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Mind Games

4 years 1 month ago - 4 years 1 month ago #21271 by Paradox
Paradox created the topic: Mind Games
Mind Games Book 1

By Paradox

Somewhere on I95 heading south

The sudden jarring of my world shocked me out of what must have probably been the deepest sleep I’d ever had in my life. It caused my eyes to snap open while flooding my consciousness with sights, sounds, textures, and scents all at once, none of which were familiar. I was laying on a queen-sized bed that, along with everything else in the modest bedroom, seemed to be vibrating. It took me a moment to realize that the reason for this was because the room I currently occupied was in motion, i.e it was within a vehicle. In addition to the bed I occupied, the far wall contained multiple dresser drawers in a rich, dark maple as well as a thirty-two inch flat screen t.v laid into the wall. Off to my left the door was open, revealing a somewhat small but very well appointed bathroom complete with two sinks, a toilet, and a shower with a curved, frosted glass door. While overall it was on the small side, there was no question that this room was one that someone very well-off slept in.

Once I’d taken a quick look at the strange room and verified I was alone, I took several moments to do a self examination. For most people this would have been a simple matter of verifying your head was still attached to your body, all of your limbs were intact, and that you weren’t experiencing any pain. For me, however, it was an exercise in discovery. The form, from what I could see, was alien to me. That’s not to say that it wasn’t my body, but I didn’t recognize it at all. This was because my first thought upon opening my eyes was: Who am I? If it’s never happened to you you can’t possibly know how terrifying it is to wake up and realize you have no idea who you are.

That’s the situation I found myself in as I racked my brain to come up with some kind of clue to what my identity was. Yet no matter how hard I wracked my brain the knowledge just wasn’t there. My name, how old I was, who my parents were, what I liked, what I disliked...everything involving something personal to me was an absolute blank. The only thing I did know was that I was lying on a bed, dressed in a soft white, off-the-shoulder blouse and an olive green skirt long enough to cover my feet while I was curled up, and had long hair that partially covered my face until I brushed it back.

What the hell had happened to me? Where was I? Who was I? I felt panic tighten my chest as I realized that I could potentially be in danger at that very moment and not even know it. I could very well be a prisoner in this room.

It was that thought that had me leaping to my feet and rushing for the pocket door that seemed to lead out of the room, tripping on my skirt as it was indeed long enough for the hem to skim the floor. After fumbling with the recessed latch for a moment I shoved it sideways as hard as I could while also praying it wasn’t locked. Imagine my surprise when the door practically flew into its recess with a loud bang that caused me to jump back and let out a squeak of surprise. It only slowed me down for a moment because in the next I was racing through the door and into…

The cabin of an obviously very expensive RV. Like the bedroom it was trimmed in dark-colored maple with doors and cabinets here and there hiding who knew what, a full kitchen with a dark marble countertop complete with a sink, oven, stove, microwave, and even a dishwasher. A small little dining area with a matching marble table and black leather padded benches on either side abutted it. Abutting that was some kind of a lounge area with a large black leather couch that directly faced the kitchen.

I took all of this in only in passing as my eyes immediately locked upon the driving compartment directly ahead. While the height of the driver and passenger chairs made it very difficult to see the person behind the wheel, I was able to tell that it appeared to be a man with short, dark hair. His head moved slightly and I could see in the rearview mirror that it was indeed a man, though I couldn’t really tell his age since the mirror only showed the dark sunglasses he was wearing. “Oh hi honey,” he said in a smooth and friendly voice, “Did you have a nice nap?”

I didn’t respond right away. Truthfully I wasn’t sure I could have spoken a single syllable since I was trying to get control of the fear that wanted me to just race for the door leading to the outside and dive headfirst from the vehicle. Since we were obviously in motion that would likely have been suicide, but my instinctive flight response to a completely unknown situation was making it hard to think rationally.

My hesitation didn’t go unnoticed and I could faintly see the man’s forehead wrinkle slightly. “Honey? Are you okay?”

“Where am I?” I finally managed to ask in a small, frightened voice, “Who are you?”

I saw what looked like the man’s eyebrows raise sharply and he quickly maneuvered the vehicle onto an off ramp. From what I could see through the windshield from my far back position it looked like we were pulling into a rest stop. The man wasted no time in haphazardly drawing the vehicle to a stop and putting it in park before spinning the driver’s seat around to face me. He quickly whipped off his sunglasses and I got my first real good look at him.

He was in what seemed to be his late thirties, possibly his late forties if I really stretched my imagination. Dark brown or black (it was tough to tell with the sun at his back) hair was cut short and neatly kept. He had quite a handsome face with a trace of a five o’clock shadow coloring his cheeks and chin, sharp planes to his jawline, and dark brown eyes that were currently peering at me with obvious concern.

“Kitten, what’s wrong?” he asked in a tone of voice that matched his gaze.

“Who are you?” I demanded in a voice that I somehow managed to make stronger and more demanding, “And what am I doing here?” I could feel a very fine thread of anger leak through into my voice. That was good. Anger was better than fear.

“You’re safe Kitty,” the man said in a calm, soothing voice as he lifted his hands in a surrender gesture with his palms facing me, “No one is going to hurt you I promise. Don’t you remember what happened?”

“You’ve called me Kitten and Kitty in less than a minute. Is one of those my name?” I wanted to make it sound like another demand, but the confusion and returning fear that was once more building within me softened my voice and threatened to turn it into a plea instead.

The man nodded and slowly rose from the driver’s seat with his eyes never leaving mine. “Your name is Kitty Sinclair, but sometimes I call you Kitten as kind of a pet name, no pun intended.” He offered me a small smile that I didn’t return.

“Who are you?” I asked carefully with narrowed eyes. If this man knew my name and even had a pet name for me it could mean that the two of us were close. Or, he could simply know my name and just made up the pet name to put me at ease so I wouldn’t suspect him of anything. Or maybe he was just making up my name on the spot. My mind was threatening to spin itself into confusion about this.

He nodded and took a small step closer to me. “Yes I am. My name is Charles Sinclair, I’m your father.”

Not since Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, hey, I remember seeing that, has a familial revelation been more of a bomb drop. For several seconds I just stared at this man, my supposed father, with my mouth agape. No, this couldn’t be true. I would remember my own father dammit! “You’re lying,” I finally managed to spit out.

The instant expression of hurt on his face almost made me instantly regret my words. It was on the tip of my tongue to say something, maybe take it back, but he shook his head sadly and sighed. “I guess I should have expected this.”

“Expected what?” I asked suspiciously.

His gaze returned to mine and held it with its earnestness. “About six months ago you and your mother were in a terrible car accident. You had a very serious head injury from hitting the dashboard when the seatbelt failed to lock up and the airbag didn’t deploy. You were in a coma for about three weeks. When you finally woke up everything seemed okay, but there were gaps in your memory. The doctors said amnesia wasn’t uncommon with the kind of injury you had and they told me that just giving you time might bring the memories back.”

“I don’t have gaps!” I snapped angrily and clenched my fists, though I wasn’t really sure I was ready to try and attack this man. “I can’t remember anything about who I am, at all!”

My supposed father nodded in understanding and slid down onto the couch in the lounge area. “That was a possibility the doctors warned me about. They said that sometimes when a person suffers such a serious head injury their amnesia could get worse. I hoped and prayed that wouldn’t be the case with you, but I did prepare something just in case if you’ll let me show you. You don’t even have to come any closer if you don’t want to, you can see it from there.”

“Just...just don’t make any sudden moves,” I ordered, thinking about all of the cop shows and movies I’d seen. Hey, that was something else I remembered. Maybe I was getting better.

He nodded and simply said, “T.V.” Almost immediately there was a very soft whirring as a very large flat screen T.V. slowly rotated down from the ceiling until it stopped without even a click, covering several of the cabinets in the kitchen. “Play video file Kitty one,” he ordered.

Instantly, the television turned on to display my supposed father, a lovely woman around the same age as he was, and a beautiful young girl of perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old enjoying a picnic in some unknown forest-type of location. They were all smiling and laughing and it was clear that they were family and all loved one another. For the entire twenty-minute runtime of the video I watched as what appeared to be mother, father, and daughter talked, joked, played, and laughed while enjoying a delicious-looking lunch of fried chicken.

“Who was that woman and girl?” I finally asked when the screen went dark.

“That was your mother,” my self-proclaimed father informed me, “And you.”

I shook my head, sending my hair flying. “Look, just because you show me some video with you, a woman, and a girl doesn’t automatically mean I’m your daughter. I mean Jesus that could be-”

I lost my voice right then. In my little tirade I had turned slightly and had been facing the microwave mounted above the stove. A shimmer of movement had caught my eye and I had quickly shifted my gaze towards it under the power of a mind that was near its paranoia breaking point. That was when I saw the faint image in the reflection of the glass front. It wasn’t clear since I wasn’t looking at a mirror, but because of the way the sun cast its light through the side windows of the RV it created a slightly reflective surface. There, was a girl in that reflection, one mottled with indirect lighting but her features could be made out slightly and those features looked very familiar. “Is that…?” I couldn’t finish my whispered question as my throat closed, choking off my words. Had I really seen what I thought I’d seen?


My supposed father’s cry of alarm failed to stop me from spinning and racing towards the back of the RV, scrambling over the bed because I was just too frantic to dance around it, and straight into the adjoining bathroom. I slapped my hands down on the countertop and just stared. For several long moments the only sound in that small room was my breath coming in ragged, gasping breaths as I stared at the mirror. In it I saw a girl with long, chestnut-colored hair still tousled from sleep and vibrantly blue eyes that were currently wide with panic. She looked nothing like that happy image that I’d seen on the T.V. moments ago, and yet there was no denying that it was her I was looking at. I was that girl that I’d watched frolic and play with her parents in an idyllic forest setting and eat a delicious picnic lunch, and yet she was a stranger to me. I had no memory of that event, nor any other event of my life. As I stared into those reflected eyes I whispered, “Remember! Remember!” as though I could somehow force those memories back into my mind. I wanted...no, needed to remember who I was. I was desperate to. Yet my brain refused to cooperate and those precious pieces of history remained lost in the abyss of my consciousness, maybe never to return.

Despite that, I couldn’t deny that I was that girl in the video. I couldn’t try and claim that her name wasn’t Kitty since the parents had both addressed her by name multiple times. I couldn’t deny that the two adults were her parents since she had, on multiple occasions, called the woman ‘Mom’ and the man ‘Daddy’. Finally, there was no denying that the man in the other room was not whom he claimed to be, nor could I deny I was his daughter. I was torn between the evidence I’d seen with my own eyes and the utter nothingness that resided in my mind as my vision started to blur.

From behind me I heard the soft querry of, “Kitty?”

Slowly turning, not bothering to halt the progress of the tears that began to stream down my cheeks, I saw the image of the man whom I could not longer deny was my father standing there looking at me with parental concern. I opened my mouth to speak but my voice was momentarily choked back to a small croak. Swallowing the lump in my throat I managed to whisper in a raspy voice, “I don’t remember. I want to remember.”

He didn’t speak. He didn’t try to offer me platitudes or soothing words that I would very likely have rejected out of hand just because of my emotional state. Instead, he simply opened his arms silently and waited...

...For perhaps a second before I threw myself into his embrace and bawled like a baby.

* * * *

I sipped from the mug of steaming chamomile tea, my favorite apparently, and let the warmth spread through my belly. Whether it was because of the chamomile itself or simply something more psychosomatic, it helped soothe my jangled nerves. I was sitting at the small kitchen/dining table in the RV with my father opposite me drinking from his own mug, his filled with coffee. He’d guided me there after I’d cried for a good ten minutes and went about making our drinks from the clearly well-stocked kitchen. He’d set the drinks on the table five minutes ago and neither of us had said a word yet. It was almost like some kind of oddball mexican standoff, seeing who would blink first. It was, I realized, completely stupid.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked quietly, breaking the silence.

Dad, because there was no longer any point in denying he was anything but, closed his eyes as his brow wrinkled with a mixture of pain and sadness. He took a long swallow of his coffee before answering. “She died in the accident,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Her seatbelt...failed,” he said with obviously carefully chosen words.

I shook my head and took another sip of tea while trying to ignore how badly my hands trembled. I knew I should have been feeling something, some kind of sadness and loss, but instead I just felt nothing. I had an odd feeling of being disconnected without knowing what my initial connection to these people had been like. The one thing I knew about my mother was she seemed to be happy if that video Dad showed me was any indication, but that was an outsider kind of knowledge. I really couldn’t come up with any more empathy about the situation than a person who had just been told about the death of someone stranger’s loved one. That in and of itself was more heartbreaking than the knowledge of my mother’s death itself.

“She was wonderful,” my father said, breaking into my brooding thoughts. When I glanced up at him his eyes were focused on the black liquid swirling about in his mug. “So beautiful, so full of life,” he continued, “And so kind. She would do pretty much anything for anyone.” He smiled a little and looked up at me. “You take after her, you know,” he told me. “Not only beautiful, but you’ve always been so sweet and kind to people, even those that tried to cause trouble.”

“I guess I’ll have to take your word for it,” I mumbled against the rim of my cup before taking a sip of tea, “I don’t remember any of it.”

“I know,” he said sadly and sighed, “But hopefully it will come back to you.”

“What if it doesn’t?” I demanded quietly, looking at him with determined yet worried eyes. “What if I never regain my memories? I feel like I never had a life and now I’m wearing some stranger’s.”

Reaching across the table he tried to take my hand but I shied away and chose to ignore the hurt look he gave me. Regardless whether or not this man was my father, he was still a stranger to me at this point. If he couldn’t deal with the fact that I wasn’t going to suddenly turn back into his perfect little daughter then screw him.

“If that happens,” he said with a touch of a bite in his words as he sat back, “Then we’ll just have to deal with it. Even though you don’t remember it, you’re still my daughter. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you simply give up and go hide for the rest of your life. If your memory doesn’t come back, fine. We’ll just have to start making new memories and I’ll just tell you as much as I can about what your life was like before today.”

By the end of his little speech his voice had risen to the point that it was clear he was angry now, and most of that was undoubtedly directed at me. I couldn’t really blame him for that, considering I was being quite a bitch about all of this. After all, the man had already lost his wife and now it must have felt to him like he was losing his daughter too. What made it worse, I’m sure, was the fact that here I sat before him, his flesh and blood, but not his daughter. I could only imagine how torturous this last half an hour must have been for him.

I might not know who I was, but I knew that I wasn’t a mean or heartless person. While I couldn’t muster any feelings of grief for my dead mother, I had no trouble at all feeling my heart clench at the look of anguish on my father’s face as he stared into the eyes of someone who was supposed to be his daughter but wasn’t. Setting down my mug of tea, and working off of pure instinct, I stood and stepped around the table and slid onto the bench beside him. It was a snug fit but the seat was wide enough to accommodate both of us. While he looked at me in confusion and uttered, “What?” I slipped my arms around his waist and hugged him tightly while laying my head on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry Dad,” I said quietly, “I didn’t mean to be such a bitch to you.”

He hesitated for a moment, maybe thinking I might have been playing some kind of trick on him, before he slipped an arm around my shoulders to return my embrace. “It’s all right,” he assured me before pressing a kiss to the top of my head, “I can only imagine how confusing this is for you.”

I nodded and the pair of us were silent for a few minutes. I’m not sure what Dad was thinking, but I was trying to come to grips with the fact that I might never again remember what my life was like before a half an hour ago. Some folks like to make jokes about people coming out of the womb fully grown, but in a surreal kind of way that was the situation I was in. The moment I woke up it was almost as though I had just been born. Oh sure I had an overall general knowledge of life and wouldn’t have to go through the embarrassment of potty training or feeding myself, but I had no idea what kind of person I was other than what Dad had told me so far. He told me I was beautiful and resembled my mother, which was true enough based on the video I saw and my image in the mirror, but he also said I was sweet and kind. Was I? I had absolutely no basis for comparison beyond the now and the only evidence that pointed to such a personality trait was how I’d just apologized and hugged him for being so cold and mean.

My mind kept spinning the question of who I was around and around and I knew I’d probably drive myself crazy trying to sort that out at this very moment. In an effort to shift my train of thought I asked, “Have we always had this R/V?” Hey, sometimes you came up with a solution to a problem by not thinking about it. Maybe that would work here too.

Dad shook his head and I could feel his jaw shift into what felt like a small smile. “No. Your mother and I had talked about getting one since we like taking family road trips sometimes, but they were always way too expensive.”

“Are you gonna make me ask you to explain more?” I inquired after a few moments of silence.

He chuckled and patted my shoulder. “Always so eager to get answers,” he remarked and I immediately felt him stiffen. “That’s another part of you,” he explained before I could ask, “You always want to know the answer to a question. If someone else can’t tell it to you you’ll go off and look for answers yourself. It’s the main reason why I made sure this thing had a really good satellite internet hook up when I got it. But to answer your question,” he continued, “After the accident and the police investigation it was determined that there were several critical flaws in the safety features of the car you two were in, such as your seatbelt failing to lock, your mother’s snapping, the airbags not going off, and more. In all honesty, once we got the report back the thing was really kind of a deathtrap.” He sighed and shook his head. “It was only that car though. The manufacturer did a full recall and it was determined that somehow everything got screwed up during the assembly process.”

I shuddered at the notion that our car had basically been a ticking time bomb and it had pretty much been bad luck that me and Mom had been in it when it went off. “What about the other car?” I asked, “Were they hurt too?”

“The other guy was some big-shot executive high on ecstasy,” he said between clenched teeth as his face darkened with the memory, “He swerved into your lane and hit you head on. By all rights he should have died but because he was so loose and relaxed that he only had a few minor cuts and bruises. He’s in jail now on a whole slew of charges.”

“Good,” I whispered. If my mother was dead because of this asshole then I’m glad he was paying for it.

Dad nodded in agreement with my statement before continuing. “After the trial I did the only thing I could do to try and make sure you were taken care of. I got a lawyer.” He turned his head so he could give me a bitter smile. “Between the lawsuits against the executive, his company that hosted the party he was coming from where they provided him the drugs, and the car company, we won’t ever have to worry about money for the rest of our lives.”

Even though this man was still little more than a stranger to me at this point, I was able to pretty clearly read between the lines of what he was saying. “It only took the death of your wife and my mother and probably permanent memory loss for me to get it,” I said muttered in a sorrowful voice.

He nodded and I could see a glimmer of pride in his eyes that I knew he wasn’t happy about the reason behind our wealth. “I’ve made some pretty good investments that will keep us, well, pretty much rich well into the time when you have grandchildren. If you ever choose to have any,” he said quickly.

I couldn’t help but smile a bit at that. “Moving a little fast aren’t you?” I quipped. “I don’t even know if I have a boyfriend.”

“You did,” he told me sadly, “But that was one of the first memory gaps that formed after the accident. He just couldn’t handle you not knowing who he was so he broke things off.”

“Since I don’t remember him at all now I’m guessing I probably took it pretty well.” I wish I could have kept the sarcasm out of my voice but it was simply how I felt.

“You did,” Dad agreed, “But you were very kind and understanding about it. The two of you parted on pretty good terms.”

“That’s good at least.” If I had to break someone’s heart, even if it was completely against my will, I’m glad I was able to do at least a little something to make it easier. “So you bought this RV with the money?” I guessed.

“After I sold the house. It was just too painful to stay and when being there didn’t do anything to help with your memory I thought it best to just start fresh. I kept all of our family photos and videos,” he assured me, “I just converted them all to digital and put them on our cloud drive. Oh that reminds me,” he said with a snap of his fingers and gently nudged me off the bench so he could stand up and go into the bedroom. He returned moments later with a slim laptop in brushed aluminum. Instantly I recognized it as a top of the line Samsung model that ran the current, cutting edge Cyborg OS that operated primarily online as opposed to computers that used Windows or Mac. They had put Chrome OS out of business when it came to internet based operating systems. Now how they hell did I know all that?

“Do you remember something?” Dad asked anxiously, “You look like you recognized this.”

I shook my head. “No, sorry. But I do know what kind of computer that is and that it’s brand new.”

“We only got it about three weeks ago. Since most of our stuff is in a secure cloud storage and we have one of the fastest satellite internet connections available it lets us not have to worry about having hard drives all over the place.”

Reaching out, I took the laptop from him and set it on the kitchen table when I had a thought. “Dad, what do you do?”

To his credit he didn’t ask what I meant and merely smiled. “I’m a mechanical engineer, and a pretty good one if I do say so myself.”

“What about now that you don’t have to work anymore? Won’t you get bored?”

He shrugged, leaned against the kitchen counter, and folded his arms. “I still work freelance. I have a website that I log into whenever we cross state lines that lets businesses know I’m in the area and they can contact me. It keeps me busy enough that I don’t get bored.”

I nodded, but that just raised another rather important question. “What about school? I mean I’m only…” I had to stop there because I was completely blank on what my age was.

“Fourteen,” Dad supplied when I looked at him helplessly, “You just turned fourteen two months ago in March.”

“How do I go to school if we’re constantly driving from state to state?”

“Online courses,” he told me and flipped open my laptop and powered it on. Less than two seconds later the screen lit up and a box in the center requested me to input a new password. “I set it up so you could change your password since you probably don’t remember what your old one was,” he explained.

I nodded and only had to think for a moment before I typed in remember and hit enter. Instantly the home screen came up with a single text file right in the middle of the screen. After Dad nodded for me to continue I opened it to see all of my passwords to everything from Facebook to my email account. This meant that I would be able to glean a little more insight into the person that I was before I’d lost my memory. After all, what better way can you get to know someone then to look at their social media posts.

Still, as I thought about it, it was more than a little creepy. Even though these were all my accounts it actually kind of felt like I was intruding into someone else’s life. What if I discovered I wasn’t exactly the perfect angel of a daughter Dad said I was? What if it turned out that was all just a cover and online I was a world-class bitch? Even though I still knew very little about myself I was absolutely certain that I wasn’t mean or cruel. I just hoped that the old Kitty felt the same way.

“When your memory gaps seemed to worse,” Dad explained, interrupting my inner debate about whether I should look at my social media pages, “You thought it would be best to get all of your passwords written down somewhere. You also set up your computer to put in a new password each time you used it just in case you forgot your old one. It was actually a very smart thing to do,” he finished proudly.

“Yeah,” I said more to myself than to him. “Pretty smart.”

“Are you getting hungry? I can make us some some sandwiches or maybe go get some takeout?”

“Why?” I asked as I lifted my eyes to him and raised an eyebrow, “Are you a bad cook?”

He shrugged and smiled sheepishly. “I’ll freely admit I’m not the best in the kitchen, but I think I can muddle through a couple of ham and cheeses.”

Casting my eyes towards the refrigerator and cupboards I realized that, providing we had the proper ingredients, I could whip us up some pretty good club sandwiches. Standing from the table I cast a smile at Dad, probably the first I’d given him since waking up, and said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

* * * *

As much as I’d love to say that I made lunch, Dad and I talked some more, and everything was hunky dory, I’d be lying if I did. We didn’t have some kind of sweet and tender movie scene where I suddenly transformed into his perfect daughter once more and we drove off into the sunset. The fact is, while I did make quite tasty club sandwiches, I spent probably five minutes going through all of the cupboards just trying to find the right fixings. After that, the two of us just sat at the table and most quietly ate our meal. I could tell wanted to talk some more, but by that point I was so emotionally wrung out that I might have actually started screaming if he kept talking about a past that I no longer had and pretty much begged him not to. I knew he would need to tell me more about myself and soon, but I needed time to process what I already knew before I was ready for more.

Thankfully, it seemed like he understood this so he didn’t push and instead just stuck with rather benign topics like how delicious the sandwich was and that we were heading to an RV park in central Virginia where we would pretty much be setting up camp for at least a couple of weeks. Dad said it was because he had a few jobs lined up, but I suspect it was probably so I would have some kind of stability, even if it was only temporary.

That was ten minutes ago and after he insisted on cleaning up the kitchen I took my laptop and returned to the back bedroom with its adjoining bath, which Dad told me was mine other than the shower, which naturally we shared. Apparently the lounge area, as well as other parts of the vehicle, could extend outwards when the RV was parked and thus create another complete bedroom since couch pulled out into a queen-sized bed. That was where he slept, he told me. Once I’d closed the bedroom door I found myself once again staring into a stranger’s face in the mirror. Now that I was a bit more clear-headed I studied the features reflected back at me to try and see if anything looked familiar.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but when I peered into mine the only thing I saw was a pair of wide, bright, vibrant blue eyes that would probably have boys going on and on about how they could drown in them. My nose was cute little affair with a slight upturn to it and my mouth, while not overly large, was full and, dare I say it, had very kissable lips. I wondered how many boys had thought the same thing just before kissing me. Did they like how soft they were? Did they like it when I would gently nibble on their nips before slipping my soft, pink tongue into their mouths? Did it feel good when I wrapped them around…

Holy Shit! Where the fuck had that train of thought come from? My mind had been the farthest place possible away from sex and now suddenly I was wondering if a guy liked my mouth on his…? Jesus was I actually some kind of a sex-craving slut? I didn’t have any real basis for comparison but I felt reasonably certain that most girls didn’t start having sexual fantasies while trying to figure out just who the hell they were. Then again, maybe they did. Since I couldn’t remember anyone I’d ever met, and any subsequent conversations about sex, maybe girls really did think about sex rather often. Lord knew it was the number one thing on their minds most of the time. Now how did I know that?

Shaking my head I took a deep, steadying breath before returning to my self-examination. So the eyes and the mouth didn’t do anything for me...other than get me seriously questioning just what kind of a girl I was. What about the hair. Other than being auburn in color while also falling several inches below my shoulders and having full, fantastic body, there wasn’t anything really remarkable about it. My ears were small and close to my skull, my brows were thin and graceful without looking like I’d shaved them off and re-drew them with a pencil, and my complexion was a flawless peaches and cream. While there was no denying I was beautiful, it did absolutely nothing to help me in figuring out who or what kind of a person I was. Turning from the mirror with a sigh I went about rummaging through the various dressers and wardrobe of my bedroom. Maybe that would give me a bit more information.

After only opening the wardrobe I was able to immediately come to the conclusion that I was most assuredly a girly girl. While there were a couple of pairs of what looked like snug-fitting jeans and a few sweaters, the remainder of the hanging clothes consisted of lightweight blouses and dresses of varying but mostly short lengths in a variety of materials ranging from cotton to silk. Given that I had fallen asleep wearing, an off-the-shoulder white peasant-style crop top that exposed my shoulders, taut stomach, and a generous amount of cleavage it was pretty obvious that I’d never been really shy about showing off my body. Oh sure the skirt covered me completely from the hips down, but it was snug around my hips, accentuating them even if it hid my legs. Since Dad hadn’t mentioned anything to me about the clothes I guessed that this manner of dress was pretty normal for me. Top that off with the fact that I wasn’t bothered at all by wearing this rather revealing clothing made me think that this was my normal style.

A further look through my assortment of clothing revealed something that I couldn’t quite decide if it was disturbing or not. When it looked through my lingerie drawers I discovered that not only was I a girly girl, but I was maybe a little naughty too. While there were a few plain cotton pieces, most of my underwear were delicate, lacy confections of silk or satin. While the bras would certainly offer support, it was clear their primary intention was to display. Without actually trying any of them on I was reasonably sure that any one of them would without a doubt showcase my chest in the best possible way. There were, of course, matching panties for every bra. In fact, each pair was bundled together so there was no need to hunt for a mate in a separate drawer. What surprised me a little was pretty much ninety-nine percent of the bottoms were thongs. Now, my first instincts told me that I had nothing against thongs panties. In fact, I was wearing a pair at that very moment and they were perfectly comfortable, lending credence to the idea that I indeed wore them quite often. Regardless of my lack of personal knowledge I did know that while that particular style was becoming more and more commonplace, they were still worn when a girl wanted to look and feel sexy. That line of thinking brought me back to my earlier sudden derailment into thoughts of sex. The combination of the sexy underwear and predilection for sexual fantasies had me once again wondering if I was some kind of slut that Dad wasn’t aware of.

A chime from my laptop pulled my attention from those worries and I flipped open the lid curiously. At first there was nothing unusual on the screen until I noticed the email app gently pulsing along the taskbar at the bottom. I clicked the app open and saw there were a host of previously received emails in the inbox that had already been read with the newest unread one at the top of the list in bold font. The sender’s name was showing as unknown and the subject line only said: Open Me Now Kitty!

Okay, so whoever sent this didn’t want their name broadcast to anyone who could be looking at the screen. It also seemed like they knew my name. Of course, I knew that there were tons of ways that an email could be sent to me with my name being used that didn’t necessarily mean the sender knew me. In the age of the internet there were spam bots and programs out there that were more than capable of lifting my name from social media or shopping sites. Could this possibly be a virus? No, I told myself, this particular computer had been created specifically because it didn’t really have an operating system so it wasn’t affected by viruses. That left the likelihood it was just spam. Since I didn’t really feel like dealing with some stupid advertisement about how to increase my bust size or shrink my waist with a bs magical method I just deleted it and turned back to continue looking through my things. Less than two seconds later the computer chimed again and I looked back at it with a frown of annoyance. Once again the email app was pulsing, indicating a new email. Jeeze, did I get a lot of these spam messages?

