Roulette (Chapter 2)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
Portland Oregon, July 25, 2007
I awoke to the sound of loud talking, though I couldn't make out what the voices were saying, at least not at first. But as I listened, the voices slowly became clear and I even recognized one of them.
"Your patient is under my protection," Beth stated in a firm tone, the kind that she usually used when she demanded a criminal surrender. "And I will be very upset if the MCO makes an appearance."
"We're professionals," a man's gruff voice responded, sounding offended. "We don't make a habit of reporting every patient..."
They continued talking, but I only half listened in. My thoughts were sluggish at first, but I was quickly putting things together and remembering what had happened. I'd suddenly gotten sick and had gone into burnout, or at least I assumed that was what it was. It certainly fit with a lot of the symptoms that I'd heard about. And then when I opened my eyes and saw a white tiled ceiling above me, I knew I was in a hospital.
I didn't bother sitting up or trying to move, at least not right away. I'd heard some horror stories from Mom and Beth about what could happen with burnout, so I focused mostly on trying to see how I felt. In spite of what had happened, I didn't feel the least bit sick or hurt. I could feel my fingers and toes without issue, and from what I could tell, I still had the same number of them. But at the same time, I could tell that something was different, even if I couldn't tell what it was. I was nervous, and admittedly, even afraid. However, I'd learned a long time ago that freaking out never solved anything.
I coughed and finally started to sit up, only to notice Beth coming into the room. Or more accurately, it was Statuesque who stepped into the hospital room since she had her powers active and looked like a living statue. She was even wearing her professional costume, the skin-tight spandex which blended into her marble appearance so most people wouldn't even notice it was there.
"You're awake," she said with a faint smile, giving me a look that seemed to be equal parts worry and relief. "How are you feeling?"
"Not bad," I answered carefully.
Beth nodded at that, then gave a quick glance towards the door. She went over and shut the door, then locked it to make sure we wouldn't be interrupted. Only then did her body shimmer for a second and the marble appearance vanished. Even her costume returned to its normal color of white with dark blue trim.
"Where's Mom?" I asked, a little surprised that Beth had been the one waiting for me instead of her.
Beth gave a weak chuckle, then said, "She got frustrated at one of the doctors and then raced home, saying something about turning the hospital into a glacier."
"So she's building a new freeze ray," I mused, hoping she didn't make too big of a mess.
Beth nodded at that. "I sent Kara with her to keep her out of trouble."
"To keep which one out of trouble?" I joked, earning a chuckle in response. After half-a-minute of uncomfortable silence, I quietly asked, "How bad?"
Beth hesitated a moment, and I could almost see her trying to decide whether or not to lie to me. "It was pretty bad," she finally admitted. "If Liz hadn't lowered your body temperature almost immediately, you probably wouldn't even have made it to the hospital."
I frowned as I absorbed that, remembering the glimpse of Mom standing above me with the freeze ray. "Mom saved my life."
Beth merely nodded at that, looking a little grim. "After arriving at the hospital, your telekinesis flared up and made it difficult to treat you. Later, you seem to have manifested another ability, because you destroyed all the monitors they had connected to you." She gestured to some pieces of equipment that were pushed back to the far side of the room. It was only then that I noticed that I had an IV stuck into my arm, but no other equipment near me.
"Another ability," I repeated with a frown.
"The doctors and nurses were...concerned," Beth said carefully, which explained the conversation I'd overheard. She was afraid that I'd scared the doctors enough to call the MCO on me. "Your regeneration appears to have gone," she continued with a sigh. "The doctors took some blood samples, but you haven't been healing any faster than normal."
I didn't say anything as I considered this, trying hard not to think about all the worries and fears that were threatening to overwhelm me. Instead, I tool slow deep breaths, trying to remain calm so I could think things through.
I finally asked, "How long have I been here?"
"Only since yesterday," Beth assured me. "The doctor says you recovered unbelievably fast, that you sort of just...snapped out of it."
"The regeneration," I thought aloud.
However, Beth shook her head. "The regeneration seems to have vanished before this and hasn't come back. At least not according to the doctor." She paused at that, giving me a worried look that told me there was something else, something she hadn't told me yet.
"What is it?" I asked, trying not to show how worried that was making me.
"I have good news and bad news," Beth told me with a sympathetic look. That alone was enough to make me clench my fists tightly while trying to brace myself for the worst. "The bad news is that you've developed severe GSD. You'll probably never be able to go out in public again."
"WHAT?" I blurted out in shock. I'd known that I felt different...wrong...but I hadn't thought it was that bad. I gulped, taking several deep breaths before sarcastically asking, "And what the hell is the good news?"
"That I exaggerated about the GSD," Beth admitted with a pained expression. "I just wanted to put things in perspective."
I stared at Beth for a moment, feeling just a little better because of that, but not by much. After all, she hadn't said that she'd lied about my having GSD, only that she'd exaggerated. I felt a cold knot of dread, though I merely frowned and tried to think things through. However I'd changed, it couldn't have been that severe or I would have noticed it already.
I started to sit the rest of the way up, but Beth put a firm hand on my chest and said, "Don't get up." She looked to the IV that was still stuck in my arm. I stared at it for a moment, suddenly realizing that it could have been painful if I'd tried climbing out of bed with that thing still plugged in. And then I wondered if I had a catheter too... "Stay here. I'll get you a mirror."
I nodded at that, and as she changed back to Statuesque and left the room, I sat up and looked down at myself. I was wearing a hospital gown and was covered with sheets, but I still couldn't notice anything too obvious. From the way she was going to get a mirror, that suggested it was something about my face. Or maybe my hair.
"Maybe I'm bald," I said, reaching up to feel my head and being relieved when I felt hair. However, it took me several seconds before I realized that I was feeling too much hair. My hair had definitely grown longer.
When Beth came back a minute later, she was holding a hand mirror. She locked the door again, then turned off her PK field so she looked normal. This was obviously her way of trying to reassure and comfort me, by not coming across as quite so intimidating. However, being as tall as she was, even her normal appearance could be at least a little intimidating.
"Your mother should be the one here for this," Beth said apologetically.
I just nodded, having long since accepted the fact that my mom wouldn't always be present for important events. For my thirteenth birthday, she spent the entire day in her lab, building a new death ray instead of taking me to the beach like she'd promised. I'd spent more than a couple Christmas mornings by myself, with Mom being too distracted to even think about Christmas presents. I wasn't exactly happy about the obsessive way she got caught up in her work, but I'd gotten used to it a long time ago.
Beth handed me the mirror without further comment and I hesitated only a moment before looking into it. My first reaction was actually a sense of relief that I hadn't turned into a hideous monster like Beth had first suggested. Then again, that seems to have been her point with that whole stunt. I still looked like me, just a softer and prettier version. I looked like a girl with purple eyes and shoulder-length brown hair.
Without saying a word, I looked down at my body again, imagining what was hidden beneath the bed covers and hospital gown. Was it only my face that had changed, or my entire body? But even though I was curious, I certainly wasn't about to check myself out in front of Beth. Still, I couldn't resist poking at my chest, which felt a bit soft and puffy beneath the hospital gown.
"Austin," Beth started a little awkwardly.
"I think Amy might be more appropriate," I told her, remembering the name I'd used for a full week back when I'd been ten years old. It seemed that it was time to pull the old name out of storage and dust it off.
Beth stared at me in surprise. "You're taking this a little better than I expected."
"It's not like this is the first time I've been turned into a girl," I reminded her.
Then I even smiled, feeling relieved since this definitely wasn't anywhere near the worst that I'd imagined. And though I didn't say so aloud, I also knew that Mom's URD could change me back to normal once I got home. Until then, I could handle being a girl again.
Beth shook her head faintly and then chuckled. "I guess that for you, this isn't anything new."
"Not really," I agreed with a weak grin.
Beth and I talked for a little longer before she turned back to her Statuesque form and went to find the doctor. A short time after that, I had a quick checkup and was able to get the IV pulled out of my arm.
The nurse who removed the IV was obviously very nervous about being near me, something which was made clear by the fact that she refused to look me in the eyes. She didn't say a word to me either, just doing her job quickly and professionally, then slipping out of the room as soon as she could.
Once I was free from the IV, I slipped out of bed and hurried to the small bathroom. Of course, I had to take a pee, but just as importantly, I wanted to see just how much of a girl I really was.
It had been almost five years since the last time I'd been a girl, but I still remembered how to do my business. After I quickly verified that little Austin was gone, I sat down on the toilet and did my business, carefully wiping myself afterwards. It may have been a long time since I'd had these parts, but some things never changed.
"But this is different," I mused as I poked at my puffy chest, which clearly had a pair of small breasts. I was a bit smaller than Kara, for which I was thankful. If I'd been bigger than her, I never would have heard the end of it. "I didn't have these the last time."
I was a girl with boobs and a vaj. However, this wasn't actually the strangest thing that had ever happened to me and I didn't want to make a big deal about it. Honestly, I was a little more concerned with my powers and how they worked.
