and two more books to go, I almost feel like my old self. I’m sitting on the couch and reading a book. That part is very normal and comforting.
Initially, it was my hair that worked as a constant reminder of my not so normal life. My long bangs kept falling forward every time I tilted my head down to read. After about the tenth time that happened, I got tired of trying to keep my hair tucked back behind my pointy ears. So, I just summoned one of my old baseball caps to wear backward with my hair tucked into it.
No sissy hair band for me! I’m gangsta!
Oh wait, I would have to have my hat off to the side for that. Not happening. Anyway, now that my hair isn’t constantly playing havoc with my reading; it is all of the other odd sensations my alien body is reporting to me that is weirding me out.
Simple things like the sound of my own voice or the sensation of my skin smoothly sliding against any fabric still trip my weird meter. I’m not even going to start with the more obvious boy/girl differences, because the sensations coming from my chest and crotch are more than just “odd”. I think my shower helped and I will grant that I’m starting to get used my new voice, but I’m not there yet. However, I am a little curious as to why I cannot turn myself into well, myself, inside my virtual space. I can do anything else that I’ve tried to imagine, but why can’t I be a boy?
Oh well, I’m not going to solve that riddle right now and maybe this virtual me thing will help me get used to my new body. In here, I can probably dance, run, jump, and practice my katas or any number of simulations that might help me to become more comfortable in my new body. I can’t decide on what to do now. It’s oh-five hundred and my mom will probably be up any minute now. So, I don’t really want to get started on another book right now.
Hmmm, what I would look like in Selene’s vampire hunter outfit?
With that thought, I stand and walk over to the mirror. As I walk over, my outfit changes into a black leather, skin-tight outfit complete with a corset that looks exactly like Selene’s. I even have a pair of guns sticking out of low slung hip holsters. I can’t believe that I look so smoking hot. On top of that, I can’t believe that I just thought of myself as being “smoking hot”. I perform a few different poses and check myself out from the side and the back. My god, the combination of the corset with the skin tight black leather pants!
Wowser! Eat your heart out Selene!
If I decide to become a super hero, this is the outfit that I’m going to wear. I could probably get a distraction bonus if I’m fighting a dude and a jealousy/rage bonus if it’s another chick. Rut Roh! I better watch that. I might be starting to think of myself as a girl.
With that dose of reality, I get back into character by hissing at the mirror like a vampire as I adopt a gunfighter stance using my fingers as a fake gun. “Oh yeah, watch out evil vampires. I’m coming for you with my deadly finger gun!”
I laugh at myself. Finger gun? Why am I using my fingers when I have two guns in my hip holsters? I reach down, and like a bad ass cowboy, draw my irons them out like I’m in a quick-draw contest. I would try spinning them, but they feel real and I’d hate to drop one and look like a green horn, hehe.
Whoa there partna, what the heck?!?!
>Searching IFSFCS Weapons DB for match...
>Fire Modes: Semiautomatic, Full-Auto
>Modifications: Full-Auto Fire Mode, Compensator Fitted
>Maximum Effective Range: 50 m
>Weapon 1 Searching for IFSFCS Smart Link...
>Weapon 1 IFSFCS Smart Link Not Found
>Weapon 1 Creating Simulated IFSFCS Smart Link
>Weapon 1 IFSFCS Smart Link: Enabled
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 15 Rounds
>Weapon 2 Searching for IFSFCS Smart Link...
>Weapon 2 IFSFCS Smart Link Not Found
>Weapon 2 Creating Simulated IFSFCS Smart Link
>Weapon 2 IFSFCS Smart Link: Enabled
>Weapon 2 Ammunition Status: 15 Rounds
>Engage Tactical Firearms Simulation? Y/n
Hey, this is kind of cool, but it’s obvious to me that the military loves its acronyms and what in the heck does that IFSFCS thing stand for?
>Individual Future Soldier Fire-Control System
I get no further cryptic definitions to help me figure it out, but I assume that it means something with guns and not Smokey the Bear putting out forest fires. I decide to try “Yes” for the simulation question and as soon as I do that, a new list of options display.
>1) Target Practice
>2) Hostage Rescue
Okay, should I keep it simple or go all out with the “Custom” option? How about if I go middle of the road with the Hostage Rescue? Decisions, Decision, Decisions...
I think that I’ll use the K.I.S.S. principle for now. So, I select option number one.