That thought quickly faded when I saw the new email was again from an unknown sender, only this time the subject line practically yelled at me: This isn’t spam Kitty! Open this right now! I actually drew back from the computer as though I expect it to suddenly jump off the bed and attack me. I didn’t think it was possible, but it almost felt like whoever had sent that email knew I’d just deleted the previous one. Was that even possible? The computer couldn’t get viruses, at least as far as I knew, so how would anyone be able to detect the moment I deleted an email from them?

There was brief confrontation in my head between curiosity over the strange email and what it contained and caution telling me that opening it could be very very bad. In the end curiosity won out, maybe Dad was right about me always wanting answers, and I clicked open the email.

Well the computer didn’t blow up or suddenly come alive and try to eat me or anything like that. Nope, it was just a plain old text email. However, it was what the text said that had my eyes widening as I read it:

Kitty, I doubt you probably remember me. Not because it’s been so long since we’ve talked, but because of your memory problems. Yes, I know about that. I’m WiseCrack and no that’s not my real name. You and I have been talking for about a two days now. You thought something was fishy about your Dad and I’ve been looking into it for you. I haven’t been able to come up with much yet but I did find something that worries me. Official records show your Dad to be a retired mechanical engineer with a wife who died in a car crash, but there are no records before six months ago about him having a daughter. There is a record of it now, but that data is showing that the file was only just recently created. I don’t know what’s going on with him yet but you need to get in touch me with as soon as you can. Make sure you delete this as soon as you finish reading it. I’ll make sure it comes off the server so it can’t be restored.

For several minutes I sat there shaking and staring at the email in disbelief. This was a joke, a sick joke, it had to be. Whoever this...person...was, he was claiming that my Dad had been lying to me. Not only that, but up until six months ago I didn’t even exist. What kind of bullshit was that? Dad had flat out showed me video of our whole family out enjoying a picnic together. There were photographs sitting in my room showing our family looking at each other lovingly. I even had a framed photo at the head of my bed with just me and my mother in it and she was looking directly at my photo self. Yeah Photoshop could do some great things when it came to messing with pictures and video, but it couldn’t go to those extreme levels.

Whoever this guy was, he was undoubtedly trying to screw with me. Maybe he was a former boyfriend who was pissed off that I’d broken up with him. Maybe that boy Dad told me about who I’d been dating at the time of the accident didn’t leave our relationship on such a great not after all. Hell, it could have been some girl I once knew who was jealous of me for some insane reason. Whoever it was, it was pretty damn clear that they while they knew about my memory loss, they were just trying to mess with my head.

“Well it’s not going to work,” I growled at the email before I stabbed the delete button and sent it flying off to the internet trash can before slapping the lid closed on the laptop. Dad obviously cared for me very much and I wasn’t going to let some damn internet troll make me start questioning him.

With a new level of determination I stood up and smoothed out my skirt before stepping out of my room. I was going to ride up front with Dad for the rest of the way to the RV park and show him that I trusted him and not some faceless freak. Of course, I wasn’t going to tell him about the email since that would probably make him worry about my fragile emotional state. He had enough problems on his plate at the moment.

Americamps RV Resort, Ashland, Virginia

I was smiling and humming a soft ballad I didn’t even know I’d heard before as I arranged plates and glasses the picnic table for dinner. While we had a perfectly serviceable dining area in the RV it was such a nice evening that it took very little to convince Dad that we should eat outside. So, while he was rustling up the fixings for hot dogs in the fridge I was assigned the task of arranging place settings. It was an easy job, especially since we were using paper plates and cups, and in under a minute I was done and waiting for Dad to bring out the food and condiments. While I waited I thought back to the last few hours of our trip that I’d spent curled up in the passenger seat of the RV and the conversations I’d had with my newly discovered father.

At first it had been kind of awkward, for both of us. I still had no memory of who this man was and what kind of father/daughter relationship we had and he was trying to be sensitive to the fact that I lacked the memories he possessed. In fact, we didn’t actually speak for a little bit at first other than him telling me ‘hi’ when I sat down next to him. Eventually though, I broke the ice by asking him to tell me about Mom.

That was when I finally learned something about the mother I never knew. Because she was dead before I became, well, aware, it wasn’t quite so strange as trying to cope with having a father I possessed no memory of. When it came to Mom, I imagine I went through what I suspect far too many teens my age had experienced when their mothers died either at the time of their birth or very shortly after. There was a distant sense of loss for someone I never had a chance to know, but it wasn’t very keen because of that lack of ever having met her. Apparently I’d inherited a great deal of her. I shared her looks, which I could tell from the video of us, but apparently that was just the tip of the iceberg. Though I had yet to really experience it, I also possessed her kind heart and always tried to find the good in people. He said it wasn’t uncommon for me to buy a sad child a small toy or stuffed animal when his or her parents couldn’t really afford it. I was glad to hear that since my experience in the bedroom had me really questioning just what kind of a person I was.

Apparently I was also quite active just like she’d been, despite my rather feminine wardrobe. I’d been interrupted by receiving that sick email so I never got to see that in addition to the dresses and skirts I also had a good assortment of athletic wear that I made very good use of. Running two or four miles each morning was common as was doing yoga in the RV with the sides popped out for adequate room. I had done some gymnastics as a child and there had been strong consideration to continue with it into my teens since I really enjoyed it, but Mom’s death and our subsequent change to a more nomadic lifestyle put at least a temporary hold on that.

That kind of thing continued for the remainder of the drive with Dad telling me about various different things about my mother such as how she and he had met, what her likes and dislikes were, and how we had a very close mother/daughter relationship. It was that last part that finally broke through the arm’s-length distance I’d been keeping from myself. While I couldn’t mourn the actual loss of my mother, I was beginning to mourn the loss of those moments that we’d shared. I would have much rather had all of those wonderful-sounding memories than to simply hear about them in a second-hand kind of way. It actually made me feel less of a person to be told about my life instead of having actually experienced it.

I think Dad understood that I was becoming uncomfortable because it wasn’t long before he changed topics to something more lighthearted like some recent movies that, interestingly enough, I remembered. I don’t remember the act of seeing any of them, but I distinctly remembered the movies themselves in a weird, disconnected sort of way. It was almost like the knowledge of them had been somehow streamed directly into my brain instead of taking in the visuals with my eyes.

As we went through other common topics of conversation such as news, sports (which I found I didn’t really care for), entertainment, and more, I found myself having very similar experiences. While I was quite knowledgeable about most of the things we discussed, I had no idea how I’d acquired said knowledge to begin with. Once again it was almost as though all of this information had been beamed into my head and completely bypassed the entire process of how I gained it.

Dad failed to notice my unusually detailed understanding of our topics, nor did he seem to realize that my inner concerns about it were growing more and more. He just seemed happy that we were able to have normal, everyday conversations where I was able to be an active participant instead of playing twenty-questions all the time. To be honest, I was kind of happy about that too because it made me feel a little more normal. By the time we reached the RV park and driven to our assigned campground I had decided to, for the moment anyway, just stop worrying about my oddly specific lack of personal memory and simply try to take back my life as a young girl and my father’s loving daughter.

That was primarily the reason why I was able to smile and hum to myself while getting the table ready for our dinner. My problems would still be there in the morning, or at least I assumed they would be, so why not put them aside at least for a few hours and try to enjoy myself? There would be more than enough time to deal with them later.

Since the matter of setting out the dishware was easily done and Dad still hadn’t returned with the food I decided I should probably see about getting a fire started in the small stone fire pit the campground provided. Fortunately this place did a great job of taking care of its clients and there was a small pile of kindling and a large pile of firewood neatly stacked beside the pit. Apparently I had done some camping in my life because I instinctively knew how to properly position the logs and how to assemble the kindling so it would effectively catch the split logs on fire. That left the question of how to light the kindling. As I crouched beside the fire pit with my skirt hiking up over my knees so it wouldn’t get dirty I tried to remember if we kept any matches or a lighter around. A quick review of my lunch preparations reminded me there was a long-necked candle lighter in one of the drawers by the stove and I snapped my fingers with the realization.

It’s hard to explain what I experienced in that next moment. The moment my fingers snapped I felt a very odd pulse of heat that ran from my chest, across my shoulder, down my arm, into my hand, and through my snapping fingers. It wasn’t at all painful, more like the gentle warming you get from standing in direct sunlight. I caught a brief blue/white flash out of the corner of my eye and then suddenly the kindling had burst into flames. Instantly I scrambled backwards away from the fire pit, my feet tangling up in my skirt and landing me squarely on my ass in the dirt. For several seconds I just stared at the fire as the kindling ate at the splits surrounding it before they too began to catch.

What the hell was that! I thought wildly. Immediately I lifted my hand before my eyes, worried that despite not feeling any kind of pain that I’d somehow burned myself on...something. However my hand was perfectly pink and smooth with absolutely no signs of injury. “Did I…?”

Shaking my head I pushed to my feet and brushed the dirt off of my skirt before once more lifting my hands to my eyes. It was impossible, and I really wanted to just write it off as being crazy, but somehow I’d lit the kindling without any matches or a lighter. It was as if I’d somehow projected a small flame or something from my hands at the twigs. Now, I was aware of mutants. Hell, I had a reasonable, detailed knowledge of them that made me wonder if I’d done a report in school about them once. Could it be possible I was one of them? Dad had never mentioned anything about it. He’d never even hinted at the possibility of it or that he or Mom were mutants. Was that kind of thing hereditary or did just just spontaneously happen? From what I could recall with the information I possessed about the subject, science still had no real idea of what created a mutant other than it had something to do with genes or DNA. I suppose that meant that I could be one even if Mom or Dad hadn’t been.

Focusing on the one hand that I’d snapped my fingers with, I tried to somehow will fire to appear. Over and over again I repeated the words “fire” in my mind but my hand was still the same as it ever was. “Damn,” I muttered. Maybe I really was going crazy and I hadn’t done anything. Maybe I actually had a lighter or matches on me and used it to start the fire. Oh no,I thought. Had I just had another loss of memory? Had I gone back into the camper, gotten the lighter, started the fire, and then put it back and completely lost that memory? Was I getting worse?

I thought I heard a voice saying something quietly before I heard the crunch of gravel indicating footsteps behind me. Whirling about I saw Dad come walking around the RV with a package of hot dogs, buns, and some packets of various condiments. “Hi Kitten,” he said with a smile, “Got everything for dinner. Oh hey, you got the fire going too. Great. How did you get it going without a lighter?”

Westlake Industries Headquarters Complex, Pennsylvania

“What do you mean you can’t locate him?” Harold Westlake snapped angrily.

The man he spoke to, a rather nondescript blond businessman, shrunk back at the man’s tone and tried very hard not to whimper. “I’m sorry sir, but by the time we knew what had happened he’d had already disappeared with all of his research, experiment data, and the project.”

“Fuck!” the formidable man in impeccable Armani yelled as he slammed his fist down on the large oak desk. “How in the hell did security not see two people just walk out of the complex?”

“Apparently,” another man, this one apparently unfazed by the CEO’s ire, said nearby, “It looks like Blake was able to override our security protocols and loop the camera footage for twenty minutes before the system reset.”

Westlake looked over at the speaker, a man in his mid thirties dressed in slightly ripped jeans and an Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt, as he sat hunched over a laptop resting on the table of the small sitting area within the office. “What about our security personnel? They wouldn’t have just let them walk out.”

The man shrugged and leaned back on the couch he was seated on. “It’s tough to tell without the camera footage to back it up, but according to our internal reports it looks like they were all hit with some kind of sleeping agent. I don’t know how it was delivered because none of the men have any puncture marks and there weren’t any obvious traces of a delivery method, but it there was a very high concentration of Temazepam in their blood when medical checked them out. That’s a sleep drug,” he explained at Westlake’s frown of confusion.

“What about the research, all of the experiment data? How could he have gotten it all without leaving some kind of a trace? We have backups just for that purpose!” the CEO practically shouted.

The man with the laptop shook his head. “I’m still in the preliminary stages of trying to figure that out, but I am finding some traces of what seems to be a computer virus.”

“Isn’t your department supposed to protect us against problems like computer viruses?” the blond accused, clearly happy to start casting the blame elsewhere.

“Normal viruses, yes,” the other man allowed, “But this is no normal virus. I need to look into it for sure but I have a bad feeling this one might be similar to others I’ve been briefed about before.” After tapping out several commands on the laptop he stopped, blinked in surprise, and looked up at Westlake with a disbelieving expression. “Did you seriously let a devisor have access to your computer mainframe?”

Westlake blinked in shock and quickly shook his head. “Of course not. We don’t have any gadgeteers or devisors on staff here specifically because of the potential security risks. Hell I had to fight for your position here because of your history as a hacker.”

“Well you had one in your lab,” the man said with a bit of disdain. “I’ll have to dig at it to verify but this virus is starting to look like it originated at Blake’s terminal.”

“How does that make Blake a devisor and not just really good with computers?” the blond demanded with worry in his voice. Since he was the one responsible for the majority of their hiring the blame was once more starting to shift in his direction.

“Because this virus is fundamentally alive,” the former hacker explained as though speaking to a child, “And has remnants of coding that no human could produce. It’s almost like whoever wrote this mixed computer coding and biological DNA and gene sequencing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and something only a devisor could come up with. If I hadn’t already known about it I wouldn’t have any clue what I was even looking at.”

“Is it infecting the rest of our systems?” Westlake asked and even with all of his angry bluster it was clear that he was afraid the next words he was going to hear was the virus had infiltrated their banking protocols and were in the process of draining them dry.

“It was,” the hacker confirmed, “But only briefly.” His fingers flew over the keys faster than both men could follow. “It looks like a small portion of the company’s funds were withdrawn, about five million.”

“That’s all?” the CEO asked in clear relief. Considering the company currently held a value in the billions a couple million dollars was little more than a drop in the bucket.

“Looks that way. I can’t tell where it went either because it looks like the virus funneled it out of the system by piggybacking several scheduled transactions. There’s no way I can separate the real ones from the one that were embezzled.”

“What about the rest of our data? All of our other projects? Are we losing them too?”

“No,” the hacker said with a shake of his head, much to the relief of the others, “It looks like the extent of the virus was to wipe that one specific project and take the five million. Once it did that a suicide chain initiated and started breaking the virus down. It’ll be completely gone in about twenty minutes.”

“Can you get into the code and see how it was made or who made it?” the blond asked.

“If I’d been told about it as soon as it happened, maybe,” the hacker said with a pointed glare at the blond man, “It’s far too degraded at this point and I was lucky to find out what I have. I’ll try to rip out as much information as I can in the next twenty minutes but don’t hold your breath.” With that he returned his attention to the laptop and began typing rapidly.

“I appreciate anything you can glean Mr. Wiseman,” Westlake said graciously. The blond businessman nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Westlake’s harsh clearing of his throat. Slowly turning his head he found himself pinned beneath the withering glare of his employer. “Mr. Johnson,” the imposing man said darkly, “I think you and I need to have a conversation regarding your future with this company. Please, have a seat.”

While the blond man and the CEO sat in their respective chairs the man at the laptop allowed himself a small, brief smile.

Americamps RV Resort, Ashland, Virginia

“I can’t believe her dad actually turned the sprinklers on you!” I laughed before covering my mouth with my hands to stifle the sound.

“Well he wasn’t my biggest fan in the beginning,” Dad said as he smiled and took another bite of hot dog. “You have to remember that at the time I was pretty much a geek while she was probably the most popular girl in school. In his eyes your mother and I should have had nothing to do with each other.”

“So what got her to go out with you?” I asked as I sipped some lemonade from my cup.

He shrugged and looked a little sheepish when he answered. “The first time was pretty much just a ‘thank you’ for helping her out with some problems she was having in physics. I’m sure she was just being nice but I thought I’d won the lottery. I’m ashamed to admit it but I had some pretty wild fantasies that she would be dazzled by my wonderful and unappreciated personality and fall madly in love on the spot,” he finished with sarcastic bravado and puffed out his chest. When he relaxed his smile softened and it was clear he was thinking back to that time. “Surprise surprise it didn’t, but luckily I didn’t make a complete ass of myself on that first date so we stayed pretty decent friends afterwards. It wasn’t long after that she asked me out again, only this time it was for a real date.” He paused for a moment and I thought I saw his brow wrinkle slightly, almost as though he was struggling with something, but the light from the fire was casting wildly dancing shadows so I wasn’t sure. “The rest,” he finally said, “As they say, is history. We continued to date for the rest of high school and through college until we finally got married. It wasn’t long after that you came along.” His warm smile returned and was directed at me.

I returned the smile, though I couldn’t quite drum up the same kind of nostalgic warmth he did. Even though it was a nice story and made me feel good in an abstract kind of way, to me it was still just a story and not a life experience. Beyond that, I was still bothered by the whole thing with the campfire. When Dad had first asked how I’d started it without using a lighter I could only stand there while opening and closing my mouth. I had no idea how to tell him that I’d somehow gained mutant powers that let me light fires since, for all I knew, he might hate mutants or even be a card-carrying member of Humanity First.

Luckily, I guess, he had seemed to notice something and crouched down by the fire. When he stood up he had a book of matches in his hand. “Oh, guess you found these with the plates huh?” he had said before going about the task of getting the food ready to cook.

The problem was, I distinctly remembered not having any matches when I brought out the plates. What’s more, I didn’t remember that book of them being there when I’d jumped back after the fire had started. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell Dad that I was starting to lose time and memories again when he started talking about the best way to go about cooking the hot dogs. After that I just kind of got lost in our conversation and figured I had just been lost in thought before and had grabbed the matches and lit the fire without realizing it.

That was how we ended up laughing over the stories he was telling me about when he first met Mom. It was still in the back of my mind that something weird had definitely happened to me, but at the moment it just seemed so inconsequential compared to this opportunity to bond with a father that I still didn’t really know that I sort of chose not to worry about it. Besides, it was very likely that it was all in my head.

“I feel kind of bad,” Dad suddenly said, even though he still wore that pleasant smile.

Tilting my head slightly I blinked in surprise. “Why would you feel bad?”

“Well here I am going on and on about myself. It feels a bit like bragging.”

I couldn’t help but smile at his selflessness and reached out to cover his hand with my own. “Dad,” I told him gently, “My entire life was a blank slate up until this morning. If I had any funny stories I could tell you I would, but I don’t-” I stopped then because something popped into my head at that very moment. I have no idea where it came from or how I knew about it, but something told me Dad would get a kick out of it. “Actually, I think I may have something that might give you a chuckle or two.”

“Oh?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Nodding I sat back and took a sip of my lemonade before starting. “So, these three guys went out drinking one Friday night, in New York City I think.” There was a slight flinching around Dad’s eyes but he nodded for me to continue. “So anyway, they go to this bar somewhere downtown and it’s a pretty rough place. I don’t mean like a hangout for the Hell’s Angels or anything but it was pretty much a dive bar. But the place had character, you know. It had been there for who knew how long and everyone knew pretty much everyone there. I think these guys might have been there a couple of times before but they weren’t regulars or anything.” Turning a little I looked into the crackling fire and as the tale came faster and faster into my mind I could almost see it playing out like a movie within the flames.

“So,” I continued, “These guys go in and order a few beers and just start drinking. After a little while they’re getting pretty buzzed when one of them sees this gorgeous blond sitting at the far end of the bar. He elbows his buddies and points her out before telling them he’s going to go sweet talk her into going home with him. Well, his two friends took one look at the woman and told him she was way out of his league. Well this doesn’t stop the guy from sauntering down the bar like he’s cock of the walk and slides onto the stool next to her and says, ‘You know, you really stand out in a crowd.’

Well this woman turns on her stool and what does the guy see but a man, dressed in drag, with makeup painted on like a clown and a full on five o’clock shadow. He takes one look at the guy, bats his eyelashes, and says, ‘Well aren’t you the sweetest thing.’”

I was smiling by the end of the story because, to me anyway, it was funny. While I’d been telling it I could actually see the events playing out before my eyes and that moment when the over-the-top drag queen turned around was simply hilarious. However, when I turned my head to look at my Dad to see if he thought it was just as funny I found him frowning, nearly scowling at me. “I guess I’m not a great storyteller,” I said sheepishly and looked down at my cup.

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for a girl your age to be talking about,” he admonished in a quiet but clearly upset voice. “Where did you hear it?”

“I dunno,” I replied quietly and shrugged, not at all liking the anger I could hear creeping into his tone. “It just kind of popped into my head.”

“That’s not the kind of story that just pops into your head,” he insisted, standing up so he was towering over me with his hands curling into fists at his side. “Now tell me where you heard it,” he demanded in nearly a shout.

I cowered back under this sudden aggression that was coming from him. This was certainly a new side to my father and I certainly didn’t like it. In fact, it was really starting to scare me. If I didn’t know any better, and let’s face it I really didn’t, I would have sworn he was only moments away from actually striking me. Was this kind of thing normal for him? God I hoped not. “Dad,” I insisted in a frightened voice, “I swear, I don’t remember where I heard it. It just kind of appeared in my head just like when we were talking about movies and books and current events. I don’t know how it got there because I don’t remember when or where I heard it but it’s just there. Please!” I begged him as he took what to me seemed like a menacing step towards me.

Maybe it was that last ‘please’ that I was practically screaming at this point because he stopped. His eyes widened and he looked like someone who had just woken from a bad dream. Shaking his head he pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes and muttered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry Kitten.” When his hands lowered his eyes were once again those warm, gentle pools of chocolate brown and that loving smile had returned to his lips. “I know it’s not your fault you knew that story. Lord only knows where you might have heard it before. But you’re only fourteen and fourteen-year-old girls shouldn’t be talking about guys getting drunk in bars and hitting on drag queens. That’s what I was upset about, that’s all,” he assured me and I didn’t believe it for a second.

“I think I’m going to head in,” I told him as I inched along the picnic bench away from him until I could get to my feet and have the table in between us. “I’m feeling kind of tired, what with everything that’s happened today,” I explained lamely.

He nodded and reached into the small drink cooler he’d brought out of the RV about a half an hour ago, pulling out a bottle of beer. “I think I’ll stay out here until the fire dies off. We can’t leave a campfire unattended after all,” he said as he popped the top off the bottle and took a pull of the beer without even looking at me.

“Okay,” I replied in a small voice and quickly hurried towards the RV. I’m not sure if turned at any point to watch me but at that moment I had no intention of looking back. As crazy as it sounds I felt like my life depended on my getting into that RV and into my room right then and there. I don’t know what might have happened if I didn’t, but some kind of primal prey instinct told me getting into that tiny little haven that was my own was crucial.

I don’t think I breathed until I was inside of my room and the door was closed and locked. The moment I heard that soft click telling me it was engaged my breath whooshed out of my lungs and I gasped for breath. Not since I’d first woken up scared and confused about my total memory loss had I been so afraid of my father.

What the hell had caused him to get so angry so suddenly? Sure the story told wasn’t that funny but it wasn’t even dirty other than it was about a couple guys drinking and hitting on a drag queen. These days I doubt that kind of thing was even a blip on the bad-stuff radar. So why had he suddenly gone from laughing and smiling to looking like he was ready to start hitting me? Heading into the bathroom I turned on the taps with shaking hands before splashing my face with water a couple of times before blotting it dry with a nearby hand towel.

As I lowered the towel I looked into the mirror and asked my reflection in a whisper, “What happened between you two Kitty? Why would that have made him so mad?” Had something happened to me that was very similar to the story I told? Was that why he’d been so upset? Maybe I’d snuck out to a bar one night with a fake ID and gotten in trouble because of it and that brought up bad memories for him. Maybe that was exactly it. Maybe I’d run into trouble with some boys and nearly been raped or something. That would certainly explain how talking about drunk guys hitting on a woman, drag queen or not, would strike a nerve with him.

Shaking my head and refolding the hand towel, I walked back into my room. It had grown significantly larger in size since the sides of the RV had been extended once we’d parked. Now it felt much more like an average-sized bedroom instead of being rather cramped. A folding desk and chair had also been revealed by the walls extending outward and I quickly assembled them before setting my laptop on the desktop and powering it up. There had to be an explanation for what had just happened and I was determined to find out just what that was. After all, Dad had said that I always sought out answers to questions I couldn’t immediately get an answer to.

The laptop powered up in just a few seconds and I wasted no time in opening a browser and starting web searches. The first thing I did was Google myself. Given that the car accident I was in involved the death of my mother and amnesia for me as a result of drug use and faulty safety equipment I was pretty sure there were at least several news stories about it and the trials after. The news media sure did love their human tragedy pieces after all.

After twenty minutes I sat back in the chair and blew some hair out of my eyes with a puff of frustration. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t locate one single article about the car crash. While I neglected to ask before about where it had happened, the name Kitty Sinclair was uncommon enough that using my name as an anchor-point for the search should have yielded something. Instead, all I got were some facebook pages and a shocking amount of bondage porn attached to a woman that shared my last name (shudder). That didn’t make any sense. An accident as tragic and heartbreaking as the one my mother and I were involved in should most definitely have made local if not nationwide news coverage. In fact, it should have probably been a fairly long running story since it also involved a high-powered businessman on drugs and a car that had literally been built as a death trap right from the factory.

Yet there was nothing, absolutely nothing. It was almost as though the event that changed my entire life never happened. How was this possible? Had Dad actually...lied to me? Would he do that, lie to his own daughter about the circumstances leading to her mother’s death and amnesia? His sudden, unwarranted burst of anger about a stupid joke had really come out of left field. Was there more to what happened than what he had told me?

Shaking my head with a sigh I shut down the computer and plugged it in to charge overnight. My head was spinning with so many questions at this point that I was having trouble separating one from the other. That my eyes were starting to droop and things were beginning to blur was a pretty good indication that I probably needed some sleep.

Rubbing my eyes with my fists I slid out of bed and went through the drawers in my room until I located the one containing sleepwear. Once again the idea that I was a girly girl was reinforced by the fact that the majority of my choices were nighties in silk or satin. Boy I was really a high maintenance kind of girl. I hoped I wasn’t causing too much trouble with Dad’s bank account when it came to my higher end preferences. Then again, he’d told me we were beyond well-off at this point thanks to the multiple law suits and investments so I guessed he could afford it.

Selecting one nightie in soft rose with spaghetti straps and lace trimming the neck and hemlines. After carefully laying it on the bed I pulled off my top and shimmied out of my skirt, leaving me in just my bra and panties. The dull and shadowy reflection of myself in the T.V. got me curious and I stepped into the bathroom to once again look at my reflection in the mirror.

I’d already suspected as much before, but now that I was stripped to just my lingerie there was no question I was gorgeous. My breasts were full and firm and even when I took off the bra they were the very definition of perky. I had a tiny little waist that I’d bet most girls would kill for and hips that were just rounded enough to accentuate without being too full. While I couldn’t see my legs in the mirror a simple look downward was enough to see they were lean and sleek with muscles that indicated regular exercise. There was no question, I was a knockout.

Dropping my bra into the small laundry hamper in the bedroom along with my skirt and top I drew on the nightie and arranged the straps so they rested comfortably on my shoulders before switching off the lights and crawling into bed. Slipping under the covers I plumped up my pillow a bit before laying my head down and closing my eyes, ready to go to sleep.

After about ten minutes of tossing and turning I slapped my hands down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling of my room. I felt tired, at least mentally, so why wasn’t I falling asleep? I tried to just let my mind go blank and when that didn’t work I tried to force a dream to lull me to sleep.

Against my will, I swear, I found myself imagining I was in some kind of house curled up on the couch reading a book on an e-reader. It was a nice little fluffy romance novel and I was thoroughly enjoying the steamy scenes between the male and female leads that always seemed to butt heads. I was just getting to the point where the pair were about to give in to their lust when a hand suddenly clamped over my mouth. I tried to scream but that meaty paw kept the sound trapped in my throat as I was thrown to my stomach on the floor and my e-reader skittered away. A second pair of hands yanked my arms behind my back and I felt plastic zip ties quickly pin my wrists together. As I struggled to break free the hand covering my mouth disappeared, but before I could scream for help a large, thick ball replaced it, wedging itself deeply within my mouth behind my teeth and filling it completely. I tried to scream through it but the only sounds I could make were quiet mewlings and moans.

The hands were in motion again, ripping open my white silk blouse and sending buttons flying before revealing the innocent and sexy white satin and lace bra I wore beneath it. Those mysterious hands, which I could now see were connected to a man dressed in all black from head to toe, including some kind of a ninja hood mauled my breasts as though he were kneading dough. It should have hurt, but amazingly it seemed to actually feel good. When he tweaked my nipples through the fabric I felt quick little spikes of pleasure shoot from them down to my belly.

