Two Become One (Part 1)
A Whateley Academy (Fan Fiction) Tale
Two Become One - Part 1
Thursday, May 29, 2008 12:13 PM
"Hey you," Cynthia's voice came to me like a siren's call, cutting through all thought of getting in line for breakfast. As she turned, her grin let me know that she was pulling my leg.
"Ugh,” I moaned. “I never should have let you know just how annoying it is that no one seems to remember my name."
Seeing that her playful barb had its desired effect, Cynthia giggled (no other word for it) at my mock scowl, "Well _ZJ_.” She said with a smile that cut through my annoyance. “Consider it your first lesson in friendship with me. Anything you say will most likely be used against you!” Her musical laughter sent a thrill through me.
“What…but…that’s so not fair...” I stammered as usual.
"You'd better hurry up, slowpoke!" She motioned for me to hurry to the breakfast line.
"W-what's up?" I asked wringing my hands nervously
"I wanted to sit with ya'll, since today's the last day and all." At that comment, someone could have knocked me over with a feather. One of the most popular girls wanted to sit with a geek like me?
"Uh...S-Sure," I managed to finally spit out, my stuttered reply earned me yet another giggle and we made our way through the line. With the choices somewhere between ick and meh, it was hard to be picky.
As we sat at the designated geek table I could feel the hateful stare of the class bully, Blake Masters, as if he were trying to bore a hole into the back of my head. One of his favorite pastimes was giving swirlies to nerds. He'd kept his distance after the humiliation of our fight, but I could feel it was only a matter of time.
"You know, if you went for contacts, you'd probably not have as much trouble with BM," Cyn said as she noticed his glare too. This was an old (less public) debate, "it's like you're temping his instincts to charge or something," she said motioning towards Blake's table.
"I think my glasses make me look more sophisticated, thank you so much," I countered in my usual defence, "No matter what BM thinks...or does..." I trailed off running my hand through my dull brown hair. I really didn't want to bring up those memories, but of course I must have tempted fate...
"At least ZJ got to go home early after the first time BM tried mauling him," Mitchel Collier or Mitch, what passed as my best friend, helpfully reminded me.
"Ha, Mitch had to go the whole day with people asking about an odd smell because someone forgot to flush," Kenny Lark continued, as usual, giving too much detail and earning a disgusted look from Cynthia.
"Thanks, you two, for the reminder," I replied dryly, then turned back to Cyn, "The problem isn't the glasses, it's the fact that I'm the same height I was two years ago at the end of fifth grade..."
I would have continued with my self-pity, but Cyn interrupted.
"Just because you’re the same four'n a half foot shortness I am, doesn’t change the fact that he has even more reason to dislike you now."
Mitch started laughing at the reminder. "Yeah, how you humiliated the big guy _and_ his buddies that last time would do it."
"And then they were all calming you were some kind of mutant super-ninja or something." Kenny interjected as he _tried_ to give an imitation of some odd form of martial arts.
"Then your sensei went and told everyone that you were only a beginner and a baseline. That must have been like having salt thrown onto his wounded ego." Mitch continued, illustrating by emptying a salt packet over what passed for French fries at our school.
"At least it made him drop back to name calling and less tripping or knocking books from my hands." I pointed out and the conversation flowed to other topics, but I couldn't shake the memories that it had brought up.
Cyn pick up on a different point and asked, "So, what belt are you now?"
"Jiro-sensei doesn’t give belts," I reply simply, "You never know how skilled someone is in the real world, why you get that advantage in practice?" I say in my best little green master impersonation.
Mitch laughed again and asked, "Was that Bart Simpson?" but continued his mock karate.
"I thought it was Peter off Family Guy," replied Kenny as he joining into Mitch’s nerd-foo and added his own odd noised that he thought sounded like the movies…but failed horribly.
“Oh, no you didn’t,” I growled as the first fry flew into my hair. Of course the retaliation lead to a mini food fight that threatened to spill over to other tables.
Fortunately, the bell rang and prevented the end of school food brawl. That, depending on how Murphy’s Law swung, might have spilled over into other states and caused mass panic and anarchy in the streets. Instead, everyone grudgingly went to their lockers for first period. This would be the only real class of the morning, since the others had been combined for a party.
As I grabbed my English textbook, I saw an H1! flier fall out of another student's locker. That in turn, had gotten my mind stuck on mutants. Which led to me daydreaming as I took my seat in first period English.
So it was, I doodled in my notebook, trying to draw the monstrous mutant from last night's episode of "Tales of the MCO." This in itself was harmless, but I failed to catch something Mrs. Trew had said.
A large hardback book slammed onto my desk startling me and causing a ripple of laughter to flow through the class. I'd gotten too distracted and hadn't noticed my name being called. Mrs. Trew was the type of teacher that would make us work even on the last day of school, and apparently over summer break as well.
"ZJ, I asked you a question."
I gave her my most intellectually charged reply of, "Huh?"
"If you would have been paying attention, you would know that I have assigned a list of books to choose from to read over the break. I asked each of your classmates for their choices. Since you failed to answer, I went ahead and chose one for you," she said motioning towards the book she'd slammed on my desk.
"But, Mrs. Trew, I've already read Moby-Dick with my dad," I said in a somewhat whiney tone.
"As you told me earlier in the year, you were allowed to skip several chapters. I expect you to re-read the entire novel, without skipping anything. As with everyone else, you'll have to write a report the book and it will be counted as your first test grade next term," she stated with finality.
Needless to say, I was very happy to get out of that class when the bell rang and Cyn caught up with me in the hall, “Can I see it?” she asked timidly.
“What…Oh, the drawing,” I fumbled pulling it out of my backpack and tore on of the corners.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” she started apologizing for having me pull it out in the first place, but I waved it off.
“Naw, it’s not that good,” I tried to down play it a little because I hadn’t gotten very far on it anyway.
“What do you mean not that good? It almost looks professionally done to me,” she said by way of praising my art skills, which of course made me practically glow.
“Well, since you like it so much, you can keep it,” I said, motioning for her to put it away before someone decided to pull a prank, and we made our way to our next class.
The other two classes for the morning ended up combining into a party to celebrate the end of the school year. Not much to tell there, other than Cyn mentioning that she wanted to sit with _me_ again at lunch, which came as a surprise.
I'd had crush on her for over a year, but couldn't work up the courage to say anything. Cyn, or Cynthia Watkins, was the only girl outside of the geek brigade who actually talked to me. She was the type accepted among all of the cliques, due to her personality, and I was sure she was completely out of my league. Yet she was willing to be seen sitting with me, I almost thought I had imagined the comment.
Lunch came around and she stuck with me, confirming that I'd heard right. We were again given the choice between eating the food product that they call lunch and stalking the game trails in the local park. Since their food was already cooked, we begrudgingly went ahead with the offerings they supplied.
"So, do all ya'll got plans for summer break?" Cyn's question was answered by a few shyly nodded heads. You know the non-committed replies that you'd expect from a group who'd drop everything at a moment’s notice if she'd ask them to.
"What about you, ZJ?"
"Oh, me? Oh I'm supposed to be going camping with dad this coming week, but after that..." I gave a shrug, then remembered something, "Oh yeah, you still got your spy character on GEO, right?"
The question got the attention of the entire table and probably several other secret GEO buffs in the vicinity of our table.
"Oh, that's kind of what I wanted to ask about. I know you've got a decent all round character and I wanted to get with you about doing some questing together," she paused as all of the other geeks seemed to gasp as if she'd asked to carry my firstborn or something.
Mitch, who was one of my raiding party auxiliaries, jumped to answer for me. "Would we ever. I heard you got one of the highest rated spies on our server!"
"Really, who's your character Cynthia?" Gary asked excitedly.
With a sigh Cyn resigned herself to the burden of outing her alter-ego. "I'm Seek."
Recognition dawned on Kenny's face at the mention of her character, "Wow! You're the Seek?"
"Isn’t that the spy who prevented the Dark from taking over the Font at Ravenwing?" Gary asked, sort of grumbling, as he was the only one at the table Dark aligned.
Mitch gasped out, "That was said to be a GM quest. You must have gotten a massive experience bonus from that!"
Everyone at the table was talking over each other excitedly as Cyn simply smiled and bore the onslaught of questions and praise for her gaming feats. When it became apparent that they wouldn't stop, she motioned me closer as she reached into her purse and produced her cell phone that she quickly typed a message and hit send.
I was confused by this until my own phone vibrated. When I tried to pull it out to read her message, she motioned me with her hand not to open it yet.
"Later," she mouthed silently, which only added to my confusion. After that she returned her attention to the questioning throng and lunch went by quickly with the many distractions that gaming had provided.
As I was leaving the cafeteria I finally had a chance to look at what she'd sent to me. Upon the sight, my eye must have bulged our almost comically.
Hey you… :p - ZJ I wasn't asking to put you on the spot. Hope you have a great time with you dad. When you get back give me a call. I don't want to lose touch with you over summer break.
P.S. - You don't have to call me about playing GEO either :) Hope we can get together in a couple of weeks. ;)
She actually wanted to hang out over summer break! She said that she wanted us to play GEO, among other things, together over the break. Ha! It was a good thing that it was the last day of school because I sure don't remember much else that happened during the pep rally.
Thursday, May 29, 2008 3:48 PM
On the walk home, I couldn't keep the smile off my face, even as Mitch tried to talk me into letting him join in.
"Hey my wizard, Nomondious, has some mad skills for the level he's at. Or I could bring out my barbarian, Morioden, he'd be great for a front line fighter," he would have continued trying to convince me the entire trip home, but I changed the subject.
Seeing a moving van pulling out of a nearby driveway, I asked, "Hey, why are the Jenson's moving?"
"Didn't you hear? They're say'n he's a mutant or something. Of course, nobody knows what for sure."
"Yeah, if it was, the local H1! guys would be all over him. What about his store?"
He paused for a second, "I think I heard Martin's is taking it over."
"Oh, I wouldn't be surprised if he started the rumor in the first place. He's wanted to buy Jenson's for years."
"And nobody else figured it out, as if. He's gotta have a power that's not obvious," Mitch countered. His prejudice began showing a little, so I dropped the subject.
Before long we came to our usual parting spot and did our costmary fist bump routine. Looking towards my house, I was surprised to see that Dr. Works-a-lot was home. Dad often worked a little later on Fridays so that his dental practice wouldn’t be swamped the following week.
“Huh. My dad seems to be pretty excited about our trip,” I commented, as I adjusted my backpack.
“Well, I’m off to enjoy being a couch potato for the next couple of months. Hope you have fun climbing that big rock you always talk about,” Mitch tried to imply that he’d have the better of the two.
“Well, when we get back to school next year, don’t go complaining that I got muscle and you don’t,” I ribbed him right back, before he could get out of earshot.
As soon as Mitch was gone, I hastily pulled out the note Cyn had given me. I'd long since memorized every word. Yet I had to make sure that I hadn't imagined it...for the hundredth time. This proved to be a big mistake, because I must have still had the stupid smile on my face when I walked in the door because Mom's radar was piqued.
“And what's got you in such a good mood?" she asked with her hand on her hips. When spotted how I was now glowing with embarrassment she knew something happened.
"Has this something to do with the Watkins girl you can't keep quiet about?" she asked, using a singsong voice that made it clear she knew something was up.
Ugh, I wouldn't be surprised if the amazing Mary Benton was a telepath or something.
I wound up having to spill before she allowed me out of the front entry of our house. That was more embarrassing than the time she forced me to admit I liked Cyn. She had a knack for using that evil mother sixth since at times that I can’t escape.
Of course this got her all excited as, in her words, "My baby’s growing up so fast."
Of course Maggie, my bratty eight year old sister, joined in, "ZJ's gotta girlfriend, ZJ's gotta...." and continued for the next few minutes.
"Oh just wait, Mag, you'll start liking boys in a few years," I said to her obvious disgust, " and I know where the blackmail photos are," I pointed out with an evil grin, which finally stopped her.
"Ewww! I'm never gonna like them, they’re nasty."
I saw Dad peek around the corner after the coward had quickly retreated when he saw that she was doing her interrogation/torture session. He no doubt had experienced it and knew the she was likely to turn it on him if he stayed.
"You hear that Dad? Maggie thinks we're nasty," I shot back as he finally entered the room.
"Nuh-uh! Daddy's is the coolest. He's noth'n like Jimmy at school. He throws rocks at me almost every day!" she stated her hatred for the aforementioned little boy.
"That's because he likes you..." I said in my best imitation of her teasing voice.
"Ewww, Daddy, ZJ is being mean!" she yelled as she ran to get protection from him.
"You both need to be nicer to each other or you'll get no treats from me," he said as, abruptly, we both grew quiet, “And I suggest that you both apologize, before your mother gets involved.”
You could hear it in our voices when we said, “Sorry,” that we would probably go right back at it if he wasn’t around.
So, after Mistress Mom used her powers of interrogation/torture on me, Maggie's battiness and Dad’s intervention, I was tired of the family thing. The ‘rents allowed me to escape to the safety of my room so that I could finish packing for the camping trip.
Dr. Dad came up to my room later and me that we'd be leaving first thing in the morning, "We’re gonna be at Enchanted Rock for a week,” he said grabbing one of my favorite photo of our last trip off of my dresser, “so make sure you pack plenty of deodorant. They've got showers there, but I don't want to smell you from five foot away while we're climbing," he said with a chuckle.
"Why is it that just the two of us are going," I asked as he started to leave.
"I'll tell you later," he said in a voice that had me worried that I was in more trouble than I thought.
“You know Maggie’s going to try and conn her way into going,” I pointed out to change the subject.
“And what makes you think she hasn’t already tried?” he asked incredulously, “Ever since I mentioned it, she’s tried everything she can think of to persuade me to let her come.”
As he listed off all of the bribes, demands, guilt trips, pleading, moping, and crying that Maggie had done, he helped me get my bag ready. I made sure to pack the essentials, like a tooth brush and deodorant, along with things to keep me occupied.
Opening my backpack, I (grudgingly) fished out the book I was supposed to re-read and stuffed it into my camping pack. I figured that I would just get it over with in my free time.
That done, I went down to the comedy of dinner time, “Can you pass the potatoes...and your phone so I can see what all you’ve been saying to “Cynthia,” that’s gotten you so happy,” Mom, of course, teased relentlessly over the girlfriend issue.
Maggie joined in as much as she could, “I saw him talking to her at…” she tried to go on, but my hand over her mouth seemed to inhibit her speech a little.
“Oh? What this about?” Mom gave me a knowing smile, “Don’t be shy ZJ, your sister was about to say something. Be a dear and remove your hand please,” her voice started out in her higher pitch, but gradually traveled to “stern mother about to take action” as she talked.
I removed my hand…and Maggie laughed that I got in trouble, just before spouting, “They sat together at lunch,” before I could say or do anything about it.
“Ooh this sound interesting,” Mom intoned as she served the brat I call a sister.
“It was nothing,” I tried to deny, but it sounded weak even to me.
“Now I’m quite interested in this nothing you speak of,” she followed, as I looked to Dad for help.
“Don’t look at me son, you’re the one that dug yourself deeper,” he said smiling at our byplay, “I’m not letting you pull me in with you.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Mom shot back, as he gave me a “what have you done look.”
“I meant, that he should bask in you loving attention honey,” Dad replied causing us all to burst into laughter.
Turning back to me, Mom said, “I still haven’t forgotten about you buster,” her fork aimed at me she went on, “I want to know what this whole sitting together thing was all about.”
“Cyn just wanted to hang out,” I said defensively, “we both play GEO and she wanted me to join her party on the game.”
“So you two are plan to talk all summer?” she asked with an evil grin that I could have sworn was attached to her mind reading prowess.
“Ugh…maybe, but it’s just a game…” I tried but my stuttering betrayed me yet again.
“Oh, just a game he says,” she said causing me to blush again, “Next thing we know Jer, it’ll be just “a movie” or “a meal,” but I think it’s more,” she said looking at Dad.
“Yeah, I remember those days too, honey,” he said with his own knowing smile.
Once I recovered from yet another embarrassing encounter with the rents, we were able to trade barbs about random subjects. My parents had somehow signaled that they’d leave me alone about the girlfriend thing, and the meal went by with more laughter for it.
Afterwards, Mom pulled me aside, “Okay, since ya’ll are leaving before anyone should be awake, I wanted to do your sendoff now,” she said as she hugged me tight, “Since it’s a "guy's trip" and it can’t be watered down by us "women folk," this is going to be the longest we've been apart,” she said with little sniffle.
“It’s not like we’re going to another country Mom,” I said returning the hug.
“I just want you to know how much I love you," she paused holding me at arm’s length as her eye bored into mine for effect, "and that I'll kill you if you get hurt." she said with a mock scolding tone, before hugging the life out of me again.
"Yes Mom..." I replied as I tried to squirm out of her embrace. When she started trying to tickle me I finally caved, "…Alright, alright I love you too."
Turning to Dad, she gave him a look, "You two can grunt and scratch and wrestle like cavemen all you want to, but you’d better be safe and not bring any of it back here, understood?"
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said before giving her a kiss, which grossed me and Maggie out of the kitchen and into the living room.
Then, my sister surprised me, “But, ZJ, I don’t want you to go. What if I have a bad dream?” she asked starting to get teary. It wasn’t without reason that she had this fear. After some of her worst nightmares, I’d been the only one that could calm her down…for unknown reasons.
So, dropping sibling enmity for the moment, I tried to be the “nice” big brother and help her out, “Well, you have Mr. Wabbid don’t you?”
“Uh huh,” she said.
I retrieved a butter knife from the kitchen and place it on each of the stuffed rabbit’s shoulders, “With this sword, I do Knight the, Sir Mr. Wabbid, Killer of Bad Dreams, and Bringer of Good Dreams,” she laughed at my antics.