My virtual living room dissolves and I find myself in a shooting range. I think it’s one anyway. I’ve never actually been in a shooting range, but I’ve seen plenty on TV and I did stay at a secret government lab last night. As I look around, this range looks a little different though. Instead of a single row of firing stations all facing in one direction, I’m in the middle of a room with only one firing station and no other doors or windows.
I decide that I probably need to be able to see into my real room in case my mom tries to wake me up. I look around and wonder where I should put the TV to monitor my real room. Hmmm, maybe if I put it on the wall of the firing station so that I can see it using my peripheral vision. A small LCD TV appears on the wall right where I imagined it and I can see the door of my room displayed on it. Sweet!
I walk into the yellow painted hazard area that contains a small table that I assume is for setting guns and spare bullets on. A large dark area for the range lights up and I see a black and white paper human silhouette target hanging 25 meters down the range. I glance to the TV and I am relieved to note that there is still no sign of my mom. That means that I can play.
I know that in the movies, dual guns are mostly or even completely fake. There is no way that someone can really shoot two guns at the same time with any degree of accuracy, but this isn’t real, so I might as well have some fun with it.
I bring up my right-hand gun and I see a small red dot appear on the target. “What the!?” Where did the laser dot come from? There isn’t a laser scope on this gun. Oh well, if it’s stupid but it works, than it isn’t stupid. I put the dot in the middle of the silhouette's head and pull the trigger.
Nothing. The trigger is stuck. Why won’t it fire?
>Weapon 1 fire mode: Safe
Ah crap. I forgot to take the gun off of ‘safe’. There is a small button on the hand grip and a lever on top. I wonder which one is the safety? I decide to set my left hand gun down on the table so that I can use my other hand to figure this thing out first.
>Weapon 2 IFSFCS Smart Link: Disabled
I push the button on the hand-grip first and the magazine falls out. I catch it before it hits the floor. Okay, that was the wrong button. I slide the magazine back into the gun with a click. Next, I slide the little lever on the top and I hear and feel it click once.
>Weapon 1 fire mode: Semi-Automatic
I notice that the lever might have more room to travel, so I push on it. Once again, I hear and feel it click.
>Weapon 1 fire mode: Automatic
I decide to put it back to Semi-Automatic. Maybe I can play with the Automatic in a little bit.
>Weapon 1 fire mode: Semi-Automatic
With my right hand holding the gun and my left hand helping to support it like I’ve seen on TV, I point my gun at the target and carefully center the red dot on the target’s face. I feel a little nervous. I have no idea what is going to happen when I pull the trigger. My arms are rock steady, so that is a relief. “No guts, no glory” they say. I pull the trigger.
The gun kicks in my hand, but I manage to hold it steady as an empty bullet thing is ejected out of the side of my gun with a small puff of smoke. Empty bullet thing? What in the heck do they call that?
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 14 Rounds
Oh, that was loud and not at all what I expected it to sound like. I expected it to be more of a “bang” sound instead of a crisp “crack” sound. Maybe real bullets sound different than the blanks they shoot on TV? I can even smell the burnt gun powder. This is a pretty damn realistic simulation. I look at my target and there is now a hole exactly where the red dot was at.
I know that it is childish, but I put the next red dot to where an eye might be.
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 13 Rounds
Once again, there is now a hole exactly where I put the red dot.
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 12 Rounds
Another hole. Now I have two eyes and a nose on my target. This is more than just fun, this is kick ass fun! I need to give my target a smiley face. As I make that decision, a series of six black X’s appear on the target to form a mouth. Oh, neat. Now I have a series of aiming points for my smiley face.
I take deep breath to center myself. I slowly exhale and I feel tension that I didn’t even know I had leave my body with my breath. Nothing else exists for me except for those six X’s on the target.
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 11 Rounds
The first shot surprises me. Not just the fact that I shot, but also the sound of the gun firing. Unlike the previous shots, this time the sound of the gun firing is long and drawn out. The first X disappears as a hole appears on the target in its place. I finally figure out why the sound is so different. I have somehow entered into a super-slow motion mode. The first shell casing appears to be floating lazily in mid-air as it’s ejected from the side of my gun. I watch the solid red dot jerk up and slightly to the left an inch before I calmly drop it back down to center it on the second X. It’s like I have all the time in the world.