"Well, I did seem to be an exemplar," I mused as I washed my hands and returned to the hospital room. "I guess that could explain this..."
Since I'd always known that I might be a mutant, I'd done a lot of research on the different types of powers, and I'd asked Beth a lot of questions about hers. The exemplar power was one of the most common, and at first glance, it seemed a great power with no downsides. However, Beth had assured me that there were definitely downsides and risks, though they were often overshadowed by the possible benefits.
According to Beth, every exemplar has a BIT...a Body Image Template. Apparently, a BIT is some sort of blueprint that determines everything about an exemplar's looks and abilities. I had absolutely no idea where this blueprint was located, but from what Beth had said, even the experts weren't sure.
There were different theories about how an exemplar's BIT was formed, but most experts seemed to think that it was at least influenced by the subconscious. Frequently, exemplars would transform so they looked like their own ideal selves, though sometimes the results could be the opposite, or even appear completely random.
If that theory was correct, and Beth strongly believed it was, then that could definitely explain why I'd become a girl. I'd never wanted to be a girl, and even though I hadn't minded my brief time on the other side of the gender fence, it wasn't something I would have chosen to do again. However, I was well aware of the fact that every positive role model in my life had been female. Mom, Beth, Mrs. Lawrence, and even my fourth grade teacher Ms. Allen. And when you add the fact that my best friend was a girl as well, I could see my subconscious mind taking note of that.
"It's just a theory," I reminded myself, knowing that I still wasn't even sure if I was an exemplar. A lot of things fit, but with as screwy as my powers had been so far, I didn't want to jump the gun.
"Are you doing all right?" Beth asked me again, perhaps being afraid that actually doing my business as a girl would have been enough to shock me into freaking out.
"Just fine," I responded with a roll of my eye. "But I've got this overwhelming urge to go out shopping..."
Beth just stared at me for a moment before she started to laugh. Then she teased, "I just might have to take you up on that."
After this, Beth continued to stay with me, making sure she was in her powered-up form whenever anyone else could see her. The doctor and nurses were obviously uncomfortable at her presence, though whether it was because of her intimidating appearance or the fact that she was a super hero, I wasn't sure. What I did know was that she would have drawn a lot less attention if she'd been powered down and in civilian clothes, so I was sure she was doing this on purpose, probably to make a statement about how I was under her protection. Then again, that was pretty much what I'd overheard her telling the doctor.
Once Beth was sure that I really was all right, she told me, "I don't want to scare you, but you need to know how lucky you are." She had a dark look on her face as she added, "A lot of mutants who go through burnout..." Then she paused, shaking her head sadly.
"I know," I told her, remembering what she'd already told me. If Mom hadn't reached me with that freeze ray when she had, I might not have survived long enough to get treated in the hospital. I've heard stories about how bad burnouts could be, mostly from Mom and Beth.
"A lot of mutants don't survive it," Beth told me with a sad smile. "When I was your age, Liz and I had a good friend who pushed her powers too far and went into burnout. She didn't make it." She paused at that and shook her head sadly. "And I know someone else who survived it, but was left...damaged."
"Damaged?" I asked, not liking the way she'd said that.
Beth nodded again, then explained, "She came out of it with severe GSD and her powers were screwed up. She was never able to really get control of them again after that."
"You know," I told her with a raised eyebrow and a flat tone, "That's a great way to reassure me that everything is fine."
"I don't want to scare you," Beth told me with a sigh. "I just want you to understand the situation. The doctor said you just snapped out of your burnout, and that other than the obvious changes, you seem to be in good health. However, there is a chance your powers may have been damaged."
"Like they weren't already?" I asked, thinking about the way my powers kept coming and going.
That reminded me of the fact that I didn't know what powers I had at the moment. Beth said that my regeneration was gone, and since my senses seemed normal and I didn't feel that burst of extra vitality, I guessed all those exemplar related powers were gone. I looked across the room and tried to move a small piece of equipment without touching it, but nothing happened.
Since this wasn't a conversation that either of us was happy to have, we stopped talking about burnout and how it might have screwed with my powers, and instead we began talking about Whateley Academy, the school for mutants. Mom and Beth had both told me a bit about it before, but this time was different. Since I was now confirmed as being a mutant, this time it looked like I was actually going to go there myself. That encouraged her to go into more details about what I could expect while I listened even more closely.
"Dickinson was a great cottage," Beth told me with a grin. "You wouldn't believe how much fun your mother and I had there..."
I nodded at that, remembering that they'd mentioned Dickinson before, saying that it had been an all girls' dorm. I glanced down at myself, suddenly realizing that if I wasn't able to change back to normal, then I might very well end up there myself. However, I quickly assured myself that with Mom's URD, I'd be back to my normal gender in no time...though maybe I'd wait a week or so first. After all, this was a rare opportunity and it might be a shame to waste it.
It was early evening when Mom finally arrived, which caught me by surprise since I'd expected her to still be working on her new freeze ray. However, she came into my hospital room with a worried look and froze, staring at me with her eyes going wide. "Austin?"
"More or less," I responded just a little self-consciously. "But it looks like I'm Amy again."
"Amy," she said, as if testing the name. It had been a few years since she'd called me that. She nodded faintly, then gave me a weak smile and joked, "Welcome back."
"You thought he...she might be an exemplar," Beth pointed out as an explanation for my physical changes. She looked a little uncomfortable, which was a funny expression on someone who looked like a living statue.
"So you're Amy now," Kara said as she came into the room behind Mom. She gave me a curious look, as if trying to decide what to think about my being a girl. Maybe she was just trying to decide if I was prettier than her or not. She finally shrugged and said, "I remember the last time you were Amy. It was kind of fun having another girl around."
"It was interesting," I admitted with a grin of my own, which seemed to throw her just a little.
Kara gave me a curious look, then asked, "Aren't you freaking out? I mean, I know I'd totally freak out if I suddenly turned into a guy..."
"I did that the last time," I responded with a shrug. "I guess I got it out of my system then. This is a little weird, but no weirder than anything else."
"I'm glad to see you're handling this so well," Mom told me, though she still looked a little worried.
"It's not like freaking out would fix this," I pointed out wryly. I'd seen enough of Mom's accidents to know that panicking never solved anything.
"So," Kara asked me just a little awkwardly. "What powers do you have this time?"
I hesitated a moment before shrugging. "I'm not sure," I responded, gesturing to the machines that were sitting in the corner, the ones that I'd apparently ruined while they were hooked up to me. "But I think I might be a devisor again because I keep thinking that I could use those to make something cool..."
"Anything specific?" Mom asked with a gleam in her eyes.
I just shrugged at that, not sure how to explain what I was feeling. It was a lot like when I'd made the sphere in Mom's lab. All I'd done was look at some of the parts and I just KNEW I could make something with them, though I didn't really know what it was until I was about finished. I was getting the same kind of thing from the machines, a feeling that I could make something, though I didn't know what.
"Well, I've got to get going," Beth said, giving Mom a quick hug.
"Goodbye Statuesque," Kara teased her aunt, who was still in her powered-up state.
"Thanks," I told her, knowing that she probably had a lot of other things she could have been doing besides watching after me all day.
Once Beth was gone, Kara turned to me and looked me over once again before teasing, "I'm definitely going to have to take you out shopping."
"That'll be great," I exclaimed, deciding to mess with her in return. "I can't wait to try on some bikinis... Oh, and I'll need a makeover..."
Kara's eyes widened with worry as she realized I might actually take her up on her offer, which meant that she'd have to go too. Unlike the female stereotype, Kara wasn't exactly big on either shopping or makeup. She was a bit of a tomboy and prided herself on being a geek and avoiding that kind of thing. Of course, Kara was quite pretty, but she never really went out of her way to play it up.
Mom burst out laughing and said, "Actually, that might be fun." I glanced at her, suddenly getting just a little worried myself.
"Actually," I said carefully, gesturing down at myself. "When can I get out of here and go home?"
Mom hurried off to find a doctor to answer that question while I just sat there on the edge of my hospital bed, feeling self-conscious. Being a girl wasn't so bad, but being dressed in a hospital gown at the same time was a little much. In fact, I would have preferred to wear a dress rather than this thing, and if Mom had her way, I just might end up wearing one anyway. The last time I'd been Amy, she'd taken full advantage of the opportunity to have me dress like a girl and I didn't expect this time to be any different.
"Wow, you really are a girl," Kara exclaimed, staring at my chest. My breasts definitely weren't very large, maybe a large A cup size at most, but they were still a bit noticeable through the hospital gown.
"That's what the plumbing indicates," I responded wryly.
"This is so weird," Kara said, suddenly poking my soft and squishy chest.
"Hey, watch it," I snapped, only to have her giggle. "If you suddenly turned into a guy, how would you like it if I grabbed your crotch to prove it was real?"