“Will you show me how it works?” she asked holding out the toy in her tiny hands.
Taking the stuffed rabbit, I told her, “Now, if you have a bad dream, just get Mr. Wabbid, your knight—Hurray!—to chase them away, rawr!” I said enacting the scene with the stuffed animal, “Okay?”
“Okay,” she replied when I returned it to her, smiling broadly as she gave me her biggest hug.
I was embarrassed to find the ‘rents standing in the doorway to catch that scene, but couldn’t do anything about it. I noticed that mom had gone all teary eyed, while Dad held her and looked on with approval.
With our little ritual complete, still smiling, Mom shooed me off to bed early so I wouldn't be too tired to wake up at an ungodly hour. I finished the usual shower, brushing of teeth and all of the hygiene stuff and laid on my bed for what felt like forever.
The trip there would be the same as ever. Wake up before dawn, eat breakfast, pack cold stuff and head for the hills...literally. Yet the excitement of getting out and enjoying nature with my dad was what kept me from getting to sleep quickly.
Yet, eventually I did fall into to the dark pit of sleep.
I walked through a vast landscape, seeing many creatures of various shapes and sizes. Some could have scared me half to death in the real world, while others seemed serine and flowed with everything around them. Many took notice of me, but didn't approach. Others looked at me as if appraising a side of beef...Them I stayed farther away from.
One pair, after looking my way, seemed to argue amongst themselves. Yet, none approached. Many fled my presence as I walked through an evergreen grove. Even one bear seemed to be quite frightened of me and ran as if I were a fearsome beast. For that matter, almost all of the normal animals kept their distance.
Still others, more humanlike in appearance. They whispered words of great meaning and power, not that I understood them. One resembled an ogre of legend, fierce yet noble. Another was a water elemental. I could list them all but it wouldn't change the fact that they all notice my presence and acted warry of me.
I walked into a vast clearing, a beautiful contrast of mountains and the ocean lay before me. Then suddenly, a great shadow passed over me and I looked up to see what it was that could be that huge. In awe I watched as a massive dragon floated to the ground nearby.
As she descended the great white-feather wings created small vortices that bespoke of great power. All of the others had fled by now, seeing this majestic yet powerful creature landing. Nearing the ground, her body shimmered into a shiny, silver-skinned woman of breathtaking beauty. The wings remained, as did her crown of horns and long tail.
With eyes aglow with dark blue flame, she spoke, "Greetings, Traveler.”
As I formally bowed in her presence, I replied, “Greetings to you, Beautiful Queen.”
“It has been long since one of your power has ventured amongst us," she paused as if sizing me up, "No, you aren't ready yet...but soon, if another doesn't claim you, we may speak again."
She turned to leave, but I found myself speaking again, "What may I call you, if that time comes," I spoke in an odd formal tongue that I didn't question.
"I am know by many names, but you may choose to call me Tiamat...I believe that is the closest translation of your language."
With that she flapped her angelic wings and soared high into the sky, reclaiming her dragoness form before disappearing within a dark cloud.
I then became aware of a screeching sound that was all too familiar.
Friday, May 30, 2008 5:30 AM
Benton Home, Centerville, TX
The incessant screeching of my alarm clock was really starting to annoy me. Here I was having an interesting dream about a hot dragon woman, and then I get woken up to the glaring 5:30 displayed in bright red numbers on my clock. It took me a moment to realize that the time was different than when I normally get up for school.
When my brain finally kicked in, I darted out of bed. I was confused why I couldn’t see until I went back and grabbed my glasses. I dressed quickly and was ready to go before my dad even emerged from his room. All though of odd dreams forgotten, I scarfed down some cereal while coffee was being made.
"Coffee....Coffee," the hideous creature, that we’ve taken to calling Dr. Zombie, said as he made his way down the stairs. His hand out in front of himself, as he walked, he gave his best imitation of one of the Necromancer’s zombie creations.
"Morning Dad!" I said in my most upbeat and chipper voice, as I washed out my bowl. (I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t.)
"I hate morning people..." he grumbled, which only made me laugh at his notoriously grumpy mood in the morning.
"Just think, we get to sleep an extra hour and a half tomorrow," I tried to cheer him up, but he didn't answer as he gulped down large quantities of caffeine.
Soon we were all filled and caffeinated and we set out on our voyage.
Pulling out of the driveway, I saw the Jenson’s house had a for-sale sign out front and it reminded me of my earlier questions about it.
“Dad?” I asked to get his attention.
“Am I about to run something over?” he asked quickly.
“No, no,” I said, as I raised my hands in a calming gesture, “I was just wandering about the Jenson’s is all,” I tried to spit out as quickly as possible.
“Oh,” he said in a flat tone that let me know that my question didn’t lower his anxiety level, “you heard about that too?”
“Yeah, Mitch was saying that Mr. Jenson was a mutant,” I explained squirming in my seat, “He said that there wasn’t any proof, but he was still seen as guilty because of the rumors flying around.”
Dad gave a heavy sigh as he thought about how to answer, “You may not know this son, but we had to deal with something similar with you earlier this year.”
“You mean the fight?” I ventured.
“Not so much that, but what happened after,” he said rubbing his face before continuing, “That Masters kid was playing with fire, in this town, claiming you were a mutant.”
“I didn’t see much difference at school,” I responded as I scratched my head in confusion.
“Don’t tell you mother I told you this,” he said giving me “the look,” then went on, “You didn’t because of all of the work we had to do to get you cleared,” he paused and continued, “While we’re on the subject of not telling your mom things, you asked about why it’s just us going?”
“Yeah, normally we all go as a family,” I said pointing back towards our house.
“Well we may still, later in the summer,” he paused and turned serious, “Anyway, the reason I felt we needed to have this trip is because I was proud that you finally stood up for yourself.”
“But that’s not what you told her is it?” I asked already knowing he didn’t.
“No, she thinks I am doing a tough love kind of thing. Making you put all of that anger into climbing and all,” he said with a smile, “But I’ve watched you at those Aikido classes we put you in after that first time.”
“You know, spying on your teenager is not a way to develop trust these days,” I say trying to keep the grin off my face.
He gave a short laugh, but then got serious again, “That may be, if I were looking for the bad. But, from what I’ve seen, you aren’t mad or angry when you’re sparring,” he looked up as he popped his neck, “Heck, if I were that peaceful I’d sleep a lot better. What I’m getting at is that it’s like seeing a preview of what you’ll grow into.”
I gave serious thought to my mature reply. “And what is it that you see in this crystal ball of yours?”
“Well for one, I see your rib getting tickled for not taking this as seriously as I am,” he said before carrying out his threat.
After a few minutes of this I called for mercy, “Hey, mercy, you’re the one driving and it won’t be my fault if we have a wreck.”
“What I was going to say, before the jokes, is that I feel confident you’ll grow to be someone I’m proud of.”
I thought about what he’d said for a little while before asking my next question.
“What now?” he replied.
“What if I was one?” I asked a I closed my eyes, worried about how he’d reply.
“One what?” he clarified, though I think he knew what I was getting at.
“If I were a mutant, and just manifested when I was in that fight, what would have happened?” I asked bluntly.
He again gave serious thought to my question before answering, “When will you not be my child?”
“Uh, it’s kind of a onetime deal when you have kids, so…never?” I ventured.
“That’s your answer, then,” he replied in a quieter tone, “I’ll stop loving you and give you up only when you’re no longer my child,” he said with and air of finality. “If we had to move out of a town of hypocrites to survive, we’d do it as a family.”
“What do you mean hypocrites?”
“It goes back to your question about the Jenson’s,” he stated getting a little angry, “Just because someone spread a rumor about someone else, a family had to leave town. Yet, every gun toting H1! bigot is probably ten times as dangerous as the average mutant any day,” he said to my wide eyed stare.
“I knew the Jenson’s well, from my practice, and they didn’t deserve to be railroaded,” his hands clinched the steering wheel in frustration, “Are there powerful mutants? Yes. Are there one’s the use that power for evil? Yes. But how many H1! members use it as a cover for evil?”
“I-I don’t know,” I stammered for a reply seeing a side of my dad I’d never heard of before.
“How many carry a gun, a bat, or a crowbar…in their vehicle with the sole purpose of using it on any mutant they find, good, bad or none of the above,” he said now red with anger.
Then he gave me a stare that could freeze steel, “Promise me you won’t end up like that, it’s something that I could never be proud of,” he told me as he swatted at his face and I purposely failed to notice why.
It took me a moment to speak clearly, but I managed to choke out, “I promise Dad, I won’t let you down like that,” afterwards we drove in silence for a time.
Friday, May 30, 2008 7:23 AM
Outside of Bryan/Collage Station, TX
"Alright, wake up sleepy head, time to get out and stretch. Not much fun just driving while you snooze the entire time," Dad said as he opened the passenger door...that had been my pillow.
I looked around and it took me a moment to realize where we were. I’d forgotten about our “Fish Stick Stop,” as it had been dubbed from my first time on this trip.
“Get our rods out of the back while I catch us some bait,” he commanded as I ran my hands over my face to shake off the remainder of yet another odd dream.
I wondered if I was developing a complex with all of the creatures saying I wasn’t ready for some odd reason. The latest was a lightning based, bird/snake/human creature in green, red and yellow robes. It wouldn’t give its name after I mentioned Tiamat, so I don’t know how she ranks in that dream.
We had a pretty successful couple of hours while fishing in the Brazos off of highway 105. The fish would be grilled on demand when we wanted some. Other food would be picked up in Giddings, but this would do nicely when we had the time at camp.
“You remember the first time we came here?” Dr. Angler, at the moment, asked as he threw his line once more.
“Yeah, I remember,” I said much to my own embarrassment, “to my credit, I didn’t know where fish sticks came from.”
“We said we’d get fish, not fish sticks.” Dad countered as usual.
Sighing in resignation I admitted it, “Yep, and that’s why we call it our “Fish Stick Spot,” I wish we could get over that one,” I said grouchily.
“And miss all of the fish finger jokes, not a chance,” he shot back just as something started biting on my line.
It ended up being the biggest catch of the day, so I got bragging rights. Dad called my mother before we left and let her know that we caught several fish and that we were off to pick up lunch. After hanging up, we set off again.
The City Meat Market had always been our favorite place to get lunch on the way and we never miss the opportunity. And also, as a tradition we packed away about a week's worth of it for our stay on the rock. Just so we wouldn't have to go back into town for food.
Dad had bought a camping cooler that he'd plug into the truck so that nothing went bad. As we ate Dad went conspiratorial on me.
"Since your mom isn't here with us, I've always wanted to test the legends about the Rock,” lapsing into a quiet tone, as if she could somehow hear us if he didn’t. “I want to see if we could do a little myth busters thing of our own," he said in his not so much whispered voice.
"But, Dad, what if we get in trouble with the park or if Mom..." he cut off my feeble argument that was really only a token effort. This was mainly so that I could at least say "told'ya so," if something did happen... or if Mom found out and came down on us.
"I hereby absolve you of any punishment you should incur if she should come into any knowledge of our little outing," Dad said in a mock officiate tone.
With formalities handled we set about with our plans for the trip. The myth was that if one slept overnight on the Rock, that one would become invisible. So our plan was to do just that. We’d also see if there was any truth to the claims of lights coming from the summit, which was both spooky and cool to me.
Once we’d made it into Fredericksburg, and it was clear we wouldn’t be able to do any climbing that day, we changed our plans a little.
“What do you say we just put our sleeping bags in the bed of the truck and leave the cover propped up tonight?” he asked as we turned onto highway 16, going towards the Rock.
“I don’t mind, but we probably need to put some of the stuff in the cab. The raccoons there are vicious little scavengers and they can’t be trusted,” I said as I imitated the grabby little critters, remembering all of the things they got into last time.
Laughing at my attitude towards the local wildlife he asked, “Oh, are you still mad at them for finding your stash of candy in the tent?”
“Yes, because they took only mine and left Maggie’s alone,” I huffed, folding my arms in a pout.
“Well, alright, but we aren’t gonna get to climb any today. It’s just too late in the day and the heat is going to be miserable,” he said by way of finalizing our plan.
As he had predicted, it was too late to do very much by the time we’d arrived. No wonder people in Central America take siestas. It technically wasn’t even summer yet and the temperature was already in the 100 degree range.
Since our second night was to be spent in our sleeping bags on the top of the main rock, we chose to forgo setting up camp until we got back.
We didn't know if it was really allowed, but in Dad's words, “It was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
“If you say so Dad, but remember you’re the one that taught me this,” I told him, as if I planned to use it against him later…and I did, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Oh, is that how it’s gonna be, using my own words to get out of trouble?” he asked rhetorically, “Com’mer you little brat, I’ll just have to tickle you to death so you can’t. HA-HA!”
Thus we began to "grunt and scratch and wrestle like cavemen," as Mom had called what guys know as male bonding. He tried tickling me to death while I tried my hardest to avoid that fate. We'd joked and told scary stories as a matter of course. The fact that they were the same ones we always told was of no importance.
“Yep, heard that one and the one before that last year,” Dad pointed out.
“I definitely didn’t tell that one last year…it was the year before that, and the year before that…” I would have kept going all night but he shut out the light.
“Well, I'd let you go on but we do need to get to sleep sometime kid,” he said knowing it would get on my nerves.
“Hey I’m not a “kid,” I'm a teenager now…That makes me a young adult. So, HA!” I said as I put my pillow on the tailgate.
With the night sky overhead as my ceiling, I just gazed into the starry abyss. It was humbling to think of the vast multitude of stars, planets, and even entire galaxies arrayed in front of me.
It makes me feel even smaller, and yet it somehow makes any problems seem so much smaller by comparison. Some of the stars that I'm just being able to see are only a memory of the past, swept away millions of years ago. Yet we're still here.
Many Eons Ago My and People Don't Increment Time
Several Galaxies Away
I was born of the Vra...the _Unity_, is the closest the modern language of this place can come, but it falls very short of its truth. From eons endless we existed nameless, and to human perception formless as well, covering our home planet as a vast “sea” in your terms.
Its name in our vernacular would require many years of translation and wouldn't be any clearer, so this one has chosen to refer to it as Vra. It is also for simplicity as that is the true importance of its existence. Our light was compared with the stars and our might was revered throughout the galaxy we inhabited. Yet change came, as it often does.
Our Eldest had become disillusioned with the other great races.
The Siriden and their fixation on the past.
Also the Isokist and their endless search for knowledge that nearly decimated the universe.
And the Telemaps that chose to watch from afar.
We as the Vra had once been an ever-expanding diplomatic race, seeking for all in the universe to see the unity we experienced. With so few races paying attention, our efforts having so little effect, it was decided to halt and return to Vra. In time we would venture forth again, but until that time when our message would be heard we would sleep and enjoy our unity.
Eons of time past as we slumbered united in the Vra. To the outside our world looked as if it were a perfect luminous sphere traversing the space around our home star, a'Vras, a blue giant that dwarfed the tiny star known as the Sun by comparison.
The equivalent of hundred thousand of your Sun's energy radiated off of our beloved home star and nourished us for an age. But things change as they always do.
Our system was ageing and with age problems arise. None of these were insurmountable in and of themselves. But together, the heart of our Vra was saddened. A great depression had developed that seemed to originate with the Eldest.
So great where the threats to our existence that unity couldn't be reached as to how to deal with them individually or collectively, and thus is how the Dark One sought to destroy the mighty Vra as a threat to his existence.
Though our light burned Him, though our unity maddened Him, and though our might frightened Him, he persisted in his campaign to corrupt the very essence of our kind. Against a foe we had no knowledge of we'd been caught sleeping. Though we weren't defenseless, we were vulnerable in other ways.
The Dark One spent many eons himself plotting and pushing His way into the Vra, a feat we'd thought impossible. In our hubris we thought ourselves beyond the reach of harm. We were wrong.
The Vra was thus blinded to the amount of time that had past. His hope was that we would sleep until our extinction. Our beloved home star that nourished us for so long had begun its death throws. Yet we still slept. Even despite the many signs, the Vra was unaware of the danger.
A s'Maux, or supernova to you, was imminent. Yet we slept on. Then the s'Xaux, the Destroyer of worlds came upon the Vra. Yet we slept on. She sought to warn us of the impending doom that lingering would only insure. Yet we slept on.
Finally the day came that we were awoken, almost too late. The Destroyer, having become tired of our inaction, decided to for us. We were so un-aware that we were unable to halt Her, but we were able to finally see the need for action.
As the Destroyer neared, the Vra pulled away before Her. Yet despite this, She made impact. The core of our home world was shattered, and many thoughts of the Vra were extinguished. Yet we slumbered no more.
No anger was held against the Destroyer. We understood Her actions and agreed that we could sleep no longer. Further, the intrusion upon the Vra was detected and the corrupted Elder was destroyed. Yet our departure was very late.
The Dark One, seeing our slumber lift, sent forth His power and further weakened our home star. Unity was reached in monuments as the Vra separated from the unity we'd enjoyed for so long. Venturing out as d'Vra, emissaries and travelers of worlds, to warn of the Dark One's power and corruption. Almost too late we were sent forth.
Sadly, many of my d'Vra sisters were caught in the blast as our beloved a'Vras finally succumbed to age and attack by the Dark One. The resulting supernova won't even be seen from Earth for many millennia, let alone recognized as significant. But the Vra have become what we once sought. We seek unity and we seek understanding between worlds.
Our goal is in opposition to the Dark One, yet he will never catch us sleeping again. My name is d'Vra e'Vrun, Emissary of the Vra and all shall know our story. All shall see and know the might of the Vra. All shall know of our sacrifice. By the fading light of a'Vras, we will not allow the Dark One to continue His corruption.