That second set of hands, belonging to an equally black-garbed assailant, slid up the length of my legs towards the hem of my short, red plaid schoolgirl skirt that would never have passed any kind of dress code in the nation. I tried to kick him away but my efforts were admittedly weak and half-hearted. The feeling of his rough hands (he wasn’t wearing gloves interestingly enough) against my flesh caused tingles to run up my spin and my skin to break out in goosebumps. When his hands slipped under my skirt I gasped when I felt those demanding fingers brush against the crotch of my panties, which horrifyingly were soaking wet at this point. I was tied up and being sexually assaulted and I was actually aroused by it!

When those hands ripped my thong over my hips and down my legs I was screaming wildly, only I couldn’t tell if it was from fear or desire.

Somewhere, in the dark

The only light came from the tablet’s screen as the figure in the shadows watched the girl going through her evening abdulations. There was a slight curl to his lips as he watched her first undress and then examine her naked beauty within the mirror. It was done with such innocent inquisitiveness that it only served to heighten the sexual allure of such actions. The shadow felt a pang of disappointment when the girl stopped and donned her nightdress before climbing into bed. He had to wait for some time after that, his view of the unsuspecting star of this little show obscured by the thick comforter. His patience was rewarded when, after a few sleepy turns in which she tried to get comfortable, the girl started to breathe a little faster. Her head turned from side to side and the comforter twisted around her, almost as if she was struggling against something. When she kicked sharply several times the comforter was thrown almost violently off her to bunch up at the foot of the bed, leaving her utterly exposed in that delicate piece of feminine finery that had hiked scandalously high on her thighs. He found himself licking his lips hungrily when her fingertips lightly danced up the swell of her thighs. There was no quieting the sharp intake of breath when he saw her slender hands grip the thin satin of her panties and jerk them down over her hips, down her thighs, over her calves, and off her feet where they lay at the foot of the bed, a delicate splash of white almost blending in with the peach-colored bedding.

His breath came out in a shudder when he observed the girl’s soft, smooth sex unmarred by a single strand of hair. A faint shimmer of dew spoke volumes regarding the teen’s current frame of mind as she squirmed and moaned softly in her sleep. Hands lifted to cup and squeeze the firmness of her breasts through the silk and lace covering before jerking the neckline down and fully exposing those beautiful young orbs of flesh to her plundering hands. Every squeeze, every caress, every pinch to the puckered nipples drew out a different and exciting sound of pleasure from her throat even when her teeth gently sunk into that oh so soft lower lip in a pointless effort to stifle herself.

When her hands began to work themselves down her belly towards that delicious apex of her thighs, he had to exercise a tremendous amount of control to keep himself from hastily springing into action and simply watch. The knowledge that he would not need to do so for much longer did little to help quench his urges, but that was why he relied upon his own strength of will to stay his hand. Despite this, he couldn’t keep the low growl of desire completely contained as the girl began to expertly and feverishly stimulate herself. Writhing and moaning, it was clear that while she her movements did indicate a struggle of sorts, the rapidly building pleasure within her was quickly taking control of her actions.

It wasn’t long before her breath was sucked in sharply and her entire body went as taut as a bowstring. She actually arched up off the bed until the only points of contact that remained were her shoulders and her toes. An instant later, though it was clear she subconsciously tried to stop it, the scream of pure bliss tore from her throat and echoed about the room as she exploded in orgasmic pleasure. When she finally collapsed back onto the bed her breath came in soft, rapid gasps that quickly died down until her breathing had returned to normal. When she curled up on the mattress the shadowed man shut off the tablet and set it aside. The remainder of the night would be recorded so he could always review the footage for any further incidents but he suspected there would be no others for the remainder of the night.

Taking a sip from the coffee at his elbow, he picked up a second tablet and used the biometric scanner to unlock it. From there he opened up a data file and made several notations such as: on schedule, levels at acceptable strength, and so on. Once the file was complete he opened a file folder containing a mixture of audio, video, photographic, and text files.

Starting with the text files he compared the data inscribed there with his own recent observations and nodded with approval that everything appeared to be progressing as all of the models had projected. There was a slight deviation in some of the cognitive areas but all were in normal parameters. Looking at the predicted gene and DNA sequencing images, he overlaid the most recent sample that had been collected and frowned when he saw there was a very pronounced difference between the computer model and the collected sample. That was unexpected according to everything his associate had told him and, unfortunately, it was beyond his own considerable knowledge just what the result of such a deviation could mean.

Casting the images aside he brought up a video file and started the playback. The video itself was thirty minutes long and he carefully studied everything that was contained within it. Every procedure had been conducted properly, every administration been done so with the correct level of care and dosage, and even the time-lapsed development all seemed to properly fit with every projected computer model they had run. So why was there a variance in the DNA?

Shaking his head and draining the remainder of his coffee, he decided it would be best if he collected fresh samples to see if perhaps the problem had corrected itself by now. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility and it would put his mind greatly at ease. Hopefully that would be the case but on the off chance it wasn’t he made a mental note to introduce a retrovirus that had been constructed if just such an event occurred. It wasn’t a guaranteed fix but it had been the best that they could come up with as a countermeasure to improper gene overlap. This was uncharted territory when it came to genetic research so a great deal of what he and his associate were doing was speculative at best. The fact that they’d been overwhelmingly successful in their efforts had only driven them that much harder to see the experiment to completion. Barring any significant complications, they would be able to qualify the experiment as successful in a matter of weeks. After that, the buyers for the product would come rolling in. There were already several parties very interested in the first batch and were ready to pull the trigger on their bank accounts at a moment’s notice.

Smiling at the image of millions, possibly billions, being deposited into his personal bank account, the shadowed man closed the file marked: Project Kajira.

Americamps RV Resort, Ashland, Virginia

I was feeling much better when I woke up the next morning. Every muscle in my body was loose and relaxed and there was a gentle warmth that seemed to permeate every pore of my skin. I didn’t even bother trying to hold back the smile as I stretched languishly on the bed and sat up to wipe the sleep out of my eyes.

I had been just about to touch my face when I froze and stared in shock. Both of my hands were glowing with a blue/white light that encompassed them from wrist to fingertip. The glow seemed to gently pulse with every beat of my heart and almost seemed to fit around my hands as though they were skin tight gloves. Slowly rotating my hands I saw the glow surrounded them completely.

It had really happened. I wasn’t losing my memories or going crazy. I had somehow caused the kindling in the fire pit to start burning with this weird, glowing energy. There was absolutely no doubt that I was a mutant. Did Dad know about this? Had he been hiding it from me this whole time?

No, I decided, something like this was too big for him to keep quiet about. While I had no clue about what level of power I might possess, the fact that just snapping my fingers the previous night had lit up some kindling like...well...kindling gave me a pretty good inkling that it was only the tip of the iceberg. It would be colossally stupid to hold back that information from me since I clearly had no control over it and who knew what might set it off. He could just-

The sudden sharp knock at the door caused me to jump and yelp in surprise before I began flail my arms about for balance as I toppled over the side of the bed. I felt a quick pulse of warmth in my right hand as I did so but thankfully I didn’t set my bed on fire or anything. “Kitty,” I heard Dad ask with concern through the door, “Everything okay in there?”

“Yeah,” I replied as I scrambled to my hands and knees, “You just startled me.”

“Well I’ve got breakfast cooking,” he informed me in a cheery voice, “Should be ready in a few minutes.”

“Oh-kay,” I said slowly as, while getting ready to push to my feet, I saw something...odd. “I’ll be there in a second,” I told him distractedly as I stood and carefully walked over to the wooden door. As I drew closer I could see a faint orange line just at the seam of the panel accent of the door. With each step the line became more defined and I realized it wasn’t one line but two, very close together, both curved and joining together at the top and bottom. What’s more, both lines had fading but distinct orange glows to them as well as rapidly vanishing tendrils of smoke. I wasn’t an expert or anything but it sure looked to me like someone had stabbed a knife into the door...a knife that had been on fire...and was so hot that it not only plunged into the door but left the edges smoldering briefly.

Dad said something to me through the door but I was so confused and enraptured by what I saw I only managed to mumble out a barely coherent, “Uh huh.” By then the orange glow had died away and the last little curl of smoke had dissipated. Thankfully it hadn’t been a heavy amount to begin with or it might have set off the smoke detector. Something told me I wouldn’t be able to explain what happened very well.

With the surface of the wardrobe door now cool I carefully touched my finger to the knife mark and slowly traced its edge. Whatever had made this, and at this point I had to assume it came from me, had been so hot and traveled so fast that the edges were incredibly smooth. I could hardly differentiate between the lacquered wood and the marks of the edge. What in the world had I done and how the hell had I done it?

The sound of a pan being placed on the stove in the other room pulled my attention away from the all new batch of questions whirling around inside my head. Dad had said breakfast would be ready in a few minutes so I didn’t have much time to quickly grab a shower. I should have set my alarm to wake up earlier so I could go for my daily morning run, but I suppose I could be forgiven about it since there were more holes in my memory than swiss cheese at by point. I’d just have to wait and either do it sometime this afternoon or maybe in the evening. Probably in the afternoon since Dad didn’t like me being out by myself at night, what with all of the dangerous sexual predators about these days just looking for a lovely young girl to prey upon. Daddy was always so worried about me.

With a giggle at that last thought, I should really be calling him Daddy more, he likes hearing it so much, I practically pranced into the bathroom. As I peeled off my nightie I caught sight of something in the mirror that made me frown in confusion. Hadn’t I been wearing panties last night when I went to bed? Oh well, I thought with a shrug as I started the shower, Maybe I just forgot about taking them off. I always like sleeping naked under my nightie anyway.

* * * *

“Hi Daddy,” I sang as I skipped out of my room and flounced over to the kitchenette and pulled orange juice from the refrigerator and gathered a few glasses from the cupboard.

“Well hey there Kitten,” he said, looking over at me with a smile while flipping the bacon sizzling in a pan on the stove, “You’re in a pretty good mood this morning.”

“Uh huh,” I agreed with a nod as I set the carton of orange juice and glasses on the table before bounding back over to the kitchenette to get plates and flatware. “I slept really well last night. It did a great job of refreshing me.”

“Any luck with…” he asked hesitantly, concern showing in his eyes.

Awwww, he was worried about me, that was so sweet. Daddy was always thinking about my happiness first. It was one of the reasons I loved him so much. Well, that and there was no doubt he was one of the handsomest men I ever met. It’s always a plus when your Daddy is so handsome.

“No,” I said with a shake of my head but gentled my lack of returning memories with a smile, “But it’s okay. I know it won’t happen overnight or anything. It’ll probably take a really long time, if it ever does.”

“You know there are other doctors we can see, specialists we haven’t tried yet,” he offered, though based on the look he gave me he probably shared my belief that at this stage it was probably pointless. My memory might return, but more than likely it wouldn’t, and that was just something I needed to accept and move on.

Setting the plates on the table I turned and took those few steps that separated us before slipping my arms around his waist and hugging him close from behind. There was a split-second moment where he stiffened, probably in surprise, before relaxing into my embrace. He was taller than I was so when I laid my cheek against him it was at the base of his neck instead of on his shoulder like I would have prefered. “It’s okay Daddy,” I whispered as I pressed myself tightly against him. I could feel his breath shudder through his lungs as I crushed my breasts against his back and pressed my hips snugly to his. “You love me and that’s what matters more than anything. I know you’ll take care of me.”

One of his hands covered mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Forever Kitten,” he promised me. There was an odd tightness to his voice that I found curious but I simply wrote it off as strong emotions. Daddy and I were always so close and I knew he sometimes let his emotions get the better of him when it came to me. Going up on tiptoe I placed a soft kiss to the underside of his jaw before skipping back to the table. “That’s a nice outfit,” he complimented as he watched me over his shoulder.

I beamed proudly at him, since I’d selected it with him in mind. The top was a simple white blouse with cap sleeves that had a sleeveless white and yellow striped vest pulled over it. I’d chosen a flirty little white skirt that danced about high on my thighs with every move I made. If I wasn’t careful Daddy would know I’d chosen a blue and white striped thong that morning (giggle). All of that was finished off by a pair of beige T-strap heels that did lovely things for my legs in conjunction with the skirt. It was fun, flirty, and a touch naughty all at once, which was Daddy’s prefered method of dress for me.

While I arranged the places at the table Daddy transferred the waffles he’d already made and the bacon to serving dishes before bringing them over as well.

“It looks delicious,” I told him as my mouth watered at the sight of the golden waffles and crispy bacon.

“Hopefully it tastes as good as it looks,” he told me with a playful wink while distributing portions to each of us before cutting into the meal. I did the same and popped a bite slathered in syrup into my mouth. The moan of delight I issued was more than enough to tell the tale of what I thought of Daddy’s waffles. It looked like he picked up on it easily enough because his gaze was intense for a moment before a pleased smile curved his lips. “I take it you approve?”

Nodding vigorously I quickly cut myself another bite. “So yummy,” I growled playfully around a mouthful.

Daddy laughed and dug in himself, nodding with what seemed like pleasant surprise at the taste of his breakfast. We didn’t say much during the rest of the meal, which was fine with me because it gave me the chance to just simply watch him eat. The look of enjoyment on his face while enjoyed the tasty food made me realize that I should have been the one to cook breakfast this morning. There wasn’t anything wrong with Daddy having done it, but he’d already shown me so much love and caring that I needed to make sure that he knew how much I appreciated everything he did. Besides, every girl knew the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach (giggle). I made myself a promise at that moment that I would make sure I woke up extra early tomorrow so I could get in my morning run and get back with enough time to shower and make breakfast before he had woken.

As a concession for the work he’d done to feed us, I told him to just sit and relax while I took care of the dishes and cookware. He started to insist that he could help but I quickly shut him up by putting a steaming mug of coffee in front of him, blended with cream and sugar exactly how he liked it, kissed him affectionately on the cheek, and told him to be a good boy and enjoy his coffee. His only response was a shake of his head, a chuckle, and a return kiss that didn’t quite get me on the cheek but more on the corner of my mouth. A delicious little shiver thrilled up my spine at the feeling of his lips so very near mine as I stepped over to the sink and began washing and scrubbing like a good girl.

I’d gotten about halfway through the dishes when I found myself pausing and lifting my wet fingers to that spot so close to my lips where he’d kissed. I know it’s impossible but I was certain I could still feel his touch there and it made me feel all fuzzy inside. Was I wrong to be reacting in this way? Yes I loved my father but were the emotions I was starting to experience proper and appropriate for his daughter? There was no trying to deny that had I known what he had planned to do I very well might have turned my head just those few scant inches so his lips had met mine instead of the very corner. Was that the kind of thing that girls thought about their fathers? I suppose Freud would have a few things to say about it but I’m pretty sure it was him that said daughters always looked for semblances of their fathers in the men they chose to be with. In that regard, I guess my feelings were kind of normal. After all, Daddy was a wonderful man. He was kind, generous, considerate, loving, and god was he handsome. What girl wouldn’t look for those kinds of qualities in a man? No, I was just being silly. Silly, silly Kitty. Daddy knew what was best for me and he’d never do anything to hurt me.

“I’ve got a few online consultations to do today,” he said, interrupting my self-flagellation, “What are your plans for the morning?”

“Well,” I mused as I put the dishes back in the cupboard. Oh geeze, I forgot we had a dish washer, I didn’t need to do all of this by hand. Silly Kitty. “I still need to get my run in since I slept through it this morning,” That caused me to blush in embarrassment along with a reminder of my vow to wake up extra early in the morning. “I figured I’d do that in about a half an hour and maybe just walk around and explore afterwards. I didn’t really get to see this place when we got here last night.”

“Well as long as you’re careful,” he warned, “You know I worry about you being out on your runs alone.”

“You could always come with me,” I suggested in a teasing voice. Okay, so it was only half teasing. I actually did want him to come with me on my daily run, but he always insisted he wasn’t the athletic type, despite the fact that he looked quite fit and strong.

“Now Kitty,” he admonished gently, “You know you’re the physical one in this family. I’d only slow you down and screw up your pace and your workout. You go on and have fun and I’ll be here when you get back.”

“Okay Daddy,” I chirped and bounced back into my room to select my workout clothes. Since it was such a warm day out I elected to just go with a pair of Under Armour tight spandex short shorts with a matching sports bra along with my socks and sneakers, also Under Armour. Daddy always did get me the best.

By the time I had changed it was far sooner than the thirty minutes I’d said I’d wait, but I was just bursting with energy and wanted to just get out there in run so I decided to get started early. I planned on making some excuse to that effect but when I stepped out of my room Daddy had already gone back into his and closed the door. He’d mentioned before that the space also doubled as his office since the bed could easily be collapsed back into a couch for the lounging area and had hideaway desk space built into the walls. I lifted my hand to knock on his door to let him know I was getting ready to go but stopped when I heard him talking to someone on the phone.

“Yes, everything is moving smoothly. No, it looks like the subject is suffering no ill effects of the transfer.” Odd, I’d never heard Daddy talk so professionally before. He almost sounded like a different person. “I would say dopamine amounts are close to reaching acceptable levels and the bonding process is progressing smoothly. No, I would wager around three to four weeks at the most. Yes,” he said, and I could almost detect a smile in his voice, “I was anticipating trying that to accelerate the progress. I’ve already seen examples of increased libido activity just this morning. Yes I agree, she’ll make an excellent sample product. I’m going to run the numbers now and get back to you when I’ve finished.”

I heard him put the phone down so I assumed he ended his conversation. Not wanting him to think I was listening in on his business conversations I quickly but quietly slipped out of the RV and started walking down the gravel pathway that made up the main thoroughfare of the park. Now what was that all about? Daddy was a mechanical engineer but everything he had been talking about was biological in nature, not mechanical. Why would one of his consultations be asking him about that?

Shaking my head to try and get rid of those thoughts, good girls didn’t question what their Daddy’s did after all, I stopped and started a brief stretching regimen before beginning my run at a slow jog. Once I felt my muscles start to ease into the familiar movements I extended my stride until I had a good pace going that was speedy yet steady. I always enjoyed my morning runs. They let me just lose myself in the movements and allow my mind to simply wander. I could think about whatever I wanted when I ran, whether it was about a T.V show I’d seen, a report I’d been working on for school, how to best make Daddy happy…

That last through brought me to a skidding halt. How to best make Daddy happy? Where the hell had that thought come from? For that matter, why had I started calling him Daddy? A few minutes ago it had felt so natural to do so but now that I was thinking about it, it didn’t feel right. Yes the man was my father but other than some conversations we hadn’t deepened our relationship to the point that I should be calling him Daddy. For that matter, why had I been so giggly and bouncy this morning when it came to breakfast? It was almost as though I had fallen into some kind of patterned behavior that was dynamically different from what it had been the previous day.

Stepping off the path into the shade of some trees I worked to catch my breath and thought back on the last twenty-four hours. Strangely enough it actually took a little work to separate the changes in my behavior from the night before to when I woke up this morning. Yesterday I’d been a scared, critical, untrusting girl who had no memory of my family or myself. This morning, almost from the moment I’d woken up, there was a distinct change in my thought process. Instead of wanting to try and find out about myself and who I was, I’d become wholly focused on making my father happy and even appreciating him in a fashion that was treading dangerously close to being decidedly non-parental. That was just sick! Why would I have been thinking about him in that way?

That line of thinking had me reflecting back on other aspects of the morning that now seemed wrong. I hadn’t been wearing panties when I woke up, yet I absolutely knew I’d been wearing them when I went to bed. When I’d dressed that morning, instead of simply putting on a robe to have breakfast since I was going to go out for a run afterwards, I’d taken a full shower and dolled myself up to look like a teenage sexpot just to have breakfast. At the time, my father’s look of appreciation at my appearance had made me feel all warm and tingly, but now it made a cold shiver go down my spine. Was my personality prior to my memory lost trying to re-assert itself? Had I been some kind of teen seductress before? Had I plied those feminine wiles towards my own father?

Given that he hadn’t acted as though anything was out of the ordinary it stood to reason that might indeed be the case, but something about the whole event felt wrong. Any father should have at least had some kind of reaction to his daughter dressing that way other than those flashes of desire I’d caught in his eyes. Was it possible that my father and I had…

No! I shouted in my mind as I shook my head firmly. This man was my father, there was no way he could possibly be someone who would do something like that. And yet, even as I tried to deny it, I couldn’t ignore not only how he looked at me but how I had reacted towards him this morning. For the love of god I was practically flirting with him! Normal, well-adjusted girls didn’t do that with their fathers. So what did that say about me? Was I not normal?

“Oh god,” I whispered as I covered my face with my hands and desperately tried not to cry, “Am I some kind of sick pervert?”

I wasn’t actually expecting a response, so I was surprised when i felt a gentle warmth blossom in my chest and rapidly flow up into my shoulders and down my arms. Pulling my hands away in surprise, while also not wanting whatever this was to go from my hands and into my face, I blinked in amazement as I saw my hands pulsing with a faint blue/white glow. It was hard to make out in the light of the morning, but there was no denying it was there. “What the fuck!” I whispered in amazement as I slowly turned my hands over to see the glow covered them completely. Was this what I’d done before? Had I created this energy and shot it from my hands without realizing it? Could I do it again?

In the battle between curiosity and caution that I shouldn’t be doing this out in the open, curiosity won out and I pointed one hand at the ground. When nothing happened I frowned at it. “Well go on,” I told the glow, “Go on and shoot out some fire.” Still nothing happened and I lifted my hand back up to glare at it. “I know you can shoot fire,” I told it, not even thinking about how stupid I must look scolding an energy glow covering my hand, “So just do it.”

The glow, and the feeling of warmth in my hand, pulsed once and I quickly pointed it back at the ground. However no flames or energy beams shot out. Instead I could almost feel the energy pooling and coalescing against my palm. It was weightless, as though made of light, yet I could feel the solidity of it against my skin as I curled my fingers around the growing shape. Before my eyes I watched the energy gather and grow, molding into a slightly elongated shape before thinning and gaining more definition around its edges. It wasn’t long before the shape defined itself as that of a double-edged knife. It wasn’t a traditional looking knife in that it didn’t have a handle, more like it was just a nine-inch blade, the lower half of which I was holding. I expected it to cut or burn me where I grasped it, but it simply felt solid, albeit weighless without any pain.

“Holy shit!” I said quietly as I looked over the knife I now held while it lazily pulsed with the blue/white energy. Was this what I had done in the bedroom this morning? Had I created this knife and thrown it through the wall without realizing it? Of course, the evidence in my hand at that moment made the question kind of silly and obvious. Of course I had, it had just happened so fast and I hadn’t been looking at it. Did that mean…?

Out of impulse, I turned and slashed at the tree I stood next to. I’d probably seen too many sci-fi movies because I expected to hear a hum or something like a lightsaber, but there wasn’t even a whistling as the knife seemed to pass harmlessly through the tree. Or at least I thought it had until I caught the faint tendrils of smoke wafting up from the line of my slash and faint smell of burnt wood.

Leaning close, I saw that there was indeed a score more through the width of the tree along with a rapidly fading orange line of heat, just like what I’d seen in my cabinet. Actually, now that I looked closely, it wasn’t a scoring of the wood. The sheer weight of the tree had caused it to seal up almost immediately but there was definitely a cut. Leaning over to look at where I’d first started my slash it was obvious that the full length of the blade that I wasn’t currently holding had sliced through the trunk. Holy crap, this knife cut clean through the tree as if it was nothing. The expression ‘a hot knife through butter’ didn’t even do justice to how effectively this energy/heat knife cut.

Taking a step back, I spun the knife in my hand (whoa, I’m really good at doing that) until I was holding it in a reverse grip and stabbed it into the tree. Once I’d withdrawn it, with almost no effort mind you, I examined the mark and saw it was indeed nearly exactly the same as the one I’d seen in my cabinet. So that meant I’d somehow created the knife and thrown it all in a heartbeat when I’d been flailing to catch myself that morning. Okay, so ‘throw’ is being generous. More likely the knife formed and simply flew out of my hand because it was waving wildly. But then, if that was the case, why did it fly as though I’d thrown it instead of simply falling to the ground?

Taking several steps back from the tree and looking to make sure I was indeed alone for the moment, I focused on a single point on the tree trunk and threw the knife. I did it in a deliberately sloppy fashion and fully expected the knife to maybe tumble a little before falling useless to the ground.

My eyes went wide in shock when that not only didn’t happen, but the knife flew straight and true with a speed that was easily five times faster than it should have given the lackluster effort I’d made. I watched the knife penetrate the tree about two feet off from my intended target point, then continue on to actually perforate it, and shoot out the other side where it continued for another few feet before winking out of existence.

“Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!” I muttered over and over as I ran to the tree and looked at the mark that had been left behind. Just like when I had made the stab and my cabinet from the morning, there was a small incision the width of the blade that look as though something extremely hot had punctured it. The same was true for the other side where the knife had exited. How was this possible? I certainly hadn’t thrown the knife anywhere even close to hard enough to reach the tree, and yet it had not only done that but it had pierced completely through it and even traveled beyond for a short distance. I couldn’t be sure, but something told me the penetration hadn’t been caused merely by sheer force. Even as fast as the blade had traveled it should have at most buried most of itself into the trunk. That left the heat, which at the moment seemed most likely the cause. That meant the knife was so hot it burned right through the entire thickness of a rather large and heavy tree as though it was a piece of paper.

“Fuck!” I whispered. If I hadn’t been immune to the effects of the heat, and given that I was able to actually hold the knife it was a pretty good assumption that I was, it probably would have simply the flesh and bone of my hand in an instant. That meant the knife was incredibly hot. It also meant that until I learned more about it and could experiment with it in a safe, out of the way place I shouldn’t try to actively cause it to appear. One tiny slip and I could injury or, in all likelihood, kill someone without even thinking about it.

Did Dad know about my power? If he did why hadn’t he told me about it? It wouldn’t make any sense for him not to mention it especially since I could use it and kill someone without even realizing what I was doing. No, it stood to reason that he probably didn’t know about it since I was sure he would have wanted to make sure we both stayed safe if he did. But did that mean I should tell him about this discovery? He was my father after all and he had a right to know about it.

Or did he? Ever since I’d woken up yesterday he’d been nothing but caring and concerned for my well-being, but there was something that just didn’t feel right. I remembered how he’d reacted to that bad joke I’d told and how much it seemed out of proportion to the joke itself. Then there was this morning, where he was discussing regarding biology to a supposed business client when his field of expertise was mechanical. Something was wrong here and it was high time I figured out what that was.

With a new sense of determination I turned and jogged back towards the RV. I knew what I had to do and I was going to make sure it got done. When I got back I would confront “Dad” and ask him just what was going on. I’d keep the knowledge of my power a secret for the moment in case I needed and ace up my sleeve but I was damn sure going to find out why things weren’t adding up with him.

Then again, maybe it was just me. As I rounded a corner and saw the RV a few hundred feet away I wondered if I simply wasn’t overreacting to all of this. I mean, the joke I’d told was pretty classless and it wasn’t really something a good girl would tell. It was pretty understandable that Dad would get upset about such trash coming from his daughter’s mouth. And maybe that person he was talking to on the phone was just collaborating on a project that involved biological and technical data. Of course, that was probably it. Silly me. I should have known better than to question Daddy’s work. He was so smart after all and who was I to be questioning things that happen with his business.

Shaking my head at my own foolishness I climbed the steps to the RV’s door. I needed to stop worrying about what Daddy was doing since it was obvious he only had my best interests in mind. Even though he didn’t know I’d been doing it, I knew I had to make it up to him for even thinking about questioning his love and affection for me.

After a nice hot shower I’d get all pretty for him and see if he’d like to go see a movie or something tonight, just the two of us.

Reading, Pennsylvania

Data scrolled in almost endless waves across the screen as his fingers flew over the keyboard to direct and organize the flow. The only other movement he made were his eyes rapidly taking in every scrap of digitized information that poured across the display. The more he read, the deeper his frown became until he finally uttered a quiet expletive. While the amount of data he’d managed to recover was paltry at best, it was enough to tell him that within it was the outline for not just one, but two experimental projects.

Sifting through the scraps of data he was able to piece together that one of them had been entitled Project Mantis. While the medical and biological data was above his head, he knew someone who might be able to help with the technical aspects of them. A few keystrokes later and the sound of a phone ringing buzzed through the wireless com link in his ear.

“Yeah,” a sleepy voice responded after the third ring.

“Hey, I need your eyes for something I’m looking at here. Got a few minutes?”

“Yeah sure,” came the still drowsy reply as sounds of cans being scattered dimly rang across the connection. “I’m online, go ahead and send it.” Three keystrokes later he heard, “Hmmm, interesting. Where did you get this from?”

“A company called Westlake Industries. Someone severely hacked the systems and wiped out a bunch of data but I was able to recover a few fragments. What am I looking at here?”

“Well,” the now more awake voice said thoughtfully, “It’s not really my area of speciality, but I would say this is looks like some kind of mechanical/biological interface system. I’m seeing gene and DNA sequencing, cranial and synaptic mapping protocols, nano robotic programming interfaces, injection site targeting systems...Whatever this is, I’d wager it’s designed for human interaction, probably modification. Any idea what Project Mantis means?”

“No,” the other man said in disappointment, “I was hoping maybe you or your boss had heard something about it.”