Kara hesitated a moment, then grinned. "Actually, that might be kind of interesting."
I just shook my head and muttered, "Pervert." That just made her giggle again.
"You still look like you," Kara told me, looking a little more serious. "Mostly. I guess you look like your twin sister would."
"You're acting like you've never seen me as a girl before," I told her with a sigh.
Kara rolled her eyes at that. "Yeah, but that was years ago...and you didn't have these then." She went as if to poke my breasts again, making me quickly cup them in protection, much to her obvious amusement.
We continued talking for another ten minutes, mostly with Kara asking me what I thought about being a girl and then suggesting things we could do together. However, she also made a point of asking me about my powers again.
"Your mom and I brought clothes for you to wear home," Kara finally told me, gesturing to the bag that she'd left near the door.
"Let me guess," I responded thoughtfully. "You brought me a dress or a skirt."
"How'd you know?" Kara gasped, giving me a suspicious look. "Are you psychic again?"
I just snorted at that. "No. That's just what I would have done in your place."
It was then that Mom returned to the room, looking annoyed. "The doctor said you've made an unbelievable recovery," she said carefully, "but that you should stay overnight for observation, just in case."
I frowned at that, not happy about having to stay overnight when I felt perfectly fine. However, this was one of those 'better safe than sorry' things, so I wasn't about to argue about it. Not since it was only one night.
"I guess I'll have to wait till tomorrow to change back," I told Mom with a shrug.
"Oh yeah," Kara exclaimed in realization. "The URD. No wonder you weren't worried about being a girl..."
Mom stared at me for a moment with an odd look on her face, then she gave an obviously forced smile. "About that..."
I didn't like the look on my mom's face so gave her a suspicious look. "You didn't cannibalize the URD for parts, did you?"
"No," she responded just a little defensively. "It still works, just...maybe not for you."
Now that was a reaction I really didn't like. I frowned slightly, then gave Mom a flat look and asked, "What do you mean?"
Mom hesitated a moment, a clear indication that I wasn't going to like the answer. "I designed the URD to undo the effects of my devises...to return your body to a normal state. But this time, your changes aren't due to one of my devises. This was caused by your own powers...by your own body. I don't think it will work for you this time...especially not if you're an exemplar. Not if you have a BIT."
I just sat there for a minute, thinking about what she'd just told me and trying to make sense of it. I was about to argue that her URD had always changed me back to normal before when all of the pieces suddenly snapped into place and I understood what she meant.
"Your URD changes people back to normal," I said carefully, looking at Mom and taking a deep breath. "But for an exemplar, normal is whatever their BIT says it is." Mom just nodded at that.
"But what if he...she isn't an exemplar?" Kara asked, looking just a little worried. "I mean, I didn't think you knew for sure yet..."
"Then something else with my powers is probably causing this," I stated with a sigh. "And changing back to a guy probably won't make that go away either."
"I have no idea how you'd react to my URD," Mom told me with a sad smile. "But I really don't think it would change you back."
We were all silent for half a minute, then Kara quietly asked, "What if this is a side effect from the last time he was a girl?"
Mom just stared at me with a look of surprise and then of growing horror. "It might be," she admitted, her voice shaking slightly. "That might have influenced your BIT..."
"I hope not," I responded with a forced smile, thinking about all the other devises I'd been exposed to over the years. I shuddered at the thought of turning into a six inch toddler as well.
"Austin...," Mom started, looking more than a little teary-eyed. "Amy... I'm so sorry..."
I gave her a hug then gently told her, "It'll be fine. We don't know I turned into a girl because of that." It was a little strange to be comforting Mom and trying to make her feel better when I was the one who'd been turned into a girl.
A short time later, once Mom had relaxed a little, Kara gave me a weak smile and said, "I guess you're probably going to need that shopping trip after all. I mean, you're going to need some new clothes..."
"Yeah," I agreed with a sigh, thinking that at least I hadn't bought any back-to-school clothes yet. It really would have been annoying if I'd bought those new clothes and couldn't even use them. Then I smirked at Kara and warned her, "But you're coming with me."
We talked for a bit longer before the nurse came in and said that visiting hours were over and Mom and Kara had to leave. They said goodbye, with Mom promising to come pick me up again first thing in the morning. I was looking forward to that for a number of reasons, including the fact that hospital food stunk and I didn't want to eat any more than I had to.
Once they were gone and I was left alone with my thoughts, I got comfortable on my hospital bed and let out a sigh. I was a girl and it looked like I might end up being one for the rest of my life. It was still a bit to absorb, but I didn't bother crying about it or demanding 'why me?' It was what it was, and whether I could change back to being a guy or not, whining and throwing a hissy fit wouldn't make any difference.
I thought about the last time I was a girl and smiled faintly as I remembered that after I'd gotten over my initial shock and embarrassment, I'd actually had a lot of fun. Though I certainly hadn't wanted to become a girl again, I figured that even if I got stuck this way, at least it was something I could learn to live with.
Portland Oregon, July 26th, 2007
I woke up in the earliest hours of the morning to a strange feeling that something was wrong...that I was in danger. I immediately sat up in bed and looked around the dark and empty room, but I didn't see any signs of what had woken me up or why I felt like this. Maybe it had been a bad dream or maybe Beth's behavior had just made me a little paranoid. Whatever it was, that sense of foreboding remained.
As I climbed out of bed, I finally heard voices on the other side of the door, coming from the hospital hallway. They were quiet voices, but I was able to recognize one. It was a woman, one of the nurses who'd been checking on me yesterday but who wouldn't even look me in the eye.
"She's in here," the nurse said, her voice sounding nervous. "The mutant you were asking for... I made sure her mother didn't try to stay with her overnight."
"Tell him what you told me," a man's voice said.
"She came in with severe burnout," the nurse answered after several seconds. "While we were trying to treat her, she used her powers..." Her voice was shaky and she sounded a little afraid, which made me suddenly feel lousy since I was the one she seemed to be afraid of. "At first things started moving on their own... Then things suddenly changed and she started glowing and the monitors blew up..."
"Go on," the man encouraged her to continue.
"That hero Statuesque was here guarding her all day," the nurse continued, "so she must think the girl is important. And I overheard Statuesque and the mother talking about how her powers keep changing to completely different ones." There was another pause. "You told me to call you if I saw any odd mutant activity, so..."
"This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for," the man assured her, sounding pleased. "And here's the finder's fee I promised."
"Very interesting," a new voice said, a different man. "If her powers actually do keep changing, then she might be of use in our research."
"I thought that was the case when my contact told me about her," the first man said. "That's why I contacted you about this. Of course, I expect my own finder's fee as well."
"Of course," the second man responded.
"I have contacts in a number of hospitals," the first man said, sounding a little smug. "Sometimes these leads can be quite profitable, as you know from our previous arrangements."
"Agreed," the second man said. "Now to the matter of collecting the girl..."
At this point, I was looking around my hospital room, trying to find a way to escape. I glanced to the window and immediately discounted that. Not only was I too high off the ground to try getting out that way, but the window didn't open either. Then I glanced to the bathroom, thinking that I could lock myself in until help arrived.
Before I could move, the door opened and two men entered. It was hard to see them clearly since the room was dark and most of the light was coming from the window or the hallway, but I could make out enough. The first one was dressed in a suit and was leaning on a cane. I probably wouldn't have paid attention to him in most places, except for the fact that he was wearing some kind of hood over his head. However, the second man immediately caught my attention.
The second man looked to be about my mom's age, with dark hair that was just starting to gray. He was wearing a suit of dark blue and gray lightweight armor, which looked high tech enough that it might even be power armor. The armor included a monocle which covered one eye and it was covered with various small devises. However, what caught my attention the most was the fact that he was holding some kind of ray gun.
Both men seemed surprised to find me up and near the door rather than sleeping the bed, so I took advantage of that momentary distraction to try running past them. However, there wasn't much room between them and the door and they lunged for me. I yelled in surprise and the man with the cane was knocked back, though I hadn't actually touched him.
"Telekinesis," I whispered, realizing that my power had returned. Or at least, that particular power appeared to have returned.
"Don't move, girl," the armored man commanded, pointing the ray gun straight at me. I did as he said, having seen the effects of too many ray guns to risk finding out what this one did first-hand.
"You're a devisor," I said, my eyes locked on his weapon.
"I am a SCIENTIST," he snapped, obviously offended. "Not one of those pretenders. I use real science...not that pseudo-science nonsense..."
I stared at him, suddenly very afraid that I'd made him angry enough to shoot me. However, he didn't pull the trigger, though he did glare at me as though he was thinking about it.
"Gadgeteer?" I asked hesitantly, knowing that from his reaction, he could probably also be a baseline scientist. However, with how high tech his equipment looked, I was guessing he was a gadgeteer. Mom told me that there was a bit of rivalry between gadgeteers and devisors over the way their powers worked. According to her, there was a bit of jealousy over the fact that devisors could make things that gadgeteers could only dream of, while gadgeteers could actually take their work to the patent office.