As I fled the destruction of the home star in search of others to warn, I saw His attention was elsewhere. Now seeking a frontal attack upon the relatively young, but powerful Sidhe and their allies upon Earth. I would not stand and see more worlds fall to His evil or to others of His kind.
This is our new Unity...
Friday, May 30, 2008 7:36 AM
Enchanted Rock State Park Camping Grounds, TX
Upon awakening, I couldn't shake the newest odd dream. The sight and feel of planets and stars being shattered only reminded me of the humbling thoughts I had the night before. The weirdest part was the narration, if dreams have such a thing. It almost sounded like some form of language but I couldn't understand anything that was said.
Like watching a foreign film without subtitles, getting the gist of the story but missing so much more of the subtleties. Shaking off the thoughts of my weird dreams, I got up and made coffee for me and Dad. This task was much different without a coffee maker, but it seemed like this was how it was supposed to be done.
"UHHH, uhhh," the sleeping beast stirred from its cocoon, promising restitution for being awoken. Unless pacified by a sacrifice of caffeinated beverage soon, all would know it's furry.
Dad, as usual, awoke at the first smells of a certain caffeinated beverage. Sort of in imitation of a zombie again, he trudged groaning and moaning towards the campfire I'd built. The brisk mornings here always seem to enliven me, but he seems to prefer the climate controlled conditions indoors in the morning.
"Morning Dad, isn't the cool morning refreshing?" I asked just to be a pain.
"Ugh, I hate morning people," he said grumbling loudly, "especially those who don't know the difference between cool and cold," he went on as he shivered visibly.
After a few cups and some breakfast bars, the temperature had already risen enough that the fire was redundant so, I put it out.
"Ugh, getting warm already Dad," I motioned to the main rock, "Just think of how hot it'll be once we make it to the top."
"Well the sooner we leave, the cooler it'll be," he said as he threw his trash away.
With our meal done, we set about with last minute preparations before starting our hike. We walked to the smallest formation and paused as Dad went over the plan again, just in case we got separated somehow. And yes, with all of the loose rocks, odd formations and steep inclines, it can happen.
"We're gonna start at this western most formation," he said as he stowed his canteens, "then we'll hook around and come up the first sister rock and across the saddle to the twin."
"Yeah, then we'll have the biggest one to climb when we're good and tired," I point out a little sarcastically as I cleaned my glasses.
"Tired, a young whipper snapper like you could have done it twice in one day when I was younger. That's when you can claim to be tired."
"So was this before or after the mammoth hunts?" I shot back laughing as I enact the scene by holding my pillow over my head and chunking it at him.
"Laugh it up brat," he said as he deftly caught it, "you'll have to deal with the fulfilment that age old curse," lobbing it right back at me, he went on, "I hope your children are just...like...you!"
"Oh no the horror, the horror, AHHHH!" I countered with my best Home Alone face, hand and all.
After we started we trailed off on the jokes, nothing like physical exertion to curb the snarkiness. By lunch time we were already on the secondary formation, stopping to eat a lazy meal in the shade of some of the massive boulders.
"Even after all of these years, this place still holds a lot of secrets," Dad said patting the rock he’d chosen as a seat, as he looked out, presumably, over something he'd missed before. "Just being out here brings back memories too."
"Yeah, like the time we all took pictures lying down, like we were climbing a cliff. Or the first time Maggie came along, she was so scared until we got to the top," I couldn’t help but remember, because I was the one who had to calm her down so many times.
"I want to thank you for how much you put up with her, by the way," Dad said with a proud smile. "No matter how much you're at each other's throats sometimes, she'll always remember you for the effort you give."
I mumble, “Thanks…” just as my nose had to go and pick up some pollen or something at that moment.
So we were quiet for a while, just taking in the scenery. After lunch, we continued on. He had to be selective of our path due to loose slab that had eroded, some to the point that they might break lose if enough weight was put upon them.
When we reached the valley floor we were greeted by an elderly Native American man. I say greeted because he seemed friendly, but nothing he said registered as English or even close.
"Ugh, we don't understand," Dad tried, "English, we speak English."
"I don't think he cares if we understand," I say in a hushed tone, "It sounds more like he's chanting something to me."
Giving up on talking to him, we began out hike up the main dome. Yet the old man simply followed us wherever we went and it sounded as if he would break into more muffled chanting periodically. It was starting to get kind of creepy the way he wouldn't leave us alone though.
By the time we'd reached the summit, Dad stopped and was about to tell the man that he'd had enough, but instead of stopping behind us as he'd done before, our tag along decided to switch roles.
"Ugh, what's he doing now?" I asked as he pulled ahead and motioned for us to follow with urgent hand gestures.
Now curious as to his changed behavior, we began to follow his lead towards the back of the main summit.
"It looks like he's taking us to the caves," Dad said in a wary tone.
"Well I was going to suggest heading that way anyway," I said with a shrug.
"If he tries anything, just get behind me, okay?" Dad ordered with obvious concern as he pointed the opposite direction.
"Oh, com'mon Dad," I whined incredulously, "What's he gonna do, hit us with his walking stick? I don't think he's gonna hurt us, and what can it hurt if we were gonna go over there anyway?"
We ended up following the man as we made our way to one of the main attractions of the summit. I'd played here many times when I was younger and thought I knew the caves pretty well, so despite his worry, I pulled ahead of him.
Much to my surprise though, things were very different than the last time I'd visited, "Wow, that's new!"
"What's so interesting?" Dad questioned with an odd look on his face.
"You gotta see this Dad!"
Hearing my excitement, Dad quickly made it to the cave's entrance.
"Was there a snake or something?" he asked as I'm sure shock showed on my face at his obliviousness, "or the lewd image that someone decided to spray-paint?" he said scowling.
What looked to me like one of the biggest defacements of a natural landmark I'd ever seen was written in glowing paint on every wall.
"You don't see anything weird here?" I had to clarify as to me something this obvious should have been reported almost immediately.
"Okay, what am I not seeing here?" again with the oblivious act.
"You don't see all of the writing?"
"I know my vision isn't that good anymore, but all I see is the same thing as last time I was here." His voice was taking on a tone that let me know he wasn't appreciating the joke he thought I was playing. "This better not be a ‘see the writing on the wall’ joke," he growled as he warned me this was going too far.
"Dad, I'm not joking here." I said in my most calm and controlled voice possible at the time, "there's some kind of glowing writing in some odd language all over the walls in here." By this point Dad was looking even more confused with my explanation.
All through this little exchange the elderly Native American just stood there looking like he was trying to explain something. Tearing my attention away from my oblivious father, I moved closer to see what he was pointing out.
What I saw confused me at first, because the writing was starting to make sense to me. As soon as he made it to the pictures further down I was dumbfounded.
"That...that's the solar system from my dream..." I could barely whisper at that point and I'm sure my face went white.
There on the wall in the same blue-green glowing paint, I beheld the illustrated version of my dream the previous night. It wasn't quite like the Egyptian hieroglyphs I'd seen in history class, but it was some form of pictographic representation of the events of my dream...well up to the explodey part, that wasn't included.
"Well this better not be a joke or you'll be paying for it for a long time," I heard Dad grumble but didn't really pay much attention to it.
He decided he'd had enough and made his way out of the cave and towards where we'd planned to camp for the night. I'd been enthralled by the cave paintings and they seemed to speak to me in some way that I was both unaccustomed to and drawn by at the same time.
By this time the sun was beginning to set and I was fearful that the old man would have a hard time getting down from the summit. Yet when I tried to motion for him to follow me he firmly shook his head and promptly sat to rest on the floor of the cave.
Seeing that I'd get nowhere in trying to convince him, I decided to give up my breakfast so as to allow him some semblance of dinner.
"I don't know if you understand me but...here, you can have this for dinner." He gratefully accepted my offering.
Then in his odd language he muttered something and proceeded to dig through a pouch at his side, gesturing for me to hold for a moment.
He held out his hand and, when I accepted it in return, he'd deposited four marble sized pieces of turquoise.
"Ugh, I think you overestimated the value of a couple of breakfast bars there," I took one, "here, I'm sure these are worth more than you think..." I tried to hand the others back, but he would have none of it.
And so it was, I found myself showing off my loot to Dad as we sat around a small sterno type camping stove while we heated our dinner for the night and talked a little more.
"We're not gonna us our torches tonight," he said as I went to grab mine, "I don't want to draw attention to our presence up here. We can just enjoyed our view of the nigh by light of the moon and stars."
"Oh, like you used to do before discovering fire," I kidded him, which lead to having a pillow to the face.
After dinner I chose to let Dad know of the odd dreams I'd been having and why I was so interested in what our guide had shown me.
"So, what do you think it means?" he asked as I finished the tail.
"I have no idea, that's kind of why I told you," I couldn't keep the frustration out of my voice though.
"Hey now, don't get so upset," he went on in a more calming tone, "I know you're at the age still where you think all grownups have all the answers, and I wish it were true...but it's not."
"Sorry Dad...I didn't mean to sound like that."
"Anyway some of the things you're describing sound kind of super-natural to me...If your eyes had changed color I'd be more worried but...we may just need to have your head check," he said the last part as an obvious joke, "ya’know, just in case some of your crazy could rub off on us."
"Why you..." of course that led into yet another of our wrestling matches, and yes he always wins anyway...but I can still hope for someday.
Friday, May 30 2008 11:27 PM
Top of Enchanted Rock (Benton Camp Site)
After our fun the tone of the evening became more contemplative. I was surprised at the number of shooting stars that night. I was starting to get edgy for some reason, but pushed those thoughts away as irrational fear.
"There it goes again," I tell Dad, just in case he couldn't hear it, "what is that, it sounds like it's coming from under us?"
"They explained it in that guidebook I gave you. It's caused by natural heat expansion and reversion.
"Yeah, there was nothing in the book about the glowing runes I saw within the cave. It's like they got brighter or easier to see...or something, the longer I looked." I paused for a moment thinking, "Could they be the ‘lights’ people claim to see?"
"I don't know son...maybe, but I still don't know what you were seeing," he paused for a moment himself, "nor can I explain it."
I laid there for a while, thinking of what would come of all of this strangeness. Odd dreams were one thing, but adding in the old man that wouldn't leave me alone and the writing only he and I could see, I was beginning to think I was going crazy...at least a little. Then, as I followed one of the shooting stars streaking across the sky, something else caught my eye.
"Hey…Dad?" I asked quietly, not knowing how to react to these events.
"Yeah Zack, what's up?" he continued in the same hushed tone as I'd used.
"Tell me you if you're seeing anything strange over there, would you?"
He looked around a bit and startled a little when he noticed something, "Yeah it looks kind of like there's a feint glow coming through the rocks around us. Why, what do you see?" he asked as his tone became more worried.
"Oh, what I see is as feint as a searchlight," my voice had taken on a shaky tone that I had no qualms about at that moment. "That writing I saw in the cave...it's back, only all over the place.:
"Can you describe it?" he asked as I could tell he was getting worried too.
"It looks like they're moving in rings around the point over there, " I gestured to the nearly blindingly bright point about six yards way.
"What do you think it is?" he asked as the word came unbidden to my mind, without thinking on it I replied:
"Beacon..." was all I could say before an ear splitting sonic boom sounded above us distracting me and causing me to turn, and then many things happened almost at once:
Fearing for our safety Dad selflessly covered me with his body, hoping that if something hit too close to us, at least I'd survive.
As this happened, a sudden rush of calm flowed over me and through me at once.
A muffled thud sounded in the area to which I'd pointed.
Dad, sensing that the danger had past somehow, rolled off of me wincing as he felt a few new welts on his back from debris.
The very air shook, as what I can only describe as a feminine outcry of grief sounded. I could both hear it verbally and feel it within my skull also. My heart ached, as if I'd just learned that someone I had loved had been ripped away from me.
Finally, a soft weeping, that I both heard and felt within my mind nearly finished sundering my heart. Without even realizing it I was on my feet and walking towards the crater.
"Zack no..." Dad yelled, but I barely heard his pleas as I make my way towards the one who'd felt such pain.
She, I revised my thoughts, needed comfort for a loss I could hardly imagine.
As I approached, nothing could have held me back. As I reached the small depression all I could do is gasp as the sight before my eyes.
"Something so beautiful should never feel such pain!" This thought only bolstered my desire to comfort Her.
She just laid there weeping.
Although she was unclothed, there were no thoughts of her being indecent. Her skin had a light turquoise glow and reminded me of the small stone I'd been given.
Again, seeing the pain the girl (couldn't refer to her as a women) was displaying, I approached cautiously. As I stepped into the final ring of strange words, she seemed to notice me finally.
She seemed to gasp when she'd seen me and seemed sort of frightened that I'd been able to escape her notice until then. When she spoke, her words made no sense to me but the thought behind it carried no question.
When our eyes met I couldn't turn away. As I pulled them from my pocket, I couldn't help but marvel at what my eyes were seeing.
Finally looking down, the stones no longer had the milky blue-green luster they'd once possessed. No, now they looked as if they'd been refined, purified into clear turquoise tented diamonds. Also strange was the fact that they gave off a soft glow that seemed to have no obvious source.
Her irises seemed to radiate the same color that the stones in my hand had come to imitate, only many times more brilliantly.
I found myself bowing before her, arm outstretched and offering the four stones to her as if I'd intended them as a gift all along. (And at that point, I wasn't sure if she wasn't the intended recipient of them in the first place.)
Yet as She looked upon my gift, the gasp that escaped her was not in fear this time. There was a euphoric wave of glee that washed over me and, again, through me.
She seemed to ask a question to herself and then nodded. As she reached out, She tried to ask me a question.
To me the feeling of uncertainty seemed to ask the question for Her. As I looked her in the eyes I merely nodded my reply. Instead of taking the stones from my hand, though, She clasped it in between hers.
At that point, a massive wave of light, relief, love, kindness and a sense of promise washed over me as She flowed into me. And then I lost consciousness, only just hearing Dad yell pleas at me to come back to him and away from that creature.
Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:48 AM
Somewhere Outside of Fredericksburg, TX
(Current Speed: 114 MPH)
"How could this have happened?"
"How could I have been so stupid?"
"How could I ever explain this to Mary?"
"How could I _just_ sit there and do nothing?"
"How am I supposed to react to this?"
These thoughts seemed to be on a repetitive loop, they kept replaying over and over in my head. Each time I came back to that last question, my gaze was redrawn to the figure of my...son, lying a few inches above the back seat of the pickup. My thoughts replayed how it happened and only highlighted my paralyzing fear upon the Rock.
For just a few seconds I'd frozen and in that time my boy had approached the small crater. With all of the intense energy coming off of the site, I hadn’t been able to follow even after I’d snapped out of it.
I racked my brain as to why, after bravely protecting my own, I allowed that same one to walk willingly into danger. I couldn’t keep tears from falling as I raced toward the closest town, Fredericksburg.
A glance at the GPS, still ten minutes away from Hill Country Memorial. I grimaced as I looked at the clock, I’d been moving as fast as possible for about an hour but going faster could make things even worse.
Like a movie being replayed within my mind I remembered the event anew. My son approached as if possessed, walking towards the...creature. To me it looked like a moving mass of energy and yet it had flowed almost as if liquid. Tendril, if that was the right word, floated delicately around the thing and it seemed to project feelings outward.
"Was it an alien?"
"Was it some form of angel?"
"Maybe it had somehow communicated with Zack?"
"Had Zack seen something different, like he'd described earlier that evening?"
And then, Zack offered the entity something that glowed with similar light. The thing had hesitated before touching his son. Then, the real shocker came. When...the creature, touched Zack’s hand it seemed to flow into him, almost as if filling him, so that Zack too glowed with an even more radiant light.
The energy poured off of...them as his son lifted off of the ground with similar yet somehow slightly different tendrils that acted like some form of wings. Astounded, I watched Zack float there, never really touching the ground again. All that indicated it was over was the light fading and the overwhelming emotions that had swept through me, almost tangibly, abating to merely uncomfortable levels.
By now I was in the city proper, slowing a little but still going eighty, with emergency lights flashing, and honking like a madman at any motorist foolish enough to get in my way. Call an ambulance? And tell them what? Oh my son just hoovered up an alien, could you send your nearest NSA team to quarantine him so the experimentation can really begin?
"No!" Vehemently I rejected even the thought of putting anyone …or anything through that fate.
Even if this wasn't my son anymore, even if that entity had changed him so drastically that Zack couldn't interact with us, nothing would deserve that fate. The chance that my son was still alive within that...body was too great. Some of the things the government had tried on ...mutants, just thinking of them brought up a new fear.
"Was Zach one of them?"
"If it was so, what did that mean for little Maggie?"
There was no doubt that Zack's eyes had changed color. Brushing aside the inexplicably long hair along with inch wide turquoise...ribbons, that now spread throughout. Once they'd been hazel, just as his own, yet now they glowed with a turquoise light that spoke only whispers of the power he'd witnessed upon the rock.
Even now, laying back there unconscious, I can feel it.
Any sudden movement of the truck wouldelicit a soft moan or sigh that would resonate through my mind moments before making my heart ache and then finally my ears could pick up the audible sounds. It had to be some form of telepathy or something.
What scares me the most is not knowing what happened. Can it be reversed, if my _son_ is no more? Can...Zack even control the power if he is in there?
Leaning over the seat, I pulled the thermometer from...Zack's, armpit to check his temperature yet again, "Ugh, 124 degrees? Still _way_ too high..." At least it was better than before. Though I sighed knowing that it wasn’t by much.
Upon finally reaching Zack after the lightshow, I'd recoiled as my hand touched his...Zack's arm. If his temperature had only been a few degrees higher, I’m sure that I would have been burned.