“I haven’t,” came the reply in such a way he was sure the other was shaking his head, “But I’ll ask when he gets back and let you know.”

“Do you think this is something he might want to look into?”

A sigh came over the line. “I don’t know, but he’s been pretty busy lately. I’ll show him this when he gets back and then, as usual, he’ll make the call.”

“All right, I’ll let you know if I find something else that changes things. Thanks Gear.”

“No problem. Oh, by the way, thanks for sending me that new software package. I had to build a whole new system just to handle it but it’s working like a dream.”

“My pleasure. Tell your boss to be safe out there.”

The gadgeteer laughed. “WiseCrack, do you even remember who you’re talking about here?”

The man laughed as well. “Yeah, stupid me. Later,” and he broke the connection before returning his attention to the data he was mining. Once everything he’d been able to gather about Project Mantis had been cleaned up as best he could he saved it onto his secure personal server he initiated another phone call.

This one was answered almost immediately with a sharply spoken, “Westlake.”

“Mr. Westlake, I’ve gone through the data as best I can but unfortunately it was degraded so badly the only thing I could recover was a basic outline of technical and system schematics. None of the notes were recoverable and as far as I can tell it still looks like the initial system breach took place from Dr. Blake’s terminal. However without cameras I can’t tell you exactly who it was that initiated the virus.”

“If it came from Blake’s terminal,” the CEO said in annoyance, “Then obviously it was Blake, wasn’t it?”

“Not necessarily. Your system is only protected by an encryption algorithm, utilizing a passcode system. Anyone with access to Blake’s credentials could have logged to the terminal and the system would just assume it was him.”

“Dammitt!” Westlake snapped and the sound of a fist hitting a solid surface filled the line. “Have you had any luck with the cameras?”

“Afraid not sir. Whoever is responsible for this actually destroyed the camera before the virus was initiated. Even if there was still data from that particular camera that wasn’t a loss, it wasn’t recording even passively at the time. I’m still working on trying to piece together video footage from other cameras in the building. If I can do that we might be able to get something. In the meantime sir,” he went on and was very careful to keep any note of superiority out of his voice, “I would strongly suggest a security retrofit of all systems to incorporate retinal and biometric scanner systems for all terminals and personnel.”

“That could be very costly,” the CEO hedged, though not very strongly.

“Better to have a more secure system so something like this doesn’t happen again, sir. Next time they might not stop with specific data destruction and minor larceny.”

“Point well taken Mr. Wiseman,” the man admitted gruffly, “Start work on the software for it and I’ll get you the hardware and a tech.”

WiseCrack smiled. If the need arose, it would be a pretty simple matter to redirect or manufacture the credentials needed to get a certain someone in as the assigned hardware tech. “I’ll get right on it sir,” he assured his boss while glancing over at a particular thumb drive that already had the exact software he needed already programed and ready to deploy. “If you’ll excuse me sir, I’ll see what I can do about the rest of those cameras.”

“Of course, once again excellent job Mr. Wiseman. Good day.”

WiseCrack broke the connection and then redirected his attention to the second project data that he’d recovered. This one was far more corrupted and even after two hours of work he still couldn’t get much out of it other than it looked like it was using similar, if not identical, technical components for the hardware/biological interface.

There was only one really piece of information that he was able to get clearly and that was the name for it: Project Kajira.

Last Edit: 4 years 1 month ago by Paradox. Reason: Finally figured out the spacing issue.
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4 years 1 month ago #21492 by Paradox
Paradox replied the topic: Mind Games

Author's Note: I think I was able to get the spacing issue fixed, but just in case I'm still including a Google Docs link so it can be read with all of the original format: docs.google.com/document/d/11nl6AMsXTIti...phk/edit?usp=sharing

Mind Games Book 2

By Paradox

Americamps RV Resort, Ashland, Virginia

Something pretty. Something pretty. That was the mantra, in Daddy’s voice, that was going through my head as I stood in front of my open wardrobe wrapped in a towel. When I’d suggested we go out to eat tonight and maybe take in a movie he had eagerly agreed to the idea and sent me off to shower and change with a loving pat to my rear that had made me giggle and wiggle my hips saucily as I skipped into my room. Now that I was all cleaned up I was stuck agonizing over my choices trying to find the perfect one.

I suppose most girls did this, combing through their wardrobes trying to put together the perfect date outfit. The only thing was, this wasn’t a date. Well, okay, it kind of was, but it was with Daddy not some boy. Then again, Daddy was better than some boy so why not look my absolute best for him?

When my eyes fell upon one particular dress it caused a slow smile to form on my lips. While I don’t remember ever wearing it, the moment I pulled it from the closet and held it out I knew it would be the perfect one would without a doubt leave Daddy drooling.

Giggling at such a naughty thought I carefully laid the dress out on the bed and whipped off the towel before donning the lacy black bra and matching thong panties. After that I shimmied into the dress and drew up the zip in the back and hurried to the bathroom.

It was hard to tell given that the I couldn’t get a full view of myself (need to ask Daddy for a cheval mirror) and my hair and makeup weren’t done yet, but I could tell I would look outstanding in this dress. The entire thing was a rich hunter green with the bodice being held up by two wide shoulder straps that led down to a neckline that, while not plunging, showing off a generous amount of cleavage. It then narrowed down to my waist, hugging both it and my hips snuggly before ending in a slightly looser and more flowing skirt that ended just below my knees. What really made the dress worth wearing tonight was the splits in the skirt. There were two of them, one running along the front of each leg, that started at the hem and ended quite high on my thigh. The end result was that a great deal of my legs were exposed through the skirt and even more so when I walked. It was a dress designed to tease and that was exactly what I planned to do in it.

Grinning happily I went to work on drying and brushing out my hair until it draped down my sides and back in soft, chesnut waves. Hair out of the way I set about doing my makeup, making sure to add a touch extra to my eyes to ensure they really popped, which was really quite easy since they were such a bright blue they already did. Once done, I gave myself one last look over, a spritz of some perfume on my wrists, neck, and cleavage, and stepped into a pair of strappy heels that went perfectly with the dress before prancing into the lounge area.

Daddy was already ready and waiting for me (boys have it so easy) looking handsome and a touch rugged in a pair of black Dockers and a red button down shirt. When he saw me I got exactly the reaction I was hoping for. His mouth hung open a bit and his eyes went wide with both surprise and...something else I couldn’t quite pick out. “Kitten,” he breathed, “You look beautiful.”

“Oh this old thing?” I sang with a laugh and twirled about so he could get the full picture, not even caring how my skirt flew high up on my thighs. “I’m glad you like it.”

“You don’t think it’s a bit much for dinner and a movie?” he asked, though it was clear by his voice that the last thing he wanted was for me to change.

“I wanted to look pretty for you,” I told him and took his arm with a smile. “Is the taxi here yet?”

“Just pulled up outside,” he confirmed as he led me to the door, “I was actually just about to knock and tell you.”

“Well then I have perfect timing,” I said proudly as he helped me down the steps and we walked to the waiting cab in front of the RV. Now it might seem strange taking a taxi when the RV is a vehicle and of itself, but that thing is pretty big. It would be a real pain trying to drive it in a city and nearly impossible to park it. Daddy had mentioned buying a car that we could put on a trailer, but until then we were stuck using taxis to get us from place to place. It was fine. Most took credit cards these days and it wasn’t like Daddy needed to worry about money after all.

Slipping into the back of the cab Daddy told the driver the name of the restaurant we were going to and we were off. It was a brief ride but I spent the whole time snuggling with Daddy while we whispered compliments about how nice the other looked. I caught the driver glancing in his rearview mirror at me several times and there was no denying that he was definitely appreciating how I looked. On a naughty little whim I slowly crossed my legs without bothering to straighten or fix my skirt. The result was that he could see nearly every inch of my legs and possibly even gotten the barest flash of my panties.

That possibility became almost a certainty when a car suddenly blared its horn because our driver had drifted into his neighbor's lane while ogling me. As he quickly jerked the car back into the proper lane Daddy frowned at him. “We’d like to arrive in one piece if you don’t mind.”

“Sorry pal,” the driver apologized lamely, “Just trying to keep from hitting too many potholes.”

It took quite the effort, but I managed not to giggle at my own naughty antics. Since obviously the driver wasn’t planning on saying anything I knew I’d gotten away without Daddy knowing about it. That was good, because I was sure he’d probably scold me for being such a naughty tease. In a further effort to deflect any responsibility I might have had for the driver’s little mishap I just snuggled against his side a little more and sighed with contentment.

Before long we’d arrived at our destination and after Daddy paid the driver, minus a tip for nearly killing us of course, we headed into what looked like a quaint little Italian restaurant called Giuseppe's. Instantly I was enchanted by the Old World feeling I got there. The decor was very reminiscent of what I imagined Italy might be like and the tablecloths had a white and red checkered pattern. There was even an empty wine bottle on the table acting as a well-used candle holder that currently had one such item currently occupying the bottle’s neck with its wick lit. The host, Giuseppe himself, instantly made Daddy and I feel welcome and comfortable. He even held out my chair for me and suggested what was good that evening.

By the time he’d left with our order taken (Daddy ordered for me since he obviously knew what I liked best), I was wrapped up in the romantic atmosphere and simply couldn’t keep from smiling. “I take it you like the choice of dining?” Daddy said with a grin.

“Oh yes,” I gushed as I looked around, “It’s wonderful. How did you find this place?”

“Wonders of the Internet.”

I giggled and reached over to give his hand a squeeze. “Well thank you for bringing me. If the food matches the atmosphere it’s going to be great.”

And it was. From the opening appetizers to the main course the food was delicious. Between bites we talked about...well...nothing really. That’s all I could call our fundamentally inane chatter. It was pleasant and I had a great time talking and laughing, but the truth is we spoke about nothing consequential. There were no discussions about my past, no conversations about what we should do moving forward, it was just...nothing. And surprisingly, I was fine with that, just as I was fine when Daddy put his hand on my leg and slid it up beneath my skirt so it rested on my bare thigh.

Okay, that’s not quite correct, I wasn’t fine with that. I was thrilled. The feeling of Daddy’s hand on my bare leg sent a delightful shiver up my spine and a distinct feeling of heat where his skin touched mine. It soon got to the point where I excused myself to the restroom just so I would cool down and not do something foolish like climb over the table to curl up in his lap while nibbling at that sexy scruff on the underside of his chin.

By the time I made it into the bathroom I was nearly panting from the intense heat I was feeling in my chest and between my legs. All I wanted to do was lean against one of the sinks and maybe splash my face with some cold water to cool me down but unfortunately two other women were already there using the mirrors to freshen their makeup. One of them looked over at me and her sly smile made it clear she could tell what I was experiencing at the moment.

Ducking into one of the stalls I sat down on the closed toilet and tried to bring my breathing under control. I didn’t need to check to know that my panties were soaked at this point because I could feel the damp heat against my skin. What was wrong with me? Yes I loved Daddy but wasn’t it wrong to be feeling this aroused by him? I shouldn’t have be thinking about tasting his skin with long, slow licks of my tongue. There shouldn’t have been tiny little shocks of pleasure at the mere thought of him caressing my breasts and teasing my nipples. That was wrong...wasn’t it?

Unbidden, more fantasy images of Daddy touching and caressing me flooded my mind and I had to bite my lip to keep from moaning out loud. I squeezed my thighs together in an effort to stifle the intense pressure that was coming from my girlhood but that only seemed to make things worse. Without even realizing it one hand had cupped and was starting to massage my breast, sending threads of pleasurable heat straight into my loins, causing me to whisper, “Oh god!”

The sudden flare of blue/white light instantly captured my attention, snapping me out of my impending sexual delirium. The one hand that wasn’t currently mauling my own breast was filled with a glowing, pulsing energy knife. I stared at in surprise and shock, both at its sudden appearance and at the realization that the moment it appeared my wild sexual arousal had suddenly vanished. Along with that elimination of my unaccountably high desire came the sudden rush of rationality, which had one all important question:

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I had just come within spitting distance of practically orgasming from the thought of having a sexual relationship with my own father! That was wrong on so many different levels I was pretty sure I’d broken the scale on the fucked up meter. No normal, sane girl had such wildly carnal desires when it came to her parent. Even Freud would be looking at me and saying, “You have problems.” So why had I been experiencing them? I hadn’t been feeling this way when I had been out for my run earlier. In fact, I had distinctly noticed how wrong they had felt and had decided to confront Dad about them when I’d gotten back to the RV…

...And to him. It had been so subtle at the time I hadn’t even realized it was happening, but now that I thought back on it I realized that the closer I’d gotten to the RV and Daddy...Dad...the more my thoughts and emotions had changed from worried skepticism and even anger to love, devotion, and attraction. By the time I’d made it to the RV I had completely forgotten about confronting him about my unnatural emotional shifts and had utterly fallen back into the mindset of the overly devoted daughter. It wasn’t until just now when my energy knife had suddenly appeared that…

The energy knife. Was that a factor in this somehow? It hadn’t been very long after I’d come to the realization that something was wrong with my mental state that the knife had appeared in my hand. Now, when I had been nearly on the verge of going back to the table and whispering some excessively lewd suggestion that Dad take me back to the RV, the knife appeared and my thoughts had cleared. It was as though my mutation was trying to actively combat whatever was going on in my head. What did that mean? Was something happening within my mind that my powers were fighting against? Why did my mental and emotional state change so dramatically the closer I got to my father?

I shook my head and tried to somehow put these jumbled thoughts into order somehow. There were too many questions and not nearly enough answers, but one thing seemed absolutely certain: Dad was at the heart of this issue. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like I could just walk up to him with a glowing energy knife in my hands and start demanding answers. Not only would that certainly cause a mass panic, it was without a doubt a one-way ticket into an MCO detention facility. I had to just keep my wits about me and not let that inner slut lurking within my subconscious from getting out. I could do that, I was sure of it. I would just have to keep that determination in the forefront of my mind when I confronted him. Dinner was pretty much over at this point and I could beg off dessert with some excuse about watching my figure. That would get us some alone time while walking to the nearby movie theater and I could question him about my behavior. I’d have to be subtle about it since at this point I trusted the man as far as I could throw him, but it was well past time that I started getting some answers.

A sudden knocking on the stall door had me jumping with a squeak of surprise and the energy knife vanished from my hand. “Honey?” I heard from the other side of the door, “Are you alright? You’ve been in there a while now.”

“I’m fine,” I said and couldn’t quite keep the tremor of emotion out of my voice, “Thank you.”

My answer seemed to appease the anonymous woman since I heard her heels click away and out the door of the restroom. Considering even I could hear how unsure my voice was I guessed she had been some haughty upper-class woman who was now patting herself on the back for being a good humanitarian just for asking if I was okay.

Puffing out a breath I stood and exited the stall and walked over to the sink to look at my image in the mirror. My makeup was still perfect and I wasn’t anywhere near as flushed as I’d been when I came in. I did take a moment to freshen my perfume with the small atomizer I kept in my clutch purse before heading back out into the restaurant. Each step I took I constantly reminded myself that I was on a mission to find the truth and that I wouldn’t let myself fall back into slut mode. I had the mental fortitude and I could do this. I was strong and I was going to get answers. I would…

...Almost immediately feel certain parts of my body tighten deliciously the moment I saw Daddy standing from the table and straightening his shirt collar. Good god the man was gorgeous. I shouldn’t have been gone so long in the bathroom. After all, there were several women in this place that I grudgingly recognized as being rather attractive. Any one of them could have approached him while I was away and started flirting with him. The very idea that some floozy could get their claws into my Daddy set my teeth on edge. Even now I was almost certain I saw his eyes flicker over towards one busty blonde seated at the bar sipping from a cocktail. Wait, did she just wink at him? That bitch!

There was a much more pronounced wiggle to my hips as I glided across the floor to Daddy, letting the sharp click of my heels announce my arrival and catch his attention. His smile of adoration and...something else caused a fissure of heat to fill my belly as he looked over at me. He hadn’t been looking at her after all! There was no way he’d be smiling like that if he had been. Daddy only had eyes for me and that was the way I liked it.

Slinking to his side I wrapped my arms around one of his and lifted up on tiptoe to purr in his ear, “Are we ready to go to the movie?” I finished my question with a teasing lick on his earlobe that caused him to shiver a little.

“Are you sure you still want to go see it?” he said in a low, rumbling voice.

“Mmmmm,” moaned softly and caught the lobe in my teeth, giving it a gentle tug, “Maybe we should just go back to the RV. I’m sure we can find something to do there.”

His only response was to smile and use an app on his cell phone to call for a cab to the restaurant. As we headed towards the front door I cast an admittedly catty look at the blonde who was watching us with clear disgust on her face. He’s mine, bitch.

Reading, Pennsylvania

“Shit!” WiseCrack snapped as he looked over the scrolling text on the laptop screen. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” His fingers flew across the keyboard as he carefully and painstakingly tried to reconstruct the massively fragmented string of code that seemed unusually resistant to the procedure. Every time he reassembled a portion of the code it almost seemed like it wanted to tear itself apart, resulting in him needing to spend a great deal of time constructing and implementing a stasis code chain specifically tailored to that data chunk to keep it intact while not compromising the raw data. Apparently whatever suicide code chain had been imbedded within the original virus was so detailed and robust that it attached itself to every aspect of itself in an effort to do what should have been impossible: wipe itself completely from the internet. What’s more, WiseCrack could see the beginnings of a communications link that had been established at the time the virus had been activated. If he could somehow fully establish that link he would be able to follow its path to the potential creator of the virus.

That was, of course, if the damned thing didn’t implode before he could reassemble it. While he had been suspicious before, he was almost certain now that this virus was an amalgamation of both technological and biological software. Not only was this thing programed to die, it was actively trying to do so in a fashion that resisted any efforts to save it in a way that could only be described as desperate. It was almost as though the virus had been programed with a kamikaze pilot’s personality that went well beyond mere programming. In a frightening way, this virus was almost certainly alive.

Once the section of the virus was stable, WiseCrack created multiple copies and placed each of them onto their own individual flash drive. Without any connection to the internet or a computer it would eliminate any attempts for the virus to utilize existing systems to try and escape and resume its protocols. That left just one copy on his system that he used as a base chain to reconstruct another section.

Normally this would have been a rather enjoyable exercise, that being a worthy test of his skill, but the hacker had noticed something during the initial reconstruction. Part of the data he’d managed to assemble gave a small bit of detail regarding the experiments being conducted in Dr. Blake’s lab. It wasn’t much, little more than a tiny scrap of information, but it had been enough to cause of a spike of real concern to shoot up the man’s spine.

While medical science was far from his forte, he did know enough to realize the the experiments involved utilizing dead or catatonic bodies and remapping their neural pathways to once again receive electrical charges. That in and of itself was impressive, but the truly horrifying part was that another aspect of the research governed the process of mapping out a living person’s neural pathways and essentially creating a digital copy of their brain so exact it would be indistinguishable from the biological one. While the use of these processes was vague, WiseCrack was able to infer that the combination of the two would make it possible to essentially transplant a person’s brain, or at least their consciousness, into another person’s body.

What made this information all the more extraordinary was that the experiment might have already been successful. Even before it had been requested of him, WiseCrack had already reassembled the video footage from the remaining security cameras at the site. In it he had watched as a man in a white lab coat had dragged a young girl, also in a lab coat but likely naked underneath since her legs and feet had been bare, along by the hand through the halls of the building. Because the virus had activated both the fire and intruder alarms once it had completed its work in the lab the whole building had been a frenzy of panicked activity. It had actually been relatively easy for the two to get out of the building, out to the parking lot, and into a white work van that apparently had been waiting for them before driving away. Unfortunately, despite Westlake’s opinion that Dr. Blake had been the one responsible, WiseCrack wasn’t so sure. In the video, the man had been sure to keep his face turned away from the cameras and the one waiting in the van had never exited the vehicle so there was no image of him at all.

The only decent image he had was that of the girl. Several times during their trip through the building she had turned her head and looked directly into the camera. What the hacker had seen in the girl’s face had chilled him. Her eyes were wide and completely blank and her movements were jerky and shuffling, almost like a zombie.

Since that day, he’d uploaded the image of the girl into a facial recognition program of his own design and sent it out into the Internet to farm every website and camera feed it could find. It had been a daunting task given the scope of what he was trying to do and he honestly wasn’t expecting it to pan out.

Apparently luck had chosen to smile upon him after that first day because his program found the girl’s Facebook page. The odd thing was, it was registered as the girl being deceased. A little more digging revealed that the girl had indeed died perhaps a month prior and the details, of which WiseCrack did look into, were horrifying. So Dr. Blake or whoever this person in the video was had somehow reanimated the girl’s corpse and taken it to who knew where.

Normally that would have brought any investigation to screeching halt, but WiseCrack wasn’t someone easily deterred. Now that he had a name to go along with the face, programs had been sent out into Facebook to branch out from other social media accounts linked to it in an effort to locate any recent postings that he could track. This time when he got a hit it had nothing to do with luck. Apparently the girl had logged back into a Facebook account that used her same picture but was under a different name and when she did that he instantly followed the data path right into the computer using the account and activated the webcam. Finally he would be able to get a look at who was part of this operation and maybe even be able to identify them.

What he wasn’t prepared for was to see the face of the girl herself staring at the screen just beneath the webcam with an expression of confusion. As she jumped from site to site on the Internet it was clear she was trying to “Google” herself with little results. That was probably because she was searching the name Kitty Sinclair, which was not her birth name according to his data. While following along her searches on his primary system, WiseCrack used a secondary laptop to do a search on one Kitty Sinclair that the girl wasn’t capable of. The lack of information stood out to him far more than a wealth would have. Other than the Facebook account there was only a registered birth certificate. In the age of information this was a huge red flag and a quick peek at the programming data on the birth certificate confirmed his suspicions that while it had all the earmarks of being genuine, it was a very well constructed fake.

That was when he made contact with the girl through email. Her first reaction had been disbelief with what he was telling her but at the same time her own lack of finding anything about herself was wearing her down. Apparently she was suffering from some kind of amnesia and had no idea about who she or her father was. The idea that this occurred by innocent means such as an injury were quickly cast aside when he she failed to remember who he was or anything that had occurred during the previous contact. Obviously it was being induced, though why still remained a mystery for the time being.

Now, as the hacker painstakingly worked to reassemble the very data that could help the girl, he knew that he had to try and locate her and her captor as fast as possible. While he still had no idea what Project Mantis and Project Kajira were, if either or both of them involved something akin to brain transplants it was vital he locate where their base of operations was and try to shut it down. He only hoped that if he was able to do that his computer skills would be enough to do the job.

As the second batch of data started to come together he noticed something within the code that he hadn’t seen in the first batch. It was a segment of the suicide chain command. Working rapidly he looked through the code and hoped it was still largely intact. If it was, there might be the key to…

Bingo! he thought excitedly as he locked on, isolated, and reworked the coding in the suicide chain so it would not only override the biological programming, but essentially reverse it. Within moments the new algorithm had the viral code reconstituting what remained of it all by itself without any input needed from WiseCrack. Unfortunately most of it was already lost and what remained was little more than a tiny portion, but it still retained several base codes that he was able to backtrack through the internet. As long as the person on the other end was online…

“Yes!” the hacker exclaimed, pounding his fist on his desk, “Gotcha!” With the source of the coding now located he dove into the operator’s system and started mining for as much data as possible while simultaneously working his secondary laptop to hack into every mobile device linked to the primary account.

In a matter of moments he was connected to the operator’s tablet, laptop, and smartphone. While the laptop would take a while to go through, which he would do once the data gathering program he had launched had copied all of its files, he fully expected the tablet and phone to be an easy read.

It was quite a surprise then when he discovered that the tablet not only had a very complex security software package, one he tore through with characteristic ease, but it also possessed a rather sizable memory card packed full of video files. It would take time to really go through them so he selected a few at random to look at to try and get an idea of what he was dealing with.

Those quick looks soon turned into over an hour-long horror-fest of, without question, the sickest things he’d ever seen. The experienced hacker had been in many systems and seen too many terrible things to count over the years, but what these people were recording and making notes about was by far the worst he’d ever experienced. By the time he had finished, and taken multiple breaks to go throw up, he knew that more than ever he needed to locate this girl and fast.

With a grim determination that anyone who might have been aware of his capabilities would have been justifiably terrified of, WiseCrack locked onto and backtracked the operator’s cell GPS signal. He frowned when he saw it was moving but the RV was still parked in the resort. Since there was no indication of any other vehicles being owned that meant they were likely in a taxi.

On a whim of inspiration, he quickly searched for any other very specific wireless carrier signals in the immediate, five foot vicinity of the phone. As he suspected there was a wireless camera system installed in the taxi that was broadcasting streaming footage to its base computer. With little more than a whim he was inside the camera feed, only to have his eyes widen at the footage he was seeing. It was clear time was pretty much up and if he didn’t act now it could very well be too late.

While maintaining a connection to the video feed he quickly linked to the RV and burrowed a worm into its systems. Once he was certain the virus was well cemented in place he furiously worked to create a linked app that he uploaded to one of his Gear-designed tablets. A quick test of the app confirmed it was online and ready.

Redirecting his attention he gripped the tablet tightly in his hands as he watched the video feed and waited for the right time to strike.

Americamps RV Resort, Ashland, Virginia

From the moment we had slid into the back seat of the taxi I couldn’t keep my hands off him. While I did my best to be subtle about it so as not to distract the driver, I couldn’t help but press myself tightly against Daddy’s side and crush my breasts against his arm. I was trembling with the need to touch and caress him with both my hands and my mouth. As the taxi sped down the road I couldn’t keep a small whimper of desire from escaping my lips that had Daddy looking down at me.

“Soon Kitten,” he assured me before returning his gaze to the road flying by before muttering, “So quickly, wonderful.” Based on the way it was said under his breath I don’t think intended for me to hear that.

But it didn’t matter. I was with my Daddy and we were quickly speeding our way towards what I just knew would be a night of unbelievable pleasures and delights. The unspoken promises he’d made with the way he’d caressed my leg and the way he’d fed me some of his dinner was unmistakably a seduction that I eagerly accepted. No matter how I squirmed or crossed my legs, I couldn’t abate the wet heat that seemed to constantly pulse within me. I was honestly shocked there wasn’t a stain on my dress or the seat at the restaurant.

Taking far too long in my opinion, we finally arrived at the RV where Daddy paid the driver and I nearly leapt from the back, practically dragging him with me. The cabbie chucked knowingly and threw Daddy a wink before driving off. He was barely five feet away when I found myself now being practically dragged towards the RV. I tried to keep up since I was just as anxious, but my high heels made it awkward and more than once I fell into Daddy’s arms which had us both laughing.

By the time we made it inside both of us were flushed from excited arousal. It had been sooooo hard to control myself during the ride home but Daddy’s words of caution about how most people wouldn’t understand the kind of relationship we had made perfect sense. I loved him and wanted to show him that in every way that I could, but I also appreciated that modern society, for whatever stupid reasons, frowned upon this kind of thing.

The moment the door closed behind Daddy I spun and wrapped my arms around his neck, going up on tiptoe and crushing my mouth against his. The groan that I’m sure he had been trying so hard to hold back filled my mouth and mixed with my own moans of wanton desire. We stayed that way for a long time, holding each other tightly while devouring each other’s mouth. Working on some kind of lust-filled automatic pilot I lifted my leg and wrapped it around his waist, pressing my hot, damp mound against his bulge and whimpering at how we were separated by layers of cotton, silk, and lace. I felt his hands skim down my back until they firmly grabbed my ass, pulling me in even tighter against him. A quick movement bunched up my skirt until I could feel his fingers kneading my bare skin, pulling a fresh gasp and moan from my throat.

“Oh god Daddy!” I whimpered into his mouth, “Please!”

With a quick jerk of his hands I was lifted off the ground. Instinctively I wrapped my legs around his waist and used my hips to lift myself slightly higher which gave him perfect access to kiss, lick, and nibble at my generously exposed cleavage. I let out a small cry of surprise and delight when he reached up and tore my bodice open, exposing my breasts barely contained within their lacy prison. That cry became a long, drawn out groan of need when his lips found one of my tightened nipples and suckled at it through the silk of my bra.

“Please Daddy,” I begged breathlessly, “I need you!”

His only response was a low growl of desire as he shifted slightly and sat me down on the kitchen counter before proceeding to tear my bra to shreds and the feast on my now completely exposed breasts. Sharp little spikes of pleasure stabbed through me over and over again as his lips and tongue explored and tasted the peaks and valleys of my flesh with such hunger it almost frightened me. And yet, I was still desperate for more.

When he flipped up my skirt and pressed his palm against the soaked front of my panties I cried out in both eagerness and need. Why had I even bothered to wear panties tonight? I lamented and quickly resolved never to do so again; they only slowed things down. My hips began to twitch and rolled against his hand as it started to caress that oh so wonderfully intimate place and I silently congratulated myself on being sure to shave very closely that morning.