"Correct," the man responded, a clear note of pride in his voice. "I am Archimedes." He said his name as though I should recognize it, and unfortunately I did.
Several months ago, Beth had warned Mom that someone called Archimedes had been seen in the area and told her to be careful. From what I'd overheard of the conversation, Archimedes was a high level gadgeteer who made a hobby of hunting down devisors, apparently to prove that gadgeteers were superior to devisors. And it seemed he also had some kind of ability to stabilize the laws of physics, which according to Beth, interfered with magic users and warpers...and made devises simply not work at all.
"I came here personally because you said a devisor might be guarding the child," Archimedes told the masked man, sounding almost disappointed.
"The girl's mother," the masked man answered. "My contact said that she overheard the girl's mother talking about her devises with Statuesque. And it seems the girl is supposed to be a devisor too."
Archimedes gave me a cold look at that, as though I'd done something to offend him. Then again, from what I'd heard from Beth and Mom talking, it seemed that just being a devisor was probably enough to do that. I gulped, staring at the ray gun that was still pointed at me and wondering what it did. Perhaps it said something about my life that when I had a gun pointed at me, my first thought was to wonder what kind of a gun it was.
"What do you want?" I asked, keeping my voice calm. Considering the fact that I had a weapon pointed right at me, I thought I did quite a good job.
Yesterday, Beth had spent the entire day here, both guarding me and making sure I was all right. She'd even been in her Statuesque identity, which I'd thought was probably going a bit too far. At the time, it had seemed a bit paranoid to me, but right then, I really wished she was still there.
"Shut up and get moving," the masked man said, using his cane to gesture for me to start walking down the hall.
I had no idea what these men wanted me for, and that scared me just as much as the fact that they had a weapon pointed at me. Lack of knowledge led to my imagination trying to supply the answers, and I had a very good imagination. At that moment, it was probably a little too good. However, in spite of the fact that I was terrified, I knew that it wouldn't do any good to panic. If anything, that would make things even worse.
"We'd better hurry in case any guards show up," the masked man told Archimedes.
"That won't be an issue," Archimedes responded. "I've cut all camera footage and am jamming any communications. At the same time, the police will be getting false alarms from several local banks."
I frowned, definitely not happy about the revelation that I was on my own. I'd been hoping that if I dragged my feet enough, security guards would show up and at least give me a chance to get away. Now it looked like I was on my own, and I didn't have a lot of resources. As it was, the only reason I even had shorts and a t-shirt instead of that flimsy hospital gown was because Mom and Kara had brought them. But then I remembered that I did have one resource, though it was one I still wasn't even very sure of. My power.
My telekinetic abilities seemed to be back, so I braced myself and tried using them on the gun that Archimedes was pointing at me. The gun suddenly went flying from his hand, though my control wasn't quite good enough to bring it to me. Because of that, I let the gun clatter to the ground while I tore off running down the hallway as fast as I could.
"HELP," I yelled loudly, hoping a security guard, doctor, or even a little old lady with an oversized handbag would hear me and come to help.
It shocked me that an armed guy in what looked like power armor was able to walk through the hospital unchallenged, not to mention the other guy who was wearing a mask. Archimedes said he'd taken care of the security and communications, so I absently wondered if he'd caused this as well. However, I was too distracted with running for my life to worry about it too much at the moment.
I hadn't gone far when something hit me from behind, sending me flying face first onto the floor. My whole body hurt, but I was desperate to get away. I scrambled to get back to my feet, but before I could do so, the masked man caught up with me.
"You're not getting away," the masked man snarled, grabbing my wrist in a painfully tight grip and then slapping me across the face.
Suddenly, I heard, "I'm not losing this paycheck," though the words hadn't been spoken aloud. I heard those words directly in my head, which stunned me enough that I stopped fighting long enough for Archimedes to catch up.
"Let me go," I demanded, kicking the masked man's leg, the one I'd noticed him limping on and favoring with the cane. He let out a yelp of pain, and while he was distracted, I focused on his cane and reached out with my power. The cane suddenly flew out of his hand and smacked into Archimedes, who merely looked annoyed.
"Enough," Archimedes exclaimed, holding out another ray gun and pulling the trigger.
My entire body burst into pain and I collapsed like a rag doll. My muscles kept twitching and jerking, though I had almost no control of them. It suddenly reminded me of the time Kara had tested her new taser out on me, and I certainly hadn't enjoyed that experience either.
"This one had better be worth the time, money, and effort I'm investing," Archimedes warned the masked man.
"They said her powers kept changing," the masked man responded with a shrug. "I don't know if she'll suit your purposes, but that is the kind of thing you said you were looking for."
"Agreed," Archimedes stated.
I glared up at the two of them, trying to gather my concentration enough to use my power again. However, before I could do so, Archimedes pointed his gun at me again and everything suddenly went black.
July 26th, 2007
I slowly paced back and forth across the small room I was locked in, counting the white floor tiles in order to distract myself from how scared and frustrated I was. I'd woken up here about two hours ago, though I had no idea how long it had been since I'd actually been kidnapped from the hospital. From the fact that my stomach was grumbling, but without being too instant, I guessed it hadn't been more than a day.
My prison didn't really look much like I would have expected of such a thing, though admittedly, my experience with prison cells was pretty limited. Between the white tiled floors, off yellow walls, and the hospital bed in the corner, it reminded me quite a bit of my hospital room. Of course, it was about half the size, had no windows at all, and the small private bathroom was missing a door...which made it a little less than private.
When I'd woken up, still wearing the shorts and t-shirt I'd gone to bed in, I'd been extremely relieved that they'd left my clothes on. However, my imagination was playing overtime with what those two guys could have done to me while I was asleep. At the moment, I was very aware of the fact that I was now a girl, and I had no idea how long I'd been completely helpless and at their mercy.
I paused from my pacing and reached up to touch the metal collar that was firmly locked around my neck. It had been there when I woke up, and though I'd fiddled with it a little, it had been firmly locked in place and wouldn't come off. I wasn't sure what its purpose was, only that it wasn't good for me.
For most of my life, I've experienced things that most of my classmates could only dream of. I got to shoot ray guns, go on a test flight with a jet pack, and I frequently ate dinner with a super hero. I've been shrunk, youthened, girlified, and have had more close calls with doomsday weapons than most adult super heroes. But in spite of everything that I've seen and done, getting kidnapped by strange men for an unknown purpose was an entirely new experience, and though I was doing my best to remain calm, I was terrified and on the verge of freaking out.
"Stay calm," I muttered under my breath, repeating it over and over like a mantra.
I tried to comfort myself by saying it was only a matter of time before Mom or Beth managed to rescue me, but admittedly, I couldn't imagine how they'd actually find where I was when I didn't even know that myself. Realistically, I couldn't expect them to come anytime soon. At the moment, I'd have to rely on myself, which wasn't exactly good news. Sure, I had powers, they were extremely unreliable, coming and going without much sense.
After waking up, I'd tried to see what powers I had, quickly verifying that my telekinesis was gone again. My senses were normal and I didn't feel the sense of vitality that came with my strength, so I was sure that my regeneration abilities had flown the coop too. If I did have any powers at the moment, I had absolutely no idea what they were, so all I could do was watch and wait, hoping that I'd find an opportunity to escape or at least call for help.
For the first time since I'd awoken in this room, the door opened and a man stepped in. He wasn't one of the men who'd grabbed me at the hospital, or at least, I knew he wasn't Archimedes and from his build, I was pretty sure he hadn't been the masked man either. This man looked to be in his late fifties or early sixties, with thinning white hair, a large nose, and a very skinny build. He was dressed in rumpled clothes which were covered with a white labcoat.
The man in the labcoat didn't say anything, so I glanced to the petite woman who was standing behind him. I probably wouldn't have noticed the pretty blonde if it hadn't been for the red spandex costume she was wearing...or the fact that she had the same body language as Beth. She didn't look like much, but she practically radiated an aura of confidence which convinced me she was more than she appeared. From the way she was standing at the door and watching me, I had a feeling that she was the guard.
"Who are you?" I finally demanded, trying to keep the fear out of my voice but not succeeding quite as well as I would have liked. "Why am I here?"
The man smiled faintly, as though he'd won some kind of point by making me speak first. "I am Doctor Smith," he said.
"Is your first name John?" I asked with a snort, guessing that he probably wasn't going to give his real name to someone he'd helped kidnap.
"If you want it to be," he responded with a chuckle, confirming my suspicion. "But my name isn't what's important right now. It's why my associates brought you here."
"Because you have a thing for underage girls?" I joked weakly, though I seriously doubted that was the case, or at least I hoped it wasn't.
Instead of looking offended like I might have expected, Dr. Smith gave me an indulgent smile. "I'm afraid that you're a little young for my tastes," Dr. Smith responded almost pleasantly. "The reason we've requested your presence is that we need your assistance with our work."