Carrying _Zack_ down the mountain was an experience I'd never forget, because Zack barely weighed anything. This of course made it easier to accomplish but, at the same time, worried me in a way that’s hard to describe.
When we finally reached the truck and I hastily checked Zack's temperature… Normal baselines have major problem at only 103 degrees and up, yet the thermometer I had barely reached far enough to register 127 degree, and it had fluctuated ever since even with the ice packs all around _Zack's_ body.
Saturday, May, 31 2008 1:13 AM
Hill Country Memorial Hospital Fredericksburg
Pulling into HCM, I was still frantic even as I screeched to a halt in front of the emergency entrance. I must have scared some of the on duty staff with my breakneck speed in the parking lot, because two nurses and a doctor rushed out to see what would warrant such recklessness. They became even more frightened as they beheld _Zack_ lying in the back seat with the ice packs nearly depleted.
I'll give them this though...they were nothing if not professional in getting suited up in MOPP gear and rushing my _son_ inside and into an ice bath asap. It finally caught my attention that _Zack_ had been mumbling the same strange language that I'd heard from the old tribesmen earlier today.
As soon as we were through the door the doctor shouted to the receptionist, “Shelly, get ahold of Fred and tell him to get as much ice to the tub as possible…” he paused then added, “and get the Rangers on the horn. We need someone down here in case something goes…wrong,” he gave me a wary glance as he said that.
“That was smart thinking on your part,” one of the nurses said in way of distraction from the doctor’s comment, gesturing towards the ice bags, “You may have saved your child’s life just by doing your best to keep her temperature down.” the nurse’s comment brought a wince with the use of the word ‘her’ as an identifier.
Things happened quickly as we all rushed to a room a little farther back. It looked to be much more solidly built than the other rooms I’d noticed around it. In the center was a large, jacuzzi-sized tub that was being filled with ice by an orderly that seemed to act as if this were boring or mundane labor.
Also too, I saw many instruments that I couldn’t identify despite being in the medical field myself. Instead of trying to lift _Zack_, the orderly instead motioned with a hand and very quickly yet surprisingly very gently _he_ was lowered into the ice.
"Woah," the orderly said as he misjudged her weight, "what's she weigh Dr. Keller, like five pounds or something?" he asked incredulously.
"Not now Frank, we'll address it when she's not in danger of cooking herself!" the doctor said franticly.
As he did so I noticed something that I'd overlooked before, it had been covered and trapped at the time by...ZJ's (yeah I’ll go with that one) now excessively small and tattered t-shirt.
But as ZJ was levitated towards the ice bath an oddly flat...tail? (I guess you could call it) came into view. It connected to the base of _his_ neck and seemed to float freely for a moment and then it loosely wrapped itself around and conformed to the rest of the body.
It seemed to glow with the otherworldly light that I'd grown accustomed to. Maybe "tail" isn't the right word, but it was definitely wider than the smaller ribbons that laced _his_ hair. It was maybe a foot longer than ZJ's body and seemed so alien and yet so natural at the same time. All I could do was stare in amazement at how beautiful this creature truly was.
“How long has she been experiencing burnout?” the nurse asked impatiently, distracting me, as I was forced to confront what I’d been diligently avoiding. “Sir? Sir please, we need to know how long your daughter has been in this condition. Time is not on our side here!” she exclaimed while another nurse put in an IV.
“My s…son,” I chocked as one of the nurses let out a gasp, realizing what my words implied, “We were at the State Park and…something happened and he…Zack has been burning up like this ever since.”
“Time?” the nurse that had gasped, her name badge marked her as Dianna, demanded more than asked. “We need a gage to see how far along sh…Zack you said? ...is so we know where to begin." She held up a hand in a pause motion, "Marg, we may need more ice soon, what's in there is melting pretty fast now,” gesturing emphatically toward where Zack lay covered in rapidly melting ice.
“A little over an hour now,” I answered quickly. “We were on top of the Rock,” again a gasp escaped, only from the other nurse this time, who I’m guessing was Marg.
“My God… where are the Rangers?” Looking at me she clarified, “The local hero team.”
“Way out here?” Confusion was plain in my voice.
“We’ve got high concentration of mutants in this area for some reason…” the nurse was cut off quite deliberately by the orderly.
“Maverick’s is gonna blow a gasket when he hears that something like this happened! Especially after all of Doc fuss years ago…” he trailed off as a deep voice growled form behind us.
“Don’t be worrying about Maverick and his finger wiggling mumbo-jumbo.” A veritable mountain dressed in what I can only describe as cowboy themed armour stood in the doorway.
There was an audible sigh of relief from the doctor as he managed to make some headway in controlling _Zack’s_ temperature. “Finally! It looks as if the worst is past. Still this was a _major_ burnout. She’s gonna be down for quite some time after that doozy."
The hero saw my expression and guessed it in one, “Don’t ya be worry’n about yer kid, she’s in good hands here and all yer do’n is getting in the way now. Why don’t ya come on out here so we can talk about what happened.”
"Yes sir," I said as I reluctantly followed him out of the room.
As we walked down the hall I head a muffled reply from inside.
“Ugh…Themed hero teams! Why don’t they just shoot me now and end the travesty…” someone complained none too quietly, sending echoes down the hallway.
“Laying it on pretty thick there ain’t he?” someone else said, followed with a few laughs.
“I heard that Fred, and we’ll have word later,” the giant said in a more normal tone with far less draw before turning to me with an extended hand, “Round here I’m know more formally as ‘John Wayne,’ leader of the Rangers, but most just call me Wayne,” he said as he led me towards a staff break room.
“Nice to meet you Mr …Wayne, my names Jeremy Benton,” I replied shaking his hand. It was only then that I realized how much I was shaking from the adrenaline crash.
He noticed as well. “Why don’t we get some coffee,” his tone suggested that we’d both need it, so I merely sighed and nodded my assent.
He guided me to a small break room and busied himself making our chosen beverage, “Sugar, creamer?” he asked as the surprisingly high end coffee maker finished brewing.
“Neither… I can’t stand that frilly stuff, just black for me.” I said, repeating my usual reply on autopilot as if I were at the office.
He gave me a sympathetic look as he carried over two cups. Taking a seat across from me his expression changed, becoming more serious, “I know this is hard but …what can you tell me about what happened to yer kid?”
As we drank coffee I went over the whole story with Wayne. I mentioned where we were from and our plan for a “guy’s trip.” What our route was and the encounter with the tribesman and his seemingly crazy behavior.
Then on to the cave and how Zack had been seeing thing I couldn’t. I laid out our plan to camp on top of the Rock and Zack’s pointing out the glow of the rocks around us.
Then the impact and how he’d seemingly been drawn to it. I told him my description of the entity that I’d seen. I mentioned Zack's behavior towards the creature and vice versa. And then the grand finally as they touched and…merged into one being
After I finished the tale, I was able to finally call Mary and explain what had happened. It went...not as well as I hoped:
Ring…Ring…Ring…Ri…”Hello, Jer…Is that you…Or is this ZJ?” Mary asked groggily.
“It’s me, Hun… I was just now able to call…” I started but she cut in.
“What time is it anyway…” she paused probably looking at the clock on the phone, “Jer, why are you calling at nearly two in the morning…” she grumbled, but then paused for a moment, “Is someone hurt?” she asked franticly.
“Honey, slow down, I need you to listen,” I tried to calm her, little good it did.
“Don’t patronize me Jer, I want to know what would have you calling at this time of night. And you better give me as straight answer.”
“Something happen when we were on the Rock tonight,” I started but was cut off when she gasped.
“What do you mean ‘on the Rock,’ did ZJ fall or something?” she asked even more franticly.
There was a muffled moan of, “Mommy, I had a bad dream…” as Maggie must have woken up in the commotion.
“Honey, everything is okay,” I tried again, only this time to be interrupted by the hospital PA system.
“Dr. Keller to room…” could clearly be heard and Mary jumped on it.
“Doctor…Jer, where are you at?” she was really getting upset now.
“We’re at the hospital, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, dear…” again she cut me off.
"What do you mean Jer? Hospital! Why won't you tell me what's going on?" I could tell I was going to get it soon by her tone, as I heard her pick up Maggie in a rush to get to her son.
"Honey, the doctors think he's fine," I said in my most reassuring tone, "but I need you to come over here because they are holding him for a few days."
"A FEW DAYS! THAT DOSEN'T SOUND LIKE FINE, JEREMY BENTON! YOU WILL HAVE EXPLAINING TO DO WHEN I GET THERE!" She yelled as the phone call ended.
"I take it, since I could hear her from ten foot away, that she didn't take the news well?" Wayne asked as I starred at the phone for a moment.
"Yeah, and she used my full name, at this point I'm glad my will is in order," I told him, causing him to laugh even though I was dead serious about it.
"If it helps, I'm sorry about the cloak and dagger stuff," the big hero said as I thought about my options. I think I remember that Japan was nice this time of year.
"I understand I had to give as few details as possible," I replied. "I don’t want to know who might be listening."
"Well, at least you have some reprieve," he said consolingly. "It takes about four hours to get to you home town from here ..."
"HA!" I had to laugh at that. "You honestly think it'll take her that long?" I asked incredulously.
He paused, working over the situation. "Yeah, I see your point. I doubt she'll even notice the speed limit," he replied.
After a moment we returned to our original subject and I had to ask him frankly, "What was that thing?"
"To tell you the truth, Mr. Benton, I honestly don't know," he said curtly before continuing. "But we're definitely going to find out."
Looking at the clock, I realized that it was after two in the morning. After a full day of hiking coupled with the panicked rush to the hospital and hearing my wife almost in tears, I was both physical and emotionally exhausted. Wayne took pity on me and found one of the nurses, he asked if they had any spare rooms for me to lay down it and she took over.
She led me to an unused room and I ended up napping on a spare bed for a couple of hours. Despite not having showered in a day and a half, having a thin mattress that squeaked, and a lack of pillows and blankets, I was out before the nurse even closed the door.
Saturday, May, 31 2008 5:02 AM CST
HCM Hospital, Fredericksburg, TX
Mary arrivedjust before five in the morning, one of the nurses hadcomeandwoken me. As soon asshe opened the doorIknew exactly why.AsI shook offlingering exhaustion,I followedmywife'snearly shouting voice as she tried to pry answers out of someone.
As my eyes adjusted, I could see that she was frantic and in tears and caught the tail end of an argument that seemed to have played in a loop by her expression.
Her free hand was shaking as she tried again, "...Zachary Benton, where is he? Where is my son?" she pleaded with the receptionist as she held tightly to a miraculously still sleeping Maggie.
"I'm sorry Ma'am, but I can't give any information. You'll have to speak with the doctor," the nurse tried to speak in a neutral tone but this only cause Mary to become more frustrated.
"Why won't you people help me?" she nearly screamed in frustration. "If you don't get someone with authority out here right now..." she started but I cut in from a reasonably safe distance.
"Mary," I called from down the hall, almost regretting it as she turned her gaze upon me.
"Jeremy," yeah she was mad, "if I don't get some answers right now, you will not..." but I cut her off.
"Mary!" I said emphatically, which got her attention, and pulled her into a hug.
She resisted until she saw that my eyes were leaking...at which point she broke down as well, thinking the worst. When she broke off, she'd calmed down enough to listen to the doctor, who'dappeared out of nowhere andexplained our...son's, situation.
"Although ZJ isn't out of the woods completely, I feel confident thatthere'll bea full recovery," of courseI noted that he left the hard parts up to me to explain.
As the doctor retreated, Mary turned on me. "Why wouldn't you tell me anything over the phone, Jer?" she asked sniffling through her confusion and worry as she laid Maggie on one of the nearby chairs.
"Because I was worried to say anything over the phone, honey," I told her, motioning for us to take a seat. "The reason I couldn't say anything was because ZJ...manifested...Using the words like mutant, manifested, or burnout over the phone seemed like a bad idea..."
"You mean he's a mutant?" she asked, her confusion written across her face, "But we had him tested just last year..."
"And they told us there was no 100% certainty with those test, remember?" I reminded her as she nodded, digesting the information, "ZJ is going to need you more than ever..."
"Is it bad?" she cut in, scarred that her little boy had become a monster.
"Even if it were, it would still be our child in there, wouldn't it?" I asked the obvious question pointing down the hall.
She let out a deep sigh as she nodded at my reasoning, then replied, "You said ‘if it were,’ does that mean he's one of the lucky ones?" she asked hopefully.
"I don't know if ZJ would call it lucky..." I started but her fear redoubled.
"What do you mean...does this have to do with why he'll need me more?" she asked back on the verge of being frantic.
"Yes and no," I led off with, trying to keep her from a panic attack. "She's going to need her mother more than ever now."
"You already said..." I could see the wheels turning as she processed what I'd just said, before shouting, “WHAT?”
"I said that she..."
"I know what you said!" she glared daggers at me, at least anger had pushed aside her panic. "What I meant was how did our son become a she?"
Retelling the story, and leaving off the unnecessary details, I started with the cave and how ZJ had seen something I couldn't. I mentioned the weird dreams he'd been having and the old man that had shown up.
As I went through what I could remember, she held the now wide awake Maggie, as if something would happen to her by just listening to the story. As her anger at me bled away, her tears started to fall much more heavily.
By the time recounted the events after dinner, her anger had completely flowed away with her tears and she was back to near panic. I pulled her into a tight hug and felt her tears on my neck until she was finally able to speak.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?” she pleaded more than asked and I could see the fear in her eyes.
“I don’t know…They were afraid to wake…her up,” I stumbled over the identifier. “Dr. Keller said something about a telepath coming in to check on ZJ.”
Almost as if on cue, the automated doors swung open with a loud hissing screech that could set Champion’s nerve on end. “Cat Ballou,” or Cat, resident telepath and member of the local heroes, spotted us huddled together and made a beeline in our direction.
Her heels clicked on the scuffed ageing tile as she approached and spoke to us, "I have to admit that I was sceptical of your account, when I first heard it."
"And now," I asked, just to get her to admit it.
"Well, I can definitely say that I believe you now," she said simply.
"So what did you find in...ZJ's head?" Mary asked, starting to shake when Cat didn't explain.
"You must be her ... his mother, Mary right?"AfterMary nodded her reply, she went on, "I have no idea what it was he came in contact with, all I can tell you is that he's stillalive...and _she's_ going to need a lot of help with the changes," she told us, though I could tell she was holding something back when her eyes went distant.
She went on to explain that having an apparent manifestation, after contact with an otherworldly being, made for an interesting challenge to place before such a small hospital. I’d noticed several hushed debates, with the tension around ZJ jumping an order of magnitude after my story was confirmed.
“What do you mean when you said he…she’s going to need a lot of help?” I asked when I saw the look on her face.
“I’ve met someone who’d gone through the whole ‘swapping sides’ thing before,” she said quietly, “back in school, we were…best friends.” I could tell she was going to say something else but let her continue, “when it first happened, she was horrified…she tried to…hurt herself…” she trailed off with a sniffle.
Mary’s nature took over at seeing their shared feelings and she hugged the woman, afterwards she asked, “W-What happened to your friend?” no doubt in fear of what could happen to ZJ.
“It took years of counselling and support, but she got better…she’s on,” she started but then shook her head and corrected herself before outing her friend, “She’s with a team in a nearby city.” Seeing the look on my wife’s face she went on, “but she was one of the lucky ones…she told me that many have died over this kind of change, and not all self-inflicted…”
I caught the unsaid portion and continued, “So we’ll have to just keep it a secret then, so no bigots find out and try to harm her for something she can do nothing about,” I said firmly, with a plan already forming.
Mary looked horrified as she remembered something, “Like what happened to that poor girl in Dallas?” she said as her eye’s filled again.
“I knew her,” Cat said morosely. “Transect didn’t deserve any of what that pig Longhorn let happen,” she said as I could see her repressed rage at the reminder. “And it’s why people don’t hear as much about the gender swap mutations. It’s just too dangerous when they end up having to fight against villains and so called ‘heroes’ alike.”
I decided to steer the conversation back to our original subject, pointing towards the doors she’d just come through, I asked, “How is our child doing in there?”
Mary sucked in a breath loudly as her anticipation of the answer cut through any other emotions.
Cat was nodding her head as she spoke, “Oh yes!” she replied quickly, having remembered her purpose in talking to us. Pointing to her own head to illustrate as she spoke, “Not, only in there, but she seems to be in control and stable also,” she said with a slight smile.
Thankfully she gave a tentative green light so that we’d be able to see…our daughter. They allowed Mary, Maggie and Ito see Zack as soon as the staff had a chance to move her to a recovery room. But, before we were allowed into the room, the doctor insisted that Mary be prepared for what she would see in the place of her son.
"Thank you doctor, for your concern, but you are between me and my child..." Mary was about to go off, but I interceded by putting a hand on her shoulder.
"I think she's as prepared as she's going to get, wouldn't you say so Dr. Keller?" All he did was nod as he stepped swiftly out of the way.
After being prepared for the worst, a very shaky Mary led Maggie into Zack’s room. When they entered the room, Mary let out a gasp as she saw the beautiful creature that lay peacefully upon the hospital bed.
“Mommy, who’s the pretty girl?” Maggie asked in the innocent tone that only a child can achieve.
“That, baby girl, is your new big sister…”
“REALLY!” Maggie beamed, then wilted a little, “but mommy, I thought we were gonna see Zack? You said he was sick. I even brought Mr. Wabbit to chase away the bad dreams ... Where’s ZJ mommy.” Her little face scrunched with worry as she pulled said rabbit out of her backpack.
As Mary broke down in tears, I stepped up to cover for her, “Honey… that is ZJ,” to which she gave me a confused look, so I went on, “you’ve heard of mutants, right pumpkin?”
“Yes Daddy…but everyone says they’re bad though, and really ugly too,” she started to shrink back away from the bedside with a fearful look.