As he pressed against that soft flesh, a tiny little voice inside my head whispered that what was happening wasn’t right. I tried to ignore it, to focus on the mounting pleasure and almost certain bliss that lurked upon the horizon, but it simply wouldn’t go away. With every quick spark of velvety heat that his touch caused, that little voice would chastise me. With every moan I made there was a tiny little scream sounding distantly in my head.

I thought I wouldn’t be able to ignore it for much longer when Daddy stepped back and yanked down his pants and underwear. The instant I saw that rigid flesh even that small voice of protest went silent. My mouth practically watered at the sight of such a gift. I didn’t even notice the sound of rending fabric when I literally tore my panties from my hips and cast them aside before opening my arms, and my legs, in invitation. It took less than a second for Daddy to accept it and as he stepped close I could feel that oh so delicious hardness press against my naked girlhood with the promise of pleasures and delights I’d never experienced in my life.

Then the world exploded.

For several moments my eyes couldn’t focus. Everything seemed hazy and indistinct as though gauze covered my eyes. I blinked furious and ground at them with my fists to try and clear them and that’s when I realized I was lying on the floor of the RV. Sounds were muffled and there was a constant high-pitched whine filling my ears. “Daddy?” I called and could barely hear myself. As I lowered my hands I realized that there wasn’t a problem with my eyes, the air was filled with smoke. At that moment I accidently took in a large lungful of that smoky air which caused a fit of harsh coughing that left me curled up and moaning.

That was when I heard the ring of a cell phone. With my eyes watering I crawled along the ground towards where I thought the ringing was coming from. Thankfully my hearing was starting to clear and it only took a few moments to realize it was Daddy’s cell phone that was ringing, in his pocket, where he was lying unconscious in the kitchen. As I drew closer it looked like he had collapsed where he stood when, as I could now see, the microwave had exploded. He was still breathing but small fragments of glass were buried in the right side of his face as well as his shoulder that, fortunately, didn’t appear to be lethal. “Daddy!” I cried in shock as I rolled him to his back to see if he suffered any other injuries.

As I did that, I felt a sudden warmth pulse within my chest. It quickly flowed out to my shoulder and down my arm until it burst through my hand with a brilliant blue/white flash. As my fingers curled around the energy blade something in my mind clicked and a sense of horror and disgust had my stomach twisting itself into a nauseating knot. All of that built up desire and lust burned away in a heartbeat and I realized just what I had been doing and what I had been but seconds away from going through with. Bile rose in my throat that I bitterly tried to swallow down as I looked down at this man beneath me with fresh eyes.

Had that explosion not happened, I had literally been moments away from being raped by my own father. That I had wanted it so badly was immaterial because, as I was now beginning to understand, my feelings and desires had not been my own. Somehow, someway, all of the determination I’d had halfway through dinner had been completely wiped away and replaced by...something. I’d had no choice in the matter and now I came to understand that the little voice that had been screaming at me in my head was my now current state of mind. I was aware of everything that had happened and had been completely powerless to stop it.

A sudden wave of fury boiled through me as I looked down at my would-be rapist. He wasn’t my father, I was certain of that now. I didn’t know who he was but this man held no parental lineage to me. No father would be so sick and twisted that he would essentially brainwash his daughter and try to use her as a sexual plaything. This man was just a sick and twisted monster.

My fingers gripped the knife of what was now crackling energy so tightly it was almost painful. He needed to die. This man needed to die and I wanted to be the one to do it. It would be so easy. I knew that my energy knife could easily slice through his skin as if it were air. It wouldn’t take hardly any effort to do it and at that moment there was nothing I wanted to do more.

My arm lifted up in preparation to punch the blade into his black heart when a voice shouted, “Kitty stop!”

It was surprise at hearing that more than a desire to do so that held my strike at bay. That voice had come from my...from the monster’s phone. Frowning in confusion I reached down to those pants that were still around his ankles and dug the phone out of the pocket. The screen showed a call was in progress and the speakerphone was active. “Kitty it’s WiseCrack,” the voice on the other end of the line said, “I’ve hacked into the RV’s camera systems and I can see you right now. I blew up the microwave,” he explained quickly.

“You emailed me yesterday,” I realized as my mind tried desperately to keep up with the rapid-fire course of events.

“Yeah. I just found out more about what’s happened to you. I’ll explain more but you have to get out of there right now. There’s already been two calls to the police about the explosion and they’re about five minutes away. Unless you plan to spend the rest of your life in an MCO cell take this phone and get the fuck out of there.”

“Where am I supposed to go?” I cried as I scrambled to my feet and stupidly started looking around.

“I’m looking for a ride for you right now but in the meantime get the fuck out of there!”

His yell spurned me into action and I practically leapt out of the door of the RV and started running as fast as I could the moment my feet hit the ground. Working purely on instinct I shot towards the large cluster of trees that made up the center of the RV park. During the day it was often frequented by walkers or people just relaxing for the day, but by this time in the evening it had been abandoned in favor of the more personal fire pits at each site.

Just as I dove into the treeline I heard the sound of sirens come screaming down the gravel path and two police cars skidded to a halt in a plume of dust in front of our RV. Gasping more out of panic than lack of breath I crouched behind a fallen tree and watched as four uniformed officers all drew their weapons and made their way through the door of the RV that still had smoke pouring out of it.

“Kitty,” I heard faintly, “Kitty talk to me.”

I realized I was still holding the cell phone and brought it to my ear whispering, “I’m here, I don’t think they see me.”

“Okay, I’ve found a car for you. I’ll get you two it and then guide you out of there.”

I nodded as though he could see me, and for all I knew he could, which was when I realized the state my clothing was in. Immediately I blushed and crouched even lower behind the log. It was on the tip of my tongue to say something about how there was no way I was going to run around half naked when the beam of one officer’s flashlight started panning around the area. Distantly I could hear multiple radios squawking but couldn’t make out what was being said. “They’re outside the RV looking around. Can you create another diversion?” I whispered as I carefully slipped off my heels and stuffed them under the log as best I could.

“Working on that now,” he told me, “When I give you the signal I want you to move to your left about one hundred yards. Go slowly and quietly, don’t run. Go now!” he suddenly said just before I heard a car alarm start wailing from somewhere off to my right.

The moment the officers all turned to head in that direction I moved off in the opposite one. Heeding WiseCrack’s advice I kept low and moved slowly and carefully through the trees, trying to make as little sound as possible. Off in the distance I could hear voices speaking loudly, probably the police officers barking orders or relaying information to one another. A couple different dogs were barking, but they were also fairly far away so I doubted it was because of me.

After what felt like far too long a time, I finally made it to the edge of the treeline and saw several rows of sites that had RV’s, trailers, campers, and even a few motorcycles with tents pitched. “Okay,” I whispered, “I’m at the edge of the trees.”

“There should be a black Chevy Malibu almost dead ahead, do you see it?”

I nodded when my eyes landed on the vehicle he described. “Yeah, I see it.”

“Make your way over to it. I’ll unlock the car and get it started once you’re behind the wheel. After that just drive slowly out of there. The exit is in the opposite direction of where the police are so they won’t see you and right now they’re busy interviewing your neighbors so none of them are looking through the area. Once you’re clear of the area I’ll call you back and we’ll find a safe place for you to hole up. Ditch the phone you have otherwise they can trace the GPS.”

“If I don’t have a phone how will you get in touch with me?” I asked before a far more important question came to mind. “Who are you? Why are you helping me?”

The sigh of impatience on the other end of the line spoke of impatience on his part. “Look, we don’t have time for this right now. We’ve talked before, you just don’t remember it because of what was done to you. Once we get you to a safe place we’ll talk more and I’ll tell you everything I’ve found out but I can’t do that if you’re locked up in a jail cell. I know you don’t have any reason to trust me,” he said before I could point out that very point, “But right now I’m the only chance you have to get out of there. Either let me help you or take your chances with the cops, but since they’re looking for whoever caused an explosion that injured a man and you can create energy knives from your hands I doubt they’ll even bother trying to hear your side of the story.”

He was right about that, and both of us knew it. Even if I did try to explain what happened to the police I had no idea how this area’s law enforcement felt about mutants. For all I knew, they could be card-carrying members of Humanity First and would just as soon put a bullet in my brain before speaking to me. Heading off on my own was also a really bad idea. A young girl running around half naked tended to attract all the wrong kinds of attention and would probably wind up with me either assaulted or having the police called on me. WiseCrack’s help was really my only option.

“Damn!” I hissed before tossing the phone back into the trees and slowly making my way towards the car he told me about. I stayed in a crouch the whole time with my eyes trying to look everywhere at once. Every small sound had my heart leaping into my throat as I imagined a hundred different scenarios where I was caught and hauled off to god knew where.

Eventually I made it to the car and took hold of the driver’s door handle. The second my fingers touched it the door locks released, causing me to start and utter a small yelp of surprise that I tried to cover with my hand. After looking around to make sure no one had seen or heard me I slipped behind the wheel and closed the door as quietly as I could. The moment it clicked shut the engine started, causing me to blink in surprise. How the hell had that happened, I didn’t have a key.

“I’m in the car’s On Star system,” WiseCrack’s voice announced through the car speakers, causing me to jump and utter a sharp cry of surprise and fear.

“Don’t do that!” I snapped.

“Sorry,” he said, sounding anything but apologetic, “I’ve unlocked all of the vehicle’s controls so you can drive it just as though you had used the key. Now get out of there.”

Putting the car in drive I slowly and carefully pulled away from the RV site and made my way towards the entrance to the park. Thankfully it didn’t have any kind of a guard shack so I was able to exit the area without anyone stopping me to ask who I was or where I was going and soon I was out on the main road driving away from the park as fast as the speed limit allowed.

It was at that point that I came to yet another realization. How the hell did I know how to drive a car? True, at the age of fifteen I could have taken some driver’s education classes already and actually had my learner’s permit, but the way I was handling the vehicle made me think I had years of experience doing this. Just another question in a long line of them that I could only hope WiseCrack could help in answering.

As I drove down Route 809 I finally let myself breathe and relax a little. As long as the car didn’t get reported as being stolen within the next twenty or thirty minutes I would be able to get far enough away where I could ditch it and then make my way on foot to...well I hadn’t worked that part out yet but it would be away from that monster pretending to be my father.

Thinking about him was a bad idea, because the moment I did, even though it was in anger, I was immediately assaulted with the memory of the last thirty-six hours of my life. That man, that sick freak, had taken advantage of a girl with memory loss with what was now a clear intent to use her as his own personal teen sex toy. That was bad enough, but what made it worse was that somehow I had wanted it more than anything else. Yes I’d had my few more lucid moments where I knew what was happening was wrong, but for whatever reasons I’d had no control over myself whenever he’d been near. Hell, I’d been practically ready to rape him, a thought that now completely turned my stomach. Had WiseCrack not intervened when he did I would have surely…

The conclusion of that thought had me whipping over to the side of the road and practically throwing myself out of the car where, on hands and knees, I vomited up everything I’d eaten that evening. Over and over again I heaved until there was nothing left in my stomach and I was left collapsed on the side of the road choking and gasping for breath as tears rolled down my face.

With muscles weakened from such violent retching I somehow managed to crawl back into the driver’s seat before breaking into body-wracking sobs while my screams of anguish filled the interior of the car.

Undisclosed location

“I take it you’ve seen the news.”

The man in the white lab coat frowned into the microscope his attention had been formerly focused on before the phone had run. “I did,” he replied while watching a segment of cells respond to the latest protein compound that had been introduced to them, “Perhaps you would like to explain how you managed to lose the experiment when it had practically been gift-wrapped for you?” The last part ended on very close to an angry shout.

“I don’t know what happened,” came the now nervous reply over the headset, “Everything went fine when I got her out and no one suspected it had to do with me. All I know is one second we were in the kitchen and the next there was an explosion and she was gone along with my cell. I barely managed to get out of there before the cops arrived.”

“I don’t give a damn about your problems,” the man now yelled and sent the microscope flying into the wall where it shattered into pieces. “Fuck!” he muttered.

“What was that?” the person on the other end of the line asked nervously.

“Just another minor delay that you have directly caused,” snarled the man accusingly. “I trust you were at least intelligent enough to have implanted the tracker into it before it was liberated from the lab.”

“Yeah,” the caller replied with some relief in his voice, “But I had it tied into the equipment in the RV and my phone. I activated the emergency protocols so they were wiped,” he assured the man in the lab coat quickly, “But I need get to the safe house so I can get the backup cell to track her.”

“Do you have a means of transportation,” the man sneered with clear distain, “Or do you need me to spoon feed you that like an infant as well?”

“I can handle it,” the caller said in a tone that made it clear he was miffed by the lack of confidence in his skills.

“At least you can handle something,” the man said as he went about reassembling the microscope and samples with amazing ease. “You need to move quickly so I can get that experiment in here and run tests. All of the research you acquired is useless to me if I’m unable to obtain viable tissue samples for replication.”

“She couldn’t have gotten far,” the caller assured him, “And once I get a lock on her with the tracker she should be easy to find. Besides, now that the programming’s taken hold she’s nothing more than a little girl who’s only goal in life is to please her owner. I doubt she has the mental wherewithal to come up with any kind of a decent escape plan.”

“Your overconfidence is the precise reason why I do not have my samples already!” the man yelled into the connection and smiled at the satisfying yelp of fear that resulted from it. “I expect to see it in the lab within forty-eight hours or I will allow you to explain to our disappointed buyers why their orders have been delayed.”

The gulp on the other end of the line was audible before the caller stammered out, “U-understood,” and hung up.

Once the call had disconnected the man in the lab coat once again introduced the protein compound into the cell segment and watched the results unfold. The result was as he had anticipated, but it was still useless without viable tissue sample that could complete the bonding chain. Without that all he had was a useless pinprick of goop.

Spinning away from the microscope, the man leisurely strolled through the five rows of stainless steel gurneys that currently occupied the majority of the large warehouse apartment space. He smiled when he pulled back the sheet from one to reveal a lovely blonde-haired girl of perhaps sixteen possessed of lovely facial features, full breasts, generous hips, long legs, and a rather annoying case of being dead.

Of course, that condition was only temporary. Once his associate arrived with the experiment and his samples it would be child’s play to integrate the results of Project Kajira into the twenty-five corpses and program them exactly to his customer’s specifications. At five million apiece, it was more than enough for him to re-establish a proper lab and undertake the next phase of the project, Project Mantis. That was the one that would elevate him to World Power status and make him nigh unstoppable.

He’d already picked out the tropical island that would serve as his new nation.

Westlake Industries Complex, Pennsylvania

The brandy burned pleasantly as it raced down Harold Westlake’s throat. It was the second of the night and would have to be his last for at least a while so he kept his head about him. Scattered across his desk were a variety of reports ranging from financial statements to security sweeps, all of which did absolutely nothing to shed any kind of light on just what the hell happened in his labs. He was just preparing to look over one of the security reports again when a knock sounded at his door. “Come,” he called out in irritation.

The door opened and a man in a black paramilitary uniform with the Westlake logo in patch form on his right shoulder entered the large office and strode in. Without even pausing he approached the oaken desk of the CEO and stood at parade rest with his hands clasped at his back. “Sir, our office has recovered some new information.”

“What is it Commander Barnes?” Westlake asked tiredly, “Another blurry traffic camera image that doesn’t even come close to matching our missing personnel?”

“No sir,” the commander said in a crisp, professional manner, “We believe we may have a location on the missing experiment.”

Instantly Westlake’s eyes snapped to the security head’s even as he started pushing to his feet. “Have we mobilized yet?”

“Our teams are en route as we speak sir,” he informed the CEO, “They should be touching down within twenty minutes.”

“Where was the experiment seen?”

Withdrawing a small-form tablet from its holster on his waist, the commander activated it and placed it on the desk so his employer could see the map of Ashland, Virginia. “According to our local law enforcement contacts there was a minor explosion at an RV park in this town. When police investigated there was no one on scene but witnesses described a man and his daughter had been residing in the RV. A subsequent interview using our personnel ID images confirmed that these two,” he tapped on the tablet’s screen and changed the image to show two pictures side by side, “Were the individuals in question.”

Westlake looked at the images for a few moments before frowning and looking up at his security head. “This man, who is he?”

Barnes leaned over and swiped the screen, sending the existing images flying off the screen and replacing them with a page that had the man’s ID photo at the upper lefthand corner of the screen with the remainder occupied by the individual’s company file. “According to our records, this man’s name is Charles Sinclair. He’s a mechanical engineer responsible for the design, assembly, and operation of all of the non-scientific equipment in the lab, including the equipment used to conduct the actual experimentation.”

“So,” Westlake said slowly as he processed this information, “This Sinclair worked rather closely with Blake did he?”

“Yes sir,” the commander confirmed and swiped over to a still image of the lab in question that showed Sinclair speaking with another slightly older man in Dockers, a yellow polo, and a lab coat. “The two collaborated extensively and Dr. Blake often credited Sinclair with some rather impressive designs to accommodate testing his theories.”

“Tell me Commander, did either of these men possess the computer skill to create a computer virus?”

Barnes shook his head. “No sir. According to our background checks Dr. Blake was strictly a scientist specializing in human physiology and cognition.”

“English please Commander,” Westlake requested tiredly.

“He studied how the human body functioned, specializing in brain activity. Mr. Sinclair,” he continued, “Only possessed a degree in mechanical engineering. However, I should note that this is official records only. If they had other pursuits that were off the record we would not have those in the file.”

“Get into his life Commander,” the CEO ordered, “I want to know the last time that man took a piss, do you hear me?”

“Yes sir,” the man replied in a clipped fashion, “I have people already looking into it. I’ll update you the moment we have more. Can I presume you wish to also be notified when the team reaches the target site?”

“They have live feed body cams, correct? Then,” he said when the security head nodded an affirmative, “I want a direct feed of their activity the moment they reach their target.”

“Understood sir, I’ll have Mr. Wiseman patch it into your computer.” With that he pivoted and strode from the room and Westlake had the distinct impression the man actually felt uncomfortable not saluting him.

“This is going to be a long fucking night,” the CEO muttered.

Fredericksburg, Virginia

It had been almost an hour since I’d turned onto I95 heading north from the RV park when the gas light on the car WiseCrack had appropriated for me came on and I had to leave the highway. Not wanting to risk running out of gas right in the middle of traffic I pulled into the first parking lot I saw, a closed public storage facility, and parked the car as far back away from the road as I could. With a little luck, no one would take notice of it in the morning and it would be a while before it would be discovered. I only hoped that I’d gotten far enough away that the police wouldn’t think of looking for me here, if they even knew what I looked like.

By that point it was well after midnight and I was both hungry and exhausted. Unfortunately, I had no ID and no money which meant I couldn’t buy any food or a place to sleep for the night. Since I didn’t want to stay with the car in case the police found it that meant I might very well have to find a place to hide and sleep in some bushes or something. The idea was not all that appealing to say the least but I was just starting to work myself up to doing it when I heard WiseCrack’s voice quietly say from the car speakers, “Hey it’s me.”

Regardless of how quietly he spoke, I was so keyed up and my nerves so completely on edge that I couldn’t stop from jumping and letting out a small scream. “Sorry,” I muttered once I’d calmed back down, “It’s been a real shitty night.”

“It’s okay,” he reassured me. “I just got back online and see where you are. The good news is that there’s no police coming for you right now.”

“What’s the bad news?” I grumped, not really sure I wanted to actually hear it.

“The police know what you look like. After interviewing your neighbors in the park they put together a sketch of what you and that guy pretending to be your father look like.”

“A sketch isn’t much,” I reasoned, “I’ve seen plenty of police sketches on T.V that look like a hundred different people...I think.” Damn it was hard figuring out this memory thing.

“You’re right,” he confirmed, “Except after the sketch was made and put into the police database they were contacted by Westlake Industries who was able to match your face as well as the man pretending to be your father’s face to people within their company headquarters in Pennsylvania.”

“Westlake Industries. Why does that name sound so familiar?” I murmured to myself.

“Because that’s where you came from,” WiseCrack answered quietly.

“Huh?” I blinked, “Where I came from? What are you talking about?”

“Look, I told you I’d explain as much as I could, and I will, but we need to get you away from this car and somewhere safe first. I’ve disabled the GPS that On Star can use to track it but that doesn’t mean an officer driving by can’t run the plate and see it’s stolen. It’s been reported stolen by the way.”

“Thanks a lot,” I said snarkily. “So how do I get somewhere safe? I don’t have any money and I look like...well honestly I look like a rape victim.” I felt my stomach clench at the idea of how close I came to that being a fact.

“Is there anything in the car that we can work with? Maybe the owners left behind a wallet or something?”

“Let me look.” Climbing across the seat I pulled open the glove box and rooted around through its contents. Unfortunately that only thing there was the owner’s manual, an insurance card, and a receipt for an oil change last month. Bending myself almost in half I looked under the seats there but all I found were a few uneaten M&M’s and I wasn’t nearly desperate enough at that point to consider that a meal. I was about ready to check the trunk when my eye caught sight of the central arm rest. Though it wasn’t very large, it did look like it contained a small storage space. Popping it open I sorted through several pieces of paper until I let out a small cry of triumph.

“Found something?” my unseen friend asked.

“It looks like a prepaid credit card,” I said as I drew it out and held it up to the light cast by the parking lot lights. “I wonder if there’s anything on it.”

“Give me the name of the company, the card number, expiration date, and that little three digit number on the back next to the signature bar.” I rattled off the information to him and barely after the last number had departed my lips he said, “Fifty cents.”

“Shit,” I moaned, “That doesn’t do me any good.”

“Now there’s the full two hundred.”

For a few seconds I could do nothing but blink stupidly out the windshield. “Wait, what?”

“That card is a two hundred dollar one. I recredited the full amount back onto it.”

“You can do that?” I asked in amazement. Holy crap. After everything this guy did I was amazed he didn’t just make himself filthy rich and go live in a secluded mansion somewhere.

“The prepaid companies are easy, they don’t have very good system security. The real credit card companies, now those are a major league bitch. I try not to screw with them if I can.”

“But this is a Visa,” I thought out loud.

“Only in name,” he explained. “Basically the prepaid companies pay to allow their cards to use the same purchasing algorithm-”

“Forget I asked,” I said quickly, “Not that I asked in the first place. So I’ve got two hundred bucks, now what?”

“Well you’re only going to be able to drain that card once. I can’t keep refilling it because that will get noticed by the card company and they can start tracking the purchases. Your best bet is to get a prepaid cell, some food, and a room for the night. We can figure out how to get you moving in the morning.”

“And where exactly am I going?” I asked suspiciously.

There was a sigh over the speakers before he responded. “The only thing I can think of is to bring you to me. After that I’ll consult with some friends of mine to see what the best course of action is.”

“And where are you?”

“Reading Pennsylvania.”

“Pennsylvania,” I mused to myself, thinking that sounded familiar. “Wait a second, that’s where Westlake Industries is. That’s where this...whatever it is, was done to me!”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, sounding chagrined, “I work in their IT department.”

“You work for them!” I screamed and started diving for the door.

“Wait! Wait! Hold on! I’m working undercover!”

I was already out the door at that point but his words brought me up short. “Undercover?” I asked quietly more to myself than to him.

“Yeah,” he said quickly, “I’d heard through the grapevine that they were doing some seriously illegal and sick shit and got a job there in IT so I could farm their computers since their core systems can’t be accessed outside of the building.”

“Are you with the police?” I accused and once again prepared myself to run.

“No,” he assured me, “I’m just a guy that’s damn good with computers. Once I got enough evidence on them I was going to send it to a friend of mine to give to his boss.”

“This friend and his boss, are they cops?”

This time I heard a chuckle and there was something in that sound that made me feel a bit nervous. “Not even close, but they are on the side of angels. Look, I promise you I just want to help you. If you want I can help you break into a gun store and steal a pistol and some ammo so when you finally get here you can shoot me if I try to stab you in the back.”

The mention of backstabbing caused a familiar, faint warmth to pulse in my chest. Glancing down at my hand I willed a glowing energy knife to form in my hand. This is getting pretty easy to do, I thought with a with a wicked smile. “Don’t bother,” I told him as I slid back behind the wheel, “I don’t need one.”

“All right,” he said slowly with confusion in his voice. Obviously he’d forgotten about my power. “Anyway, there’s a gas station one block over designed for truckers doing stopovers. They should have prepaid cells there. Get one and dial one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-zero and hit send. That’ll key me into its signal and I can reprogram it. How’s your clothing?”

Letting the energy knife vanish I looked down at myself and frowned. The bodice of my dress was ripped open, my bra was in tatters, and my panties had long since been torn away. Unzipping the dress, I pulled it from my shoulders and unhooked my bra before discarding it in the back seat of the car. Using a safety pin that I found in the center console storage I managed to pin the torn part of my bodice back to the shoulder strap. A quick look in the mirror showed that I still looked like a mess, but at least I was decently covered even if my nipples were clearly visible through the thin bodice. “Not great, and I have no shoes, but I guess it’ll have to do for now.”

“Since the gas station’s a truck stop,” WiseCrack rationed, “They might have some clothing for sale too that you can buy.”

“All right,” I said with a nod, “Just be ready when I make that call.”

“I’m already in the gas station’s security cameras. I’ll have eyes on you the whole time.”

Shaking my head I stepped back out of the car with a muttered, “Yeah, ‘cause that’s not creepy at all,” before quickly hurrying towards the gas station, which I could see from the parking lot. While I had to watch my step since I was barefoot and didn’t want to slice myself up on broken glass or anything, I did my best to keep out of the majority of the street lights. The last thing I wanted was for some well-meaning person to see me in my current state and call the police thinking I needed help.

Fortunately, because of the late hour, I was able to get to the gas station without attracting any attention. Now I just had to deal with the store clerk and any customers currently inside. A quick peek through the large front windows showed an older woman behind the counter and another woman of similar age chatting with her. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door and stepped inside.

Just like I was worried about, the two immediately looked over at me and their eyes went wide with alarm. “Honey,” the clerk said with concern, “Are you okay?”

Crap, now what? There was no way I could tell them the truth, it was simply too wild of a story and they probably would just think I was crazy. The same would also be true if I just cut and ran. Both options almost guaranteed a call to the cops.

“Ummm, my...uhhhh...boyfriend got handsy,” I stammered as I tried to think quickly.

“Where is he?” the customer asked anxiously, looking out the window, “Do you want us to call the police?”

“No!” I said quickly, probably too quickly since their gazes turned slightly suspicious. “No it’s okay. He just ripped my dress. I gave him a lot worse.”

That seemed to mollify them and even got nods of approval. “What happened to your shoes?”

I looked down at my bare feet a moment before blushing and peeking back up at the pair. “I...uhhh...kind of used them to give him that worse.”

Once again I received nods of approval and even proud smiles. “Well you go right ahead and look around sweetheart and just let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” I said gratefully and headed towards the back where there was a small assortment of clothing for sale. I just hoped that they carried my size. Fortunately there was enough in the way of basics that I would be able to replace my ruined dress but I’d have to do without lingerie for the time being. Grabbing a pair of jeans, a black T-shirt with the words “Living The Dream One Mistake At A Time”, a pair of black socks, and a pair of tan work boots I brought them up to the counter. “Ummm,” I asked shyly, “Would it be okay if I tried these on in the bathroom to make sure they fit?”

Thankfully the strength of sisterhood was still prevalent because the clerk smiled and nodded. “Of course honey, you go right ahead.”

“Thanks,” I called and hurried into the bathroom to change. Fortunately I’d grabbed the right sizes for everything and they fit perfectly except the boots, which I had to swap out for a smaller size. Interestingly enough, while I thought I would be uncomfortable not wearing lingerie, it didn’t really seem to bother me. The lack of support for my breasts was kind of annoying but I didn’t experience any sense of embarrassment like I thought I would. By the time I left the bathroom with my dress stuffed into the garbage can I felt a little better now that I was properly clothed again.

Walking back to the counter I set the tags for everything before the clerk and asked, “Do you mind if I look around a bit more before I pay for them?”

“Of course not sweetie,” the woman said, her smile now having become undeniably warm and friendly, “You take as much time as you need.”

“Thanks,” I told her gratefully and walked over to where I saw the prepaid phone display. Though I pretended to look at the different models available, I already knew which one I wanted. In truth, I was subtly placing myself in a closer position to the prepaid credit cards that were in a spinning display beside the cell phones. Occasionally glancing over at the counter where the two women had resumed their conversation, I tried to gauge just how successful I’d be if I grabbed a couple of them.

Unfortunately, they were both glancing over to me pretty regularly. It was probably because they were concerned for me and wanted to be sure I was okay, but it made it almost impossible for me to swipe any of the cards. Unless…

Taking hold of one of the smartphones I pulled it out to the limit of its restraining tether and held it up so the clerk could see. “Do you have any of these in stock?”

“Hmmm,” the woman hummed in consideration, “I think we just might. Hang on a second.” She turned and started rooting through the cupboard behind the cash counter. Okay, so that took care of one of them. Now what to do about the other woman.

“I think I see them over there Maureen,” the customer offered helpfully and leaned across the counter to point at something.