>Weapon 1 Ammunition Status: 10 Rounds
Another hole appears on the target as a second cartridge is ejected out of the firing chamber with a puff of smoke. Just like the first cartridge, the second follows the same slow motion arcing path on its journey to the floor.
I finish the remaining four shots and as the final shot echoes and fades, the slow-motion effect ends for me as I hear the first cartridge hitting the floor with a “tiiiing” sound. After that, the remaining cartridges rapidly fall to the floor with a metallic ting-ting-ting sound that echoes in the room as they bounce off the concrete floor and each other.
I can’t help feeling immensely satisfied when I see the perfect happy face that I shot into my target. “Holy crap! This is so cool! It’s like I am Neo in the Matrix!” I sound like a giddy school girl, but I’m so jazzed that I don’t care. Yeah, I know that it’s cheesy to shoot a happy face, but it was fun and this is only a simulation so who cares? As I bask in the afterglow of the best gun sim that I’ve ever played, I notice movement on the TV. It’s my Mom.
My internal clock tells me that it’s 0532. That is a bit of a surprise. I shift myself back into the real world and blink my eyes a few times. “Yeah Mom?”
She looks at me with concern mixed in with a little confusion. “Are you okay? You looked like a statue just sitting there on your bed like that.”
I smile at her. “Oh, sorry. I was, umm, reading a book and playing a video game while I waited for everyone to get up.”
She looks even more confused now. “A book? A game? Where?”
“I’m sorry. I was inside my virtual room.” I can see that my explanation isn’t really helping. “You know, like where I was while that re-org of my brain was going on the other day?”
Her confusion clears up and she even smiles a bit. “Oh yeah. I forgot about that. How long have you been up?”
“Oh, since one am.”
Her eyes widen with concern and surprise. “Why have you been up for so long and why didn’t you just go back to sleep?”
“I dunno.” I say, shrugging my shoulders. “I woke up after only two hours and I felt like I had just slept for a full eight hours. I tried, but I couldn’t get back to sleep.” I can’t tell if my mom’s reassured by my explanation or not.
“Do you want to take a shower now while I go and get breakfast started?” She asks.
“I already took one. Do you want some help?” I’m starting to feel a little bad for my mom. I’m not normally this ahead of schedule at this un-godly hour in the morning.
Her expression drops back to confused, “What? You already took one? I never heard you.”
I smile at her. She just can’t get a break with all the surprises this morning. I try to go for a no-big-deal tone of voice. “Yeah. Nikki cast a privacy ward in the bathroom so I could take a shower and dry my hair without waking everyone up.”
“Ookaay.” She says, casting a glance toward Nikki. “But, I am surprised that we haven’t woke her up with all our talking or does she have one of those ward things around her too?”
I nod affirmatively and smile fondly at the peacefully sleeping Nikki. “Oh yeah, she did one around herself so I wouldn’t accidentally wake her up again.”
I think my “nothing to see here” tone of voice is helping her. She sighs. “Do you want to wake her up? See if she wants to take a shower.”
“Sure! She’ll probably like that.” I say, grinning. “Well, the shower part.”
She casts another quick glance toward Nikki. “Okay. I guess I could use some help getting things ready in the kitchen. Why don’t you put on some clothes and come on down when you’re ready?”
That reminds me about the clothes issue. I am a little worried about what to wear, but I force myself to smile and be happy for my mom anyway. On the other-hand, I am glad that I can do something to help and it will be much easier on my sanity if I’m not in the room while Nikki is getting ready. “Sure thing!” I say, enthusiastically.
My mom just shakes her head with bemusement and smiles at me as she closes my door.
I head over to wake up Nikki, but stop before I reach her. I wonder if I can see her ward. I will my magical vision to activate again. Unlike my other vision modes, this one doesn’t have the nifty status notification, but I am still delighted when her privacy ward springs to life around her.
As I study Nikki’s ward, it goes from a solid glowing orb and becomes something that looks like a large and complex net woven around her. I see line of magic that drops down from the top of the orb and connects to Nikki’s head. Based on that, I guess is that if I cross into the ward, she will be alerted. I wonder what would happen if I tried to sneak through it like Whisper?
I reach for one of the lines that make up the net like pattern and I can feel a slight tingle of magical energy. I press against that line with my hand, willing it to move like I would’ve done in order to get past a GEO ward as Whisper.