"Requested?" I asked wryly. "That's funny. I don't remember anyone asking."
"I am a scientist," Dr. Smith continued as though I hadn't interrupted him. "I have spent much of my life studying mutant powers, trying to determine how they are formed and what exactly dictates the nature of the power. As of late, I have turned my attention to those with variable powers...primarily power mimics...as the key to finding these answers."
"So, you want to study me," I said with a cold knot in my stomach. Archimedes and the masked man had said something about being interested in me because of the way my powers kept changing. "Archimedes and that other guy work for you." I stared at Dr. Smith, finding it strange that he was the big bad guy when he looked more like a friendly grandpa.
"Oh no," Dr. Smith answered me in a pleasant tone. "Archimedes is my partner. He's quite the brilliant fellow. He provides the specialized testing equipment that we require while I provide the medical experience."
I gulped, then cautiously asked, "And is this the part where you say you're going to dissect me?"
I looked from Dr. Smith to the woman at the door, trying to gauge whether or not I could run past her. However, she was watching me with a cold gaze that would make it very hard to catch her by surprise. Somehow, I didn't think that sneaking past her was going to be a good option either.
"Certainly not," Dr. Smith responded with a chuckle. "That would be quite a waste. Instead, we'll connect you to a set of sensor devises and then test your powers. It should be relatively painless for you."
"Relatively?" I repeated, not feeling much better about this.
"Oh, it won't be that bad," Dr. Smith assured me, thought that didn't exactly make me a convert to his cause. "But rest assured, it will be in your best interest to cooperate. If you do, you'll be treated well, and when I'm finished, you'll be released with the knowledge that you assisted in a great breakthrough."
I stared at Dr. Smith, knowing that I couldn't trust him. He might come across as a friendly old man, but I wasn't about to forget the fact that he was behind my kidnapping. I suspected that even if I did cooperate, I still might not walk out of here.
"If you don't cooperate," the blonde woman said, answering the question before I could even ask it, "I'll beat the crap out of you and drag you through the tests anyway..."
I gulped at that, realizing that they were playing good cop/bad cop, or perhaps more accurately, good bad guy/bad bad guy. The woman was small and didn't look very threatening, but I had no doubt that she could follow through on her threat.
"There's no need for such threats," Dr. Smith said, giving me a smile and adding, "Is there?"
"No," I answered, not sure what else I could say.
Dr. Smith nodded in satisfaction at that. "Good. Besides, we have no need for such violent threats as long as you're wearing that collar..." I instinctively reached for it while he continued, "It contains a tracking device as well as a small explosive device that can be triggered by remote. I'm certain it won't be necessary."
With that, Dr. Smith gave me another friendly smile, which was really at odds with what he'd just said. Then he turned and left the room, leaving me with the woman. She looked me over, obviously not impressed. In fact, I had a feeling that she was thinking about all the ways she could hurt me.
"Here," the woman said, tossing me a bundle of cloth. "You'll have this on in fifteen minutes if you want to eat. If you don't, well..." She paused to give me a cold smile before turning and leaving, closing the door behind her.
I waited several seconds, then went to check the door. It was locked, just like I figured it would be. However, I had to try since I would have felt like an idiot if it turned out to be unlocked and I hadn't taken advantage of it.
After muttering a few profanities under my breath, I turned my attention to the bundle of red cloth that that the woman had given me. It was a piece of clothing, something of a cross between a one piece spandex outfit and a jumpsuit. There were odd metal plates about the size of a quarter all over it, inside and out and I could feel wires embedded in the fabric.
I've been around high tech equipment for my entire life, so it only took me a few seconds to realize that this had to be some kind of sensor suit. Dr. Smith said that he wanted to hook me up to some sensors, and it appeared that this was how he was going to do it.
For several seconds, I considered playing stubborn and refusing to put this on, but then decided against it. While it might sooth my pride for a few minutes, I couldn't see any advantage in antagonizing my kidnappers just yet. In fact, it would probably make things even worse for me.
"I guess I'll have to play along," I said with a sigh, really wishing I had one of Mom's disintegrator guns. But as satisfying as the idea of shooting my way out of here was, it wasn't very realistic.
After putting the suit on, I didn't have to wait long before the door opened and the blonde woman returned. She looked me over with an expression that made me keep my distance, in spite of the fact that she had a tray of food. "You've got fifteen minutes," she said as she set the tray down and left.
The food didn't look all that appetizing, consisting of a sandwich, an apple, a yogurt squeeze tube, and a can of diet cola. I looked over my meal and let out an exasperated sigh, thinking that I'd learned to cook just so I wouldn't have to eat like this again. However, I was hungrier than I'd realized so I ate up without any complaint.
A short time later, the blonde woman came and retrieved me, leading me out of the room and down a hallway to large lab. In some ways, it was a little like Mom's lab, but there were fewer machines and random parts. Instead, the machines that were there looked like a mixture of medical devises and high tech exercise machines.
Dr. Smith was there waiting and he looked me over before nodding faintly to the blonde. "From what I understand," Dr. Smith told me, "you've just survived a severe burnout, so by all accounts you should remain in treatment for the next week and under observation for a month."
"Then I guess you need to take me back," I responded flatly. I glared at Dr. Smith, wondering what kind of person would kidnap someone right out of the hospital. That just wasn't right.
"Needless to say," Dr. Smith said with a chuckle, "that won't be happening. You seem to have recovered from your ordeal with remarkable speed and effectiveness..." He stared at me with an intense look in his eyes which told me just how interested he was by that fact. "I'll start the testing light for now...just to be on the cautious side."
To start with, Dr. Smith wanted to take some blood samples, check my vision and hearing, and do a number of other tests that weren't too difficult. I bit my tongue and did as he asked, not seeing any other options at the moment, not with that blonde guard staying nearby. I didn't even know what powers she had, but I had a feeling that I didn't want to find out.
"Tell me, what do you know of your powers?" Dr. Smith asked me. His voice was friendly, though his eyes were rather intense.
"Not much," I reluctantly admitted. "Every time I think I know what my powers are, they change..." That seemed to excite him just a little more.
"Tell me more," he insisted. "Tell me what powers you've demonstrated so far..."
I didn't want to tell Dr. Smith any more than I had to, but at the moment, I didn't really have much to share and I had to give him something. I could have made a few things up, but I wasn't sure how much the nurse at the hospital had overheard and passed on.
"The first time, it looked like I was a devisor," I reluctantly admitted. "But it was only the one time and I'm not sure it was me... I've had telekinesis..." I paused at that, neglecting to mention that I may have had other psychic abilities at the same time. "And I had regeneration for awhile..."
"And now?" he asked intently.
I shrugged at that. "Nothing that I know of."
"Debra," Dr. Smith abruptly told the blonde. "I believe our recruiter may have given us what we need. We'll need more testing to be certain, but he may just have earned the bonus we promised."
The blonde...Debra nodded. "Archimedes will be happy. He was getting pretty impatient with looking for a good subject."
"Ah yes," Dr. Smith said with a chuckle. "He dislikes being taken away from his devisor hunting hobby without reason. This should satisfy him."
Just then, a cell phone started ringing. Debra pulled the phone from a pouch on her belt and commented, "Speak of the devil..."
While Debra began talking on the phone, her attention wasn't on me. I saw my opportunity and immediately started running for the door as fast as I could, wanting to put as much distance between us as possible. Maybe I could find another phone to call home with.
However, I'd barely reached the door when I suddenly felt a burst of pain shooting through my neck and all down my body. I screamed, or at least tried to since my throat seemed frozen, and dropped to the floor.
"I thought we had an understanding," Dr. Smith said with a sigh, coming over and shaking his head with a disappointed look. "Quite a pity, but as you've undoubtedly noticed, your collar also includes a motivation enhancer."
The pain stopped, though I was still shaken and feeling tender. I glared up at Dr. Smith, feeling sick from his mock sympathy. "You sick bastard," I spat out, though he didn't seem to mind.
Debra watched me with a cold look, then spoke into the phone, "The brat just tried her first run, a little later than I expected. It looks like I owe you a hundred."
"Now that you've had your break," Dr. Smith announced cheerfully, "it's time to get back to work. Now get over here so I'm not forced to provide motivation..."
July 28th, 2007
I stared down at my lunch, absently poking at the semi-edible food substitute that covered the tray. Technically, it was supposed to be microwave mac and cheese, but it had the taste and texture of mush. Fortunately, the apple they gave me was still good and at least I had a can of pop to wash down the nasty pasta.
"When I get out of here," I said, starting off as I'd done several times over the last couple days. This time, I finished the statement, "I'm going to make my own mac and cheese...with real cheese...no...three cheeses...and pancetta."
But in spite of how nasty my lunch was, I ate every bite. Not only was I hungry, but I didn't know if my kidnappers would pull something like not giving me dinner. They'd already given me a couple of 'motivational encouragements' with the shock device built into my collar. I REALLY hated that damn thing.