“No Maggie, not all mutants are like that,” I said with a wave of my hand towards the bed. “You don’t need to be afraid of your ... of ZJ. The doctors say that is still him in there, but there’s a lot more too.”
“What do you mean, Daddy?” she asked scrunching her face in confusion as she hugged her stuffed toy as tight as she could.
“Well, when we were up on the Rock, something fell from the sky and landed next to us,” I watch as Maggie's expression went from surprised to curious almost like someone flipped a switch.
“Like a _real_ alien?” Maggie cut in with true wonderment that’s best expressed by young ones.
“Yes sweaty, and this one seemed nice too.” Before she could cut in I went on, “and Zack was so brave that he shook hands with it…and then together they turned into that pretty girl there.”
“Is that why she’s glowing so bright Daddy?” the question confused me because, to me the young woman before me looked almost normal, though she was certainly too beautiful to ever be mistaken as such though. The only oddities I’d seen were the strange tail that lay across her body, now hidden by the blanket, and what appeared to be thin, yet wide turquoise ribbons that moved ever so slightly among her raven black hair, as if caught in a non-existent breeze.
Saturday, May, 31 2008 7:48 AM
Hospital Break Room, HCM
(With many anti-eavesdropping counter measures active)
“So, Cat," Wayne started in a hushed tone, this despite the relative security they’d been afforded by both ‘Doc Holiday’s’ anti-snoop devices and ‘Maverick’s’ finger wiggling. At her look he spoke up louder, “What about this situation aren’t you telling the kid’s folks?”
Cat Ballou gave a heavy sigh, as she never could get why they _had_ to have old western code names. “Besides the fact that I have no idea what that thing was in her head you mean?” As she spoke her voice grew in distress. “I mean, when the dad was talking about aliens, I figured he was just another head case. But when you asked me to check I took a peek in the kid’s head and guess what? Not only is the dad telling the truth, he’s probably _downplay’n_ it a little.”
“How do you mean?” Maverick stepped in before Wayne could start pulling rank on her for yelling at him.
“The ‘tribesman’ that was following him around was none other than our _sometimes_ ally Cochise," she paused to let that sink in.
If the situation were any different she’d have laughed at Mav’s expression, “And even you said ya don’t understand that hoki stuff he calls ‘magic,’ but for some reason what he does just works for him.”
“I keep telling you that I don’t think it’s ‘magic’ either,” Doc finally joined the discussion, “my instruments can actually make sense of what he does, so maybe it’s something else entirely.”
“Whatever, Doc,” Cat knew she had to nip that before the team Dev/Gag ran away with his exposition and went on, “my point is that this is _really_ out of our league."
"How would a kid be out of our league?" Wyatt, the normally quiet one, asked.
"When I looked in the kid’s head, I got a double barrel dose of thoughts. Both felt that something had gone wrong. That is all I could really get before I was nearly knocked out by whatever else was in there, it just decided I wasn’t welcome anymore. The one bit of good news I got from the whole thing was that the kid seemed to be in control of whatever it was and it’s try’n to calm her down.”
“Is it a high level spirit?” Wayne tried.
“I wandered the same,” Maverick said by way of answer, “but spirits like that appear via the astral plane, not crashing to earth to be found in some crater. Also, with even lesser spirits there would be a magic footprint of some kind, yet with the girl I’m not even picking up the traces inherent in all humans.”
His eyes took on a vacant look for a moment before he went on, “Coyote also agrees that this is not one of the great spirits that he knows of…but he is very, very nervous of it for some reason. Whatever it is…it is very, very old and I’m going by Coyote’s measure of old here.”
Wayne turned to Doc, “Could this be a Dynamorph event?”
Doc was shaking his head even as he answered, “I don’t think so. First, we have the whole visible display and…ceremony in how things played out, not to mention the age of the…host,” he said holding up the glowing cubes found in her hand. “Second, is the fact of what Cat said about the two having a conversation…I’ve never heard of a Dynamorph speaking with, let alone giving consolation to its host before. And third, a Dynamorph event doesn't result in burnout by itself,” he paused rubbing his temples before concluding his mini-exposition. “Like with Cochise’s so called magic, I have a feeling that we are dealing with something truly alien to our knowledge. No pun intended.”
Wayne hesitated for a moment before he brought up his next question, “Now the next question doesn’t come lightly,” he said and all heads turned to him, “Do we notify governmental authorities?”
“You can’t be serious, Wayne?”
“Why, may I ask, do you bring up this question?” the always calm and collected Doc asked.
"There have already been at least ten reports of strange events happening out at the Rock tonight," he waited a moment before pointing out the obvious, "and all of you know we can't afford to have the MCO, the DPA, or any others from the alphabet soup out her trying to hunt down a mutant."
"Are we even sure she's a mutant?" Cat, being both the heart of the team and the youngest, asked seeking a way to avoid that outcome. She then looked to Doc for confirmation.
"Oh yes, she's definitely a mutant," he emphatically replied, "and as for this hypothetical search for mutants, they'd probably find one...or twenty, in addition to her in the vicinity. Then we'd probably lose our team license for not being stricter with all of the MID violators." Doc said in his normal apathetic tone that constantly got him in trouble with Cat.
"You’re suggesting giving up this kid to protect The Train?" Cat asked incredulously, "Isn't that a little contradictory?"
"We're talking about giving a show of cooperation with the one mutant that they know of," Maverick answered.
"And we do it so that the big bad Mutant _Control_ Office doesn't look deeper into our area. " Wayne voice became very serious. "A mutant underground railroad is hard enough to keep off of their radar as it is. If the Llano MCO office wasn't so incompetent, we'd have been found out years ago."
"So we give up a kid who is guilty of nothing but being at the right place at the wrong time?" Cat still couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"No Cat," Maverick broke in. "If we play this smart, we can keep the identities of her and her family from the MCO and just get her registered for her MID under a temp codename. Or if she doesn’t want to come up with one yet, she could apply for one of the "Jane Doe" cards. Then, when she's legal’n all, we’ll look like we followed the rules, by the book, and gotten her registered. On the flip side, we might keep our “little” secret off the desk of some H1! castoff for at least a while longer.”
“I don’t like what we have to do any more than you do, Cat,” Wayne went for a diplomatic approach this time, “but we’ve got several _families_ here that might get disappeared because we let the cat out of the bag to cover up something too big and too public. I’m sure there are several agencies already descending upon us as we speak. If they don’t find anything close to the surface, they’re gonna dig deeper and that’s something we just can’t afford."
Not So Much Time Ago and We Still Don't Increment Time
Just Outside Your Galaxy
For many millennia we…I travelled amongst the stars as an em’Vra, a “singular” in human…our new terms. This existence requires much sacrifice, but the alternative…I could not bear.
As for my voyage here, there isn’t much to tell. When traveling in such a way, a d’Vra is in et’Nam, a form of stasis. I believe the terminology you use is FTL or faster than light. But that isn’t saying much. This is something that the d’Vra had achieved many ages ago before our slumber. We have transcended the need for such with proper preparation.
As I approached your quadrant of the galaxy, I became aware of such preparation in advance of my arrival. The star would be able to feel my elation that another would be here to guide me while among this people.
Before the great slumber, many of the d’Vra were dispersed among the worlds of the stars. When the call was issued to return, some of the d’Vra had come to love the peoples they’d encountered and chose to remain as if mothers among children. It was unknown how many survived.
Yet at least one had stayed on the Earth, as I had become aware of a dim but distinct presence there. Slowing to regain concentration, I called out to my sister. As one separated from the Vra for so long, this one would be unaware of the tragedy that had befallen our beloved home. As a young one among my kind, my light brightened at the hope of having unity with this one.
Learning, feeling, experiencing and sharing as our unity always made possible. Not being a part of unity for so long was almost unthinkable for our majority. Yet the wealth of experience such a d’Vra could share would be staggering.
After a brief pause with no reply I became worried. Could such a d’Vra shun one of their own?
It was almost unthinkable. But our form of language transcends into several dimensions and would be immediately recognized by any of our kind. Something had to be wrong since this one had not yet replied. I listened for almost too long, in our time, but there was still no reply.
As I began to approach again more cautiously, I became aware of an ep’Tru being activated. The only vernacular for humans… would be the odd leather hand sheath call a catcher’s mitt. This would allow me to travel much faster as it would remove the dangers inherent with “FTL” travel, absorbing and abating energies that could easily disrupt a planet’s cycles.
Encouraged that I wasn’t being shunned by my sister I quickened my pace. What would have taken years went by in minutes as my energies surged at the renewed hope before me. To be the first to share unity with one after so long would be one of the greatest of privileges.
New concepts, languages, cultures and beliefs could be shared at the speed of thought. More importantly, understanding would follow. That in turn would give way to a new unity between us and together we’d both be better prepared for the challenges ahead.
The small star that supports this planet was coming into view and I began preparing myself for a meeting of an honored elder. Yet the closer I got, the more I was able to feel. The lack of reciprocated feelings disturbed me, but I pressed on. Passing several of the nearby stars I started to really worry for my sister, yet my hope was not extinguished because of the ep’Tru and I pressed on.
Within range to make out the larger planets, my fears grew even greater. A great sadness threatened to overcome me, but I pressed on. Then as I beheld the tiny planet, the beacon of the ep’Tru providing the perfect target to aim for, my heart was finally broken as I knew for certain that my sister was no more. But I pressed on and into the grasp of the ep’Tru’s energies.
Crashing through hundreds of barriers designed to slow the decent of those who traverse stars is hardly the reception anyone who is actively grieving wants.
As I broke the last barrier, I didn’t even have the will to slow down my approach. Only the massive sonic boom jarred me to re-adjust my trajectory to that of the ep’Tru. I didn’t even register the impact.
But since our kind knows the stresses involved in constructing the ep’Tru, it is always to be stationed upon only the most stable of geological structures. As this was so, I only made a small crater when I…landed.
Yet I was too distraught to be concerned with such things. For the writing just inside the first ring that makes up the ep’Tru detailing the life and death of d’Vra b’Vacu, sent its message through me at the speed of thought.
Dį́’íjį́ Nida’anish, T’ą́ą́chil, Naaki 1467
(Thursday, April 2, 1467)
The Area You Now Call Texas)
~~The History of d'Vra b'Vacu~~
Upon arrival on this beautiful planet, this one interacted with a primitive human tribe. At first they feared me and the light I brought. Then, as time went on, they began to see that I meant them not harm and they began to understand our speech as I learned theirs. Many things I taught them and I learned from them as well.
With knowledge, they forsook their tribal name and came to call themselves by a derivation of my own name. This act was considered to be a great honor for both sides. The B’Vacu'Am, translated as “Children of b'Vacu” with a few side notes as being adopted, were formed. When I recognized the meaning of this, I chose to share with them even more.
I found that I was able to achieve a form of unity with certain ones among them. These in turn could use some of my energies to accomplish impossible feats. Those touched in such a way were revered as mighty hunters, warriors of great prowess, and "shaman" (though they never called their art magic) of exceeding power. These in turn were encouraged to generate as many children as possible, so as to develop the trait.
Amazingly, this people had already had familiarity with a’Va, which they called chalchihuitl or turquoise in modern times. It was the mineral so plentiful upon our home world. It became attuned to our very being and our being attuned to it as well, a pivotal stage in our history of ages past.
Yet here, so far from our home star, a people recognized its value and had given it a special place within their society. When brought before our True Light, the mineral would change. It would become clearer and realign into a symmetrical structure to better absorb some of our energies, as it always has.
Also to my shock, those touched by our light were slightly benefited by contact with these charged stone, becoming even stronger or displaying strange new abilities. For a time, I taught them and our new unity prospered. A great peace was afforded the B'Vacu'Am as the neighboring tribes feared and respected them as a mighty people touched by a "Great Spirit." Yet things changed, as they often do.
When the call came... for the d'Vra to return to their home star to rest for a time more favorable to their message of unity, I became troubled. The reasoning that had brought about this unity was unwarranted among the young race that I now saw as my "children."
Our message of unity was treated as the greatest of wisdom upon this planet, small as it was. Certainly other worlds could be reached as this one had. So I chose to forsake the Vra. To delay true unity, so as to prove that this fledgling society could thrive and enjoy the unity that the Vra provided.
Recognizing the seeds that could one day stand as mighty as the Vra, the Dark One sent forth His own form of offspring to scour them from existence. As the naive d’Vra I was, I had severed my link to the majority, would be vulnerable.
This being corrupted the minds of many tribes and empowered them with the darkness of its creator. As I had no knowledge of this great enemy, we first sought a peaceful resolution with these tribes. Crazed beyond reasoning, they attacked without provocation and slaughtered many of my "children."
Still grieving the loss of so many young lights, my people fought on with bravery. Yet in the final days we faced a vast horde with only a few mighty warriors. My light dimed as the last B'Vacu'Am warrior sacrificed himself to buy time for the small remnant of children to escape to the small rock mountain.
It was here that I protected them as long as I could after being separated from the unity of the Vra. I wept seeing most of the younglings of my children fall to this vast enemy. In that moment I became enraged, something the Vra had sworn off ages ago, and joined the battle myself.
Also, in that moment, I saw a glimpse of the plan that the Dark One's offspring had for me. It sought to use my own link to the Vra as a means of corrupting the whole of our people. I could feel its joy over the deception that it would enslave me to, and the cruel glee that it had in destroying my children as a reward for capturing me. No words, on any planet, could describe the level sadness I felt over the loss of so many lights for only an attempt to capture me. As I dove off the side of my mountainous home, I made my peace with what had to be done.
The release of all of the energy I'd accumulated at once could have been seen from space, if anyone was there to see it. No word could describe the sound that emanated from the Dark One's offspring. So filled with rage, permeated by wanton greed, enflamed in unfulfilled bloodlust and only tempered by knowledge that it had failed its creator. For this it would not die, for that would be a release. Much worse things happen to things of its nature for much less. The Dark One would handle his punishment personally.
As my last thought, I remembered that not all had been lost. Two young ones, with great knowledge of what I'd taught, still remained. The small consolation brought a glimmer of light with it that I used to lay this record for another to find one day.
Hidden among the rocky summit of my former home they'd come to no harm from my sacrifice. As part of the Touched they'd be able to see the chronicles of the Vra and the teachings I had left untaught, written upon the walls of those very caves. Tasked with the preservation of the ep'Tru and all of the writings and relics for future generations, they'd become a people hidden among any tribes that moved here and thus hidden from harassment by the Dark One until another of the d’Vra arrived.
"May you burn as brightly as a'Vras young d'Vra,
For the light of d'Vra b'Vacu,
Mother and Protector of the B'Vacu'Am,
Sister among the d'Vra and proud Vra from the day of Awakening,
was extinguished here."
Saturday, May 31, 2008
HCM Hospital, Fredericksburg, TX
For a time, all my light had faded as I wept bitterly. I grieved not only the loss of my elder and sister, but also over the loss of such a beautiful example of unity among the people of this world. Her final song almost crushed me within my bitter emotions.
Yet knowledge of the relationship that could be formed and the benefits to both sides was invaluable to myself as a d'Vra. But for so many lights to shine for so little time was staggering to me. I would have to remain very cautious so as to recognize agents of the Dark One.
At once I was aware of a presence approaching me. I was quite startled at this because of the amount of energy involved with the ep'Tru. Yet as soon as I had overcome my initial shock, it was almost staggering to see an example of what b'Vacu had described standing before me. The young male was small but his light burned with great intensity.
Though similar in color to my own light, the youngling before me had light of a slightly different hue interspersed with the promise of other colors soon to show. I could feel his shock at the sight of my true form, but also his desire to comfort and protect me as my weeping had saddened him greatly. Then I met his eyes.
I sensed a small amount of a'Va within a pouch made in his clothing, "Do you ask favor of me or do you wish the a'Va as a mean of destruction?" I asked remembering the ceremony that seemed to have developed among b'Vacu's people.
At that point he seemed to remember something. In proper ceremony he presented four stones, indicating others would need my protection and power as well. I gasped at the implications: If there were others among this people that could use the power of these stones, then the touched ones had not perished. Also since they'd been adopted by b’Vacu, we could be considered of relation to a point.
And finally, as such, I was bound by duty to remember the love that b'Vacu had shown for her children and continue to protect and teach them where she could not. As if knowing my thinking the child nodded. After that I became gleeful at the thought of building upon the unity she'd laid the foundation for.
With an uncertainly that was new, and yet familiar from the few memories left by b’Vacu, I reached out to instilled power into the stones. With these we'd begin a new unity that was far more wary of the enemy that had triumphed in the past. Great subtlety would be needed to shroud their existence from forces that would surely come against them. Yet as I made contact with the youngling, though, something went terribly wrong.
The first hint was a drawing sensation that was left unmentioned in b'Vacu's record. As this was a new experience for me, I had no idea that things on this planet had changed so drastically from the time of their last contact with one of the d'Vra. A time of great change was upon the humans and new traits had emerged apart from planned evolution or spontaneous change. I couldn't have known of the power that this young one was on the cusp of realizing and thus could do nothing about the events that followed.
All positive emotions I'd been projecting reverted back to a fear I'd never known. I first questioned if this was some form of deception on the part of the Dark One, but quickly discounted it as my mind first made unity with this individual. Neither the same form that b'Vacu had experienced nor that I'd known for so long as part of the Vra. I was pulled energy, spirit and body into this young but powerful emergent mutant.
Yet as strong as his abilities were, there was just too much for the young... Avatar, as your people call them, to handle. Had I not acted, the vast energies I knew as one of the Vra would have both enveloped and consumed the both of us without my control.
In that moment I came closer to panic than any d'Vra had experienced since the time of Awakening. At that time we as a people took on this form, so different from anything else in the universe. At that time many of our people either merged together as one or were dispersed throughout the Vra and only reassembled many years later.