Oh crap. In my excitement, I lose my concentration, which causes my hand to pass through the line. Even messing up is pretty cool. I watch a pulse of magic shoot from where my hand passed through her ward. Almost too fast to follow, the pulse traces its way through the weave of her ward and shoots down the strand that is attached to her head.
Her eyes slowly open and she smiles at me. Her ward flickers and disappears. “Is it time to get up?”
My heart flutters at the sight of her snuggled under the covers. She looks so huggable, but I resist the hug urge and smile at her instead. “Morning, Nikki. My mom just headed downstairs to get some breakfast started. Do you wanna take a shower now?”
Nikki stretches and yawns before she absently props herself up and slides out from under the covers. “Oh, yeah. Thanks Bree, that would be great!”
Her glamour must be hitting me, because I can’t stop myself from blushing when I notice that her flimsy gown has ridden up on her hips and I can see almost every inch of her body. She’s so damn beautiful. Maybe it’s not her glamour. I’m pretty sure that I would’ve felt the exact same thing just a few days ago. Actually, I would have been completely tongue tied and tripping over myself like an idiot. My girl bits begin to tingle; I force myself to turn away before I further embarrass myself. “There are towels in the bathroom. I’ll get ready while you’re in the bathroom. Meet you downstairs?”
I hear Nikki as she slides out of her bed. “Sure! Sounds great. Just lemme grab some clothes.”
I can’t help myself. I turn around and struggle not to stare at her as she carefully looks through her suitcase for some fresh clothes. She is just so relaxed with herself. Her casual and relaxed attitude helps to calm the funny sensations inside of me and gives me hope that someday, I too will be that comfortable in my own body. Thankfully, it only takes her a few seconds of looking before she grabs a few things and heads out of my room with a cheerful smile.
After she leaves, I let out a huge breath of air. I didn’t even realize that I was holding in that much air, but with her gone, I feel myself relax. I double-check my door to make sure that it is closed and turn on the lights before I strip out of my pajamas. It’s still mostly dark outside and I want to be able to see in color when I put my clothes on. It would be embarrassing to walk downstairs wearing mismatched socks, shoes or even worse, a lightish red t-shirt because I thought it was some other color.
I open my underwear door to get a fresh bra and the brilliant colors of the silk panties draw my eyes. Okay, there is a downside to color vision. “Grrr!” I grab the first bra that I can find. With my hands full of bra, not that a bra should be that hard to hold, but I am kind of new at this, I decide to bump my drawer shut with my hips. Instead of a gentle bump, I end up slamming the drawer shut and rocking my dresser a bit. I didn’t expect to put that much English into the bump, but I guess that comes with having bigger hips now. For my troubles, I end up with a black bra, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ll be wearing a shirt over it.
Wonder of all wonders, I manage to put the bra on without too much trouble. I just do the clasp it in the front, spin and slip my arms through the straps. It pinches me a little bit until I adjust my girls with my hands. That feels...weird. This is easy, but there has got to be a better way to put on a bra. I follow that up by slipping on a pair of jeans and a pair of the flimsy girl socks. I don’t like that the socks only come up to mid-calf, but I guess I will just have to suffer until I can get to a store.
I open my closet and grab a plain, ¾ long sleeved white shirt. I pull it on over my head and check myself out in the mirror. The neck drops a lot more then my boy t-shirts. I can see the delicate shape of my collar bones. I am ashamed to admit it, but except for the neckline, the shirt does fit me better than the old boy t-shirt I wore last night.
Unfortunately, I can see the black bra through the thin fabric. Damn it. Why does the shirt fabric have to be so thin? Isn’t this a long sleeve shirt? Aren’t long sleeve shirts supposed to be warm and thus made out of thicker fabric? The fabric on this thing is thinner than my regular short sleeved t-shirts.
From my ogling days, I know that my girls aren’t “that” big. Maybe I can try going without a bra? That idea is shot down as soon as I remember the sight of Amanda Fredricks when she tried to go bra-less last year. I think that her, umm boobs were the same size as mine are now. I can call her boobs, boobs, because they aren’t my boobs. I mean “my girls”. Oh man, I think my head is going to explode over this boob issue. Back to the bra-less idea, Amanda’s accidental show-and-tell reminds me of the many secret glances and debates in the boy’s locker room that the sight of her “headlights” spawned every time the A/C kicked on. She seemed pretty embarrassed by all the extra attention that day too.
“Okay, I’ll change my bra...” I say, defeated by the girl clothes.