I looked around my room, scowling intently as I did so and trying to think of a way to escape. Unfortunately, I'd been here for two days and hadn't had any luck at all. The one time I had tried to run, I'd gotten a nasty shock for my effort, so for now I was being good and cooperating until I could find another opportunity.
Of course, I was cooperating for another reason as well...at least for the moment. So far, the only thing Dr. Smith was doing was performing power testing on me, which I needed anyway. Sure, he was using me as a guinea pig for whatever he was working on, but I was trying to use this as an opportunity to learn more about my powers and how they worked. Since I was stuck here anyway, I might as well get something out of it.
The other day, it had been early evening by the time I woke up, so Dr. Smith didn't have a lot of time to test me then. What testing he had done had mostly been the kind of thing that would just be part of a very detailed physical. Blood samples had been taken, my hearing and vision had been checked, and he'd hooked me up to some kind of MRI machine. The real power testing hadn't begun until yesterday morning, after I'd woken up with my exemplar abilities restored.
Yesterday had been a long day, with Debra waking me up at the crack of dawn, feeding me some Cheerios and a banana, then half-dragging me back to the lab for more testing. It had started off much like the night before, with blood samples and an MRI scan, but soon the testing had actually become similar to what Mom and Beth had done for me. However, Dr. Smith actually seemed a bit more professional about it, using high tech machines and scanners to determine if my body was having any reactions to the tests that just weren't visible.
Since I was curious about my own powers, I cooperated a little more than I might have done otherwise. I didn't complain when he made me run on a treadmill until I could barely breathe, or when he'd thrown me into a room that shot tennis balls at me. However, his method of testing my regeneration was little more than torture and included cutting off a tiny piece of one finger, putting another finger over a flame, and then putting a drop of acid on my skin. It hurt like hell, but he'd had me strapped down so I couldn't yank myself free or escape. But as horrible as Dr. Smith's methods were, by the time I'd gone to bed, I had a much better understanding of my abilities, or at least of the ones I had yesterday.
Yesterday, Dr. Smith had pronounced me an exemplar 3 and a regenerator 3. Along with my strength, stamina, and reflexes, my senses had also been boosted. They weren't strong enough for me to have radar or track someone down by their scent like a bloodhound, but they were at about the maximum levels for a human...or perhaps just a little higher. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized I should have held back on my senses, pretending that they weren't quite as sharp as they were so I'd at least have some advantage later on.
This morning, Dr. Smith had started off going through almost the exact same tests, though this time the results were quite a bit different. All of my physical abilities from yesterday were gone, though it looked like I had another new ability instead. This time, it seemed like I might be an energizer, though we hadn't done any of the energizer testing yet. That was scheduled for this afternoon, after I finished eating lunch. That was also one of the reasons I made sure to eat every bite, because I'd heard energizers sometimes required a lot of calories to fuel their powers.
As soon as I finished eating, I looked around the room again, this time trying to use my new power, which I still didn't understand at all. I could see a strange glow through the air, almost like a cloud that was thicker and brighter in some places than in others. The glow was strongest near the lights and power outlets, and I could sort of see areas of it running along the walls. Considering where the glow was strongest, my guess was that I was seeing electricity or something.
After blinking my eyes, my vision was back to normal, though I could still sort of feel the glow from around me, almost like a tickle on my skin. It was a weird sensation, sort of like having built up static cling. I just let out a sigh, feeling annoyed and frustrated by how hard it was to get any sense of what my powers actually were. Every time I started to get a handle on them, they suddenly changed on me, and the only thing that seemed consistent was that they always seemed to do it while I was asleep.
A minute later, my lunch break officially ended when Debra opened the door and announced, "Playtime's over, Sunshine."
I got up, not bothering to argue or drag my feet. I'd tried that yesterday and got a nasty zap from my collar for the effort. I suspected that Debra was just hoping I'd give her an excuse to do it again, because she almost looked disappointed when I came with her without any problems.
Dr. Smith was waiting for me in the lab, looking happy to see me. He even gave me a friendly smile and politely asked, "How was your lunch?"
"Fine," I responded with a forced smile, having found that he was easier to deal with as long as I played along. As long as I pretended that he was a nice person, he was more likely to act like one. After all, he still had Debra to play the heavy.
"Good, good," Dr. Smith responded cheerfully. "Now, we already know that you seem sensitive to electromagnetic energy, so let's see how far that extends and just what you can do with it."
Dr. Smith had me step into a weird machine, which reminded me of an MRI machine that I had to stand up in. There was all sorts of noise and humming from the machine while I could feel that static feeling moving around my body. I shifted my vision a little and allowed myself to see the glow, which was moving around the machine, coming from the side like a flashlight. The static sensation was definitely strongest wherever that glowing beam was pointed.
When I climbed out of the machine about ten minutes later, Dr. Smith was typing away on a computer and grinning happily. I wasn't sure what he'd found in the test that made him so excited, nor was I sure it was good news for me. Debra stood back, watching me with a careful glare while Archimedes had arrived and was looking over the lab with a look of vague impatience.
"Your spectrum generator works wonderfully," Dr. Smith told Archimedes. "As is your sensor suit. Her body is showing a clear response to concentrations of the electromagnetic spectrum, confirming her current state as an energizer..."
Archimedes nodded faintly, then responded, "The report from yesterday was that you confirmed her as an exemplar..."
"Your BIT detector confirmed she had a BIT," Dr. Smith assured him with a smile. "Today, she's lost all of the physical properties of being an exemplar, yet your BIT detector confirms that she still has one. It's as if she went from being an exemplar three to being perhaps an exemplar one."
I blinked in surprise at that since Dr. Smith had confirmed I was an exemplar, but he hadn't said anything about detecting a BIT, nor had he said anything about my still having one this morning. Then I wondered what it meant, that I had a BIT but no apparent exemplar abilities. Was my being an exemplar somehow...on hold?
"Then her powers actually have been changing," Archimedes said, a clear note of interest in his voice. "Does this confirm that she's a power mimic like we suspected?"
"Her powers are indeed changing," Dr. Smith answered him thoughtfully. "But I don't think she's a mimic. For one thing, she's demonstrated exemplar and energizer traits, though she hasn't been near donors with those abilities since we've taken her into custody. In addition, she's been near both you and Debra but hasn't shown any indication of copying your powers."
I stood back, remaining quiet and hoping that they didn't notice me so that they'd continue talking. I was learning quite a bit from listening in on their conversation, and not only the fact that I still had a BIT. Dr. Smith had pointed out that I hadn't copied the powers of Debra or Archimedes, but he hadn't included himself as a possible donor. That suggested that he didn't have powers...that he was a baseline.
It had always seemed to me that most of the researchers who were on the cutting edge of scientific research were gadgeteers or devisors, people who had an advantage that baseline scientists didn't. However, my perspective on that might have been skewed a bit from the fact that my mom was a devisor. After all, Dr. Amazing, who was a famous super hero and one of the most brilliant scientists on the planet, was well known as being a baseline human.
"Do you have anything that would allow us to read her BIT?" Dr. Smith asked Archimedes with a thoughtful look. "That could help explain the nature of her powers..."
Archimedes scowled at that, then shook his head, "If we understood the nature of a BIT enough to accurately read it, we would probably already have the answers we are looking for. However, I do have something that I've been working on that should at least give us a...glimpse. Hopefully it will be enough to prove useful."
"Good," Dr. Smith said with a smile. "Very good." Then he gave Archimedes a knowing look and added, "I don't think she's a power mimic, but I do have a theory...though I'll wait until I have more evidence before presenting it."
"Understandable," Archimedes agreed with a thoughtful nod.
After this, Archimedes left and Dr. Smith turned his attention back to me. "Now then," he mused, giving me an almost friendly smile, "Where were we?"
A minute later, Dr. Smith had me in another room, repeating some of the exercises he'd had me do yesterday. These were very similar to some of the ones Mom had made me do while testing to see if I could somehow generate or manipulate some form of energy.
"You are sensitive to ambient electromagnetic energy," Dr. Smith told me in a professional tone. "We need to see if you can do more than just sense it..."
It didn't take long at all before we discovered the answer to that question. I was able to reach out and somehow pull some of this ambient energy to me, drawing it around my body. With some effort, I could gather enough around me that I actually started glowing, first to my odd new vision and then to my normal vision.
I had mixed emotions about this new power, feeling excited to have it, curious about what exactly I could do with it, and frustrated since I was giving Dr. Smith and Archimedes exactly what they wanted. However, I still didn't have much choice, not with this bomb around my neck. At the moment, all I could do was continue playing along until I found an opportunity, learning whatever I could about my own powers in the process.
I had to keep my mind from wandering and focus on what I was doing. I took the energy that was building around me and pushed it away. There was a burst of light as the energy was pushed out in all directions. Static tickled my skin.