Yet this fear was very present and I had to force myself to act in order to save us both. The lessons learned from our past were of great help in this regard.
The problem seemed to be that this youngling's current body couldn't handle but a fraction of my being. With realization that I couldn't halt this process, only guide it, I began making changes to better handle as much as possible.
As I had no knowledge of this species' previous or future path of change, all I could go on were the memories of my own race and went with the first templet that would suit our needs. Yet with everything I'd done it never seemed to be enough. When I'd completed the changes, I recognized that there was still an overabundance of energies that couldn't be contained.
This was your... "Rock and a hard place," proverb played out with grave consequences attached to either option before me. On one hand, I could allow these energies to continue to fill our new body and hope to not die. The other option was to disperse these energies into the ep'Tru. Although doing so would make travel to and from Earth much easier and safer for others of the d'Vra, it would drain much of our strength and leave us vulnerable.
A choice of instant death vs. possible endless suffering at the hands of the Dark One if We were discovered us in such a near helplessly weakened state. So, in accord with b'Vacu's wishes for your protection and with a sense of dread as to our outcome, I dispersed with so much of the energy that I fear We may need in the days ahead.
Saturday, May 31, 2008 About 2:30 PM
HCM Hospital/Inside Our Head
"I DON'T BELIVE YOU," I ... shouted if that is at all possible in this ... place, "YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!"
"On the contrary," she continued in our new form of reverberating language, "both of us were nearly disintegrated when we touched so I was forced to change your former body into what is now our unity," as she went she showed the ‘template’ she'd chosen to design the ‘needed’ changes.
It took me an embarrassing amount of time just sitting and staring at ... e'Vrun, before all that she'd told me had time to sink in. In the same nanosecond that this occurred, my mind overflowed with questions that she no doubt felt as a physical force within this ... place, which housed her consciousness. Really, there were too many to be answered at that moment but that didn't stop several from vying for first place. The one that won first place was the most obvious for any red blooded male.
"YOU TURNED ME INTO WHAT?"
"Your body has been advanced maybe a million years, give or take millennia, upon both of our specie’s path of change. This should be seen as a blessing over death, don't you agree?"
Of course she'd miss the point of my question completely, and I had to clarify so as to get her to understand.
"Yes, but you ‘advanced’ me right out of my own gender!" I know it was a bit of a minor point to her. But for me this was a change that could invite so many other consequences. I could feel as she searched my memories and found what she sought.
"Oh!" That was her reply as she seemed to become a little embarrassed over whatever she'd found.
"Oh? Oh what?" I was becoming frustrated at our ease of communication that seemed to lack context on both sides.
"This is embarrassing to admit, but the Vra have been without defining gender for so long, it has never been an issue I've come across and … it never occurred to me."
"Never occurred...You completely change me and that's all you can say to defend yourself?" I was moving past frustration and going into anger, which resulted in an outburst from my head-mate.
"That is enough of that! This change has affected both of us, remember? Our body, and that includes you, only exists because of my quick thinking!" her tone was flat as she felt my anger and fought to remain calm.
"Had I not been so inclined to preserve _both_ of us, you wouldn't be here. I apologize for the shape, but would you have preferred one that vaporized seconds after We made contact?" there was no missing how serious she was about this line of reasoning.
"No...and sorry I got angry. This whole sharing emotions and stuff is gonna take me time to be able to handle." Cowered a little, and able to think thing through again, I continued my questioning. "C-Can this be fixed? Can you turn me back into a boy?" with a glimmer of hope I asked.
"As my people haven't dealt with physical hormone in an age, I am also having trouble with them and apologize myself. But, to answer your question, no, the conditions that made this possible were...unique to that moment in time." Definite regret accompanied that thought.
Her face looked distant for a moment, projecting annoyance, before she made a waving motion with her hand.
"What was that about?
"Just someone being nosey and making sure you are still in here," she calmed herself before continuing our previous line of thought. "We have neither the energies required nor the ability to travel back to that exact moment when you ... manifested?" she looked questioningly at me for confirmation.
"Yeah, that's gotta be what you described. Extreme fever is a dead giveaway." She again questioned without words to which I replied, "If a baseline went through that they'd be a vegetable ... if they survived at all. How is this even possible?"
"From your knowledge, I'm not certain. I am only able tentatively to say that you were an Avatar."
"_Were_, so I'm not one anymore?"
"I am unsure of what We are now, ZJ. But as long as I'm with you, no spirit being or malignant entity could lay claim to you."
She paused at the swirl of emotions that came with more conformation that I was now a mutant. All of my life I'd only heard horrible stories of those poor people who changed into monstrosities and were feared and hated by all.
Remembering again the figure that e'Vrun had shown me, I couldn't help but feel that I had dodged a bullet in that regard. Some avatars had taken on some of the shape of whatever spirit they held … some more than others. When my emotions settled enough she went on.
"Yes, you now realize that there are worse things that could have found you first, I see." She empathized with my horror at that thought, "Many magic entities have used the same trait, that helped to enabled our union to exist, to take for themselves servants or even hosts to sustain them. Furthermore, not all of these unions have been beneficial or equal." Then she displayed the emotional equivalent of a wry smile. "Aren't you gonna thank me for saving you from such a fate?"
"Ugh, I thought I had it bad dealing with Maggie. Now I got a manipulative girl in my head," at that word, I'm sure my face would have turned completely white in the real word as it hit me all over again, "...an-and I'm a girl now too..." again, emotions hit me with a force that was so unfamiliar causing me to bitterly complain, "I don't think I can do this...I-I wanted to date girls...not be one!"
"Hush child. You are not alone in any of this and you will always have my support."
"But...but I saw you, you're just a kid too aren't you?" I was so emotional that I just asked the first thing that came to mind as a rebuttal.
To my surprise, she chuckled. "Yes, very true. I am ‘just a child’ among my own people. But what is a few million years against our oldest who can remember the Isokist race at the height of their power?"
"You mean you're that old?" I asked incredulously.
"Quite. As part of the Vra, ageing hasn't been a concern since before the time of our Awakening." She seemed to wander why I felt this was such an amazing amount of time.
"Just so you know, that is the era that this template came from. And that is if we don't find a way to achieve unity with the Vra. Barring complete disintegration, We won't have to worry about such things either."
Talk about mind boggling revelations. I mean, hoping for eighty is one thing, but hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years? I know that if I was conscious I wouldn't have stayed so after that statement.
Instead, I could do nothing but try to joke it off so as to keep what little sanity I had in place, "So do the really old ones regale others with stories of having to walk to other planets or something?" to which d'Vra e'Vrun, Ambassador to the Mighty Vra, let out a girlish giggle.
"Oh no, it was worse. Tails of how they invented things that were now useless to us, were among their favorites." By her emotions I could tell that she did love to share such things with them.
"What's the use of knowing who made what if the things no longer exist anymore? And even if they did, what would be interesting about something that is older than the wheel to you?" she was thoughtful for a moment.
"What is it e'Vrun?"
"I was just realizing how I should have paid more attention to such things. Many of the things they spoke of were very advance in view of the state of this planet."
"Yeah, yeah city girl stuck on a backwater planted and stuck with me. Make me feel a little more depreciated why don't ya?"
"At least it has gotten you out of your depression phase. I very well couldn't have you moping when you finally do wake up, now can I?" then her tone turned serious.
"Speaking of which, you need to do so soon. Other people are coming from far away and they feel as though they hate the very essence of the changes that occur in others."
She thought again and remembered, "We are vulnerable now. You must wake up, you must wake up now!"
Saturday, May 31, 2008 5:54 PM
HCM Hospital, Room 271
With that I was pushed out of her presence and into blackness that seemed to go on forever yet even in the darkness I was able to make out things.
I could feel myself breathe in the cold sterile air that smelled of disinfectant. My pulse quickened at the new sensations as I did so, as the ruff material grated upon very sensitive nerves. I was confused about the sensation until understanding hit.
"That must be why girls wear coverings over those additions."
I was a little unprepared for the general rush of images I “felt” around me. I was now able to place things by their feel and that was cool, disturbing and in some cases ... disgusting.
Not only could I feel the hospital bed and the sheets, I could see deeper somehow. I could feel my body in this way as I was aware of it in the normal since as well. The image that formed before me was both interesting and terrifying, as a definite femaleshape formed in my mind's eye.Somewhere within, I knew that this was me...us now. I had a hard time adjusting to that part.
"Okay...maybe it is echolocation, like I learned in science class this year," but experiencing it was completely different.
"Odd, that I somehow remembered that so clearly," I thought as I became aware that my head was throbbing..
The steadily beeping monitors set the rhythm of pulsing pain through my head and distracted me from any other thoughts. I felt a rush of understanding form e'Vrun that was somehow able to get her message across.
Focusing on 'our' other senses quickly neutralized the migraines, but that somehow didn't bring me much comfort. Other things were coming to the fore and seemed to be competing for attention, sort of like wolves over a fresh kill. But instead of focusing on our own condition, our attention was drawn away and We focused outside my room.
By now the monitors were sounding alarms and I could make out several emotions of varying intensity hurriedly approaching my room.
Fear was my first response, as I had no idea where I was or who these people were. Then, for some reason, it was almost as if a wall had formed outside my room. Several people reach that area and either froze or backed away cautiously, yet two of these reached the area and, instead of stopping, forced their way onward.
I felt the fear that paralyzed the others, but it was drowned out by relief so strong it was almost a tangible blanket that I could wrap myself in. My eyes widened, almost opening, as a smaller one seemed to follow as if unaffected, a soft glow surrounded and emanated from this one as it projected an excitement that was almost infectious.
These three burst into the room and descended upon us as my discomfort level was dragging my attention back the condition our body was in. Weakness doesn't even begin to cover it, I was barely able to keep from falling back into the lovely darkness, but I could feel the concern these three felt for me spike at those thoughts
I was at once enveloped as the three converged upon me with positive emotions that swallowed any remaining fear and encouraged me to wake up even more. My fear abated at their sentiment and I could almost feel the sigh of relief from those outside of the room as they approached more cautiously.
Then another light, somewhat different and glowing significantly brighter than the small one earlier, arrived. I could hear her speak with those in the hallway. Although I couldn't make out the conversation, afterwards there was a flurry of activity as these hurried to check every monitor and make notes in my chart (with concern so evident that it made me wary). Discomfort finally forced me to awaken enough to crack my eyes.
The gasp this time was audible.
I could see clearly, despite not having glasses and the three that clung around me were the likely suspectsIthought they'd be.I knewthey weremy family, who'd beenwaiting with anticipation, hope and lovethat radiated from them like the blazing light of...a'Vras? Well the shared memories thing would take some getting used to.
"Oh, honey, we were so worried about you..." Mom broke off as she sniffled. "Don't worry, the doctor says you'll be fine," she went on sounding as if she were trying to convince herself.
"Are you doing alright...ZJ?" Dad looked worriedly at my mom as he was unsure of how much I knew. "Do you need anything?"
With my first word, I addressed my most pressing need, "Water," I whispered to no one in particular and I noticed that my voice had an odd echoing effect.
"Oh, we've got a whole pitcher here," responded the nurse to my right.
What followed was the most musical sound I'd heard in so long, the promise of life that the water gave, as it was... being poured into one of those cups you see in every hospital room imaginable. It didn't ruin the effect, but...
She followed with a caution, "Now drink slowly dear. You’ll still be very weak from the burnout you've experienced and you need to rest as much as possible. "Having given her medical advice, she let my mom bring forth the elixir of life.
"Here I'll hold it for you ..." as Mom had done this with her dad and Maggie when she was younger, she knew better than to let me handle the cup, "no, just do as the nurse said and sip ... there you go."
At that point I would have tried to drink the Mississippi if it was close enough, but, she limited me to only sips. Even still, each one seemed to make the desert that had formed in my throat abate just a little. Finally, as my parched condition was manageable, the doctor managed to speak.
“You are very fortunate young … ZJ is it?” the doctor stepped in and nearly stumbled as he didn’t know what to refer to me as.
When I nodded weakly, he continued, “Having a burnout this severe, despite displaying a regen trait, is quite rare. I recommend no power usage ... that you can help anyway. If you tax your system, you could reignite it and it is more likely to be fatal in secondary cases." he paused and looked at my chart, "Especially after a level-three event, like this one seems to have been. I’m going to have to recommend bedrest for at least three more days so your body can both resolve anything unfinished and acclimatise to your new form."
“Unfinished?” I thought to Ev, and got an…understanding that it was entirely possible.
"All of the changes I started haven't fully manifested. This, of course, was on top of the all of the adaptations your own template decided to make on top of mine," she thought to me, then added as if it were nothing. "They should be finished in a few hundred years or so ..." she trailed off with a mental smirk.
When my parched condition was finally corrected, I managed to get to the Q&A portion of my incarceration. Ev had been over most of it ... in great detail.
"So I'm really a girl now?" I asked first without any lead up. This caused some to sigh with relief as I could feel that they'd been nervous of how I'd handle the news.
"Yes honey ..." Mom said tearing up again. "But you are still my ... child, nothing can change that, honey," as she spoke something must have fell in my eye at just the wrong moment again. Stupid dusty room.
To my surprise, one answer did manage to belied one of my assumptions, "Mom..." I sniffled, "H-how long have I been asleep?”(And again with the echoing voice, that’s gonna take some getting used too.) The reason I asked was, to my perception, it must have been days, if not weeks, since I was on the Rock.
“Only about sixteen hours now, by our best estimates,” was the reply I got from the grey haired doctor who'd backed out way so "We" could talk.
“It felt like I’d been out for days” I manage to croak out. As my parents’ and sister’s concern for me had outweighed any introductions earlier, I added, “and who are you.”
“Oh, pardon me…I’m Dr. Keller, your physician and general tormenter for the duration of your stay with us.”
At his joking mention of torment, I became aware of another oddly uncomfortable sensation, “Ugh, you just had to remind me, didn’t you…”
“What is it kiddo, are you in pain?” Dad asked as my face scrunched.
“It feels like something has gone to sleep…on my back…” this pain seemed quite alien and so it didn't register quite right when I first awoke.
Suddenly, the sensation came alive with the urgency of needing to move a limb that had fallen asleep. Much to my surprise though was the fact that this wasn't one of the four major limbs that I'd known from birth. (I know what you’re thinking. And no, I don’t want to go there just yet.)
The now painful tingling sensation started at the base of my neck and stretched out across this new body in a way that seemed both alien and somehow natural at the same time.
With urgency, I fumbled, pushing the hospital blankets aside so as to free this new appendage from the crushing bind it had been cramped into. “Help, I need to sit up…” I pleaded as best I could.
Noticing my discomfort, Dad seemed to understand something. “Here, let me help you out of the blanket,” he said as he saw that I was making little progress.
As he worked to loosen the covering, I could feel a noticeable difference in my discomfort level.
“Oh, that’s much better … I really hate that tingling feeling,” I said with a sigh, so relieved that my eyes had closed without me even realizing it.
Then the "feel" of the room changed rather abruptly. It felt like all eyes were upon me as the emotions wavered between fear and awe.
"Well that answers one question..." Dad's voice trailed off as if this answer was as blatantly obvious for everyone.
Curious as to the reason, I forced my eyes open once again, “Ugh, why does it look like everyone shrunk a little?” I turned to Dad as everyone seemed tobe just a little shorter, “did you mess with the bed controls..."
The looks seemed to linger as I wearily fought to focus my eyes on just one spectrum, alternately thinking that my eyes had gone out of focus after closing them.
That is, until Ev sent a little nudge that I understood as a "look down" gesture somehow.
Being so weak, all I could manage was a brief, "AH!" that sounded more to me like a squeak as I panicked momentarily, "I'm not touching the bed anymore!"
It took a combination of my family and Eve to calm me down as I came to terms with my loss of gravitational attachment that's so popular among the inhabitants of the Earth. I floated there thinking about the prospect of being able to fly for a moment.
Just as I was getting used to the whole "life without such mundane restrains" thought, something caught my eyes and I panicked yet again, "What was that?"
With all I'd seen in Ev's memories, I thought something was about to attack me. Thus startled, I drifted slightly away from this imagined enemy. To my horror it followed me! I would have darted out of the room and away from this unknown thing chasing me, but was interrupted by a deep voice that came from the open doorway.
"Well that's gotta be a new one," he said with a hint of amusement at my predicament, "I've seen a dog chasing its tail before. But I've never heard of a tail chasing its owner in quite this fashion before," “he” said and then I somehow knew his name was Jason Lariat and went by “John Wayne,” as his hero name.
"Tail?" was the best intellectual response I could muster in my terrified state, as the source of my earlier discomfort had finally come into view.
After my confused response, the laughter shattered both my fear and my pride. "The look on her face..." Mom said through her laughter, as I belatedly realized she was referring to me.
Mom had to add even further to my shame and embarrassment. As she wiped tears of both relief and mirth away, she asked the question dreaded by any who has done something foolish or embarrassing in the modern age of cell phones and video cameras.
"Tell me...did anyone get a picture?" she asked in a hopeful tone only a mother interested in bribe/blackmail material can pull off.
“Moommm…” I weakly complained at her excitement over my future embarrassment.
After all of the phones were checked, it ended up that Maggie (the little traitor) had gotten it all on video, "HA-HA! I got it, I got it," she taunted me.
Much to my horror, Mom loved it and wanted to copy it, "And I'll have several still frames printed to put in the scrapbooks I made for each of you."
"What, you can't let Maggie keep that...that's enough blackmail to ruin me..," I could feel blood draining from our face at the thought of how much ammo I’d just given her, as I weakly grabbed for the phone.