I really am starting to hate opening my underwear drawer. The bright colors of damn silk panties keep grabbing my attention, but I push that traitorous thought aside and swap my black bra for the white one. Once again, I pinch my girls when I put the bra on and once again, I feel like a perv as I adjust them with my fingers. They just feel so soft and well, nice.
Okay, I put my shirt on...again and check myself out in the mirror to make sure I’m not committing some huge fashion faux pas. Son of a... Now I can see the white one contrasting against my skin and the fabric. What in the hell is up with that? White and White, they match, right? Well, it’s not as bad as the black bra, but it is still visible. There is one more bra in the drawer. It’s a light brown colored one. Maybe it’s “tan” or “flesh tone”? I don’t know, but I am sure that women have some special name for this exact shade of brown. I wonder if that color will work better?
Once again, silk panties, pretty colors, “stay on target,” ignore, remove the white bra, put on the light brown bra and finally, pull my shirt back on for the third time now. I check the mirror and wonder of all wonders! We have a match.
I think that I won this round of dressing the girl, but I still feel more than a little frustrated by the experience, “Finally! It ONLY took 16 minutes!” I say, grumbling under my breath.
Thankfully, I can’t think of anything else that I need to do with my clothes. I exit my room and zip down the stairs. I can smell the coffee brewing as soon as I reach the bottom of the stairs. As I enter the kitchen, I spot my mom standing in front of the stove. “Hey Mom, whatcha cooking?”
She looks over her shoulder and smiles at me. “Oh, hi Brianna. I’m just starting to cook the bacon.”
“Oh, okay. Sounds good to me. What else are we having?”
She turns back to the frying pan in front of her as I hear the bacon start to sizzle. “Scrambled eggs, toast and pancakes.”
I can’t help myself. I smile at the thought of all that good standard home-cooked breakfast, until the smell of the cooking bacon hits my nose. It isn’t the yummy good “it’s bacon!” smell that I recall from just a few days ago. I feel the smile disappear from my face as my mom turns back around.
“Is something wrong, Brianna?”
I sigh and struggle to contain my disappointment. “No. It’s not important. I just don’t think that I’ll have any bacon this morning.”
My mom looks at me with sympathy as she walks over and gives me a hug. “I’m sorry honey. I know that it’s not easy for you, but things will get easier. Just gotta give it a little time.”
“Thanks Mom. I know, but it still su...stinks.”
She kisses my forehead. “None of that,now.” She says as she takes a step back and looks at me affectionately. “Nice top Brianna. Did you pick that out yourself or did Nikki help you?”
I am surprised at the sudden conversation shift. “I picked it out, but the bra gave me fits by showing through until I tried the light brown one.”
She gently corrects me. “Beige.”
Oh, so that’s the official girl color for this light brown and sorta tan color. I file that color name away for future use. “Is there anything that I can help you with?”
She studies me for another second before she turns back to her cooking. “Sure. Could you set the table?”
I know that she is probably wondering why I am so eager to help her. Usually, I’d still be dead to the world right now and the thought of helping my mom in the kitchen would be the last thing on my mind, but I find that the sight of my mom cooking in the kitchen feels so normal and comforting to me. I just want to spend as much time as possible doing normal things and feeling normal when so much of my life isn’t normal.
I’m able to ignore the bacon smell, but it does seem to act as a summoning agent for Barry and Barb. The two of them arrive at the kitchen just as I am putting the final couple of juice glasses on the table. I can’t stop myself from giggling as the two of them pretend to be zombies and moan, “coffeeeee!” as they grab some mugs and start pouring the life giving elixir into their mugs.
I watch and struggle to contain my amusement as they chat with my mom. She is a little disappointed to learn that the two of them will be flying back home this afternoon. “Thank you so much for coming Barb, and you too Barry. I know that we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but just knowing that you two were here made me feel so much better.”
Barb looks at my mom and smiles. “No problem Jen. It was nice to get out of the big city and take a break. Plus, Barry needed to get out of his nerd cave anyway!”
Barry tries to look hurt. “Hey! It’s not ‘The Nerd Cave’! It’s The Man Cave! Get it right!”
My mom and Barb look at each other and smile while I find myself struggling to not giggle. My mom turns to me with a grin still on her face. “Well, breakfast is almost ready. Why don’t you all sit at the table and I will bring out the food? Brianna? Can you take the pitcher of OJ out of the fridge and put it on the table, please?”