"You ionized the air," Dr. Smith said with a smile. "Now again...with more energy."
I repeated the process, trying to draw in more energy, gathering it around my body so that I began to glow with a visible blue light. But as soon as I tried pushing it away from my body, it immediately dispersed. I tried this several more times, trying to push the energy in a specific direction to see if I could form an energy blast, but it kept dispersing in every direction at once.
"Maybe if I concentrate it more," I mused to myself, trying to gather the energy one more time.
This time, I held my hands out in front of me, about a foot apart with my palms facing each other. I pulled in the energy again, but this time I tried focusing on gathering it there instead of around my entire body. To my delight, it was actually working. A glowing blue ball formed between my hands.
"Ah, I see," Dr. Smith commented from a short distance away, from where he was hiding behind a blast shield. "You've gathered the ambient electromagnetic energy and concentrated it all into a single spot. That should be more useful."
"Maybe," I responded grimly, trying to hide my bitterness. It helped to pretend that instead of being my kidnapper, he was just a normal power tester.
Next, I tried projecting the ball of energy, wondering if I could shoot it out like a weapon. At the moment, any weapon would be useful. The ball of energy didn't respond to my will and go shooting forward like I'd hoped, and when I tried throwing it, the energy immediately began dissipating. The ball only went a couple feet before it vanished entirely.
By this point, I was starting to feel tired and sore. I had a feeling that I'd been pushing this new ability too far, something which Dr. Smith confirmed when he called out, "Your vital signs are unstable..."
"No shit," I muttered, already feeling hot and dizzy.
"Your body temperature is rising," Dr. Smith exclaimed, actually sounding worried.
I staggered and dropped to the ground, feeling a surge of pain rush through my body. I was feeling hot...as though I was in the process of burning up. Of course, I recognized the symptoms since I'd already been through this once before, and though I'd survived the last time, it still scared the shit out of me.
"Not again," I whispered before I collapsed completely.
July 30th, 2007
I awoke to an overwhelming sense of deja-vu. Once again, I was in a hospital bed and staring up at the tiled ceiling above me. I immediately remembered that I'd gone through another burnout, which meant that the fact I was still alive merely proved I was luckier than I had any right to be. Most mutants didn't survive one burnout much less two of them. Of course, I'd gone through burnout twice, which could be considered evidence of just how unlucky I was.
It took me a moment to realize that I wasn't alone, that there were two other people in the room with me. I glanced over and saw Dr. Smith and Archimedes, who were busy looking over some charts and talking to each other, so they hadn't even noticed I was awake. I took advantage of that to pretend that I was still out of it so I could listen in on their conversation.
"This is a waste," Archimedes stated in annoyance. "We went through the trouble of recruiting the girl and she's spent the last two days in bed..."
"It should have been expected," Dr. Smith pointed with a sigh. "After all, you did retrieve her from her hospital bed, before she'd had a chance to recover from her last burnout. Admittedly, much of this is my own fault for pushing her too far before she'd fully recovered."
"What's done is done," Archimedes told him. "The question is, is the girl still of any use to us?"
"Indeed she is," Dr. Smith responded with a chuckle. "She's even more useful than I'd previously suspected. It turns out that this burnout is an unexpected blessing, especially since your sensor suit was able to track much of what was happening with her body."
I glanced over at them again while trying to be subtle about it, noticing that Archimedes was scowling. "I'm surprised that any of the data was useful, considering that she destroyed half the sensors right before the burnout occurred."
"True," Dr. Smith agreed. "But enough of the sensors survived to give us what we need. In fact, this burnout gave me the evidence I needed to confirm my theory about how her powers work."
"And what have you determined?" Archimedes asked him, sounding curious.
"The girl isn't a power mimic as we first suspected," Dr. Smith explained excitedly. He was nearly bouncing with joy, which really made me want to jump up and punch him. However, I remained where I was, continuing to play possum.
Archimedes nodded at that. "Then what is she?"
Dr. Smith stood up straighter, looking quite proud of himself as he announced, "She's a shifter."
"A shifter?" Archimedes asked, sounding a little skeptical. "Her appearance has altered somewhat during this burnout, but I suspect that is due to her BIT rather than any shifter traits..."
"Oh, she is a shifter," Dr. Smith assured him with a chuckle. "She has several distinct alternate forms, each with its own powers and abilities. The reason we hadn't noticed this before now is that each of her forms looks identical."
There was a long pause before Archimedes stated, "So, for all intents and purposes, she's a power shifter."
I was listening very carefully to this, and it was all I could do not physically react. Ever since I'd manifested, my powers had been screwy and appeared to make no sense at all. I'd go to bed with one set of powers and wake up the next morning with a different one. Now I knew why.
"Each time her burnout approached a critical level," Dr. Smith continued his explanation, creeping me out by how excited he was over this, "her body shifted to another form...to another mode...and reversed the damage. She would have died at four different points during this burnout if her own powers hadn't saved her."
"And the sensors recorded these shifts?" Archimedes asked, still sounding interested.
Dr. Smith chuckled. "Indeed. And after removing her damaged sensor suit, the replacement sensors continued to record these shifts. Each of her alternate modes may appear identical to the naked eye, but there are significant differences...subtle adaptations for whatever power each mode possesses."
There were a long silence before Archimedes asked, "How many modes has she displayed?"
"Five distinct modes, so far," Dr. Smith answered him. "So far, I know what three of these modes are capable of and have indications of what the fourth is. The fifth remains an unknown."
"I dislike unknowns," Archimedes responded grimly. "Still, I see what you mean about this burnout being to our advantage. It would have forced multiple mode changes, letting us scan the shifts..."
"Precisely," Dr. Smith agreed. "Without the burnout, it may have been another week before I was able to gather as much data. As it is, this confirms that she's even more useful to our goals than we previously believed."
There was another long pause while Archimedes considered this information. He looked at me, but I remained motionless, pretending that I was still asleep. He didn't seem to notice anything to indicate otherwise because he turned his attention back to Dr. Smith.
"Very interesting," Archimedes finally admitted, smiling with a look of satisfaction that made me want to gulp nervously. "We can analyze the subtle differences in her modes and use them to determine the specific biological markers for each power. She is the key...the Rosetta Stone we require to translate the biological deviations which create mutant abilities..."
"And once we understand these biological deviations," Dr. Smith continued for him with a chuckle, "we can induce them in others."
Dr. Smith and Archimedes continued to talk, getting more technical as they did so. Before long, I couldn't really follow what they were saying, though I'd already grasped the basics. They'd told me previously that their research was all about figuring out how mutants developed specific powers, and I'd been a bit suspicious about that at the time. But now it seemed that their real goal was to use that knowledge to create powers.
As I continued listening to their conversation, I had to fight back the urge to snort or make some kind of response. The idea of being able to give specific powers to people sounded pretty cool in theory, but I was skeptical that they'd be able to pull something like that off without a devisor to help them out. After all, that plan sounded like something that would need some reality tweaking in order to get it to work. Then again, I wasn't a scientist or a gadgeteer, so these guys might be capable of a lot more than I knew.
"At least this test subject is more useful than the last three," Archimedes said, looking at me again with a deep scowl. "I despise wasting so many resources to acquire a subject, only to have to dispose of them so quickly."
"They weren't a complete waste," Dr. Smith assured him as the two of them started for the door. "The dissections provided some useful data..."
Once the two of them were gone, I slowly sat up in bed, still feeling stunned from everything I'd overheard. That was a lot to absorb, but I knew that I'd have to do it quickly and silently. Though I still had a lot of questions, I didn't dare ask them...at least not aloud. I didn't want my kidnappers to know just how much I'd learned.
"So I'm some kind of shifter," I mused, then bit my tongue just in case they were listening in on me somehow.
Dr. Smith and Archimedes had said something about my body changing again, so I braced myself for whatever I would find as I began looking myself over. I was naked in bed, not even covered with a sheet this time. However, I did have a bunch of suction cup type sensor disks stuck all over my body as well as an IV stick into my arm. I glanced to the bag of clear fluid, suspecting that it was probably just the same saline solution that they'd given me in the real hospital. This brief glance over my body didn't reveal any further changes than what I'd already gone through, though admittedly, my breasts did seem a little bigger.
I bit my lip to keep from making any noise, then I carefully pulled the IV needle from my arm, letting out a sigh of relief when that was done. Then I climbed out of bed and began removing the sensors, dropping them absently onto the floor and not caring if I made a mess. Unlike with Mom's lab, I wouldn't be the one who was stuck cleaning it up.
A minute later, I stood up on the floor and stretched, thinking that it felt good to move again. Apparently I'd been in that bed for two days, so this was definitely overdue. I then looked my body over again, deciding that my breasts definitely looked a little bigger. Instead of looking like an A cup, I thought that I had to be about a B cup. The rest of my figure seemed to have improved just a little bit as well.