"Oh?" my evil mother figure asked sarcastically as she pocketed Maggie’s phone. "What's it worth to you, hmm?"
(Ugh! At this rate I’ll be too embarrassed to have anyone I know meet my family, much less dat…)
“LALALALALALA…Not even going there at the moment,” I cut that thought short as Ev chuckled at my thoughts though.
I would have said something to all of them...but I became acutely aware of how tired I was again, "Too...tired...t'fight..." I said weakly, as I yawned and floated back to my bed.
This seemed to snap the medical team back into focus after the much needed stress reduction. They shooed everyone out as they went about their duties and I was out even before they finished doing so.
Sunday, June 1, 2008 10:30 AM
Outside of HCM Hospital, Fredericksburg, TX
“Thanks for the update, Agent Michaels,” responded MCO Field Operative Peter McDaniel. With a muttered curse he snapped his phone shut.
“I know that sound Peter,” his partner in the good fight, Agent Jake Merritt, said as from the driver’s seat. “I’ve heard it before and if I’m not mistaken, we just go more bad news, right?”
"Why, after all this time, does that lazy group of nobodies calling themselves a ‘super team’ have to come out of the woodwork during a case that could be our big break? Ugh," Peter emphasized his displeasure by hitting the dash board.
"So, not only were we looking in the wrong place, but those posers had known were the mutie was all along?" Merritt asked incredulously.
"Oh, it gets better!" Peter's sarcasm was showing, "On top of that, they dagged the little freak’s parent into this and made a FUBAR situation out of what could have been a shining commendation on...our records," Peter said, not carrying anything about what his partner would get out of this operation.
“I can’t believe the ‘Stupers’ here in Freds just happen upon any and all cases that come up,” Merritt’s tone betrayed how annoyed he’d become over the years.
When he’d been assigned in the Llano MCO Office years ago as one of the “Senior Staff,” he thought he was moving up in the world. That was until he got home and found that his wife wouldn’t be coming out here with him. On the contrary, she’d been cheat’n on him with the very “boss” that had “promoted” him.
"I hate being stuck in the office most of the year," Peter complained, singing the sad song he repeated at least once a week, "my career didn't just met a roadblock when they transferred me here, it might as well be stuck in a time a time loop."
Knowing Peter was in one of his moods, Agent Merritt chose to remain silent for the rest of the trip to HCM to “detain” a dangerous mutant. They had the rest of the Llano office in route to help, but it was their point.
It was up to them to persuade the parents to drop the disgusting thing into their custody.
"We doing our standard scare, harass, and intimidate routine?" Merritt asked as they reached the HCM, "or are we provoking the mini-monster into attacking today?"
The latter method being so they could do their civic duty and put it down, Merritt knew that McDaniel would prefer the latter.
"Let's try the standard ... since we don't know what we're dealing with," Peter answered.
Yet when they got to the hospital, the staff wouldn’t allow them to see any records or even let slip that they had the thing there. To the agents’ disgust, the spandex jockeys had left a presence there as well, so it was obvious that the critter was in the building.
The first tactic was reliant on finding a H1! supporter on staff seemed to fall flat. It was crazy. None of’m were that concerned that the muties were a hairbreadth from tak’n over.
"Sorry, but we don't appreciated talk like that around here," the charge nurse said as Peter finished his usual loud spiel about the dangers of the mutant threat.
Since the thing had made it to an accredited hospital, they couldn’t pull out the “for its own safety” card and cart it off to Hammond up north. Not to be deterred, they pressed on by pushing past one of the nurses only to be stopped by an orderly as they used their next tactic.
With righteous indignation Peter recounted his … altered, version of events, "We have sources that say that there was a mutant causing trouble out at the rock. Reports of explosions and minor injuries as well,"
"Who are these sources?"
"That's confidential, but we have a warrant," he produced the document, thinking he was in.
"This warrant isn't valid," the nurse told him as his jaw dropped, who checks the signature these days?
"Not only is there no signature, but this is a warrant from the wrong county. Does Judge Emmerson know you were intending to bring that out here?"
"The signature is pending because it's the weekend..." he was going to go on but she cut him off.
"Until you can get a signed warrant from Judge Mickelson, you have no right to any healthcare information, not even a sign in sheet. What I find suspicious about your claims is that you don't seem to know the gender or even what the ‘strange powers’ this supposed mutant has," she said angrily as she returned to her work.
Of course he'd left out that the sources had been planted, and he neither had any idea what the thing looked like nor what powers could be. Reports were scattered on the scene with some claiming that they saw a meteor impact while others saw brilliant lights on the summit.
"What are we going to do, Peter?" Merritt asked in a hushed tone as his partner seemed to have hit a roadblock.
"I don't know!" he replied in a whisper, though he was clearly angry. "All we know for certain is that several people had seen a man carrying something down from the summit. And that’s only because he used a headlight that was visible in the dark and drawn the attention of other campers."
"The confusing reports are working against us this time," Merritt went on. "Most of the time they allow us twist the story to our ends."
Peter thought for a moment, "Our main problem is that at least one of the abomination’s family members was present at the time," he seemed to be cooling down and thinking things through again. "Though it's not impossible to overcome, it's harder to convince authorities to turn _it_ over to us. That and having no real description of the freak."
"And without a name, picture or even a rough description, there was no way we'll be able to justify searching the hospital to Judge Mitchel," Merritt pointed out to his partner.
"Yeah, the HIPPA violations alone would cost the Llano office millions in law suits and he'd be out of a job with us.”
"Plus the local PD is stonewalling us too, just out of spite," Merritt was hoping his partner wouldn't go off and do something stupid to make his case, he sighed in relief as Peter finally gave in.
So it was with evident disgust, that Peter looked towards the hospital, as his partner got off the phone with updates. He growled in disgust, “I just know the freak is in there and can’t believe the so called heroes beat us to it. I can practically hear them laughing at us…” he trailed off as his anger got the better of him.
“Com’mon, McDaniel, there ain’t nothing we can do right now. We just wait for the thing to attack someone and then we can go in guns blazing, just like I know you wanna,” Merritt tried to appease his partner.
“That’s the thing though,” Peter said with obvious frustration, “by the time we see the thing, they’ll already have it registered,” as he said it his expression changed to one that scared even his partner.
“I don’t like that look, Peter,” he said worriedly, “the last time you had that gleeful, excited look, we ended up do’n paperwork for a week for an ambush on that baseline. We nearly got canned when he didn’t turn out to be a mutant.”
“Don’t worry, Merritt,” he said with a tone that made his partner worry even more. “I got a plan to catch this freak out in the open and maybe take down one of the so called heroes with it.”
Monday, June 1, 2008 11:45 AM
HCM Hospital, Fredericksburg, TX
Early the next morning there was a commotion in the hallway (that I blearily took note of) but after it ended I was swallowed again by the darkness. Only this time instead of true unconsciousness, I was greeted by Ev in the same form as on the Rock.
It’s odd entering what I now considered her space like this, but somehow comforting that I can communicate with her in private if I needed to. She had a wealth of knowledge that I knew I would need if I had any hope of surviving. From her memories I knew that whatever this Dark One was, it now scared both of us more than anything due to our weakened state.
"There are many things you need to learn...but I must limit your access to our memories," she told me cryptically.
"What do you mean?"
"There are many things about your world that are very fragile ... If We were to share too much of our knowledge, you could irreparably damage the natural course of their history."
"We might surprise you..." I started to reply but she cut me off.
"Would you be the source of the next equivalent of atomic weapons?" she asked sternly.
"Oh, I see what you mean ... they do turn almost everything into a weapon, don't they," I said as the realization hit me.
"We do not withhold our unity lightly," she replied with regret. "Our race was always one of peace. But much destruction could be brought with mundane things that We used without even a thought to how dangerous they could be, if used wrong."
"Yeah I can see how it’d be, kind of likethe difference between a nuclear power plant and an atomic bomb. That sort of thing sort of deal?"
"Exactly, so don't feel as if We are not trusting of you, or yourkind,when We ask that you allow your planet to make the journey to advancement on its own."
After that, she spent time comforting me as well as helping me to come to terms with my changed state of being. There was so much that she didn’t know about this form, because she only provided a template and my own somehow merged with it.
The resulting fusion created a form that, while keeping the majority of what she provided, adapted its own workarounds and changes. The end result was that We were bound together in multiple senses. As she mentioned this would make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to survive separation. The symbiotic nature of her race’s very being had made this whole thing easier for her, but the opposite was true for me.
"So our relationship, is what you call a ‘form of unity,’ that your people enjoyed even more fully as a whole?" I asked to clarify.
"Yes, We can still tell our own thoughts and emotions from yours, that has not changed," she replied.
"The strange thing I noticed is that when our emotions or thoughts are similar, they became much clearer and stronger," the way I say it made it clear to her there was a question to it for me.
"This agreement of thought, emotion and very being, is what We call the “Vra.” In the royal we sense, as your people say,"
"This whole same name for different concepts thing is odd from my viewpoint," I point out being sarcastic.
"Well it makes perfect sense to us," she threw it right back.
Monday, June 1, 12:11 AM
HCM Hospital, Room 217
My family ended up getting a hotel room nearby after being all but ordered, by my doctor and several nurses, to get some rest. I had to agree with Dr. Keller on that one as the exhaustion that all but caked to Dad's face. He looked to have aged several years in just a couple of days.
Unfortunately for me, I was trapped by fatigue,and couldn’t evade all of the medical people coming in to take “one more” sample of various bodily fluids. (And no I don’t want to recount all of them for your viewing pleasure.) To say that I was now very different was an understatement.
It seemed that when I was looking, they weren’t able to draw any blood. Zero, almost as if I had none at all. This confused the phlebotomist, as Dad called her, (think hospital vampire) to no end as she’d had no trouble when I was asleep. Thus began the cat and mouse game of getting new samples…ending in me being rudely awakened at odd hours with a needle stuck in my arm.
"Ha! I got you this time," Dianne, said vampire, gleefully pumped a fist as I came to.
"Ugh, again? What time is it anyway?" I asked through the cobwebs.
"Oh, just after midnight. Thought you could get a decent night sleep, did you now?" she asked with a shameless smile, "Well if you weren't so stingy, we'd be able to do this when you're good and awake."
"I can't help it that I'm a freak now..." I started to say, but she cut me off as my eyes started leaking again.
"Now, now, there'll be none of that talk around me," she said as she yanked the needle out and covered it with cotton, just before giving me a hug. "You are a beautiful young girl and if you try to say any different I'll throttle you myself," she finished with her usual no nonsense attitude. Throughout the second night, I was awoken several times once they found out how to be sneaky enough to pull it off.
Dr. Keller came by early the next morning. “Since you’re already awake,” he started as a blue clad orderly entered the room behind him, “I wanted to run some tests to see what we can learn about your tail there,” he said pointing at my new accessory.
As the orderly tried to grab it, the nurse stood back out of the way. It turned out that she was right avoid touching it herself as she watched the orderly being flung across the room by a brilliant flash of the blue-green light that emanated from me. I was instantly raked with a strobing pain that greyed my vision and nearly made me black out in agony. After this, no one was brave enough to even come near my tail, as the doctor referred to it as.
“From now on," Dr. Keller said as he made a note in my file, "I'm going to have a ‘no touchy’ designation attached ... because, as we have seen it is _very_ sensitive to physical touch."
"But when _I_ touch it, there isn't any pain and its far less sensitive," I told the doctor as he made another note.
"It's odd, but not unheard of from a medical perspective," he told me as he looked up. "I think it's similar in nature to the tickle reflex."
"What do you mean?" I said cradling my new add-on because it still hurt from earlier.
"Think about it, can you really tickle yourself?" he asked.
"No, not really," I said stroking a finger across the warm blue-green surface trying to do just that.
"That's because your brain interprets your own touch differently from that of others. Thus you need to be aware so that you don't accidentally let it brush up against some else either."
It turns out that, overall, I was _much_ more sensitive. Normal physical touch to my new skin felt more grating. For this reason, when they announced my new most hated phrase, I had no idea of how uncomfortable it could be.
The nurse simply ushered the ‘rents out with the announcement of, “Bath time!” Then she added for real horror and indignity, “Since you’re on bedrest, it’s a sponge bath for you!” she smirked and let it form into an evil smile I didn’t quite recognize as she caught my incomprehensive and questioning look.
All I can say about it was that it was disturbing how they could call that block of sandpaper a “sponge” in the first place. The second time was no better, but at least I was better prepared for it, meeting the offending nurse with a death glare when she mentioned that it was time again. Fortunately, I only had to endure it twice, while awake, as I was later informed that it had been the third time.
My first shower was…an experience, one that I was unlucky that Mom had decided to help with.
"Okay, in you go," she said as she pulled me along.
I studiously ignored the mirror, trying to delay the inevitable shock. "But mom, I don't need help, I'm thirteen and I don't need help showering," I protested since I'd always been very sensitive about my appearance. (At that age peach fuse was a moustache _insert raspberry blown her_.)
The half glance I caught in the mirror made me turn away fearfully. The only thing I remembered were the eyes, being the most sticking feature, as they glowed even in the light of the restroom.
But my mom was adamant, "I remember how sensitive your new tail is and we don't know how the spray of water will affect it," Mom said as I felt a wave of embarrassment from Ev, but couldn't figure out why.
The doctor had explained the sensitivity of the thing was because of an abundance of nerves clustered within it. He also said that it acted as an extra organ channeling the blue energy we’d seen earlier, and it provided to be a two way energy path to yet another new organ along the inner ribcage, which he described as an organic reactor of some kind.
It confused me at first, but the reason for Ev's earlier embarrassment was quickly realized when I finally got into the shower. The effect that water had upon my tail was nowhere near pain, as I quickly learned.
The best I can illustrate it would go something like this: First, think long hot soak in a tub, add in a bar of chocolate, a personal massage, a full spa treatment and magnify it by a magnitude. Relaxing is not a strong enough word for it. That, coupled with all of the _other_ new sensations, is why I ended up passing out under the (not so well adjusted) spray of the hospital shower.
Wondering what was taking me so long Mom, asked, "Hey, are you okay in there?" When I didn’t answer her promptly, she nearly panicked yanking the curtain back so she could get me out.
"ZJ, are you alright!" she said in her panic just before she cut off the water. It, of course, went cold before it turned off completely and I was rudely awakened with a dose of cold water that made me shriek a little.
"It sounded like you were ... purring for several minutes but then abruptly stopped…” Realization dawned. As she helped to wrap the towel around me, she sputtered out, "Oh honey, I'm sorry ..." seeing my embarrassment she somehow understood what had happened.
When she saw me blushing from head to toe, she handed me another towel for my hair and said, "It's okay, don't be embarrassed honey, we couldn't have known what would happen." then she gave me a wry smile, "At least it was a good surprise, no?"
Much to my horror, I found myself unconsciously nodding to her question, which made my blush only renew and intensify. Mom then decided to have an abbreviated version of ‘The Talk’ with me. The less said about such humiliating situations, the better. She explained that the feeling that I had was both natural and beautiful.
Seeing how red I was, she had mercy upon me and helped me dry off. “Now I know how you usually do it honey, but it’ll be very uncomfortable unless you pat yourself dry, don’t rub,” she said instructing me in the ways of bodily care.
Having to pat myself dry was a change. “This just feels odd…But I’d take it over the so called 'sponge bath' any day,” I told her and she laughed at my displeasure.
“Now, lean forwards and I’ll wrap the towel around your head,” I obeyed but something went wrong.
“Ow ow ow!” I cried as she quickly reversed her action.
“What, what did I do?” she asked worriedly, “Did I pull your hair or something?”
“Ow, no, these things are just as bad as the big one,” I told her as I held up one of the offending blue-green ribbons that had infested my hair.
She gave me an odd look before her frustration got the better of her, “Well, I don’t have a blow dryer. How are we going to dry your hair in the meantime?”
Ev came to our rescue, “These are part of your own mutation, not mine, but they seem to function similar enough, so it might work. Try pushing a small amount of our energies through them.”
“Why are you starring off into space?” Mom said as I must have zoned out a little.
“Ev wants me to try something,” I told her as I pushed energy through them. Addressing Ev I couldn’t help but tell her, “This better not fry my hair Ev or I’ll find a way to make you regret it.”
Drawing upon the smallest amount didn’t do anything but warm my head a little. I had to experiment a little, but We finally figured out that the energy didn’t affect our hair at all. Encouraged by that news, I pushed more and was rewarded with dry hair in seconds and the cloud of steam further clouded the mirror. To me, this was a win-win situation.
Ev wondered why her people never thought of it, “We cannot wait to share this with our Vra sisters. The mechanism is so simple, yet none had considered it before now. Our elders might even be jealous that it was not used in the time before the Awakening.”
As she went on and on in my head, I couldn’t miss the jealous look that mom gave me. To her, it looked like I’d just solved an age old problem on my own.
On top of all of the new ... sensations, I noticed my emotions were all over too. At one point, when I was depressed over all of the changes, I got mad at Maggie for something minor, (she just wouldn’t stop teasing me.)
“You took forever in there,” she said for the tenth time. Then, out of the blue, I found myself crying into Mom’s shoulder as it felt like everything was crashing down on me and I could do nothing right.
Mom, being her normal motherly self, was able to lift my spirits with the ‘it’s not so bad talk #3.’ She uses it all the time when Maggie gets this way.
As she finished, she gave me a stern look, “When we get home,” her face melted into a grin, “I’m going to have your father put some kind of timed cut-off on the showers!” We ended up in a giggling fit over her joke.
“Yeah Mom, remember the time he wanted to put in that sprinkler system out back,” I said through my laughter, “he forgot to turn off the water and we had a twenty foot geyser in the front yard.”
“If he’s not gluing his hand to something, he’s stapling his pants to it,” Mom laughed holding her stomach as her muscle started to hurt.