I turn around to grab the pitcher from the fridge. “Sure thing Mom.”
My mom is just bringing out some of the serving bowls and plates when Nikki joins us at the table. I don’t know how she does it, but she looks like she’s ready to do a fashion shoot and for some mysterious reason, think I feel jealous. It’s only a flash or twinge of jealousy, but I still felt it. Why? I’ve never ever in my entire life felt jealous of how a girl dressed or look. Lustful yes, jealous, no. Oh well, one more item to add to the con column on my girlhood chart. A minor victory for the boy’s team!
Nikki smiles at the sight of the plate of pancakes. “Morning, Mrs. Peters, Barb and Barry. The pancakes look and smell dee-lish!”
I take that as my cue for what to start with. I ignore the bacon, but I do add some of the scrambled eggs to my plate. They need some ketchup to give them that little something, but they are edible. The pancakes with some butter and maple syrup, those I love and I can almost forgive the bacon for turning traitor on me. I think that I should just ask Nikki what foods she loves, what foods she hates and start from there.
Breakfast goes pretty fast. My dad and a very sleepy Lindsay join us about half-way through. She manages to mumble, “Good morning…” to everyone and give me a shy smile as she sits down to eat. Lindsay is normally a little more chipper in the morning, but I guess that our early morning hair styling session in the bathroom interrupted her sleep.
I’m finishing up my second plate of pancakes when the doorbell rings. It’s only 0700. Who in the heck could it be?
As my dad answers the door, Nikki hastily chews a bite and washes it down with milk. “Oops, that’s probably my ride!”
I kind of forgot she had the leave early and that she won’t be hanging out with us longer. I wanted to spend more time with her. I drop my fork and follow behind her as she races up the stairs. I almost run into my dad when he takes a step back to allow Sir Wallace through the front door.
“I’ll be right back Sir Wallace. Just need to grab my suitcase!” Nikki yells from the top of the staircase.
“Right.” Sir Wallace checks his watch. “We have a few extra minutes in the schedule.”
I meet Nikki at the door to my room. She’s manhandling her suitcase, making me wonder how she managed to pack it so quickly. Then again, she didn’t actually unpack it. So, it probably wasn’t a big deal, but I’m still amazed at the size of the thing. Why did she pack so much for just a few days? I step forward and grab the handle from her. “Here, lemme get that for you and I hope this isn’t a sign of what I should expect in my future travels!”
I giggle as she gratefully lets me take her suitcase with a sigh of exasperation. “Hey! Couldn’t help it. Never know what can happen on a trip outside of Whateley, but thanks!”
Totting her monster suitcase, I make it down the stairs without breaking my neck and I even manage to make it look easy. I wave off Sir Wallace’s attempt to be chivalrous. “It’s heavier than it looks. I’ll take it to your car.”
He looks a tad disappointed, but shrugs it off quickly and holds the door open for me. “Okaay, right this way lass.”
Their ride is a black SUV with a driver. He jumps forward and takes the suitcase from me and just for giggles, I let him. I do take some pity on him and catch it before it hits the ground with a thud. “Sorry, it’s a little heavier than it looks.” I smirk and assist him loading it into the back of the SUV.
“Yeah, I guess.” He grins, looking a little confused by what he just saw with his eyes and felt with his wimpy, manly muscles.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t think like that. “Sorry, it’s heavy and I’m a bit stronger than I look.”
Nikki gives me a hug before she enters the SUV. “I’m going to miss you, but you’ll be at Whateley in no time and I’m looking forward to finding out how your testing went.”
“Yeah, me too…” I’m not excited about either option. Going to a private boarding school, thousands of miles from home and enduring more medical testing doesn’t sound like fun. Oh yeah, and as a girl. I bet her school makes girls wear those ridiculous skirts you see school girls wear in anime cartoons.
“Hey, it’s going to be fine, you’ll see!” Nikki smiles and somehow fills me with optimism.
“I guess, but umm, how are you getting back?”
Nikki glances over to Sir Wallace. “Yes, how are we getting back?”
“We’re catching a V-22 ‘training flight’ back to the labs, then using their facilities to port to the Utah Salt Flats where the automotive department has a test track with a semi-permanent portal back to Whateley.”
“Oh, I thought I was going to just port us directly to Whateley?” Nikki looks a little disappointed.