Oh my god this couldn't have been more perfect. While keeping my eyes on the women to make sure they were both occupied I reached out and blindly grabbed several cards off the spindle rack before hurriedly stuffing them down the back of my pants. I had just pulled the back of my shirt down over the waistband of the jeans when both ladies’ attention returned my way and the clerk, Maureen, proudly held up a package. “Here we go,” she called over, “Got the last one right here.”

“Great,” I said in a breathless, thankful voice as I hurried over and tried not to look like I had a pole shoved up my ass. “I kind of broke mine when I hit my boyfriend in the head with it,” I improvised.

“Woo wee,” the customer cried with a wicked smile, “You sure don’t mess around honey.”

“No ma’am,” I replied respectfully, now really getting into the role of the underdog who did good.

“You know,” Maureen said helpfully, “Those cell companies usually replace your phone when it gets damaged.”

“Oh, uhh, it was one of these prepaid ones,” I explained, nodding at the phone in its package on the counter, “My....Daddy,” I had to fight really hard not to throw up when I said that word, “Only let me have this kind so I’d learn about being responsible.”

“Well that’s right smart of him,” the clerk said as she checked in the phone as well as my clothing and boots. I watched the dollar amounts climb while silently praying it wouldn’t come to more than what I had on my credit card. The cell phone alone was seventy bucks. When the final item was scanned Maureen announced, “That’ll be two hundred and twelve dollars.”

Inwardly I wanted to scream. Since I was already wearing all of the clothes I couldn’t exactly give them back and besides, I needed them. However I also needed the cell phone too so I could get back into contact with WiseCrack. I might have to just grab the cell and run out the store but that would just bring the cops down on my head as well as who knew who else. Besides, Maureen and her friend had been so nice to me it simply felt wrong to do that to them.

There must have been a crestfallen look on my face because Maureen titled her head slightly and gently asked, “How much do you have honey?”

Meekly, I slipped the two hundred dollar card from my pocket and set it on the counter. “I can put back the jeans and shirt I guess. I’m sorry about taking the tags off before checking to make sure I could afford them.” I didn’t like the idea of putting that ruined dress back on but it was better than causing trouble.

Maureen looked at me steadily for a moment before a warm smile formed on her lips and she tapped in the register’s touchscreen several times before the words “Misc discount” appeared alongside a “-$13.00”. “You know what,” she remarked casually, “I plum forgot that those boots were on clearance this week. That happens you know,” she continued as she ran the credit card through and put the cell phone in a bag, “You tend to forget things now and then when you get older.”

After scribbling a fake signature on the credit slip I took the bag from her and whispered, “Thank you.” She merely nodded and I hurried out of the store before heading down the sidewalk and across the street until I finally was able to duck behind a small strip mall that was mostly closed. Quickly, or at least I tried to be quick since those damn blister packs make it damn near impossible for you to open them without a pair of scissors, I tore open the cell phone packaging and powered it on. I had a few heart-pounding moments wondering if the thing actually came with a full charge until I saw the brand logo fade and an opening screen directing me how to set up the phone blazed into existence. In the upper corner I saw the power meter showed a full charge and breathed a sigh of relief. After skipping the setup screen with the false promise I would finish it later I tapped open the phone dialer and punched in the number WiseCrack had given me before hitting send.

For several agonizing seconds there was absolute silence that had me whispering, “Please work. Please work. Please work,” before there was a click of a connection establishing.

“I’m here,” came my invisible savior’s voice and my breath rushed out of my lungs, “And I’ve got the phone reprogramed with a different number and ISDN so it can’t be tracked if it gets reported you have it. How much money do you have left?”

“None,” I said dejectedly, “I almost didn’t have enough to pay for this but the clerk was nice enough to give me a discount.”

“All right, we need to think about how to get you some more money because that card of your’s is useless right now. There should be an ATM nearby that I can-”

“Oh wait,” I said, suddenly remembering, “I was able to snatch a few prepaid cards from the store.” Digging them out of the back of my pants a thought occurred to me. “That woman, the clerk, she won’t get in trouble I took these will she?”

“No,” WiseCrack informed me, “They’re worthless until activated at the register and registered through their card system. They won’t even know they’re gone.”

That made me blink in surprise just before my heart sank. As I looked down at the five two hundred dollar cards in my hand I couldn’t keep the whine out of my voice when I said, “So I stole these for nothing?”

“Don’t worry,” he said assuringly, “I can activate them through several different card systems from several towns over. Not only will that woman not get in trouble but if anyone tries to check on them the system will show it wasn’t that store that activated them. By the way, nice move swiping them. I couldn’t see because of the camera angle but it was so smooth I couldn’t even tell you were doing it.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, not feeling anywhere near as proud of myself as he sounded, “But I don’t like the idea that I have to commit a crime just to survive right now.”

“And we’ll try to keep that to a minimum,” he promised, “We don’t want to leave too much of a trail after all. Okay, read off the information from those cards just like last time.” I did as requested, ripping open the packages and tossing them into a nearby dumpster before slipping the cards into my front pocket. “Okay, all set. The cards are active. We can recharge them all once before they’re no good anymore so that gives us two thousand dollars to play with. That should be more than enough. Now comes the hard question.”

I couldn’t help but wince at the potentially distasteful activities that I might have to partake in. “Which is?”

“Where do you feel like eating?”

I95 heading north from Richmond, Virginia

“Fucking cunt!” Charles Sinclair growled as he winced in pain after touching the still rather fresh cut in his cheek. It was one of several that he had stitched up the previous evening and every one of them still felt like a someone was jabbing him with a hot needle. The morphine in his emergency kit only took the edge off the pain, allowing him to keep moving after his admittedly haphazard stitching. Fortunately most of the wounds had been superficial and he had been able to remove all of the glass fragments, but that didn’t do much to diminish the pain from them and the first degree burn he’d suffered from the microwave explosion.

How the hell had that slut done that anyway? She had been literally throwing herself at him like a bitch in heat when suddenly bang! He was on the floor with his ears ringing and the girl was gone. It had been sheer luck that he had managed to scramble through the floor escape hatch moments before the police showed up and locked down the RV. That had left him with no car and no phone either to call his employer and update him on what happened. Thankfully, he hadn’t gotten into this particular job without making sure to acquire a few very handy skills to accompany his already impressive engineering resume. That had allowed him to steal a car and a phone and get to the safe house he and his employer had established months ago, dump the car and phone in the James River, get a clean car and cell, stitch himself up, and start heading back towards the tracking signal he was currently following. It had taken time, far too much time for him and definitely too much time for his employer. As it was, he had only a little more than twenty-four hours to reacquire the girl and get her to the lab or he might find himself on the table instead of that bitch.

Popping a few amphetamines to stay awake, he shook off the blurriness that threatened to close his eyes for sleep and gripped the steering wheel tighter. There’d be time enough for rest later once he got his hands on the girl again. Until then, it would be a no rest for the wicked kind of situation.

Once he did though, it would without a doubt be a “wicked” kind of situation.

Fredericksburg, Virginia

The ringing phone pulled me grudgingly out of a very deep sleep. At first I felt a sense of panic not recognizing any of my surroundings and wondering if I’d had another bout of memory loss. Then the last forty-eight or so hours came flooding back and I remembered what had happened the night prior.

After activating the cell phone and prepaid credit cards I’d gotten from the gas station, I practically gorged myself on burgers and fries at a nearby McDonald’s. I didn’t eat a tremendous amount or anything, but I attacked it like...well like what I was, a starving person. It got to the point I was actually worried they might think I was some crazy drug addict and call the cops on me so I finished my meal feeling wonderfully full, politely thanked them for the meal with a grateful smile, and left. From there is was a simple matter of going back across the street to a Best Western and getting a room. WiseCrack thought it was a bad idea staying so close to where I’d ditched the car, but by that point I had been asleep on my feet and if I didn’t rest soon I would literally have passed out.

That was how I found myself pushing to my hands and knees on a bed that hadn’t even had the covers drawn down and looking blearily at the ringing phone. Shoving my now wild hair from my face I yanked the cell off the nightstand and answered the call with a roughly spoken, “Yeah?”

“Tough night?” WiseCrack asked.

“What time is it?” I mumbled, scrubbing sleep out of my eyes.

“Eight A.M. I let you get five hours and I was being generous. You need to get up and get moving. It’s dangerous to stay in one place for too long.”

“Do I at least have time for a shower? I feel like crap.”

The sigh couldn’t be mistaken for anything else other than long-suffering. “Fine, but make it a fast one. Call me back when you’re ready to go. Girls,” he muttered in exasperation before breaking the connection.

“Boys,” I replied to no one in the same tone as I headed for the bathroom, stripping off my clothes as I did. While I would gladly have stayed in there for at least a half an hour, I did recognize my benefactor’s wisdom in keeping on the move until I reached a place of safety. So, I kept the shower brief, under ten minutes, and combed out my hair the best I could with my fingers before getting dressed and leaving the room.

I hadn’t even left the building yet when I hit redial and heard WiseCrack pick up after less than a full ring. “Okay, I’ve got you set up with an e ticket for a bus heading to Philly. You’ll need to catch a cab to the terminal but it’s not far off. The e ticket is in the email address I’ve programmed into your phone so all you need to do is show the person at the counter the email and you’ll be good.”

“What about ID?” I asked as I walked out the front door of the hotel and started looking for any available taxis, “Won’t they need to see that?”

“No. This is pretty much a glorified shuttle to Philly, not a ticket on Grayhound. They could care less about ID and frankly we’re lucky they even have computer systems working. If they ask you for any just do that great doe-eyed babe in the woods routine you pulled at the gas station.”

“It wasn’t a routine,” I snapped into the phone, “I’m still scared out of my mind right now and I was grateful that the clerk was so kind and helpful.”

“Fair enough,” WiseCrack conceded in a gentler tone, “But the same principle applies. Just get to the bus as soon as you can. It leaves in a half an hour. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on your location but I’ve got to get into Westlake Industries to keep up my cover. If you run into any problems call me and if I don’t answer just leave me a voicemail with as much information as you can. We’ll talk again once you reach Philly in a couple of hours.”

“All right,” I said with a sigh and waved at a cab I saw heading my way from down the street. “Hey WiseCrack?”

“Yeah Kitty?” he replied, sounding hurried.


He didn’t respond right away but when he did I could hear the smile in his voice. “It’s been my pleasure Kit. Just get here safely, okay?”

“I’ll do my best,” I told him and hung up the phone as the cab pulled to a stop at the curb.

Westlake Industries Headquarters, Pennsylvania

WiseCrack had just sat down at his desk and powered on his PC and laptop when the door opened and the imposing figure of Harold Westlake strode in. While he certainly wasn’t scowling angrily at the young IT professional, it was clear he wasn’t exactly happy. “Mr. Wiseman,” he said without preamble, “I need an update on what you’ve discovered so far.”

“I just walked in the door Mr. Westlake,” the hacker informed his boss as he set about logging into the company systems, “You could at least give me a few minutes to have some coffee.”

“I have no time for flippancy young man,” the large business head snapped and WiseCrack immediately regretted the snarky comment, “Our security division has a lead on who was involved in this theft and where he might be. I want you to get into the life of one Charles Sinclair and find out where he is.”

Spinning in his chair, WiseCrack frowned in confusion. “Ummm, you just said you had a lead on where he is. Why do you want me to go digging around to try and find him if you already have that information?”

“Because I don’t trust him to still be in the area by the time our personnel arrive at the scene. Apparently he had taken our experiment to some trailer park in Virginia and then stupidly blew his own trailer up. While security sweeps the area I want you to pull up his credit card information and cell phone GPS and find me a pattern of use so we can follow it. With any luck we’ll be able to pinpoint his location or at least establish a pattern we can follow and get ahead of him.”

It took some effort to hold back the grin that wanted to appear on the hacker’s face since he’d already done that and a hell of a lot more twelve hours ago. It was a colossal waste of time since the cell phone was still in the trailer park and he had apparently been smart enough not to use his own credit cards. Still, that meant he would be able to compile a report in no time at all which left him the opportunity to do some more digging into the company until he was due to get back in touch with Kitty. “I’ll find out everything I can sir,” he informed the CEO amicably.

“Good,” Westlake said with an approving nod, “I also need you to patch in the security team’s body cam feed to my office computer. They should be on the ground there any moment.”

Spinning back to his PC, WiseCrack typed in a rapid set of commands before turning back around. “The feed’s playing on your desktop as we speak.”

“Very good Mr. Wiseman,” and gave the younger man a thankful smile, “I’m glad to see that you are making a very strong contribution to this company. Keep it up. I remember people who work hard here.” And with that he departed from the basement office.

“I’ll bet you do,” the man known to Westlake Industries as Wiseman muttered and turned back to his computer. With the live feed playing in the background on his desktop computer, he quickly typed up a bullshit report on the laptop detailing just a fraction of what he had uncovered while leaving out any information that disclosed Kitty’s name, her location, and her connection to him. When the report was complete it would just show the virus had been pretty much unrecoverable, along with its stolen data, other than what Westlake already knew. After sending the report to the CEO’s email on a time delay of two hours, he then dove back into the company’s mainframe. He needed to figure out just what the hell Project Mantis and Project Kajira were if he was going to come to some kind of understanding what Sinclair had planned for Kitty. If he could figure that out, he might just be able to figure out where Doctor Keith Blake had gone. At this point, there was nothing to indicate how he’d gotten out of the building, where he’d gone to ground, or what his plans were. None of his credit cards had been used, his car was currently in a local impound lot since it had been left in the company parking lot after the incident, and his cell was still in security’s property room.

That last part wasn’t very surprising since it would probably have been impossible for him to recover it and make his escape. Because of the sensitive nature of the company’s work, all employees either had to leave any electronic devices at home or turn them into security when they entered the building. They were even scanned and searched every time the walked in to make sure they didn’t try to sneak one in, even if someone just stepped out for a cigarette. It was one reason why WiseCrack wanted to get his work done and get the hell out of there as fast as he could. Because he couldn’t bring his own specially encrypted hardware with him, Kitty was flying blind, deaf, and dumb on her way to Philadelphia. He didn’t like leaving her hanging in the wind like that but if he hadn’t shown up for work that morning Westlake would have instantly been suspicious and all of his work would have been lost. All he could do was try and work fast and get back in communication with her as soon as possible.

A line of code scrolling across the screen pulled his attention from his inner musing and had him looking a little closer at what looked like a gibberish of letters, numbers, and symbols. “Hmmmm,” he mused quietly as he delved deeper into the code and followed its natural progression through the system while simultaneously making sure he covered his tracks. He’d located Project Mantis, which was starting to look more and more like a subcontract for the military. That wasn’t unusual since Westlake Industries had several contracts with the military and government for upgraded radio communications, secure satellite uplinks, advanced medical diagnostics, and more. All of it was perfectly legal and above board, but this Project Mantis didn’t seem to fall into any of those categories.

He had to dig a little deeper and perform some creative reconstruction since the virus that had been released into the system had chewed up most of the data on the project, but ever since he’d worked out how the virus operated it was a relatively easy matter of reversing those parameters and reconstituting the lines of code.

After about thirty minutes of work the hacker sat back in his chair and just blinked in astonishment at what he was seeing on the screen before taking a sip from his now cold cup of coffee. What Blake and Sinclair had been working on was nothing short of science fiction. It was more than a little above his head, but according to the research and hypothetical data, Blake had postulated that when a person died, so long as the death hadn’t occurred too long ago or proper cryogenic procedures had taken place, that body could still be considered viable and capable of supporting life. The problem was that upon the event of death, the brain was the first thing to perish. Even if the body was placed into cryogenic stasis almost immediately, all brain function would be lost and not recoverable. Blake’s theory was that the brain operated in very much the same way as a computer, complete with hard drive, RAM, video memory, etc. What he wanted to do was create a computerized duplicate of a person’s brain and then transfer that data into the brain of a corpse while simultaneously reigniting the neural pathways that allowed the brain to function. How he planned to do that WiseCrack couldn’t tell since the medical science was well beyond his ken, but the computer software he had been utilizing was nothing short of genius. The sheer intricacies of the coding mixed with computer modeling of DNA codes was something the very experienced hacker would never have even thought was remotely possible. Even when he had discovered the broad strokes of the research in his earlier data mining it seemed like the concept was an impossibility. The level of coding required to integrate a computerized data map of the human brain with the data string for DNA didn’t seem like anything that even the highest capacity supercomputer could handle.

And yet, he was looking at it on the screen in front of him, and it seemed to work. This meant that Blake had not only found the key to functional immortality, but with Sinclair’s assistance in building the specialized equipment needed to facilitate the brain transfer he had actually proved his hypothesis to be correct. The implications of this went so far beyond Peace Prize levels they had breached orbit. With a breakthrough of this magnitude, Blake could write his own ticket and be rich beyond his wildest dreams. So why would he risk all that to eliminate all of his research and steal the one successful experiment that proved his theory worked?

That was where Project Mantis came in. According to some deeply buried email communications, the military had become aware of Blake’s research and wanted to use it to create the perfect assassin. Since the terrorists and dictators that threatened U.S. interests were male, they wanted to be able to put the minds of their top spies into the bodies of recently deceased, beautiful females that could then infiltrate a target, get them in bed, and then either kill them or use them to guide their operations in a way that would benefit America. When the question as to why not simply use female agents from the very beginning was asked, the rationale had been that there had been issues in the past with female agents getting too close to their targets and losing perspective, sometimes even changing sides. The theory was that the brain patterns of men would resist this kind of undesired affection and thus the agent could remain true to his handlers and complete the mission without romantic complications.

“Okay,” the hacker reasoned to himself as he sat back and cracked open an energy drink, “So the military bigwigs are stupid enough to think that male brain patterns means the elimination of human emotion. Idiotic, but what does that have to do with Project Kajira?”

Up to this point, there still had been absolutely nothing related to that project anywhere in the company database. It was to the point that he wondered if Kajira had just been the pilot name and it had been switched to Mantis since it was far more fitting given the project’s nature.

That was when he noticed a very carefully concealed code branching off of Project Mantis. Whoever had generated it had been extra careful to leave as little of a fingerprint as possible and had he not been looking so deeply into the system it was likely even WiseCrack would not have found it. But he did find it, and when he followed the trail back to its originating source he discovered that it too had been a victim of the computer virus. Whatever it had been was now little more than shreds of seemingly random code that amounted to nothing and couldn’t be reassembled.

Unless someone had that base code for the virus itself. Working furiously with the retroviral code he’d acquired, WiseCrack carefully reassembled the data into an organized and accessible chain. It wasn’t complete, and all of the medical and technical data was still gone, but the basic purpose behind it was intact and that was what the hacker looked through.

The more he read, the more horror he felt and the harder his guts twisted. This was clearly not for use by the military, which was confirmed since there was no evidence of any communication by them for its construction. There was no trace of whom had commissioned the research but their intention for it was made sickeningly clear. What was worse, it looked like this was this project’s format that had been used on Kitty in the lab before everything went to shit. If that was true, it explained a lot about what had happened to her. It also meant that Sinclair was still coming for her and if he didn’t get her to safety fast her life would not only be over, it would be turned into a living hell that she would never be able to stop.

Backing out of the company system, he shut down his terminals and grabbed his things before hurrying out of his office. He had to give Westlake some kind of bullshit briefing before he could leave and he needed to do that as fast as possible.

After that, he had work to do.

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4 years 4 weeks ago #21798 by Paradox
Paradox replied the topic: Mind Games

Google Docs Link: docs.google.com/document/d/1JgK642jJtqW8...YRs/edit?usp=sharing

Mind Games Book 3

By Paradox

I676 West, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A sudden, full-body jolt had me bolting awake and looking around wildly for the source of whatever was coming after me. I was just starting to curl my fingers closed in preparation to try and conjure up an energy knife when I realized that what I took for an attack was just the bus striking a pothole. It was probably a good thing that my nap had made me sluggish because suddenly outing myself as a mutant would have undoubtedly created a panic instead of just garnering a few concerned looks. With the hopes that their attention would get off of me, I cast about a sheepish smile and mouthed, “Sorry,” before I hunched back down in my seat. Whether my apology mollified everyone or they simply didn’t care like most people these days, those eyes turned back to whatever they were doing and no one said a word.

With a soft sigh of relief, I pulled out my phone and brought up the GPS map. According to the little blue dot, I was only perhaps ten or twenty minutes away from the bus terminal. That meant I was ten or twenty minutes away from finally meeting with the person who had thus far seemed to be on my side. Of course, that could all have been a trick.

During the nearly four-hour bus ride I hadn’t slept the entire time, even though I’d wanted to. Instead, I took the time to really review everything that had happened to me in the last two days. While it was now very clear that the man who had impersonated being my father was in fact some kind of sick, deranged child rapist, was WiseCrack really any better? It was true he had done absolutely nothing to indicate anything of the sort, but the fact was I really knew absolutely nothing about him. All he was at this point was a voice on a phone guiding me from place to place. Yes, he had done a tremendous amount of work in helping me, what with guiding me out of the trailer park, securing me multiple avenues of transportation, money, communication, and even a place to rest. But what if all of that was just some elaborate ruse to get me to come to him so he could do the same thing or worse that my fake father had intended? I hadn’t told him ‘no’ flat out because he had made the offer to help me get a gun that I could specifically use on him without any hesitation.

While it was clearly obvious he was a supremely skilled hacker, his motivations thus far had just been him saying he was some kind of a do-gooder. Given everything I’d been through so far, was that enough to trust him? It would have been easy to fall back on the tired excuse, “He’s the only thing I’ve got so it’s better than nothing,” but I wasn’t sure just how true that was. When I’d first woken up in the back of that RV two days ago I’d thought the man pretending to be my father was the only thing I had, and that had turned out to be far less than ideal. Would WiseCrack fall into the same category of trying to take advantage of a helpless and scared teenage girl?

Then again, I wasn’t that same girl anymore. True I was still really scared, but I was far from helpless anymore. The only reason why I declined the offer to get a gun was because I think I had a far better weapon now, my energy knife. Granted I hadn’t really toyed around or experimented much with it yet, but the little I’d seen indicated that it was a far more effective and deadly weapon than any handgun. If WiseCrack ended up being just another carbon copy of fake-Dad, then he would help me out in a few more experiments with it.

Now, as the bus pulled into the station in the heart of Philadelphia, I told myself that it was time to put on my big girl panties and take back my life. Of course, I wasn’t wearing any panties, or a bra for that matter, a fact that was still disturbing because of how at ease I was with it, but you get the jiff.

I made sure to wait for everyone else to get off the bus before I myself exited the vehicle, and then I was subtly looking at everyone milling about to see if someone was paying an unusual amount of attention to me. I felt a little more at ease when people quickly collected their belongings and either headed off to their individual destinations or met with loved ones and departed soon after. That soon left me standing alone and looking a bit out of place.

Since a lone teen girl standing around looking lost would probably attract some attention, I walked quickly away from the bus terminal and headed for a decent sized mall called The Gallery on the opposite corner of the street. Since it was now just after noon it would be probably pretty well filled and hopefully provide me with a means of blending into the crowd so I didn’t stand out so much. At least I hoped that would be the case.

My worries eased a little as I stepped through the entryway and I saw that the mall was indeed rather busy with more than enough people for me to keep me from being obvious. What’s more, there were plenty of other girls who ascribed to that ‘grunge’ style look, which also helped me from sticking out too much. Although, now that I thought about it, a change of clothes wouldn’t do me much harm.

Shaking the thought away I focused on my primary goal, getting something to eat. Luckily the mall had a decent sized food court and I was quickly able to procure a couple slices of pizza and a Coke before settling into a seat in the heart of the dining area. I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but I was too preoccupied with trying to constantly scan my surroundings without making it obvious that I was doing so. I also just couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I really wanted to go check out those really cute dresses I’d passed by on the way to the food court. Oh, and that Victoria’s Secret, I definitely needed to stop in there for some new lingerie.

Thinking about the shopping I needed to do I wolfed down the remainder of my pizza and quickly went to go wash my hands after depositing my plate and cup in the trash. Once my hands were nice and clean, wouldn’t want to mess up the clothes I was looking at after all, I hurried off.

The moment I stepped inside I couldn’t help but just stop and stare at everything. All around me were the trappings of feminine livery specifically designed to catch and entice the male eye. While the store certainly carried a few plain items like T-shirts and jeans, it was clear that this business catered to a clientele that dressed to tease and please. Perfect.

With an eagerness I hadn’t felt in a while now I started combing through the racks of clothing looking for just the right outfit. Sure I’d rocked this truck stop look just fine, but that just wasn’t my style. I was a girl and I wanted to dress like a girl, not some fashion refugee. Yet nothing I was seeing really jumped out at me. Oh sure they were all really cute and I knew they would look good on me, but none of them really seemed to ‘speak’ to me.

Then I laid my hands on a dress that almost instantly I knew was the one. Pulling it off the rack I hurried towards the dressing rooms at the back and locked myself inside. I was so anxious to try it on I practically tore my clothes off until I was completely naked. Giggling with delight I wiggled into the dress and smoothed it out before turning and looking at myself in the full-length mirror.

Oh my god, I was gorgeous! It was a scrumptious little black party dress that didn’t quite reach mid-thigh and had scintillating criss-cross cutouts in the skirt that ran from the front of my thighs up to and around the side of my waist as well as a matching cutout that started at the strapless neckline, which showcased my breasts beautifully, and plunged down to my sternum. It made it delightfully obvious to anyone looking at me that I was completely naked underneath this dress and the idea that everyone would know it made me feel all warm and gooey. I swear I could practically hear myself vibrating I was so excited and enthralled with my look.

Of course, my hair was a mess and I needed shoes, so I practically exploded out of the dressing room and nearly begged one of the salesgirls to help me find a pair of heels to match the dress as well as something for my hair. At first, she seemed rather shocked by both my appearance and my exuberance, which confused me since this was obvious a place where women came to make themselves look beautiful, but she grudgingly agreed to help me.

When she took me over to the small shoe selection they had my eyes instantly fell upon one particular pair and I was in love. They were black suede leather stilettos with about an inch platform, a five-inch heel, a dainty little T-strap, and peep-toed. They were oh so sexy and I just knew they would be absolutely perfect with this dress.

The salesgirl once again looked at me oddly as I gushed over them and headed into the back to look for my size. While she was doing that I perused the hair accessories and located a thin black hairband that would keep my currently rather wild mane held back and contained while still giving me that sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed-but-happy-to-jump-right-back-in look. I had just peeled off the tag and affixed it in my hair when the clerk came back with two boxes. Her previously confused look had now been replaced by one of suspicion and I think she might have suspected I was either planning on trying to run out the store without paying for the clothes or simply thought I was not right in the head. Well, whatever, she was probably just jealous that I looked soooo much better in this dress than she ever would, the bitch.

Giving her a pleasant smile I tried on the first pair of heels, which fit me perfectly. After walking around in them to make sure I grinned and nodded my approval before dashing off to the dressing room to gather my old clothes. The moment I touched those rough jeans and poorly constructed T-shirt I wrinkled my nose in disgust. How on earth had I ever even considered wearing something like this? And those boots? Ugh, how tacky. This lady was no truck driver and I refused to continue dressing like one.

After plucking the credit cards and cell phone out of the pockets of the jeans I decided to just leave the old clothes behind and head for the counter. Maybe some else could make good use of them because I surely wanted nothing more to do with such rags. Besides, who would find me sexy in things like that?

Grabbing a small beaded clutch purse on the way I deposited it and the price tag for the headband on the counter and waited for the girl to tally up the price of them, the dress, and the shoes. I didn’t even blink when the total of two hundred and fifty dollars came up on the screen and gave her two of the prepaid cards. “Birthday presents,” I explained when she gave me an odd look, to which she smiled in understanding and processed them through. After signing the receipts I placed all of my credit cards and my phone in the purse and pranced away with a wave and a cheery thanks to the sales clerk, who watched me go with the oddest look on her face.

I had just reached the front door to the shop when I felt my purse start vibrating. Still striding ahead, and looking fabulous while doing so I must say, I glanced down at it in confusion. Who could that be? I was just about to pop it open to retrieve my phone when I suddenly crashed into something. I stumbled back in my heels and would likely have fallen if something hadn’t grabbed me by the upper arms. “Oh I’m so sorry,” I started to babble as I followed the sight of that broad chest before my eyes up to a face that was handsome and chiseled, yet possessed several freshly made scars still being held together by dark stitches.

“Daddy!” I squealed with excited happiness.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Come on goddammit, move!” WiseCrack yelled as he swerved around a slower moving car before turning sharply onto another street and pressing hard on the gas pedal of his compact rental. It wasn’t really the other driver’s fault for being so slow, he or she was actually driving at a normal pace for a city driver. The hacker was just worried. Okay, he was more than worried. He’d actually bypassed worried and had leaped headlong into being positive something had gone wrong.