My Dad’s reputation was about as good as that home improvement guy that’s always gluing his head to something or worse. We’ve had to hide his tool before, so that he’d give up and call a professional and not blow something up.
The emotional roller-coaster was a bit jarring and unfamiliar, but tolerable at the same time. Ev was having just as much trouble with it for different reasons.
When I was able to I had to ask and she admitted, “As part of our unity, We feel _all_ of what our body experiences, just as you do with us." I realized what that meant but she went ahead and said it anyway, “That included not only _every_ emotion, but also _all_ physical sensations as well.”
“Including the shower thing?” I asked embarrassedly.
“Yes, that too,” she gave a slight smile at my horror, “but not only the good things. I agree that the so called ‘sponge bath’ should be labelled as an oxymoron.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” I thought to her.
Then she proceed to one up her earlier teasing, “I also agree with your Mom,” she paused for effect, “you do need a timer on the shower,” she told me just before pushing me out to blush in embarrassment.
Later that evening, Dr. Keller came by to check on my recovery. I was feeling much better by that time, and my energy level was returning.
To my surprise, he told us, “My initial estimate was off a little. Judging by your chart ZJ, I’ve revised my three day overlay down to tomorrow morning,” he said as all of us let out a sigh of relief, and then became excited to be able to get out of there so soon.
Before we could start making plans he cautioned us, “As you are still considered an emergent mutant, you do have a little leeway before the MCO can take action in your case. That being said, I do advise that you get power testing done as soon as possible,” he paused to let us consider this. “Traveling without an MID is highly illegal, even across county lines.”
“Dr. Keller, we’re not from around here,” Dad said motioning with his hands. “Where would you suggest we do it?”
He gave us a smile, “The Rangers, the local hero team, have all of the equipment and specialists on payroll for just such a thing.”
Monday, June 2, 2008 9:36 AM
HCM Hospital, Room 217
The blond woman, the one that had helped everyone stuck in the hallway when I first woke up, was known as “Cat.” Though I only called _Shelly C. Thomas_ that as a pretence, for I _knew_ her real name.
It started with little things, as a side effect of my abilities. But by the time Dr. Keller had shown up with the good news, this whole “know thy true meaning” thing was coming up more and more.
Since we had a little bit of time alone before my release, I’d asked her if it was alright that I use her real name.
"No," she answered fervently, then dropped a bomb when she realized what I’d done, “Whatever you do, don’t let just anyone know you can do that. Not even the testers. That is likely one of the most dangerous abilities to have in today’s world...even for a Brick” Her tone was dead serious.
“W-What do you mean?” I stammered in total confusion.
“Think,” she whispered urgently, “heroes, supervillains, government spooks, not even mentioning cooperate spies and common crooks. What do they have in common?”
It took me a moment … What I’d been through a lot lately. You couldn’t blame me for being a little slow. When it finally dawned on me, she started nodding as she saw my expression, so I went ahead and said it out loud.
“Secret identities…” She nodded more fervently, motioning with a finger as she shushed me.
She paused but then motioned again, from her head tomine, so I noded and withdrew into Ev's space where we could speak more privately. I had to talke to Ev so that she'd let Cat in, but eventually she caved and we were finally able to continue our conversation.
“If it gets out, most villains and maybe even some heroes won’t react well. They are _very_ serious about their identities and won’t take kindly to having someone around that can identify them…” her fear for me was even stronger in her mind as she continued her admonition, “And if the government finds out…I don’t want to hear that you were abducted or "disappeared" on some newscast!”
“Ugh! How would you like to know how much people are lying?” I asked her, “If I have a choice, this is the first thing I’m gonna learn to turn off.”
Following her warning,Cat went over how to 'shield,' as she called it, my thoughts and emotions from her. It seemed to take forever (to me) to figure it out, but within an hour or so I had gotten the general idea of how to do it.
This was mainly since I was getting tips and tricks from Ev as well. Yet even after getting the trick down, I still had the odd truth sense going and couldn’t even get it to dim a little.
Then Shell … Cat, told me the bad news, “Some tricks just aren’t like a light switch that can be turned on or off. It looks like this one has been flipped on and is stuck that way,” she said giving up in defeat.
After our talk, I was grateful that I'd not mentioned it to anyone else.
Monday, June 2, 2008 12:36 PM
HCM Hospital Room 217
Mom was excited when she returned from what she'd termed a "necessary detour." Of course, she had waited until Dad had suggested they go out for breakfast to spring it on him.
She managed to completely derail my earlier fears when she brought in a large bag of clothing. I became more wary when Maggie appeared with a bag and a wide grin as she showed off her new shoes.
A newly discovered primal fear set in when Dad wearily shuffled in carrying even more clothing. I recognized the glazed look in his eyes from the last time that the girls had dragged him along shopping. Whether it was from the amount of money spent or the sheer horror of the experience, I didn't know.
All I knew was that, after seeing him like this the first time he'd gone, I begged off from any and all shopping excursions. With this many bags, I began to wonder if they'd even managed to get anything to eat while they were out.
As Mom saw the blood drain from my face she tried to console me, "Now, ZJ, don't panic. Your old clothes aren't going to fit your ... form like they used to." She paused as my head started shaking involuntarily, "Don't get all worked up about this. No one in this town has even met you. And besides those you've seen in the hospital, none of them has any idea that you have changed so much."
"But Mooomm... I don't want to wear girl's clothes!" the whininess of my voice was clearly evident for all to here, I still say it was due to the echo effect on my voice. Then my eyes started sweating for some reason...Okay, I was crying! Sheesh, you don't have to look at me with those judgmental eyes like that.
"You are one now, sweetie," her tone had turned consoling and that only added to the water works as we ended up in another sniffling huddle.
"I know you've been avoiding the mirror in there," she pointing towards the restroom, "and I can imagine how uncomfortable you are with all of this. But you've got to come to terms with it eventually," as she was talking she was gently pulling me to my doom.
I could have resisted, but I knew she was right. The whole, ‘no more gravity’ thing was still kind of strange as she pulled me along like I was a parade balloon.
She opened the door of the bathroom and led me in, much to my displeasure, closing and locking the door behind us.
As she caught me again avoiding the mirror, she gently took my shoulders, “Ah ah ah, you’re not allowed to avoid it any longer,” she said as she turned me so that I couldn't run from this any longer.
“Gasp…” that was my first reaction at the sight of ... our new form.
The mirror had betrayed me, displaying a beautiful girl looking back. In place of the plain yet nerdy features I used to have, I could only gasp at her appearance. Long raven black hair, with a luster that would make hair models green with jealousy, had replaced my own dull short brown hair.
Adding in an exotic touch, the turquoise 'ribbons' interlaced with the black hair. It was as if they were strategically placed for maximum effect. Two of these ribbons now made up my bangs, hanging in such a way that they prevented the rest of my new locks from falling into my eyes.
Those, as I mentioned earlier, were one of the most striking features that I noticed. My old dull, dark brown eyes had been swallowed up, never to return. Staring back were the most brilliant turquoise eyes you could imagine. The weird part was that my irises and pupils were now an almost square or diamond shaped, with points pointing up and down. A slight glow emanated from them and yet seemed to leave a trail whenever my eyes moved.
Pulling my hair back a little, I could see that my ears were slightly elongated. Not so much pointed, but rather stretched up and back like someone was pulling on them. They were flatter too, with more of them connected to the side of my head than before.
The mirror wasn't big enough to see below waist level, but what I was able to see was definitely all girl. Being only thirteen, the two alien things attached to my chest were quite small. From what I could tell through my hospital gown I was about the right size for my age ... as a girl. Not quite 'flat as a board,' but not by much.
At that point, I purposely distracted myself form those. I chose to instead notice that, when I compared myself to Mom, I had actually grown several inches. Before my change, I was a 4’4” shrimp with no build at all. Now I was nearly even with Mom’s just over five foot height, making me around five feet even.
I had a build that, although softer, was much more tone than I ever had been as a boy. Although undeveloped, this overall size increase made me look older than I really was. I could maybe get away with saying I looked like a 'flat' fifteen year old now. My completion had changed a little too, noticeably darker than my former pasty white, with flawless skin everywhere.
My 'tail,' as we'd referred to it as, wasn't one in truth.
Ev had explained, “Our people have for ages referred to this as a Vi,” she said with a little pride, “It is actually part of that new organ the doctor mentioned earlier. As are the 'ribbons,' as you call them that are in our hair.”
“So what do they do?” I asked.
“Each have a twofold purpose,” she replied. “Not only do they serve as a two way energy conduit, but they also serve a secondary function. The new senses that you have noticed earlier, are routed through them as well,” she said knowing what I’d ask next
“Is that the reason for all of those extra nerve extensions?”
“Yes and no,” she said cryptically. “Those are necessary to … translate as you will, the incoming information, but your own templet adapted things so that it would function right also. These may have yet another function.”
As I turned to inspect it, I saw that 'ours' was between three and four inches wide and tapered as it neared my neck.
Ev went on, “This was considered highly regarded among the Vra,” but she failed to say why.
It was longer than I was tall and seemed to absently coil around me, like I was lazily spinning around. Unless I was moving or thinking about it, it seemed to flow in this manner of its own accord. It glowed with the same 'turquois,' a color name I learned that day, light that was even brighter than my eyes.
If I'd seen her, before my change, there's no doubt that I would have thought this girl was _way_ out of my league. The mutant hair, long tail and glowing eyes just added to the beauty and the overall effect.
“What do you think?” Mom asked as she recognized the conversation with my other self was over.
“She’s beautiful … but not me …” I started to say but yelped when she pinched me, “What’d you do that for?”
“Simple,” she said smiling, “if that wasn’t you, you wouldn’t have felt it when I pinched _her_ just then, now would you?”
“Ha-ha, very funny,” I said looking back at the mirror, and then I heard a rustling sound that caused me to look at mom. "When did you..." I asked dumbfounded by her ninja skills.
"Oh, I snagged these while you were distracted by your friend there," she said with evil glee, as she pulled lacy and feminine articles of which I'd only seen in magazines out of one of the said bags.
The traitor that now inhabited my head had the nerve to giggle at that ... Giggle!
"But you don't know my size though ..." I started to protest, but she interrupted my delay tactic.
"The thing is, one of the nurses was so nice when I talked to her about your measurements," she gave me a look of victory as she talked, "who'd thought we had so much in common," she recounted absently.
"Who ... b-but ... oh no!" I sputtered as I tried to ignore that the name on that particular bag started with a “V." Yeah, it didn't really help.
"I know it’s embarrassing, but you've got to learn to do this sometime," she said as she untied the paper thin thing the hospital claims is a "gown" but is no more than an overly large and drafty shirt.
Again I could have fought for dear life, but I had already resigned myself to letting her have her way. Before I knew it, I was standing there naked and still standing in front of the mirror. I don't think they have a name yet for how red I was at that moment.
“Now take a quick shower,” she said before adding, “and avoid your hair and the new...sensitive addition on your neck, at all cost.”
I was practically glowing from embarrassment. Then, after showering and drying off, Mom walked me through putting on a ... my new bra, and panties. At least they weren't pink or anything, but who came up with taupe as a color name?
Following that "most embarrassing moments" clip, nothing that followed was really all that bad. It was _almost_ the same as getting dressed as usual. Yeah, I know the saying about horse shoes and hand grenades too. But it wasn't really that bad. This was probably because my new body wasn't developed very much, but who's counting.
(Very funny Ev! Put that imaginary calculator away already!)
The only trouble came with the first shirt she had me try. No, it wasn't pink or some garishly bright thing you could use to flag down a 747, (having me run screaming from the restroom would have been the foreseeable result if that had happened.) But it turned out that Mom had put some forethought into my new outfit, fortunately, going with neutral colors. Tan pants and a white T-shirt were what we tried first.
The pants stayed, they were a little bit loose but not bad by her standards. But I discovered that my tail had an aversion to the T-shirt, much like the towel, and it decided for the both of us that it would be heard loud and clear.
"OW, OW, OW, owowow!" I shrieked, as the neck of the shirt was just a couple inches too high.
We tried pulling it down underneath, but that became a mad scramble to remove said article of clothing. It felt like someone had laced the shirt with sand paper just where it would grate on my tail to no end.
When I started to tear up again, over a shirt, she hugged me, "Oh, honey, don't get upset..."
"Why not ... I can't even ... wear a simple shirt anymore ..." I whimpered.
"I hoped it wouldn't be a problem," she said as she rummaged through another bag, "but I did get several different kinds, just in case," she said as she fished another out.
Then, after breaking our hug, Mom kissed my forehead. Which somehow made everything better? Ugh, stupid emotions...
The second shirt fit loosely and the straps ended up crossing just a couple inches under my new appendage, "It fits!" I said as I did a little spin.
"Okay," she stated in a serious tone. "Never do that little move in front of any boys for two reasons: First, you'll be grounded until you're thirty," she kept up the act. "And second, your father doesn’t own a gun, and I want to keep it that way," she mock scolded me as I belatedly realized I didn't have any pants on.
"Whoops," I yelped as I pulled the shirt down, completely mortified. After correcting that error, she somehow managed to get the door unlocked and open before I could even look up.
With noises of victory in her battle to cloth the monstrous “teenage mutant...alien Urkel,” as she ended up dubbing the event, Mom led the way back to my bed.
Of course Maggie squealed with delight, "Yay, I picked that one out, I pick that one ..." she sang her own form of victory song, after seeing that I was wearing the shirt she picked out.
Dad gave a questioning look to Mom who just pointed to her own neck to highlight where it was cut wrong for me.
He of course caught the reference and gave the fatherly "You look great," that Maggie almost demands when playing dress-up.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 7:55 AM
HCM Hospital, Room 217
By the time I was dressed, we didn't have to wait long for Dr. Keller to show up.
“You’re free to go,” he told us, which caused a small celebration.
"Thank you doctor for everything," Mom said graciously.
"It was a pleasure to get to know all of you," he paused then added, "I hope to see all of you again under different circumstances."
The ‘rents had taken his advice. "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. We'll be in town for at least a couple more days," Dad replied, "We've set up testing with the Rangers, as you suggested," Dad told him as mom was gathering our things.
"Ah, that must be the reason ‘Cat’ has shown up today. I was sure it was her day off," he said absently.
"Yeah, she's taking us to their official headquarters," Dad mentioned, although I had caught the under the table information about the less "official" testing sites in the area via my ability.
There was paperwork for them to sign, insurance to bill and all of that, “Nobody in their right mind would think of trying to bill insurance for manifestation," Cat said as my parents went over the discharge papers.
“So is that why our stay was chalked up to ‘heat stroke’ along with other complications?” I…We asked as our unity came close over the curiosity. Ugh, so confusing.
“Well, it’s better than billing for something embarrassing like they do in area’s that can’t get away with that excuse,” she said with a shrug.
With that done, Cat lead us to a non-descript black SUV in one of the loading docks. Dad had insisted on bringing Mom's car along so that they could go get lunch while I went through testing.
We were all for this, “After days of hospital food, we’re ready for some variety,” We said as our hunger had become a more constant ache over the course of the morning. “We may be eating more, but We still enjoy quality along with quantity.”
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 about 6:00 AM
Outside of HCM Hospital
“Are you sure about this Peter?” Agent Merritt asked his partner, wary of setting him off.
“No question about it,” he said as he placed another disk on the inside of a newer model sedan.
His partner gave him a sceptical look as he remembered what these things were. “You seem to hate mutants just like the rest’o the office but … isn’t using some’o their tech go’n against one of your codes?”
“Just because these were designed by a gadget head, doesn’t mean he made all of these himself,” he paused at another bumper and repeated his action. “This ain’t like using deviser junk. That would be going against my beliefs. Plus that stuff is unreliable in the extreme.”
The plan was pretty simple, otherwise they’d never have gotten a nod from upstairs, “All we need is for the heroes to do things by the book.”
“And if they don’t?” Merritt clarified.
“Well the second plan is to nail the local team to the wall for violations,” Peter explained. “But first, we needed to be able to identify the freak,” he checked to make sure the next one was secure then went on, “If we can get a picture of it using its powers, we can claim it’s dangerous,” Peter said to his partner
“So that is what the little trackers are for,” Merritt said as he activated the bug. “Heh, no need to try and tail the mutie if we have their car bugged,” then looking around, he pointed, “the only problem is that there’s around forty cars in the hospital parking lot.
“We’re not counting the doctor’s spots,” Peter corrected, then proceeded to plant another small, disposable and (most importantly) cheap tracker on another of the cars.
The things were designed to disintegrate within a week of activation and came hundreds to a box, all set for a single receiver. (That piece, of course, cost him an arm'n a leg a few years back.)
After that, they’d just sit back and track where each car went. The heroes would want the little freak to get powers testing quickly so that it’d be in the system, and would make it harder for it to just disappear.
“So what are we going to do if the mutie gets testing done?” Merritt questioned.
“The closest MCO office was in Llano,” Peter pointed out. “It’s a long drive with much less traffic than the major highways. A _lot_ could happen to a piece of paper between the two cities,” he said with a cold smile.
"You got that hologram projector set up right?" he asked to make sure. Not that he had to worry about Merritt doing his job, but it always pays to be thorough.
"Of course I did. And the 4Tres Cage™ is set up in the back as well," he cringed at hearing that.
His partner had used the trademarked name, even if a baseline company assembled them. A portion of that money would go to the mutie that had both designed and kept the patent for the vehicle based force field generator.
He pondered over it for a moment. It seemed a little too close to overstepping boundaries, but nothing could be done about it. The thing was rated to stop up to category 5 bricks and was impermeable to just about anything energy or gas-wise as well.
“A necessary evil if I ever saw one,” he muttered to himself.
End of Part 1