I went to the bathroom to relieve myself, wondering if I'd ever get used to having to sit down to pee. It wasn't uncomfortable or much of a problem, but it was a frequent reminder of how my body had changed. I still wasn't happy about my new gender, but it wasn't worth complaining about, especially not when half the world's population had the same kind of anatomy.
Then as I washed my hands, I looked into the small mirror above the sink and frowned. I finally noticed the rest of the changes that Dr. Smith and Archimedes had mentioned. My hair had grown longer again, by about four inches, and it had changed color. My hair was now purple, matching the new color of my eyes that I still hadn't gotten used to. On top of that, and my slightly increased curves, my face also looked a little softer and prettier.
"Okay," I said with a resigned sigh, knowing that it could have been much worse.
The hair and eye color could have been signs of GSD, and if they were, then it was very minor GSD indeed. That was much better than having a pig snout or tentacles growing from my face. Of course, my changes were obviously the result of my BIT, and they probably would have happened on their own anyway. My burnout probably just sped up the process, and I still wasn't even sure if this was the finished product. Some exemplars could make supermodels and porn stars look plain in comparison, and by those standards, I fell pretty short.
"But I'm only a part time exemplar," I reminded myself. I still had a BIT, but that was because I was really a shifter...and like exemplars, shifters had BITS. I'd completely forgotten all about that bit of trivia until Dr. Smith had said I was a shifter. "A shifter who doesn't change shape."
I've heard of shifters who could alter their form and gain other abilities, usually physical abilities like animal senses, powerful muscles, and bulletproof skin, but until now, I'd never heard of one who could change their powers but still looked the same. I had no reason to doubt Dr. Smith's claims about how my power really worked, especially when they fit with the weird ways my powers kept changing. I wondered if I was the only one, though I doubted it.
"I wonder if I'll change any more," I mused as I looked over my new reflection. Perhaps it said something about my life that I felt more curiosity about that than dread.
Then it dawned on me that my first burnout had run its course overnight, but my second one had taken much longer. But in spite of that, my body had changed a great deal during my first one and only a small amount the second time. Did that mean the first one was enough to nearly make me match my BIT while the second one only finished of what was left? If that was the case, then my transformation really was finished. I was surprised to actually feel a tiny bit disappointed at that since I'd begun to wonder what it would be like being hotter than any of the girls I'd ever had a crush on. I was very pretty...maybe even beautiful...but I wasn't built like a stripper.
"Thank God for small favors," I said, looking down at myself with a wry smile and shaking my head. "I have a feeling that carrying a pair of whoppers around would get pretty old before long."
I left the bathroom a minute later, trying to decide what I was going to do next. I had a much better understanding of my powers than when I'd been kidnapped, but I still didn't know how to get out of here. I looked at the concrete wall and wished I had one of Mom's weapons. All it would take is one disintegrator and I'd be able to walk right on out.
"Mom always has the best toys," I thought aloud.
My mom was a pretty versatile inventor, though she'd always specialized in weapons of one form or another. According to Beth, back when she was my age, Mom focused on things that went BOOM...with as big a boom as possible. Eventually, she decided to work with weapons that had more focus and fine control, leading to the large arsenal of death rays, plasma blasters, and disintigrators that we had stashed in the armory. It was only in the last ten to fifteen years that she started working with the more unusual weapons, things like the freeze ray, shrink ray, or anti-gravity grenade.
"But Mom isn't here," I reminded myself, knowing that I'd have to figure something out on my own.
I frowned, suddenly feeling worried about Mom. Without me around to keep an eye on her, there was no telling what kind of trouble she'd get herself in. For all I knew, she might end up working herself into a coma, or even worse, tripping over some clutter in her lab and dropping an antimatter cannon. If nothing else, I was going to have to get home just so I could make sure Mom was okay.
I looked around the room, trying to think of something, anything that I might be able to do. I'd done this numerous times since I'd been kidnapped, though this time I saw something new. The sensor suit that I'd been wearing when I went through my burnout was sitting in the corner, where it looked to have been casually tossed after being cut off me.
"Let's see," I mused, bending over to look at the ruined suit. The whole thing was cut up and some of the sensor pads were blackened, apparently having been damaged when I'd been trying out my energizer power. Suddenly, I realized that I might be able to use some of these parts.
I began tearing out some of the sensors and wires, fully aware that my devisor power was back and revved up. At the moment, I felt the same way I had while building that sphere in Mom's lab, not being completely sure of what I was doing, only being certain that I could get the parts to work together.
Before long, I'd scavenged what parts I could from the sensor suit, though I didn't have enough to really make anything useful. I was disappointed but still confident in my ability to make something, as long as I could get a few more things. Until then, I hid the parts and hoped that no one noticed what I'd done.
A new sensor suit had been left folded up in the corner, and since I didn't have anything else to wear, I put it on. I wasn't thrilled with continuing to help them with their experiments, but I couldn't do anything to let them know what I was planning.
Before long, I heard some voices coming from the door so I went over and listened in, expecting Dr. Smith or Debra to come bursting in at any moment. However, after listening for a few seconds, I realized that Debra was talking with someone. It took me a few seconds to recognize the other voice as coming from the masked man who'd helped kidnap me.
"I hear this little freak is just what they needed," the masked man said, sounding pleased. "It seems that I may end up earning the promised bonus after all."
"Do you have a problem with mutants?" Debra demanded in a sharp tone. "Is that why you do this?"
The masked man just laughed. "No, I don't have anything against your kind. In fact, I like mutants. You're profitable."
"Of course," Debra said. "Money." She didn't sound impressed.
"And you have a different motivation?" the masked man asked, sounding just a little skeptical.
There was a long pause, then Debra answered, "My daughter... I brought her to a specialist to determine what powers she'll manifest when she gets older...and he told me she's a baseline. She didn't inherit enough of my meta-gene complex to be a mutant." Debra sounded bitter at that.
After several seconds, the masked man responded, his words sounding as though they were carefully chosen. "Being a baseline myself, I completely understand the challenges of being without power in world that is filled with mutants."
"You understand nothing," Debra told him, her voice filled with contempt. "I refuse to stand by as she's bypassed by evolution. I won't let her be left behind as one of the powerless. They've promised me that once they succeed, Carrie will be one of the first to get enhanced."
"It looks like I might have to renegotiate my bonus," the masked man told her. "That does sound like quite the opportunity."
Their conversation ended at that point, so I didn't know if they were still outside the door or not. Considering the fact that Debra had been staying close to me the entire time, I suspected she might still be out there in case I tried acting up. But in spite of that, I still tried the door, verifying it was indeed locked.
An hour later, Dr. Smith returned to the room, taking one look at me and seeming surprised that I was up and dressed. "I'm glad to see you're doing so well after your ordeal," he told me, actually sounding concerned. But in spite of his friendly act, I wasn't falling for it.
"Can I get something to eat?" I asked, trying to keep my own voice polite as well when all I really wanted to do was shove him out of the way and make a run for it. However, Debra was still standing at the door, watching me as though expecting me to do just that. "I'm really hungry..."
"Of course," Dr. Smith told me with a smile. "But before then, I'd like to perform a quick test...to confirm that you're as healthy as you appear."
Dr. Smith led me from the room, with Debra joining us as we went back to the lab. He put me in some new machine, which I was sure had nothing to do with verifying my health. Or if it did, I suspected it would only be a small part of what he was doing.
While we were doing this, Archimedes and the masked man came into the room, talking as they did so. I heard them before I saw them, or at least, I heard the masked man.
"After what you told me about the girl," the masked man was saying, "I had my contact at the hospital get a little more information on her. According to the nurse, the girl was actually male when she arrived at the hospital..."
Dr. Smith gave me a look of surprise and exclaimed, "You never said anything about such a drastic change..."
"You never asked," I answered, acting as though it was no big deal and that I wasn't the least bit embarrassed about being a girl. Debra was staring at me in surprise too, though I pretended that I didn't notice.
For a moment, a dark look flashed through Dr. Smith's eyes, then he just chuckled and said, "I imagine you were a little distracted."
The masked man continued talking, almost as though I wasn't even there. "I also found out her mother is an old...acquaintance..."
That got my attention and I immediately moved to get a better look at the masked man. He was wearing nice suit, just like he'd been wearing at the hospital when he'd kidnapped me, and he was leaning on a cane. But most important, he wasn't wearing a mask so I had a clear view of his face. The no longer masked man was in his mid to late forties, with the kind of good looks that were reminiscent of George Clooney.
"That bitch is responsible for my lovely cane," he continued, leaning down and patting his knee with a scowl. Then he paused, finally noticing that I was staring at him.
Though I'd never seen this man before, I already knew exactly who he was. If his comments about my mom hadn't been enough of a clue, his face alone probably would have convinced me. After all, it was an older version of the face I was used to seeing in the mirror.
"I always wondered if I'd ever get to meet you," I announced in a cold flat tone that seemed to surprise him. Then I glared at him and sneered, "Hello, Daddy."