For the last twenty minutes, after having traced Kitty’s cell GPS to The Gallery right across from the bus station she was due to arrive at, he had been unable to reach her. Call after call went unanswered while the GPs only moved back and forth within about twenty feet before going stationery. All kinds of bad scenarios were flooding through his mind about what could have happened to her. Did she decide not to trust him anymore? Had the phone been stolen from her and then ditched? Had someone caught up with her? All of this and more stampeded through his head as he raced along the streets of Philly towards the mall. He barely kept from turning into the lot sharp enough to cause his tires to squeal and quickly pulled into the first open parking spot he could find before nearly flying out of the car. He took two steps before he realized he forgot his equipment and raced back to grab the messenger satchel containing his portable gear. He didn’t even wait to sling the shoulder strap across his body before racing across the parking lot, doing so while on the run instead.

By the time he reached the front doors WiseCrack had gotten himself in check just enough to keep from sprinting through the glass like a madman and instead reduced his pace to that of a quickened walk that wouldn’t seem so obvious. Digging his cell phone out of his bag he homed in on Kitty’s GPS and followed it through the wide hallways lined with a multitude of stores. With each step he took, he started to get a better and better idea of just where she might have been. A quick glance at the mall’s map on the way in had indicated this was the way to the food court, which made sense since she was probably pretty hungry after such a long trip.

However as he started to approach the semi-circular area that housed the various food vendors, he noticed that he had actually walked passed the GPS marker tied to Kitty’s phone. With a frown, he backed up until he was in line with it once again and looked over to where the signal was showing as her location.

“What the hell is she doing in there?” he muttered, looking inside of the high-end women’s fashion boutique. A sudden thought came to him and he sighed, “Oh come on, she didn’t did she?”

Swiping through his phone he quickly brought up the usage history of the credit cards and saw that one had been drained completely and about half had been used on another. “Dammit Kitty,” he grumbled, “You didn’t grab those so you could go shopping!” Switching to the phone dialer he once more called her number and listened to the line ring endlessly.

The noise level in the mall was your typical combination of music, footsteps, and voices all echoing around in a facility designed to practically amplify all of those. So WiseCrack could actually be forgiven for not hearing the cell phone vibrating against the floor just outside of the fashion boutique right away. Fortunately, he let the phone ring so many times that faint clattering of plastic striking tile in a rapid manner finally reached his ears and caused him to look down at its source.

There, vibrating on the floor, was a cell phone displaying his number on its screen. For several seconds WiseCrack just stood there staring at the phone in disbelief. Had Kitty really just gone on a shopping spree and then dumped her phone, leaving him behind after all the work he had done to try and get her to safety? He was no expert on human psychology but that was the absolute last thing he expected from the girl. Sure, he appreciated the fact that she didn’t completely trust him. In her position, it was likely he’d feel the same way. That’s why he went to such lengths to try and help her and even give her options that would allow her to feel safe and comfortable working with him. But for her to just go all Pretty Woman on him? That didn’t feel right.

Snatching her phone from the floor he hurried over to a central bench and sat down before pulling out a netbook and powering it on. As his fingers flew across the keys he pulled up the security footage for both the mall and the boutique and started running them side-by-side on the screen. His expression became a frown as, after scanning through footage starting from when her GPS signal had entered the mall, he watched Kitty practically skip into the boutique and start working her way through the racks of dresses. While the video quality wasn’t exactly HD he could tell by her movements that this wasn’t the same girl he had watched half a day ago. While her movements were still graceful, there was an exuberance of youth that hadn’t been present before. It was almost as though she was a completely different person now.

When she came out of the changing room in the very revealing and sexy dress there was no doubt in his mind that something had happened. The way she slinked about with her hips swaying in a way that was nothing short of an advertisement for sex, he was immediately struck by how identical this was to that last night in the RV park. But that would mean…

His gaze flicked over to the exterior footage of the boutique and his greatest fear was realized. Standing there trying to look casual and blend in with the crowd was Charles Sinclair. He couldn’t see the man’s face clearly, but his attention was obviously riveted on the young girl so eagerly prettying herself up. When Kitty finally got to the register and started to pay for her purchases he moved from his place of observation and slowly made his way towards the entrance of the store. He timed it so that just as Kitty was turning her head back to call out some kind of goodbye or thank you or whatever she ran straight into him.

Now, based on everything the two of them had gone through, WiseCrack fully expected Kitty to scream, slap him, run away, or maybe even try to run him through with one of her energy knives. What he didn’t expect was to see her jump with joy into his arms and plant a decidedly un-daughterly kiss right on his mouth. “Son of a bitch!” he hissed and watched helplessly as they held one another like long lost lovers before heading out of the store with their arms around each other’s waist. A faint movement from Sinclair told him that he’d gotten a hold of her cell phone and dropped it where he had just now discovered it. Whatever it was that Sinclair and whoever he was working with had done to Kitty, it had obviously reasserted itself within the young girl and she was now powerless in its grip. Using the mall’s security system, he tracked their movements until seeing which door they exited through. From there he watched them walk through the parking lot towards a large sedan with blacked out windows.

As they drew near the car WiseCrack’s eyes flickered down towards the time code at the corner of the screen. He had already been working out how to try and follow them using traffic cameras when he blinked in surprise at what was displayed by the time code.

They had walked out of the mall less than two minutes ago! Snapping his laptop closed he barely took the time to shove it into his satchel before taking off down the hall at a sprint. If he was lucky, very very lucky, that asshole Sinclair would take a few minutes to make out with Kitty once they got into the car before leaving. That might give him just enough time to get there and stop him.

The question as to how he would accomplish that came in the form of a taser gun he pulled from his satchel the moment he was clear of the entryway and wouldn’t really be seen by anyone. A quick scan of the lot and he located the target vehicle with the passenger door still open. Thumbing off the safety on the taser and thereby activating the integrated laser sight and LED light, he raced across the parking lot towards the car heading straight for that open door. He didn’t even hesitate before shoving himself between the open door and the car frame and bringing the taser to bear on its interior…

Where he was met by Kitty’s wide-eyed expression shock as she sat in the passenger seat. “Wh-who are you?” she asked with a mixture of surprise and fear. The rest of the car was empty.

“WiseCrack,” he said quickly as he looked into the back of the car just in case Sinclair was hiding behind the seats, “Are you okay?”

“Daddy!” she cried, cringing back from him as though he were some deranged lunatic there to kill her, “Help!”

“Kitty what’s wrong with you?” he demanded, his eyes narrowing as he tried to gauge whether or not she was being serious or just putting on an act.

He never determined which it was before his head exploded in pain and everything went dark.

I76 Heading West Towards Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

“Did you really have to hit him so hard?” I asked softly as I looked towards the empty back seat which concealed the trunk behind it.

“He was threatening to take you away from me Kitten,” Daddy replied as he guided the car down the highway. There was a look of grim determination on his face and his hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white. While the stitches on his face certainly added to his rugged handsomeness, I could tell he was still hurting from them by the way he occasionally winced or his eye twitched. When he finally noticed I was looking at him he composed himself with a confident smile and winked at me. “Don’t worry sweetheart, he can’t do that anymore. No one is going to take you away from me again.” These words were punctuated by his hand dropping to my leg and slipping beneath my skirt to gently squeeze very high upon my thigh.

The quick flare of heat at his touch had me sighing softly and biting back the whimper of need that threatened to slip from my throat. I’d still been unfulfilled from last night when we’d been interrupted and that desire was now freshly washing through me. “Will we be there soon Daddy?”

“Very soon,” he assured me with a smile as he took an off ramp, “But there will be a few things I need to do once we get there so I’ll need you on your best behavior.”

I nodded my understanding but wondered why I would need to be on my best behavior. Other than the man who had tried to kidnap me that was now tied up in the trunk, who else would I need to behave for? I considered asking such a question but Daddy seemed so uptight at the moment he was practically twitching. So, for the moment, I kept my silence and just focusing on crossing my legs and perching sexily in the passenger seat just in case he happened to look over.

Once we’d exited the highway Daddy navigated the car through the city streets, going deeper and deeper into the metropolis. With every block we traversed it seemed as though we got closer and closer to the poverty line. Buildings that started out as well kept structures of brick and steel gave way to aged but well cared for apartments until finally we entered into an area where most of the buildings were dilapidated apartments or possibly warehouses. “Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked in confusion. Since we had so much money it didn’t make much sense that we would come to this kind of area. I’d actually expected we might have gone the opposite direction and headed for New York.

“Oh it’s the right place,” he said in a low voice that actually felt a bit ominous as he turned the car into one particular building’s parking garage. Once he parked the car he turned and looked at me seriously. “Now, when we go in I want you to stay close to me baby, okay?” I nodded quickly, both because it was a given I would be practically glued to his side and because the whole situation was quickly becoming pretty scary. “Good girl,” he smiled and both of us stepped out the car before heading back to the trunk.

“Now,” Daddy said as he held the remote with his thumb on the trunk release, “When I let him out he’s going to probably fight and make a lot of noise. You just stay back and don’t listen to anything he tries to say. I’ll take care of him, okay?”

“Okay Daddy.”

He smiled and pulled a folding knife from his pocket that, when he opened it, had a very wicked looking blade. In one motion he thumbed the trunk release, threw open the trunk, and was immediately leaning into the trunk bed. I had a hard time hearing him since I was standing back but I thought I was able to make out Daddy say in a low voice, “Unless you want the bathe in the bitch’s blood, cooperate!”

Bathe in the bitch’s blood? What other bitch did Daddy have here? Had he brought someone else to this place that he hadn’t told me about? Some other girl maybe? Was he looking to replace me? Panic caused my heart to hammer in my breast as the idea that I could be getting replaced with another girl filled my mind. No, I would not allow that to happen. I’d show Daddy that no one was better than me and no one could make him feel as good as I could.

That was why when my would-be kidnapper was hauled out of the trunk and set on his feet with Daddy holding his knife to his throat I was standing nearby in an utterly vampish pose that would present all of my assets to their utmost sexiness. My attempts to reclaim my soon-to-be lover’s attention were wonderfully successful as I saw both men’s eyes widen in both surprise and, in my primary target’s case, burning lust. “I hope dealing with him doesn’t take too long Daddy,” I said in a small, deliberately child-like voice.

“No, no, not long at all,” he said quickly, practically shoving the man towards an older style elevator that required pulling the gated door down. He actually did slam the man against the back of the elevator, cause the captive to grunt in pain beneath the tape sealing his mouth closed. After a quick ride in the elevator we all exited the rickety machine and stepped out into a very large, open-space warehouse apartment. However, it wasn’t the size of the room that had my eyes widening in shock and amazement, it was what was contained within it.

All along one wall were machines of different varieties. Though I have no idea how I knew this, but I was able to identify every single one of them by name and what their purpose was for. There was a mass spectrometer, a centrifuge, a blood infusion machine, and so much more. There were actually devices there that I couldn’t identify since they looked like a mish-mash of several different pieces of equipment. On the far wall that was lined with windows were two stainless steel gurneys adorned with straps positioned to hold the wrists, upper arms, waist, chest. Thighs, ankles, neck, and even the head. These tables were each upright in some kind of open seven-foot chamber that had a kind of latex skullcap dangling from a multitude of wires that led up to the chamber’s ceiling. On the third wall were several tables adorned with several computers as well as an elaborate glass distilling apparatus. But all of that paled in comparison to what I saw in the center of the room. Arranged in five rows of five were stainless steel gurneys with what could only be bodies lying atop them covered with white sheets.

As Daddy shoved the man, who was fighting with everything he had and trying to shout something at me, towards one of the upright gurneys I heard a toilet flush from the side of the room containing the computers and distilling equipment. Looking over I saw what could only be described as a mad scientist. The man was tall and lean, almost gaunt, with wild white hair that stuck up from his head in spikes as though he’d shoved his finger into a wall socket five minutes ago. He even was wearing a dirty lab coat and had a magnifier perched atop his head. When he swung his gaze in my direction his smile revealed ugly, yellow teeth, several of which were missing, causing me to back up a few steps. To say that I was disgusted by this man was a gross understatement.

“Ah,” he said in a raspy voice, “I see you’ve finally arrived. It took you long enough.”

“Sorry,” Daddy grunt as he forced my kidnapper onto one of the upright gurneys and worked to get him strapped in. In the end, the man fought so much it took Daddy driving a punch into his stomach so hard it even made me wince. For several seconds the man couldn’t even seem to breathe, which gave Daddy the opportunity to get him secured to the gurney and tighten the straps down until his skin was bulging around the leather. When the man was finally secured Daddy stood up and wiped some sweat from his brow. “I found myself unexpectedly getting another test subject for you.”

“So I see,” the mad scientist said as he walked over and began to closely examine the man, who in turn tried to glare back but it was clear from his eyes that he was frightened. “I suppose having a second test subject would only serve to further bolster the results, and I do have a client that has expressed immediate interest in a blonde. Why not kill two birds with one stone.”

With nearly medical efficiency, the scientist began to examine the kidnapper in a way that I immediately understood as checking vitals, looking at pupil dilation, checking for nervous system reactions, and so on. While he was doing that, Daddy walked back over and took me by the hand, leading me over to where the computers and distillery were and sitting me down in a chair there. “Now my friend is going to need to take some blood from you, Kitten,” he told me gently while brushing my cheek with his hand, “Just to make sure you’re okay.”

“Okay Daddy,” I whispered, unable to keep my voice from quivering with nervousness. All of this was most certainly not what I was expecting after he had found me in that mall. Where was the new RV? Where was the night out that had been interrupted? Where was that affection I had been craving so badly that I knew would lead to a night of sheer bliss? Everything that had happened so far was such a departure from my expectations. Was there something he wasn’t telling me? And what was the strange warmth I was starting to feel in my chest?

Before I could even think of trying to answer any of these questions the mad scientist guy walked over to me, grabbing a syringe from the table as he did so. “No my dear,” he said in a smooth voice didn’t seem at all to match his appearance, “This shouldn’t hurt a bit.” And with that, he plunged the needle into my arm.

Surprisingly, he was absolutely right. I only felt a quick pinprick of pain, but that was really it. Whoever this guy was he would make a terrific phlebotomist. Once he’d collected my blood within the syringe, a practice that somehow I knew was well outdated by this point, he took it over to the machine that appeared to be an amalgamation of several different ones while I staunched the droplet of blood left behind with a cotton ball he’d taken from his coat pocket and handed to me.

While he injected my blood into some kind of funnel Daddy walked over, pulled me to my feet, and slanted his mouth over mine. Instantly every thought, worry, and question that had been circling about in my mind vanished in a puff of smoke that was replaced by a slow, intense burning that started at my core and quickly spread outwards. Yes! I shouted in my mind as I hungrily devoured Daddy’s mouth. This was what I had been craving. This is what I’d needed for so long, but at the same time it was far from enough and already I was working to try and strip the clothes from his body. I didn’t care that we weren’t alone and that our audience was some creepy mad scientist and a would-be child kidnapper, I just knew that I wanted Daddy and I was going to have him no matter-

My cry of despair rang out as I was suddenly pushed back by my shoulders, breaking both our kiss and our embrace. “Now Kitten,” he chided with a wicked smile, “You know that Daddy has work to do. We can play after that.”

I couldn’t help but whimper with need, feeling as though I was on fire, as a pressure on my shoulders urged me to sink to my knees. Out of a reflex that I didn’t even realize I possessed, I immediately bent to clasp his ankle in my hands and lick and kiss at his feet, all the while moaning like the desperate bitch in heat that I was. I heard a faint chuckle from above before a finger beneath the chin had me raising back up until I was kneeling straight and my head was tipped back to look into the eyes of the man I wanted most in the world. “Now,” he told me, gently running the pad of his thumb across my lips and allowing me a few fleeting kisses of it, “You kneel there like a good little slave girl and I’ll be back very soon.”

“Oh yes Master,” I breathed, wondering why in the world I would disparage my Master’s title by calling him ‘Daddy’ for so long. That would definitely need to be rectified in the very near future. To that end, I made sure that I knelt perfectly straight with my head lifted regally while my eyes remained lowered submissively and my hands rested lightly upon my thighs. It would have been far better to be in this position naked, but for now, the dress and heels were sexy enough.

“I have to say Doc,” Master commented as he took one last approving look at me before walking over to his associate, “I didn’t expect Project Kajira to be this effective. I mean she’s turned into a complete sex slave and I haven’t really had to do anything.”

“Yes,” the scientist agreed distractedly as he started inputting data he had received from the odd machine into one of the computers. “It certainly looks like Dr. Blake outdid himself. Though, I suspect he never even imagined the possibilities when he created Project Mantis. Had he not, I’m sure it would have taken me...oh...maybe another six months to come up with it.” That last was said with what was probably supposed to be a self-assured smile but actually looked more than a little crazy. “As it stands, the good doctor only hastened my research as well as provided me with the perfect test subject.”

“Yeah,” Master agreed, “He made it almost too easy for me.”

Who was this Dr. Blake they were talking about, and what was all this talk about Project Mantis and Project Kajira? And why the hell was that heat in my chest not going away?

“I take it then,” the scientist inquired as he switched to the other computer, “That you had no trouble convincing him to participate in the experiment?”

“Nah,” Master replied as he himself went over to check on several of the connections leading from the chamber to the latex skullcaps, “I just whacked him on the back of the head when he found the girl in the test chamber. After that I followed your directions and bam,” he clapped his hands to emphasize his words before looking over at me, “Instant sex slave.”

While that intensity of his gaze had things low in my body clenching with desire, a part of my mind squirmed uncomfortably at what I read in those eyes. He wanted to do things to me and not all of them were probably good.

“I take it you had no difficulties with it then?”

Master shrugged a little and walked over towards the assortment of corpses in the center of the apartment. “Not really. I had to hit her with the inducer a couple of times because she started to regain his memories, but it looks like the pattern’s holding strong now. There shouldn’t be anything left of him at this point.”

“That’s something to consider,” the scientist mused as he approached the man fighting his restraints on the gurney. “Perhaps an amalgamation of both programs utilized at once might yield a more effective result.”

Reaching up he took the skullcap and carefully fitted it over the man’s head despite his now panicked struggling. From the skullcap he detached two rather long and thick needles that were connected to the cap by wires and position the tips of the needles at on either side of the man’s head high on the crown. Those needles would be plunged into the cerebral cortex to allow for two-way transmission of the data impulses the machine would generate and filter through the mnemonic net contained within the skullcap. Wait, how did I know that?

Resisting the urge to scratch at the warm irritation I was now feeling radiating from my chest up to the back of my head, I watched in horrified fascination as the scientist plunged the needles into the man’s skull, eliciting a blood-curdling scream that penetrated the barrier of the tape wrapped around his head and sent chills of dread down my spine.

“Oh do be quiet,” the scientist said in an annoyed voice as Master turned a few dials on the exterior of the chamber that I recognized as the electrical pulse regulators. “Mr. Sinclair, if you would please move it into position.”

My Master nodded and drew back the sheet from the gurney he had rolled over to the empty chamber, revealing a beautiful naked girl around my age possessed of chalk white skin, lips, and faded hair that I suspected would have been a rich honey blonde had she not been dead. With a grunt of effort, he hauled the corpse off the gurney and placed it onto the one held upright within the chamber before securing it with the inlaid straps. Once the body was in place the scientist stepped forth and fitted the skullcap on the girl’s head before plunging the attached needles deep into her skull.

By now, I was literally needing to bite my lip to keep from asking a plethora of questions like how they were maintaining a stable neural net during transmission or what processing algorithm they were using to facilitate the exact cortex pattern duplicate. Of course, that didn’t stop me from wondering just how in the hell I even knew about such things, but it was a real struggle not to vocalize them.

“Now then,” the scientist said as he strolled over to the computers and typed in a few commands, “Let’s see if that sample is what I needed. Hmmm,” he hummed as he looked at the formulas appearing on the screen. “So that was what I was missing. It was so simple I don’t know how I missed it.” His tone had changed in the end to indicate anger, seemingly with himself. “All that was needed was a simple adjustment to the AARS2 protein to account for the mitochondrial loss how could I have missed that?” By this point, his voice had risen to shouting levels and he slammed his fists down on the table, causing the distillation assembly to jump and wobble precariously.

When he suddenly looked in my direction I thought for sure he was going to leap at me and tear my head from my shoulders. His eyes were wild and I could now see they were bloodshot from whatever it was that had been driving him. His teeth were bared in an almost animalistic snarl and a fine strand of saliva slowly trailed to the floor from the corner of his mouth. “You should have told me!” he hissed.

I was on the verge of screaming that I didn’t know what he was talking about when my Master stepped between the two of us. “She didn’t know Doc, how could she? We wiped his memories remember?” It was clear by his tone that he was trying to be soothing and placate this clear madman.

Those wild eyes shot to Master’s for a moment before he literally seemed to collapse in upon himself until once more he was just some ugly man in a lab coat. “Of course, quite right,” he said as though that outburst had simply been a normal, civilized conversation. And turned back to the computer to go about putting in this new adjustment to the formula. “Done,” he announced, “We can begin immediately.” Master nodded and walked over to a large switch on the wall, gripping the long handle before glancing to his associate. When they both nodded to one another he pulled the switch.

At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then I heard the low, quiet hum of machinery starting to engage that quickly grew in volume. While this was happening the scientist was typing madly, switching from computer to computer so fast I barely could keep track of his movements. “Neural coding is buffering,” he reported.

“Power levels are high but within limits and stable,” Master countered.

“Buffering complete. Beginning neural transmission.”

At this point, I could see arcs of electricity coming from the chambers, down the wires, and into the skullcap assemblies. While the man was straining against the leather restraints for all he was worth the corpse didn’t even move other than a faint twitch now and again due to the electrical impulses passing through it. There was a faint smell of burnt hair wafting through the apartment.

“Transmission complete,” the scientist reported excitedly, “Begin cardiac stimulation.”

Master pressed several buttons on the side of the chamber the corpse was being housed in and several mechanical arms extended out from its interior. Two of these arms linked together to form a kind of wide band around the girl’s chest while the third, which was tipped with a very large syringe, angled itself over the corpse’s sternum. That needle pierced through its sternum and injected whatever fluid contained in its reservoir directly into the deceased heart. As soon as that was finished the linked arms around the chest began to rapidly constrict and relax over and over again.

“Come on, come on,” the scientist urged as his gaze shot from the corpse to the computer and back again. “Work damn you!”

That was when we all heard the beep. I immediately recognized it as the tone of a heart monitor indicating a cardiac rhythm. All of us looked over at the computer and saw that the small window in the upper corner of the screen was showing a cardiac monitor with a line consisting of sharp peaks occurring regularly in time with the movements of the chamber arms. A window beneath that showed an almost identical setup except the line was blue instead of red and it was straight and flat…

Except for the one small little peak that was traveling across the line. I watched in amazement as that one peak not only began to grow in size, but it was joined by first one, then another, and another still, each differing in size and thickness until the flat line was gone completely and replaced by an assortment of impulse markers.

“Hold compressions!” the scientist barked and Master slapped a button beneath the switch, instantly shutting the entire process down within both chambers. Once again, other than a faint beeping coming from the computer providing audio signals to pair with the impulse markers, the air was still and quiet. I could see the scientist’s face begin to cloud with anger when a second beep, this one a different and higher tone from the first, pinged through the air. At the same moment, the cardiac monitor’s line went from flat to showing a sharp, high peak. This one was followed by a second, along with a corresponding tone, and then another and another and another.

“Sinus rhythm,” someone breathed.

When the scientist and Master both looked at me I realized I had been the one to speak. Quickly I ducked my head and tried to resume a submissive posture but I knew it was too late. A set of rapid footsteps approached me moments before I felt my hair in a painfully tight grip and my head yanked back so I was looking up into the once again wild mien of the scientist. “How do you know that expression? Tell me how you know it!” he demanded without waiting for me to answer the question.

“I....I…” I could do nothing but stammer because I truly had no idea how I knew the phrase ‘sinus rhythm’ nor did I know how I understood it to be any cardiac rhythm where depolarization of the cardiac muscle begins at the sinus node.

“Did you tell it about this project?” he demanded of Master, who was shaking his head negatively in a furious manner. “Then how do you account for this?”

“I don’t know,” my Master said with a helpless shrug. “She hasn’t said a single thing indicating she had any of his past knowledge.”

She had any of his past knowledge. That was the third time they had referenced both me and some man in the same context, almost as if we were one and the same. But that didn’t make any sense. I was a girl. I’d been born a girl...hadn’t I?

As the warmth in the back of my head grew to a point that it was becoming hot and a new heat was gently blossoming in my chest, I pondered what they had been saying about me so far. Since I was clearly in their eyes the slave of Master, they had spoken almost as though I was a piece of furniture that didn’t even need to be acknowledged. That meant their mixing me with male and female pronouns wasn’t just a slip of the tongue. They were saying that I was, in some way, both he and she. But how was that possible?

“Kitty,” I heard a female voice say weakly.

In a heartbeat, all eyes snapped to the girl that was strapped within the chamber. By this point, her vital functions regarding heart rate and brain synapse, according to the monitors on the computer, had stabilized to the point of normalcy. Her skin had flushed to the point that it was once again healthy looking and her lips had taken on a more rose-pink color. Her lashes fluttered several times before she was able to open her eyes, revealing them to be a dull blue that seemed to be quickly darkening to a more sharp, steel gray. After a moment during which I’m guessing she was trying to get her eyes to focus, her gaze settled on the now motionless man in the chamber beside her. For several moments she could do nothing but stare in abject shock and horror, her mouth opening and closing with no sound coming from it.

Eventually, her voice returned to her in the form of a whispered, “No!” which was immediately followed by a shouted, “No!” and then a terrified scream of, “Noooooo!”


The scientist’s hand crashing against the girl’s cheek sounded like a gunshot that echoed throughout the room. It snapped the girl’s head to the side, splitting open her lower lip. “Do shut up,” he said in such a casual manner it gave me chills. Turning towards Mas...Da...the other man, he offered a pleased grin. “It would appear that our efforts were successful. Now it’s on to stage two. Would you please take care of the primary host while I prepare the neural package.” He turned a sickening smile full of rotting, yellow teeth towards the girl. “We wouldn’t want to leave you with any hope of going back, now would we?”

At first, those words confused me. Why would this girl, who had apparently come back to life, want to go back to being dead? It made no sense to me. However as I watched...the associate approach the unconscious man on the other gurney and draw a gun from his waistband, I suddenly had a very bad idea of what the scientist meant.

Apparently, the girl understood what he meant as well because she had just enough time to scream, “NO!” before the gun roared and the back of the man’s head exploded in a spray of blood, gore, and gray matter.

And that’s when I exploded.

That’s the only way I can think to describe what it felt like. I don’t mean I literally exploded into tiny chunks of flesh and decorated the room with my entrails. What happened is I experienced a very sudden and extremely rapid sensation of pressure within my brain until it seemed to simply explode into an invisible white hot light. All at once knowledge and information suddenly flooded my consciousness. I still had no idea who I was beyond two days ago, but that simpering, slut of a slave girl who had been ready to have wild, animalistic sex on the floor of this lab with the man who pretended to be my father seemed to literally go up in flames within my mind before the ashes were scattered into the ether. Once again I was back in control of myself, and I remembered.

I remembered how WiseCrack had done so much to try to help me, how even when I’d been lost to myself because of whatever Sinclair had done to me in the mall he’d still risked himself to come after me. I remembered that helpless agony that had been held trapped in the back of my mind as I watched him being hooked up to this Frankenstein-like creation while I just stood by and tried to fuck my own father. And I remembered how callously my would-be rapist ended his life as though it was nothing.

With barely a thought, a blue/white blade of crackling energy formed in each hand as I slowly stood from my kneeling position and glared at these two monsters with more rage than I think I had ever known. The man, my supposed father, my perspective lover, my personal childhood nightmare, looked at me with absolute shock written on his face that made it clear he had no idea I was a mutant.

He also had no idea how deadly I could be, but he quickly found out when he started to raise his gun and I sent the two knives blazing from my hands. My aim wasn’t precise, they both got him in the center of the chest instead of the face and the dick like I’d been aiming for, but it was more than sufficient to tear through his skin, pierce his chest cavity, shred his heart, punch out of his back, and slice through the brick wall of the apartment as though it was nothing. I didn’t even bother looking at his expression of horror and disbelief as he pitched forward as I was already spinning towards the scientist with two new energy blades blazing to life in my hands.

Interestingly enough he didn’t look afraid. Instead, he held a curious expression on his face as he tilted his head slightly in a decisively inquisitive gesture. “Fascinating,” he remarked casually, as though he hadn’t just seen his associate murdered violently right in front of him. “The chip should have kept you quite docile. How is it no longer functioning?”

Now at this point in comics or action movies, this is where the heroine would make a joke, say something clever, or offer a witty retort. But this wasn’t a comic or a movie, and any sense of...that...was currently lost to the anger boiling inside of me that was as hot as the instruments of death in my hands.

So, instead of uttering something glib, I unleashed a primal scream of rage, rammed the two blades into either side of his head, and turned his brain into soup.

As he slid to the floor, still wearing that almost comically confused expression on his face, I turned and looked over at the body of WiseCrack still strapped to the gurney. Instantly my anger was washed away to be replaced by a deep sadness that the one good person I knew had been taken from me by these animals.