“Yes, well, Mrs. Carson decided and I agree with her, that wasting essence and porting directly thru the school’s wards would call attention to our little jaunt. Especially since everyone thinks you’re still at school.” He nods at her.
Nikki blinks, then nods. “Good point, but we could use the courier teleport pad outside the wards.”
“Yes, but then, the front gate Security would have to officially log your arrival and again, draw attention to the fact that you weren’t in school.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” Nikki sighs with mock disappointment. “I guess I’ll just have to suffer with a ride in an Osprey.” Her giggle at the end kind of gives her true feelings away and makes me feel a little jealous. Those new tilt-rotor planes are so cool.
She gives me a wave as her SUV pulls away and I trudge back into the house, feeling a little sad. Now, I kinda wish I was going with her. I’m so messed up.
Returning to my room, I found my mom working on my suitcase. I help her pack it by not helping and since I have so few clothes, my suitcase doesn’t take that long. Compared to Nikki’s monster, my suitcase is downright tiny, just the way I like it.
We are all packed and ready to walk out the door fifteen minutes early. I’m ready to walk out when my mom does the mock throat clear thing. “Uh, hmm, forgetting something?”
I glance around. I’m dressed. I have my shoes on. My suitcase is in hand. “Umm, no?”
“Purse?” Mom points with her eyes to the offending item.
I sullenly grab it. I guess I was trying to forget it. I don’t even know what’s inside it. Maybe my wallet, but why would I need a purse for something so easy to put in a back pocket? Oh yeah, girls don’t have real pockets. Grrr, I hope there’s more inside than just a simple wallet that would’ve easily fit in my back pocket. Dare I open Pandora’s box and find out what the big deal is? Umm, nope. It’s much too perilous and I might find a feminine hygiene product in there.
The good-byes are a little harder than I expected. My dad gives me a hug and a kiss on my forehead. “You be good, Sport, and listen to your mom.” He says, affection causing his voice to choke up a little at the end.
That causes my eyes to get a little moist, but I manage to control the tears this time. “I will, Dad.” I say, giving him a hug that causes him to fight for breath.
“Whoa, careful there slugger!” My dad smiles down at me as I hastily let him go.
Lindsay surprises me by rushing in and giving me a hug. “You better not get into any more trouble, Sis!” She says into my ear before she leans back with a mischievous grin. “I expect you back here in a few days so that we can go shopping!”
I find that idea a little scary. “Umm, so if I get into trouble, I won’t have to go shopping?” I ask, tilting my head to the side while pretending to be confused by the idea.
Lindsay just laughs and gives me another hug. “Love ya Bree! You be safe now! Don’t make me come after you!”
“Love you too Liddy. I’ll try…” I say, returning her hug.
“There is no try, only do.” Lindsay says, completely out of character.
I never expected her to say something corny like that to me. “Hey! That’s my line!”
We both end up laughing as we break apart. My spirits are pretty high as we get into the car for the long ride back to the labs. Thinking about the long drive back, makes me wonder why we couldn’t have hitched a ride with Nikki on the Osprey. That would’ve been so much more fun!
I can’t stop myself from feeling a little sad as I look back and wave goodbye to Lindsay and my dad standing in the driveway. My mom just looks back and smiles fondly at me before returning her eyes to the road as we pull out of our neighborhood for what feels like the last time for me.
After we arrive, I gladly hand Dr. Edmundson the plastic bag with my yucky urine samples. I sure hope that he doesn’t find anything in them. Going to the bathroom is bad enough as it is without having to pee into a cup every time too. Yeah, sitting down to pee and urine samples add two more in the “con” column. I would add the period thing to the chart, but I think that I will save that in case I need a tie breaker on the chart. I also think that the period thing should count as more than one “con”, but I will work that out when I get there.
Dr. Edmundson performs another quick physical examination and pronounces me perfectly healthy. My medical system agrees with his assessment. I get bored during all the examinations and ask it for a report. The report lists almost every organ in my body with a green lettered status of “OK”. I think that I could just touch a printer and print it off for Dr. Edmundson, but with Nikki’s warning about the computer stuff, I decide that showing off could cause me even more trouble.
In spite of all the other issues I have to deal with right now, I am glad that both Dr. Edmundson and my snazzy new on-board medical system agree that I am healthy. Damn it! Another girlhood pro item. Oh well, the con column is still pretty long. No danger of me liking this girl stuff anytime soon.