My knives winked out of existence as I haltingly walked towards him with tears pouring down my cheeks. When I finally reached his side I wanted to caress his cheek or maybe stroke his hair, just something. But the damage done by that bastard had been far too great and his face was far too mangled by the point blank muzzle blast to leave anything left to fondly touch. “Thank you WiseCrack,” I whispered in a choked voice, “And I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” I heard the girl quietly say behind me.

Blinking in surprise I turned my head to look at her before my eyes narrowed with my still simmering anger. “You didn’t know him,” I hissed. It was stupid and made no sense snapping at this innocent girl, especially when she had been dead only minutes ago, but at that moment rational thought wasn’t much more than a polite suggestion.

“Kitty,” she said and I could hear her voice fail momentarily as she choked on her next words, “I am WiseCrack.”

At that point, my brain decided enough was enough for the day and it was time for bed.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

We had been sitting quietly sipping coffee in our little rear corner booth at Denny’s for the last ten minutes or so. I couldn’t speak for WiseCrack but I know I was still trying to process everything that had happened and all I had learned an hour ago. Even knowing what I now knew, it still seemed so wildly impossible it almost felt like this should have been some sci-fi story you’d find on some Internet fan fic, not real life.

Once I’d woken up after fainting, it hadn’t been easy coming to grips with the fact that this was indeed reality. That WiseCrack’s consciousness had been digitally transferred into the mind of a dead sixteen-year-old girl was such an outrageous notion it had taken probably another ten minutes for him...her...dammit it’ll have to be him for now...to convince me he was who he said he was. For the record, it was recounting the incident in the gas station that had finally done it since no one else truly knew what had happened there. Once I’d gotten him unstrapped from the gurney and he’d covered himself up using a spare lab coat that had apparently been meant for my fake father, he immediately went to work looking through the computer systems within the lab.

This had actually been my first time seeing WiseCrack in action from this side and, if his normal speed was even close to what his was in a new, female body that he constantly complained about feeling awkward in, I was truly scared for anyone that really pissed him off. The way his fingers danced across the keys was tantamount to a concert pianist playing Mozart. Within moments he had announced that all of the data files were intact and he was uploading them to his own personal server while simultaneously destroying any and all other copies.

Once that was done we went about destroying every bit of equipment in the apartment until it was nothing more than trash and then set the building on fire by me throwing one of my knives into the gas tank of what turned out to be the scientist’s piece of shit VW bus in the garage. You might call all of that overkill, but you’ve never been a couple of angry teenagers who just discovered their entire lives were manipulated in a way designed to make them permanent sex slaves against their will utilizing brain transference technology. I think it’s reasonable to give us a pass on this one.

After procuring my parental imposter’s car (we made sure to take any keys, money, or portable equipment before blowing up the damn building, duh), we drove to the nearest Super Kmart so WiseCrack could get a full set of clothes and I could switch out my dress for something that didn’t make me look like a walking sex advertisement. Thankfully there was plenty left on the prepaid cards I still had in my purse, especially after WiseCrack reloaded the ones I’d already used, so I had little trouble getting us at least one outfit apiece until we could figure out our next step.

The one bothersome part of that was the clothing I myself had chosen. Since WiseCrack couldn’t come into the store with me, what with being functionally naked and all, I had to go in and pick out both of our clothes with him watching me via my cell phone camera. Since he had no concept of women’s fashion all he could do was suggest the kind of stuff he wanted and left it to me to make sure he didn’t look like an out of place fashion disaster. While he didn’t need to look like a model, dressing like you were a homeless person picking random clothes out of the trash wouldn’t help us blend in and that’s what we wanted to do. So, based on some rough measurements we’d taken in the car, I selected a simple pair of jeans, a red-checked flannel, some basic underwear, socks, and a pair of work boots. Other than the shirt and underwear, it was very reminiscent of what I’d chosen at the truck stop yesterday.

When it came to my turn for clothes, that’s where things got a bit...strange. I fully intended to just grab something very similar to what I’d picked out for WiseCrack, but as I started reaching for the jeans I caught sight of the more feminine apparel on the other side of the section. Almost against my will, I found myself walking over, sorting through the racks, and selecting a short little skater dress with a skirt that barely hit mid-thigh. I had been just holding it up to myself and imagining wearing it when the phone had rang and WiseCrack was demanding to know just what the hell was I doing. That angry voice barking in my ear snapped me out of the slight daze I now realized I had been in and I had mumbled an apology while putting the dress back and making the silent vow that I would not dress like some cheap slut.

Unfortunately, I was only able to half keep that promise. Despite my intentions, I ended up buying a curve-hugging maxi dress with a gorgeous looking Aztec-like print and a daring little slit up both sides of the skirt that reached my knees and thin little spaghetti straps. It was certainly a far cry from the little skater dress, but it still showed a generous amount of cleavage and did nothing to hide the fact that I had a sexy body.

By the time I’d gotten back to the car, I could tell my new friend was not at all happy about my personal choice, but he seemed to soften when I tried to explain that it didn’t really feel like I had much control when it came to my clothing choice. From that moment until now, where we found ourselves sitting in this Denny’s at 2 A.M., he had been working furiously on his laptop that luckily had been left in the trunk of the car after my father impersonator had yanked him from it.

He didn’t even look up when the waitress came by for our order and only grunted when she asked what we wanted to eat. I did my best to defuse any insult that might have been construed by the waitress by giving her a friendly smile and politely asking for two Grand Slam breakfasts and another couple of cups of coffee. Thankfully, either because she’d been in this business too long to care or because she took my friendliness and politeness as something extraordinary, the waitress returned my smile with a genuine one of her own before heading off to place the orders.

Once she was out of earshot I leaned over and pinched WiseCrack on the thigh, making him jump and cry out. “What the hell was that for?” he snapped.

“You were being rude,” I chastised him, “And we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves remember?”

His eyes, which had been narrowed in anger, slowly relaxed until I could see a mixture of pain and fear in those lovely gray eyes. “Sorry Kitty,” he said quietly, “I’m still trying to deal with...this,” he said and indicated himself.

“I understand,” I told him and this time when I touched his thigh it was with a gentle pat. “You’ve been working non-stop since we left the lab,” I observed in a deliberate detour off topic, “What are you looking for?”

“I was trying to make some sense of all of the research data that I uploaded to my server. Unfortunately,” he sighed, “Medical science isn’t my thing and most of this is over my head. The only thing I can really work out is that they were using a combination of medical biology and computer science to essentially treat the human brain like a computer hard drive, make a copy of that hard drive, and transfer the data into another human brain. How they managed to accomplish this I have no idea, but obviously it works.” His shoulders slumped at that last part, undoubtedly due to the fact that he was now condemned to live his life as a girl.

“Can I take a look?” One finely arched eyebrow winged up as he looked at me with clear skepticism. “Look,” I said patiently, “It very well might be over my head too, but back there I seemed to know some things when it came to medical science that I don’t remember ever learning. Maybe it’s something locked in my memory and looking at this data might bring it back out.”

The hacker seemed to consider this for a moment before shrugging delicate shoulders and turning the laptop so I could see the screen. “Why not? You can’t have any tougher of a time than I have trying to figure this crap out.”

Taking my time, I looked through the mountain of data that I slowly clicked down through. Like WiseCrack suspected, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense other than some very basic things such as the concept he’d already explained. I was able to pick out a few key items such as the need to adjust the AARS2 protein in the brain to allow for proper synapse cohesion and the requirement of needing a direct link via a complex neural net system to facilitate proper data streaming, but beyond that it was, as they say, Greek to me.

By the time I’d finished looking the data over my eyes were blurring and my food was already sitting in front of me. Looking over at WiseCrack I blinked in surprise when I saw him chowing down on his meal with half of it already gone. “When did this get here?”

“‘Bout five minutes ago,” he said around a mouthful, “You were really into that stuff.”

Shaking my head with a sigh and started on my own meal. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much more sense of it than you could. There’s a few things that stand out that I’m aware of, but I don’t know why I’m aware of them or how they fit into the whole formula.”

He nodded and took a gulp from his coffee before looking at me with a rather sorrowful gaze. “There was one thing I saw in there that finally clears up who you are.”

The fork was halfway to my mouth when he said that and his proclamation nearly caused me to send it clattering back onto the plate. Instead, I slowly put it down and pinned him with an intense stare that actually had him squirming a little. “And you were planning to tell me this when?”

“Hey,” he said defensively while holding up his hands as though to ward off an attack, “I only just found it when you said you wanted to look at the data. I worked it all out while you were looking.”

“Well don’t leave me in suspense here Oh Great One,” I snapped impatiently, “Who the fuck am I?”

“Keith Blake.”

I thought it would have been more of a bombshell, but the name didn’t mean anything to me. When I tried to go back into my own mind to see if it would ring any bells that only thing that greeted me was silence. “It doesn’t feel familiar at all,” I finally admitted dejectedly.

“I’m not surprised,” WiseCrack said with a sigh that indicated he too had been hopeful the name would have jarred some kind of memory. “Though I’m not sure about the details, it looks like when Sinclair and that science guy digitally mapped out your brain, your former brain I mean, they changed the data so you’d not only forget who you were but give you a whole new persona. My guess is they couldn’t overwrite every single trace which is why those medical and science terms seem so familiar to you.”

“And my abstract memories,” I continued for him, “I remember very generalized information about, well, everything, but when it comes to my own personal information I draw a complete blank. I don’t know who my parents are, I don’t remember any uniquely personal experiences, I can’t even remember if I did well in school or not. I could tell you who the current president is but I can’t remember how I know that. You understand?”

He nodded and tapped out a few keys on the keyboard while I took another bite of my cooling meal. “From the look of things, and we’d need an expert on this to be sure, they were able to identify your specific personal memories by the way their data chain looked when your brain’s information was converted into computer code. From there they simply deleted the part of the code that governed your unique experience.”

“Layman’s terms please,” I groaned and tried to stave off a tension headache that was starting to build by pressing my fingers between my eyes.

“Okay. Basically, every memory you possessed was turned into a line of computer code. What those bastards did was take those codes and remove parts of them that, when re-introduced, eliminated your own personal experience that caused those memories in the first place. That’s why you have knowledge of everyday life, but they don’t feel like your memories because there’s no personal connection.”

“So they essentially took away my personal identity from those memories,” I said, starting to follow the line of thinking.


“So how did they do this to me?” I asked. “I can’t imagine volunteering for something like this.”

WiseCrack sighed and leaned back in the booth with a look of regret. “Unfortunately, Sinclair disabled the lab camera long before he did it, so there’s no visual record. From what he and that madman were saying back in the lab before they brain-swapped me it sounds like Sinclair knocked you out, put you into the machine, and activated the process. You didn’t go in willingly, that much I’m pretty sure of.”

“But you still have all of your memories and personality,” I reasoned before taking a sip from my coffee, “So how did the process not affect you the same way it affected me?”

“Two projects were associated with this whole thing,” he informed me, “Project Mantis, which was commissioned by Westlake Industries by way of the military, and Project Kajira, which seems to have no connection with Mantis other than the use of the technology. The purpose of Mantis was to transplant the minds of male undercover agents into female corpses so they could infiltrate enemies of the U.S. and either eliminate or redirect the efforts of these enemies so they were more in line with our government’s agendas.”

“Why not just send female agents?”

That question brought out a long sigh from the hacker as he shook his head. “Apparently, the powers that be in our military weren’t confident that a biologically female agent would be able to separate her duty from her sense of romance. Essentially, they were holding onto that bullshit fifties attitude that women are ruled by their hormones and will fall apart if a man says they love them.”

“That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” I cried.

“No shit,” WiseCrack agreed, “But Mantis wasn’t used on you. Apparently, that crazy guy used the Kajira formula which from what I can tell is a reworking of the original so the transferred brain pattern would be infused with a set of subroutines that were designed to amplify certain feminine traits such as the libido and a deeply routed submissiveness.”

“So they were basically creating slaves,” I growled.

“Exactly,” he agreed, “But because those lines of code couldn’t quite hold together when integrated into the existing brain code they had to use an external chip implanted in the back of the brain to essentially force the subroutines into activation. Additionally, this chip had to constantly receive an activation signal via enhanced RFID or it would simply shut off. That’s why whenever you were away from Sinclair you stopped being a sex-starved slut and your own personality re-asserted itself.”

“Wait,” I said as a thought occurred to me, “Why would Sinclair ever let me out of his sight then if he knew the chip would become ineffective?”

“I dunno,” my friend said with a helpless shrug, “Maybe he didn’t understand the entire principle behind it and thought the signal was transmitted via a data stream, not RFID. The guy was a mechanical engineer, not a computer programmer.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” I decided, smiling a thank you to the waitress as she took our empty plates away and refilled our coffee, “I have a feeling the chip’s gone. When I...activated,” I said and used a small stabbing motion under the table to simulate using my energy knife, “I felt a very intense heat in the back of my head that I’m pretty sure disintegrated it. But then why am I still so damn girly?” I asked and indicated the dress I’d chosen from Kmart.

“My guess is residual code,” he said, though it was clear by his voice he was only guessing. “That chip was being used so intensely maybe it actually re-wrote some parts of your personality. But I don’t think you need to worry about suddenly turning into a sex slave again.”

“Oh?” Funny how that was my exact concern at the moment.

“Well,” he observed, “Since that moment when you, apparently, destroyed the chip, you haven’t been acting anything like some sex-starved slave. The only thing that seems to be left over is an almost impulsive urge to be feminine, such as your choice of dress and the fact that you’re still wearing five-inch heels.”

The mention of said footwear had me looking beneath the table at my crossed legs and my high-heel-shod foot lightly bobbing up and down. “They’re surprisingly comfortable,” I noted quietly, which even to me sounded strange since most women usually complain how wearing high heels for any real length of time tended to become painful.

“I think that’s just part of the programming left over. It might go away in time but it’s probably safest to assume it won’t.”

“You know,” I said cautiously as I leveled a speculative gaze at him, “You seem to know an awful lot about this stuff.”

Instead of looking chagrined or embarrassed like I’d just found him out, he merely shrugged. “I got quite an education looking at all of this the last few weeks and I’m pretty good at putting pieces together. Look,” he said, leaning towards me and resting his arms on the table, “All of what I’ve been talking about with this stuff is just educated guesswork. I could very well be wrong about all of it, but I don’t think I am, and really I don’t know anyone who could really make sense of all of this.”

“Except for me,” I said quietly and felt a small clench of loss around my heart, “Before all of this.”

“Yeah,” he said in an equally soft voice. “But,” he continued in a stronger tone, “Now we have to think about the future. Obviously we can’t go back to who and what we once were, especially you.”

“Considering it seems like I’ve lost a multi-year doctorate, gonna have to agree with that one. But what about...you know?” I asked, picking up the butter knife and clenching it in my fist.

He looked at me with confusion, switching his gaze back and forth between the utensil and my face. “What? Dessert?”

Rolling my eyes I smacked him on the shoulder, causing him to wince and rub it with an offended look. “No doofus. My…” I looked around before lowering my voice to a whisper, “My power. Was I a mutant before?”

“Ohhhh,” he intoned with eyes widening in understanding. “No, you weren’t. And even if you were, it wasn’t like they literally changed our bodies into females, it was just our minds and consciousnesses that were transplanted. No that came from your new body.”

Slowly setting the knife back down on the table I narrowed my gaze suspiciously. “You know about who this body used to be?”

He nodded and I could tell by the haunted look in his eyes that he’d probably seen a great deal more than he ever wanted to. “Too much,” he confirmed, “But you might not want to hear about it.”

Leaning back against the booth I sighed and re-crossed my legs. “I won’t stay in the dark anymore,” I told him definitively, “This body is mine now and I need to know what kind of life I could possibly end up walking into.”

For several moments neither of us said a word and just looked at one another. I’d say it was a contest of wills but no one was trying to force something from the other. For me, I was just waiting to see if I would need to try a more compelling argument. For WiseCrack, it was clear he was weighing the differences between full disclosure of information and wanting to spare me from…something.

Eventually though, he closed those lovely gray eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded. “The girl’s name was Kitty,” he began, “But it wasn’t Kitty Sinclair. Obviously, that was done by Sinclair himself to try and screw with your head and make you think you were his daughter. Her actual name was Kitty Boudreaux and she was from New Orleans. When she turned fifteen, about nine months ago, she manifested as a mutant with the power you’ve got. Unfortunately, her parents were excessively religious and thought her being a mutant was a sign of the devil. So, they did what any parent who takes the word of their imaginary friend as law would do: they fed her a big bowl of corn flakes with rat poison liberally sprinkled on top and pretended it was cinnamon.”

“Jesus!” I breathed, “They killed their own daughter just because she was a mutant?”

WiseCrack nodded solemnly before going on. “Shortly before they killed each other because, according to their suicide note, they couldn’t live with the guilt that they were responsible for bringing Satan into the world.”

“Fuck me!” I whispered and took a long swallow of coffee while wishing it contained a healthy drop of liquor. “So I, or Kitty, technically has no family?”

“None,” he confirmed.

Sitting back, I thought about what a heartbreaking story that was, but I also didn’t feel nearly as bad as I should have. The lack of emotion seemed to harken back to now three days ago when I’d first woken up in the back of that RV and was told what was supposedly the story of my life. Then, just like now, I couldn’t muster up any real serious emotion when hearing that my now-imaginary mother had died. I didn’t know these people who had killed their daughter before taking their own lives. Even though I was the literal embodiment of this girl, I couldn’t feel much beyond the sense of pity and loss that one would feel if they heard about such a thing on the news. It was sad and tragic, but it really didn’t affect my life overly much other than I wouldn’t have to explain to any parents why their dead daughter was suddenly alive.

“What about you?” I asked as a way to change the topic slightly, “Any idea whose body you’re wearing now?”

“I haven’t had a chance to take a selfie and run it through facial recognition yet. I’ll do that once I get back to Reading.”

“Reading?” I raised an eyebrow at that.

“Yeah, that’s where I have my mobile base of operations. I gave Westlake a fake address,” he explained before I could ask, “So they wouldn’t be able to easily find me and I could get out of town at a moment’s notice if things went sideways.”

“Makes sense. So you’re going to hightail it out of town when we get back?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed with a nod, “Although I do need to forward some of the information I found to a friend of mine just in case he wants to continue the investigation.”

“Why don’t you keep doing it?” I asked with a curious tilt of my head.

He shook his head negatively to that, his honey blonde hair swirling about his face before he impatiently shoved it out of the way. “Can’t. Obviously I don’t look the same so my credentials are worthless. Plus, Westlake knew about this project and he knew what it was being designed to do. The fact that he hasn’t already put two and two together just means he’s got tunnel vision on finding...well...you at this point. Thankfully you’ve got the perfect camouflage. Oh yeah,” he said, as though the thought had just occurred to him when I stared at him in confusion, “They think you were responsible for this entire debacle. It’s because they can’t find you,” he explained as I opened my mouth to object, “And while I’m not one hundred percent sure, I’m pretty certain Sinclair probably tossed your body into the lab incinerator once he’d done the mind transfer.”

Now that hurt. It was one thing to hear about someone else’s life going to hell, but it was a completely different ball of wax to hear about your own life being flushed down the shitter. Despite the fact that I intellectually knew being in this body was permanent I think deep down I had this irrational belief that if I could find my old body that somehow, some way, I’d be able to re-engineer the process once more and be able to transfer my consciousness back into my old body. Unfortunately, given the brutality in which Sinclair and his scientist friend operated, there was probably zero chance of that happening. Hell, they’d blown the brains out of WiseCrack’s old body the moment they knew the operation had been a success and he was just a nobody to them they’d lucked into grabbing off the street. The other me had been someone important and, if i understood the process correctly, that also meant that the other could have feasibly re-created the process and fixed all of this. Of course they had to get rid of my male body.

“I’m sorry,” WiseCrack said softly, interrupting my thoughts, “That was pretty harsh of me. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I’m not crying,” I tried to deny even as my throat was threatening to close and choked my words into sharp gasps while a distinct wetness ran down my cheeks. I tried to avoid his pitying gaze as I quickly rubbed at the dampness on my face with little success. Why couldn’t I get my face dry? Even using a napkin didn’t help. It just seemed like it was permanently wet. How could that be?

It wasn’t until I was enfolded in WiseCrack’s embrace that I realized I was sobbing uncontrollably. The only thing that kept my wails of anguish from echoing throughout the restaurant was the fact that they were muffled due to my face being buried in the soft mounds of his breasts. I distantly heard him make some excuse to the waitress, who was likely concerned and came to check on us, about my having just lost a relative or something like that. The funny thing was, it was pretty damn close to the truth, and that just made me cry all that much harder.

Eventually, after maybe five or ten minutes, my tears were pretty much cried out and I was left gasping and hiccuping for breath while WiseCrack gently rubbed my back. “Th-thanks,” I stuttered, my voice not yet stable from the outburst.

“It’s okay,” he assured me, “I had a pretty similar reaction too, and they did it right in front of me.”

I thought that sounded pretty damn cold and cavalier considering the circumstances, but when I lifted my head to look at him I could see the agony in his eyes that was only just barely being held back. I imagine it was a pretty good mimic of how I was looking at the moment. “We’re a pretty fucked up pair, huh?”

“Yup,” he said and took another sip of cold coffee, “But I think I got the better end of the deal.”

“How do you figure?” I asked with a raised eyebrow, “At least I don’t have any memory of being a man, I don’t have a problem with being a girl.”

“True,” he allowed, “But you also have some residual from Project Kajira that might or might not go away. I only have to adapt to being a girl.”

“Speaking of,” I said thoughtfully, “Project Mantis I get. The concept is like when a female praying mantis eats the mate’s head after sex. What the hell is Kajira.”

“Ugh,” WiseCrack grunted with disgust, “Apparently that came from a really bad set of sci-fi novels. Apparently the author was really big into BDSM and female domination and established an entire fictional world where pretty much every female on the planet was completely subservient to men and their biggest life aspiration was to be a man’s loving and devoted sex slave. The word Kajira is that world’s word for ‘slave’ or ‘slave girl’. My guess is either Sinclair or the scientist, or both, really ascribed to that particular ideology and decided to try and make this fictitious world a reality.”

“Bastards,” I growled and had to really fight not to instinctively form an energy blade that had no actual target.

“Yup,” he repeated and drained the remainder of his coffee.

“So where do we go from here?” I asked, realizing at this point both of us were essentially nameless entities with no identity.

“Well, it’ll be simple to put together identification. I can get into whatever DMV we want to be from and cobble together a birth certificate and driver’s license. Unfortunately, the best I can do for ages is make us both sixteen so we can at least drive.”

“Why not eighteen?”

“We just don’t look it,” he replied with a sigh, “As it is convincing a stranger we’re sixteen is going to be a bit of stretch since we both look fourteen, maybe fifteen. By the way, that’s how old you really are,” he informed me, “At least physiologically.”

“So we’re stuck as minors for now,” I concluded dejectedly. I had hoped that maybe I’d be able to try and start a new life somehow, but being legally sixteen made it a lot more complicated. The fact that I had no living, legally parents or guardians meant I couldn’t get a job, a car, or even a place to live. “So how are we going to survive?”

“Well for now,” he said, already going to work on his laptop, “We can use my mobile base. I haven’t had an actual home for a while now since it’s always been smarter to stay on the move.”

“And exactly what is this mobile base?” I asked suspiciously.

I don’t know if it would have been obvious when he’d been a man, but there was no way he could hide the embarrassed blush that tinted his cheeks. “A minivan,” he said sheepishly before looking up at me with apologetic eyes. “I usually just got hotel rooms.”

“It’s all right, but we should probably think a little more long-term.”

“Well,” he mused as he tapped away at the keyboard, “We do have access to the money that Sinclair stole from Westlake, five million dollars.”

I blinked in shock at the amount of money we suddenly had access to before a slow, eager smile spread across my lips. “I think I might have an idea.”

Keystone RV Center, Greencastle, Pennsylvania

“You sure you little girls can handle a beast like this?” the man asked while looking at us suspiciously. Of course, it wasn’t too suspiciously given that WiseCrack had just put a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar cashier’s check in his hand. Paying ten grand over the asking price for a recreational vehicle tended to help people forget about little things like how a pair of young girls could afford such an amount.

“Oh sure,” I replied, keeping my voice casual, as I looked over the large Winnebago, “My Daddy taught me how to drive one of these things years ago. We go on family trips a lot,” I finished with a smile and I felt quite proud that saying the word ‘Daddy’ only caused a sharp twist in my guts instead of full on nausea.

“Well, I hope your Daddy likes it,” the man called as we climbed aboard with me behind the wheel and WiseCrack in the passenger seat.

“Are you sure you can actually drive this thing?” she, because after the last few days acceptance had finally settled in, asked me without being able to disguise the nervousness in his voice.

I just grinned wickedly at her and started the engine before smoothly pulling out of the driveway and heading down the road from the clearly well-to-do farm. “I guess I used to drive one of these things back when I was a guy because it feels pretty familiar.”

Actually, driving one of these things had been the least of our worries for the last four days. We’d been pretty busy laying the foundation for establishing our new lives. The first step had been actually getting some money. Fortunately, Sinclair had left his bank card in the car’s glove box so it had been a pretty simple matter for WiseCrack to hack into his account and change the pin to whatever we wanted. After that, several quick stops at ten different ATMs, with WiseCrack heading off any digital warning signals sent to the bank about unusual activity, had netted us enough cash to get started on identification. For that, we went to a local office supply store and bought an expensive ID card printer and a package of PVC card stock. Since ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ was the best course of action WiseCrack keep his license as being from Ohio, her home state, and changed her name in the Ohio birth certificate database from Harry (that got a laugh out of me) Wiseman to Angela Wiseman, in honor of his mother. I chose to do some honoring myself by electing to keep my first name Kitty to honor the loss of the girl whose body I now possessed, but I changed the last name from Bordeaux to Blake to minimize the possibility of someone recognizing the old Kitty. I also chose to keep her place of birth and licensing state in Louisiana since WiseCrack, Angela, told me it would be easier to adjust the existing file with the new last name. Plus the old me had apparently already possessed a state ID card so she could use the existing photo in the database for my new license.

Once our identities had been established she used our new ID printer to create really good fake licenses. Since we weren’t in our ‘home’ states they would likely pass anything other than really intense scrutiny. With the matter of identification out of the way, Angela set up a joint bank account for the two of us, using my old self’s deceased parents as the parental authorizers. A quick trip to a local branch and we had brand new debit cards as well as platinum credits cards that just so happened to be linked to the account. So now we had ID and money, that just left decent transportation.

Since we didn’t want to go through a dealership and leave a paper trail, Angela scoured the classifieds until finally finding a farmer looking to off-load his practically brand new RV. A quick trip to the bank for a cashier’s check, a drive down to the farm, and not only did we have a new RV but we even sweetened the deal by throwing Angela’s old van in when the farmer commented on how he needed a new van for hauling feed.

Now, as I guided the RV towards the highway I asked, “So where are we heading?”

“Well,” she said, leaning back from the laptop resting on the fold-away table in the passenger area, “Now that I’ve got the registration switched over to us, we can pretty much go wherever. Any ideas?”

As we approached the highway interchange I was given the option of taking I81 north or south and for the first time in days I felt like I actually had control over my life. True, this life wasn’t the one I was born with, but it was the one I had now and I was determined to make the best of it. There were still plenty of questions in my mind, like what was the extent of my power or did I possess any others. That would need to be looked into even to the extent of possibly going to the MCO to get power tested. Angela told me I’d have to do it eventually if I ever planned to do any traveling by boat or plane since she wasn’t able to hack into their systems and simply create a file for me. Apparently they had some of the best digital security anywhere and even her vaunted skills were no match for it. Considering Angela was pretty goddamn scary when it came to her hacking ability, that was really saying something. If she wanted, I had no doubt she could ruin countless lives and bring whole corporations to their knees. Thank God she was on the side of the angels and only really used her skills against bad people.

I really had no idea where to go from here. Everything up to this point had been finding out the truth about myself and trying to reclaim my memory. Now that I knew such a thing was pretty much impossible, I really was something of a blank slate. I had no tangible history that guided my motives or my actions. For all I knew I was a complete asshat as Keith Blake and whored around with impunity while diabolically trying to come up with new ways to screw people over. What I did know was that wasn’t who I was now. Now, I was sixteen-year-old Kitty Blake who, while certainly damaged, wasn’t the kind of girl who sought out to harm people. In fact, I was absolutely sure I was the kind of girl would defend my friends like Angela with everything I had to make sure they were safe.

I don’t know who I would become or how my future experiences would shape me, but I’d like to think I had a pretty good start. There would be plenty of challenges, sure. Sinclair and that scientist had made certain of that. Probably for the rest of my life I’d be fighting against the residual of whatever programming they’d tried to stuff into my head, but that wouldn’t define me. I was my own person and no one was going to take that away from me again.

So, I took the next step in reclaiming that life by making my choice and turning onto the highway.
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